In my role as personal historian, I have the privilege of hearing lots of family stories from lots of interesting people. Of course, we personal historians believe everyone’s story is interesting and worth saving for future generations.
Most of the stories I collect from people cover about five generations, ranging from grandchildren to grandparents, though it occasionally goes an additional generation or two. Only one of my interview subjects has had personal stories to share of relatives who were living as far back as the Civil War years. Good genealogical research can help fill in a family’s history far beyond grandparents and great grandparents.
I’ve posted before on the difference between genealogy and family history, describing family history as putting some fruit on the family tree. In my effort to expand my genealogical skills, I’ve recently started working on my own family by using the Family Tree Maker 2008 program.
Seeking data on the Internet was once described to me as trying to take a sip of water from a fire hydrant. Modern genealogical research is much the same. There’s so much data available that sorting through it all to find what one is looking for is a challenge.
I’ve already traced my paternal grandmother’s family to 17th century England and Ireland with a reasonable amount of confidence. Real genealogists (just like real journalists) don’t accept things at face value. They dig until they have sufficient evidence that what they believe to be true is, in fact, the real deal.
Although I haven’t reached that level of expertise yet, I’ve spotted a few errors in some other people’s work. One fairly elaborate tree, for example, gave my grandmother a non-existent brother. I’m not certain how important my grandmother figures into that family’s history, but that would be a major mistake in my own family’s lineage. On the other hand, I’m struggling to find a woman my grandmother insisted was a sister to her dad’s mother.
I have a lot to learn, but one lesson is very clear: it’s wise to exercise a good bit of caution and skepticism when venturing into the unknown.