Family research is always fun. It’s so easy to get sucked into following leads. I did that when researching my maternal grandfather. It entertained me to pretend it was real research that I could use to write a convincing story (I could have, easily), but I knew there was no point tracking down a soldier even if the name were the same and the age about right, because my grandfather was severely colourblind. He would never have made it past the enlistment queue. I’ve also found a duplication of names in my maternal grandmother’s line that caused me to wonder about bigamy until I looked more carefully at the dates.
Then someone posts that little graphic illustrating how many direct ancestors you’re trying to find. Yeah. It’s a lot! The graphic also makes the point that you’re related to everyone. Twice. Should I just give up now?!
In fact, I know our relationships are considerably closer than simply being related to everyone twice. We have a little matrix that we use to calculate cousins – it comes in useful when you’re trying to explain to someone who has no idea about anything much beyond first cousins – that tells me one ancestral couple were first cousins once removed. What does that do with all the following relationships? How far are they skewed? Or do you just note that the siblings were also cousins?? And how do you manage that same complicated relationship when another level of cousins marries back into it? Related only twice? I wish!
And how far do you trust the family tales? I wouldn’t dispute that there’s at least a grain of truth in all of them, but without original parties to consult – or even elders of the clans whose memories might be sharper on those points – how do you sift the fact from the fiction? When you can’t find arrival records, is there any way of checking whether the dates you have are at all likely? As I say, it’s fun and it’s time-consuming and that so much is available on various websites nowadays facilitates checking where possible. Most of the mystery is to be found at the point where it’s not possible. Back to the hunt I go 🙂