For the July–September 2018 issue of NGS Magazine (volume 44, number 3), editor Deb Cyprych shaped an issue focused mainly on discovering family secrets and how to conduct research to find out more. Six of the magazine’s articles discuss Civil War desertion and courts-martial, divorces, the mentally ill, prostitutes, Civil War pension scams, and the 1880 Supplemental Schedules for defective, dependent, and delinquent classes. A seventh article covers methods for technologically securing the sensitive data you discover.
I’m put in mind of a television medium/clairvoyant a few years back whose clients came to her in hopes of contacting and communicating with one or the other of their deceased family members. The medium began each session with the same question: “Do you want to know everything?”
It’s a reasonable question. Her clients were generally seeking some measure of relief, or assurance, or connection, or forgiveness; whatever they thought they needed to be able to move on with their lives. But once the session started, who knew what would come up? And sometimes entirely unexpected things did. Sound familiar? As family historians, we are in essence both the living family member seeking answers about the dead and the medium charged with uncovering them. Do we want to know everything?
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