Sometimes Being THE Family Historian is Dangerous!


Being THE family historian can sometimes be a lonely job, a frustrating hobby, often a very rewarding endeavor, but rarely, if ever, dangerous.

Well today I faced danger – not the life threatening kind of danger but the people disappointing or hurting kind.

Leave it to Facebook. Most of the time, for me at least, Facebook has been incredibly helpful in tracking down possible cousins.  In fact several of my most rewarding finds of living relatives have been as a result of diligent searching on that site.

But a couple of days ago, I got a “Friend” request from someone I did not know and I had no clue why she requested a “friend” connection.  And it wasn’t one that was obviously spam.

But I was reviewing my Facebook messages this morning – and lo and behold – there was  a message from her. It was a short message, but in it she stated that one of my cousins was her father, and the father never married her mother, etc. etc. They apparently met at a nightclub and the rest was history.

Now the dilemma – If I was truly interested in logging in my database every person that had a known and substantial DNA relationship with myself and my family – I would respond to her, get the facts as she knows them – with dates and mother’s full name, etc.

But I am not going to do that. Why – because apparently she had tried to connect with her “father” and was denied the connection. Now my cousin is a fantastic fellow and not one to shirk his “duties” but apparently he does not wish to explore this connection and that is his right. I emailed my cousin, let him know of the attempted connection and left it at that.

So maybe – having every little detail isn’t so important.

What do you think?  What would you do?

Join the Conversation


  1. I had a similar issue on Ancestry. For me the decision was easier as most involved had passed. I met a wonderful person who simple wanted to know what someone looked like and perhaps someone who didn’t judge the circumstances of birth.
    If the parent had been alive I would have he’d them be the deciding individual.

    1. Cindy,
      Thanks for responding. It is indeed tricky, but in my case it was an easy decision to respect the desires of the relationship that I had already.

  2. I feel as though you’ve done the correct thing. These are living individuals with a right to privacy. You have respected the presumed father’s choice not to engage. While the presumed daughter’s story may be accurate as she knows it, without DNA, it remains a story which could prove false.
    I would however, write up a quick research report. Note the story, individuals involved and contact information. File it away. 10 years from now, the parties involved may be glad you did.

    1. Thanks Rorey for your thoughts. I don’t agree regarding the research report however. My cousin has indicated his wishes, therefore I will not keep any documentation. This is a personal matter in my view, not a genealogy matter, for which I have no interest or obligation to record for posterity. Although it might be an interesting tidbit in the biography of my cousin, it has no bearing on discovering my ancestors.

      1. Kenneth, I certainly understand your point of view. I also appreciate the respect and deference you show your cousin. My suggestion was based on personal experience in which that long ago note stuffed in a file, with contact information, made a difference for someone. Best wishes.

  3. I think you did the right thing. I recently had someone contact me who was in the same situation. She had tried to reach out to her bio father and bio grandparents but they did not want communication from her.
    She only contacted me after they had died. She saw my blog and asked me for information. We have connected as cousins and friends and have been able to share a lot of information.
    If the parties involved had still been alive, I would have done as you did.
    Interestingly, she had discovered several half siblings before contacting me. They have embraced her with open arms!

  4. It depends if you think your purpose as family historian is recording the facts for future generations or not. You can respond to the message letting the recipient know your feelings the exact same way you’ve let the world know via a blog and ask if she’d care to be recorded as a member of the family for history or not

    1. I will have to respectively disagree. There is no proof of the assertion of fatherhood or the birth, which one would need if one were to document it as fact. It has nothing to do with my purpose as a family historian.
      And my first priority is to my living relatives and their desires. But thank you for your input.

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