I think it may be instinctive in humans to be curious about where we came from and who we are. … My interest in genealogy is just another aspect of the human curiosity about where I came from and who I am. Until a few years ago I never got actively involved in looking for answers to the personal side of that question. I asked a few questions over the years about ancestors to my parents, but doing anything more was beyond my time, my means, my ability, or my interest. But … we now have the internet. … It is incredible how much information is now available to those wanting to trace their family trees from the comfort of their own living room.
BUT, and this is why I’m writing this, care must be taken. As unbelievable as it may seem, not EVERYthing on the internet is true!! (I know that’s hard to accept, but it is fact.) I know there are errors. In building the websites I’ve put up and the trees I’ve built at Ancestry.com I’ve tried to never completely rely on information I find unless I can see it on the original documents. I’ve seen things like people having places of residence or giving birth to children 30 years after the date of their death or when they are only 5 years old or to their own grandpa even!
Even the the original documents can be suspect since the purpose of the documents at the time they were being prepared never included the future study of genealogist. I’ve discovered that it is not unusual for names to change. For example, someone whose true name is William Edward may appear in a census report at age 5 as Eddie, then in the next census 10 years later at age 15 he shows up as Billy (maybe with a different “father” or “mother” in the household) and finally, when he’s age 25 another 10 years later he’s W.E while on the record of his marriage he’s William. Thats a rather easy one to figure out — if your lucky enough to find others in the household that clearly match and the last name hasn’t changed. Then there are the Anna Elizabeths who change from being Ann SoandSo at age 7 to Bessie SomeoneElse when their widowed mother remarries 10 years later or the Silas who shows up as Silvania in a household with a different last name in another state between age 4 and age 14, changing not only his name but his sex according to the transcribed data. (Fortunately I was able to find this mistake after looking at page after page of actual census reports.)
Finding the true past gets hard when parents remarry or both die before the children are all grown or they move to a different state. Sometimes you can only find the clue by paging through documents like census reports until you find, living close by, the parents of someone who doesn’t seem to be in the right place and who therefore might not be the right person and suddenly a little more research reveals it is the right person only he or she is now living down the street with the family of a maternal aunt.
Now you become curious. There’s a story there about what might have been going on in the family that will never be told. So many stories.
I am amazed at the limited supply of names families are able to create when they seem to be so prolific at creating kids who need them. (That was supposed to make you chuckle.) In just 3 generations in some families (I’m talking about my ancestors so I can get away with saying this) the size of a family can grow from 5 or 6 individuals to more than 100 and yet the number of names used in the family only grows from 3 or 4 to maybe 7 or 8! That doesn’t make identifying who was who’s descendent any easier.
I’ve searched through a lot of information, all of it online and I keep going back and reexamining the information I have gathered and the sources I’ve used and finding new ones. I also keep finding new incongruities or just plain errors and I’m sure there are still more. If you see any … don’t hesitate to point them out to me. Doesn’t mean I’ll take your word for it, but I’ll check it out to see what information I can find to either confirm or refute either your view or mine … eventually.