Tuesday's Tip: Close Your Eyes to What You Know

A couple of months ago I tried to help someone identify a military unit from the patch on her ancestor's shoulder. In the picture, the man was standing with a buddy whose patch had a clear shot, while her ancestor's patch was barely decipherable. I poked around quite a bit and was able to identify the unit. However, the woman insists that only the other man in the picture, and not her ancestor, must have been in the unit because of where the unit had served. The areas of support in WWII for this particular unit were not consistent with what she had been told about her ancestor.


Now, as I mentioned, her ancestor's patch was barely decipherable. But when I looked closely at it, I really thought that the patch was the same as his buddy's. Its outlined areas were dark in the same places, and I had searched MANY military patches before finding the right one, so let's just say that the similarities between that particular patch and anyone else's was slim. And I'm not the only one who believed this. I had sent the picture to a friend I have who served in the military and is a big military history buff, and asked him to help in the identification. He corroborated my findings, going as far as to include in his response that it looked like the friends were both in the same unit. Now, there are two possibilities here:

A. She's right and her ancestor is from a different unit and just happened to be on leave at the same time and place as his buddy

OR

B. She is trying to make the evidence fit what she has been told about her ancestor.


Now I am not adamant that I am correct, but felt that this was a good example of how sometimes what we've been taught to believe about ourselves and our ancestors steers us away from other possibilities. This often times creates brick walls that don't need to be there.

Sometimes to find what we're looking for, we need to close our eyes to what we think we know and open our minds to other possibilities. When we find information that is contrary to our beliefs, or even contrary to some of the evidence we have already collected, it is important that we do an exhaustive search to prove or disprove this new evidence. And most importantly, we need to accept the evidence for what it is, whether we like what we find, or not.


Happy tree climbing!

1 comment:

  1. Good news! The person whom I wrote about above found records to prove that what she was told about her ancestor was true! However, this does not always happen. So again, it is always important to keep your mind open to other possibilities.

    ReplyDelete