Friday, September 14, 2012

For Every Action There Is A Reaction!

In the eleventh episode of Who Do You Think You Are,  Jason Sudeikis, of Saturday Night Live fame, focused on his father's family since he already knew much of his mom's family history.  Jason really started from scratch with his dad's genealogy. Jason's father, Dan, never knew his father. He had heard stories from his mom about the death of his father, but that was the end of it. 

Through research in Chicago, Jason learned that his grandfather, Stanley Sudeikis, Jr., died homeless with no money or family. Stanley and Jason's grandmother were married but apparently it was only a formality. This led Jason to want to know more about Stanley, Jr.'s relationship with his father, Stanley, Sr. 

Once again,  Jason discovers another member of his family who grew up without a father. It seems Stanley Sr. had two families. He was a bigamist! So, both Jason's father and grandfather grew up without a father in the home. 

With further research Jason soon learns that Stanley, Sr. suffered the same fate, only this time due to a mining accident rather than the irresponsibility of another family member. Joseph Sudeikis came to America alone to find work and eventually be able to bring his family to his new homeland. Unfortunately he died in a mining accident before he could realize this dream. So, as it turned out, Jason is the first son in several generations to know and grow up with his dad.

This is a very sad story leaving Jason with several skeletons in the family closet. But, it gives us an opportunity to learn how to deal with this situation.

Some genealogists absolutely love their unruly ancestors and cannot wait to tell everyone about those rascals. Others are extremely  embarrassed and cannot wait to sweep the evidence under the rug.  Regardless of which category you fall into there are some very important guidelines you will need to follow.  Remember: you are part of a family and you better make sure your facts are correct. 

I confess, I am one of those family detectives that loves the scondrels in my family. For one thing, they are easier to find - they leave more records! And they make my family history more interesting.  One side of my family is spring-loaded with skeletons! But it is going to be a while before they are exposed because I am not the last living survivor in my family and others could be hurt.

You need to consider the feeling of others. Will someone be hurt, shocked, embarrassed. Will someone's life be completely turned upside down. Will it start a feud within a family. Will it ruin someone's life.  No one lives in a vacuum.

But more importantly -- Verify your facts! Document your sources. You should always do this anyways, but it is especially important when you are dealing with damaging information. Beware of rumors. Consider the source. Did something happen that was beyond anyone's control. And remember for every action there is a reaction.

So it doesn't matter how you personally view your family scoundrels. What really matters is the effect the information will have on someone else - be it a relative or a non-relative. But above all make sure the information is accurate.

Next: The final episode of Who Do You Think You Are with Paula Deen. I am very excited about this episode because genealogy can sometimes teach you so much more than you will ever learn from a history book.