Sometimes, a genealogist has a branch on the tree that has been researched for years and years by other genealogists. Family histories are published. Trees are uploaded to Ancestry – some are sourced, many are not. Those trees are copied an exponential number of times to other trees. So when a beginning genealogist begins their research, there seems to be an overwhelming amount of evidence to be gleefully accepted as fact.

Then, after creating a timeline for your ancestors, there is a question about how the jump to a previous generations was proven. With a 40 year gap in the records, why does everyone believe this is the correct mother and father? How do you know that this name in the new county is the correct father? There is no marriage record to be found (well, it WAS 250 years ago, so you might think that’s not unusual), so how was the mother connected to the father? Certainly, you think, someone has proven it because it’s on the internet and in books and in newsletters. Someone has a genealogy written out by an earlier ancestor – and everything else has been proven, how could this be wrong? Is research that was done “B.I.” (before the internet) more accurate than research we can do now?

So when another researcher comes along with a totally new idea – what do you do? Ignore it and continue looking for that “missing link” document? The one that makes the connection everyone has been claiming? Or do you set aside what you’ve always believed – the line that you’ve researched for years – the line that everyone else says is true? Are you open-minded enough to try to prove this new potential line? There is an emotional attachment to people you’ve been researching for so long. Is it betrayal to put those “ancestors” in a drawer?

The new information is well documented, but in a round about way – not through your direct line. There is still no document that directly links your ancestor to the generation before, but if you are willing to believe that the most common-sense approach is to believe that neighbors were brothers who witnessed documents for one another and became surety for one another, THEN you can begin to think this new line is more believable that the line you’ve always known.

What would be the negative side to “switching lines”? People who have shared information with you in the past might write you off as someone who is trying to stir up controversy. Or, in a couple of years, you might realize that this new line cannot be right and you’ve “wasted” years of research time. Notes and databases become a mess while making “the switch”. Will it be worth it?

I think that today, I am prepared to take the leap – to make the switch – to be open-minded to the idea that someone else’s research might be a better path to follow. I’m ready to take the “road less traveled” to see where it takes me.

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