On rare occasion I approach a genealogist who flat out will not answer my questions regarding their public family tree online. It is exceptionally, even more rare, that it goes from silence to outright hostility. About seven months ago I had an individual who I contacted ignore all my emails. I took the lack of response that she was just not checking her emails, so I did a little research and found her grown, adult, daughters and asked them the same question.
They were more than helpful and were a little unsure why their mom, the avid genealogist, did not respond to me. Well a big “no, no” with online family trees is showing living relatives to provide privacy. However, in my line of work the whole point is to find living relatives who can eventually be contacted by an adoptee. So you see the contradiction adoptees face going against to this rule.
The question I was asking was in regard to a great-grandfather I found in this genealogist’s family tree. He and his wife divorced several years before they departed this world. During that time my information had this individual born on the same date, location, and name having potentially been involved with another woman; which may have led to daughters being born. I had two separate documents stamped by the department of vital records from a state I will not mention; saying it was valid.
As delicately as I could put this question, did not settle well with this genealogist. I told the daughters I had not heard any response from two separate emails over the course of a month. I reached them both over Facebook chat. Both were very understanding and wanted to help, but wanted to check with their mother. I had no concern about that, as I had already tried to reach her. Instead of receiving a friendly communication from their mom, I received an angry email telling me I knew nothing of her family, and told me to stop harassing her kids.
I was stunned. She must have felt like it was some kind of attack so I tried to salvage the interaction with the offer to call her and see if we could just ask a few questions regarding a relative that might be related to the great-grandfather. Still she not only flat out refused, she told me she would be banning further email communication to her account. Slam went the door.
I contacted the daughters and apologized for whatever feelings I had hurt. Neither of them could understand why the mother reacted that way. One even offered to conduct a DNA test to assist. I told her we had found another individual willing to take a test, and it would help validate or prove false the documentation we had.
I had no intention of getting their mother more upset. About six weeks later the DNA test came back, and I was able to flat out prove the documentation I had was a total lie. The mother of these children had wanted to hide a premarital birth of several daughters before she married the father of her children. They even went to the extent of adopting the children and renaming them a decade after they married.
The name used on the documentation was plucked out of thin air, and just happen to align with a real person totally unrelated to the actual family I found him in. So the mother of these two daughters was right, but she sure did not help us come to that conclusion.
We were even willing to pay for any testing. I thought it would be exciting to share and help resolve. All I can think of was that this went way past the genealogy and this great-grandfather had created some kind of rift in the family divorcing the great-grandmother. Although that is complete speculation as neither his great-granddaughters knew much of anything about him or his divorce and the wall of silence from his granddaughter did nothing to shed light on it.
You would have thought she could have just quietly expressed some good judgment and given me some reason, like “it was a nasty divorce and our family does not like to speak about it”. I would have apologized for unknowingly rocked the boat and left quietly out the back door. Instead she created more drama by being nasty and short with me.
Bottom line is this, if you’re putting your laundry out on a line for the whole world to see, please don’t give people grief for noticing something about them. I mean, come on! If you want to be private, keep your tree private and unsearchable. But remember, most of us out there searching for answers are looking for the truth of our past! No one wants to upset a family or cause unwanted questions. We just want to find our own stories.