Who Said So?

For the longest time I used a quote attributed to C.S. Lewis on my e-mail signature without questioning it. C.S. Lewis doesn’t appear to have ever said or written those words anywhere still in the historical record. I should have known better.

Early on in my investigations a cousin of mine, Olive Margaret Batcher, cautioned me that, although the internetĀ can be your friend, it can often be a false friend. I’ve noticed many family trees which consistently contain the same common error and it’s apparent that folks have simply been copying trees from one another without checking them. I understood how Robert E. Babb, Penny Kilgore, and even Jean Sargent, could perpetuate an error; they were working with perhaps hundreds of index cards, many with common names. (Every household of my Babb family had at least one Kellett Babb in it for awhile but the first one was probably not born to a long-deceased father and aging mother.)

Feel free to call me out on it, but I’ve tried to do a better job of citing my source material since I started my web pages. It’s not perfect because, in my experience, there don’t always seem to be reliable sources. Finding early information on my ancestors with Huntingtons has been and may remain an impenetrable brick wall. I need to do my best to vet information before I put it out where people will probably copy and paste it as gospel into their family trees. Not entirely sure why I owe that to them, but I owe it to myself.

Why I “Do” Genealogy

I’ve mentioned before that I had a genealogist in the family, but my incentive to start digging was a sense of my own mortality. My parents separated when I was fifteen months old, and my mother moved us from Henry County, Georgia, back to Rock Island County, Illinois, shortly thereafter. One result of that was my total ignorance of half of my family medical history. Once I had the time and opportunity to do some sleuthing (thanks to the internet and my first Family Tree Maker program) it became more and more like eating really good potato chips.

It started with medical history: my father died of liver failure (good to know), and my surviving aunt told me that my paternal grandfather also had a bad liver although that didn’t kill him. Now I pay much more attention to possible liver damage when it’s mentioned among the side effects of drugs.

Next I thought to follow my Y chromosome a little further back, and found many of the nuts-and-bolts facts back to my 2nd great-grandfather, Colville Babb, and was introduced to the work of Jean Sargent and Robert E. Babb, among many others, who did this stuff before computers and went clear back to Phillip Babb when he was the harbor master on Hog Island in the Isles of Shoals in the 1600s. They did this stuff before computers! They crawled through church records and court houses and kept track of it all with note cards! Yeah, Robert said that Joseph’s youngest son was born in 1791, years after Joseph was dead, but he was doing this stuff with note cards!

I found that my great uncle Claude was killed in Belleau Wood serving with the 1st Bn. of the 5th Marines. I’ve deployed twice with elements of 1/5! Plus, Claude was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French before he fell!

I found that those two little girls in Colville’s family after the war were Thomas’ daughters. Thomas didn’t survive the war, and his wife remarried but then died in childbirth and the girls were returned to his family. One of them married my great-grandmother’s brother.

I also found that another great-granduncle was a medic during the war, and I’m a retired medic.

Where does one stop? When does one stop asking the next question? I have no idea; I’m still digging. I’m still finding stuff about my maternal grandfather (adopted by his stepfather but inherited Huntingtons from his biological father) and adding what I can to the work on my mother’s family; and I’ve barely started on my father’s famly.


A Low-Key Celebration of Sorts

Not a huge fan of self-congratulatory posts; but just found out this blog has been added to Cyndi’s List, and that’s kind of a big deal to me.

When I first started poking around in genealogy I had the opportunity to sit in while my cousin, Olive Batcher, interviewed my motherĀ about her recollections as the sole surviving child of my grandmother for her book, Hill-Wallace Family History. Olive came with boxes of photographs (Mom shared some of hers, too). They talked for hours, and Olive carefully sourced and identified everything.

Later, I met Olive in Ames, Iowa, and we drove up to Story County, Iowa, where she walked me through the genealogical section of their library in Nevada looking for Washburns and Stemlers. Again, she emphasized the importance of sourcing, ideally from primary data. Not a fan at all of internet genealogy, she cautioned me against relying on anything that I hadn’t carefully checked myself for accuracy.

She also mentioned another genealogist she had heard speak at a gathering of genealogists a few years ealier: Jean Sargent. Jean, of course, had coincidentally written Babb Families of America, so I had one role model recommending the other to me.

I am conscious, especially when posting anywhere for the public, of the potential for misinformation, and I do try to source as much from primary documents as possible. It’s not that I care about being correct for the folks copying from my trees, but that I don’t want to be an embarrassment to Jean or to Olive, or to misinform the people I hope will use my trees to inform themselves about their families.

Don’t know if they just read my blog or my trees or what, but now I’m on Cyndi’s List; and I take that for what it’s worth, and will try not to embarrass anyone.

A Couple of Odds & Ends

Just a few words about some things that seem to pop up in many families starting out on genealogy:

I noticed then, as my former sister-in-law has since, that her mother’s paternal grandfather changed his name and location a few times before he ever got to America. He lived very near the border between Poland and Belarus; so near, in fact, that on successive census reports he appeared to move from Poland to Belarus and back again.

All of her great-grandparents were immigrants, and all had their names changed at the Port of Entry either by will or the pen of whomever recorded their entry. I have also noted that many names are spelled differently from accounting to accounting. It occurs to me that many of our ancestors were not what we’d call literate; they might have had no more idea of how to spell their names than the census taker whose best guess made it into the historical record.

We have the family name of Kellett, or Kellet. The last name is usually recorded as Kellett; but, when it’s a first name, it varies between the two spellings from person to person and from census to census. My mother’s maternal grandmother’s name is commonly presented as Adelaide; but, when she was the enumerator in 1910, it was Adalaide. My maternal grandfather’s name was said to be Laurence, but his military records and a signature I’ve found indicate it was Lawrence. (No worries, son; you were named as much for your uncle, Porky, as for your great-grandfather.)

The issue of potentially embarrassing stories: I have at least two. I had no idea that the Babb family held slaves; however, at that time, I knew next to nothing about the Babb family. The other, on my mother’s side, was that we had always been led to believe that our Wallace ancestors were Scots (possibly from William Wallace), and they were, in fact, not; they were apparently Hessian (Wallis), and that branch of the family spent a generation or two up in Canada after the Revolutionary War before coming back as Wallaces.

That’s it for today, I think.