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  • Writer's pictureColleen Murray

The bad with the good


Some people want to do family research only to discover the good things. They may even want to enhance those aspects, and sweep anything unpleasant or less than perfect under the "genealogical rug". I, on the other hand, love to find the bad with the good. Because that way I know I am looking for real people, not just an idealized sketch of a person. Some places to find that less than perfect glimpse of our ancestors is newspapers. There you may learn of court cases, negative business dealings, or accounts of wrong doing. Other possibilities are probate records- sometimes what is said about someone in the will (or the fact that they are left out of it all together) can speak volumes. Historical Parliamentary debates even dredged up some questional business dealings related to one of my ancestors! As exciting as it can be to find any historical mention of an ancestor, I try to put both postive and negative stories in perspective by trying to guess at what was going on in this ancestor's life and times that led them to this point. That said, it is very tempting to read too much into your results, and surmise motivations for our ancestor that may or may not be accurate. That's why maintaining a healthy balance on your perspective is both helpful (and fair) to your ancestor and to the descendants who you pass your research onto.

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