Monday, January 29, 2018

If you hate that it happened, then you hate that you are.

Today, on the way to work, I caught the latest This American Life episode - The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar.  Whewf.  All genealogists and genetic genealogists who have ever encountered a family secret will find it fascinating.

In short, (you really should go listen), a woman is handed an album of papers and news articles about her grandfather that sets her onto the trail of a family mystery.  In uncovering the truth, she is faced with two families who have very different accounts of how the event unfolded.  At the crux of the matter is who her grandfather is, and in turn, who she and his other descendants are.

The mystery is ultimately solved with a DNA test, and similar to any family secret that a genetic genealogist may uncover, there are mixed feelings in her family about what the results mean.  On her part, she put her mind to a mystery and relentlessly pursued truth and was a success.  To some of her family though, she went messing around with something that should have been left alone and they are less than pleased.

Near the end of the story, she says "If you hate that it happened, then you hate who you are."  If only she could have heard my AMEN, through the podcast, over the radio waves.  I've blogged before about uncovering family secrets in the process of documenting genealogical roots.  More than once. It's something I've grappled with in my own family and something that people with adoptions and non paternity events in their families (and maybe mine), who are genetically related to me, have talked to me about.

It's a tough situation to be in. On one hand, there is the truth - and on the other, there are taboos and the feelings of family who are uncomfortable with that truth.  Those family connections matter.  So then, the researcher is in a predicament.  Pursue and insist upon the truth or somehow pursue the truth while not being forthcoming with the family who is offended (because, let's face it, NOT pursuing the truth is not an option to a genealogist with a brick wall).

Another thing the family said is that the day the mystery was solved was the day the person in question came home.  And that.  Is what solving my own family mysteries are to me.  The feeling of coming home. The sense of finding my home.  With all of their flaws and foibles, my ancestors are my home and my roots.  They were human and lived human lives with all of it's complexities.  Regardless of perception, it all came together to result in me.  My sister.  My other family members.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Photo : Bobby beside car with unidentified people / This American Life 

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