Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Abuse in the family tree

Carolyn Hax on

I don't think it's important to do so in this case -- since we're talking about long-gone relatives the great-grandson never knew -- but it can be a kindness in general to consider a person's bad-news preferences before you make a delivery.

If possible, of course; otherwise all you can do is follow your conscience.

Re: Awkward Genealogy:

My father was a cruel, physically abusive man who was a terrible alcoholic. I didn't know until I was in high school that his father was the same way, as was his father. Having that information helped connect the dots for me with genetics and behavior. As Carolyn said, I have made sure that it stopped with me, and it's possible your new cousin might be able to do the same if any of that behavior has been reproduced.

Also, if he never had to experience anything like that, it might help him appreciate his family even more for rising above something that could have consumed them. Information is power, right?

-- Anonymous


Right, and also a responsibility. It sounds as if you used yours well.


Email Carolyn at, follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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