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Research can help cut the nots out of your family tree

Have you been told that your family came over on the Mayflower? Maybe you grew up believing you are related to a famous person in history that shares your last name. Or perhaps you are descended from an Indian princess; could it even be Pocahontas herself?

I want to tell you about a couple of old stories from my own family to give you an idea of how these things can be twisted over time.

When I was growing up I had always been told I was related to Daniel Boone. My grandpa was quite proud of this fact. I had no reason not to believe it because Grandpa had told me so. I loved to tell everyone that would listen that I was one of Daniel Boone's descendants. When I started doing genealogy research I set out to prove it on paper so that everyone else would be as sure as I was. I thought it was odd that so many other people also claimed to be descended from good ole Daniel. I tried working my family backward in time and I tried working from Daniel forward in time but I just couldn't make the connection.

But then one day I found it.

I did have Daniel Boone in my line! However, the problem was that it wasn't THE Daniel Boone. It turns out that my great uncle's wife was the great granddaughter of Daniel Boone, a Mississippi native that was apparently named after the famous frontiersman. Over time the story was twisted and this rural farmer became THE Daniel Boone. Not only was I not descended from Daniel Boone, I was only related to the other Daniel Boone by marriage, not by blood. I lost out in two different ways.

In my family there were several different stories passed down about having "Indian Blood" in our family line. Guess what, I couldn't prove that either. One of my father's first cousins spent many years trying to prove that connection because there was money involved. Apparently, there was some Indian treaty struck up in Mississippi and a subsequent lawsuit in which descendants of a specific group of Choctaw Indians was entitled to damages from this particular treaty being broken. This cousin was never able to prove anything.

My husband (Jim Lewis) had always been told he was a descendant of Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. Again, I set out to prove or disprove this family story. It didn't take me long: Meriwether Lewis had no children, thus no descendants at all. So much for that theory.

The moral of this story is, when you listen to all of these old stories your family is so proud of, remember to take everything you hear with a grain of salt. It is a lot of fun investigating family lore but don't be disappointed if the story doesn't turn out the way you had hoped it would.

Web posted on Thursday, February 17, 2005


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