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Fact v. Family Stories

Fact v. Family Stories

We have been drilled to stick to the facts in genealogy. Family stories are just that, stories. “Three brothers came to America” and “my ancestor was an Indian princess” probably are without more than a grain of truth, if that. Find the record. Get the facts. And, of course, document the facts.

Now we are told to “flesh out” the family. Ask the old folks for stories. Ask those who remember the prior generations what they can tell you. Genealogists are told to record these stories, write about them, add them to their records.

Ancestry is pushing this big time. It’s very annoying. You have to push those promotions aside to get to the records. I assume the other sellers of genealogy related items aren’t far behind.

Does anyone else see a contradiction here? First we are to ignore the stories and get the facts. Now we are to record the stories and perpetuate the myths. Is that to make it more interesting to the masses so more people get involved in genealogy (and buy subscriptions to, say, Ancestry)?

Fantasy Genealogy

Fantasy Genealogy

A woman wrote that she was descended from “almost all of the Magna Carta Sureties.” I advised that several of them either had no known issue or their line was extinct within four or five generations. She became very upset, said I was just jealous. I didn’t hear from her again.

I don’t know of any Magna Carta Sureties in my lines. My sister has some. She’s a Calvert descendant. It doesn’t seem to make her life better or worse. She may not even be aware of it because she’s not terribly into genealogy.

Frankly, if I were going to pick a noted ancestor I’d want it to be one of the Yorkists, the later Plantagenets. I just find them more interesting. Alas, I think that is highly unlikely.

I have seen one of my lines traced back to Adam online. A genealogist of some regard thinks one of my lines goes back to Charlemagne. I don’t believe either one.

I have ancestors who were Revolutionary War veterans, War of 1812 veterans and Civil War veterans. Isn’t that enough? There are plenty of people who would happy for those. I have Huguenots. I have Dutch settlers and those who were in Jamestown and early New England. No Pilgrims though. No Kings either. There is a thief who was transported, barely escaping death at Old Bailey*.

What is with us that we need to have fantasy pedigrees to someone famous? Isn’t a thief we can prove better than an fantasy online pedigree hooking us to Cleopatra?

*Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 6.0, 27 November 2011), April 1740, trial of William Isgrigg (t17400416-2)