The Family History business is a funny old one. Very scientifically or rather based completely on personal experience and riddled with anecdotal evidence, I have found that on the whole, people interested in their genealogy can be divided into two very distinct groups; The Missionary and The Elitist.
The first group are the Missionaries and they want the world to know who they are, who they come from and are always willing to find their connection to you no matter how tenuous. They prefer their cake completely frosted sides and all. Their trees have many branches and all leaves are of value and interest.
The second group are the Elitists who want to know where they came from, even revel in it at times, yet disregard all branches but their own as unworthy. They would rather pretend their family tree had no offshoots other than the one on which they are smugly perched. Basically, do not deign to call yourself kin if you have not grown up with them in their inner circle. They prefer frosting only on the very top of their perfectly baked cake.
I am sure you can tell where I see myself on this spectrum. A cake without frosting is an abomination and a person with a genetic relationship with you that is as close as a great or great-great who is unwilling to share their knowledge of said relative is right up there with the naked cake. Who the hell do you think you are?
Maybe I'm too emotional to discuss this today and will come off crazier than I really am so, in my defense, I confess that I am writing from the dizzying position of my seasonal Ménière's compounded by the loss of a particularly important research binder this week. However, disclaimer now given, I have had this pet peeve about near-relations who blank you for a very long time.
I am forever grateful to my Missionary cousins Patsy (Cass side), Susan (Nye side) and the late Alfred (Lucas side) for generously sharing theories, photos and research with me on our relatives and for being genuinely happy to have found our connection. But I have come across far more Elitists in this line of work which begs the question why they put an open tree on Ancestry.com in the first place? It could be they just aren't savvy enough to make it private but, sadly I think it is more likely to wield power over others. "Of course we know the full story but we wouldn't share it with you...if you don't know it already than there must be a reason...these are my relatives, not yours." I have felt real proprietorial push back on more than one occasion and new acquaintances have dropped undeveloped after an initial, dutiful acknowledgement of my enthusiasm.
Me: "I have been searching this line for 20 years, I can't believe I found you! You must know... etc."
Them: "Yes, nice to meet you, I'll check with the person who did the original research when I can."
Six months pass and I drop them a note to jog their memory. A year passes and I drop them another short email reminder that I am still waiting and still hopeful. I hold back the full tsunami force of what has now grown in me from the joy of finding a strong lead to my conviction that these silent cousins hold the only sledgehammer capable of shattering my research wall. They must talk to me, they must tell me what they know. Why won't they tell me what they know? What could possibly be difficult in answering a simple question? " What does it mean they haven't logged into their account for 3 months. Well it means they've been there within the past year and still not answered me! ANSWER ME DAMN IT!
But I digress. I think there should be a family research code. And I think it should begin:
As an amateur genealogist I (state your name) promise to share with all my cousins either known or unknown the family history I have collected on our mutual relatives deceased for over 50 years.
And because right now my hope is diminishing daily on one particularly strong lead I was following, I think there should be a binding parameter of time in which to share.
I (state your name) promise to share said research within one month of any request for it.
I think I only ask for what is reasonable: Frosted Cake for Everyone!