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Justin J. Rebbert
04 February 2009, 01:39 AM
About a century and a half ago, a man came to this country and had eleven children. These children grew up and started their own families. Even thought they continued to live in the same city, for some unknown reason they basically went their separate ways and had little to no contact with each other.

Fast-forward to the present. The members of any one of the 11 "branches" know practically nothing about any of the other 10 branches, in many cases that they even exist, that there's more to the family than just the people they know about. My research into the family history is starting to break that down a little bit. I have made contact with members of at least three other branches on social sites such as Facebook, and I am seeing that now those people are getting in touch with each other, too. I really feel like I've started something.

But there is one member of the family that seems to not want any part of this. I know nothing about him other than his name and who his parents were, which allows me to place him on the tree. I know his wife's name but do not know the names of any of their children or grandchildren. I have been told by his sister-in-law, who is the man's deceased brother's wife, not to try to contact him, that he has explicitly requested that no information about him or his his family be shared with me.

He gave a reason for his not wanting his information to be shared in an email to his sister-in-law, which she forwarded to me:
Please do not supply Justin with information about us. There are just too many problems that can occur when your info is posted and easily available. Remember how easy it was for a hacker to break into Sarah Palin's personal email by answering questions about her in place of entering her password. Web sites should not use easy to answer questions to reset a password.

I replied to her with the following thoughts on the matter, with permission to forward it to him:
Is it that he does not want to be contacted or just doesn't want to give out personal info? I think it is a shame that a person wouldn't want to have contact with his own family because he is afraid of snooping. We are family and the fact that he never heard of me until yesterday doesn't change that fact.

My goal isn't to compile a list of dates and other facts about people I'm related to. My goal is to meet people that I am related but never even knew about until recently, and to get to know a little bit about them--not dry facts, but stories and history. The family tree simply serves as a means to put it in context; it helps me understand who it is I'm meeting. For the family tree to do that, all I need is a person's name, and info on where on the tree to put that person, and I already have that for [him].

Has anyone else faced a similar challenge, and if so, how did you deal with it and what results did you get? Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions?

Dennis J. Cunniff
04 February 2009, 01:43 PM
It seems to me that you need to say very specifically to him something on the order of:
"Please be assured I will NEVER post any information whatsoever about him on any website. Indeed, I will never post information about any living person on the web."

ByronSpoon
04 February 2009, 03:04 PM
...I have been told by his sister-in-law, who is the man's deceased brother's wife, not to try to contact him, that he has explicitly requested that no information about him or his his family be shared with me...Whatever his reasons may be, he has hung out a big "Do Not Disturb" sign.

If you wish to pursue this, my suggestion is to give rather than to ask. Send him one last brief note and include a few fruits of your labors with no strings attached and no requests. Include a few items that pertain only to your branch of the family such as a couple of old photographs or family stories. Neither ask for nor expect anything in return. Then regularly but infrequently, perhaps once a year during the holiday season, send out a generic newsletter to your discovered family and include this person on your mailing list. Otherwise channel your energies elsewhere where you can be more productive and less frustrated. Should the day ever come that you have gained his trust and he decides to share, he will know how to contact you.

jep111
04 February 2009, 05:50 PM
Whatever his reasons may be, he has hung out a big "Do Not Disturb" sign.

If you wish to pursue this, my suggestion is to give rather than to ask. Send him one last brief note and include a few fruits of your labors with no strings attached and no requests. Include a few items that pertain only to your branch of the family such as a couple of old photographs or family stories. Neither ask for nor expect anything in return. Then regularly but infrequently, perhaps once a year during the holiday season, send out a generic newsletter to your discovered family and include this person on your mailing list. Otherwise channel your energies elsewhere where you can be more productive and less frustrated. Should the day ever come that you have gained his trust and he decides to share, he will know how to contact you.

I agree completely. I had the same reaction from a relative of my significant other. It was my first negative reaction, and I was taken aback. Still, I sent off a bit about his family to him and asked for nothing in return. A few years later, I was contacted by other members of his family. They waited until he had passed, but had kept the contact info.

It's hard to be patient, but I don't believe that because you believe someone to be "family", that implies they have to believe it too.

Cheers!

John

bigfoot4
07 February 2009, 11:44 AM
About a century and a half ago, a man came to this country and had eleven children. These children grew up and started their own families. Even thought they continued to live in the same city, for some unknown reason they basically went their separate ways and had little to no contact with each other.

Fast-forward to the present. The members of any one of the 11 "branches" know practically nothing about any of the other 10 branches, in many cases that they even exist, that there's more to the family than just the people they know about. My research into the family history is starting to break that down a little bit. I have made contact with members of at least three other branches on social sites such as Facebook, and I am seeing that now those people are getting in touch with each other, too. I really feel like I've started something.

But there is one member of the family that seems to not want any part of this. I know nothing about him other than his name and who his parents were, which allows me to place him on the tree. I know his wife's name but do not know the names of any of their children or grandchildren. I have been told by his sister-in-law, who is the man's deceased brother's wife, not to try to contact him, that he has explicitly requested that no information about him or his his family be shared with me.

He gave a reason for his not wanting his information to be shared in an email to his sister-in-law, which she forwarded to me:


I replied to her with the following thoughts on the matter, with permission to forward it to him:


Has anyone else faced a similar challenge, and if so, how did you deal with it and what results did you get? Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions?


Justin,

I have had similar problem with two very distant cousins. One cousin, which I was previously unable get any of his life's history from, had divorced and remarried. He contacted me one day asking if I still was doing family research, and told me that he divorced and remarried. He asked me to remove his first wife from the family tree because he was not married to her anymore. I explained to him that unfortunately his family is like others with marriages, divorces etc, and besides, he has three children born from his first marriage. He didn't see it that way and got a little upset. I assured him that NO information about him or his family would be uploaded to RootsWeb since I had a cut off date of 1900. This seemed to ease his hostility some, but the conversation did not end on a very good note.

I later was able to contact his brother, who gave me enormous details about the entire family. Since they had moved from several states during their early lives, they were very hard to trace.

Some folks are very sensitive about family history, and others open up without being asked. I get numerous emails each week thanking me for a link to some long lost or missing relatives, and others giving me information without even a previous correspondence.

The good responses from folks out weigh the bad 100 to 1. Keep on doing what research you can.

dm87
10 February 2009, 10:39 AM
I have experienced this situation from both sides of the fence.

When I contacted a distant relative who had experienced some painful issues related to family, and she requested no contact, I was taken aback. However, over time I have come to feel that her personal information is not mine to record. It is her story, and if she does not want it told by someone else, I do support that as her prerogative. She does not want to think about or deal with family issues. I have not contacted her since, and it has been many years. I have no intentions of contacting her again. She knows where to find me if she changes her mind. I will welcome contact if it comes and wish her well if it does not.

On the other side of the fence, I found it very unpleasant to be contacted by a relative who wanted to "share" information. His approach to genealogy is very different than my own, some of his assumptions and conclusions I found jarring and well, less than generousin spirit. He told me he had been watching my queries and participation in mail lists and on forums for years, and knew all about me. I felt stalked, and still do. He is probably going to read this as well.

We all have a right to our privacy, family included.