Tuesday night’s Who Do You Think You Are? with Christina Applegate was surely one of the saddest episodes I’ve seen. Her father had scant memories about his mother, and the ones he shared on the program were not happy ones. Now that he has some facts concerning his childhood perhaps he’ll remember more. We won’t know how the information he received and any resultant memories will affect him, but I think we, as genealogists and “history detectives”, should be aware of the results our actions may cause.
Of course there are always those people who don’t want to hear that one of their ancestors was imprisoned or spent time in a mental hospital. Sometimes, however, our probing can trigger other, more troublesome, memories. There are times the questioning should stop; so the information can be digested, or perhaps halted altogether. Sometimes people need to deal with the memories before they can go on. We need to recognize this situation and respect those boundaries.