One of the key things about doing family research is that I try my hardest not to judge anyone for anything at all. I honestly believe everyone does the best they can do given their circumstances and genetics. That goes from the greatest heroes to the lowest of villains.
When you do this research you overturn a lot of stones that have unpleasant things hiding under them. Suicide, murder, spousal abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, terrible parenting, etc. I don’t judge any of it. I wasn’t there and I don’t know their circumstances.
I see it as my role to document what I can, and to that degree I honestly try to embrace the “whole person”. The good and the bad, the mundane and the extraordinary. I make every effort not to “whitewash” the past [although interacting with living relatives can make this difficult since they often want less-than-flattering details omitted]. I try to present the facts as I find them, and try to understand these people as thoroughly I can to the extent that it’s possible.
I’m grateful beyond words to have the help of my extended network of living relatives who knew my ancestors and can help me know the “whole person” in a way that census records, marriage documents, and gravestones never could.