Have You Outed Your LGBT Ancestors?

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee celebrates National Coming Out Day with a list of resources for finding LGBT ancestors in your family tree.

National Coming Out Day: Are There LGBT Folk in Your Family Tree?

In honor of National Coming Out Day, instead of posting the usual “I’m a genealogist and I’m gay” article, I thought I would focus on research skills needed for finding people in your family tree who may have identified as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgendered (LGBT).

Is Outing LGBT Ancestors Proper or Important?

First, to answer the question of whether or not you should pursue researching persons who may have been LGBT, there are several factors involved:

  • You may locate evidence in your genealogy research of someone leading what would be considered an “alternative lifestyle.” Only you can determine whether this information is important in documenting the life of that person. Does the record or evidence help understand why the person lived where or how they did? Does it connect to certain other life events for the person?
  • How would using and possibly sharing the information discovered impact living persons in your family? How would it impact the current perception of the person being research?

LGBT Genealogy Research Skills

There are no real special skills needed to locate evidence of a LGBT lifestyle for an ancestor. The key word here is: awareness. A researcher who self-identifies as LGBT would likely have a better understanding of LGBT history and terminology. A basic LGBT history book, such as A Queer History of the United States, will help anyone better understand how LGBT people lived in particular time periods, whether they were “out” or not.

In addition, LGBT research involves quite a bit of “reading between the lines” and looking for subtle clues that you may not recognize right away. Familiarize yourself with the professions pursued by LGBT ancestors and the “gayborhoods” where they may have lived, for example.


For me, genealogy is all about understanding the lives of all of my ancestors. Use the Further Reading list below to get started on your own journey of discovery and considering giving a voice to the lives of your LGBT ancestors and family members.

Further Reading

  • Alternate Roots: Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Genealogy Media, by Christine Scodari, 2018
  • Lives between the Lines: Finding LGBTQ Family History, by Thomas MacEntee, June 2016, Pennsylvania Legacies, Historical Society of Pennsylvania

©2018, copyright Thomas MacEntee.  All rights reserved.

About the Author

Thomas MacEntee
Genealogy educator and author Thomas MacEntee has been researching his family history for more than 40 years and is the creator of Abundant Genealogy, Genealogy Bargains, DNA Bargains, The Genealogy Do-Over and numerous other web-based genealogy and family history properties.

2 Comments on "Have You Outed Your LGBT Ancestors?"

  1. Great article, Thomas. I’ll be sharing this. And thanks for the reading list. As with some other aspects of people’s lives, we need to be sensitive in sharing info – and we need to look for and weigh those subtle clues.

  2. Interesting coincidence : I launched a Facebook group at about the same time your article was published called LGBT Heritage/Memorial Project. It’s dedicated to helping people identist and document the lives of those seldom talked-of dead ends on everyone’s family tree. Everybody has that “funny uncle,” “confirmed bachelor,” or “spinster aunt” in their tree. It’s my one-man campaign to bring meaning and fond memories to the lives of these otherwise forgotten ancestors.

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