The Apple Tree – A Genealogy Parable

Walking with my husband one evening, we noticed that our neighbors had planted a new tree in their yard. We stopped to admire the trellis and pinned branches. I thought from the leaf shape that it may be an apple tree.  I could have continued our walk, but curiosity said to investigate further.

I noticed there were name labels on the tree. If I walked on to the neighbor’s property I could confirm this was an apple tree, and maybe even what kind of apple variety. I dared to go with my curiosity. Stepping over the property line I reached for one of the labels and turned it over.  Honeycrisp Apple. One of my favorite apples.

Then I noticed another label on the tree of a different color. I already knew this was a Honeycrisp apple tree so why dare linger in the neighbor’s yard? What would turning over another label reveal? I looked up at the house for anyone watching me from the windows. I turned over the next label and read, “Yellow Transparent Apple”.  Interesting, this tree grew two kinds of apples?

There were four more colored labels on the tree. I continued to investigate and turned over all of them. Gala Apple. Fuji Apple. Gravenstein Apple. Yellow Delicious Apple.

In total there were six labels, each of a different color and apple variety. Stepping back, I could now see the full picture. This was not just an apple tree, but a grafted tree! Six apple branches of different varieties had been grafted onto the same tree trunk.  How clever!

Thinking the investigation complete, we continued our walk. And as I walked I thought of how many times have I done the same thing in genealogy. I’ve looked at records and thought that I had the full picture at first glance.  I assumed the record was an apple tree.

But spending more time with the record and carefully transcribing each part of it revealed more of the story, deepen my thought process and allowed me to ask more questions. Spending more time with each record allows me to discover what kind of apples it grows.  By daring to follow up on seemingly inconsequential clues I have discovered other marriages and other siblings.  By daring to linger to fully investigate each record I might discover a grafted tree.

Daring to investigate without assumption is a lesson I’ve learned in genealogy practice. It is a lesson I will likely learn again.

By |2018-09-15T05:26:31+00:00September 15th, 2018|Categories: General Discusson|Tags: |

One Comment

  1. Chris G Pattillo September 19, 2018 at 9:02 am - Reply

    This is a good reminder. As I mature as a genealogist when I re-read documents I frequently pick up tidbits that I had not previously taken in.

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