Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com 30 July 2015
In April, I blogged about my intention on obtaining credentials as a Certified Genealogist through the Board of Certified Genealogists. My plan was to submit my application once I was well on my way in completing a client prepared research report, one of the portfolio submission criteria. My target date was mid August.
I didn’t think this was going to be a problem as I had obtained permission from a client in May and had already invested 2 hours through an initial meeting and research time on the project. I contacted her with two surprising discoveries I had uncovered regarding her great grandparents and scheduled a meeting to discuss a possible revision to the research plan we had initially made. She cancelled our meeting date due to a family emergency. I was traveling a lot during June so we scheduled a meeting for July. A few hours before we were to meet I received a phone call that she was going to have cancel, not just the meeting, but the entire project. Turns out, she had discussed what I had found with her children who were quite taken aback and the family put pressure on her to abandon the project. She said that although she would like additional information, she did not want to alienate her children who were quite upset. I suggested that I speak with her children but she declined. I told her I would mail her a report of the research findings but she requested that I not send her anything. I ended the conversation by letting her know that she was welcome to contact me in the future if she changed her mind.
As a counselor and genealogist, I have had to relay difficult information to clients, friends and family over the years so how I disseminated the information was not new to me and she initially took the information well. I’ve previously had former clients tell me that family members were not interested about information discovered or had difficulty with information provided and requested that the findings not be further discussed. I never had a situation quite like what I recently encountered, however, where family members became so upset that the client pulled the plug on the project.
I looked for professional guidance since this was a new experience for me. Nothing about what I encountered at any of the websites of the professional organizations where I am a member.
Just like everyone else, my family is far from perfect. To help a client feel at ease sometimes I’ve shared my personal discoveries to help with their adjustment. When I first heard about the brouhaha over the Finding Your Roots episode regarding Ben Affleck’s request to not disclose that his ancestor’s owned slaves I recall thinking (and posting) that the problem may have been averted by discussing initially that unsettling information may be found and will be disclosed Since I did communicate that maybe I was wrong about the Affleck situation – perhaps Mr. Affleck was initially informed but he reacted after the facts were presented, like my client did. I’m still processing what I could have done differently. If you have any ideas let me know!
In the meantime, I’m back to the drawing board. My revised timeline to submit the application for Genealogical Certification is now mid-October. Although I’m chalking this up as a learning experience I’m hopeful the next client will be willing to accept the foibles of their ancestors.