Airing Your Dirty Laundry!!

For some of us writing about our Family History can be a challenge. Not only because of the fact that some information is not easy to come by, but because some pretty horrible or shocking things have happened. How much, if any, of these stories do we share?


Growing up I cannot tell you how many time I heard the phrase “You don’t go around airing your dirty laundry”. People were discouraged from telling anyone, even those they were related to, anything that would make their family look “bad”. Secrets were meant to be kept, the closet doors with the skeletons in them were to be kept closed and there were certain subjects you just NEVER discussed.

Unfortunately this type of thinking is extremely bad for a Genealogist. We spend a tremendous amount of time trying to dig up these well kept secrets. We want to know about our families, even if some of it may be unsavory. I hear this term a lot lately “It is what it is” and that fits so well. We can’t change what has happened in the past or what others may have done, so we should be do our best to pass these stories on to future generations.

I really wish that my parents had been more open about their lives instead of shrouding them in mystery. When my Dad was 15, he witnessed the murder of his brother-in-law. He never spoke of it. 39 years after he passed away I found a newspaper clipping telling the story. I was shocked! I also discovered that my mom had been married 3 times before she and my dad got hitched, I only knew of 2 previous ones. Talk about a revelation!  One of the most shocking pieces of history that I discovered was that I had a half brother that died of Scarlet Fever when he was 4 months old.  This made me cry! I actually felt cheated that I was never told of these things. I started thinking, “How would my Grandchildren feel if they had to learn about my life this way?”

So I made the decision that no matter what went on in either my life or those of my Ancestors, I am going to write about it in detail. I will tell my Grandchildren about their Grandfather who committed suicide when he was just 28 years old, leaving me a widow with 3 children to raise. I will even tell them the reason he did this.  I will tell them about how my Maternal Grandfather was murdered by this 3rd wife and how it happened.

My point in this is, life is not all rainbows and hugs. Telling the truth about the past will show them the strength of those who survived, and will let them know that they too have inherited that same strength from their Ancestors. So sit down and write, telling all the stories of your life.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.



17 thoughts on “Airing Your Dirty Laundry!!

  1. Valerie another great post! I wrote a blog too similar to this topic “wounds of family history”. I am so glad you are also addressing this topic. You covered it wonderfully. I’m enjoying your blog! So glad I found you on twitter!

  2. I’ve always heard that truth is stranger than fiction, and did not realize how true this saying is, until I started researching genealogy. I look forward to your stories.

  3. Your post is a revelation. We keep secrets in order to protect children and others from sorrows that we had no choice but to experience. Yet not knowing the truth can cause equally or more sorrowful consequences.

    I appreciate you sharing your own story as a lesson.

  4. It is in the telling of these secrets that a balance must be maintained. It has to be fair and not laden with our, or today’s standard of judgment. We must make a massive attempt to reach an understanding of the how and why things happen as they did.

  5. Great post – I’m glad I found you via Jana’s Fab Finds post. There are a few skeleton in my closets, as well, but history is history and I don’t even pretend to want to alter it.

    1. Debi,

      I am glad you found me too! I am glad you do not have a problem with your “skeletons”. I know for me, I would rather know the truth now than discover it later on.

      Thanks for the comment,

  6. The problem with hiding family secrets: Hiding ignores the character strengths of family members who lived through adverse events and overcame the situations. Those who helped others safely navigate their challenges are true family heroes! Quote from Ashkay Dubey: “Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls your life.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s