Uncovering the Myths and Truths in Our Family Tree

In Columbus Colonists’ Despair Revealed (print version) from Discovery News, it appears to be confirmed that Columbus faked the wealth of his discovery of the new world.

The first silver ever extracted from coarser materials by Europeans in the New World appears to have been a desperate, last ditch effort involving not American, but Spanish metals, say archaeologists.

The strange tale, entwined with Christopher Columbus questionable approach to attracting European investors to back his expeditions, has been uncovered at the site of the abandoned colony of La Isabela, on Hispaniola in the Caribbean.

The mystery started with the discovery of a leaden slag heap high in the layers of debris indicating that it was one of the last things the colonists created before leaving what was the first European town in the Americas in 1498.

It seems that when Columbus couldn’t find the wealth he needed to bring back proof of his successful and expensive voyage and discovery of the new world, he made some up.

The lead contained a small amount of silver and they smelted it down to produce what little they could find. The isotopic signature of the metal found came from Spain, not the Caribbean, the researchers found. So the treasure they brought back to Spain came from Spain.

According to one of the researchers, “Columbus led them all on.” Though the deception didn’t last long. “In 1496 Columbus was shipped back to Spain in chains and his colonies were left to fend for themselves.”

Columbus has been hailed for centuries as the great discoverer of the new world, and I and many children grew up with dreams of what it must have been like to sail off into the unknown, awaiting that moment when we’d slip off the edge of the world to our death, or prove the theories right, that the earth was indeed round. And what mysteries and adventures would we meet along the way?

In some areas of the world, Columbus has been granted near sainthood with the fame and legend around his mythology.

Today, we’re finding a lot of our long-held, historical myths aren’t really true.

In other news from the Discovery Channel, a new documentary aired about the finding of the “tomb of Jesus”, offering proof and evidence, they say, that this is indeed the spot where Christ was buried.

The only thing is that the evidence sounds more like proof that Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code, was based upon truth, not fiction.

New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world’s foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah.

The DNA findings, alongside statistical conclusions made about the artifacts — originally excavated in 1980 — open a potentially significant chapter in Biblical archaeological history.

Significant chapter? While those names were very common during that time period and people were buried like that for several hundred years, if somehow it is proven that this is the family of Jesus and where they were buried, whether or not Jesus rose from the dead or not, it certainly changes the history of the world according to Christians. Not because they have found the “real tomb”. The Christian world would be rocked to find a married and childbearing Jesus. Either way, it will be a new tourist spot for visitors to Jerusalem, bringing in more tourist dollars.

True or not, discoveries like this and the assumptions made about them continually question the past we thought we knew and believed in.

What Myths Lurk in Your Family Tree?

There are a lot of myths in my family tree. I bet there are in yours. For several generations we believed that the West family was descended from British royalty and that we could go to England and claim the unclaimed inheritance of our ancestors…if we wanted to, but no one ever did. I have since learned that we are not related to that family in any way.

Yet, ask my aunt and she’ll tell you that her hands look the way they do because she is a descendant of royalty and has “royal hands”, whatever that means. She taught all her children to honor their hands because they, too, had royal hands.

Another recently uncovered West mystery is that my grandfather Howard West Sr. was abandoned by his mother when he was a little baby and that he never saw his mother again. It’s true that he was indeed abandoned and taken in by a Catholic orphanage in Portland, Oregon, but he was six years old. We have census records showing him living with him mother as a teenager, as well as information to prove that he had contact with her on a regular basis up until her death in 1930, proving this to be another myth in our family tree.

We also recently discovered that a myth about Elizabeth Knapp in the Knapp family was also untrue. The story was that she was discovered in the burning wreckage of a wagon train crossing the West attacked by Indians, the sole survivor. The James Brothers, notorious bank robbers, rescued her and turned her over to a friend to raise. Tracing her family history, she might have been on a wagon train, and may have been the sole survivor of a massacre, we haven’t been able to determine that. But if Jesse and Frank James participated, they were not even 10 years old at the time, making it a little difficult to believe. The dates don’t match no matter how much we fidget with them.

What myths do you have in your family tree? What stories have you always believed but then found were untrue as you dug deep into the truth of your family’s stories?

Most Recent Articles by Lorelle VanFossen


About Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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