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The Skeleton in the Closet

Tips for coping with the shock of finding a skleleton in the closet.


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Resource: GenWeekly
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Most of us start out in genealogy quite excited and awed at the prospect that we can find our ancestors mentioned in history. Most of us experience feelings of elation as we read the names on the pages and, suddenly, there it is: Great Grandma or Grandpa's name. But, eventually, some of us may have the experience of unearthing information that reveals less than sterling qualities about an ancestor.

I well remember the feelings of shock as I read the historical account of one of my grandfathers being involved in the demise of an individual. We seemed like such an average normal family, I thought. As the shock wore off, I was able to see things in a more sensible light. Here are some tips on coping with the skeletons in your closet.

First, calculate the number of years that transpired since the event occurred. Just the knowledge that this event happened 112, or 123, or 160 years ago will remove some of the shock. This also helps you to place the event into relation with social mores and values of the time. Remember, your values are not necessarily your grandfather's, and social values and taboo's change with time. Take the time to investigate the values and social mores of your grandfather's time; it might put a completely new perspective on things.

Attempt to understand the events that shaped your ancestor's life. Were alcohol or poverty an influence upon their behavior? What behaviors of other individuals may have been relative to the situation? What cause the event to occur? If legal proceedings were involved, what was the outcome? You might find out that your ancestor was not guilty after all.

Acknowledge that while we are influenced by the genetics of our ancestors, their behaviors are not and should not be a reflection upon our character. Human character is shaped by many different influences. Human beings are mortal creatures and are subject to the failings that are intrinsic to us all. The world is made of all different kind of humans; it was no different in your grandparent's day.

Recognize that you can do nothing to change history. History is just that, history. But, trying to understand the events of history has the capability of teaching us many valuable lessons. We must learn from history and try not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Look for things to admire about you ancestor. Did he or she exhibit grit or determination? Show incredible strength in the face of adversity?

Finally, try to see the lighter side of things. Well-placed humor is valuable to us all. Happy Hunting.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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