Perhaps I am too analytical at times, but IMO many of the posts in this thread are not ‘skeletons’ and are simple family background stories. Most could be put to rest (or ‘the test’) by a simple bit of research in for e.g. newspaper archives. The fact that one of my second great-grandfathers lost twenty-odd of his sheep to marauding dogs is not a skeleton but it does demonstrate that on the introduction (1865) of the dog licence large numbers of dogs were turned loose by owners rather than pay the two shillings and sixpence licence fee. Another of my great-grandfathers age nine found a dead body on the road near their farm – a murder- and he was, despite his age, cross-examined in court as a witness. Shocking in today’s terms, but not a skeleton.
Originally Posted by Hermy
And while I write this it has just occurred to me that I myself, being an adoptee, am somebody else's skeleton in the closet!
To me the expression ‘a skeleton in the cupboard’ is a pejorative term relating to an undisclosed fact about someone which, if revealed, would damage the perception/standing of that person in the community. In no way does or could it relate to an adoptee.
Events must be seen in the context of the day – up to about 1970 an unmarried mother was perceived by the State, her family, the Churches and society at large as a ‘fallen woman’ and at best an embarrassment or at worst a ‘disgrace to the family’. (‘Fallen’ even derives from ‘fallen from the grace of god’.) Such a pregnancy would have an impact on the economic future of the family (“Is he suitable for that promotion, after all, he let his young daughter get pregnant!”) She would be a social outcast and some of that opprobrium would extend to her family and its standing in the community. Very few families would have the financial independence to provide support or the courage as it would be seen as condoning the pregnancy. That is the way it was, whether we like it or not. On her own the girl’s future would be fraught with difficulty, her ability to obtain a job unrealistic and to hold it unfeasible, her financial independence impossible, her marital prospects negligible, her morals forever questioned and her very existence forever open to snide remarks. The father invariably walked free and frequently denied involvement; paternity tests were unknown until the late 1980’s. Should he contest paternity it was an uphill battle for the mother to prove it / obtain maintenance, as she started from a negative position of ‘questionable morals’. That is why a move to a mother and baby home and adoption was seen as a ‘way out. The State and
the families simply outsourced what they viewed as a solution to the Churches, who in turn took on the task (their traditional role being reforming ‘sinners’) and made money from it. The rights of the unborn child were not even an item for consideration, let alone discussion, at that time. Everyone in society was implicated and condoned the ‘status quo’.
Today, for those who have such a child in their past, the situation is very complex, emotive and any perceived ‘skeleton’ has assumed quite a different character. They are in what many would perceive as a ‘no win’ situation. Most have since married and have families of their own; some fathers might not even be aware of the child; most (probably?) unmarried parents have not told their spouses and/or children of the past childbirth. Bringing out the topic now would be viewed negatively by almost all – the spouse because by keeping the pre-marital child hidden it was a breach of trust/honesty in the marriage, the children of the marriage would view it the same or worse because they would be more openminded and view the concealment as unjust. There also are serious legal implications for the parent since the Inheritance Acts confer rights to a child born outside a marriage who now would share the estate on an equal footing with other siblings.
There is more for the parent to lose financially & societally than to gain in searching for a past child. Add a layer of case law, new Acts such as that covering GDPR, several reports (e.g. by Incorp. Law Society) on what should/should not be done and the deep complexity of the legal background is clear. Is it a skeleton in their cupboard? Perhaps, but not one linked to having a child outside marriage, but one as a result of hiding the fact and ignoring any attempt to search now that society’s view is changing.
From what I have read, (and I'm no expert) very few (other than the adopted child) want to delve into the topic. Most such adoptees now are aged over fifty and over time the problem will disappear. Unjust as it is to the adoptee, it’s another ‘Irish solution’.