Try and determine when your relative learned that story they are telling you. Would they have been a small child when they heard it? Memories that come from when the person was a child can be impacted by their immaturity and inexperience with life. Sometimes children draw interesting conclusions about family events only to pass them on as facts years later.

Just because someone heard or experienced something when they were young does not mean they could not remember it correctly. But it’s worth remembering ourselves that what children may not get details straight or make incorrect inferences.

Of course adults can as well.



2 Responses

  1. My maternal grandmother died at the age of 39, when my mother was 9 years old. My mother had always told us that “she got a really bad sunburn and she died.” When I started doing genealogy research and obtained her death certificate, I found out that she died in February, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which is not really a time of year I would expect for someone to experience a “bad” sunburn. The cause of death was listed as lupus. I assume the frequent symptom of lupus, a butterfly rash to the face, was what my mother remembered as a child, and either that was her explanation (a sunburn) or that is how her father explained it to her, on terms that she could understand.

    • That’s a good reminder that children’s versions of things can simply be a way that was easy for them to understand something as well.

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