Did you know, Genealogy is not fatal, but it is a “grave disease”….
How many of you made a ‘har-har’ noise at this morbid joke? (excuse the pun, we meant to say terrible, how many of you laughed at this terrible joke?) Or at least forced air out from your nose and rolled your eyes a few times.
Happy April Fools Day all! Today, we’re here to educate you with all the best (and worst) genealogical hoaxes in history.
What is this day and why do we celebrate it in the western world?
Also known as All Fool’s Day, April Fools Day is one of the most cheerful days of the year which is observed throughout the western world. And funnily enough, its origins are unclear!
Some see it as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it stems from the adoption of a new calendar.
One popular explanation is that the day arose because of a refusal to accept the new Gregorian calendar, which replaced the Julian calendar in 1582, which meant New Year’s Day was celebrated on January 1st instead of April 1st. ‘Traditionalists’ those that went by the old calendar were made a mockery of and were sent on ‘fool’s errands’ or were tried to be tricked into believing something false. This practice eventually spread throughout Europe.
It is also worth noting that around this time of year as we shift from winter to spring, different cultures all over the world celebrate light-hearted traditions, which could be seen as practicing acts of ‘foolishness’. Celebrating the end of winter and the return of spring. For example; The Hindu calendar has Holi, and the Jewish calendar has Purim. Read here for more further detail and more explanations as to why we celebrate April Fools Day.
Fact and fiction: Myths and legends
We take it, you’ve come here looking for jokes, and maybe to not be taken for a fool, so here are some of genealogy’s finest family myths and legends! Some of these may sound very familiar…
The Wrong Ethnic Identity Myth
Broad statements such as all Germans are Hessians who fought in the American Revolution. All the French are Huguenots and all Hispanics are Mexican are of course, not true. We tend to stereotype, and assume that certain groups of people belong to one category. Nationality is not a distinct enough identifier in genealogy.
Names, also, may be inaccurate indicators of ethnic identity. Just because the name sounds Irish, is it really Irish? The name you are accustomed to may have been changed or become corrupted over time, which in turn makes its ethnic origins difficult to reveal.
The Three Brothers Myth
It’s always three brothers who immigrated to America, never two or four or five or six. Sometimes one is lost at sea during the voyage over, or one went north, one went south, and one headed west, never to be heard from again. There are never any other family involved in the big move across the pond. Be wary of the brothers myth, and always keep an eye out for additional siblings both in America and once you start foreign research. You may come across it someday!
For more information or for further detail on these family myths and legends, check out this site!
You can also read about some of the world’s most famous fabricated US genealogies here, it features the hoaxes, Franklin W. Horn and “The Horn Papers” and Gustave Anjou and the Family Histories Too Good To Be True.
All hoaxes aside, what isn’t a joke is, us!
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