Saturday’s Dilemma ~ My Big Mistake ~ Assuming Civility

facebook-logoFor over 10 years I have been using Facebook to keep my relatives informed about my Genealogical finds. I have posted some of my blogs and made inquires of those who may know more than me about family relationships. My personal Facebook page is basically for family only. Of the 140+ “friends” I have only met 6 in person. I wasn’t raised around family so most of these people are relatives who have found me over the years through other relatives. Most have expressed appreciation for all the history and stories I post.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about my 9x Great Uncle Jonathan Singletary who changed his last name to his mother’s maiden name of Dunham after he had gotten in Zachary Taylor 2some trouble. While researching I discovered that President Barack Obama and I share my 10x Great Grandfather Richard Singletary. I thought this was a find worth sharing with my family. I had previously shared that Daniel Boone is my 1st cousin 8x removed and that President George Washington is my 3rd cousin 8x removed, and also President Zachary Taylor is my 1 cousin 6x removed. Everyone had been so excited over this news.

Again, I reiterate that I do not personally know most of my family personally. I have my own very strong political beliefs which I have never shared on Facebook. I do not put up memes supporting or disparaging any candidate as this has never been my purpose for my page. I do have several cousins who regularly post their views, some very vigorously, but I do not respond to their posts.

HereticThat brings me to Monday evening when I naively put up the post about my discovery. I did make mention that regardless of your political views this was an exciting find and to please remember this is a genealogy post not a political endorsement of any kind. After putting the post up I had an errand to run so when I returned home about 1 hour later I was shocked to see what had happened. Immediately after I posted, I had gotten a barrage of “worst President, best President” responses, then the fighting began! I do not use curse words, ever! I was shocked by the cursing, swearing, name-calling, and yes, even the threats that went on. Some of the cousins even “blocked” each other. I felt so defeated as all I wanted to do was share my discovery. I took the post down!

I felt bad because I know some of my civil minded relatives would have liked finding out who they are related too! However, I am now hesitant to inform them of it as some of the ones who reverted to name-calling, etc were ones I also thought were this way! This was definitely a lesson learned. I think from now on I will only post about ancestors who were not famous or controversial!

How do you or would you handle such a situation?


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, 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.


24 thoughts on “Saturday’s Dilemma ~ My Big Mistake ~ Assuming Civility

  1. Yes, probably a wise move to avoid controversy. Or you could post that you’d found an interesting connection but one that is possibly controversial so anyone interested in knowing that person’s identity should email you privately and pledge to not post about it. Trickier but gives them the option to know or not.

  2. I wish you wouldn’t have taken it down because it was not your fault or the blogs fault that people started fighting with each other.
    “It is your family like it or not”, should be the title of every family tree because there will always be controversial people on a tree. Also there will always be someone who thinks themself superior to the rest of the population and they will always look for ways of expressing that superiority. These supposedly superior people will always show the opposite of superiority by their words and actions.
    So sorry this happened but like I said, you are not responsible for the actions of others.

    1. Thank you Jose! I was just shocked at how heated the conversation got and how hateful people were. I did put up a new post just stating if anyone was interested I would send the the lineage. Several have responded nicely to that!

  3. I am so sorry you had to go through that. I also am related to many famous people and have found that it to be really cool. I think those of us that have four grandparents that come from colonial times are probably related to many famous people. My ancestors came to America when it was first discovered. It’s so cool tracing them. Don’t let these people steal your thunder.

    1. Thank you Linda! I too have many ancestors who were the first or among the first to arrive here, I get so excited which each new discovery, no matter who they are, I forget others don’t necessarily share my joy!

  4. I am not sure what I would have done. But I also have some distant cousin relationship with past political people. I think if it went along with a blog post I was writing I would make it public. I do know this anyone who uses vulgar language on a post I put on my face book page is removed. I am very sorry you had to go through this. Please do not let these people ruin your fun. You do not need them in your life.

  5. It’s sad that you were so disparaged for all your efforts. My firm yet personal conviction is that it’s my blog, written for me and hopefully others will enjoy it but if not, I still write for myself. I would leave it up, delete any comments that are offensive and let it go. Please don’t let this discourage you.
    I have close family members who are on the opposite side of the political spectrum. When I told them I was related to Rush Limbaugh, they were thrilled. He’s not my thing but blood is blood, right? I don’t understand how something like that can rile people up. Maybe you could write about how most people living in your ancestor George Washington’s time were loyal to the crown but does that make you all traitors?

  6. I think it’s risky to post about living people (no matter how distant the relationship). I think it’s especially risky when they are politicians because they are known and nearly everyone has an opinion. But I’m so sorry you had this experience.

  7. Given that you had posted previously about other interesting genealogical connections, I’m sorry that this one post provoked such heated and uncivil responses. It’s emblematic of the times we live in. If you post 10 years from now about the same connection, you may get an entirely different response! Meantime, congrats on being such a successful genealogical sleuth.

  8. Sad to hear that after all your work developing the audience for family history with your cousins’ group, that a few contentious remarks would become so acrimonious and drive people away. I have 4 cousins groups that I’ve developed for my Vining, McGhee, Martin, Joy relatives. I’ll be alert to dampen any uprisings of this type. So far, all have been harmonious, but guess I’ve been lucky.

  9. Genealogy is all about connections and finding a connection to a famous person can be exciting. Unfortunately, we’re also at a very polarized time in history, and social media is the place where a person’s true colors are free to run wild. You might remind people that if you go back far enough, we’re ALL related, like it or not! 😛

  10. Why does politics have to get into every conversation even when you had no intention of that happening? Like you, I never post anything political or even anything that hints at which “side” I’m on. But I have many friends who can’t resist and it gets so tiring. Sorry you had to experience that.

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