Family genealogy – an inexact, exact science

Published 8:16 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Some of us, who have a calling to research many areas of history, can sometimes cringe when confronted by an ultra-dedicated, family genealogist.

The cringe can increase in intensity when two or more genealogists are members of the same family. Rarely do family genealogists agree on a large number of names, dates or facts within a given family. This is due, most likely, because each genealogist approaches fact gathering from a different standpoint.

While one relies heavily on Census reports, others prefer beginning with family Bibles, oral histories handed down for generations or tombstones. All of these contain inaccuracies, but most genealogists will insist their source is the more legitimate.

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A case in point is the family of Alexander Lafayette “Fate” Campbell, who was covered in the recent tale of Campbell’s Covered Bridge being named in his honor.

It was stated that he had nine children by his first wife and seven by his second (I neglected to remember several who died in infancy). I was immediately contacted by three genealogists who had different numbers of children for both wives.

After consulting two definitive family trees—including a collaborative effort of more than 20 genealogists, covering 11 generations of descendants of Thomas Campbell Sr. from 1715 in Argyllshire, Scotland — the correct number of children for “Fate” and his first wife was 13 and eight for his second wife — a total of 21.