To be or not to be, does it really matter?…

I was emailing with another researcher today who’d sent me some documents he’d found on my line. Not his line mine you, but mine, and he’d not only sent the documents, but proper citations as well. We have emailed before and we corresponded back and forth for a while today two genealogist speculating about an affair that happened in 1862. Neither of us have any proof of what we were speculating about, but it was fun to come up with scenarios that fit the facts we did have. One of them probably was fairly close to the truth, yet we will never really know for sure.

You see genealogist not only have to deal with facts, we have to deal with human nature. And frankly, facts sometimes lie. Mothers put down the man they WANT to be the father of the child on birth certificates. Parents add a year to their marriage year to make older children seem legitimate.

The thing is, does it really matter? Well, if you are a strict genealogist, then yes, it does. You want the correct parentage, and the correct dates, and you don’t want things muddying your genealogy waters like adoptions or adaptions, as we called them in our family where children aren’t legally adopted, just raised by someone else in the family more willing and more capable.

I often think of my own household growing up and wonder had the census taker came once a year, what would the household looked like. One year, just Mom, Dad, my brother, me. Another, Mom, Dad, my aunt, her two children, my brother, me, and a cousin on Dad’s side. Another year, Mom, Dad, my brother, me, my cousin, my best friend. Yes, my parents were big on adaptions. So were my grandparents. I am sure my great grandparents were too, so when I see the 1840 census and I see just a bunch of numbers in columns I often wonder, how many of those were his children? How many were his grandchildren? How many were his adaptions?

Many families probably never heard of adaptions, yet they have them too. Those children where Mom just can’t take care of the kids, so grandma takes over the raising. Or an older sister. She does the job for a few years, until Mom gets on her feet and then the kids go home.

Now if you are a family historian, adaptions and adoptions and such aren’t any big deal. You aren’t concerned about the direct bloodline, so if Momma fudged the birth certificate (or in the case we were discussing, the family Bible) a little, it’s not that big a deal. The children believe that John Smith is their daddy and that is all that matters. John Smith believes he is the daddy and he raised them as his own, or maybe he knows the truth and just doesn’t care.

Me, I am a family historian. I am sure there are some lines in my family tree where the father is incorrect. The records state that the child is the child of that father. But a DNA test would probably show differently. Frankly I don’t care. I’d rather go with how the child was raised. To me, a father is the person who tucked you in at night and paid the bills, and got to decide whether you got to date at 16 or not. So maybe I am researching the wrong line. The kid loved the wrong line too.

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