Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Honoring (the wishes of) the Dead

I was at the Records Room of the Kings County Surrogate's Court one morning last week. I found a piece of information I'd been wondering about for almost as long as I've been researching my family history. I can't be 100% sure that the fact is accurate, as it's not a primary source - but it's closer to it than anything else I'd come across, so I have a decent amount of confidence in its accuracy.

Now, the reason that this one fact has eluded me is because the person it concerned didn't wish it to be known, but rather, took great pains to avoid revealing it while alive. And this has always left me a bit conflicted. If I were to discover this fact, and know it with any degree of certainty, would I share it? (I'm not sure I've reached that degree of certainty yet, so I don't think I'd be spreading this information yet, anyway.) I've never gone looking for a primary source for this fact, precisely because I wasn't sure what I'd do next. On the one hand, it seems inappropriate to keep it from curious relatives, especially those who have shared lots of information with me over the years. But would that be the right thing to do? I know that the dead have no expectation of privacy, but I wonder if disrespecting our ancestors' wishes amounts to disrespecting our ancestors. If I had no respect for my forefathers, I would not be occupied in the genealogical pursuit, now, would I?

Do I share?

4 comments:

Maureen said...

Katie
You should publish or release the information. If it helps you find out where we came from, go for it. We are having a herd enough time finding out who we are as it is.
Maureen

jmg2 said...

Betty agrees it's better to share learned information.
If what you learned is from her side of the family,
Betty says she thinks you should share!

When we think about all the information about her mother [ Veronica ] never knew, like her Grandparent's & Great-Grandparent's, not even their names. She always said that they were related to the Rothchild's, now we know "THANKS TO YOU KATIE!" ... that it was the Rothwell's. It's your decision, but Betty & I wanted you to know how we feel ... of course I'm only "married" into ... , but it also is our children's history. We are so pleased with all the information you have given us about the Mulcahys, Mulvaneys, Toners & Madigans.

jmg2 said...

Betty agrees it's better to share learned information.
If what you learned is from her side of the family,
Betty says she thinks you should share!

When we think about all the information about her mother [ Veronica ] never knew, like her Grandparent's & Great-Grandparent's, not even their names. She always said that they were related to the Rothchild's, now we know "THANKS TO YOU KATIE!" ... that it was the Rothwell's. It's your decision, but Betty & I wanted you to know how we feel ... of course I'm only "married" into ... , but it also is our children's history. We are so pleased with all the information you have given us about the Mulcahys, Mulvaneys, Toners & Madigans.

Love, BETTY & JOHN

JennaVictoria said...

Hi, stumbled across your blog doing a google search on "HERBEN genealogy" - not sure why! But loved this post. I often feel conflicted, especially when learning my father-in-law's beloved uncle died in an asylum for the insane instead of being hit on the head with a rock as family lore stated - and my gr-grandfather evidently never married my gr-grandmother. But I would say if the folks are deceased, to let the facts be known. What was once horrific in their eyes is rather mundane in today's sensibilities.