History’s harder to write when it’s personal.

A novice family researcher recently checked the 1930 census and learned that her grandfather was serving time in the New Jersey state prison that year. (Bootlegging during Prohibition.) Knowing that this fact would upset some cousins, she asked experienced researcher Chuck Mason what to do. Writing in the National Genealogical Society newsletter, Mason recalls counseling her to “state in her genealogy that her grandfather was living on Cass Street (where the state prison is located) in Trenton, in 1930”–thus “not putting this embarrassing information in either her genealogy or her source citations, but [still being] truthful about her grandfather.”

Well, “truthy,” anyway. This looks like the real-life analogue of the old chestnut about the horse thief who was hanged–and, years later, eulogized by a relative as having “passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.”