Recently I have read in a few places how we, as genealogists and family historians, are “not supposed to take no as an answer”.
Now, in my other life, I am a fund raiser and have been for more than 20 years now. So I know all the old saws about not accepting NO as an answer. How NO is really an invitation to continue to return and pitch your wares, issue, need, etc. again. NO is just yes in disguise. At worst, No means maybe.
So Yes this perspective may be of value to a salesperson ….. yes it might even be valid to a fund raiser, but I believe we must be very careful and not necessarily believe it in our genealogy and family history pursuits.
I know this is contrary to what some folks are saying in the field, but if we are to continue to have success, we must also recognize that there are often limits that people set in the areas of their family, family history, legends, myths, and secrets. While we often believe our search for the past and the truth are worthy endeavors and should be embraced by all, we must respect and remember that not everyone will agree with this perspective. If you are like me, you even have been branded as ‘zealous’ in your focus on genealogy. As one of my favorite quotes goes “I used to have a life, then I started doing genealogy”.
We have a wealth of public records that are open and available to us. Often times folks are surprised by the amount and depth of some of these records, even though they are in the public domain. Ownership records, divorce, marriage, birth and death. Estate matters. Most of these are older records, but some are not so old.
With the advent of social media it may seem that almost everything in every life is an open book. Being made public and posted for all time on the Internet. But not everyone realizes the openness of all of their social media postings. Many forget the public nature of the beast and ‘think’ it is just for family and friends and won’t ever go any farther.
I love this work and I love my personal pursuit of history and family. I am disappointed when my hard work and effort brings me to a cousin or other relative only to be shut down by having the person say NO to my overtures. I am disappointed in the letters I send that do not get a response. I wish every email I sent resulted in someone on the other writing and hitting ‘send’ not ‘delete’. But not everyone feels the same as I do. For what ever their reasons, this is how they feel and they are entitled to those feelings, especially since we are intruding into family matters. I don’t mean to say we should not give it our best shot at explaining why we are seeking the information we desire. I am not saying we can afford to be shrinking violets and shy away from cold contacts, but I am saying we must respect the response given.
Much of the family research I am doing is original research on my family lines. Far and away the huge majority of people I have reached are open and willing to share. In this I have been truly blessed. But I also have those folks on my own private ‘do not call again’ list since they have said NO. As painful to me as it is, I must honor and accept their NO.
So get out there …. do your best ….. ask and maybe even ask again, but remember if the NO comes, there may well be reasons we will never know about and we must respect that decision.
Now get going Onward To Our Past!