A source of amusement.

+7 votes
140 views
I have to say, I find it amusing that some folk question the verity of a Heralds Visitation, on the basis that it was complied in the 1500s, and refers to persons of the 1300s, because it was 200 years after the event. Yet here they are in 2018, no less than 700 years after the event, happy to doubt the data given. I can't help seeing the irony of contradiction.
in The Tree House by Tim Perry G2G6 Mach 3 (31.7k points)
Makes you wonder if 100 years from now, they'll doubt the veracity of our own records, indicating that we did not anchor all our findings with solid DNA evidence that will likely be so common (or something like it) at that time that they'll wonder why we didn't use it all the time.

1 Answer

+3 votes
Do you think an oral tradition about something that happened in 1818 is likely to be reliable? Most people can report back to their grandparents reliably, but after that, errors start to build pretty rapidly as you go to earlier generations. Experienced genealogists have seen many sources like this, and know that they have to be treated carefully. A lot of visitations can be shown to be reliable for events 200 years before they were recorded, but many of them can be shown to be completely wrong. I use them if I can corroborate some of the details from contemporary primary sources, but if all I have is a visitation and no corroboration, I won't rely on it past the grandparents of the apparent informant. Family origins had a lot of social capital in 16th century England, and people did have significant motivations to fudge.

If you want to take this analogy farther, do you really think that all genealogies that people give right now are correct back to the early 1800s?
by Anonymous Buckner G2G6 Mach 5 (51.9k points)
It's also good to look for level of detail in a visitation pedigree. If you have a generation that lists multiple children, names of spouses fathers, locations, etc., you can presume that it was taken from a fairly good source, possibly even a written one. The areas to be suspicious of are where you have get back to these single line pedigrees, like all you have are John->John->William->Thomas. Those are where skipped generations and complete mistakes tend to happen most often. It's good to ask yourself whether it looks like the level of detail is consistent with copying from a written source or simply someone's hazy recollection.
I also found it amusing when the  printed text of the 1623 Visitation of Dorset included 'signed Thomas Martin, come to-morrow and pay the fee. It's very immediate and points to copying word for word. The 19 year old Thomas only claimed an ancestry back to his g grandfather (and that ancestry is able to be demonstrated from other sources including wills)

But today I've been looking at another family, one that claimed a long pedigree in the Visitations of Norfolk.

In the mid 1400s a claim appeared that this family had a recent ancestor who  was a bondsman, a villain who had to provide labour service to the manorial Lord.  The now  relatively powerful  family submitted another, far more prestigious pedigree  to Edward IV. He accepted their claims and this pedigree appears in later visitations.  There seems to be nothing to substantiate the pedigree, nothing before 'grandfather' Clement, the 'bondsman, who died in 1419 leaving  a will with no mention of lands. (left small amounts to various churches and the residue to his son and sister) Moreover the family at this period have been shown to fabricate deeds, they also accused others of fabricating their  own lineage. Recent historians reject the pedigree, only accepting what can be demonstrated to be correct (I think rightly)
No Ben, to answer your question, I do not blindly accept family histories back to the 1800s

A while ago I encountered a woman from America who claimed direct descent from King David of the Jews. She also claimed the title of Lady. She had not been given the title ( I understand Americans are not allowed to accept them ) She did not get it by right of descent, her father was a heating engineer.

I did complain, and was told that, being American, she could call herself whatever she liked. So much for truth and accuracy.

But, for profiles far too long ago for any of us to be 100% sure, we have to show a certain degree of trust. If 200 years is too long ago, then what credibility has an opinion 700 years later ?
It's the chain of evidence, Tim. My "opinion" of someone from 700 years ago isn't just something that popped into my head, it's based on what multiple people 700 years ago said in an inquisition post mortem, or an answer to a bill of complaint, or view of frankpledge.
And if they are happy to lie at a heralds inquisition, why not lie at an inquisition post mortem, a bill of complaint, or frankpledge. People lie all the time in court, witnesses, barristers, judges, police, 'experts', and not the least the one on trial.

If folk think they stand to gain something, cash, credibility, position or whatever, they will mould the story to suit themselves. So at some point we have to have trust.
Those are under oath and penalty of perjury.
I don't think people lied to the heralds lightly, but when you're talking about dimly remembered family traditions, they tend to be dimly remembered in favorable ways.
Ben, the others I mentioned are also under oath, also liable to penalty for perjury. It does not seem to stop any of them.

I believe that politicians also take an oath when they assume office, and we all know they NEVER lie, do they ?
Claiming right of descent from King David? In America, you can call yourself Lady Frufru, Empress of the Universe if you want. The Constitution only forbids the government from granting titles.
Given that, how much credence can we give anything from there, if it is considered O.K., to make it up as you go ?

How do we know names on the census, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, or anything else is correct ?

As I said, you have to trust that someone is not garnishing the truth.

This is becoming a circular argument, so for the sake of peace, I suggest we agree to differ.
Everything has some chance of error.

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