Adventures in Genealogy
What NOT To Include
Or "Rednecks, Rumors, and Family Shame"
by Uncle Hiram
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
Last week we discussed what to put in your family history, this week lets discuss some of the darker details or our research.
The first thing you need to do is separate the Hard facts (Things you have documented proof of), from the Speculation (Things you have personal knowledge of but no documentation) and finally the Rumors (Things you have NO personal knowledge of and No Documentation of and no way to obtain Documentation).
Let's examine these three categories and discuss what should and shouldn't be added and why. (Yes, you in the Red Shirt. ---- OK fine, the Nachos are on the buffet table.)
1) Hard Facts -- Convictions for Criminal Acts. Lets be honest with each other almost every family has a few "Black Sheep". In most cases these people add a little spice or charm to our family histories. In the case of my personal research i have court records from where one of my wife's ancestors (Wyatt Lunsford) was convicted of Cattle Rustling in East Texas. He was released on appeal (Again I have the Court Documentation) because all the witnesses had disappeared. This incident is one of a score of incidents involving the "Lunsford Gang" of East Texas. All of which are heavily documented and happened over 100 years ago. In my opinion they add flavor to the family history so I included them. (Yes you in the red shirt -- No there aint no little pickles)
On the other hand I have the Newspaper accounts and Court Documents relating to the 1997 murder of one of my cousins. Rather than put all the details of this tragedy in my family history I simply put that he was murdered. Including the details would add nothing to the family history and would only cause more pain to his immediate family.
2) Speculation - This is probably not the best label for this section but I could not think of a better one. I know for a fact without a shadow of a doubt that my Trawick ancestors and my Hocutt ancestors traveled together from Wake County NC to Tuscaloosa County Alabama sometime between 1810 and 1817, but I don't have any proof. I have documents showing them as neighbors in North Carolina then 8 years later in Alabama. I have copies of church records from Alabama showing both groups joining the church at about the same time. In my family history I speculate they traveled together and present all the circumstantial evidence. I put this material in because it adds to the history. (Yes, you in the red shirt what do you want now -- I don't know if the cheese is hot, stick your finger in it and find out)
On the other hand I know from personal observation and interviews with close relatives that one of the people in my family tree was a drunk, a womanizer and a wifebeater. This is not speculation it is instead undocumented and Unproveable fact, but I did not include it in my family history. Again my reasoning was simple, it added nothing to the family history, it would do unnecessary damage to this persons reputation and even though he is dead and beyond caring, his kids are still alive. Including this information would cause them no small amount of pain for absolutely no reason.
3) Rumors - This Section is basically family legends, good and bad. They are not provable, not documented and in most cases not true. If you choose to use any of this type material you must state right up front that it is a family legend not fact. I would only include stories (Legends) that add flavor without causing damage. Its romantic to think one of your ancestors was a pirate or an outlaw in the old west and worth mentioning as a family legend but think twice before stating that your Great Great Great Uncle Hiram was hung for being a horse thief. I try to only use the family legends that reflect well on my family and I state right up front that they are family legends.
- Adios and Keep Smiling!
Return to the Adventures in Genealogy home page.
About the Author
"I am not rich or famous so I don't have a pre-prepared Bio written by some high paid ghost rider. So I will just give Yall the relevant facts."
- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)
What To Include