Looking through old albums is a lovely way to learn more about your family’s history. But as you take a trip down memory lane, you may find faded photographs of a family member you or your relatives have never heard of.
To solve this mystery, you might consider all kinds of outlandish possibilities about this person. However, most people overlook that their ancestor may have been an LGBTQ+ person who was estranged from the family because of their identity.
Read on to learn about how you can gather the right information to find out if you have any LGBTQ+ ancestors in your family tree!
Why You Should Learn More About Your Family History
Learning about your family tree is a great way to celebrate your identity. It allows you to connect with your history by discovering what your relatives were like in their time. It also allows you to draw inspiration from your ancestry and possibly revive a meaningful family legacy.
Why Is It So Difficult To Trace LGBTQ+ Members?
The LGBTQ+ communities have faced decades of discrimination and intolerance all over the world. Although they began fighting for their rights in the US in 1924, progress was slow and turbulent. Our LGBTQ+ ancestors were up against sodomy laws, defamation, and violent raids. For the sake of their safety, they were forced to conceal their sexual orientation and gender identities, making it difficult to trace them in contemporary times.
7 Ways To Find Out Who Your LGBTQ+ Ancestors Are
A ton of LGBTQ+ people felt the need to form their own families because they lacked acceptance from their biological parents and siblings. Figuring out who our LGBTQ+ ancestors help us recognize their stories to commemorate them with the love they always deserved.
Here are 7 simple ways to figure out who may have been an LGBTQ+ person in your family tree!
1. Learn What Their Occupation Was
Some professions back in the day were known to employ individuals who usually stayed single. These particular occupations became an attractive option for LGBTQ+ members who didn’t want the speculation that came with not having an opposite-sex partner.
For females, people in job positions like teachers and small business owners were known to never marry. For men, priesthood or a career in the arts was the go-to “single-for-life” profession.
2. Look For Their Residence
Some neighborhoods were historically known for being “gay-friendly” areas to live in. Taking note of where a particular relative lived or moved to and then researching the neighborhood’s local history can give you some insight into where they felt most comfortable. You should also look into who they were living with since some LGBTQ+ couples used a landlord-tenant arrangement as a cover-up for their relationship.
3. Search Criminal Records & Newspaper Clippings
Being any of the letters in LGBTQ+ alphabet used to be a criminal offense in the US – and unfortunately, it still is in some countries. For that reason, old archives of arrests and court cases are important sources to use because these documents may explicitly have the names of your ancestors involved in violating same-sex laws.
Tip: Take note of the terms they used back in the day to describe LGBTQ+ members as you search through old records. These terms include sodomite, crossdresser, Uranian, and Sapphist.
4. Read Their Journals & Letters
Journals and letters are meaningful sources to read since they give you a glimpse into the world of your ancestors. You may find that a particular relative openly wrote about their LGBTQ+ experiences or exchanged passionate letters with someone of the same sex.
5. Go Over Their Final Will
Just like most people, LGBTQ+ individuals tend to leave their assets and treasured belongings with their loved ones. But if you notice one or a few names on their final will that no one in your family recognizes, then these may have been their partner or members from their LGBTQ+ family.
6. Take Note Of Missing Records
If your family traditionally keeps heirlooms and old photographs but doesn’t seem to have anything from a certain family member, you should be a little suspicious. In the past, families would often disassociate from or “disown” relatives for being LGBTQ+.
7. Visit Their Cemetery
While this may sound a little morbid, LGBTQ+ partners sometimes ask to be buried together. It could be symbolic of how they can finally be together in death as they always wished to be – something that they couldn’t do when they were alive.
If you have a relative who shares a cemetery with someone that the family doesn’t know, there’s reason to believe that this could have been their partner.
Be Proud Of Your LGBTQ+ Ancestors
Celebrating our LGBTQ+ relatives even long after they’ve passed is a great way to honor their memory and let stories live on. With this easy-to-follow guide, you can begin digging through your family history and be proud of your LGBTQ+ ancestral roots.