Saturday, July 26, 2014

Searching For The Needle In The Haystack

The New Age Version of the Law of Attraction*  falsely teaches that if you pray for something hard enough it will magically manifest itself.  

Searching for the needle in the haystack  can be really complicated by ancestors who just do not want to be found. 

When I do research, I cannot and will not guarantee success at finding documents for any relatives.  

Why is this?  Some people made sure they left as little of a trail (documents) as they possibly could.  Other documents may have been destroyed by family members, wars, fire, other types of disasters.  Even I have had family destroy genealogical records.  Some relatives make false documents to satisfy being related to someone that is extremely prominent in history or to try to prove Native American Ancestry, when such documents do NOT exist.

For example there has been a false story about my family being directly related to Betsy Griscom Ross, the flag maker.  After digging around a lot and with other genealogist assisting me, I found that to be fabricated.  Yes we are related to a William Ross but Betsy Griscom Ross married a John Ross.  He died several weeks after they were married from a canyon backfiring.  No children were born from that marriage.  Betsy is a Griscom by bloodline and not a Ross, she later married several times in which there were children but not by John Ross. 

One of my own grandmothers have three different middle names.  Her middle name on the social security application says Loris.  Her death certificate says Lora and her tombstone says Laura.  Obviously someone never checked the sources or decided to ignore the documentation that was in existence.  From my personal knowledge correcting them would be more stressful then letting it be and documenting the changes in the family history.  Sometimes one has to decide on which battles can be won.

I like to collaborate with others so, it helps to me learn.  So again I worked one on one with other genealogists and on another family found documentation of information that the family refuses to accept.  You see back in the 60's in certain states it was illegal to intermarry in or for Native Americans to own property.  So many mixed blood families kept those customs within the home claiming it to be from another culture and any time Native American Bloodline came up they got defensive and refused to talk or flat denied it.  Portions of this my family continue to do this and deny their heritage.

There are several things or tools that are needed are: 
  • Desire to know your ancestors.  
  •  A good mind that will help to sort out errors and find proof.
  • Perseverance will help to learn how to hurdle stone walls, and disappointments.  
  • An open mind.  If you run into a dead end, don’t give up on the search.  Now you know where your ancestors were not and you know to look elsewhere.  If you learn some disappointing facts so what, remember they were people who also made mistakes. 
  • A handy notebook and a good tape recorder (don’t leave anything to your memory.  It has a way of failing at the wrong time.  
  • A camera for documentation purposes. 
  • Got to have a love for history. 
  • A passion for the truth and nothing but the truth, when a family members calls me out on something my comment to them is "show me the proof"

The gathering of information - what kind of information to look for within the home? 

Documentation can be huge in some families and almost do not exist in others.  I cannot make documents appear that either do not exist or that have not been released.  I make no guarantees that something will be found.

Your basic research should start with the “Personal knowledge” of relatives."  But the trick here is that this knowledge cannot always be taken as “gospel”  but can provide clues.  Just like on a detective show the first thing the detective do is interview witnesses.  However the verbal statements from the witnesses are not enough; they must also find the physical evidence to support the testimony.

Family traditions usually always have some truth to them though some of the facts may have been distorted over time, to impress family members and friends, or fill in the gaps to avoid the appearance of ignorance of large sections of one's own family history.

There are documents that can be searched for around the home:
  • Old letters from relative and friends.  
  • Diaries, journals, biographies. 
  •  Any printed or published Family histories. 
  • Family bibles. 
  • Vital records:  birth, marriage and death certificates.  Christening, baptism, church records, military records...
  • Newspaper clippings, obituaries, etc. 
  • Photos: it use to be a custom that notes are made on the back of photos.  You might find names, dates, places and get a feel for a time period.  For example on a photo that I have been told about states me, ma, and butch.  Generations later no one knows who they are.  People have a habit of taking feuds out on photos.  So if someone got mad at another person they would cut that person out of all the photos at some point in time there is no proof of this person.  
  • Papers relating to emigrations and immigration, passports, citizenship papers, naturalization papers, land deeds, any type of certificate, personal school records are all gold mines. 
By the way if you find an error on a public document, never change a public record or some other person’s documentation

Never take original documents with you, always have a spare updated copy

When recording information from books, bibles, etc, don’t forget to copy the title, publisher, year, or page numbers.  Trust me, you will need these for documentation especially if someone starts to question your sources.

When you get these notes, stories, books, and clues about family follow through with them.  Write letters to relatives you have been told who have records or knowledge of ancestors.  Give when you want to receive, don't just take. 

A visit to an old home place can by very rewarding.  Be sure to take your camera and take lots of pictures.  Be sure to phone ahead and let others know you are coming, this will give them time to get out notes and bibles and for them to think about what they can tell you. As well take a camera and a notebook with you to cemeteries, some tombstones can carry a wealth of information. 

Share what information you have with others, so they can give information back.  Especially with the elders, once they make their crossing the information contained within is buried with them. 

Have fun!  In the pass I have let others discourage me from researching my own family and sometimes helping others with theirs.  There negativism on what was either found or not can be draining and discouraging but I always come back. 

I love history and I especially love accurate history.  As we know many religions, people, and governments like to rewrite history to suit their own needs.  I love digging out the skeletons hiding in the closets and finding the needles in the haystack.