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Stories concerning a families history are one of the most exciting things that you can come across when doing family genealogy. Most of the time we have little more than a list of "begats", perhaps some dates and locations, and that's about all we can recover of our ancestors life. Sometimes we can make guesses about what their lives were like, based on the historical context, or the occassional court record. "Black sheep" abound in genealogy, not because our ancestors leaned to the dark side, but simply because often the only records that say anything about them at all, are those dealing with the courts. As a result, when you come across a family story, pehaps one that's survived in an oral tradition, written down many years later, it seems like pure gold. Even the most mundane things take on great meaning, and lend an air of reality. probably because that's about all we have to "know them" by.
Yet family history stories can be a dangerous tool in understanding a familes relations. What has survived to this day is inevitably only part of the story---and no matter what the source, that story has been filtered, adjusted, and adapted to meet specific ends. And the more hands that the story passes through, the more opportunity for informaiton loss and distortion. What we receive may bear little resemblance to what actually happened. The relationships described in the story---the very facts that we most want to know---may be so distorted as to destroy their genealogical value---or worse, lead us down a path to wong conclusions about our ancestors.
I believe this has happened with at least some of the stories described and discussed in this article......