Friday, 15 March 2013

Socially acceptable stalking?

I do not often spend time contemplating why I work on our family history. After all, there are too many fascinating (but unproductive) by-ways to take time away from my real research to need to waste more on introspection.

But as I checked progress on my efforts to define a particular ancestor, I did muse just a little on what I was doing. I had not only listed his parents and his children but also gathered information on his schooling and employment history, his home addresses (with details of neighbours) and was about to embark on a search of the newspapers for more background.

It occurred to me that if I knew that someone was collecting all that about me, I would probably feel a little uncomfortable and question his motives.

As I look across a collection of dossiers that include a suspicious death, three (or was it four) husbands, court appearances and an apparent complete change of identity, I wonder whether the uniform of a family historian should include a trench coat, snap-brim fedora and a battered pair of tan wingtip shoes.

Perhaps it is as well that there is no right to privacy post mortem or some of what we do routinely might attract unfavourable attention.

Nevertheless I will continue to carry out my research without fear or favour. If any of our ancestors want to opt-out of the story, they need only send me a message.

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