Thursday, December 01, 2011

Who's in YOUR Closet?

We've all heard the expression regarding "Family skeletons in our closet".   Sometimes there are stories that you just don't want to repeat, because they embarass you or other relatives.  Well, if something happened a long time ago, then why would this be something to be ashamed of?   You didn't do anything wrong.

We all have them - skeletons.  In fact, I have one that I will share, but before I do, I always consider the context and impact to the individual, that family, and of course any descendants.  

One of my family skeleton stories is about a great-great uncle who lived before the 1940's.   He was born in Nebraska and worked in many different professions, including farmer, blacksmith, sheriff, and driver.    The story is he married and had several children.  After being married for several years, he was having trouble dealing with the family finances and as a result, his wife had him committed.  This effectively revoked his rights to legal management of the finances, business, etc.

I thought about this when I first read it and put myself in his shoes.   How would I feel?   Probably embarrassed, angry, and frustrated.  Perhaps I needed the help and at the time, that may have been the best way to deal with it.

What happened?   After a year in the "hospital", he was released and his "rights" were returned to normal.   They remained married and raised their children, according to the documents I found after this.   There is no family story about this handed down to me, so I can not relay the inside story, but the facts are the facts.  

A key takeaway is how we perceive our past.   Culture and values change over time, as do family dynamics.  When doing family research, it is best to learn as much as possible about the period you are investigating.   It is also important to know how the family unit was typically structured and what a regular day might have been for that family, in their social strata.    

Finding anything in our closet may sometimes shock us, but it is good to be objective in your research, as our present day views bias most of us.   Be honest to the facts, but if details are of a living person or recent generation, I would be very cautious.   Personally, I keep them private with referenced sources and do not publish on recent generations and never on living.

I am curious to hear what you think and if you would be as open about your family past - the good, the bad, and the skeletons in your closet?

Cousin Brian

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