Ancestral research can open a 'Pandora's Box' of secrets leading to family rifts

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Washington, Apr 9 (ANI): While researching their ancestral history, people can open a "Pandora's Box" of secrets that may cause conflict and widen rifts in the family, says new research.ost people derive pleasure and satisfaction from researching their ancestry, however, for others it brings to light "secrets and skeletons", said the study.

Dr Anne-Marie Kramer, of the University of Warwick, said that of 224 people who gave her details of family history research, around 30 mentioned conflict.

The main causes were- uncovering unwelcome information, wanting information from relatives who didn't wish to give it, giving relatives inaccurate information, spending more time researching than with loved ones, and coming into contact with hostile relatives.

Dr Kramer analysed responses to questions about family history research put to people taking part in the Mass Observation Project, based at the University of Sussex, in which people volunteer to write about their lives as a record of everyday life.

Out of the 224 replies, 140 were from women and 83 from men (and one gender unknown), aged between 16 and 95 and based across the UK.

The accounts are from people researching their family history or from the relatives and friends of those carrying out the research.

Kramer noted that in most cases people wrote positively about researching their family's history.

People found pleasure in making discoveries, investigating family myths and mysteries and making their ancestors real by finding out more about their lives.

In some cases, the research could help mend rifts in families. However, not all experiences were entirely positive.

"Along with the USA, Canada and Australia, contemporary British society is immersed in a seemingly unprecedented boom in the family heritage industry," said Kramer.

"The public is enjoying unparalleled public access to historical records in archives both material and digital, while social networking genealogy websites such as Genes Reunited facilitate the publication of virtual family trees alongside the 'rediscovery' of long-lost 'cousins'.

"Meanwhile, the media has been flooded with celebrity genealogy stories, with the BBC TV flagship programme, Who Do You Think You Are? reaching audiences of over five million.

"But in investigating their family history, researchers could open up a Pandora's Box of secrets and skeletons, such as finding there are family issues around paternity, illegitimacy or marriage close to birth of children, criminality, health and mental health and previously unknown humble origins.

"The rifts are not confined to the historic past - bitterness and resentment towards siblings or parents can result where information is not disclosed," she added.

The research was presented at the British Sociological Association's annual conference in Glasgow. (ANI)

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