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Friday, 10 April 2020

Genealogy: The complexity of marriages and other sexual relationships


Modem society’s broad acceptance of cohabiting couples and children born out of wedlock is creating a severe headache for genealogists who love to see their ancestors’ families neatly laid out.  
      Previous ages, though often dominated by strict church dogma, had more than their share of de facto marriages and births judged to be “illegitimate”, but nothing compares with the present time. 
      One of my friends had three marriages and at least two settled cohabiting relationships. Another friend married the same woman twice with a divorce and a 10-year gap between the marriages.  And I know of another man who married the same woman twice with a divorce and another marriage and divorce in between.
      These examples of multiple relationships are raising serious challenges for family historians. At what point, for example, does a sexual relationship become formally recognised? Is it when they move in together? When they have been together, say, for a year? When they get married, if they ever do?
      It’s a nightmare.
     Then there is the related issue of homosexual relationships, both male and female. If a same-sex couple moves into an established relationship, should that become part of the family tree, no matter how messy it might be judged in genealogical terms? I think it should. So, what would I then do if a lesbian relative not only married another woman, but with the aid of artificial insemination, had children? Would I skirt around the subject and write “father unknown”? And finally, what should go on the family tree when a traditional male-female couple have a child whose natural father was a sperm donor?
      Questions, questions, questions. But no simple answers.


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The book resulting from a story stumbled across while researching my family history:


Tuesday, 28 January 2020

How Twitter can boost a social campaign


Twitter has a very poor reputation – a reputation that is often well deserved. It can be very nasty; it can be dishonest; it can be boring. But it can also be a powerful tool for good, if used sensibly. I use it as a source of useful and accurate information, doing my best to filter out the rubbish and lies, and as a weapon against local council failures. I also use it with modest success to promote my books and my blog.  In all those cases, It works well for me.

More recently, I offered to help Linda Lawless, a friend and member of my wife’s extended family in Australia boost her campaign to get proper recognition from the Catholic Church that she was secretly fathered by a Catholic priest. After months of agonising, she decided to go public about the discovery she made through a DNA test and agreed to join others in this compelling Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PADNmpeZEeM&t=329s

The ABC uploaded the documentary onto its YouTube channel late last September, but it didn’t attract a great deal of interest, even though the program rated very well when original transmitted in Australia. Between the posting in September last year and January 7this year when I took a special interest, there had been just 4,542 viewings. I began tweeting the link to interested persons and groups, hoping to increase the viewings to, perhaps, 20,000. But Linda’s story obviously captured the imagination of a great many, and as I write this, more than 200,000 have viewed it, and it is still climbing by several thousand viewings per day.

It should be added that Linda’s campaign is not just for herself, but for the many mothers and children around the world who have suffered as a result of priests breaking their vow of celibacy. A great many people have commented on this documentary, and an overwhelming number think that the celibacy rule is at the heart of child abuse and the shame and secrecy surrounding children of priests. But it doesn’t appear that this rule is going to change any time soon, as a Vatican spokesman interviewed in the documentary described priestly celibacy as a “precious gift”. Some gift!

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A friend has pointed out that Lord (Roy) Hattersley, once one of the highest-profile politicians in the United Kingdom, was also the son of a Catholic priest -- born in truly scandalous circumstances. The details are HERE.