Monday, February 8, 2010

Madness Monday - 08 Feb 2010

Ancestral Labels

I have had several clients over the past few years that have become upset over little things we have uncovered regarding their ancestors.

One client was so upset over the fact that their ancestor had owned slaves that they asked me to “erase that slave census thingy, because I don’t want anyone else to ever know about this”. Uh… erase the Census record? [Yes, she was very serious! She wanted me to make sure the original census record was deleted forever. Not just in the research we were performing, but the original record!] She was totally distraught when I told her that I couldn’t do that, it was a public record. [She has a son who is an aspiring politician, and she was afraid it wouldn’t look very good for him.]

I had another that took part in a well-known Virginia lynching in 1891. She asked that I make sure I “buried” the newspaper story that named him. [What?] Yeah, for some reason she thought I could make the story disappear from the newspaper archives.

I have had several who asked that I just “don’t put that into my report”. From having a well-known old west outlaw, to owning slaves, to being named a part of the Mafioso of Chicago in its heyday.

I have always felt sorry for those individuals who want me to hold back part of the information we uncover for them. And a couple of times I have taken the time to express my ideals on the subject. After all, I have told them, our ancestors are not us, and they do not reflect who we ourselves are. We make our own names in this world. Well, I have been told I don’t know what I am talking about. [I have never been able to convince these people other than what they have requested of me.]

Today, when they ask me to do this, I just highlight in my Word program, and delete the text they ask me to.

But it’s a real shame! Yes, these individuals may have done things that their families are not proud of, but they are still a part of their heritage. Now, as my hubby says, you can take after that person if you want, or you can make something really wonderful of your name. It’s all up to you.

I for one intend to do the latter when these occasional “ne’er-do-wells” creep into my tree.

1 comment:

Kathleen Brandt, Professional Genealogist said...

Oh...thanks for sharing your "don't write that" stories. I have had so many, they have become embarrassing. I put them in my final report, include the documentation, and the customer can play Hoodini and make the past disappear. If they like it to be revised, I footer it as a revision, and do as the client ask. But the original facts don't go away from my files any easier than they go away from census reports.