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Should I ‘publish’ and be damned?

(97 Posts)
Anya Thu 19-Oct-17 10:33:22

I meantioned on another thread that I’ve developed and interest in genealogy, not that anyon is interested!

But this has led me not only to research our own family tree but that of my SiL and DiL and I’m creating a book for each of then as part of their Christmas present, along the lines of Who Do You Think You Are

This week I’ve traced my DiL’s line back to the early 1800s only to find that one of her ancestors was a Very Dubious Character, being a serial bigamist, a convicted rapist (served time in prison), a dabbler in the Black Arts and is thought to have sold a customer a poison that he used to kill his wife. The customer was found guilty and hanged. This ancestor did well to escape the same fate.

Now, what do I do? This man is a direct ancestor of my DiL’s and I have checked and double checked marriage certificates, birth certificates and censuses, plus criminal records. There is even a book about him.

Would you find this ancestor an interesting addition to the family tree or would you prefer he was sidelined?

I’ll use this forum as a sounding board and take the general consensus into account when I make my decision.

Scribbles Thu 19-Oct-17 10:44:59

Well, I'd love it if someone so interesting was part of my heritage but I see your dilemma. You know your DiL and I don't but why not ask your son in confidence if he thinks you should go ahead with this?

Tottylimejuice Thu 19-Oct-17 10:49:38

Anya, for me, I definitely would prefer NOT TO KNOW!

jusnoneed Thu 19-Oct-17 11:09:58

I think I would add his name to the family tree and then keep the information separate and give her the choice of knowing/adding his details. Just say you have found out things about him that she may not like to have added, then let her make the decision.
I would have to know and add his tale, when going back to someone that far away it's not going to be a bad mark lol.

annsixty Thu 19-Oct-17 11:34:04

If he was the only rotten apple in the barrel I would add him as an example that good triumphs over evil in succeeding generations.

gillybob Thu 19-Oct-17 11:53:11

I think most of us might have a few skellingtons in the cupboard if we go back far enough . I would publish what you have found but as previously suggested by annsixty add something to show that good has triumphed in the end .

What a clever girl you are Anya smile I have got quite a bit of my family tree done but have started to draw blanks and don't know how to move on .

kittylester Thu 19-Oct-17 12:10:29

I love the more 'interesting' characters that I know about in our family and you know her well enough to have a sense of her reaction. Will you do my family tree please! I can't find the time to get started.

NonnaW Thu 19-Oct-17 12:11:30

My DH has been longing to find an ancestor like that, instead of interminable ‘agricultural labourers’. smile

Imperfect27 Thu 19-Oct-17 12:18:34

I say 'Go for it.' I would LOVE to know all the nitty gritty details myself - he sounds intriguing and will add a bit of spice to your gift - and what a lovely gift idea!

Riverwalk Thu 19-Oct-17 12:23:57

We're not responsible for anything our ancestors did so it's all very jolly to find a rogue, a bigamist, or highwayman but I don't think it makes a good Xmas gift to be presented with a convicted rapist.

Finding this out for yourself is one thing but your MIL unearthing this information might not go down too well!

Hipsy Thu 19-Oct-17 12:28:37

Absolutely. We are not responsible for the sins of our fathers.
I have compiled trees for many friends over the years and its only the wayward characters that interest people.
One friend had an Irish g.g.Grandmother living in London who was trialed for murder at the Old Bailey.She had left her children without food while she was frequenting gin houses.
The youngest child was found dead.
I told my friend I had uncovered something disturbing.He insisted on knowing.

Anniebach Thu 19-Oct-17 12:49:25

I did a son in law's tree as a gift. war medals etc, one ancestor was hanged in a city square for stealing a horse. His niece was most interested and With great pride she informed everyone of the hanging, not a word about war medals

One branch of mine going back to 1530 , only naughty one was arrested for being drunk and disorderly , how boring .

I would want to know as would my daughters and grandchildren , go for it Anya

MissAdventure Thu 19-Oct-17 12:50:50

I would be interested in knowing how the immediate family of this person fared, so yes, I would want to know.

Oldwoman70 Thu 19-Oct-17 12:52:22

I would put it in but add something along the lines of "the one bad apple". My brother has done a similar thing with our family tree and has found everything from missionaries, scientists and horse thieves!

Nannarose Thu 19-Oct-17 13:08:00

I write as someone who knows her family history well. My own, take it or leave it advice, is actually to find out if they want such a gift at all. Although I see how many would find it a lovely thought, some would not, whoever you found out.
I think that jusnoneed's advice seems reasonable.

Anya Thu 19-Oct-17 13:19:53

I just spoke to my DiL’s parents who did originally supply me with the info I needed to start looking into the family tree. They were in whoops of laughter, and were going to ring ‘Aunt Betty’ to share the information with her. They r asked me to order the book for their Christmas present!!

I think I will include it but just leave out the rape charge, as that sort of changes him from a bit of a rogue to a nasty piece of work.

grannyactivist Thu 19-Oct-17 13:21:57

Genealogy is a passion of mine too Anya and, in my view, the whole point of the research is to find out as much as possible about ancestors. One of mine was a jurist in a famous murder trial in the 1800's and when I shared this with my family they commented it would have been much more interesting if he'd been the defendant! So, yes, I would most certainly include as much information as you've got.

NotTooOld Thu 19-Oct-17 14:07:42

I'm an avid genealogist, too. I would definitely go ahead and include that information although I might check my sources first. It's fairly easy to get on the wrong track I've found.

Anya Thu 19-Oct-17 14:13:24

Yes, it is easy to go shooting down a false alley NTO but I have checked and rechecked and it’s a very direct family line, with certification at every point.

NanKate Thu 19-Oct-17 14:20:20

I think Anya you have found a new calling. You could offer your services to interested Granset subscribers 😳

Nanabilly Thu 19-Oct-17 14:24:21

Oh I'd love it if one of my ancestors had a history like that.... As long as they are not living any longer and I doubt that then don't worry . Give them all the gory details.

Jalima1108 Thu 19-Oct-17 14:51:24

That sounds a wonderful idea Anya - I must pull all my research together in a form which others may understand!

I'm not sure - perhaps you could mention him briefly and make a separate leaflet which she could read if she wanted with a reference to the book about him. It is so long ago that most people would find it fascinating rather than upsetting.

One of my ancestors got six months in prison in the 1700s for receiving stolen goods (part of a sheep) which is not a great misdemeanour by today's standards.
It is interesting to note that many Australians descended from convicts used to be very ashamed and defensive about their ancestry but now seem to wear it as a badge of pride - especially if they were sent out on the First Fleet.

Jalima1108 Thu 19-Oct-17 14:55:29

Anya do you have any tips and which firm is publishing your books? Are you doing it through Ancestry or have you compiled it yourself?

Bridgeit Thu 19-Oct-17 15:11:16

Definitely an interesting addition, brilliant even if not a very desirable character!!! I find discoveries such as yours are fascinating

Grannyknot Thu 19-Oct-17 15:21:20

Oh my word, people are so risk averse! I haven't read all the replies, but I'd most definitely put his info in because (a) it's interesting (b) it's not personal (it's not as if he is her father or grandfather) and (c) for all anyone knows it may have been a miscarriage of justice, (d) you would be "censoring" if youleft it outo. Just tell her, for heaven's sake.