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So do you have a question about a specific source? Ask it here. Stuck in your research? Someone might know which method you can use to take down that brick wall! Want to write you family history but don't know where to start? Chances are someone else was in your position once and can help you now. Stuck on that citation? Show us what you've got and someone is bound to know the answer!
I'm writing a biography of this woman and her spouse, primarily focussed on the spouse. Do I mention this family secret? If yes, in how much detail? I could kind of gloss over it in a sentence, just saying she temporarily lived apart from her family, but not saying why. I could include the why but keep it as brief as possible. Or I could provide all the information I have as long as it fits the story I am telling.
I don't think this family secret is especially shameful, simply interesting. Others might not agree. The information is all in the public domain, if you know where to look. What's wisdom here?
What happened is part of your family history and your family has a right to know the truth.
I think every family has some secrets. I recommend finding a copy of Skeletons in your closet: deciding the fate of family secrets which discusses just this sort of situation.
I would consider how embarrassing would it be if people knew, how much time has passed, who might be reading the information, etc. I would be especially careful if the incident was criminal in nature or there was lasting harm to people. If the event was quite some time ago or used to be considered scandalous but is no big deal anymore, e.g. Australian convicts, then I see no problem.
Not too long ago illegitimacy was a hush-hush subject but is commonplace today. I just record these facts without comment and I don't think anyone even notices. I remember when people wouldn't admit that someone had died of cancer but that taboo has ended. I would be very careful about how I described a case of mental illness — depending on the situation I might omit it.
You might also want to discuss this with a family member whose judgment you trust.
Time passed is about a century, but it could still be a big deal to some people today. I think I'll write it in, sensitively, and then do as you say and discuss it with a family member. See what the reaction is before deciding to leave it in or keep it ou.
8> Okay, so TN is Tennesee and NC is North Carolina, I'm assuming? Not from the US, so abbreviations aren't always clear to me.
Now, I don't know much about specific sources for you to look at, but I've read enough genealogy books written by US authors dealing with methodology, so here's some suggestions. Some of these you might already have done:
1. Do you have your relative on all censuses from 1850 forward in time until his death? Do all these censuses state he was born in NC in 1803? Or are there other places/dates of birth?
2. What about other sources that might state where and when he was born? Think about marriage and death-related documents (certificates, newspaper notices, funeral home directories, obituaries, gravestone, wills, others applicable to the specific states). Don't forget about possible military records.
3. If these records still don't give any idea on where in NC he was from, check out his relatives. Where did his wife come from? Are there any siblings you can locate that might've left more information about possible birth place and parents?
4. Don't forget to check out sources the children of your relative made. They can sometimes reveal information about their parents in records made years after their parents are dead.
And last, but not least, review each and every document you have about this relative to see if you might have overlooked information that can narrow down where he was born or when.
Good luck in your search!
Thanks so much for the ideas. My problem is that there aren't many records online. I'm going to hit the family search center here in town to see if they can help me out!