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How Honest Should You Be?

How Honest Should You Be?

Posted: 8 Jun 2011 5:42PM GMT
Classification: Query
Hello all. I have been diligently researching my family tree for months now with the intention of providing other family members and their children with a nice written family history. I have encountered something that I’m not sure I should share. It appears that on the 1880 Federal Census a direct ancestor of mine was classified as “Idiotic” / “Insane”. I don’t know historically what would qualify a person to be classified this way or who would do it, but it’s right there. Should I conceal this from the rest of the family, maybe redact it or something or should I let them all know? Thanks in advance for any help.

Re: How Honest Should You Be?

Posted: 8 Jun 2011 6:22PM GMT
Classification: Query
Noone can not or ever will be able to choose the family we are in so finding that out may help someone in the family. You know in those days they used what they may to describe us. In on cenus I found my family mullatees and one negros you guess?

Re: How Honest Should You Be?

Posted: 8 Jun 2011 6:27PM GMT
Classification: Query
Thanks Elaine, it sounds like it was based on observation, maybe there was a behavior or something that led to the "Idiot" / "Insane" box being checked. I'm still on the fence as to whether to tell my family.....

Re: How Honest Should You Be?

Posted: 9 Jun 2011 12:58AM GMT
Classification: Query
Hi,

Just another view, I have been doing genealogy for over 10 yrs. I have a family tree with almost 10,000 members from the USA to Canada, to England, Australia and Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. In my research, I have seen most everything that would have been "hush hush" as they say in the old days.

The first time I found something like that I thought it was awful, but you have to take into account, the year this was entered, was the family immigrant, were they itinerant farm workers and therefore unschooled. Did the person have a hearing or speech deficit. Obviously we are not privy to all that information through a census taker. In the earlier days, census takers were people who could write and I use that term loosely.

I can only tell you that I enter everything as I find it, unless their is family documentation to discount it and I always add a note saying this transcription of the information is as I read it at the time. Taking into account family members who may be of childbearing years, you may want to share the information with them.

Idiocy as they label it is not necessarily contagious or inherited, some people come by it without inheriting it. If you get my drift.

What I am trying to say is no one can make that decision, but you for your family, but I decided to be as factual as possible when entering information.

Good luck with your decision.....

Jen

Re: How Honest Should You Be?

Posted: 9 Jun 2011 12:08PM GMT
Classification: Query
I believe you should record what you've found. By not reporting your findings will not make the document go away, and it will remain there for another family member to find when they take up genealogy. There's a difference between altering and omitting an item found in your research, but omitting something sometimes alters the context of what you write.

You might consider looking for a probate court record - probate court is what it's called in Michigan - to see if your 1880 relative was declared legally insane for the purpose of someone being able to administer his affairs and property as a guardian. There is a lot to be read into this action.

Bob Gaudio

Re: How Honest Should You Be?

Posted: 9 Jun 2011 9:37PM GMT
Classification: Query
I have found "comments" like that in a few of my ancesters. I found it to be quite "ignorant" on the choice of words they used back then. I wouldn't delete them. Just explain to the kids the words they used mean-"this",now a days because they didn't know the correct words to use what was a mystery to them of what was awrong with people back then.

Re: How Honest Should You Be?

Posted: 11 Jun 2011 4:20PM GMT
Classification: Query
I would report it as you find it. If you change one unpleasant fact, then it will be that much easier to change or overlook the next one.

I come from an upper middle class family which I was alway told was wealthy via my maternal grandfather until his father lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929.. This I could verify, but you can imagine my horror to find a few more generations back one of the bloodiest murderers in US history is a direct ancestor!.

Re: How Honest Should You Be?

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 4:34AM GMT
Classification: Query
Just because you leave it in, that doesn't mean you have to call special attention to it. You might include a copy of the census page, and say nothing about the "insane" category. "Insane" at that time may have merely meant that they had Down syndrome, seizures, postpartum depression, etc...

You might check censuses before and after, and also state censuses, for other clues as to why that label was applied.

Re: How Honest Should You Be?

Posted: 6 Nov 2012 7:58PM GMT
Classification: Query
You have to ask yourself 'What am I trying to do?' - are you a historian, or are you trying to write a gift for your family to make them feel better? If you're a historian, you have to collect all information, complimentary or not. But, you may decide to publish two versions of your tree, one for the sensitive people and children, and another with the cold hard truth included as well. For instance, I recently found out that a distant relative was sent to prison for drug smuggling. I am going to keep this information from the casual viewer of the tree, but anyone who is seriously interested in family issues, and who I think is responsible, I will share the information with. I am still not sure what to do about sharing mere rumors, and person opinions, though. I will collect them and keep them but I have yet to decide how to share them.

Re: How Honest Should You Be?

Posted: 9 Mar 2013 4:36AM GMT
Classification: Query
Edited: 9 Mar 2013 4:38AM GMT
You can check the "Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes" schedule for more information (see link). On a family tree I did for a niece-in-law, I found a great-grandfather institutionalized. She knew the story: he had been kicked in the head by a horse in his 40s and was brain injured.
LINK:
http://www.genealogy.com/heard042601.html

I would absolutely share the information as found. Our ancestors struggles and shortcomings and challenges inform our own, just as do their achievements.
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