I have found more than one, but I’ll tell you about one. In compiling a family history I discovered one lady had been married previous to her current husband but no one knew about it. She requested I not put information about her first marriage in the book because her children did not know about it and she didn’t want them to find out about it in a book.
There are some who claim to have no skeletons in their closet, that they’re family never did ANYTHING wrong. Really?
Every family I’ve searched has had some kind of skeleton. Most families have experienced something they kept quiet whether it was a child born out of wedlock, alcoholism, drug abuse, debtor’s prison, suicide, robbery, or even murder!
Now that you know about your skeleton the question for today is, “What do you do about it?”
- Pretend you didn’t find out about it and hide it under the rug? Problem is, even skeletons cannot be hidden under a rug.
- Make a note of it, but hide it in your research and don’t tell the family? What if there’s a family history of depression leading to suicide. I think your family would want to know about it to prevent future problems.
- Bring it out of the closet and publish it for all the world to see? Maybe not. But maybe you can treat it tactfully and with some empathy for those involved.
- Wait until it’s a better time to tell others, but keep a record in your files? If it’s still too sensitive an issue, time has a way of healing old wounds.
- Condemn the offender for their actions? We should not be their judge. Maybe in light of their times, you would not be so quick to condemn.
There is no across the board answer to all these questions. You have to treat each case individually with the perspective of that time and place and with sensitivity to those who may be hurt by such a revelation. Only you can answer that.
The bottom line is: We are not writing a fiction story.
We are recreating the family history. If it’s an event that needs to be shared, I think we can reveal things without bringing out all the gory details and plastering it on a billboard. We could even cite some sources for “further information” if the reader needs it.
In the case of the family history I was writing, I honored her request. She didn’t have any children from the prior marriage, nor did I have any other reason that the information would need to be immortalized. Later, long after the book was published, she told her children about her previous marriage. If I ever publish a revised edition, I’ll get permission from her to include it at that time.
What will you do with your skeletons? Someday when the time is right, maybe I’ll share my skeletons with you.