Putting it all together
Throughout this blog series, I’ve written about finding clues in the genealogical record that might raise a rainbow flag. Remember the confirmed bachelor or spinster aunt was not by default unlucky in finding a spouse. Perhaps they did have long-term partners but there was no legal record nor family acknowledgment to carry their stories to future generations. When we come across something that tickles our gay-dar we should not ignore it, or bury it, or deny it. Just as with any other ancestor, we explore the clues, we find other supporting clues, we learn about the history and laws of the time. Finding evidence of homosexuality and writing open & honest stories is not about “outing” ancestors. It is simply about writing open & honest stories, just as with any other ancestor.
Understanding our ancestors’ sexuality is important in genealogy. Living in hiding or openly affected the decisions our ancestors made. It affected their choice of profession or where they felt safe to live. It also affected their relatives and friends. Did family members know and keep the secret of their sexuality? Or were they shunned by those around them? Were there family rifts or unexplained separations? Some family stories can be put into context by understanding our ancestors’ sexuality.
I hope this series has shown opportunities to look at family history through a new lens – a rainbow prism. Forego the assumption that everyone on your tree was heterosexual. Very likely, being open to the idea, you will find an LGBTQ person. When you do, include their story as part of your family’s stories. Invite them in.
Clues may be found in several records:
- Photographs – take a new look at photographs
- Census – looking for Partners and Roommates
- Newspapers – stories that were hopefully positive
- Obituaries and Cemeteries – may give clues about long-term partners
- Police and Prison records – search for “sodomy” or “deviant”
- Military Discharge – to learn the type of discharge
- Neighborhood – were ancestor living in primarily queer areas
- Profession – entrepreneurs can’t be fired
- Domestic Partner & Marriage – can you find certificates in local repositories
- Archives – can reveal unpublished personal papers, diaries, newsletters
This concludes the LGBTQ Genealogy series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it!
In a couple of months, I will begin a new series on LGBTQ Genealogy and Software!
Thank you for reading and commenting.
Stewart you have taken this brand of research to a new level. I think this is so important to know about and you have really helped.