Pride, prejudice and genealogy

As they say “pride comes before a fall” and that applies in genealogy research as well. Over the years you’ve heard me say that I vastly prefer narrative documentation to conventional genealogy in trees, pedigree charts and ahnentafel numbers.

My earliest genimates, in the late 1980s, both belonged to the narrative tribe and they were both super-smart women. Perhaps that influenced my documentation but more likely it was also a personal predisposition. One was a little inclined to over-romanticise the story within the facts, which didn’t suit my direct style.

qld-muster-rollI suppose somewhere in the distant past I must have started with some pedigree charts and family group sheets – in fact it comes to me that this is what went into my contribution to the Genealogical Society of Queensland Bicentennial Muster Rolls (somewhere on my shelves). My preferred genealogy program has always been the now-defunct Relatively Yours and this is where I kept my basic data of BDMs. Writing my Kunkel book required me to have a full chart for the family in there. However, overall the program contained the bare data while the rest went into narrative from my notebooks.

Now that DNA has arrived on the scene this level of pride, and prejudice, has come back to haunt me. Now I need to know exactly where everyone fits on a family tree. Now I need to know the degree of relationships and who is a third cousin twice removed. How the genealogy gods (our ancestors?) must be laughing! On the positive side I’ve always been a fan of FANs (friends, associates and neighbours) or FFANS and I’ve used my research of collateral lines to solve mysteries and knock down the odd brick wall.

our_community_place_sandbox

Playing nicely in the sandpit. Wikimedia commons.

My documentation has been expensively and laterally obtained from original sources in archives and libraries in Australia and around the world. I was more than a little precious about it and reluctant to share especially where it was a one-way street. A few cases of slurping up my data with no thanks or reciprocity had made me cynical….no more playing nicely in the sandpit for me. Then there were a few cases where the fanciful family story was stacked against the facts and came out ahead…in came that pride and prejudice again. Let the facts speak and if you want to tell the inherited story, tell it as exactly that.

Another source of pride has been my blithe, and close to total, disregard of Ancestry trees. Funnily enough I do think you need to know what you’re looking for, by working steadily back from yourself, the old-fashioned way.

There was the day that one tree gave me a dose of conniptions when I saw a tree with umpteen more children than my particular family. Back to the drawing board and it took only a short time to realise they had mixed up two totally separate families (albeit with the same parents’ names): one lot was in New South Wales (Aussie royalty) and the other was my Queensland mob.  The children from each had been interleaved on the one tree. Whew! Prejudice confirmed.

naryshkin_family_tree

Naryshkin family tree: Wikimedia Commons

Over the time I’ve also been too prideful to much attention to online trees because I’d been careful and was confident my research was a rigorous as I could make it. What I missed was that those trees  were being grown by likely cousins….how astonishing! I may shake my head at seeing un-cited images from my book but I’ve come to the conclusion that at least people are enthusiastic about their family trees and sharing information. I’ve even bitten the bullet and put up a tree of my own and made it public….believe me that’s been a huge leap of faith. Get back pride, take a seat prejudice.

So my task at present is to work through those shaky leaves on family trees and pin down where they fit in: are they cousins or do they simply have some remote peripheral family link? It’s going to take time and it can only help build up my knowledge of family and should help with my DNA matches, and maybe encourage some to test as well. There’s certainly no shortage of kin out there.