Since my time doing genealogy, I have had some of the best experiences of my life. I’ve learned a plethora of new things about my family, I’ve met new family members I never knew about, my DNA revealed things I’d been wondering about and through teaching genealogy, I’ve been able to share my passion and zeal for family history and research with a multitude of people in my community. Genealogy has been truly rewarding for me again and again.
But….. (isn’t there always a but?) ….there really IS a dark side to genealogy, and particularly, I find it worse on Ancestry than any other other site currently. I think this is probably due to the fact that so many people have come to Ancestry lately because of its ease of use and because of the DNA testing. So there are all these people on Ancestry and not all of them are well-versed in genealogy. They copy trees carelessly, take records found on there without question, never compare various sources or verifying the information and they truly believe that what’s written is just automatically correct.
I had a woman reach out to me about my “incorrect” family tree to the point of downright harassment. I really can’t call it anything but that. Her initial contact was about my great-uncle Cecil Lemaster, asking if I knew him. I personally did not have a relationship with Cecil as I was 11 when he died but my dad DID know him. In fact, my dad has Cecil as his middle name and Cecil was very close with my grandpa. This woman (who was not related to us in any way, shape or form) proceeded to tell me that my tree was wrong and that my great-grandma Laura Grim Lemaster was not the mother to my great-grandfather, William Arby Lemaster’s, three youngest children. After much back and forth, her argument was that Laura Grim Lemaster was too ill to have had children and that another woman, named Unice, had given birth to Cecil (and likely the other young ones) but that Laura raised the children as her own until she died.
I’m always willing to hear someone out – that’s how you learn and meet new extended family members after all. I’ll happily answer questions, share pictures and help you with details if I can. It’s also why I write here about my family. So little has been written about my Lemaster side so when I *do* find something worth sharing, I’m glad to pass it along to others. My cousin Gail and I (who I recently wrote about) share discoveries with each other all the time. I’m not hording information on my family to keep it away from others. That said though, if you get nasty with me, well… good luck to you because game on. And this lady, she did get extremely rude and crude with me so I set out to prove her wrong. I ordered Cecil death record and I’m waiting on his birth record to come any day now.
Some back story, Laura Grim Lemaster DID have a long term illness. It’s in her obituary plain as day, stating that she suffered for seven years before passing in 1926. Her death certificate confirms she died of tuberculosis and that she suffered for seven years. Laura had several children, her youngest being born in 1920, my grandfather Curtis was born in 1918 and Cecil was born in 1916. So, let’s do some math. If Laura had been ill for seven years and she died in 1926, that means she was ill beginning about 1919, well AFTER Cecil was born in 1916, after my grandfather Curtis was born in 1918 and about the time the youngest daughter Marjorie was born in 1920.
When I pointed this out to the lady, she said I was just all wrong. How, you might be wondering? Her argument was that the Kentucky Birth Index, 1911-1999 has Cecil’s mother listed as Unice Clevinger. (pictured above) When I pointed out to the woman that she was looking at the index and not the actual birth certificate – that it could have easily been indexed wrong by someone who either transcribed it wrong, skipped a line when typing in, etc. I mean, it happens! She, however, disagreed. When I pointed out that in 1930, after Laura’s death, Cecil goes to live with his half-brother, Rennie Borders, Laura’s son from her first marriage. If Cecil wasn’t Laura’s son, after her death why would he go live with someone who WASN’T his half-brother then? Why does Cecil’s death certificate list Laura Grim as his mother? Why does my grandfather’s marriage and death certificate have Laura as his mom? Why do their obituaries list her as their mother?
None of this made any difference to this woman and she continued to berate me while producing no piece of evidence to show that this alternative mom was real. She had not one piece aside from an INDEX that she found on Ancestry. When I asked her if she’d sent away for the actual birth record, she said ‘no’ because he wasn’t her relative and she didn’t need it. My mind was just blown. Not related, no proof, had not seen the actual birth record… nothing… but I was completely “wrong and ignorant” according to this lady.
I hope you have never had this experience but if you do, please know, that these are rare interactions and that not everyone is as crude as this lady was to me. Genealogy isn’t perfect and you do have to look at all the pieces. It’s like a puzzle. You can’t pick up just one piece and call it a done deal. You have to put it all together and make sure it all matches. That’s the problem with public trees… sometimes they’re chock full of bad records that don’t belong there. But it’s not all bad and there are multitudes of wonderful things you can learn and discover on Ancestry through public trees. There really are wonderful relatives who want to talk to you and share what they’ve learned with you. So please, if you have this happen to you, please shrug it off. There are just some people who are nasty to be nasty and if you’re their target, I’m sorry.