Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's Complicated

Several months ago I tweeted and commented about whether embarassing information should be disclosed in the name of genealogy.There had been a discussion about this during one of my genealogy group's meetings. I was on the side of disclosure. Others disagreed. They believed the information should be tabled until the parties were dead.

Now I have been presented with an actual dilemma. I was told that one of my relatives assaulted someone 50 years ago and fathered a child. This is something that I don't think the family knows about. The relative is dead and now the child is dead. The person that told me is an outside observer. The mother is still alive and there are grandchildren.

Now do I put my money where my mouth was? This relative has children still living and I have no idea how I would tell them about their unknown sibling. There is also a side of me that wants to embrace the grandchildren. They are innocent and they are blood. Things are so much more complicated when it isn't theoretical any more.

5 comments:

Thomas MacEntee said...

Oh Jennifer - I am in the same boat. My story is a stunner and too painful to even mention here. You need to put it in context when deciding for full, partial or non-disclosure. After 50 years, would disclosure heal a situation? Would it help prevent further pain or violence? Could you write up the situation and store it with your estate planning papers in case something happens to you - this way the story is not forever lost?

Mavis said...

I have a sort of similar story. There was no assault, that I know of, but I finally confirmed, through documentation that one uncle's oldest child was not biologically his. That part of the story isn't a problem since she was always recognized by my uncle and the rest of the family as his.

The problem is that her daughter ended up marrying one of her cousins. But there are only a few folks in the family that even know any of this. I believe that everyone should know where they came from but in reality, it's totally different. What's to be gained by telling my cousin, who really isn't my biological cousin that you aren't who you think you are and your husband is your cousin.

Tough call and many questions to be answered. I don't envy you.

Claudia's thoughts said...

It is a tough call, I would agree to write it down and keep the information. You will have to decide who will be harmed versus what good will come of it...

Amy Coffin, MLIS said...

I'm in agreement with the other commenters. If you're not ready to make a decision on disclosure yet, continue to gather information and document the history.

It's a tricky choice and there's no easy answer.

Mary said...

Ditto on the other comments - my family is just entering into a situation like this - a relative by marriage found out that the mother who raised her is not really the mother but yet a relative of the biological mother and the mother who raised said child stole the child from the biological mother