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.
- A Queer History of the United States, by Michael Bronski, 2011,
- Alternate Roots: Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Genealogy Media, by Christine Scodari, 2018
- Between the Lines and Through the Silences: Researching LGBT Ancestors, by Rich Venezia, Irish Lives Remembered, Spring 2017
- FamilySearch, same-sex marriage, and the risk of obsolescence, by Donna Cox Baker, 10 November 2016, The Golden Egg Genealogist
- Forbidden Forebears: Finding the GLBT Ancestors in Your Family, by Michael J. Leclerc, 1 June 2013, Mocavo
- Gay and Lesbian Relatives, by Janice Sellers, 11 October 2012, Ancestral Discoveries
- Gay Genealogists, by Thomas MacEntee, 11 October 2011, Destination: Austin Family
- Gender Selection and the Impact on Future Genealogy Research, by Thomas MacEntee, 7 July 2017, Abundant Genealogy
- Genealogy in the Works: Being Gay in Genealogy, by Becks Koebel, 2 February 2017, Hipster Historian
- Hiding Out in the Open: Researching LGBT Ancestors, by Thomas MacEntee, 10 October 2014, GeneaBloggers
- LGBT Genealogy, by Kim Cotton, 20 October 2011, Kim Cotton Research
- LGBT and Mafia, series of blog posts by Justin Cascia, Mafia Genealogy
- Lives between the Lines: Finding LGBTQ Family History, by Thomas MacEntee, June 2016, Pennsylvania Legacies, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Mormons Will Recognize Same-Sex Couples in Their Genealogy Database, by Tim Marcin, 18 June 2018, Newsweek
- Notable LGBT People, project at Geni.com
- The Hidden – LGBT Family Members and Genealogy, by Thomas MacEntee, 17 October 2007, Destination: Austin Family
- Unhiding The Past: Gay and Lesbian Ancestors, by Thomas MacEntee, 11 October 2012, Destination: Austin Family
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