As I contemplate the immediate direction I want my family history research to take, I’m torn. Part of me wants to start by verifying all the facts I’ve seen online by finding primary documents or other documents I can use for verification. But the other part of me wants to know the stories. I want to try to get to know these ancestors and figure out how they lived.
I’ve been led to believe that some of my ancestors crossed the Atlantic ocean on the Mayflower. Others lived in the wilds of Kentucky and hung out with Daniel Boone. Another helped settle New Amsterdam. This is interesting stuff. I want to learn more about it and perhaps write about it.
But that feels like putting the cart before the horse. Sure I can get the thrill of learning how my ancestors lived, but if I don’t verify the data, will I know they’re really my ancestors? Does that really matter?
I’ve decided that the right thing for me to do is to work on verifying data, via primary sources and census records. I like the investigative nature of tracking down documents. And I do care that the stories that I’ll eventually be learning about are truly for my ancestors.
In a way, though, I can do both. I don’t have to verify every ancestor before starting to learn the rich facts about the lives of ancestors I do verify. It’s starting to feel clearer. I’ll start researching the most recent generations, verifying facts and when I’ve worked my way back to someone particularly interesting, I can stop and start digging into their story, if I want.
Ah, that feels like a good plan.