Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What da name???

I’ve been working on a rather interesting case today.

I’ve been looking for a family through Census and tax records, and having very little luck. That is until I began looking at some of the trees posted online regarding this family.

Hmm….something just didn’t click for me. Dates were just a little bit skewed from one tree to the next. Yet, all of the family members were staying the same. So, I was curious about the variances. Only a few of the trees sported even a single source. Although some did indicate they had 2 to 3 sources.

Okay! Well, as I began to take a look at the sources, the truth began to dawn on me! Someone had at one time or another merged 2 entirely different people, with the same name, born in the same state, within just 2 years of each other, into the same tree. Hmmm.

This is one of my many pet peeves in genealogy. Merging trees to me is a HUGE no-no!!!

Merging your files or gedcom with someone else’s without first proving their files are accurate is tantamount to genealogical suicide! Your information may become skewed and so irreparable that you will have to start over from scratch on your entire file!

Everyone knows my thoughts on this subject. “If you can’t prove it, then don’t put it in!”

Well, once I figured out that I was looking at 2 separate individuals, I decided to take one of the known children and begin to trace backwards into the mess. And don’t you know it? I went back two decades earlier than any of the other individuals had!

What did I find?

I found that the family had, over time, changed the spelling of its name. Changing the first letter into another, and totally changing the name. I was able to prove this with the names of parent’s and children, who were known, and their birth dates. Eventually the entire family has over the years changed their name to this “new” spelling, and the old has totally been forgotten.

But the lesson I’d like for all of you to learn is that you must never, never take someone else’s information at face value!

Even when I am looking at an index, or a record that someone else has transcribed, and even if they are the most reputable of genealogists, I do not take the information for granted! I still take the time, be it ever so long or short to do, and prove that it is indeed correct. This way, I know that the records I have are completely accurate.

It was a lesson hard learned when I had traced my own great-great-grandfather back six more generations. I was so proud of myself! And at the time, I was such a novice still. I had taken the information my own grandfather had left us regarding his own grandfather. Horror of horrors when I found a death record of my great-grandfather and it listed another man’s first name for his father! Surely it was a mistake! But as I began to collect that generation’s death records, they all had the same name for their father!

And so I began to start over. And when I did, I found that those six generations were totally not linked to my family! I had merged information and trees, and the result was that I ended up having to totally pull an entire branch from my tree and start over. I was devastated.

A lesson worth learning however!!! I learned to never trust any information until I have proven it!

I wish you the best in finding the branches of your family tree, wherever it leads you; however it is spelled!

God Bless!

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