Standing in judgement of our ancestors may be unavoidable. Genealogists dig up the good, the bad, and the ugly. We cannot pick and choose what we find, but we might be able to pick what and how we share it with others.
Recently, I received a letter from a Gem’s reader which included a very delicate and sensitive matter. She writes:
I love your blog and podcast. Thank you for all you do getting gems together for us! I have a question for you and would love to know your opinion (or the opinion of anyone else as well!)
I was recently at a family wedding. I printed out all the family and ancestor’s paper trails and documents and was passing them around to my aunt, uncles, and cousins. My mom’s eldest brother brought up a memory he had of his grandfather, my great-grandfather, a German immigrant. My uncle whispered it to me because the saying my great-grandfather often said is very prejudice. I won’t tell you what the quote is but it’s prejudice against Jewish, Irish, and Dutch people. Here’s my question – should I write down that my great-grandfather was prejudice against certain people to preserve this part of his character or should I let this information fade into history? As genealogists we are always trying to get a full view of the person we are researching – past the census records, military service paperwork, and wills – and into the real person and personality. So, I now have a more broad view of my great-grandfather, but it’s negative. Should I preserve this character flaw in my ancestry notes? I’m conflicted about what to do. Maybe if this was a further distanced relative I would have an easier time brushing aside this prejudice but I’m having a hard time with the “right thing to do.” Any advice would be wonderful!
As a side note I will tell you that in the following generations this mans’ children and grandchildren have married Irish and Jewish spouses. Haha. I guess the “saying” was never echoed by his descendants!
Judgement of Our Ancestors
This is a great question and I applaud you for thoughtfully taking a moment to really think it through and ask for advice before moving forward on recording what you were told.
You asked – Should I write down that my great-grandfather was prejudice against certain people to preserve this part of his character or should I let this information fade into history? My opinion is, no. Mother Lisa says this is gossip and you didn’t hear it straight from your great-grandfather. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone else attributing a negative comment to me without having the chance to review or rebuke it. It’s a slippery slope.
Little Tea & Gossip by Robert Payton Reid, Source: http:⁄⁄www.liveinternet.ru⁄users⁄pmos_nmos⁄post357791815⁄
You also asked – Should I preserve this character flaw in my ancestry notes? And there’s the slippery slope. I believe that we, in modern times, should avoid sitting in judgement of ancestors who are not here to defend themselves. We don’t want to presume that we are in a position to decide how wrong “the crime” is. We certainly don’t want to be negatively prejudiced against others ourselves, but it is impossible to put oneself in another’s shoes in a differing time and circumstance. We know nothing about what the person really said. Perhaps they were joking (even though in extremely bad taste!) Maybe the person who heard this, and passed it on, had an ax to grind and part or none of it is true. Or, maybe there was an experience that our ancestor suffered that could have given him a reason to gripe based on his personal experience. You just don’t know.
In my book, I would chalk this up to gossip and either prove it with substantiated evidence or move on. What goes around comes around so let’s hope it will prevent an occurrence of someone gossiping about you and your future descendant spreading it into the ages.
Deciding to Write the Whole Story
In cases where you have secured substantial evidence that a negative story is true, you still have a choice to make. When I come across particularly sensitive or negative information about an ancestor, and before I make it public, I ask myself, “who will this help, and who will it hurt?” Does adding it to the family history enrich it? Is there anyone living today who might be hurt? If someone stands to be injured, but you’re set on capturing the story, I encourage you to do so privately for your own records and of course, cite all of your sources.
If you do decide to write and publish sensitive stories, I know that you will want to do so in as gentle and fair a way as possible. Here are some things to consider when writing about delicate stories of our ancestors:
Be sure to cite your source – who told you the story and when. The reader can decide whether to take the story with a grain of salt or believe it.
Let your readers know your reason for sharing the story in the first place. Genealogy Gems blogger Amie Tennant recently read a family history that included a horrible childhood memory. The writer stated it was important to put the family dynamics in full view so that other stories would be seen in the “right light.”
If naming everyone in the story will cause hurt or embarrassment, consider documenting the essence of the story without naming names.
Whatever you decide, writing a family history, though difficult at times, can be a rewarding experience.
Inbox by Gmail app has some great features and if you’re willing to go all-in and are up for a big change, go for it. If not, here are some ideas for improving your regular Gmail experience.
About a year ago, Google announced the new Inbox by Gmail app. I didn’t cover it then because they had bugs to work out. But, I’ve been keeping an eye on it. It’s a bit overwhelming, however, if you are up for the change here’s a quick video summary of what it does.
As a recap, the Inbox by Gmail app can:
Bundle similar messages for you, like offers and promos;
Recognize emails about travel reservations and bundle those together; and lastly,
It allows you to browse photos in emails without opening the message.
You can also do a lot of housekeeping and organizing tasks yourself. For example, you can:
Pin messages that you want to come back to, then click on a thumbtack icon to show all pinned messages;
Snooze an email message by marking it to pop back up to the top of your list at the time and date you indicate;
Create easy reminder messages for things you need to do; and
Keyword-search your emails just like you do in Google. Sometimes, the search function is even smart enough to answer questions for you. Like when I type in “flight Indianapolis” for my upcoming trip to the Midwestern Roots conference in July, I get an email with my flight reservation in my search results. At the top, I will also see a nice summary of my flight information that Google extracted from that email and puts right in front of me.
These are pretty slick features, but they come with a price: Inbox by Gmail is a dramatic change from Gmail which some might find a difficult transition.
Improve Your Regular Gmail Experience without Using the Inbox by Gmail App
If you’re not quite ready to switch to Inbox by Gmail, there are ways to enhance and improve your experience using regular Gmail. I don’t know about you, but I don’t use the “Chat” feature on Gmail very often. However, that little chat box pops up right below the labels, and that means that when you select a label lower down on the list, it’s easy to accidentally open the chat box. Frustrating indeed!
Make your life just a little bit easier by changing the location of your chat box. Go to Settings, then click on Labs. Click to Enable the Right-side chat feature. Chat moves out of the way over to the right and the problem is solved.
For those of you who don’t use the Chat feature at all, you can completely turn it off. Simply go to Settings, Click the Labs tab, click to select Chat Off, and then click Save Changes. Ah, this gives you a cleaner, less cluttered, Gmail to work with. Nice!
An important thing to remember about changing any of your Gmail settings is that you must click the Save button on the page to apply the changes.
Switch to the new Inbox by Gmail app or just improve your existing email with this little tip, the choice is yours. Thanks for sharing this tip with your friends…it’s nice to share, isn’t it?
News Release – For Immediate Release: April 4, 2012
Santa Monica, CA. April 4, 2012: The 1940 Census has finally been released and you can now browse the images online. But the waiting’s not over, since you still won’t be able to search the whole census by person until it’s fully indexed in several months.
Help, however, is at hand. Findmypast.com has come up with a way to make your search quicker and simpler – by offering to do the searching for you.
Findmypast.com is the new U.S. addition to the global network of findmypast family history websites, launched in a limited, early form in time for the 1940 Census. Its unique new, customized feature, created for the 1940 Census, is called “We’ll find them for you” and is now live.
All you have to do is to visit findmypast.com, submit the name of the person you’re searching for, plus some extra clues, and findmypast.com will email you as soon as the person’s records become available.
“We’re taking the hassle and delay out of searching”, says Brian Speckart, marketing manager of findmypast.com. “With this new feature, findmypast.com is going the extra mile to help you find your past as quickly and easily as possible.”
While the whole census won’t be searchable for several months, the records of individual U.S. states will be made searchable earlier, one state at a time. A couple of them are likely to be done by mid-April.
Some genealogy sites are offering to alert users simply when a particular state has been indexed. “But we’re going further and finding the particular individual you’re looking for”, says Speckart.
You have to tell findmypast.com in which state the person was living at the time of the 1940 Census. “As soon as that state is indexed, we run a program against the data to find the individual you’re looking for you and then email you the links we find”, says Speckart.
The job of indexing states one by one is being done by an army of volunteers under the banner of the 1940 Community Project, of which findmypast.com is a proud member.
Visitors to findmypast.com will be able to use the site’s new “We’ll find them for you” feature to submit details of the person they want to find.
Supplying the person’s first and last name and state where they were living in 1940 is all that’s required but providing additional clues will help findmypast.com narrow down the search results. Other helpful information includes approximate year of birth, likely birth city, place of residence in 1940 and names of other household members.
The new service isn’t just limited to family members either. Users can submit details of celebrities or other public figures and ask findmypast.com to find them too.
“So, if you happen to know that Marilyn Monroe’s real name was Norma Jean and which state she called home in 1940, we’ll find her for you too”, says Speckart.
The FGS Webinar Series on Society Management has just been announced and it’s starting soon. This new free webinar series is focused on the leadership and management of non-profit societies. If you belong to a genealogical society you’ll want to let your leadership know about this opportunity from the The Federation of Genealogical Societies. Read on for more from FGS.
FGS Webinar Series Details
Press Release: July 12, 2017 – Austin, TX.
The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announces the launch of their Society Management webinar series, scheduled to begin July 20, 2017. This series of free events will bring a much-needed aspect to the array of learning opportunities currently provided in the genealogical community, focusing solely on the leadership and management of non-profit societies.
The series will begin July 20, 2017 at 7:00pm central with a presentation by Fred Moss discussing The Open Death Records Initiative. The August session will feature David Rencher, CG, presenting on the best practices – and challenges – surrounding The Nominating Committee.
Each month thereafter will feature a new and interesting topic, ranging from recruitment and volunteer management to technology, publications, and working with your local tourism board. Registration will be necessary, and regular updates will be shared via the FGS Voice blog, FGS Voice Newsletter, and social media. Webinars will occur every 3rdThursday of the month.
Registration for the July program can be found here.
Speakers interested in presenting topics should contact Jen Baldwin, Education Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Support for Genealogical Societies
Finding affordable quality programming is probably one of the biggest challenges genealogy societies face.
Genealogy Gems for Societies is an annual premium subscription service just for genealogical societies and groups* (such as libraries). This is a cost-effective way for your group to provide quality family history video presentations by internationally-renowned speaker Lisa Louise Cooke at your regular meetings.
With a society subscription, your group may show video recordings of Lisa’s most popular classes! This applies to group presentations for a single location, one video per event–but with more than a dozen 50-60 minute videos, several more 25-30 minute videos and a growing number of quick video tips (4-15 minutes), you’ll have plenty of video classes to show all year long! Click here to see a full list of videos available to societies. (Videos are not for individual use by society members.)
In addition, society subscribers receive:
Permission to republish articles from our extensive article archive in your society newsletter (your editor will LOVE this feature!)
10% discount for your society on live seminars by Lisa Louise Cooke
10% discountcode for your society members to use in the Genealogy Gems Store (details will be sent to your society membership email address after purchase)
BONUS: exclusive digital PDF ebook of a collection of Lisa’s most popular articles from Family Tree Magazine!Share this in the members-only section of your group’s website (or if you don’t have a members-only section, your Programming Director may keep it and enjoy).
All of this costs only $199.00 a year—about the cost of one typical webinar! Click here for more details and ordering information.
Please support your local genealogical society or group by sharing this post with them by email or social media. Thank you! You’re a Gem.