Not in My Family !

You read or learn of some other family’s usual ancestor or family occurrence and you think, no way that happened with anyone on your family tree. Better think again.

A very classic example, that no couple before they were engaged or during their engagement period had extramarital sex resulting in pregnancy before a wedding. Yes, that happened a great deal – even in the most straight-laced communities. I saw it myself with my great grandparents – strong ‘Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors.’ Their first child born was a son on Sept. 8, 1890. The parents married on June 5, 1890 – only 3 months before the birth. Yes, it was frowned on and not socially accepted, but it was still done. So take a little time and do a comparison with marriage and birth dates. Beware, changes were made in a marriage date and a birth date even on official documents.

Noting official documents, even census records have errors, most provided by someone in the family. Ages and when a person was born were very common errors. Another big one was if a person was married, single, divorced or widowed. Both men and women would rather state, even on a census record, they were widowed or still married rather than have it noted they were separated or divorced. Never accept the first martial status you see, there could be corrections needed.

Check out family tales and legends. A major one that was in my mother’s family was with the family surname of ‘Sherman’. Once the family branch moved from Maryland to Florida at the turn of the 20th century, you were not to tell anyone that you had a major family branch surname of Sherman. Reason – because the family was related to General William T. Sherman, who marched and burned through Atlanta, GA during the Civil War. When I did extensive research on the Sherman family lineage, I found our Sherman line was from Pennsylvania and Maryland and the original spelling was ‘Scherman’. Then I researched General Sherman, his family from totally different locations (Ohio and New England states) and the spelling had always been ‘Sherman’. So we were not related at all.

Keep in mind, you might not have a nationally famous historical person on your family tree, but once you really get involved and do detailed research you could learn that you had a very well-known or even famous local ancestor. They were known in the town, county or state. An excellent example is my mother’s cousin, Captain Richard Walters, a very well-known developer and owner of the Miami Aquarium from 1927 to 1950. Anyone visiting Miami during those decades visited this aquarium housed in a former sailing ship along Biscayne Bay in Miami to see the variety of local sea life. This included a manatee born at the aquarium – very unusual. Cover as many local newspaper articles you can locate to find such details. Also, contact the local county or city’s museum and see if they have any information on that ancestor.

So there are many aspects of your ancestor’s life you do need to learn about and be ready for any surprises.

Photos: 1800s-pregnant lady; and General William Sherman.

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