Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How About Those Skeletons?

Unearthing Skeletons

Unearthing those skeletons is always interesting whether they are my own or those belonging to a client.  Aren't those skeleton's stories what make our family history come alive?  OK, maybe you disagree.  They tend to shake up our tree, make us ponder where did we really come from, and occasionally scare us. Well then, what should we do with those skeletons? Leave them buried? Pretend we never uncovered their secrets? Well, maybe we should celebrate them, OK maybe not the mass murderers, but those who just choose the wrong road when coming to the fork in it.

Recently, I was listening to (I believe) one of Lisa Louise Cooke's* podcasts where she addressed this issue. The advice offered by Lisa Louise was.....the living come first.  I'd have to agree.  Maybe after digging up juicy information about your long-lost-gun-slinging-bank-robbing-womanizing great-great uncle once removed, and knowing full well that Grandma would cringe at the thought of airing dirty laundry, it may not be sage advice to immediately run to the nearest computer to post this information for all to see.  Or if you find yourself immediately compelled to share, as we are all too ready to do in today's world -  leave out a few gory details for Grandma's sake.  We all want Grandma to be happy in her last years don't we? Of course we do!  Well then, how do we present this new found information without making Grandma want to write us out of her will?

How about trying this........

substituting desperado for bank robber - conjures up imagery of the famous Eagles song
substituting moonlighter for thief - no one will suspect the subject is not working a second job
substituting groggy for someone who drinks a little too much - indicates someone is very tired, maybe from working hard

OK you get the idea - there are many ways to gently discuss the habits of our skeletons without putting it all out there.  However, keep in mind when deciding whether you should post, discuss, or relay any questionable information ere on the side of caution.  Perhaps you can ask another friend or family member who wouldn't be greatly effected by the new information.  This accomplishes too things. One, allows you to relate your information and two, use the person as a sounding board to gauge their reaction and gain their opinion.

The choices we make can go along way......

A few years ago someone kindly offered to go to a library local to her to look up an obituary for me.  She was able to find the obituary and a story to go along with the obituary.  The reason for the story was that my third great grandfather had been killed after being hit by a train while walking along the railroad tracks.  He was 82 years old.  The woman did not tell me this information because she realized that it may upset me. Instead she sent me the paperwork and allowed me to read it for myself. After discovering this information she had a choice to make.  She could have emailed me immediately with all the gory details and risked upsetting me or she could have done the correct thing which was to gently allow me to discover the reason why my third great grandfather had passed.  I appreciated her thoughtfulness.  Just because we find information does not mean others will be as excited to know every last detail.

Embrace you skeletons....

Sometimes they're embarrassing, silly, uneducated, crazy, controversial, far-from-traditional, or down right nasty, but they are ours.  We did not create them and we are not responsible for them. So why should we feel they are a reflection on us?  Try to find some good in those skeletons and embrace them.  We would not be here if it weren't for them.

(*Lisa Louise Cooke's genealogy gems website is lisalouisecooke.com)

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