This week’s prompt seems very fitting to me. I recently spoke with a cousin, “John”, I had connected with on Facebook. Although he had been on my friends list for several years the extent of our “relationship” had been responding to each other’s posts. I try not to overwhelm my family with information about our shared ancestry, but whenever asked about it I gladly share.
A few weeks ago I posted that if anyone had any stories about our mutual ancestors that I would love to hear them. John responded that he had a lot of stories and he wanted to call me so we could discuss them. I was elated! He was from a branch that I had not heard any stories from. We set up a time for the call and I awaited excitedly. We were on the phone for about and hour and I furiously too notes and asked questions. When the call ended, I got to work trying to verify some of the stories he told me about.
The first bit of information was one I had heard before. My Hughes line was related to Jessie James! I remembered doing a quick search about the possibility of Jessie being a relative, but I didn’t remember the outcome. I had already researched our connection to John Wesley Hardin and John Hardin Clements, the notorious Texas outlaws but I had never added Jessie to the tree. When I started researching I realized why. There was no way we were related, no matter how far back I went. So I put that possibility in the “no way” pile.
I moved on to the next story. It was about our ancestors, whom he named, that supposedly helped to dig up and rebury Civil War soldiers that had died and were buried on the grounds of The Anderson House in Lexington, Missouri. Again, I did some research and found nothing. I had been to this house and the museum that they had on the grounds, so I knew if I called the office, someone may be able to answer the question for me. The poor lady must have thought I was nuts! She was so nice though, and she told me they get calls all the time trying to prove some ancestors’ connection to the battle that was fought there or things happening on the grounds. She informed me that nothing like this ever happened here. My “no way” file just got bigger!
John spent about 15 minutes telling me all about his paternal heritage, how they were descendant from Irish Kings, and he told me outlandish stories about them. This line I wasn’t concerned with, nor did I even attempt to do any research of it because he and I aren’t connected through his fathers line.
Now John is bugging me about when I am going to write up the stories he told me and let the family know about Jessie James! I told him that we were not related to him, and he exclaimed “That’s what my Dad told me, and he’s not a liar!” I told him that maybe he was related to Jessie through his Dad’s line, and I told him I have never researched that line since I am not really connected to it. I tried to calm the situation down by telling him that when I have free time I may be able to look into it for him. I then told him the genealogy mantra: “Genealogy without documentation is mythology.” He understood and at least he didn’t unfriend me!
My oops moment was not thinking through the post about wanting stories. Maybe I should have just contacted a few cousins at a time and ask them if they had any information on the family. I could then, at least, give a few guidelines and explain about oral traditions. These stories can be wonderful and add a lot of character to your family history, as long as we state they are stories and are not proven facts. Lesson learned!
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.