#52Ancestors ‘Unexpected’

Welcome to week 25 of my Genealogy challenge, from the wonderful Amy Johnson Crow, of writing something about your Ancestors for a whole year, #52Ancestors in 52 weeks. This weeks prompt is ‘Unexpected’ and there can be lots of hidden secrets within a Family and as family Historians, we can uncover secrets and stories, that may have been hidden and buried for generations, from unexpected pregnancies and unexpected DNA results, to long lost siblings and adoption. These all form part of the fabric that makes us who we are today.

Rather than focus on a specific moment within my own family and believe me there have been many unexpected events, I thought I would focus more on what to do with the information once you discover it.

The potential to upset and destroy lives today, is equally as relevant as the moment that the unexpected event occurred. I always ask myself, “what would I do if that person were alive today and in the room with me”. Would they be happy with me telling a wider audience their secret? Using that as my moral compass has stood me in good stead over the years. We can’t pick and choose who our Ancestors were, or what they did, the records sometimes speak for themselves, but we can sometimes be mindful of the lives of those living today and maybe document what we have found, but not publish this in a public platform. Each story and secret will be individual to each family and what’s right for me, might not necessarily be right for you.

When you set off tracing your Family History you never quite know what twists and turns lie in wait for you, sometimes we find out things that we never expected to find, so be prepared for that. Expect the ‘unexpected’, but be mindful of the consequences of what you discover, sometimes the burden of knowledge can be a heavy burden to carry.

So yes, I have my fair share of ‘unexpected’ events in my Family Tree and my Family Story, do I need to share them all? Of course not. They all form a part of the fabric that makes me who I am today, but that doesn’t mean that we have to share every ‘Family Secret’. Some things are best left unsaid…………

If you have made an unexpected discovery yourself, whilst researching your own family tree, I would love to know how you went about the decision process of whether to record your discovery or keep it hidden?

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13 thoughts on “#52Ancestors ‘Unexpected’

  1. Great post. Have been wondering whether I should write about the illegitimate births of two of my ancestors. No one alive who would remember them or even know their names but you just never know if living descendants may be upset discovering they were not who they thought they were.

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    1. Agree, its always a sensitive matter, but descendants were actually not who they had thought they were. Some living may be distraught; others pleased to know the broader story. Ancestry focuses on those long gone by those who were never at the scene, such that they can reveal the truth in an unjudgemental facutal way. .

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      1. It’s always difficult to judge people unless you were there at that actual moment in time. We should never prejudice our thoughts and views of our Ancestors today with the benefit of today’s hindsight’s

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  2. Great post and great question. I am facing a similar dilemma now: as I am writing my own memoirs, I am thinking, whether I should write about some events, which I would not talk about in front of the people involved. I am still hesitant because if I won’t write about them, I might create puzzles for the future generations… I was planning to discuss it with my children, and ask them what they want me to do with this information.
    As for the past generations, some of my ancestors lived in horrible times and in horrible places, and did horrible things… and if we collectively what to learn some lessons from our collective history, we should probably know…

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    1. It really is a difficult dilemma Hettie, there’s no right or wrong answers, only what’s right for you and your family. I wrote an article about general history a while ago and it is also relevant now. You can’t judge history with the knowledge and perspective that we have today, history should only be judged at that moment in time. The important thing however is we learn from history and never make the same mistakes again.

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      1. That is very true! That’s what I am keeping telling everybody – you can’t judge the actions for people in the past with our today’s knowledge and perspective. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

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