Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Genealogy Serendipity Moments - The Unvarnished Truth

In the course of doing genealogy research we occasionaly come across what might be considered unvarnished truth. Usually this can be a rather shocking surprise revelation about a family member we are not expecting. Many times when I am working with clients they like to tease me with tidbits of information and then let me discover what they already know. Today I will share a collection of these moments of revelation that lead to unexpected consequences.

Probably the saddest moment was when I was working with a friend at our local FHC. We made great progress in finding information for her family in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area. In turning to newspapers to look for obituaries on some of her family we were very successful in finding several. We also came upon an article that graphically described the death of one of her great grandfathers. It told explicitly how he had committed suicide and described his mental condition at the time. I did not realize how powerfully this had impacted my friend until we were walking out of the FHC and she burst into tears. The impact of knowing our family history can bring about some very strong emotional pain.

The next moment came as we worked on a fiftieth birthday present for the husband of a client. When we began she had very little to go on and by the time we finished we had a fantastic family history. She worked with me along the way and it was a lot of fun. In the end I left her with the results of our research, a rather large collection of documents and pictures for the basis of his family history, which she would organize for the presentation. In the process of our research we came across a newspaper article describing the death of his grandfather in a car accident that his father and grandmother survived. This was a powerful event in his father's life. It becomes a major point in the family history and should not be overlooked.

The last moment has to do with adoption. This is some of the most sensitive family research there is to do. Many people have no real concept of where they came from and why they ended up where they did. One of my friends has been searching for the truth for almost twenty years, when she finally decided she had to know the truth. Last night I think we made another major break through for her in the search. One must be extremely sensitive when dealing with these situations. A few months ago she asked me to review some material for a family searching for the birth mother of a young women who was dying of cancer. In doing so they were able to take my suggestions and located the birth mother in the next few days. The birth mother was very receptive and they had a wonderful reuniting before the young woman passed away. This is not always the case, but one will never know for sure without courageously reaching for the unvarnished truths in their lives. I do not focus on adoption research, but I will lend my skills to help in specific cases.

My purpose in sharing these moments of unveiling some unvarnished truths or difficult pieces of information is to encourage you to press forward and be aware that what you discover about your family may not always be what you are hoping to find. To me it lends to some of the mystery of the search. It does help to research with someone who will be understanding and sympathetic to the emotions that can boil to the surface in the process. Then there is the decision on how to share such information. This has to be done with great sensitivity. Only you will know what to include in your family history, but honesty pays a great benefit to future generations.

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