Providing practical, down-to-earth advice for family historians since 1995, online since 1985.
Grabbing the brass ring
My 12-week-old grandson has just begun to reach out and grab the little plastic rings that hang from his toy bar. Once he's got one in his tiny little hands, he won't let go. Its almost impossible to release his grip. Are beginning genealogists doing the same thing when it comes to that first original document about an ancestor?
YES, unfortunately, until they become more experienced, genealogical newbies also hold on tight and aren't open to new suggestions. They:
-- cling to the information in the first document as gospel truth.
-- say "It's spelled this way, so that second or third document can't possibly be about the same person."
-- form all sorts of elaborate stories to make unknown names fit the scenario. (I.E., That must have been his first wife, who must have died in childbirth, and those other children are probably some he unofficially adopted along the Oregon Trail.)
Well, heavens, that might not be true at all. Just because someone in a census has the same name as your ancestor doesn't mean it IS your ancestor and his family. It just might be someone else with the same name, who indeed has a different wife and set of children.
But just as my grandson has to start somewhere in his "grasp of life" so too must fledgling genealogists. It remains for the rest of us to encourage exploring additional resources.
Happy family tree climbing!