Legends in Genealogy

   Legends and genealogy seem to have always gone together.  It has been going on so long that certain legends, such as the infamous “three brothers”, and, “came over on the Mayflower”,  “was a cabin boy aboard a ship”,  “had a castle in Europe”, and many more legends of many varieties commonly somehow manage to wind up to some degree in  practically everyone’s family history, and is unique to no one’s.  Something very much along the lines of   “urban myth” in most genealogy has simply long existed.  While I love a good legend as much as the next person, when any person presenting as “proof” a legend, or  an  personal theory resulting from something they imagined might have occurred believes that theory or legend has precedence over an actual record,  I will always part way with the “legend”, and/or personal theories and go with the actual record.

    Genealogy is a science, that of compiling recorded facts about collective groups of related individuals.  Persons repeating “legends”, and personal theories rooted solely in perceived “circumstances” that do not reflect what actual records reveal have to be the ones to reconcile that for their selves, but the very greatest caution should be applied in saying, or publishing said legends and imaginings as “fact”, or,  as one person applied in a case where the only definitive “proof” in their theory was two persons were in the same place at the same time, as “circumstantial evidence” of something more. It’s simply not viable, nor reliable.

   The very best way to avoid being trapped into adopting something  mistaken or incorrect as fact, and thus becoming invested in it,  is, of course, to rely on actual records.  100 or 150 years of repeating something mistaken, or incorrect does not ever make it factual, no matter how many times, or by whom it is repeated.  Something that is wrong in it’s inception will not somewhere along the line become factual.  It is no reflection upon the persons that simply passed the information along, that to the very best of their knowledge and belief, was, or may have been right, or at least possible, as that person was likely acting upon the only information they had at the time.   I doubt that there are many cases, if any, where any person had malicious intent in passing along incorrect information.

   Pursuing the science of genealogy it often becomes evident, upon finding “new”, or more complete information that a previous belief, or theory, was in error.  Finding the records for gaining proof is what genealogy is about, and any person that is doing it in a meaningful way will always give greater consideration to an actual record rather than what someone, no matter who that person was, simply said, whether in previously having passed it along, or it having been a theory they formulated their selves.

   To continue to elevate a theory, or “legend” above and beyond what an actual record reveals, no matter by whom it is found, or when,  is not actual genealogy.  I am not sure exactly what it is, as it’s also not history, but unproven legends and theories without accompanying proof of some species belongs more in the realm of  a fictional work than it does actual genealogy and history, and thus should properly be clearly designated as such. When such notions are still insisted on and are being adhered to despite  actual records proving otherwise,  the answer to that is obvious. The person doing so is more interested in retaining and perpetuating  their own version of history, or personal theory, rather than to consider or accept what may well disprove or disagree with any of that, even when another version is factually backed by an actual record.

   Of course any one, this being a free country,  has a right to publish nearly anything they choose to, but any person publishing unproven stories, legends, and personal theories has the obligation to be very careful to separate those things from  actual history and genealogy based upon actual recorded facts, lest they propagate what all too often  ends up being chaos, and impediments to persons seeking an actual history or genealogy.