|Oliver Hartwell Cook|
and his wife Clarissa Quincy
Another family tradition said the Oliver Hartwell Cook was born in Oswego Co., New York. He eventually migrated to San Diego Co., California, where he was mentioned in a history book as having been born in Oswego Co. So I began a search for his father in Oswego Co. I gathered information on every Cook family in that county and didn’t find a single clue. Eventually, someone said to me, “You know Oswego and Otsego sound a lot alike and have been confused before. Why don’t you try looking in Otsego Co.?” I did and I found his father immediately! Here is a case where a family tradition got into print and, as a beginner, I thought anything in print must be true. So I went off on a “wild goose chase” that could have been avoided if I had looked at the census index for the entire state of New York instead of looking only in Oswego Co. for Ralph Cook.
There are some very popular categories of family traditions that very often prove to be untrue. Here are a few of them:
DESCENT FROM A FAMOUS PERSON. It is particularly popular to claim descent from a United States President or from European royalty. If your family makes such a claim, look out! There are a whole bunch of bogus genealogies in print that claim various American immigrants are descended from English royalty – and most of them are unproven and untrue. Use caution when trying to prove a royal descent.
|Jobje "Dollie" Van Buren|
daughter of Martin
As far as descent from a US President is concerned, I can give another example from my family that will make the point. I have an ancestor named Martin Van Buren. He was related to President Martin Van Buren. My branch of the family never claimed that he was the President but, sometime after I had his lineage all proven and had even joined the DAR on his service, I received some family records from another branch of the family. These records showed birth and death dates for him that I knew were not correct. On a hunch, I looked up the birth and death dates of President Martin Van Buren and, you guessed it, they were his dates. Families just love the idea of being descended from someone famous!
DESCENT FROM A NATIVE AMERICAN. This is another popular one -- in fact, it seems to be growing in popularity. Many people will claim it without a shred of proof. If your family tells you that you are descended from an American Indian, don’t accept it until it is proven. The fact is, there weren’t all that many intermarriages back in the early days, not nearly enough to account for all the people who claim such descent.
DESCENT FROM THREE BROTHERS. For some reason, there are an excessive number of stories where a family claims that three (not two or four) brothers immigrated and the family descends from one of them. No one knows why three brothers are more popular than another number. All I can say is that you shouldn’t assume that any persons were brothers without proof. Even if three (or another number) men of the same surname arrive in a town at the same time, you cannot assume that they are brothers.
DESCENT FROM A HESSIAN SOLDIER WHO CAME DURING THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. It seems that many people of German descent make this claim, whether or not it is true. If you believe you have German ancestry, you need to do some research to find out who the Hessian soldiers were. Not every German who came, even if he came during the Revolution, was a Hessian soldier. There are records both here and in Germany that can be used to find out if your ancestor was a Hessian soldier. Don’t assume it without proof.
These are just some of the popular categories and examples that come to mind – enough to give you the idea, I’m sure. I recommend that you enjoy those family traditions that you can prove and be quick to let go of those that you can’t.