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15 June 2012

STICKY SITUATIONS: TREAD SOFTLY

     Sticky Situation #1: A relative does not seem to know that his "mother" was, in fact, his grandmother and that his sister was his birth mother.  The mother and the sister are both deceased. You are putting together a family history and plan to share it with the extended family, and you are sure this person will obtain it.
     Sticky Situation #2: You are discussing the family history with a relative, and it becomes apparent that he has no idea that his mother had been married and widowed before she married his father.
     Sticky Situation #3: You are helping a dying man find his roots. He tells you that he knows there are mysteries in his family, but he does not know quite what they are. You discover that his birth parents placed him and one of his sisters (there were other siblings kept by the parents) with another family. You contact his relatives (with his permission), and discover that it is an "open secret" in the "adoptive"family that he was not a blood relative. The family members beg you not to tell this man the truth, claiming it would destroy him. Plus, they claim the sister, also elderly and ill, does not know about her "adoption" either.
     Solutions?
     Each one of these situations was encountered by a family historian. Naturally, the solutions to sticky situations are dependant upon the people involved. What works for one family might not work for another. But these type of situations do remind us that we do not research our family history in a vacuum. Our work and our discoveries have the potential to affect lives, emotions, and relationships. Sometimes, we have to tread softly when asking questions or sharing information.