In part 3 I talked a little about how a genealogist can get sucked into the conspiracy and find that their environment and priorities have suddenly changed. The addition of barriers transforms the journey and things can become very serious and very personal. These barriers to summary information, unintentionally create a dogged pursuer.
At this point, I can get into some of the conspirators, helpers, boat anchors and traps I’ve run into or heard about that create the conspiracy and keep it alive for future generations to enjoy.
The Road to Hell is Paved
The Original conspirators are pretty easy to figure out. They are the people who need desperately to weave a new reality. The reason for the new reality is unknown but it’s assumed to be bad, very bad and dark. It’s something that needs to be hidden for the sake of some other thing that is deemed more important. Maybe it’s a murder or a relative with mental illness locked in an attic or a child conceived out-of-wedlock, all of which might embarrass the family and have dire social and economic consequences. In these instances, a new reality must be created that does not contain the bad thing.
It’s not something they can do alone though, they need willing co-conspirators. Luckily a lot of people are willing to help out in order to hide something unseemly. These co-conspirators will help the original person fabricate the new reality. They are true believers in the cause no matter the cost. These people will actively move to thwart progress. They will attack your character if you attempt to unravel the conspiracy. They may remain at work long after the original conspirator is dead.
Like an infomercial, there is a dupe. Someone who buys the deception and in doing so helps to sell the fabrication to others. They are awfully hard to tell from a co-conspirator because they may also actively move to thwart progress. They also have the power of belief on their side only instead of believing the conspiracy is necessary, they don’t know there is a conspiracy at all. They may be so entrenched that they will suffer great injustices in its name and defend the conspirator who took advantage of them. The dupe may attack you if you suggest a conspiracy.
The object. This is the physical manifestation of the very bad thing that required a new reality to be built. The object, in my family (of course), has been a child. The object might be the subject of adoration or on the dark side suffer as the focus of ill will from the involved parties. Whatever incident created the object is not easily wiped away from the minds of the conspirator or co-conspirators. Others may not know why the object is made to suffer. The object, for its part, doesn’t know it’s an object. It may know the story the dupe knows and may either benefit or suffer for it.
There always seems to be a leak. Whether it’s a person or DNA testing or fudged records or simple blood typing, there is usually a leak. Otherwise the deception could go on indefinitely. In my family we’ve had all of these. The leak person may be in it to do harm to multiple parties (including the object). So they may not feel inclined to give any helpful details. It’s enough to simply cause pain.
Okay, those are the internal players off the top of my head and there are many variations on these themes to be had and probably some types I missed. There is another cast of characters a person will have to deal with when confronting a conspiracy. If you are the object or are working to help the object, then in my experience, the odds are stacked against you. One could expect push back from the internal players, but sometimes the external ones can be the most damaging.
I didn’t have to face the soulless machine, but I know that others have. The weight given to the rights of the conspirators by our institutions also has an effect on how regular people feel about (and react to) the expressed needs of the child (read object). It makes the child the responsible party and serves as another barrier to their personal growth. At a legal and personal level, the privacy of the conspirators is seen as more valuable than the needs of the object. For a disturbing glimpse, talk to any adopted child dealing with sealed records and altered birth certificates and any number of other hurdles. We live in a world where you can find out where a politician had lunch on Tuesday, but not what your own last name is.
As you continue to work through things, the conspiracy, by the very nature of being a conspiracy, will get fresh recruits. To me, fresh recruits are the most interesting, because they have no stake in the original fabrication. They learn about the conspiracy and then give it aid and comfort.
In my experience, fresh recruits can be well-meaning friends who might say something like “maybe it’s hidden for a reason” or “you might find out things you don’t want to know”. Those are tough, because you don’t know what you don’t want to know, until you know it. What if they’re right? Well-meaning friends and people who care about you may want the conspiracy to stay intact for your own good. In that way, they are somewhat like the willing co-conspirators, except that the fresh recruits don’t know any more than you do.
In genetic genealogy I’ve seen fresh recruits come up as “decent” genetic matches. People who might be related to you between now and 1700 and could have valuable, but distant clues. If you have a nice healthy family tree, they may be great partners, but if they get wind of the conspiracy, they shut you down. They may even pack up their own tent stakes and RUNNOFT. I think this has a lot to do with fear. Fear of being associated with the conspiracy (something bad, or illegitimate, something that needed to be covered up). I think a lot of people are afraid to find out things they did not want to know about their own relatives. Others may just be afraid of being saddled with helping someone who has issues.
I suppose some few people could actually know something that they also do not want to get out. Most of the time I think when people know something they don’t want in the daylight they are really making an erroneous association. For example: a researcher who shuts you down because they know their uncle got around. They fear you’re associated with that, when in reality you wouldn’t be related until the mid 1800s or something.
In any case, the new recruits usually don’t realize that they have signed up. At least I don’t think they know. By trying to avoid the conspiracy, they just feed it and help it to grow. They actually join it and, in the end, help it to thwart the object or their helper in learning more. Fear brings fresh recruits and helps the will of the original deceiver continue the deception beyond their lifetime.
The last group of conspirators I’m thinking about aren’t actively playing a part, they are more like the soulless machine. They are incidental conspirators you find in genealogy communities. These people are the hoarders. Untold treasures await in their family trees…or not, but you’ll never know. I have some experience with this because I’ve been on both sides of it. I…am a hoarder too.
There are many kinds of hoarders and for the most part, they don’t want to be involved. Unfortunately, they are absolutely stuck in the conspiracy. Hoarders may have had a walk in the park, but some of the worst hoarders (like me) have marched through the swamp or maybe have even made it to the other side of the dense jungle. We’re not in it to help anyone else, this is “me” time.
Some genealogy hoarders are really classic Scrooge McDuck hoarders. Genealogy is a zero sum game for them. They do really want to roll around in the vault of gold coins and enjoy their amassed genealogical riches. After all, if you have some, then they must have less. Other hoarders are Bootstraps hoarders. They paid to find all this information, they did the leg work, they went to county buildings and looked up old records, they earned what they have so why should they share it with anyone else? There are hoarders that are just Takers, they benefit from public trees, and are happy to look over your research (thanks very much) but don’t share anything in return. There are Intensely Private hoarders who are just afraid that you’ll find out who their family members are (living or dead). For the Benefit of All Mankind hoarders hide their trees because they are dangerous to the public for various reasons (usually because they contain wild rumors and hearsay that might be valuable at some point). These hoarders are protecting the world from bad information that spreads like wildfire on ancestry sites.
Most hoarders will be in multiple categories, some mix of all these types. I know that I am, and others might have a few less friendly names for me.
Sometimes you can gain a hoarder’s trust and you both benefit from it, but other times they are just a dead-end. In genetic genealogy, they can be a really painful and constant reminder (like a canker sore) that someone has simple summary information you need to make someone feel whole.
There are people and things that conspire against you when you hit an impediment, but I think success is possible even if the terrain and the natives are hostile. I think we can all make it to that warm campfire, but we’ll need friends.
Next up: People power.