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A Note of Caution - Fictitious Pedigrees May Be Inherited!

Although some of us started out thinking we had legitimate inherited pedigrees, just the opposite may have been true.


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We all have had our experiences, findings, and thoughts about the process of finding our ancestors. One thing that stands out in my mind, now that I have been in the business for several years, is the range of irregularities from apparently small weaknesses to stories that have absolutely no basis! Let me say that these have not necessarily occurred through purposeful intent, but may have happened as the result of a set of circumstances.

Although some researchers claim to have documentation for their genealogical connections, it may be that all they have is a collection of the same information repeated by several different researchers over time! The fact is that just because something is copied several times does not insure that it is factual. The so-called genealogical lines may contain errors ranging from those that are minor to some that are actually "hiding skeletons in the closet." However, there have been times in our history, particularly early-on, when our family members were involved in less than desirable or actual life-threatening activities for themselves as well as for those who were to follow. Small wonder it is that some could have gone to great lengths to deny their family heritage!

Nonetheless, if our family histories are to be considered legitimate, we must support our findings with all the primary and secondary evidence that can be found. On occasion, circumstantial evidence can sometimes add credence. Based on the evidence we find, or lack there of, we then need to come up with a conclusion which is a statement of belief as to the credibility of the genealogical connections. However, it is very important to keep in mind that "the sun never sets on a genealogical conclusion." If another researcher can come up with contradictory evidence stronger than what you have found, your findings may be refuted and the latter ones accepted! If that occurs, it would only hold true until such time as more reputable research findings emerged.

In essence, we should work much like detectives and juries. Good family historians weigh and evaluate evidence as jurists do. However, there is no such thing as admissible or inadmissible evidence. There is no judge to tell us what can or cannot be heard. Therefore, we have the freedom to look at every available shred of information.

For example, finding the "old-country connections" for my line seemed a formidable task. I could not find what seemed to be credible evidence for what had already been reported. However, I realized that many more opportunities for research were available to me than for those in the "yesteryears"! This travel through time started with my first visit to an LDS Family History Center in my home town, with massive numbers of documents received from Salt Lake City; to visiting many genealogical libraries as well as the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, on numerous occasions; to utilizing many inexpensive sites on the Internet; and last but not least, to spending a week in Scotland itself, the ancestral home of my Alexander family.

In conclusion, my husband and I acquired a voluminous amount of documentary evidence for the formation of my Scotch-Irish Alexander family line. In addition, I must say that we enjoyed the entire process tremendously. What we discovered was an unidentified descendant branch of the British Royal Line! There are probably many more such lines yet to be unveiled. Go for it!

Dr. Sarah Alexander-Culton is the author and publisher of A Documentary of Scotch-Irish Alexander Family History: The People, Places and Events Before 4000 B.C. to 2002 A.D. Second Edition, 2003. For more information on her book visit,  A Documentary of Scotch-Irish Alexander Family History, or to contact Dr. Culton send an e-mail to:

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2004.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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