A Weak Foundation

06/03/2012

 
I recently read an article in our local newspaper regarding a politician in another state. But the subject of the article was not politics--it was her claims of ancestry.

The woman running for congressional office described, both behind the podium and by pen, her American Indian ancestry. Yet, she does not seem to outwardly portray any physical resemblance to Indian heritage, which has brought speculation to her claims.

Now, this alone is not unusual. Many people with American Indian blood do not carry distinct Indian features. But as others have looked further into the politician's claims, her story seems built on family lore and no bloodline has been proven. It is just a family story of a great great great grandmother of Indian heritage. The politician is not on an Indian Tribal Roll and she cannot produce a document verifying the alleged ancestry.

Family lore is often whimsical and fascinating; a good story passed across the holiday table but good genealogy--it is not. Stories that pass from generation to generation often change as they are told. And unless proven by primary sources such as birth, death and marriage documents, the lore's value is purely family entertainment, nothing else.

As I have delved deeper into the field of genealogy, I find myself more sensitive to the subject of family myth versus proven family historical fact. The former is built on shaky, wobbly ground whereas the latter has a strong, solid foundation: The kind of foundation that upholds the family's values, culture and truth.

And is that not what we want for the next descendents of our family?

The interest is genealogy is spreading rapidly. But as genealogists and researchers, let us reinforce the importance of sound, proven family history. So the next generations can enjoy the real stories of their family heritage, and feel pride in whatever that heritage might be.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl
 


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