Let’s say that you have spent many years tracing your family’s history. Everything that you know has been passed down to you from a relative, it spans generations. A family story that has been passed on from father to son, to grandson, to great-grandson. This story has been in your family for years and because it was passed down in such regard, you claim it as factual.
Your story may be that your grandparents were both born in the same town in Poland, met, fell in love and were married there. Later they traveled to the United States together and raised a family. You’ve never taken the time to trace either side overseas for various reasons. Maybe you think the records were destroyed in World War II, you can’t read Polish, Russian or Latin, or think that it’s too expensive to undertake. You have your tree on ancestry.com proudly displayed as public and have taken DNA test to try to further your research.
Then one day somebody contacts you via email or by phone, an unsolicited contact, and claims that they have evidence to dispute some information on your tree. This person offers to help show you where your mistake is made. Even better this person is a DNA relative, who is a professional genealogist! Keep in mind that you’ve never been able to validate where your grandparents came from, it’s just family tradition.
They claim your grandmother wasn’t born in the same town as your grandfather, and can prove it with her Ellis Island entry. To add to your displeasure, they can also prove it with a birth record from Poland matching the information provided in the Ellis Island entry. They know how you are related.
How would you react to this? Would you respond or would you simply ignore the email or phone call.
I’ve had various parts of my family history picked apart at times. While it can sometimes be a little unsettling, I realized many years ago that not everything that I’d heard or that was passed down was factual. While it’s good to use it as a basis for your research, it should only be used as clues to find the real truth.
Tracing your family history isn’t just about names and dates, for some people it’s about honoring their ancestral past. Knowing where they come from and what their ancestors went through to get to where you are today. For some people it’s a pride thing, growing up in a Polish family I’m proud of my Polish heritage and defend it fiercely.
Yet at the same time I realize that a lot of the information that was passed down to me was just family lore. I’ve taken the time to learn the truth and separate fact from fiction.
If somebody came to you under a similar situation, how would you react?