When I was 12 and my aunt was tagging me along on her genealogy adventures, I didn’t really realize that I was falling in love with this hobby. I was just armed with a throw-away camera (remember those?) and a list of names to look for. I looked for them in cemeteries and books in the library. I didn’t really know what I was doing or what I was looking for, but I was definitely building the start of a long, rewarding, purpose-filled, insanity-causing journey in discovering my family’s history. I had no idea that all that time stomping around the mountains and back woods of Elizabethton, Tennessee (a completely different atmosphere and community than what I was used to back home in Los Angeles) would have me hooked for life.
In Elizabethton – I’m pretty much related to everybody in some way. I remember my grandpa telling me that I should be grateful I don’t go there for high school because I would be “kissing cousins” at all the dances. It is the type of place where people sit around in the evening and listen while the eldest talks about the family stories and the family line. The stories generally have some spice added to them and there is always plenty ancestral gossip about criminal activity and love affairs and drunken quarrels. And generally, people don’t really question it – they all just kind of assume it is all true or mostly true.
And when people start doing their research in this area, they just take what the county history book says as fact too. The county history book is full of these stories from the elders – people submitted them when the book was published. And initially, I copied my tree from here.
But a few years ago, I started my whole tree over – I had decided that having a smaller, well-sourced tree was better than having a few thousand person tree with very little source material. I put all of my previous work in binders and started over.
The good news: I’ve been able to find a lot of evidence to support parts of those family lines and some of the family stories have become more believable as the ancestors are mapped out. But I have hit snags where I just couldn’t prove the connection between child and suspected parent – so I just didn’t enter it into my database. And I kept not adding them to my database for years. I would see these names over and over in my research but just wouldn’t add them to my database unless I could find that evidence-based connection.
In the last week, I think I finally found the solution that works for me: I add them to my database as an unlinked individual. It just makes sense to still collect all this evidence I have for John Potter in my database because at some point, it might serve useful and it might help me some day “see” something that I didn’t see before that would finally link John Potter as the father of Peter Potter.
How do you handle those people you have research on but can’t fully prove you have a connection to?