25 April 2011

Finding the Family Skeletons

Upon a recent conversation with a family member, she made mention of our mutual ancestor's job as a ships captain, then commented that she was glad he wasn't a captain of a slave ship, because that would have been the end of her research.

That got me to thinking about the skeletons in the family tree.

For example:  my maternal great-great grandfather, William James Cox, left his family at the turn of the twentieth century and moved in with a woman about half the age of his wife, Anna Sperry Cox.  From this union, two children were born.  William and Anna never divorced, nor did he ever marry the second woman. Because this was such a well kept secret, it took me nearly ten years to finally crack this, all the find out William's parents names.

Yes, every family tree has a black sheep or a rogue ancestor.  Every tree has a crazy cousin.  However, if we let a skeleton hinder us from doing research, we never find out that a child born out of wedlock would become the favorite aunt of another cousin, or that a crazy gambler that gambled away his children also fought in the War of 1812 and walked away with a decoration, or that the woman who never adopted a son but raised him nevertheless would be looked at fondly by future generations as "Grandma."

Even skeletons in the family tree need to be looked at and examined.Stopping years of research just because the values of an ancestor didn't mesh with what is believed to be right now would seem, at least to me, to be a silly waste of years of research, and leaves future generations of family history hunters in the dark as well.

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