How Do You Record Bad News?

Recently I shared the story of finding out my great-grandfather had served time in prison. It’s a story I find sad, but also a great anecdote. For me, it was a great find and something I had never heard.

However, only after I shared the story I wondered if another one of his decendents would have taken offense to my sharing the story. (For the record, no one has.) I then began to think about hearing bad stories about someone on your tree, and if they should be shared.

A couple years ago someone reached out to me on Ancestry. We had a close match through DNA, but she couldn’t find a common relative. I looked as well, and after exchanging a few messages, our communication fizzled.

Cut to a few months later, when I received another message from her. She had discovered that the man who raised her mother was not in fact her biological father, and thought she had uncovered our link: she thought her grandfather and my great-grandfather were the same person. This claim threw me for a loop. I had never heard any stories, and I was particularly close to my grandma, and I became defensive. Not defensive towards her, but to other family members towards the situation. I didn’t want to believe my great-grandfather would have done such a thing.

It turned out her hunch was wrong, and she was looking at the wrong branch. I was relieved.

When I consider these stories, I wonder just how much family history should be shared. I know a story of a family member, something she spoke of, but I wonder if sharing it might hurt someone else. Is it something I don’t record, because someone else may be offended?

So I want to know, what would you do? Do I share the story, or keep it private? All the individuals directly involved have passed, but I would hate to upset other family members.