Be Willing to Change

Part of genealogical research is evaluating what you have and altering conclusions when new and more reliable information warrants. Early in our research when we are inexperienced, it can be tempting to rely too much on family information. It can also be easy to rely on incomplete information–especially before we learn that “official” records can be incorrect or inconsistent.

And sometimes DNA and other information will cause us to re-evaluate what we thought was true even when we had a number of records and completely analyzed them.

My children’s great-great-grandfather (father of their great-grandmother) has morphed through many iterations over the nearly thirty years that I have researched him–always because I have located new information:

  • a Greek immigrant to Chicago, Illinois, born in the 1880s–turned out he was the great-great-grandmother’s second husband and not the biological father of any of her children;
  • a man born in Chicago in the 1880s (first husband of the great-great-grandmother) who was the son of English immigrants to Chicago in the 1860s–turned out the English couple adopted him as a child when his parents died young;
  • the man born in Chicago in the 1880s wasn’t actually the son of that couple who died young–he had been adopted by them shortly after his birth to unknown parents;
  • DNA indicated that the the man born in Chicago in the 1880s was not the biological father of the great-grandmother.

And so it goes. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong, but not every research problem is quite as convoluted as this family is (our post here only scratches the surface). It can happen to all of us. Just use as many records as you can, transcribe them as they are written, and adequately cite them.

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