Moral Dilemma

I’ve recently finished researching a life for the WW1 Lives Project. The man in question was one Harold Ramshaw. His father was a butcher for many years, as he was for a while and his brother too. His nephew was a Spitfire pilot killed in the Battle of Britain and he himself served in World War One from the outset.

There was quite a lot to research on this particular life, mostly on his family, but the thing that really stood out was something that left me with a bit of a moral dilemma.

I found a 1923 newspaper article where he was being sued for arrears. Having read the article through it turned out that these arrears were for maintenance of a child. It seemed that Harold had had a child with a married woman the year before and had been ordered to pay maintenance. The twist was that the child had been registered under the woman’s husband’s name.

I managed to find the woman’s marriage. At first I thought that she may have had a bit of a thing with Harold and then gone on to marry someone else, but that wasn’t the case. She had been married for eleven years when the child in question was born.

My moral dilemma came about when I found out who the child was. Did I add this into the usual biography we write for each life or not? In the end I decided on something in between. I mentioned the court case and elected not to mention any names, as I have done here.

It just struck me that the child, who would have been 96 years old by now if he was still alive, might not have had any idea that the man on his birth certificate was not his father, and who was I to point it out to him and his children and grand children? I’ve dug up a few unexpected skeletons in my family tree, but this research is not mine as such and I decided that it was not my place to air someone else’s mucky linen for them.

I have left what I found in the research so, if any of his descendants happen to want to look into it, it can still be found. It’s all there in the public domain anyway, but at least it isn’t printed in big bold letters for all the world to see in the corridor of the local library.


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