People have been lying since the beginning of time. If you want some examples just read the book of Genesis. Just because you see something in an old record doesn’t mean it is true. People lied to census takers, they lied to county clerks, they lied when documenting things in their family Bibles, they lied on everything you can think of. People lied to cover up family secrets and they lied to get their way. You need to keep this thought in the back of your mind when you are analyzing documents. Just because you find a document that contains direct evidence of what you are looking for that doesn’t mean it is true. This is why you conduct a “reasonably exhaustive search” (step 1 of the Genealogical Proof Standard) and you don’t rely on a single piece of evidence. This is also why you conduct “analysis and correlation of the collected information” (step 3) and “resolution of conflicting evidence” (step 4). If you follow the Genealogical Proof Standard you will expose the liars.
Just to give your ancestors the benefit of the doubt, some of these erroneous entries were due to simple mistakes and guesses and not due to out right lying (children as informants on census records is an example). Errors were also due to mistakes made by the recorder of the information (county clerks that misheard information given to them). Either way, don’t believe everything you see.
I still think there was a lot of lying going on.
Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis