Discover your inside story with AncestryDNA®

August 11, 2014

Don't Let Family Lore Lead You Astray!

Don't Let Family Lore Lead You Astray!
TWISS family on Ship Peruvian September 1888
Olive Tree Genealogy had an interesting question from Shannah about her grandfather.  My findings point out the need to take family lore with a grain of salt and not accept it as gospel. 

Here is Shannah's email:

I have been trying to find out where my Grfa., TWISS, William James, had "landed" for over ten years, to no avail, from Cty. Cork, Ireland to New York, USA..  He was a mere 17 year old, at the time.  

The story I was told was that it was my Grfa. who had left Cork, Ireland, from Sept. to December of 1887 (I believe these are the months) on the Barque Julia, from Edinburough to Cork and to New York.  This particular Barque was a ship of supplies and the Captain was a friend of my Gr-Grpars., TWISS, Francis Edward Day, Sr..  It was my Grfa. who had suggested that he, himself, come out to Canada, first and they allowed it but he must go with someone they knew.  It was only a few days' trip and have researched into several ports along the eastern coast to no avail.  When he had landed, he had stayed with friends of his pars., (never knew who they were) Francis Edward Day and Ellen THOMPSON, in New York for a while then travelled up into BINBROOK, Wentworth Cty., Ontario, Canada to stay with our cousins/family there while his own pars. arrived through Montreal, Quebec, Canada in the following springtime.
First I made a mental summary of the important statements in Shannah's email:

1. William James Twiss born ca 1870 Ireland immigrated to N. America on the ship Julia in 1887
2. William's parents Francis Edward Day & Ellen Twiss sailed to Montreal Quebec in spring of 1888

Making a mental note of these statements  does not mean I accepted them as fact. It was obvious they were family lore passed on through the generations. After searching on in census records to gain a better understanding of the Twiss family group, their names, ages and residence, I knew that Francis Edward went by Edward, when he was born, his given year of immigration and that he was in British Columbia from 1891 census on.

Turning to the Immigration records on it did not take long to find Edward, his wife Ellen and 3 daughters sailing from Cobh, Ireland on the ship Peruvian. The Peruvian made stops at three ports: Baltimore Maryland, St. John Newfoundland and Halifax Nova Scotia. Beside the names of Edward and his family was the notation that they were headed to Victoria (British Columbia) Their arrival date was September 4, 1888. It is not clear if the family left the ship at St. John or Halifax but I suggest it was Halifax. From there they could continue their journey to British Columbia.

This is a typical example of family stories becoming mixed up over the years. My suggestion to Shannah for continuing the search for William is that she extend her year of immigration by 5 years on either side and not assume the ship name of Julia is correct.  She should also look for William in the 1891 census and all census years after that. The 1901 census provides an immigration year but she should still allow 5 years on either side of whatever is recorded. 

Hint for Shannah: In 1891 your grandfather is recorded as James W. Twiss and he is found with his parents and sisters in Victoria B.C. He is mis-indexed on as the son of a Thomas Stephens but the image clearly shows him in the Twiss family. It's always wise to ignore the index information if a search result seems like a good possibility - always check the actual image if there is one.


Brandy Heineman said...

Nicely done. I think "Be Skeptical of Family Legends" was lesson #2 my mom and I learned when we started working on the family tree. (Lesson #1 was "No One Can Spell Any of Our Surnames & That's Okay." It's sometimes tough to discard the incorrect details, though.

T said...

When I made a time line for my gggrandfather I found out the family story could not possibly be true. I wonder how many relatives were combined to make that story about him. And if ANY of it was true.