Is there a right to do Genealogy?

Thomas at Geneabloggers posed the following question for his Thursday Thread yesterday.

“Is there a right to do genealogy?

When I eventually toddled off to bed I was still pondering the question and I was not sure that I had an absolute answer, and as I type this, now late on Friday evening I still am not sure, but I will put my thoughts out there, into the ether.

Perhaps rather than a right to do genealogy, it is a privilege to do it. I do not mean that I have an never ending bank account and therefore it is simply a way of filling an abundance of hours. I mean that it is a real privilege to utilize the numerous tools at our 21st Century disposal to unravel the past, whether that is my own family or researching someone else’s.

FAMILY. Illustration with different association terms in white background. Stock Photo - 7170297
Royalty Free Stock Photo

Looking at the question from my own family perspective. I am always amazed at the paper trail that my own family left behind. It is not about wealth, either then or now, it is about unraveling their lives, the good, bad, happy and sad and understanding the series of events in the context in which they happened.

To look at events with an open mind, pass no judgement or shame. Simply follow the trail of evidence that is available and accept, what has happened in the past, has happened and that sometimes you simply have to do the best you can do, when you are caught between the rock and the hard place. It is easy to pass judgement on events that happened in the past with a modern view; and that can simply not be accurate. Who allows us to be judgmental?

Through the course of our research we will undoubtedly come across events that will make us cringe; the abortions, adoptions, murders, suicides and illegitimacy and goodness knows what else. We should behave with dignity and record those facts as exactly that, fact. Whilst not damaging the reputation or legacy those individuals left behind. You can not alter history, but should seek to understand the events as they happened and whilst we might be troubled by some facts that unearth themselves, we should behave accordingly.

Genealogy is not about apportioning blame. It is a journey that we undertake in order to establish our roots and to flesh out the details of our ancestors lives. It is our privilege to do that and we owe it to the memory of our ancestors to document the evidence and yet pass no judgement or spread malicious details no matter how long ago those events happened.

Through the course of this blog I share details of my ancestor’s lives and in some cases my relatives. I never disclose information of a sensitive nature or perhaps I word it in a way that tactful, almost a little vague. I never refer to living people by name, maybe initials, or perhaps I make a generalized statement. That is about respect and to me it does not matter if the individual concerned was born in 1910 or 1710, our ancestors deserve respect.

My final thoughts are summed up with this.

“Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his boots. Don’t criticize another person’s work until you’ve tried to do it yourself; don’t judge another person’s life until you’ve been forced to live it.
Source – Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings” (1996)

About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationary & History; Surnames, European Ancestors, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies, Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies and surname courses.
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2 Responses to Is there a right to do Genealogy?

  1. Yes! I agree. Being able to be part of our ancestors lives is a privilege.


  2. Kristin says:

    I pretty much feel the same way about my research.


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