"If you can't get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance"
-George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I'm Feeling Inspired

I was cleaning in my desk yesterday and I came across Murphy's Law for Genealogists.  A fun, but all to often true, list of the  obstacles that we frequently face as genealogists.  This inspired me to start writing about them and discussing ways to overcome these in one's research.
Here's Murphy's Laws:
Murphy's Laws of Genealogy

The records you need for your family history were in the courthouse that burned.
John, son of Thomas, the immigrant whom your relatives claim as immigrant ancestor, died on board ship at the age of twelve.
The public ceremony in which your distinguished ancestor participated when the platform collapsed turned out to be a hanging.
Records show that the grandfather, whom the family boasted, "He read the Bible at four years and graduated from college at sixteen," was at the foot of his class.
Your grandmother's maiden name for which you've searched for years was on an old letter in abox in the attic all the time.
When at last you have solved the mystery of the skeleton in the closet the tight-lipped spinster Aunt claimed, "I could have told you that all the time."
You never asked your father about his family because you weren't interested in genealogy while he was alive.
The family story your grandmother wrote for the family never got past the typist. She packed it away "somewhere" and promised to send you a copy, but never did.
The relative who had all the family photographs gave them to her daughter who had no interest in genealogy and no inclination to share.
A great-uncle changed his surname because he was teased in school. He moved away, left no address, and was never heard from again.
Brittle old newspapers containing the information you desired have fallen apart on the names and dates and places.
The only record you find for your great-grandfather is that his property was sold at a sheriff's sale for insolvency.
The portion of the index you need is continued in the next issue, only the publisher died prior to publication.
When you find the obituary for your grandmother, the information is garbled. Her name is exchanged with her daughter's, the whereabouts of her sons is unknown, the date for her father's birth indicates he was younger than she was.
The vital records director sends you a negative reply, having just been insulted by a creep calling himself a genealogist.

The document containing evidence of the missing link in your research invariably will be lost due to fire, flood, or war.

Your great, great, grandfather's obituary states the he died, leaving no issue of record.

The town clerk you wrote to in desperation, and finally convinced to give you the information you need, can't write legibly and doesn't have a copying machine.

The will you need is in the safe on board the "Titanic."

The spelling of your European ancestor's name bears no relationship to its current spelling or pronunciation.

That ancient photograph of four relatives, one of whom is your progenitor, carries the names of the other three.

Copies of old newspapers have holes which occur only on last names.

No one in your family tree ever did anything noteworthy, always rented property, was not sued, and was never named in wills.

You learned that great aunt Matilda's executor just sold her life's collection of family genealogical materials to a flea market dealer "somewhere in New York City."

Yours is the ONLY last name not found among the 3 billion in the world-famous Mormon archives in Salt Lake City.

Ink fades and paper deteriorates at a rate inversely proportional to the value of the data recorded.

The 37-volume, sixteen-thousand-page history of your country of origin ISN'T INDEXED.

The critical link in your family tree is named "Smith."- - - - - - - -

Your families never had attics, much less Bibles or boxes full of photos.

All real library "finds" are made five minutes before closing, when the copier is broken.

The correctly shelved books and correctly filed forms are never the ones you need.

The person sitting next to you at the research center is finding ancestors every five minutes...and telling you.

The e-mail address that bounces is the one from a person who listed your exact names. If you find a working address, you aren't related.

Your microfilm reader is the one that squeaks, has to be turned backwards, and doesn't quite focus.

Your cemeteries have no caretaker or records archive.

Alternate spellings and arcane names were your folks' favorite past times.

Your ancestors only knew three names, and used them over and over in every collateral line.

Your sister neglects to mention that the date she gave you, which you have researched, and sent to other researchers, was just a guess with no foundation, and she guessed because she "didn't like leaving that line blank."

Your mother neglects to mention that,"Oh, yes, we knew they changed their name.

The blot on the page of the census covers your grandmother's birth date!

The only overturned, face-down gravestone in the cemetery is your great-great grandfather's!

You finally find your ancestor's obituary in an old newspaper and all it says is "Died last week."

You finally get a day off from work to travel to a courthouse -- and when you get there it's closed for emergency plumbing repairs.

Over the next few weeks I will be working through these with some depth of though and some research on how to overcome when Murphy shows up to help you and me with our genealogy research!
For now, have a good laugh and a cup of tea and enjoy!
Happy Hunting!

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