When Family Gets in the Way of Family History

Family gets in the way, even for a family history researcher.

Recent family events have taken the heart out of my family history blogging efforts, and I’m slowly struggling to put the emotional aspects of living family aside and get concentrated back on blogging about my dead family.

Family interferes by protecting or preventing access to family history in many ways. We dig and dig, but road blocks from the living prevents us from learning more about the other living and recently deceased for reasons often not provided.

Uncooperative family is also a road block. While they want to help, they just don’t see the value nor interest in what you are doing, dragging you down with them. Honestly, why bother?

Family gets in the way by providing too much information sometimes, though I’ve found this is rare among many researchers. Their enthusiasm distracts as well as overwhelms, consuming more time and information processing than you may have originally anticipated.

For the most part, some family members are very cooperative and supportive. Others are completely disinterested.

How do you handle it when the struggle to document your family’s history is more work that its worth?

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About Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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7 Responses to When Family Gets in the Way of Family History

  1. I understand this totally. I actually only have one relative that cares much about it. I guess when you start talking about real people’s lives, there comes a time when things that aren’t supposed to be talked about are. Like my grandfather being a Klansman, or the fact that he was partially Native American (his mother was half Native American). But I do this for ME. Because when I went looking, others had laid down a path before me. Someone DID care, even if my family didn’t. I’m doing it for those like me, that come after me.

  2. Clair Z. says:

    It didn’t take long for me to run into a wall of silence with some family members. I was really taken aback because it never occurred to me that some of them wouldn’t want to contribute information to a family history project, although I should have realized that there would be secrecy around birth dates, just to give an example.

    On the other hand, I just finished working my way through a huge volume on the history of one branch of my mother’s family, and it made me feel so sad that these thousands of lives were represented just by a few statistics–birth, marriage, and death dates–and that the narrative of the things that made them unique and human was missing.

    So, I’ve decided that my role of family historian will be to get as many of the personal stories and remembrances written down and on my family history blog to go along with the family trees so that our relatives can be remembered as the individuals that they were. My son made me feel so wonderful when he said that he was printing out each blog post as it appeared so that he would always have it to look at in book form.

    I hope your discouragement doesn’t last. You are doing a wonderful thing!

  3. Cheryl says:

    Lorelle, I would like to reach out to you as I have a collateral interest in the Primley family of Marshall County, Indiana and other places. Robert B Primley (b 1841) and Seneca Primley (b 1835) were brothers, sons of Seeley Primley. Seneca Primley (b 1835) was married multiple times–two of his wives were connected to my husband’s family. The Seneca Primley (b 1871) who appears to be your primary interest was the son of Seneca Primley (b 1835) and Mary Ann Smith (3rd wife). Seneca Primley (b 1835) and Huldah Redding (1st wife) had a son Robert Primley (b 1857) who was the father of Seneca “Sink” Primley (b 1887). To complicate matters, Robert B Primley (b 1841) and Melissa Pixley (1st wife) had a son Seneca Primley (b 1864).

  4. Patrick C. says:

    Hello Lorelle,
    I’ve also been doing research about my family background and have run into this issue. Here’s my take on it:
    1. The main problem is that some family members form a mental image or construct regarding their ancestry. When someone like you (or me) comes along and trys to get to the truth of our ancestry they see us as a threat to that mental image and a serious disruption to their perception of reality.
    2. All family histories have irregularities – ancestors who did things or experienced things that some of their descendants have great difficulty processing. These descendants do not want to think about those realities; just as the bodies of the ancestors lie entombed in their graves, so these descendants want the events connected with them to be similarly buried.

    We feel troubled when we encounter this resistance because we want to maintain the relationship with the relative in question. It’s troubling that they insist on approaching the question in such an irrational way but I’ve come to the conclusion that when I encounter this in the future the best way to handle it is to be polite to the relative and leave them to themselves. Perhaps time and the support and input of other family members will enable them to see that there’s nothing for them to be troubled about.

    • Patrick,

      These are normal issues. Truth can be a good thing and a terrifying thing, and destroy all illusions, good and bad. I’m glad you are one of the truth seekers. I think it is very important that we keep the truth alive but treasure the legends as they are still good stories, and there may be some tiny bit of truth in them.

      I agree with you.

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