Last week’s survey asked readers if they had ever debunked a family myth. About 70% had, and several readers shared their stories.
Mary Brochu of Hardwick, Vermont:
I was always told that my great-grandmother left her husband, took their ten kids, and immigrated to the U.S. from Canada at the turn of the century. She settled in Vermont and died of pneumonia a few years later — leaving children ranging in age from five to eighteen alone. The younger children were "farmed out" to relatives and neighbors while the older boys lived in boarding houses. Imagine my surprise when I was browsing the 1900 census and found the entire family — father, mother, children, and grandmother — all living in Vermont in the same house! When I approached my mother's cousin with this information, she insisted that it was wrong, that the father never came to the U.S. I even showed her the mother's obituary stating that the entire family came from Canada in 1899. My cousin never believed that the father ever came to the U.S. with his family — until her dying day!
Jennifer Thurber Willis of Cincinnati, Ohio:
I have debunked more than a few family myths in the ten years since I began researching our family, and nobody is too happy about it! Especially the myth — apparently believed by many descendants — that early New Jersey settler Albrecht Zabriskie was descended from the noble Sobieski family of Poland. (My grandmother wrote an article that was published in the Paramus, N.J., newspaper in 1925 containing this "fact.") Also, it turns out our Thurbers did not have a firearm business with Ethan Allen's family — instead an Ethan Allen possibly completely unrelated to THE Ethan Allen did have a gun manufacturing business with another branch of the Thurber family in the 19th century. But these and other “losses” have been offset with new discoveries so, all in all, I would say we are about even.