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Family lore is a fabulous place to learn stories about your ancestors. But you might want to slow down a little, and check into those stories. More often than not, you’ll find they are made of very little fact, and a whole lot of fiction.
I used to love to sit and listen to stories my parents or grandparents told. Even if I knew they were tales of fiction, they were a lot of fun. I never suspected though that some of those old family stories traded long ago, and copied down into the family treasure might have been fiction. When I started my search for family records and histories, I had a head start. Some of the family had done a little of their own research and shared versions of their results with the rest, or more accurately, the interested few.
Some of the stories related, were fantastic characterizations of my ancestors. Nothing unbelievable, quite the contrary actually. Given the era and regional settings, those little stories could easily have been true. Take for instance, the story I heard of my great grandfather. His name was William, and he had been a blacksmith. The story that went along with it was that he was known as “Whispering Bill”. You see, according to one side of the family lore, he had been kicked in the throat by a horse or mule, and his larynx was permanently damaged. From then on, he always spoke in a whisper. Now it was fairly easy to discredit this, thanks to my Aunt who remembers no such thing. Too bad really, for if it had been true, just think about the “character” one could add to the information portrayed in a written story.
Another story of family lore was about a great great grandmother, who just happened to be named America. Really, she was actually named America Ann (Wrenn) Kelso, I have even located many records relating to her. Where the lore changed course, and became a tale of fiction was the reason she was named America. I have to admit, the lore made for a far more interesting story than actual fact. As the story went, she was born on board ship during the crossing, and her parents named her America as a hopeful tribute to their future. Now I’m sure there were a lot of kids born on board ship while transiting the Atlantic, or other seas for that matter. Unfortunately, birth and census records prove my family lore to be more fiction than fact. America Ann Wrenn, was born to John and Sarah Wrenn in 1836, Andrew County Missouri. Her father John was born 1816 in Kentucky, we’re not sure when her mother was born, or what her maiden name was for that matter.
Just remember, no matter how believable, a story that has been passed down might be, research the facts for yourself. I know the tale might be more fun and interesting, but the facts will mean far more to you in the end.
Quote of the Day:
”Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.”
--Dr. E. Land