Saturday, June 8, 2019

2019 #52Ancestors: Week 6 - "Surprise"

For this week's theme of "Surprise," I have a story that should be read as a cautionary tale to all genealogists, be they young or old, new or experienced. When I first began my genealogy research in 2010, I was unfamiliar with many of the sources that researchers use to find and confirm their connections. I was young and new to the field, and I foolishly took the word of other researchers as gospel because I figured that they knew better than I did. So when I found an Ancestry tree that listed Alexander Kidd and Mahalia Adeline Slinker as the parents for my great-great-grandmother, Nancy Kidd, I accepted it as truth, added it to my tree, and moved on. And I was happy to do so, considering that one line of Mahalia Slinker's ancestry connected to a noble gateway ancestor, which led that line all the way back to the Norman Invasion in 1066.

My great-great-grandmother, Nancy Kidd.
A year or two ago I decided that I was going to try to go through all of my leaf hints on Ancestry (an endeavor that I soon realized was overwhelming in a tree containing thousands of people). Starting with the most recent generations and working my way backward, I soon arrived at Nancy Kidd. While looking through her leaf hints, I quickly realized that something was very wrong. All of the records I was coming across were listing James Kidd and Delilah Turley as her parents, not Alexander Kidd and Mahalia Slinker. After looking at the census, birth, death, and newspaper records, I had to conclude that the researcher whose work I had consulted was wrong. Alexander and Mahalia Slinker Kidd did indeed have a daughter named Nancy, but their Nancy Kidd did not marry Morris Midkiff and become the mother of eight children, including my great-grandmother, Louise Midkiff Hudson. My Nancy Kidd was indeed the daughter of James Kidd and Delilah Turley.

After kicking myself for awhile and mourning the loss of a line that went all the way back to 1066, I set out to research my newly-found 3rd-great-grandparents and their ancestry. As it happened, James Kidd's line ended up going back to a noble gateway ancestor as well, so I didn't lose that noble and royal ancestry after all. I found a fellow researcher's tree on RootsWeb that was actually well-researched and thoroughly sourced (unlike the fateful tree that I followed so blindly), which took some lines of the tree well past the year 1000AD. I am still in the process of verifying and adding all of this valuable information to my own tree, and I regularly find names that I recognize from English history.

Nancy Kidd's obituary. She
is referred to as "Mrs
Meyers" because she had
remarried to Joseph Meyers
in 1911.
During my frantic research to confirm Nancy's true parentage, I also found a surprise that was not as pleasant as having a whole new line of ancestors to find. I found a newspaper article and an obituary that told an incredibly sad tale of how Nancy passed away. On December 10, 1935, Nancy was walking down the sidewalk on MacCorkle Avenue in her hometown of Charleston, WV when she saw her son walking on the other side of the street. She began to walk across the street to greet him when she was suddenly struck by a car. The car was driven by her grandson-in-law, George Tilgham. Tilgham said that he did not have time to stop, as he was only a few yards away from Nancy when she suddenly stepped into the street. He was arrested and charged with manslaughter, but I was unable to find any records that tell us whether he was convicted or acquitted. Nancy suffered some broken bones and lacerations as well as severe shock, and was rushed to Kanawha Valley Hospital where she unfortunately passed away about 40 minutes later. She was laid to rest at Mount Joy Cemetery, where several members of her family are also buried.

This whole experience, while nearly causing me to have an ulcer when discovered, made me grow significantly as a genealogist. I learned to never take someone else's work at face value, especially if they do not have sources to back up their work. And even if they do have sources, it is still advisable to independently verify everything, just to make sure. Genealogy is a science, and as such it must be based on evidence; without evidence, the work is meaningless.

So let this be a lesson to you: surprises in genealogy can be a good thing, but none of us want surprises that are the result of shoddy research. Don't do what I did - verify, verify, verify!

~ ~ ~

My descent from Nancy Kidd is as follows:

Nancy Kidd (1854 - 1935)
2nd great-grandmother

Louise Midkiff (1884 - 1971)
Daughter of Nancy Kidd

Edna Josephine Hudson (1921 - 2011)
Daughter of Louise Midkiff

Joseph Wayne Kessinger (1958 - )
Son of Edna Josephine Hudson

Allison Quinn Kessinger
You are the daughter of Joseph Wayne Kessinger

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