19 June 2011

What You See Isn't Always What You Get

I've written previously about my maternal grandfather, William C. Kendall. Because his name is listed on my mother's birth certificate as the father, I have always assumed it to be true. After all, birth certificates are generally considered to be reliable records for genealogy research, right?

I've known for a long time that there were some skeletons in my mother's closet. I learned that all was not what it appeared when I was just a teenager, but I never realized the extent of the secrets until recently. Despite what I've learned, I'm certain there are still more secrets about which I have no idea. But, one thing at a time.

I have a strict policy about not mentioning the names of individuals who are still living, so this post isn't going to be completely revealing. I'm writing about this simply because I hope this information might be helpful to someone else who has encountered this particular kind of problem while conducting research. Think about it. What do you do when you suddenly find out that one of the names listed on a birth certificate was an out-and-out lie?

I recently met a very dear lady who just happens to be my second cousin. While talking to her, I learned the true identity of my maternal grandfather: Woodrow L. Land. It's kind of weird, actually. I felt a certain sense of shock upon hearing this news, yet at the same time it was like I'd just had a nagging suspicion confirmed. The only thing I lack now is "evidence" of it all. To be honest, I'm not sure how I'll ever go about proving this since both of my maternal grandparents are dead.

To the best of my knowledge, no evidence exists that might help me to prove the identity of my grandfather. I have the word of two very reliable sources (relatives) who were present at pertinent times in my grandparents' history. That's certainly good enough for me, on a personal level, but is it good enough for my official family tree?

Everything I've read over the years has taught me that a genealogist is ALWAYS supposed to be able to verify information that she puts in her family history. It isn't generally accepted for people to simply put names in their trees without being able to back up their claims for the simple reason that anyone could do that easily enough (I could put Benjamin Franklin down as one of my great great grandfathers, but adding his name to my tree doesn't make it so).

In essence, it doesn't mean anything to other researchers to simply have names without resources. It does, however, mean something to me, in this instance, so I guess I'll have to choose to create the "Land" part of my maternal line without any hard evidence (at least for the time being). All I can do at this time is add notations to indicate that I have spoken with two of my relatives who have verified the information. I'll have to research to see if that is considered to be an acceptable genealogy practice. Either way, it is what it is.

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