Family Legends: Helpful or Hurtful?

Most families have a legend of some ancestor in the tree. Perhaps they were famous or related to someone famous. Or perhaps they were infamous for some reason. Whatever they were, these interesting individuals are often the spark that sets off your genealogy search.

In some cases, there is a degree of truth imbedded in the family legend. In others, you will drive yourself crazy trying to prove the legend, only to find that you've spent months researching a flight of fancy.

We have several family legends in my family. I grew up with stories how the women in my family always outlive the men. One story in particular was always mentioned-the ancestor that was married eight times and outlived every husband. After two years of digging into that legend with no success, I'm about ready to consider it debunked. Of the eight husbands she supposedly had, I can only find two. I will say that the story about how she met her last husband (met in a nursing home and eloped) appears to be true.

Another family legend has it that one of my great great great grandparents was a full-blooded Indian. I've did a lot of research into it. The only reference I found to the possibility was a distant cousin posting to a message board about the same family legend that they were also trying to prove.

In researching my Bolling line, I came across another family legend. This one states that we were descended from Pocahontas. Unlike my other family legends, this one actually turned out to be true. The granddaughter of Pocahontas, Jane Rolfe, married Colonel Robert Bolling. 

What family legends do you have in your family? Have you been able to prove them? What new legend have you found in your research?


  • Tracy says:
    May 26, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    I have a few including that we are related to Daniel Boone (don't think this one is true) or that we are descended from Peter Brown of the Mayflower (we may descend from another Peter Brown who came a few years later - still working on this one). There is one about an ancestor being on the street the day the James Gang rode into Northfield, Minnesota. Not sure if I will ever be able to prove this one, but my family did live in Northfield at the time. And of course, there is that one about Charlemagne.....

    Family legends are often what gets people started and then they become hooked. That's how it worked for me.

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