IMG_20160330_164014When encountering a family tradition, take each statement suggested by the tradition and put it in one of two categories:

  • probably generated a record
  • most likely didn’t generate a record

“Grandma sold sandwiches to support herself after her first husband accidentally drowned in the 1850s. Then she married Grandpa Haase and they moved to the farm.”

Probably generated a record:

  • The drowning may be mentioned in a local paper
  • There may be estate or probate records related to the first husband’s death
  • There may be a death record of the drowning–although in some US states this is too early for a death record
  • There should be a marriage record to Grandpa Haase

The place to start looking for these records is where Grandma was believed to have been living in the 1850s.

Probably did not generate a record:

  • sandwich selling

We’ve simplified the analysis to keep this tip short, but this should get the general idea across.

Don’t forget that family traditions may be entirely true, entirely false, or somewhere in between.



4 Responses

  1. Great advice. I wish that sandwich selling had generated a record. Josh Taylor mentioned in a seminar that he once found grocery store records for an ancestor. It was a pretty unlikely but incredible find!

    • Thanks.
      In my case, 1850s is a little early for those sorts of records, but one never knows.

  2. F. Brainard Monroe’s family’s oral tradition was that the Monroe’s were on the Mayflower, but names were blotted from the list because they were thieves brought over in chains. Turns out, Hugh Monroe was captured POW of Oliver Cromwell and sent to colonies in 1652. Mr. Monroe’s 5th GGrandmothe,r Rebecca Brainard, was the 2nd GGrandaughter of Joseph Rogers. Pilgrim. Two stories mingled into one!

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