One of the reasons I enjoy pursuing family geneaology on Ancestry.com is that I like to think about and imagine the stories of the people I find. I know names, dates; in some cases I can see enlistment records, census data, and when very lucky, photos and items uploaded by other folks. How the people lived, what their day to day lives were like, is a mystery that the documents hint at.
For instance, various versions of the census ask where people were born, what their mother tongue was, and the same questions for their parents. Also asked are whether they are head of house or boarder, their employment, education, and in some versions, whether the person is "blind," "deaf and dumb," "idiotic," "insane," or "maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled." The last set of choices from the 1880 census. Another version uses "imbecile" and "moron" as choices. I am not making this up!
However, there's a certain amount it that must be taken with a large grain of salt. Or a barrel. For instance, I traced my great-grandfather Culbreath back to Geoffrey Chaucer. Really!? Well, I'm not going to be putting that on my resumé anytime soon. :) Because the truth is, frequently you may be going a wrong direction. You may be taking your family tree the wrong way. Someone distantly related to me pointed out that I had linked my aunt's first husband's family to a person who was listed on the census as "negro." Which is actually a pretty good joke, because I think those were probably some very bigoted people.
And, for instance, another Ancestry.com member messaged me within the system yesterday. I'd added some people who were related to her / him, and clearly NOT to my husband's supposed ancestor and his siblings, as evidenced by this message:
Rosannah Gunnell on 10 Jan 1786 swore in open court that she gave the gift of life to Daniel Gunnell, Moses Gunnell, Dicey Gunnell, Sarah Gunnell, & Saunders Gunnell, which was recorded in the minutes of the county court of Edgefield dist, South Carolina.
Nicholas & Roseannah Gunnell are not the parents of William Gunnels.
Well, okeydokey. Easy enough to delete those parents for Ken's five-times-great-grandfather. And I'm glad for the correction. But I wonder:
Why in the world did Rosannah Gunnell do that? What was the event that caused her to go to open court and swear as to who her children were? That seems very, very, very peculiar to me. Who does that? Who did that? What was up with Rosannah!?
We'll never know. But I wonder.