Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 10/24/2000


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My Relatives: Adam and Eve

I am related to Adam and Eve, and I can prove it. There is documentation in every link of the chain. The sources are known to be accurate and readily accepted by genealogists knowledgeable about the areas and time periods involved. No secondary tomes full of concocted lineages are necessary to complete the connection. I even know where Adam and Eve used to live.

No apples or snakes are involved, and Adam and Eve's seven children included Louis, George, Louise, Lena, Edward, Minnie, and Fred. Sorry, no Cain or Abel.

"My" Adam and Eve were actually Adam Trautvetter and Eve Young, German immigrants who lived near Hamilton, Hancock County, Illinois. I'm not descended from Adam and Eve, but I can say Adam is a cousin (Adam and my great-great-grandfather were first cousins). Adam and Eve died in the early 1900s, so the relationship does not extend back several millennia either.

Extending lineages back to antiquity is tempting for some. In some circles, the longer the lineage, the better the genealogist. After all, if you can extend your ancestral table back at least five or six centuries, your genealogical skills must be excellent. You have proved your worth. Step up to the bar with the big boys and girls.

Not quite.

I have no doubt there are many professional genealogists who have their own "brick walls" that they cannot get past, and many don't have to trace back to 1624 to do it. Their pedigree charts may be no more "complete" than anyone else's. Why is this?

Time (more appropriately a lack thereof)
It takes a great deal of time to document every step in an ancestral chain. It takes time to obtain materials and doublecheck information received from secondary sources. It also takes time to learn about new areas and new time periods that are a part of your research. Extending an ancestry into antiquity is more than simply grabbing an ancestor from a peerage book and copying the names. Medieval research is a specialty in and of itself. If it takes you three years to learn and understand how to research in the Midwest in the 1800s, you can't possibly learn everything about research in the Middle Ages overnight. (And even after researching in the Midwest for 20 years, I'm still learning). One can learn about the Middle Ages, but the culture, the times, and the languages are in many ways significantly different from today. The Midwest in the 1800s is different from today as well, but the differences are only 200 years away, not nearly a millennium.

Then there's the time to actually DO the research. Many family historians have responsibilities outside their own research. Living family members and employment have to take priority over deceased family members' birth names, birthplaces, and birth dates. Even professional genealogists frequently do not have time to do their "own" personal research.

Even if you have all the time in the world, there may still be reasons that your pedigree is short. Some of these brick walls can be overcome, and some cannot. If the records were never created or have been permanently lost, time and money may not be able to solve your problem. So there are several reasons why your pedigree may be short.

Family Scandal
On one of my lines, I am stuck at approximately 1850. I know (as best as one can when there are no birth records) that my great-grandmother was born in 1874 in Illinois, Missouri, or Iowa. Her parentsí names are "known," but due to some family scandal, little is known about their origins, and the mother's only "known" existence is on an 1880 census record. It is not for lack of trying, but there's still the gap in my lineage. I have the names of my great-great-grandparents, and that is it. I may never extend the lineage further.

A Common Name
My Irish great-great-grandmother is little better. Annie Murphy (a rare and unusual Irish name, to be certain!) was born in Ireland, ca. 1840. No date and no place. Currently, it looks like she just "appears" in New Brunswick when she marries in 1865. There's a hope of locating more information on her in Canada, but this new lead may not result in locating her Irish origins. I've been working on Annie for nearly 20 years.

Dropped from a UFO
While this theory may explain the behavior of the recently discovered long-lost cousin, it most likely will not explain your ancestor's appearance in Ohio in 1845 from virtually nowhere. Something caused your ancestor to move; it might have been economic (land availability or some type of employment) or relationship-related (family members or friends had already established themselves there). The reason may never have been written down, and you may only be able to surmise what it was.

No Details
Maybe you have the names, dates, and places for your ancestor, but the places are not specific. German research cannot be accomplished when the only birthplace you have is "Germany." The same is true for many other areas of Europe as well. I need something more than the name of the country in most situations. Researchers should keep learning of new sources, indexes, and techniques, however. Something may become available that helps to solve the problem. Annie's problem would be somewhat easier with a more unusual name, but a lack of a specific place of birth is a major stumbling block.

They Wanted to Hide
There is always the possibility that your ancestor had something to hide and did not want to be found. Your ancestor might have been one step ahead of the law or perhaps for a variety of reasons wanted no reminders of his (or her) former life or childhood. Could your ancestor have hopped on a boat, went up the river a hundred miles, and started life anew? If he was not leaving behind a family, it might have been easier to do than you think. And even if he did have a family, his wife in 1850 might have had a difficult time tracking him down.

Proud of Your Incomplete Lineage?
Yes I am. Frustrated? Absolutely. But just because I have blanks on my chart does not mean I'm incompetent. It just means there's more out there for me to learn. There are records I have not utilized, techniques I have not tried, or names I have overlooked. And there's always the possibility that I may never have the answer to my question. In the Ancestry Daily News, we try to give readers the skills and information to help them solve as many of their ancestral problems as possible. But there may still be times when it won't be enough. At least there are other ancestors and lines to research.

But no matter . . . I can always take comfort in being related to Adam and Eve!

Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at or visit his Web site.

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