Sunday, March 2, 2014

But I Know I am Descended From a ...

One question that I've seen pop up from time to time is "Why should I do all the work to prove that I am a descendant of a DAR/SAR/SCV/UEL/Mayflower/etc. ancestor? I already know I am."

For some people it is just for bragging rights. Yet for many others it goes much deeper than that.

Often times the interest starts because they have heard a story from their grandparents that, according to their grandparents, they are descended from a famous person that fought in the American Rebellion Revolution or the Civil War or arrived in the colonies on the Mayflower.

It might begin with that but as you start to dig into the family tree you then realize that you just might have the documents that prove the story is true. So wouldn't it be nice if you could put the rumours to rest and prove all those naysayers in the family wrong? Even better, if you do the research work yourself and it is accepted as valid, you also validate your own research skills.

In my own case, it was the story that my mom's mom's line was descended from a United Empire Loyalist that settled in New Brunswick that helped get me started in genealogy research. We even had the certificate from 1930s stating that her father was a member of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada. I even came across newspaper articles talking about him attending meetings. But ... there was no proof handed down through the ages and the standards of evidence weren't as strict as then. So it became for me one of those questions that just had to be answered once and for all without any question of doubt.

Over a 10 years period I gathered from the files held by various family members documentation such as life insurance applications, birth, marriage and death certificates, along with the stories they recalled. Then it was off to to work backwards starting with what I knew and could prove. The easiest route was census records along with birth, marriage, and death registrations. But, as with most lineage proofs you sooner or later run out of civil records. Yet this line were Baptists and many of those records have been lost in the mists of history. I then learned that the New Brunswick land deeds were online so it was off to FamilySearch to locate those records. I also needed to find out when and where my ancestor served so I needed to consult the RG 8, C Series files at Library and Archives Canada. Suddenly I was learning about additional record sources I would never have thought to look in plus I was learning about the history of the time. But beyond all the research knowledge I acquired I also connected to distant cousins I never even knew I had.

Was it worth it to me to do the all that work? Let's see:
  1. I improved my research skills
  2. I found out more about history
  3. I connected with previously unknown cousins
  4. I learned more about my own family's role in history
  5. I was able to confirm the story

So yes, I would say it was definitely well worth the effort.

1 comment:

  1. Reprint in "Loyalist Trails" UELAC Newsletter 2014-10 Mar 9, 2014. I found this article right on the money. I was glad to see Doug Grant enter it in the "Trails". I have experienced the same situation and until I actually dug into records and researched my ancestors I did not know if it was true or folklore. The family folklore indicated our family were UEL and although true I found it was my 3rd great-grandmother's family that were the Loyalists. This ruled out a few relatives who were not directly in this branch. I have my UEL Certificate from 2007 and have been working on another possibly Loyalist ancestor with less luck. Some linage records are missing or lost but, the trail would indicate they were Loyalists.
    I’ll have to look a little more into your blog, thanks.
    Paul Caverly