Personal Feelings and Genealogy

By Sklmsta (Own work) [CC0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Lately, I have been working on a family wiki for one of my lines. I'm writing a page for each person in my tree. Each page gives information on the individual, including the name of their parents, spouse(s) and children; sources I have used to research the individual; and notes.

When I got to my grandfather's page, I found myself slowing down and finally stopping. He just passed a year ago so my feelings are still pretty raw, especially since I lost my other grandfather just a few months later.It was months before I could enter a death date for either of them in my files.

The thing that stopped me in my tracks was the space for his spouses. My grandfather was married three times, the first marriage being to my grandmother. I never met his second wife. I have met his third wife and, for reasons I won't get into here, have strong (read not nice) feelings in regards to her. Suffice it to say that I'm not the only one in the family that feels the way I do.

As a genealogist, I want to record the details of his life. As a family historian and his granddaughter, feelings have come into play. I can't bring myself to type the name of his third wife. It's extremely painful for me to see my grandfather's name in connection with her and I know there are other family members who would feel the same. On the other hand, there are some family members that don't know the reason behind my feelings and probably won't understand why the name is missing.

As genealogists, we're bound to come across things in our research that either we or other family members don't necessarily want to include in our family history. It may be a black sheep ancestor, an ancestor who didn't always divorce before moving onto the next spouse, an illegitimate child or something else. Like it or not, these things are part of our family history.

However, there's nothing that says we have to share that part of our history with others.When it comes to deciding whether or not to include these items in your history, it comes down to a choice. For me, the choice was easy. Rather than put myself and other family members through pain, I have chosen to omit that person.

It doesn't change the fact that she was married to my grandfather. Whether I include that fact or not, I'm still aware of it. I'm sure eventually somebody is going to come along and put her name in our tree, not realizing why I have chosen to exclude her from my files. If and when that day comes, I'll deal with it then. For now, I'm happy that when I look at my family tree, I see no connection between that woman and my grandfather.

In other cases, the detail you've found may not be painful to you, but might be to others. When this happens, use discretion. While it's understandable to want to have all the facts on your family, if sharing that fact may cause pain to someone else in the family, keep it to yourself. Enter it into your private files if you need to, but don't share it with other family members or the internet at large.

How do you deal with painful or scandalous facts you have uncovered in your research? For those that research for a fee, do you share all facts you come across, even though it's not necessarily something good?


  • Lisa says:
    October 31, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    I tend to put things I learn about my family that could be painful to someone in the family in a private file. I use my discretion or if I am unsure, I will consult another family member closer to the event. I always try to remember what I find interesting others may view differently. Great post!

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