The stories that you are told about your family history are interesting, inspiring, and a great way to feel connected to those who passed away before you were born. Unfortunately, not every story that has been passed down from one generation to the next is entirely factual. There are ways to separate the fact from the fiction in your family tree.
There is something that happens as stories get passed along from one person to another. They change. No one realizes it when they accidentally repeat a story slightly incorrectly. What started out as one thing could end up completely different a few generations later. You may have been told that your ancestor participated in a well known historical event, when, in reality, what he did was write an award winning paper on it in high school.
Your relatives aren’t intending to lie to you when they repeat family stories from long ago. It is entirely possible that they are repeating exactly what they were told – and that what they were originally told was not accurate in the first place.
For example, your family might believe that you have ancestors who came to America on The Mayflower. The Mayflower Society reports that a group of 102 passengers, now known as pilgrims, were aboard The Mayflower. This means there are tens-of-millions of individuals who descended from that group of people.
A person who has documented their descent from one or more of the 102 passengers who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 is welcome to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. It is a hereditary organization.
If you have that documentation, then you can rest assured that it is a fact that one or more of your ancestors came over on The Mayflower. It would be a good idea to look closely at the documents and records you have and compare it to the family history you were told. You may learn that something wasn’t told to you correctly, or some new information that your family did not know.
What if you don’t have that information? You could check the MayflowerHistory.com website and view the complete list of all Mayflower passengers. There are links connect to each name that tells more about who each person was and who some of their relatives and descendants were.
Your genealogy research might connect to one of these people after all. Or, maybe you will find out that you didn’t actually have an ancestor who was on The Mayflower. That may be disappointing for some people. On the “brighter side” of things, you now have the opportunity to research and discover what your ancestors really were doing at that time.
Image by Kunal Mukherjee on Flickr.
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