Monday Genealogy Tip – Verify a Story


If you’re like most families, you have a favorite family story. The story may seem like the stuff of legend or pure fantasy. This week’s genealogy tip is to use one of those family stories and see what resources you can find to either verify the story in whole or part, or dismiss completely. Below you’ll find one of my favorite family stories and how I’m working on verifying at least part of the legend.

Verify a family story - monday genealogy tip

The Family Legend

Francis Albert Faulkenberry (known as Frank) was born September 25, 1862, on the family farm in Lone Jack, Jackson County, Missouri. The Civil War had begun a year-and-a-half earlier. The family legend tells us that the night of Frank’s birth, Quantrell’s Raiders went through the area and burned down the farm house. Apparently his mother begged them to leave a chest-of-drawers, which they did. According to the story, on that night, Frank was born in the garden. My great-Aunt Dolly always placed Frank’s birth at the same time as the Civil War Battle of Lone Jack.

How to Prove or Disprove?

I know for a fact that Southern guerrillas were very active in Jackson County. In fact another of my ancestors is reported to have left food out in their orchard for the Southern sympathizers. The truth is that Southern sympathies were so high in the county that Order #11 was eventually issued, forcing people out of the county, regardless of their loyalties.

I also know that the Battle of Lone Jack was fought a month before Frank’s birth, disproving Aunt Dolly’s story. Although the battle was fought close to the farm.

So how to prove or disprove the family legend?

  1.  See if I can track down the movement of Quantrell’s Raiders in late September of 1862. Per historic records, most of the Raiders were in Independence, Missouri at the time of the battle. But what about a month later?
  2. I’m currently reading a book about guerrilla warfare in northwest Missouri, in hopes of finding a reference to the Raiders being around Lone Jack in late September.
  3. I’m going through historic newspapers to see if I can find any account of Frank’s birth.
  4. I have an email out to a second cousin to see if he has any documentation of this fact. (He still lives on the farm)

So far, I haven’t been able to prove or disprove the “birth in the garden” story, but I’m still looking through books and newspapers.

If this were your family legend, what would you do next in your research?

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  1. Hi Jim,
    That’s a great site. I do a lot of Civil War research, so always happy to know about more places to dig into!


  2. Hi!, Nancy, How would I go about finding an illegitimate son’s info, such as school etc, if I only have his mothers name and his DOB (1891)? Maggie

    1. Hi,

      I’d start by search the 1900 census. His name should be on the census if he’s living with his mother. Try this and then let me know what you find.

  3. Hi! Me again Most of my questions will need info from Europe. Your books are about USA history Do you write about other countries? Maggie

    1. Yes, most of my work is USA. I occasionally write about other countries but not often.

      Since my main thrust is in helping people find, save and share family stories, I don’t concentrate on how-to articles as much as other genealogists in terms of finding ancestors. My goal is more along the lines of helping you save their stories once you’ve found them.

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