Zim’s Venture into Family Genealogy
I was invited to attend a Daughters of the American Revolution meeting after being introduced to a “daughter” at a wedding a few months ago. Having dabbled in family history, I thought it would be interesting to attempt to trace my lineage. At this point, what’s another hobby! As most of you History By Zim followers probably know by now, my ideas of “hobbies” are the equivalent of snowballs rolling down a mountain – it can easily get out of hand! Heck this website was a “hobby” until I decided to add new content every day, expand the categories and branch out into social media (three social platforms to be exact, because obviously only one would not suffice). History By Zim has turn into a part-time job – albeit an extremely fun and satisfying job – but no longer a hobby sort of job.
I digress. My sister decided it was vital for us (aka me) to sign up for various genealogy websites. Might as well use the endless barrel of information that is the internet to our advantage, she thought. We decided to start with the family branch we know dates back to the Revolution in case we apply to the Daughters of the American Revolution.
On certain websites it can be very easy to trace various family lines if they go back far enough. I knew the end of the line (me) and I knew the beginning, my 10th Great Grandfather who came to the Colony of Virginia from England around 1650. It was linking the middle that would determine whether or not my laptop gets thrown against the wall in frustration.
On October 27, 1674 Nathaniel Bacon signed a promissory note to landowner Thomas Ballard, my 10th Great-Grandfather. Bacon, a recent arrival from England, agreed to pay Ballard 500 pounds sterling over the course of two years for a plantation. Two years later, Bacon would lead the Bacon’s Rebellion, the first rebellion in the American colonies in which discontented colonists initiated. Bacon and his rebels kidnapped my 10th Great Grandmother Anne, Thomas’ wife, and other wives of the Governor’s highest officials. Photo Credit: Library of Virginia/Encyclopedia Virginia
Luckily, or so I first thought, there were other website members with family trees that connected to my colonial ancestor. A few clicks of the mouse and a whole morning and mid-afternoon later my tree was just about complete. Then it hit me. As a historian, whose education taught the importance of tedious attention to detail, it seemed too easy. I carefully began to dissect the tree.
With a moan and a groan later I realized I had one James too many. Somewhere in my genealogy-induced haze and a speedy fast finger, I added an additional James to my family tree. Not only that, but the added James is stuck between two other James’ and now I don’t know which James is which! I know that one James is supposed to be James Sr. and the other James Jr. but which James is the Sr. and which is the Jr. and which is the entirely wrong James??! Oh the horror of the headache this “James Calamity” – as it will forever be known in history – has caused me!
Looking back, I should have known earlier that the easiness was a bit suspect. While these family tree websites seem like a great idea and promise you a quick and easy ancestry tree, they have to be used with discretion. You can’t completely rely on other related family trees no matter how correct they seem. While I am not going to press the delete button on my “one James too many” tree just yet, because I know some of it to be true, instead I am going to use it as a flexible outline for the future. A future that will involve dusty archives, muddy graveyards, misspelled names and a few laptops against the wall. In the sake of finding out the history and lives of my ancestors that future is worth the time and sacrifice…whether my bank account agrees is a separate issue.
If any of you genealogists out there have any tips or advice, please let me know!