Ruth commented on one of my posts on Facebook yesterday that:
"Hee hee Cousin Vandy. Helped me "doctor" great grandfather's death certificate. We justified it as TMI. That did not alter the intent of the document."
My response was:
"huh - lost me here. Who's cousin Vandy? Where did you perform this intentional act of genealogical terrorism?"
And Ruth's answer was:
" lol Vandy, cousin I stayed with in KANSAS. Do you not keep notes on the 100s of people that share their genealogy with you? Doctor put in a contributing cause of death that made some living relatives uncomfortable so we just kind of a...ltered ( by deletion) the additional unverified data from the certificate. Our reasoning? the doctor could have been wrong. lol I used the certificate to introduce myself to historians of his hometown and did not want to give "confusing" data. BUT I am including my deception in all my writings and correspondences so everyone is aware of what, how and why this was done. Needless to say I could have not expected much cooperation from my dad if I was showing the document with the offending data as is."
Sometimes the social networks don't permit more than a terse comment about an issue that needs to be fully explained. Ruth's first comment seemed to say that she and her cousin had changed an official record. My response to Ruth was serious, because my view is that genealogists should NOT be altering original records in a repository or official documents that are going to be used by researchers to prove names, relationships, dates, places, etc. Ruth's clarification was very helpful, and now I understand why she did what she did, and that the record in her collection is complete.
Ruth also wrote a blog post titled Intentional Act of Genealogical Terrorism with an Accomplice today on the Hayley blog to admit to her act, and to explain her reasons for doing it. Taking it all as a whole, I understand Ruth's reasoning and act, but I have this visceral reaction that it should not have been done. However, I wasn't walking in Ruth's shoes, trying to deal with her elderly father and also pursue useful genealogical research avenues. I am glad that Ruth wrote her blog post because it explains how and why she did what she did.
I think that we all have skeletons in our ancestral closets - criminal acts, family cruelty, adultery, out-of-wedlock births, desertion, etc. Some of our family members react adversely when informed of these skeletons, and others accept them and embrace them. Our ancestors were human beings that easily fall short of perfection, just like I am.
I appreciate Ruth's honesty in writing her blog post and telling the world about her IAOGT. She didn't have to respond to my comment and it would have been something between she and I to discuss at CVGS Table Talk. But it raises these questions that the genealogical community needs to deal with:
* Have you ever done something like an IAOGT (Intentional Act of Genealogical Terrorism)? If so, why?
* Was anybody intellectually, physically or emotionally hurt by this act?
* What should Ruth do with the copy of the record that she modified?
* When should we "hide" family history information that might harm a relative's mental or physical state?