I learned two lessons this week: Always second-guess a church secretary and a Ball can bounce in unexpected ways. Both are hard, gritty lessons, especially when a family history has been placed in print.

Digging deeper into my maternal lineage from New Jersey, I kept stumbling upon a fellow researcher within a surname forum. I quickly noticed his maternal lineage matched mine and we were struggling along the same path. Two researchers are better than one, I thought, so I successfully contacted him by written letter (yes, some of us still use the archival method of writing letters to fellow researchers).

My newly found cousin quickly responded, eager to share his knowledge on our lineage. But though my point of contact held a quest for more information on a mutual ancestor, my cousin unknowingly revealed stunning details about another: Details that bounced my Ball right out of the court.

In explanation, my maternal grandmother's lineage follows a course that takes us to the historical county of Morris, New Jersey with the Rolstons of Ireland and the Templetons of Scotland. But as the lineage winds further into Colonial times, the Balls of England are abundant along our tree. Yes, my family tree has Balls, not leaves.

The shocking discovery--revealed by my fellow researcher--names a different Ball ancestor within our lineage; a brother to the one currently on my family tree.

Same lineage...same eventual outcome...just a different Ball.

My head felt swollen as I sat reading his well-written family history and in defense of my own "set-in-stone" publication, I questioned his research.

"But how could that be?" I asked my newly discovered cousin. "Provide proof," I quipped. "My records were obtained by the Morristown Presbyterian Church, a church grounded by Colonial history with over 200 year old registries." And my fellow researcher rightly responded, providing a copy of a hand-written will giving proof of ancestry to a different brother Ball.

Nothing can trump a hand-written will. A will is, in the genealogical world, the golden grail of proof.

The shocking truth is the "church lady" of our Colonial church transcribed the wrong Ball brother within the record and the written will wins.

It always wins.

So, is my head still swollen with dismay over the discovery of the wrong Ball? No, I'm thrilled. This is what keeps me intrigued in family research. The twists and turns as new records are dug up. It is about the search for the truth and if that means a little rewrite, I will gladly do it in order to find and preserve the truth.

So all in all, the Balls bounced but the court remained the same, and I had a thrill of a week.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl