There are so many “truths” that we believe about the subject of Genealogy. When I first started researching mine, I believed everything I read or heard about the subject. I apparently was quite naïve.
Here are 5 Myths that most new Genealogists are told but they are not true.
1. Your ancestors’ name was changed when they can through Ellis Island.
This isn’t necessarily true. Passenger lists were created when your ancestor boarded the ship at their port of departure. When they arrived at Ellis Island their names were checked off that list. There were, however, some passengers who wanted to change their names, for whatever reason, and the attendants would sometimes accommodate them.
2. Your ancestors’ records were destroyed in a Courthouse fire.
Yes, a lot of Courthouses have burned to the ground, but this doesn’t mean all of the records were destroyed. Some Courthouses did not totally burn down so the surviving documents were transferred to another county close by. Most of them contacted the residents of the county and asked them to bring in any documents they may have so that they could make a note of them. Many States have archives where their staffs have prepared special helps for genealogists researching around Courthouse fires. They would have records of these notes or copies.
3. The 1890 census burned to a crisp.
Truth is it did not burn. It became waterlogged while the fire was being extinguished. The papers were left lying around and they rotted. Some unknown person gave permission for these papers to be destroyed. A fraction of the census’ did survive as well as about half of the Civil War Union veterans census records.
4. Everyone has a Family Crest.
Having a coat of arms or family crest is much rarer than you might imagine. Having the hereditary right to use it is even rarer. While there are many companies out there that are willing to sell you all kinds of merchandise with your supposed “family crest” on it, the vast majority of these companies are not engaged in legitimate genealogical research. The coat of arms or crest you get may or may not belong to your family (and it might be made up completely by the company selling it to you), or you may not have the hereditary right to use it. Historically speaking, a coat of arms is a design on the shield of a medieval knight. The design was unique to an individual and not to a family. Sometimes, the individual only had rights to the coat of arms during his lifetime. Other times, he was allowed to pass it down to his descendants, and it became the family coat of arms. Google your last name i.e. Hughes Family Crest and you will see how many variations there are.
5. You can find your whole family history online.
Wouldn’t that be great? Unfortunately, errors abound in online indexes, transcriptions, and family trees. There is so much documentation out there that may never make its way online. Repositories still hold richly detailed, lesser-known records that haven’t been digitalized. It would really pay off if at some point you could visit a local library or courthouse.
These are only a few of the myths we have heard or believed. It is best to always verify any information that you may come across to determine the “truth” of it.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, 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.