Sunday, April 24, 2005

Re: Family Tree's Bad Apples Can Be a Shock

From: Jan Turner
After reading your message, "Family Tree's Bad Apples Can Be a Shock," <> I was reminded of a question that has been
"bothering" me ever since I began genealogy 8 years ago. My grandfather is believed, by his children and grandchildren, to have been a pedophile. We all knew, as he made no secret of the fact, that he "liked" boys - and went to great lengths to always have a boy whom he was "sponsoring" for as long as I can remember him. He died about 35 years ago, so he is not likely to be confronted by this info, and he has only one living child remaining - a woman who is 89 years old and in an Alzheimer's home at the present.

My question is this: Should these suspicions/speculations be included in my genealogy notes about the man? For me, it makes no difference at this point in time - I suppose that in reality it never did, however, I am trying to make all my notes in such a way that whatever is left 100 years from now, my/my relatives descendants will have some idea of the person behind the name/date/place that is the basic info in the genealogy programs. I have a sub-group in my notes titled Myths/Legends where I put all of the miscellaneous "whisperings", rumor, etc that may or may not have some usefullness and/or meaning in the future.

"Myths/Legends" is a noble-sounding category. While I believe that working through "suspicions" and "drawing conclusions" are part of genealogy research, but I am not sure these should extend to labeling people. We're compiling our family histories, not writing for a tabloid magazine. Having said that, just yesterday I labeled the photocopy of an handwritten letter with overly-glowing ancestor notations as follows:

"INFAMOUS LETTER by Uncle Eugene, who was ever the family comic, and quite the prankster. His niece Mary (Stover) Dayton states she does not take much stock in the truthfulness of anything Eugene wrote in this letter."

How about just the facts, without drawing the conclusion, in your grandfather's case? To use your words, I would write it up like this:

Jan Turner's personal recollections of her [maternal/paternal] grandfather [insert his name here]: "He made no secret of the fact, that he "liked" boys - and went to great lengths to always have a boy whom he was "sponsoring" for as long as I can remember him." That way you are not making sweeping statements, which tend to deter people from believing your work.

Let's leave the final judgments to the courts and God.
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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