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Learning from Mistakes, Genealogy

August 6, 2015 18 Comments

parents and Pam on the farm

Pam and the Fam on the farm

I study my ancestry and family history. This fascinating subject consumes as much of my time as I allot to it. I have spent six years on Ancestry.com working on my tree. I am more skeptical now than I was in the beginning because I have been burned by specious data.  It is painful to discover an error in one’s research, yet it is better to know sooner than later.  I once had a magical surprise experience in Rhode Island at a very special private family home from the 1600’s.  I was treated to a tour of the home and grounds since I announced that I was a Carr descendent.  I was given instructions to find the family graves by my long-lost “cousin” who still lives on the property.  I was in heaven. It turns out I was also delusional about my connection to that family because I had made a mistake a couple of generations earlier in my research.  I discovered this error after I had returned home from my trip, and had to laugh about it.  I also had to start again to retrace the lineage.  That correction was easy because I had some good documentation to verify the facts.  Other problems I have discovered or had pointed out to me have left me with a dead-end when I removed the phantom limb.

The odd phantom feeling after chopping off  limbs and branches is caused my the attachment formed while studying them.  There are several very common names in my tree including Scott.  When I began my sturdy I started with notes written by my maternal great-grandmother about her knowledge of the family.  She stated that my 2nd great-grandfather, Thomas Scott, was a soldier in the Union army during the Civil War.  Even though we know his full name, Thomas Ewing Scott, born in 1842 in Ohio, I can find no decisive record of his military service.  There are too many Thomas Scotts from Ohio for me to be sure.  My maternal 2nd great-grandfather was, indeed, a soldier for the Confederacy.  I am positive about that because I have a copy of his service record as well as his Confederate pension application that he made late in his life in Texas. After his death his wife also applied for a pension as a surviving spouse.  I have her application documenting her husband’s service also.

If you find written documents of a private source they may or may not be accurate.  Only when you can back up your story with official documents do you have a solid case.  I have learned the hard way to verify all the connections fully before jumping back to another generation.  There are many  trees on the Ancestry.com site that have unverified connections.  Copying the work of others without making sure of it can lead to bigger and longer errors.  This is not even as safe as the cold war when we trusted by verified.  Don’t trust until you verify.  This practice may save you many hours of wasted time.  After I have recovered from the vexation of discovering I had been wrong I still had certain affection for those people who turned out not to be related to me.  My philosophy now is that I  learned about history while I was out on the wrong limbs, and I have never claimed to be a professional genealogist.  I am more of a time traveller.  Do you know any of your family history, gentle reader?  How did you learn about it?

 

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