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Open Thread Thursday – Family on the Wrong Side of History

open thread

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

Over the next few years – with the sesquicentennial of the United States Civil War – there will be more of a focus on ancestors who fought in the conflict as well as those ancestors who supported certain causes and movements such as states’ rights or the abolition of slavery.

It is said that history is written by the winners. However, with the advent of blogging and the ability for almost anyone to have a platform where they can write and express their opinion, the stories of those on the losing side of these causes and movements are being told.

How do you handle telling such stories, especially if your ancestor was pro slavery or, for example, anti women’s suffrage? What if there is no evidence as to their opinions or positions yet they fought for the losing side in a war, such as World War II?

Is there, in fact, a “wrong side” of history?

This is a difficult topic to discuss but one that I bet we’ll see more and more over the next few years.  Please take some time to ponder this topic with your ancestors in perspective and their role in history.

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Please either post on today’s topic of “The Wrong Side of History” at your own blog and then post the link here in the comments or simply add your two cents in the comments section.

This is a great topic for this week’s Open Thread Thursday! And please, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed among your genealogy blogging colleagues, please contact us and we’ll take it under consideration.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

12 thoughts on “Open Thread Thursday – Family on the Wrong Side of History

  1. This is an excellent topic and one which I have been thinking about quite a lot over the last few months. Commenting here, because I am not sure if I am ready to write it in a blog post. My grandmother’s family were Germans living in Prussia, who eventually settled near Hamburg and Berlin. One member of the family fought in WWII on the wrong side. My husband’s grandmother’s family was murdered in Riga, Latvia. I plan to meet my German relatives in June of 2011 and am working on figuring out a place of balance between two distinctly different family histories belonging to my children.

  2. My husband had family on both sides of the Spanish Civil War. I’ve written about both sets of grandparents, which has helped me to untangle the complexities of a war I knew little about. I had a snarky comment on one blog post, which I did not publish. It bothered me because we all had relatives on both sides of lots of conflicts. I had relatives on both sides of the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, and on both sides of movements such as prohibition, civil rights, religious beliefs, you name it! If anyone thinks their family is always on the “correct side” they probably haven’t researched their own family thoroughly!

  3. Though not connected to my personal family history, I had a situation with the Southern Graves blog. I wrote a couple pieces about Union soldiers buried in southern cemeteries. I was shocked to receive negative comments toward my writing about those “damn Yankees.”

    As a rule, I believe all points of history should be written about, commented on, and learned from. But it’s not always easy to do. I recently wrote a piece about some controversial thoughts of a distant (but well known historically) relative, and I must admit I anxiously wondered if I was casting him in a bad light. Nonetheless, I went forward with the post.

  4. It is rumoured that there were Goucher’s who migrated to the US and either were gunsmiths here in the UK or became gunsmiths in the US during the Civil War.
    I was told by a fellow genealogist that there is always a Samuel in each line and the surname changed from Goacher to Goucher because there were so many Samual’s. Ironically, my husband does have two Samuels as direct ancestors. I don’t know the truth of the facts and I have not explored this further as yet. As far as I can tell, my husband’s ancestry is firmly in Derbyshire from about 1715. If you have any Goucher’s or Goachers in your ancestry please get in touch.

  5. I’ve thought a lot about this over the years. My husband’s family has strong Confederate ties and loyalties. The stories, the traditions all come down on the romantic lost cause side of things. This became a real issue when our children were young. I finally started telling them that while their family had fought for and believed in the Confederacy they were wrong. The right side won that war.

    I am now doing further research and transcribing family papers – it is again an issue. I am constantly tempted to gloss over their loyalties and wonder what to publish. I’ve no interest in glorifying their beliefs, but I want accuracy.

  6. This is the very topic that got me involved in family history–my family stories weave Yankee and Southern sensibilities into a mighty complicated tale of America. I have written several times already and plan on concentrating my future research and writing on the period between 1850-1880, because so much happened to ancestors both north and south of the Mason-Dixon line. I feel positively compelled to explore this history, ’cause we are still fighting over what that war meant:

  7. Yes!

    This is a needed topic for community discussion.

    It seems that the real inference is ‘states’ rights vs abolition of slavery. To many, states’ rights meant the continuance of slavery. The neo-confederates stop just short of that affirmation. Let the debates begin!

    Peace & Blessings
    “Guided by the Ancestors”

  8. I don’t believe that there is a “wrong side of history” – there are just the stories that need to be told, regardless of where they (and their participants) originated from. In any conflict, you’ll find instances of soldiers from the “right side” who behaved worse than “enemy” soldiers.

    Personally, I don’t feel my research is the arena to debate “who was right, who was wrong”, or even the morality of how my ancestors behaved. I just want to tell their stories. (And if there is no oral/written evidence of how they felt, even if they found themselves on the “wrong side”, I’m not going to put words into their mouth!) If I want to argue over the pros and cons of whatever conflict, divide, etc., I’ll write a history paper!

    Just my two cents,

  9. If you are fortunate enough to have documentation of a relatives beliefs or thoughts regarding certain periods during their lifetimes you have a great treasure that should be shared. It colors in so much. The alternative is try to extrapolate that, for instance, that someone living in South Carolina in 1860 was a secessionist and deeply confedarate when the reality may have been that they were living comfortably and not in favor of the changes that were forced upon them. For the sake of people like myself who are happy to even find a picture of pre-1900 relatives I think you should report everything warts and all.

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