Be skeptical of tall tales handed down over the years

Credit: Special

Credit: Special

All of us have heard family stories that are hard to believe. Sometimes, there’s a good reason for that — they shouldn’t be believed.

When doing research on your family, you’ll need to analyze stories to try to determine the facts. Consider:

  • Who is telling the story, and what is his or her source? Is it firsthand knowledge, or is the person repeating something passed down?
  • If the story is written down, who wrote it and when? Was it written down at the time it happened or later? How much later?
  • Does the story make sense? Is it logical?
  • Can the story be verified with records? It may help to overlay a timeline of history for the period covered by the story. Did the subject create any records or appear in a census?
  • Did the person telling the story try to claim kinship to a prominent family or political figure? People often jump to conclusions if someone has the same surname. Be skeptical.

If you are the one recording a family story today, based on your own research, be careful that you have it documented so that you’re not repeating things that may end up being untrue. You do not want to compound an error in the future.

Remember that oral history is often the least reliable form of history but could contain nuggets of truth.

Land lotteries lecture

“Using Georgia’s Land Lotteries to Prove Family Relationships” is the lunch and learn lecture topic at the Georgia Archives. The event will be held online on October 9 at noon. Susan Sloan, professional genealogist, is the speaker. The free lecture will be live, via Microsoft Teams. See for details. The lunch and learn programs are co-sponsored by the Friends of Georgia Archives and History. They are offered every month and will be continuing during the pandemic. For more information, call 678-364-3710.

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P. O. Box 901, Decatur, Ga., 30031 or