Researching Family Histories

Published: November 9, 2021

Whispers & Legacies: a Conversation about the Clarks, the Posts, and the Palés

On the photos, see the Clark Library Instagram post

One highlight for all of us during the summer was Whispers & Legacies, organized and moderated by our own Rebecca Fenning Marschall. (Clark Library Manuscripts and Archives Librarian).

The event was a panel discussion about the process of research involving the Clark family history, and featuring Liz Brown (author of Twilight Man and great-grandniece of William Andrews Clark, Jr.), Bill Dedman (co-author of Empty Mansions), Stephen Gruse (grandson of George Palé), and Sue Lombardi (cousin of Harrison Post).

William Andrews Clark Jr.

Most families have secrets, but some have more than most. The Clark family and those they touched are a case in point. William Andrews Clark, Jr. and Sr., Huguette Clark, Harrison Post, and George Palé all lived lives shrouded by varying degrees of seclusion, secrecy, and silence, but they had very different ideas about how their legacies and their archives might endure (or not) into the future.

How do their decisions and secrets impact future generations of their own families and the researchers examining them? How do we tell a person’s life story when the evidence is gone, and all that remains is rumor? Why do some of us have the family history collecting impulse, while others don’t? How do wealth and reputation change people’s relationships to secrets?