Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sometimes We Just Can't Have What We Want

Recently I was contacted by someone who asked for help with her genealogy. She said she knew she was Cherokee and she just needed help with one woman in her tree because she couldn't get past her in the ancestry. She sent me a lot of information from the "genealogy" she had already done and wanted me to build from there. Uh, sorry, but that isn't the way I roll. First, I have to make sure everything is correct from the starting point.

It became apparent pretty quickly that the person had not done any genealogy work at all. What she had done was take the name of one of her ancestors and then go to the Cherokee rolls and try to find the same surname. Then, she tried to find a way to connect her ancestors to the Cherokees with the same surname. She then started to try to rewrite the history of the real Cherokee family in order to make it fit the history of her family. One document assured me the families were not related and her invented genealogy was nothing more than wishful thinking. Four more documents made my research solid and hers nothing more than fictitious.

I let this person know the genealogy she had constructed was incorrect and the two families, a white one and a full blood Cherokee one, were absolutely not related. While her white family was living in Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, the Cherokee family was always living in Cherokee Nation. She quickly replied that she knew her family had been "called back" to the Cherokee Nation in 1850 because they were never found on the US Census after that date. Ahhhh.......just because she never found them didn't mean they weren't on the US Census. I found them on both the 1860 and 1870 US Censuses within an hour and they were not living in Cherokee Nation where she said they had been called to, but instead, in Missouri.

Still, she was not willing to accept her family was not Cherokee. She replied with a very long message that contained a lot of information she felt "proved" her family was Cherokee. She said she would like to hire me to do in depth research because SHE WANTED TO FIND A CHEROKEE in her ancestry. Notice she didn't say she wanted to learn about her ancestors. She didn't say she wanted to know if there was a Cherokee or not. SHE SAID SHE WANTED TO FIND A CHEROKEE AS AN ANCESTOR.

At this point, I told her I could not help her. It would not matter how much money she paid me because I cannot find something that isn't there. Unfortunately, this woman is not an isolated case. There are many, many people who don't care about their real genealogy. They just want to find a Cherokee as an ancestor, truth be damned. Well, I am sorry, but that isn't genealogy, that is mythology. You cannot make a Cherokee appear where one never was. You cannot prove a family story when it isn't true. And whether we like it or not, sometimes we just can't have what we want.

In my humble opinion, it is pretty pathetic to become so obsessed with a family story that we can't accept the truth when we find it. We are doing our future generations a huge injustice by continuing to perpetuate a family story that isn't true simply because we want it to be true. Wouldn't it be better to learn about your real ancestors and share the stories of their lives with your children and grandchildren instead of telling fairy tales about a Cherokee grandma that never existed? In my opinion, it would.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

The Granddaughter

copyright 2011, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

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