Say it ain’t so…

Family stories are not always true. If you have been doing any amount of genealogy perhaps you have discovered that out. If not, you may be in for a rude awakening.

My family, like most, comes with it’s fair share of myths and fables. Certain family members are seen as being larger than life, other are viewed as being evil villains. The truth, as it turns out, is both more exciting and at the same time mundane.

In all the literature you are told to gather oral traditions regarding your family, as the start of establishing your family history and genealogy. Although that is a good idea it also a bit risky. Let me explain. Growing up you may have heard stories like:

  • Great Uncle George was a hero in the Civil War.
  • We are descendants of Thomas Jeffereson.
  • Grandma Jones was born in a potato field.
  • Aunt Marie was the daughter of an Indian Chief.

You get the drift… what each of these family tales offers is in most instances a thread, a place to begin, a kernel of truth. As Paul Harvey used to say on his newscasts “but now here’s the rest of the story”.

Your job as a genealogist is to find the “rest of the story”. Acknowledge and listen to your family stories, search them out. But while you search, do not become blind to the facts you find because the discovered facts are in disagreement with your lore. Remember your search is for the real family history not some imagined past. A good Family Historian- Genealogist should look to see what was, not what some family member(s) may have imagined, hoped for, or dreamt.

In certain instances, you may find the family lore to be true; in others, you may find there is nothing to link the lore to the realities as they occurred. Do not bend the facts to match the lore rather accept the facts as they are and be satisfied with them, for they more closely represent what really happened.

Be happy with your family’s past, for without it you would not be here.