I’m enjoying my posts about my Stevenson ancestors. In the process of my writings, I have discovered more sources, more information and have remembered things long forgotten. However, I have something else on my mind today. Assumptions!
Let’s all be honest with ourselves, we all are guilty of making assumptions about our ancestors. Sometimes it may be because of a newspaper article we read, it may be because of a picture we have found or it could just be because of stories passed down by relatives. How many times have those assumptions hindered your research?
I say what I have said because I am guilty! Sometimes I find myself falling into a very hard trap because of assumptions I have made. I am finding that it is best for me, as a genealogist, to try to explore everything I encounter with an open mind. Not all newspaper reports are accurate, not all family lore is true, pictures do sometimes lie and our relatives were a lot more able than we may think!
Let me give an example. When I first began to do my research on my Stevenson ancestors, all I had was what my Aunt Juanita gave me. I had the letter from Gladys and a few pictures. Sometimes honesty is very hard, but I must be honest to prove my point here! Look at the picture below:
Now, read the letter that was written by my grand-aunt Gladys. There are parts that talk about harvesting the cotton, cooking on the fireplace because there is no stove, and other things that I (confessions are hard) took as making Nettie and Emmit seem to be real hillbillies! My assumption was that I was going to be researching some real “rednecks” in the family. That assumption led me to believe that records would be hard to find.
Now, the truth! As I have been researching, I find that my grand-uncles and grand-aunts were taught how to respect people! They were smart! They were far, far from being “redneck” or “hillbilly” as I assumed. Some of those I have corresponded with via email and such are working in very respectable jobs, have families that make me jealous! After searching and finding my relatives, I often find myself thinking that I am actually the one who would fit into the category I was selecting for my ancestors!
What do you think? Have you ran into this problem in your research? Have you read a newspaper article about a “criminal” in your family but never found the article that said that they were cleared of all those charges? Have you believed stories shared by relatives as family stories but found out that these were actually just lies that were put forth because that person wanted “revenge” for whatever?
I have a quote I want to share with you, it kind of captures what is on my mind today:
The ideal historian goes to the mouth of the tomb, cries: “Lazarus, come forth!” and sets him that was dead for ages, blinking and passionate, in the sun.
AUSTIN O’MALLEY, Keystones of Thought
Doesn’t this sound like the way most family historians or genealogists feel? We want to bring our lost loved ones back to life. Essentially, putting them out in the sun for all to see. Shouldn’t we take the time to verify our facts, do our research, and make sure we bring forth the truth and not our assumptions?
I know I am just hitting the surface of this thought. I just wanted to let you know what was on my mind today and I will probably elaborate further upon this in the future.
Have a wonderful day,