I haven’t posted anything for a while, but not for lack of research or ideas…just busy with it all. Over the past month I have been both working with Huston family researcher, RBryant, and the chair of the First Families of Ohio, Margaret Cheney. Each communication with these two women required many hours in which to analyze and reassess my work. Both women challenged my thinking, heightened my efforts, and became the catalyst to this post and my New Year’s resolution:
Be open to what I don’t know, accept when I don’t know it, and make sure I admit it; what I don’t know opens me to discovery and growth.
Okay, it’s much too long for a resolution…so let’s go for four.
- Be open to what I don’t know. My writing may not hit the mark; my understanding of a life circumstance may be circumspect, or research information unknown to me before might appear.
For example, RBryant approached her research from a different family line; she used surname analysis and DNA information to build her conclusions. The collision of my research and hers put new light on old assumptions. Please, if you are in any way interested in the Huston line, read her compelling argument here, https://boards.ancestry.com/surnames.houston/2902/mb.ashx. It outlines why the old assumptions regarding Andrew Huston Sr., Bedford, PA may be incorrect. And if you are a male descendant of Alexander, Edward, or Robert Huston please contact her and get that DNA test. It will help in her research. Her argument led to some changes in my family tree, so check it out! (Remember, it is a compelling and well-constructed argument, not fact. Unfortunately the dearth of 18th century and earlier documentation make undisputable proof highly unlikely.)
The very construct of a family tree makes it dangerously susceptible to assumptions. A blank or the word “unknown” screams for closure. We want to put something on the line for parent or birth or death or place. We want to provide the familial connection of all those same surnamed individuals living in one place. It is human nature. We like our world packaged and tied with a bow.
While I worked with RBryant on the Huston family line in Bedford County, and with Margaret Cheney, I came across some familial assumptions in my family tree passed from other researchers. I knew they were assumptions particularly regarding female relationships, but I stuck them there without explanation. In the process I also noticed some casual calculations (ie average rather than range) and calculated dates not marked as such or referenced. This year I will update my family trees to reflect what I know (and DON’T KNOW) more accurately and, as I do, I will post a link to the new pages with an explanation of my corrections. I have also put this disclaimer on each of my family pages:
“This material is constantly under construction and errors may exist. Please, search my postings and always research beyond them to confirm and verify information, PARTICULARLY anything before 1790 because with ever greater distance in time less information of a more tenuous nature exists.”
Why? Because no one is perfect (big surprise)—a segue to the next part of my resolution.
- Accept when I don’t know. It’s okay not to know, either what is true, what to do, what is best, how to help, or how to proceed—in life, in writing, in genealogy. Facts are unforgiving; theory is more forgiving; conjecture and assumptions…well…then you just don’t know.
I can happily announce nine Huston/Oswalt/Croy/Pugh ancestors have been approved for First Families of Ohio. They are Alexander Huston (confirmed entry to Ohio 1799 before Ohio became a state), Jacob Croy, Sr (1805), Mary Huston Croy Roberts (1807), Jacob Oswalt (1805), Sarah Huston Oswalt (1805), Andrew Croy (1810), Susannah Oswalt Croy (1810), Jacob Croy, Jr (1810), and Margaret Pugh Croy (1813). This was no small feat. A number of triangulated proofs were required. I was sure my application was perfect…and it was rejected. My hackles went up; I knew my research was right, and my knowing threw up a barrier to my learning.
Oh, what I didn’t know! Luckily, my resolution already glimmered inside me. I stepped back and considered that I might not KNOW everything, got humble, and learned. (Boy, this sounds pretty deplorable in print but…skip to “make sure I admit it…”) I read the instructions incorrectly, and without going into detail, my application was a mess. Thankfully, Margaret Cheney, the chairperson, worked through everything with me, took it upon herself to check this web site, and with some effort on my part, gave her stamp of approval. So, that leads to the next point in my resolution.
- Make sure I admit what I don’t know. Have you ever not known something and, rather than admit it, stood back and watched until you got the gist of it? Or did you ever want so much for something to be true that you adjusted your “facts” or “truths” to make it fit your desire? Maybe you are better than all that…but I’ve caught myself a few times! So, I resolve to gift others and myself by admitting my weaknesses right off. As my husband has taught me, it’s the way of a quality apprentice. So, while an argument for or against a proposition may ring true, I will attempt to present the argument to which I lean, but not present it as fact. I will ask for help when I just don’t know. I will listen.
- Finally, why is it important? Because what I don’t know opens me to discovery and growth. Every time I take a breath, lower my barriers, and exposed myself to the possibility of NOT knowing, doors of wonder open. I grow as a human being, become more tolerant and understanding— and I learn things.
So, bless you all in this New Year. I don’t know what the year will bring, but I am ready. I will be open to what I don’t know, accept that I don’t know, admit out loud (or in print) that I don’t know, and embrace the knowledge and discovery that comes from doing so. Because a year of grow is in the wind—whether I know it or not.