It’s time to talk about the elephant in the genealogy room. Ancestors who had secrets can startle not only the genealogist, but other family members. Be aware that when you shake the family tree, all the apples fall out…and no matter how astonishing, they are all “good” ones. Be prepared for the revelations up there in the far reaches of the family tree. Be prepared for other family members’ reactions, as well as your own.
For example, in this story from the Montreal Gazette, a genealogist discusses finding out his ancestor was a “not so nice Jewish boy” in the Mafia. And in my book, I discuss trying to find out about my husband’s Cherokee ancestor, but being stymied by the generation that considered that to be the family scandal, as well as the story of a woman whose in-laws got absolutely livid when she tried to trace their family tree.
And I heard of a couple who found out with the birth of their first child that the father’s family was African-American, but had been living as European-descended Americans for so long, the young father was completely unaware of it. Until the baby was born, that is.
So the point of today’s blog: Your ancestry may contain surprises. And that’s OK. You’re still you. And, as Steve Olson says in Mapping Human History:
“The greater the number of generations taken into account, the greater the possibility that any two people … are distant cousins. By the tenth generation back, almost all of us have circles of inheritance in our ancestry.”
I highly recommend reading Mapping Human History, by the way.