Fairy Tales vs Genealogy – why do some people make things up?

A family treasure from the Bishop Thill Essay Contest April 1939

A family treasure from the Bishop Thill Essay Contest April 1939


I was getting a genealogy talk ready this week.  I was preparing the slide show when I discovered there were a lot of trees on Ancestry.com with wrong information!

I married into this family in 1970.  My mother-in-law gave me 3 essays written in 1939 for the Bishop Thill essay contest by family members.  These are on onion skin paper.  I treasure these because these children interviewed their family members for this contest.

This essay is about the Margaret Sullivan and John Riordan family from Mitchelstown County Cork.  I could not believe that people had added Simon as a father for John!  If Simon was the father – and this being an Irish family every would have had a Simon (remember that Irish naming pattern?) This family does not have 1 Simon descendant!

One tree even added 3 additional children for John & Margaret Riordan – 2 more boys named Patrick and a daughter Hannah – all born AFTER John died!  John and Margaret had 7 children not 10! I retyped the whole essay and added it to my tree this morning.

If you like to make up stories – that is fine with me, but don’t make up extra family members for a family.  Haven’t they heard of documentation? I just returned from Ireland working hard in archives and libraries to add additional information.

There is a place in the world for fairy tales – but save those for bedtime.