Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trouble In Researching, Need Stories.

As researchers we some times put are noses in where it’s not wanted. We some time ruffle a part of ones family feathers with out meaning too. When we are asked to look into some ones ancestry we don’t think of trouble, but we should, for even in this day and age there are families that would not like the family skeletons brought out of the closet.

Below is my story on what can happen when one is researching. I would like to hear from others that may have had similar experiences. Be general in terms, no family names, unless you are given the ok. Please do not post them here write to me directly. When I have enough I will be posting them on this site. My address can be found in my profile.

A few years ago I was asked by a gentleman to look into one of his ancestors, who was a old time marshal and out law. Well being interested in the old west, I said I would be glad too. I went into to it head long, looking into books and the web, with out thinking anything about it. Well we corresponded back and forth for over a year, then one day out of the blue he warned me to be careful as there were some family members living in my area and was not taking to kindly in my looking into their ancestor. It seems this family is very religious and would do about any thing to keep their family untarnished. After a year I found I was not getting any where, so I put it a side, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this person and still do too this day.

Then the day came when I decided to have a web site, but what to put on it? Then I thought about that ancestor, who I had over forty pages of info on, it was a great story but was just going to waste. I would title it the ( The Mystery Man.), well I spent three days putting the pages together, when it was done I thought he would be pleased, as my thought was if it got out on the web we might get some answers and new leads. I mush say at this time I had been warned never to put in print anything of the family unless he give the ok. I know I should of asked first but I didn’t think it would hurt as my web site had just started and would not hit the ( main stream ) of the web as I call it for about six months, which is about the time it took.

Well I thought I was save and he would like it and everything would be ok. Well I wrote him and asked what he thought, Well let me tell you If I had stood outside when he saw that page I would have heard him even if I was three States away, to say he was mad is to say the lest. He wrote me back and told me to remove it immediately or I would have more trouble then I could handle and he was thinking of coming up and telling me so face to face. Now I know what your thinking I brought all this on myself and you would be right, but I was new to all this, and I thought all would be ok.

He wrote me the next day and apologize for his out bust, but even so he had lost all trust in me and would not give any more info, and I was still not to give any info on the family.
I have over the years tried to write to him but he will not answer. I learn two good lesson from this, one, always following the guide lines your customer give you and second you never know when your going to ruffle some ones feathers.


Michael Hait said...

That is a real horror story for anyone considering client research. Luckily in my years of research, I have not had to deal with any clients like this.

In my opinion, you had every legal right to post your research, unless you had a contract with this client that stated otherwise. As the researcher and writer, you owned the copyright to your own work. The facts themselves are public information; no one has any more "right" to them than anyone else -- even if he feels that he does because the person was his ancestor.

Personally, I do not use any client research in any writing or teaching capacity without their permission, as I feel that this is the ethical thing to do, but I am not legally bound to this.

For example, suppose you -- as a historian -- had come across a reference to this historical person and decided to conduct the research on your own. You would have been fully within your rights to conduct the same research and post the same information as you did. What would the "family's" reaction have been in this case?

As historians, we cannot whitewash the past. Our ancestors were human beings, imperfections and all.

Dennis Segelquist said...

Thank you for your comment, Your right if I had ran across the man by myself, I would have been within my rights, but as he give me the info I should have gone by his wish’s.