First we need to define "family tradition" in regard to genealogy. Here, we are not discussing customs or lifestyles. We are talking about family stories that have been passed from one generation to the next. And like the game "telephone" where a player whispers a short message to the person next to them and that person passes the message to the next down the line to the last person who tells the group what the message is... which is usually way different than the original! Family traditions like most undocumented information if originally based on some sort of facts which can be helpful in our research. It can give us a theory to verify the story. Occasionally, we get something from another researcher that states "family tradition says," when in actuality, the information is a non-documented statement that the origin is totally unknown and did not get passed down from family members. Thus, it is of even lesser value than family tradition might be.
How many of us have a family tradition that there is Native American blood in our ancestry? My mother's mother's family often spoke about our family having Indian ancestors. No one could tell me on which branch or who was Native American or any other clues that could help me research the facts. After years of researching all of these lines back as far as I could go... I did not find anything that suggested any connection to Native Americans. However, one day I did discover a connection in a story in an early history book that stated some of my ancestors being massacred by a renegade tribe of Indians. A woman and her children were kidnapped with some being brutally murdered including a young baby. The woman and one daughter were my direct ancestors. Could it be that my family passed down a story of this horrible tragedy that over the generations turned around to embrace Native Americans as family? Several years later, I learned of a branch of this same family had applied for a claim for Native American's benefits with some facts in the application that made it seem very probable that there was Native American ancestors. So it seems that the family tradition had some merit after all and now I know where it comes from.
Family traditions generally contain partial truths that are vague and often mixed-up with missing facts and the source of how the tradition began. Often these stories are passed along because of vanity to connect with someone famous. I suspect every WEST in the United States has a story of how they are related to Lord De La Warr (Thomas West)... a Colonial Governor. There is a state & river named for him - Delaware! The Delaware Indians were named indirectly for him. They called themselves "Lenape;" the British called them Delaware for the river where they resided. My West family has many stories of our descent from this very famous early American Colonial family. However, the "proof" is very circumstantial and weak in regards to genealogical standards. And, according to Family Tree DNA where the results of my family were taken... there is a y-DNA group who have shown their descent from Lord Delaware's family that does not match our y-DNA West group. It seems that this family tradition has no merit.
- Compiled by JGWest