Genealogy Myths

My mother found this excellent post debunking commonly believed myths about genealogy.  I wanted to share it with you.

From “Our name was changed at Ellis Island” to “We have an Indian princess among our ancestors,” here are a dozen myths that many searchers have heard about their ancestors. Are they true? Well, no, but–and this is a big BUT–often there is a kernel of truth in the story. Thank you, Dick Eastman, for this excellent post!

3 Responses to Genealogy Myths

  1. Kris Fox-Brown says:

    Excellent and thanks for sharing. I was wondering how many people were squeezed into the Mayflower, and how many trips it made across the Atlantic. Thank you!

  2. Caro says:

    Thanks, that was very interesting. Genealogy myths may be the most common myths around. We’ve all got at least one. My dad actively lied (mostly in a joking way) about his family being pirates and train robbers, so every fact that I’ve learned about them over the years has been surprising.

    The part about Robert E. Lee reminded me of an article I once read about Jackie Kennedy and her mother. Supposedly when President and Mrs. Kennedy were on a state visit to Ireland, an Irish genealogist presented Mrs. Kennedy with a genealogy she’d done for the First Lady. Mrs. Kennedy assumed it was meant for her husband’s family because, as was common knowledge, her family was basically French. But it was indeed the genealogy for Jackie’s mother, Janet Norton Lee Bouvier Auchincloss. Jackie and her sister had always accepted what their mother told them about her family. When she was young, Janet claimed to be “one of the Lees of Virginia”. When she was sent to Sweet Briar College in Virginia she apparently changed the story to being related to the Virginia Lees but actually being one off the Lees of Maryland. And she had always told her daughters this. In Ireland Jackie learned that every one of her mother’s ancestors in America were in fact Irish Catholic immigrants. It was said that Jackie later told her mother what she had learned in Ireland, but her mother had flown into such a violent rage that she never mentioned it again. Jackie had one great grandparent who was French, and that’s apparently the only ancestor she had ever really identified with. In reality her Irish ancestors had played out a story of great success, both financial.and social.

    It struck me as funny that anyone would be ashamed of having ancestors who came to the US with no money at all yet managed to achieve great wealth within just one or two generations. But for this one woman it was always a source of embarrassment. There were even stories of Janet’s college friends coming to visit her at her parents’ country house and meeting a funny old lady with an Irish brogue, who Janet kept sweeping back up the stairs, explaining that the woman was a faithful old servant who was being taken care of by her generous family. Apparently the very idea of her friends meeting her own Irish grandmother and learning her dirty secret threw her into a panic.

    I think an awful lot of us still place too way much importance on our genealogical history. It’s interesting but shouldn’t really affect us.

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