WRITING ABOUT A DIFFICULT ANCESTRAL HISTORY
When we come across an ancestor who, by today’s standards, led a less-than-savory life, our first inclination is to downplay, whitewash, or outright avoid writing their story because it is too difficult to address. As genealogists, however, by our very avocation, are obligated to record our histories as truthfully as possible.
The first thing to remember is that we are not responsible for our ancestors’ actions and, by writing their stories maybe we can do something positive for those they harmed.
When we discover an ancestor who did something reprehensible, such as being a slave owner or overseer, a persecutor of someone for witchcraft or some other unsavory act, we need to process our emotions and separate ourselves from the past.
It is important to realize that the things that our ancestors did – or didn’t do – in the past are not our fault. But, how we record these actions for posterity is a vital part of the story of our ancestors and should not be omitted from their narrative.
History is not always pretty, but it is important that we record it – warts and all – for posterity, for how else will people know the truth? Recording the past will inform the future.