Not only is genealogy a worthless pursuit, it can lead to family discord.
Illegitimate children, hidden affairs, troubled finances and deceit all await those determined to piece together their family's past, found Dr Anne-Marie Kramer of Warwick University.So, in about 7 out of 8 cases, family history research did not lead to conflict. Those are pretty good odds. And the odds might be even better, as there's no telling from the article what exactly constitutes a "conflict," and whether these conflicts can be fairly attributed to genealogy. Some of the problems described here and elsewhere—neglecting family, pestering reticent relatives—are more about being unpleasant human beings than about making unpleasant discoveries. Someone who neglects her children because she's obsessed with genealogy would probably do the same if obsessed with Sudoku. And someone who badgers a relative for information is probably a jerk in his non-genealogical life as well.
When she interviewed more than 220 people across the country who had looked into their past, she discovered it had led to conflict with relatives in more than one in eight cases. [Link]
As for uncovering secrets, I love finding illegitimate children, hidden affairs, troubled finances and deceit in my family. (I'm certainly not British enough to ever be disturbed by the discovery of an ancestor's "previously unknown humble origins.") All four show up in the family of one of my grandparents. In fact, we're planning a DNA test to settle a paternity question in the family. No conflicts here, just questions waiting for answers.
There are families with legitimately disturbing secrets, disclosure of which would embarrass or anger the living. And I have no problem with Dr. Kramer warning of the (meager) risks. Personally, I'd rather know an unhappy truth than live in happy ignorance, but if others want to cling to myths, that's up to them. That said, in some cases discretion should keep us from publishing the truth. But nothing should keep us from ethically discovering and recording it.