My pal Patty used to talk about the romance of her parents’ life. They were a young couple from different cultures in their small town but in the 1940s, they were so in love with each other that they eloped one warm summer evening. They had eleven months of romance bliss before Patty was born in June.
The household was not a happy one but Patty explained this lack of happiness was due to financial pressure. Her maternal grandparents had raised her mother with lots of money but when she ran off a married a guy from the poor part of town, they cut off their bounty.
Patty saw the power of money and how the lack of it could eat away at the love of even the most adoring couples. The firm believe in the early powerful romance of her parents shaped Patty’s own life and belief in romance. She also secretly felt that her birth got in the way of her parents’ enjoyment of their life together.
Her father died first. He was in his sixties when he succumbed to a heart attack. A few years later, a stroke took her mother. Patty was going through the papers stashed in her mother’s writing desk. She found her birth certificate. Then she found her parents’ marriage certificate.
She said the room actually spun when she looked at it. In spite of almost fifty years of wedding anniversaries celebrated in July, the evidence was in Patty’s hand. Her parents had gotten married in wintery January. They were married a bare six months before she was born. It rocked Patty’s world because everything she believed about her parents was called into doubt.
Facts are Facts, or Are They?
When you start gathering your family history, use that old tenet of journalism. Double check your facts. People have many reasons for changing facts to suit their personal histories. In the case of Patty’s mother, she did not want her daughter to know that she was pregnant when she married.
Another “fact” that was recorded in an obituary of one of my ancestors was that she was descended from Brigadier-General George Townshend who fought with General Wolfe at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in the Seven Years’ War (also known as the French and Indian War).
When I began doing the family history, I accept this as fact and in creating the family tree, this was a good solid branch for years. Until the day I discovered that the Brigadier-General was at best a distant cousin.
When you are building your family history, check all the facts against the official records and make notes of the “facts” that have only been received by word of mouth.
Tracing your family history is an amazing way to learn about yourself. It also is a great way to learn how to research facts and separate them from fiction. I am narrowing my writing down to fiction and am thinking of using family history as a source of plots.