You Must Use Tweezers--


Unfortunately, the topic I am going to cover is one that is all too often used in the world of genealogical research. Perhaps I should clarify that statement. The act of using a net in one's genealogical endeavors is all too often employed instead of the tweezers that are many times more aptly needed.

As many of you researchers realize, there are certain surnames that are just so uncommon in your county of research such as: TWEEDLEBAUM it makes finding your particular ancestor almost too simple. In that instance, there may only be 9 of them in a county wide area and most researchers can be relatively certain that whichever ones they find are definitely connected with their own family lineages.

There are others however, such as JONES, SMITH, EVANS, BROWN, BLACK, JOHNSON, WILLIAMS, etc that are just so very common that, well what is that old saying?

You can't swing a dead cat around without hitting one of them.

In these instances it is so VERY important that you are meticulous in your search as well as your retrieval of ancestors. You simply CANNOT throw a net out there as if you were on a shrimp boat or something and haul all of them in and assume that they are all your own ancestors, definitively. It is at this time that you must pull out the tweezers and pick and choose most carefully in search of the correct lineages. This effort becomes even more important if the facts that you are finding will later find themselves in a published volume. Why?

Well, aside from the fact that with all the work involved in putting forth a volume it would be nice or at least purposeful that your data is as accurate as possible-- You also run the risk of mixing up the families and there could be another family lineage that has some unsavory characters in them and some people may take offense at you claiming that those actions were committed by their ancestors. Your ancestors are dead, that is a given. This doesn't however give anyone free liscensure to simply stomp their name or character into the mud.

For example: James Black from one lineage could well have been an upstanding church member and pillar of the community. Everything he did in his lifetime benefitted other human beings, his word was his bond and he may have walked 3 miles to return 2 cents extra that a storekeeper had given him by mistake.

James Black from another lineage however, may have been a rabble rouser, in the county hoosegow every Saturday night, never held a steady job, beat his wife and children, perhaps he even had some suspected but never proven murders under his belt; of yes, and he also put food on his family's table by robbing his neighbors chicken coops. Basically, not a nice human being and not one that many people wanted to associate with.

If your family lineage is in reality connected to James Black #1, but through your uncareful searching and sorting, you atttibute the actions of James Black #2 to him...well, some people might not be very happy with it. Not to mention the fact that you are doing character damage to a man who never harmed anyone and didn't deserve that treatment.

Even if you are never planning to publish your data, it is still very important to make certain that you have the correct person in your files along with any details regarding them.

Once you are dead and gone, someone will find your records or perhaps you may pass them along to someone before you die. They could take the information that you have and feeling that you are a person who is accurate in most of your work, pass it along to others or keep it in their own files as the "correct" information. They may not take the time to verify it feeling that it is not necessary. They may even decide to publish it or donate it to a library in your name.

In addition to these above scenarios, there is also the possibility of you receiving charges of slander from living family members. If you read something like this about perhaps your father, you just might decide to press charges yourself.

In the end, a researcher must always attempt to verify anything that is found regarding their ancestors. Perhaps they actually WERE murderers or wife beaters or thieves. It happened. But for your own protection and the sensitivity to other living relatives, you might wish to think before adding certain data to your files or more importantly passing it along as the gospel truth. You will want to make certain that you have either court documents or newsclippings detailing these events. You can safely repeat information in court records, but you want to have those records to back you up. You also want to make triple certain that you are referring to the proper JOHN SMITH.