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When A Family Member Says “No” – 3 Things To Do When You Can’t Get The Information

Family history and genealogy can be a tricky kind of project to work on — especially when living family members either don’t know information about the particular topic you are researching or in this case they flat out say no. In this post, we will discuss three different responses you can give to an individual if this type of situation comes up.

Quote of the Day

This quote really says it for me. We all carry inside us those ancestors who came before us — and in some situations, that can be things like family secrets, divorce, and abuse. As genealogists, we need to stand at the top of fields and respect the living and the dead. Here are a few ideas to help you get through those sticky situations.

    1.  STOP! Yep, you read correctly. In order for our profession as genealogists and the field of family history to be taken seriously and respected, we need to respect our clients and those whose histories we are passionately digging into. We all come from different backgrounds and we need to empathize with those who have had difficult ones that they do not wish to dig further into at this time.Just as the golden rule goes, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” we need to respect that some people’s past shouldn’t be dug into while they are still living. The most we could do for them is let them live in peace without disturbing the past. Now, I don’t suggest this for every instance, but this is the #1 rule we need to stick to when digging into genealogy.
    2. EXPLAIN. Because genealogical  + religious records have not always been used for good, we need to explain our motives to our clients and their families in a clear and mature manner. Make it very clear you are NOT using their families information for religious rites (and if you are, make sure that CONSENT is giving in writing) or storing and stealing data.
  1.  BE POSITIVE. Noted genealogist Luana Darby  of Lineages by Luana says,”Be positive and take the concerns of those objecting to heart. Most likely they fear to find out a part of their ancestry. Assure them you will take it step by step letting them know what you are doing. Peace in the family goes a long way to finding answers.

    Calmly tell them that there is much in the public record already and you want to do it properly before someone else publishes it without thinking or knowing of the family concerns. If they refuse to help, still try and keep them in the loop somehow, documenting each step of the way.”

Aren’t we all striving to be as ethical as possible? Let’s stand together on this and remind ourselves with each and every client + family that these are real concerns and issues.

P.S. Going over the Code of Ethics at the Association of Professional Genealogists (APA) is always a great refresher for the beginner, intermediate and seasoned researchers.


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