Friday, June 15, 2018
The Part That Makes me Hold my Breath
Well, I did it. I got to the part that always makes me hesitate. And I didn't let it stop me.
The hardest part about wanting to rescue abandoned photos and send them home to family members is the barrier that stands between researching the dead and researching the living. Researching history is easy: just look at all the documents generated in any given lifetime and you can find details about almost anyone. Not rich details in every case, mind you—some people leave more of a paper trail than others—but at least enough of a smattering to follow any given individual's timeline from start to finish (or, in a researcher's case, usually backwards in time, from finish to start).
But researching those who are still among us is a different matter. It doesn't matter that the instigating reason is that we are still tracing someone's long-gone grandmother. When it comes to reaching out and touching a sheer stranger, there's always that element of doubt—at least in our current age of fakes, scams and other feats of fraudulent means. And I can't blame someone else for thinking that about me.
Just think about it: how would you feel if someone contacted you—personally—out of the blue and acted like they knew enough of your life's story to almost border on the side of stalking? I know I'd have questions.
Yes, I know there are media which almost invite people to connect, even with strangers. Facebook is a prime example. You can ask to "friend" almost anyone. That "anyone" has the right to either reciprocate or ignore friend requests. And that is the one tool I've taken to using in my quest to reunite family with abandoned photographs of their aunts, uncles, great-grandmothers and other assorted relatives.
Yet I still feel creepy when I do it. Maybe creepy enough to not want to continue doing this project. Researching the dead is easy; they offer no objections. Researching the living? It's a matter of personal choice and individual privacy. You never know when you are going to cross the line...until you have already crossed it.
Perhaps I'm not thick-skinned enough. I agonize over this too much. The folks who have received their relative's photo, long-lost for nearly a century, have for the most part been incredibly grateful. I have received wonderful thank you notes from many of them (which, since they are from living people with rights to remain anonymous, I seldom mention in such a public forum as this blog). But I still wonder if someone will not take as kindly to this project as I hope.
On the other hand, I have to remind myself of the original reason for beginning this quest: I'd be overjoyed if someone contacted me and told me they had found a photograph of any of my ancestors. I have little to nothing, when it comes to family memorabilia.
So, with these thoughts staging a knock-down-drag-out fight in my mind, I opened up my Facebook account yesterday to send yet another private message. This time, it was sent to the possible granddaughter of a possible Hazel from Aberdeen. The multiplied levels of doubt don't help in this matter. But if I don't take a first step, I'll never know whether I can send Hazel back home to be with family.
If I can't find a way to send Hazel home to the right descendants, who knows? Perhaps, in the wake of Aberdeen's horrific loss of "a hundred years of history" in last weekend's fire, instead of restoring the lost records of Aberdeen's fathers (and mothers), I can donate Hazel's picture to that city's rebuilding of their collective memory with this initiating token of Aberdeen's children.