Friday, August 26, 2011

Jumping to Conclusions (Part II)

Ok, still with me... ?

I've just turned the car around and headed back to the hotel. You see I was thinking about that piece of metallic strip I had run over in the parking lot. When I was taping up the window I noticed the at the silver strip around the window was missing....could it be????

I got back to the hotel parking lot and looked closely at that metallic strip all bent up and laying pathetically on the ground. Yep, it was mine.

Ok...rewind...if the metallic strip is mine, and was at the hotel when I left...ooops....that nice young man at the gas station could not be the terrible vandal I took him for. ....OOOPS

Oh dear. Not only did I feel terribly guilty for assuming that poor man was guilty of some crime. I was terribly chagrined and embarrassed by my behavior. (have I mentioned I'm Cajun? We do Banshee, anger and guilt very well)

So now I drove home kicking my self for jumping to the conclusion that the nice young man, who only wanted to help, was some sort of criminal.

At the same time I'm feeling pretty stupid...I had not for one moment stopped to ask myself, "how could someone have broken my window in broad daylight at a busy gas station without anyone noticing?"

But you see, (in defense of my stupidity) I had not seen the broken window when I pumped the gas or when I checked out my car the evening the break in actually happened. There for I also had jumped to the conclusion of WHEN IT MUST HAVE HAPPENED.

Then, as I was driving across the deserts of Arizona my mind started to wander (it does that a lot...not just in the desert) and I started to think of blog posts. I wanted to tell the story of my brush with crime, but I needed it to have a "genealogy hook." Was there a genealogy lesson to be learned from all of this? YES! Jumping to conclusions. We do it all the time in genealogy.

Yes we do. Stop and think about it.

Have you ever determined a marriage date from the birth date of the oldest child? Have you ever said, "our name wasn't spelled that way." (come on, be honest now...even when you were brand new to this wonderful world of genealogy?) Have you ever thought to yourself that your ancestor must have died before 1880 because you just can't find them in the census of 1880 anywhere? Have you stopped looking because you have "searched everywhere?" Have you ever taken someone else's word that so and so was born/died on such and such date? Did you assume that daughter-in-law meant the same thing "then" as it means now? Have you ever seen two men one with the title Jr. and the other with Sr. and decided they must be father and son? Or like me...lose a child between census records and decide they must have died in childhood? Then you too have jumped to conclusions.

Granted we hope that as we become more experienced in our research we will do this less and less, but every once and a while our enthusiasm for the thrill of discovery can override our cautionary natures. Face it...Sometimes it is boring to check and re-check every detail. To dig deeper and deeper to uncover the original so that we might know the truth of the matter.

If I had let AAA come and fix my window I would never have noticed the silver strip missing. (Read: If I let others tell me what they found without checking the sources I'll never see the mistakes.)
If I had not remembered the silver metallic strip in the hotel parking lot I would not have gone back there and discovered my mistake. (Read: If I don't analyze the data and compare facts by checking and rechecking I don't arrive at the truth.)

So yes, even an attempted robbery can teach me something about genealogy. What have you learned today.

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