Old Wives’ Tales

My ultimate aim for all my research on the Unst Family Tree is to get it online on a webpage for all to see and peruse. I hope to be able to allow visitors to the website to upload photos and stories about their relatives to enhance the story told about each member of the tree beyond just statutory records and such.

However this idea does have possible downsides. What do you do if two different people have contradictory stories about a person? Do you only show one? How do you know which one is correct? (Answer – probably never). My solution to this issue will be to have these stories published, “as told by …”. That way all stories can be shown and the reader is aware of the source. None are considered absolute fact (as they are stories with little or no documentary evidence) and yet none are banned due to being incorrect (which cannot be proven either).

To illustrate this, I’ve made up the following example. By made up I mean that all the people in this illustration, the story tellers and the family tree person are all fictitious.

Woman SymbolJessie Anderson
b. 4 Jun 1898 in Unst, Shetland
Married Peter Sandison on 27 May 1918
Had five children

Stories about Jessie…

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Story, as told by Ursula H.

I remember my aunty Robina telling us a story of how peerie Jessie was born with red hair and green eyes, but as she grew older, her eyes changed colour to brown and so did her hair.

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Story, as told by Margaret S.

My great-grandmother Jessie was born with blonde hair and blue eyes, but by the time she reached the age of 2, her hair was brown and so were her eyes.

Clearly, these two stories are contradictory, but to omit them both because a single fact cannot be gleaned from their contradictory accounts would be to remove some interesting information about little Jessie. There is certainly an interesting story behind here somewhere, it’s just that the exact details of what may be a family legend, have been lost in the mists of time. With the “as told by …” concept we can keep both.

I wish I could claim to have thought up this idea myself, but I read about the “as told by …” concept somewhere on the web a year or two ago. If you were the author of the idea, please get in touch so I can give you the appropriate credit in this post.

This post is written as a result of the Daily Prompt Agree to Disagree

If you enjoyed this post you may also be interested to read On Bursting Bubbles and a Lesson Learned Too Late on the About Those Ancestors blog which I also enjoy reading.


8 thoughts on “Old Wives’ Tales

    • Indeed so, stories can be so varied. This idea allows you to include even stories that you 100% don’t believe, as part of the people is what stories are told about them, true or not.

  1. The “competing” stories concept is a very good idea. I am sure anybody with much experience of family history reaearch (not me) will be familiar with this situation, the “myth” passed down the generations, eg the number of men who supposedly joined up for WW1 under-age, who weren’t actually. As you say, Morag, we will probably never know the truth of the situation when this sort of thing happens.

    • Indeed so Larry – and the more I do the more I realise quite how ambitious!! Still, the journey is fun, so I will enjoy it no matter how long it takes to reach the end goal.

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