Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Genealogy etiquette

From: Tracy St Claire
I have an etiquette problem dealing with genealogy. I deal with a lot of manuscripts at my website, and usually publish them verbatim. I publish them verbatim regardless of how close to to the marriage the first child was born, who
was divorced, etc. I do not pass judgement.

I am currently in a situation, [and] ask the Miss Manners of Genealogy a question. Due to interest, I inherited a set of diaries and letters from the mid-19th century that are very interesting and would be of value to descendants of him and his, um, correspondents. He was somewhat circumspect in the writing, but it appears that he was gay.

Is it OK to out someone's ancestors? Or to out someone after 175 years (or several someones)? The content is very discreet but also interesting. I can scan some parts for you to see if you would like. Of particular interest is a letter from a soldier on Padre Island to him in the Civil War.

Thanks --
Tracy St Claire
Bible Records Online

PS -- It is not that explicit. My mother-in-law read these documents without getting the implications. Perhaps I am reading things into it that are not there. The man does have descendants, after all.


Pre-1900 documents are OK to transcribe in my book. One would hope that a researcher would merely TRANSCIBE word-for-word without casting an eye to societal judgements or prejudices of that century or this. To ABSTRACT a diary would mean to extract only what the abstracter considers important. We don't really like abstracts for that very reason, do we?

Certainly taking things out of full context could lead one to believe this-or-that about a particular ancestor.

Your job is to transcribe.

A FAMILY HISTORIAN must compile as many documents as possible, then fit the pieces together to form a GLIMPSE of an ancestor's life. Social or religious judgements often get in the way of providing a clear view of the ancestor.

So it is "Just the facts, mam" for your work as a transcriber.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 All Rights Reserved.

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