Are you sure about that?

11 November 2015

Why couldn’t the census enumerators have asked this question? Why didn’t they spend longer on those doorsteps, really grilling our ancestors …. about their ages, places of birth and their real relationships to the head of the household? No, you cannot be the daughter-in-law of the head of the household at the age of four – what you actually mean is step-daughter! And where is the marriage certificate to prove that you are married to the lady you refer to as your wife? OK, so that is perhaps taking it a bit far!

Researching each and every day is great fun. There are some many weird and wonderful projects we have worked on over the years. And we have asked ourselves the question, “Are you sure about that?” more times than I care to think about, because to think something is right is one thing, but we have to know that it is right, with documentary evidence to support our conclusions. It’s not enough to say that Mr X might have married Miss Y!

I wish I could travel back in time and ask the challenging questions! “Erm, pardon me but how is it that your first names have changed completely between birth and death” ….”Oh, and you haven’t ever married but appear to have changed your surname during your lifetime, Madam?”…. The list is endless. Of course, when we file claims to the Government Legal Department in intestate estates, we have to dot every i and cross every t, and if we haven’t/can’t, our claims will be queried and/or not admitted. But what if our ancestors covered their tracks well? It all becomes a little bit more difficult!

In my own ancestry, I have individuals who changed their names and, if I didn’t know the two identities of the same gentleman, I would have utterly lost the timeline for him. When you are writing up your own family history stories, ask yourself ….”Are you sure about that?” If the answer is no, then write it as a hypothesis. Note your current sources and the reason for your hypothesis, then come back and test it later.

Are you sure about that? If you aren’t, then go and find out enough information so that you can be.

© 2024 Family Wise | Privacy Policy | Website created by: stellasoft