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Debunking myths about genealogy

Genealogists often talk with people who believe misinformation about genealogy. In “Busted!,”a feature in the May/June issue of “Family Tree Magazine” by Julie Cahill Tarr, the author lists 10 genealogy myths and sets the record straight.

RELATED: This creepy genealogy site, but it knows a lot about you

Myth No. 1 is surnames were changed at Ellis Island. Actually, lists were compiled in Europe, not at Ellis Island. So any changes happened in Europe, sometimes by the immigrants themselves.

Myth No. 2 is the belief that if it’s in print, it must be true. The fact remains that if something is not documented, putting it in print still won’t make it true. Opposite of the print myth is the next inaccurate belief: all official records are online is No. 3, and this is refuted by the many records in any county courthouse that are not online, and won’t be for some time.

The veracity of online family trees is No. 4, and since no one is neccessarily assigned to verify what others are putting online in a tree, proceed with caution.

Next, descending from a Cherokee or other Native American princess is the fifth very popular myth. One fact is that Native Americans did not have princesses, but the larger quagmire is why so many people think they have Native American ancestry.

The burning and loss of all the records at a particular courthouse is No. 6. While many courthouses burned, rarely did all the records covering the entire existence of the county completely burn. That is where local genealogical and historical societies come in to help fill the gaps.

Believing that all people with the same surname are related is the seventh myth, a tale created by those who don’t understand how much surnames have changed over time. The family crest or coat of arms myth is No. 9 on the list. Coats of Arms belong to the direct male descendants of a certain man who got the coat of arms, not simply given to any family or any surname. And rounding out the list of 10 is the myth about three brothers coming to America. The three-brothers story is just that—a story. Very few families had only three brothers who immigrated to the U. S.


Farewell to the old Georgia Archives building

The discussion topic for the Georgia Archives Lunch and Learn on May 12 will be “The Ben Fortson, Jr., Archives Building: Farewell to the Ice Cube.” Speakers will be members of the design and construction team of the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission. They will cover the history of old Georgia Archives building that was demolished on March 5. Bring your own lunch.

12 p.m. Free. 5800 Jonesboro Road, Morrow. 678-364-3710,

23andMe and FDA approval

23andMe, a DNA genetic testing and analysis company, was recently granted approval from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration to continue their DNA testing for 10 diseases or conditions. For more information, see for their genetic health risks tests and the reports they offer.

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P.O.Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or

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