how many generations have you gone back?
January 26, 2014
Over the years, I have researched many of my lines, paternal and maternal sides. Some lines are much easier to research than others are. I have one line only back to 1810. I just cannot find the proof on this line any further back. On another line, the Brown line no less, I can only prove back to 1860. Other lines are rather easy to research, and proof abounds.
A few of those lines go back into the 1600s in England, Cornwall and France. Several of my ancestors who came to America in the 1600s were descended from royalty and were landed gentry. That fact opens up research back several centuries connecting to Charlemagne. I submitted documented proof to the Charlemagne lineage society to solidify my research and was accepted into the society.
When I was in Cornwall, I took my husband’s line back to about 1535 in the vital records and church documents available in the Cornwall Record Office (CRO). By using the history books at the CRO, I was able to trace the Kellow line back a couple more centuries. Those early histories even talked about the home and grounds they lived on. We followed the directions from the histories and were pleasantly surprised when we reached the top of a hill and beyond was the home place. It looked very much like the drawing in the history books. Although very old, it had been well kept over the centuries, had a fresh coat of paint and farm animals in manicured fields. They still call it “Kellow Farm.”
Researchers must understand that although I used the ancient Cornish history books to go back further than the vital records and other court and church documents at CRO, the words in the history books are the only proof I have. There is no other documentation or proof for that time. However, the directions did lead to a Kellow farm and house that looked like the drawing.
So how do some genealogists claim to go back to biblical times and even Adam and Eve? Internationally acclaimed genealogist Michael Leclerc declared in his Genealogy News blog, www.Mocavo.com, that there just is not documentation available because of the “wide-ranging gaps. In addition, leaps of six or seven hundred years are not exactly conducive to quality work. Stick to documentable facts and do your research and you will have ancestors that you can reliably prove to share with your family.”
Leclerc is not the only one that disclaims earlier research into biblical times. Other acclaimed genealogists say similar things. There have been some recent discussions as to how far one can trace their lines because on the FamilySearch trees some lines have gone back to Adam and Eve. Even the Family History Library professional researchers and FamilySearch research specialists place limits on tracing family histories earlier than 500 A.D. as impossible and probably made-up. FamilySearch Blog author Nathan W. Murphy writes about his thoughts in the blog at https://familysearch.org/blog/en/family-tree-adam-eve/.
Robert C. Gunderson, Senior Royalty Research Specialist of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote an article in The Ensign Magazine, February 1984, called connecting to biblical times as impossible. Francois Weil, author of Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America published this year, agrees with Leclerc and Gunderson that it is impossible to connect to families before 500 A.D.
Gary T. Horlacher wrote an article in 2001 in ProGenealogists explaining the difficulties and impossibilities of researching further back, especially those claiming to connect with Adam and Eve. You can access this at www.progenealogists.com/greatbritain/medievalgenealogy.htm.
I do not know why FamilySearch.org does not remove the inaccurate genealogies on their site, but I must say that many lineage societies approved some family lines until later research disproved them. They closed those lines until further proof could be submitted. Maybe FamilySearch will do the same. Anyone can make a mistake.
Don’t be a “gatherer,” be a genealogist/family historian who “proves” he/she can connect to each person every step of the way. If you still doubt researching earlier than 500 A. D., read what limits the scholars put on the likely number of generations. Some say it might be possible to actually document to 500, but really only proof exists in the vital records available through 1500. Please read these. I have also covered this topic in past Tracing Our Roots columns. Remember, do not just gather, demand proof.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org.