TIP #7

Family Folklore, traditions, legends we all have these and for the most partthey are interesting,sometimes exciting, sometimes downrightunbelievable.Since I have seen alot of postings lately regarding what peoplehave "heard" in the family, but it can't be proven I thought I might cover afew ways in which they can at least start to be proven. Everyone knows justhow easily a repeated tradition can, over time become acceptable fact.We all have family traditions. Some are colorful, some are entertaining;some are exaggerations, and some are bold-faced lies. All can be usedgenealogically, whether for actual clues or just to provide "colorful"stories to add to the family history.Most traditions are not completely false and contain a buried grain oftruth. Finding that grain of truth and determining the difference betweentruth and fiction is not a simple matter.One approach to sifting the fact from the fiction is to break the story intothose aspects that are potentially provable and those that are not. The lines between potentially provable and not provable are not always clear,but an attempt to categorize the story's aspects may further your research.The phrase "potentially provable" is used instead of "provable" to remindthe researcher that an event that resulted in the creation of records in onetime and place might not have resulted in the creation of records in anothertime and place.Potentially provable items are those that reasonably resulted in thecreation of some type of record. The record may or may not be an officialrecord. A knowledge of the typical records for the time period under studymakes the analysis easier. This knowledge can be gained by readinglistservs, genealogy books, and magazines, and by attending conferences andother activities that expand your genealogical knowledge.We will look at two traditions to see how they can be broken apart forpotential clues, and we’ll discuss briefly what information was discovered.

Tradition #1

"Riley Rampley served in the Civil War. He was with General Sherman on thefamous 'March to the Sea.' While on his way home (riding on a horse), he meta young lady (Nancy Newman) who was on her way home from a house where shehad been serving. When he got home, he told his mother he had met the girlhe was going to marry."Several aspects of this tradition might have generated records. There arecertain other parts that are difficult to validate unless diaries orcontemporary letters are found. I analyzed the story in the following manner.

POTENTIALLY PROVABLE-Riley's Civil War service--through service records and pension records. The involvement of Riley's unit in the "March to the Sea"--throughregimental histories and Riley's service record
  • The marriage of Riley and Nancy--through marriage records

    MOST LIKELY UNPROVABLE--Riley meeting Nancy on his way home from the war and subsequently telling his mother he had met the woman he was going to marry.

    What Is Known --Riley served in Company D of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry and was with Sherman on the "March to the Sea." This information was obtained frommilitary service records and a history of the 78th Illinois.Nancy and her parents moved to Illinois in 1863-64 while Riley was in the service. This information was obtained from Nancy's obituary, her husband's biography, and from research on Nancy's siblings. Land records indicated that Nancy's parents owned a farm adjacent to that owned by Riley's parents.It is likely that the first time Riley saw Nancy was after he returned fromthe war. The couple was married in 1867, a few years after Riley's returnfrom service.

    Tradition #2

    "Grandma Haase was first married to a Mr. Beger. They lived in Warsaw (in Hancock County, IL) and had two little girls, Frances and Louisa. Mr. Beger died by drowning, and Grandma sold sandwiches to the men who came to sell things at the river (Warsaw is on the Mississippi River). Grandma later married my grandfather, Conrad Haase."


    The death of Peter Beger

    The birth of two daughters or the existence of two daughters

    The marriage of Peter and "Grandma Haase"

    The marriage of Conrad Haase and "Grandma Haase"


    "Selling sandwiches" didn't require a license in the 1850s, and there probably wouldn't be a way to document this.

    What Is Known

    Peter Bieger died in Warsaw, Illinois in November of 1855 (per his probaterecords)

    A guardianship case for his two daughters gives their names and dates of birth

    A newspaper article on his accidental death appeared in the Warsaw,Illinois paper and indicated that he accidentally shot himself instead of drowning

    No marriage record for he and "Grandma Haase" (whose name was Barbara) has been found in the area.

    A marriage record for "Grandma" and Conrad Haase was located in Hancock County, Illinois in 1859

    Summing Up--Not every tradition will result in possible records. However, taking a lookat your family traditions may provide you with new insights to get ajumpstart on your own research.When including traditions in your family history, just be sure to clearlylabel them as tradition.