Article: Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff, or Fact from Fiction: Truth can be Stranger then Fiction...

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Image Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff, or Fact from Fiction
By Carol on March 16, 2010

How much should we rely on the research done by others before us? Can we take short-cuts in our own research by copying what others have done or should we start from scratch? Working out the answers to those questions is vital to producing an accurate Family Tree. No one wants to re-invent the wheel, but we do want our wheels to be round not square!!

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ImageMitchF
Mar 20, 2010 3:40 PM CST
Name: Mitch Fitzgerald
Oklahoma
I have found many strange and unique things in my tree... and many family truths that ended not true - a fact at times I wish I could have undone and never looked into in some ways. (you know what I mean?)

On the whole you cannot trust records - My family has many Cherokee in it - they could not register that way or would not have been citizens until the early 1900s, they lied about their ages to save their land in the land rushes, they had to bend many "official documents" - so I have learned not to trust many of the documents out there - official and not and take them all with a grain of salt... I only trust 100% on my Native family family Bibles, and the old notes (gravestones dont help - fieldstones dont show much on them!) passed down in family history.
Mitch Fitzgerald
Imageokus
Mar 20, 2010 3:51 PM CST
Name: Carol
Lincolnshire, UK
Its the skeletons in the cupboard that make the past real somehow, generations of well behaved names on paper are not nearly so much fun as real people, warts and all.

My family has a Roman Catholic line that kept its own faith all through the years when it was forbidden in the UK. Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to track the truth, and we can't always guarantee success, but half the fun is trying.

I have found that old Church records are more reliable than State records, I think people hesitated to lie before their God, until relatively recently. At some point in the 19th century attitudes began to change though. Something to do with the material world I suspect!
Carol

ImageCandyce
May 24, 2010 7:43 AM CST
Name: Candyce Fulford
N of MA, E of VT, W of ME, S o
Grandmother Extraordinaire
Carol:
I absolutely love that you wrote this article. I was toying with the idea myself. I've been working on parts of my daughters' genealogy for a good long time, and while Ancestry and the internet are great resources for information, they are not infallible. I, too, have made mistakes at Ancestry, and where I see mistakes, or what I perceive to be mistakes, made by others researching the family line, I try to contact them with some gentle notes.

One great thing about this adventure is finding family members alive today that all connect somehow. Many have been very helpful in filling in missing pieces to the family history, while others are eager to see what I may uncover.

Have you not found, too, that tracing one's family roots never ends? There will never be a time where you can say 'there! That's it! That's all there is!' After researching now for almost ten years, I have just barely scratched the surface!
Homemakers' Haven Come Join the "A" Team!
ImageUniQueTreasures
May 24, 2010 9:04 PM CST
Name: Janet Colvin
Z8~Beaumont~Southeast Texas
Proud member of Cubits.org
Hi Candyce,

I've found the same thing to be true. It is a never ending quest for information. I get emails quite frequently from folks on Ancestry.com. I'm not spending nearly as much time as I once did, but it still interests me. If there were more hours in the day.... well we'd all be rich, wouldn't we?!?!
ImageCandyce
May 25, 2010 7:25 AM CST
Name: Candyce Fulford
N of MA, E of VT, W of ME, S o
Grandmother Extraordinaire
I'm glad I'm not the only one, Janet. Just yesterday I was researching a family member and his family that lived in colonial Connecticut. Back then the names of the counties were changing as well as the towns ... it was frustrating to me to try and 'picture' them where they were at any given time.

So, I sat down and started creating a time line, because I can 'see' them better on paper than in my head. It's a BIG time line!!! But, I like to be as historically sure as I can be.
Homemakers' Haven Come Join the "A" Team!
Imageokus
May 26, 2010 8:14 AM CST
Name: Carol
Lincolnshire, UK
Hi Candyce,
Yes indeed! Its amazing how one small crumb of new information can open lots of new doors and lead to family you didn't even know existed!

I just found another skeleton in the family cupboard too. One of my great uncles absconded from his apprenticeship "with a considerable sum of money". I found a press advert from 1854 looking for him that was published the same day as he enlisted with the East India Company Army. No wonder his father wasn't happy to see him back in England 10 years later - he was invalided back, he probably never expected to return. The abscond would have cost his father several houndred pounds, a fortune back then.

Fascinating and it all adds to the picture, hiding the bad bits just muddies the water for other researchers.

I have a spread sheet time line too - it really helps when the same first name is common. The same John can;t have been having children by two different wives in a 3 month period so it has to mean there were two, and so on.
Carol

ImageCandyce
May 26, 2010 8:16 AM CST
Name: Candyce Fulford
N of MA, E of VT, W of ME, S o
Grandmother Extraordinaire
Whew! I thought I was the only one who had to 'see' things more concretely. I'm glad you have a timeline as well. I'm more comfortable with my craziness now ~ LOL!
Homemakers' Haven Come Join the "A" Team!
Imageokus
May 26, 2010 5:07 PM CST
Name: Carol
Lincolnshire, UK
Candyce I put every singla incident I have a date for in my time line. EXEL allows you to filter so I can pull up all the John Foothead incidents and that helps to draw a fuller picture of the lives and times of the people.
For the Foothead family it actually spans 650 years, the first incident being a Kings Levy (tax) in 1359 on the moated manor house called Fotehede Garth home of one Robert Fotehede (archaic spelling of Foothead). There are huge gaps still but gradually the picture is getting more complete further back. I now have a pretty full and complete idea of who and what the family were from 1725 onwards and the picture is getting clearer for the 1600s too. It helps enormously that its an unusual surname of course but some of my other lines are back nearly as far too.

Interestingly I am also finding a cross match with my other half's tree even though we are from completely different parts of England, one line of our ancestors at least wasn't!!
Carol

woodspirit
Oct 8, 2010 8:35 PM CST
I have worked for the Transylvania County Museum, Brevard, NC in the history room. Of course we have had many people come to the history room for family research and other history subject. I now do a lot of volunteer for our new museum, The Transylvania Heritage Museum. I have found that using as many official documents as possible are good things. But there are so many things that are not documented. Only interviewing credible family members and others who knew the family in the past will fill in all the wonderful stories, employment, happenings, criminals, etc.
Word of mouth is important as long as it is presented that way. Thumbs up
Imageokus
Oct 9, 2010 2:59 AM CST
Name: Carol
Lincolnshire, UK
Word of Mouth is always a good starting point for research and recording Grandpa's memories is important. Best done while Grandpa is still with us to check you got it right, but its never too late to start. The proviso is that until you can cross check its best recorded as Grandpa's memories, not absolute fact, because we all have a tendency to see our youth through rose, or black, tinted glasses! Whistling
Carol

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