I have been interested in genealogy for years! It all began when my Uncle asked if I could help uncover the ancestors of my G-Grandmother Georgianna (Clough) Hall, who he was sure was the illegitimate daughter of Isaac Merritt Singer the founder of Singer Sewing machines, who was known to be promiscuous and who is said to have fathered 24 children with his 5 wives and numerous others out of wedlock.
Turns out Isaac Merritt Singer died in 1875, six years before Georgianna’s birth. I instead discovered that Georgianna’s biological father was named Hughes and her two step-father’s names were Clough and Shipman.
But there was some truth to the family lore. What I did discover was that Georgianna’s husband Charles had an uncle named Thomas Hough (rhymes with Clough? – technically not because Clough is pronounced “Cluff” as the woman in the Bath, NH town clerk’s office nicely pointed out to me), anyway, Uncle Hough worked at and later owned a sewing machine company.
Ahhh said my Uncle, maybe that’s what I was thinking! I knew there was some connection to sewing!
So you can see how easily the family lore can become a bit mangled. It’s like that game we all played in grade school where you whisper a message to the kid next to you, who whispers it to the kid next to him, who whispers it to the kid next to him and so on…. Never turned out exactly right, did it?
That’s what we all need to remember when beginning to create our family tree. Start by talking to all your living relatives and record everything that is known (siblings, cousins, grandparents, great grandparents, etc). Look on Ancestry.com and search for other people’s trees who name your ancestor. Check what other researchers may have already published about the surnames in your family tree at the Family History Library, in HeritageQuest, PERSI, Genealogy Today, National Genealogical Society, the New England Historical Genealogical Society, Library of Congress, local libraries and historical societies in the area where your ancestors lived and Google books.
But then locate sources (such as census data, city directories, war records, birth, death and marriage records, deeds, court records, manifests, naturalization records, etc.) to help in your quest to prove that the published family trees and family lore is correct and you really are related to the REAL Pocahontas or Ben Franklin.