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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Separating Family Lore from Facts

Carrie asked:
I am having trouble linking my Great Grandfather to His father and further on. I know my grandpa's name is Stephen Babinec (alternate spelling is Babinecz), and that his father is Andrew Babinecz and I also know they came over from Hungary on the Pretoria ship. But for some reason, no matter how hard I try I cannot figure out beyond them. ...the main problem stems from a hand-written note my grandmother (or my great aunt) wrote and the information does not match what I have found. The information that I have found has been taken from official documentation. So, either I am reading the letter/note as being from the wrong person or just completely misunderstanding it. It is possible too that the person who wrote it may have also made a mistake.What is your opinion as to how I can obtain this information?

Olive Tree Answer: Carrie - It's very challenging to try to sort out family lore. Sometimes when we research we discover that family "facts" are actually myth OR they are slightly off OR they refer to some other branch of the family entirely! So if your hand-written note from your grandmother or great-aunt does not contain any sources, I would trust your own research.

For example, my uncle always swore his grandmother Vollick was "born in Elmvale Ontario". He said that was what he overheard as a boy listening to his mother and aunts talk. However my research found that his grandmother was born in Seaforth Ontario (in an entirely different county than Elmvale) BUT the family moved to Elmvale when she was young. So sometimes that family lore has a grain of truth to it and you should never discount it completely without checking further.

If your hand-written note has sources to back up what it says, then I'd track those sources down to verify or disprove what is written.

As for other avenues of research, I see that in the 1920 census on your Stephen's father Andrew says he has his first papers (PA is noted, which means First Papers). Then in 1930 he says he is naturalized (NA is noted) The 1900, 1910 ,1920 and 1930 census identify citizenship status, with notations showing the individual was an Alien (AL), or had started the Naturalization process (PA) or had his final papers (NA).

You may want to hunt for his naturalization records as they may provide an exact birth location and other details. has Naturalization Recordsicon from NARA

Also since he naturalized after 1906 you should see a notation on the passenger list beside his name, which may guide you to the court where he naturalized. An immigrant who arrived after June 29, 1906 could not naturalize until the government located their immigration record (a passenger list). Petitions (not the Declarations) after 1906 have information that has been verified and matched to an immigration record. A certification of the immigrant's arrival record was a required part of the process and this should be noted beside his name on the passenger manifest.

For a Resource Guide to naturalization records, what you can expect to find, where to find them, and alternate sources of finding those important years (immigration and naturalization) at

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