Don’t tell Auntie Helen

As a teenager I became interested in my family history and purchased a Family Tree Kit.  There was no Internet then to help, only stories passed down from relatives.

Life then got busy with university, marriage and children. Several years later, I found that Family Tree Kit and decided to start again. During an interview with my eldest aunt, stories were told and a rough family tree was presented, but I wanted proof.

Living in Uxbridge at that time, I went to the library and ordered microfilm on loan from the Ontario Archives. What a frustrating process, going through reels of microfilm, looking for grandma’s birth or the marriage of her parents and then finding nothing. Remembering that grandma had an older sister, Ellen, I tried again and Bingo! There was my great grandmother’s name as the mother, but alas, no father was listed. In fact, the word “illegitimate” was written in the register.  After calling my parents to tell them of my discovery, I was told “Don’t tell Auntie Helen. It would upset her.”

Now Ellen’s birth was over 100 years ago, and no one knows the circumstances surrounding her birth, but I do know that illegitimacy was not rare in those times and for various reasons. It was not talked about, except perhaps in whispers. No Internet, TV, radio or phones to communicate information.

I never told Auntie Helen, but I wonder if she would have been happy to learn all that I have discovered since that day or if she would have been content with family stories. Although genealogists want to know the truth, we have to respect the feelings of others.