Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Synopsis: 2011 August 13th --- And A Question

A week of "life happening."  Dinna get the posts completed that I was working on and will have to hold for completion.  Miss M helped me organize pictures for the Uncle Ralph Letters book.  We also started on reworking the overall look of my blog, which we will finish when she returns in a couple of weeks.  Oh, and in my obsessive way, I managed to keep on transcribing the Diary and now up to 1858.  Also in response to Roots'n'Leaves posts, I have heard from a Cairncross relative as well as Civil War researcher looking for information regarding William Burns McPherson.  In contact with both of these individuals which is quite exciting for me.  Someone out there is really reading my blog -- WaaHoo!

Now talking about the Diary reminds me of  a question for all my genealogy and writer friends out there.  I am working on a piece related to   J.P.s position as Superintendent of the County Poor Farm.  At one point he mentions the "crazy girl," and transporting her to a hospital for the insane.  I dinna have much problem writing about that incident, however, later he actually names the girl, as well as another young woman as patients of the hospital for the insane.  I thought it a rather interesting incident, and for myself,  I would want the writer of the stories of the Diary to use names and places  --- I search diligently for that kind of information.  On the other hand, my critique group was of a mind that using names in this instance was inappropriate, and that I should just use first name or an initial.  Note:  this is a private diary written over 160 years ago.

Let me know your thoughts on this issue.

Now I am asking you, my geneablogger friends to weigh in on this question:  Should I use real names and places when writing about an historical event such as this one noted in the Diary?  Or should I use just first name or initial? 


  1. You'd think that after 160 years it should be OK to use names and places, and that's how I'd vote. But then again, we're information junkies where our ancestors are concerned, and apparently not everyone is of the same mind regarding their own ancestors.

  2. I'd also vote for using the names. My rule of thumb is that if someone currently living might be hurt by something than I don't include it in a post. But I can't imagine anyone reading about something that happened that many years ago being upset. Someone might potentially read your blog and find it interesting that an ancestor was in a mental institution once upon a time--but I think that they'd just feel like they now had a good story to tell at their next party.

  3. Joan, I just got back from my travels, so I'm still catching up on reading. My first take on this is to use the names. However, trying to see the other side (as I used to work in Mental Health), currently, confidentiality rules require professionals to not use patient names, but as this person is no longer living, nor is this a matter of professional conduct (you are not her mental health worker), you should be free of this restraint. Even historically, professionals would use initials rather than names--but think of this: aren't those names of asylum inmates listed in census reports? If so, precedent of those 160 year old public records should provide you the freedom to follow suit. Besides, I agree with Greta and Sheryl: I think anyone today looking for info on their relatives from that time period would want to be able to find out. There is a story there for someone. Why deprive them of that find?

  4. I'd use the names, too. If you don't, some descendant who may be searching will have missed the opportunity to learn more about an ancestor.

    And yes, people read your blog. It's hard to know, though, unless readers leave comments, isn't it?

  5. Coming in late on this one as I'm behind with my reading. My first thought was to use her first name and surname initial. Combined with place that would give someone searching for her enough clues.
    However I also agree that after 160 years it's unlikely there's anyone to be distressed about it, especially if she was admitted to the mental hospital and had no direct descendants.
    I think go with your gut instinct on this.