In recent decades, history of childhood and history of education have gained status as political concerns through the establishment of numerous truth commissions and inquiries into historical institutional child abuse. The article discusses the methodological and ethical dilemmas that arise when writing the history of abused children with the objective of both recognising and redressing the victims as well as offering an account of ‘what really happened’. Comparing how inquiry commissions in Ireland, Sweden and Denmark evaluate and approach victims' oral testimonies and written records from child welfare agencies, the article explores the acts of balancing between different epistemological approaches to the concept of “truth”. The results suggest that while inquiries have to address and convince several audiences simultaneously, empiricist positivist methods of inquiry have dominated the approaches to “truth”. However, this approach has not been without ambivalence, and there are examples of constructivist approaches as well.