I always warn new family tree searchers to be prepared to find stuff you don’t want to know.
In a recent search for a friend I discovered that her great great-grandmother started out as a servant, in the next census she was the head of the household, where she had been a servant with several children and 2 male boarders but not married. Ten years later she is the owner of a tavern and married to one of the boarders and has more children. After that I discovered that she had the children baptized and listed as the fathers were the man she married and the two boarders. The baptisms were all done on the same day in the same church. Each child went from their mother’s maiden name to the surname of one of the three men. In the third census she was living in a house she owned, with her younger children and no adult men.
I thought what a wonderful, strong woman who knew what she wanted and got it. My friend was scandalized. She thought that I had found the wrong person, DNA said that was her ancestor. She decided not to look any further.
I was disappointed, what a great story, I wanted to know more about this woman, I thought that she was intriguing. I wanted to know how she got all the fathers into that church together. But she wasn’t mine to research.
In my own tree I have found many interesting people, I know that not everyone feels that way, but to me that’s what makes genealogy fun. Solving the mysteries, finding elusive relatives, learning about the time period they lived in and seeing how things change.
You have to have an open mind when you search for your ancestors. They are just people like you or me. It is important to accept that they were born into a different culture. They would find us scandalous.