Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What is family?

Lewis Van Gorder, with son, Kevin and 
daughter Karen, 1960

In genealogy, it's all about family. Strictly defined a family is a parent and a child, blood related. And normally it is a Mom and Dad and a child that they have brought into this world. When it comes to genealogy this has been especially true. 

You couldn't buy software, when computers were becoming popular, that didn't allow for anything more than that. In the purest sense that is what makes up a family. When it comes to lineage society, it has to be the blood line that make up your family history. The same is true when it comes to royalty as well.

But times are a-changing! Adoption has been around for a very long time. Moses was adopted by an Egyptian Princess. Children weren't even told they were adopted, until just very recently, relatively speaking. Our picture above is of my uncle and his two adopted children, Kevin and Karen who are 9 months apart. I have three uncles on my mother's side. Lewis and Leon both adopted children and the youngest uncle, Bob, was adopted himself.  

If it weren't for adoption, I would have no cousins on my mother's side. Growing up we never gave it a thought that they were anything but our  very own cousins, children and grandchildren. They were as much a part of our family as everyone else!

In today's culture we have blended families, foster families, adoptive families and even more.  How do you handle this when it comes to genealogy? This can be a delicate situation, especially when it comes to children that have been adopted outright (not a result of a blended family.) In many cases even yet today, children aren't told they are adopted. You may know they are because you remember when they joined the family.

So how do you put this into your family history? First of all, the information may need to be kept confidential until the person in question has passed away, or at least the parents of that child have passed away.  This is probably the most difficult one to handle and in the end you have to decide how to record it.

When it comes to software, today's editions have broadened the choice you have in entering them into your genealogy program. Fortunately you now can include them in your family and do it accurately. When I started genealogy, that wasn't an option. I put my uncle and cousins in as if they were blood relatives and then entered information into the notes.  They are a part of our family, but at the same time I didn't want the information to be misleading.  Sometimes down the road, there may be a need to find out medical information and inaccurate information would lead them on a goose chase.

My adopted uncle's daughter (my cousin) has cancer. Our grandparents and her father have all passed away. The main characters on the scene have all gone, so she pursued finding her father's birth family to see what medical issues they may have had that would lend assistance in her journey. It is a long and beautiful story but she found them, and learned many things. Had we not known this was the situation, and did not keep accurate records the end of her story would have been totally different.

So if you have anything but the straight, pure, traditional family, you still need to include them in your family history, but do it accurately. If necessary, delay the information, to protect confidentiality, or restrict access to that information. But be accurate in all you do and record. We talked before about the importance of documentation. The whole point is in being accurate. Include your whole family, but now you can be accurate, as well.

Happy Hunting!