Falsehoods in Genealogy

Whether you are new to doing your family history research or been at awhile, you do need to be careful and not assume all items, information, records are 100% accurate. There can be falsehoods you should be aware of. Here are just a few.

One of the most important records in the US Federal Censuses. For the first time (and what would later turn out to be the only time for many decades to come), there is a separate schedule (sheet of paper) for each family, allowing for unprecedented details to be recorded–and making it a back-breaking job to shuffle all of that paper. (It is said that there is more paper used in this census taking than in all previous ten censuses combined!) Unfortunately, the census of 1890 did suffer from fire and especially water damage trying to get the fire out in January 1921. The falsehood was that ALL the 1890 census records were destroyed. There were some counties in a couple states whose records were saved. Plus there was the US census of Civil War Union Veterans and about half of those records were saved. Of help is some states did their own state censuses in 1885 and 1890 and 1895. Now if your ancestors were in those states or territories at that time, you are in luck.

Ancestry.com has posted assorted records to help find ancestors around the time of the 1890 census. It includes fragments of the original 1890 census that survived the fire, special veterans schedules, several Native American tribe censuses for years surrounding 1890, state censuses (1885 or 1895), city and county directories, alumni directories, and voter registration documents.

Another falsehood is that every surname has a family coat of arms. Well, even if you figure only if the family came from England, Germany, France, etc. this is still false. A coat of arms is a design on the shield of a medieval knight. The design was unique to an individual and not to a family. Sometimes, the individual only had rights to the coat of arms during his lifetime. Other times, he was allowed to pass it down to his descendants, and it became the family coat of arms. But this was a very limited number of families. There are companies more likely to sell you an image of a made-up coat of arms, nothing originally authorized.

Then the falsehood that all with the same surname are related. No, again on this one. Just because you have the same last name, it doesn’t mean you are related. So for all those Boones whose family lore claims Daniel is a cousin, you’ll have to back it up with some real, hard proof research.

In 2000 in the United States the most common surname was Smith, held by about 2.3 million people, or almost 1% of the population. An additional six names were used by over 1 million people each (Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller and Davis).

Photos: 1890-census of the Rhyne family in Gaston, NC survived; Bixler of Germany coat of arms; and Smiths in states of US.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Never Assume

Rookie Errors

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