As I put the final touches on my presentation for the AASIG meeting, I was preparing my conclusion slide and there were bullet points about handling sensitive information. I felt, though, that something was missing. This presentation was also about the research process. In my efforts to find my grandfather’s family, I searched the same records over and over again because I was looking for what should have been there based on family tradition. I didn’t let the evidence lead my research.
My first mistake in the process was the initial family Bible entry. My grandmother had written that the parents of LC Hill were John Lacy Hill and Rosie Sampson. On the next line she had written her parents as James Wright and Sallie Seals Wright. Notice the difference in the notation? I didn’t until later. I should have questioned the difference in the name of the wife. As I looked over other of my grandmother’s records, a married woman is always written with her maiden and married name. In the case of a cousin born before his mother’s marriage, his mother is listed with only her maiden name and the full name of the father. I didn’t pick up on grandmother’s subtle way of saying that there was not a marriage.
In my census research, I was so caught up in looking for an intact Hill family, that I didn’t look for individuals. Had my initial census search involved an individual rather than a family unit then I wouldn’t have missed the 1900 census showing Rosie Sampson living in the home of John Lacy Hill.
In the end, I of course realized that there were two families of John Lacy Hill one legitimate and one illegitimate. I added to my presentation that researchers must be unbiased in their research and in their conclusions. Yes, some family traditions may be proven inaccurate. However, the truth is far better for future generations than continually perpetuating misconceptions.