How Honest Should You Be?

Long Beach, NY

Hello all. I have been diligently researching my family tree for months now with the intention of providing other family members and their children with a nice written family history. I have encountered something that I’m not sure I should share. It appears that on the 1880 Federal Census a direct ancestor of mine was classified as “Idiotic” / “Insane”. I don’t know historically what would qualify a person to be classified this way or who would do it, but it’s right there. Should I conceal this from the rest of the family, maybe redact it or something or should I let them all know? Thanks in advance for any help.

Harpursville, NY(Zone 5a)

Check into it some more.
maybe they had a physical disability or Alzheimers. You shouldn't try to change history. Iam a descendant of the terrible Tuttles who were ax murderers. I tell everyone :)

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I agree, I don't think there's any need to hide that. Back in the day, people weren't as politically correct as they are now when talking about things like that, so if someone suffered from depression or other mental illness they might have been classified that way. Or Alzheimers' as Linda suggested. Or maybe even something like autism or a learning disability. Obviously if they are a direct ancestor of yours, they were functional enough to get married & have children. There might also be an interesting story behind it--perhaps they fought in the Civil War and spent time as a prisoner of war and came back traumatized by the experience.

If the person is still alive or very recently deceased then I would try to be more sensitive about how information gets shared, but otherwise I think it's very fair to share that sort of information.

Hanceville, AL(Zone 7a)

KBO, I would be interested from a medical point of view if it were me. Do you know if the person was male or female? If female, what age? Mid age? Think change of life. Or stroke. If male, think war trauma as someone suggested. Or brain tumor. There are a lot of medical problems that they used to call insanity, such as diabetes, when it affected the brain. Good luck on finding out. I would also want to know was it passed from generation to generation. Luciee

Jamestown, NY(Zone 5a)

It depends for me. I have an ancestor that was committed after he fathered children and had a family. Not too sure as to why, but it appears to be a mental illness given his age. I did not share it with his grandchildren that were in their 80's and 90's. There would have been nothing to gain for them. I did allow those of the younger generation know if they had expressed an interest in genealogy.
Also, I have an ancestor with epilepsy which was considered years ago a mental illness. Since my child has epilepsy I was glad to know that. The ancestor was considered "idiotic".

Harpursville, NY(Zone 5a)

I have some family members who were admitted to the inebriate assylem and were listed as insane . They were just drunks and spent many years in the hospital.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Having mental illness in the family is not a disgrace. If disclosed with empathy no one need be offended.

Anacortes, WA

Just found this thread. Hope it's not too late to comment.
Grandma had a Sister that was determined to "get into DAR". She researched all the nice people in the family, but they were all Tories. Not exactly DAR material. She was finally forced to look at the "not so nice" areas of the family. Maybe they weren't so nice, but they got her into the club.

History is just that - History. And an oral history is sort of like the game of gossip. What was said or done at the begining isn't exactly the same after it's been repeated for years.
We weren't there to see what actually happened, so how can we judge. Just enjoy!

My stories tell of a neighbor, sick of the smell of sour mash coming from my grandpa's basement, borrowed his phone and call the "revenoers". They came and put him out of business, at least for a while. When both g-maw & g-pa died the kids went to clean out the house. My father headed for the basement, found the still, and brought it home. It now sits on my hearth and boy do I get some interesting comments.

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