Grafting fruit trees is a good thing. It assures the production of the expected fruit with the expected traits. Grafting an undocumented family tree is not a good thing and assures nothing! I knew this. I know it better after my recent experience.
Several family researchers had traced one of our shared lines through Isaac Martin back to the 1600s. How exciting! The data looked good. Good enough that I added those individuals to my tree on Ancestry.com. Even better, I now had a famous ancestor on my tree: Lewis Burwell, a prominent and wealthy Virginia planter. One of the Burwell daughters married John Martin and supposedly produced my ancestor, Isaac.
But something was amiss. The individuals from Isaac Martin forward to the present were well documented. The individuals from his proposed parents, John and Martha Martin, back were well documented. The problem? I could not find one family tree that had documentation for the relationship between Isaac and his supposed parents. In fact, many of the trees didn’t include much if any documentation for anyone. They had simply grafted someone else’s tree onto their own tree, and I had followed suit thinking I would go back later and collect documentation.
However, that little documentation niggle drove me to spend about four hours looking for any evidence that John Martin did indeed have a son named Isaac whether he was my Isaac or not. I could find no evidence anywhere that John and Martha (Burwell) Martin had a son named Isaac! I immediately removed those grafted branches! I searched a little more and found other researchers who had come to the same conclusion I had, some of whom posited other possible family lines, but I’ll wait until I find documentation before adding anyone else.
Wasted time? In a sense, yes. Adding and removing names takes time. In truth, not at all. The research is necessary. Besides, pruning helps a fruit tree grow bigger and stronger. It may take me years to find and document Isaac Martin’s parents, but when I do my family tree will also be bigger and stronger. If I don’t, at least my tree won’t be top heavy with generations of unrelated folks.
In the meantime, I plan to keep possible but not documentable information in a folder rather than in a tree just in case someone’s guess turns out to be a good one and there really is one piece of evidence still out there waiting to be discovered.
Have you had to remove grafted branches from your tree, or have you discovered that one piece of evidence that proves the branch belongs? What led to your discovery? Share your story in the comments section.