I had a most interesting experience this year with one of my good friends, whom I will not name, in fear that he will scalp me! For the sake of my story, we’ll just use his initials TLR or T for short. Knowing I am a self-admitted genealogy crack-head, T told me that he knew very little about his paternal side. He knew somewhat of his maternal side. Now admittedly, he told me from the onset that he was not interested in genealogy, family history or his paternal side due to issues he had with his Father. Understood. That’s his family line. Who am I to pry?? But then, he tells me that his adult children, his son in particular, had an interest in their little known family history. T’s son had actually tried to research his family line, but due to time restraints and lack of experience and resources came up with little to nothing. Okay, so T’s family history is on my “genealogy radar.” I am itching to get my researcher’s hands on his ancestors. But first, I need his consent. So, I ask my good friend...for the sake of his adult children and teenaged grandchildren if he’d mind if I shook his tree, just a little too see if I could help fill in the historical blanks that T’s son was unable to find. He told me that HE really wasn’t interested, but that if I thought I could help, I was welcome to do “whatever it was I do.” He agreed that whatever information I discovered, he would gladly pass that onto his son. More excited than a kid locked in cotton candy factory, I started my research! I had several brief interviews with T to gather what information he had, to help me in my quest. He complied. It took me no time to “travel” from Chicago, Illinois to Lexington, Kentucky, following his relatives in reverse order of their lives. I periodically would share my information with him to ensure I was on the right track and to fact-check, as I knew he had not shared all of the initial information with me. I became resolved in the fact that he did not rejoice at the unearthing of fascinating data. For example, I discovered a relative that lived less than 10 minutes away from his childhood home. He says he never knew the relative was local. That was an exciting find for me, especially since it appears that the relative’s home is still, to this day, inhabited by family. I tried to present my findings in a calm and sensitive way, since I was unsure of exactly what family hurts and fractures had occurred in the past. The culmination of his uncomfortableness came one day when I updated him with new data. It had been two weeks since I last spoke to him concerning his family tree. He told me in a surprised tone, “I thought you were finished with that?” I knew then that he was permitting me to research his family, but cringed at every mention of new records found and ancestors unknown. Out of respect for his feelings, I stopped tracing his paternal and maternal lines altogether. I felt sad for his children and grandchildren, because I know they are curious. And I felt disappointed because, as you researchers know, once you begin to trace ancestors you build a rapport and bond with them. They seek you out in the middle of the night with helpful ideas. They cheer you on at the discovery of their birth certificate. They pat you on your back when you neatly organize their life in prose or in charts. And in this case they pouted, with folded arms, as their descendant blocked the discovery of their lives. They encouraged me to continue documenting and validating them, in secret, as one day T would change his mind. However, I opted to respect his privacy and assured them that when T was ready, I would continue their story.
So, how do you deal with those who have no interest in knowing their history?
Until Next Time,