14 April 2009

Proving Oral History & Missing the Titanic

What do you do when you’ve got a family story? If you ask me, it’s time to fish or cut bait.

Fish through surviving official documents (church, government) to see if the facts prove or disprove the oral tradition.

“According to the letter written in Emma (Rogers) Brown’s later years, there was not enough money available for the next ship, so they had to wait for a future sailing. The name of the ship they were unable to sail on was the Titanic! But it was not clear from the letter as to just who was in Canada and who had missed the ill-fated ship. So, I wondered, what could the recent release of the [Canadian] passenger lists confirm about this event?”

Often beginning family historians swallow the family stories – hook, line and sinker.

But many a family story have proved to be red herrings.

In this case, Marg Aldridge elected to test the veracity of the family story using numerous Canadian passenger lists, discovering a chain migration of the Brown family. But with a name like Brown, other items had to came into play to distinguish members of her family on various passenger lists. Follow Marg’s logic by reading “Proving Oral History & Missing the Titanic” in Family Chronicle, April 2009, page 43.

Let’s insure that every fact we gather in genealogy research is supported by high quality documentary evidence.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.


footnoteMaven said...

You can't change history, you can however misrepresent it. It is our duty as family historians to assure those facts we use in our history are accurate.

But often the story of a story is equally compelling. They are family remembrances. "I tell the story told me as it was told."

Our ancestors had some very interesting reasons for embellishing or out right misleading. We need to chase all those stories.

They could be some of the best!



I certainly agree with fM. Every story has a kernel of truth in it. It is our job to find that kernel in a story that may have been embellished over the centuries.

Every story is important, and we never know when another clue will pop up to confirm the story or completely blow it out of the water. But if we haven't recorded the story, no one will know the difference.

I always tell EVERYONE to record everything they hear, no matter how strange, outlandish or seemingly simply impossible.

Contratulations on the new blog!



Myrt, Can I suggest that you add a subscribe via email feature? Many people (including me) prefer to receive alerts from their favorite blogs this way.

best wishes

DearMYRTLE said...

Great idea. I just use the RSS and insert it in my Outlook 2007.

But you are correct, many people like seeing an email subscribe box.

I'll set it up right away.

THANKS Schelly for keeping DearMYRTLE on her toes.

DearMYRTLE said...

Dear fM,
Your idea to preserve the "family story" as the personal recollection of a specific ancestor is WISE in that it helps us understand more about the personality of that individual.

Genealogy isn't just about collecting names and dates, is it?


Kate S said...

My boyfriend's family history was told to me through stories, which we tried to prove. We've managed to get very far, by finding out that many of the stories were a generation off, so my boyfriend's grandfather didn't lie exactly just made it hard to trace him. :)