Myth: 3 Brothers Came to America | Ancestry Academy | Ancestry

in the 1885 genealogy, records of the descendants of Nathaniel Ely the immigrant, the forward states “It was found that the old story of three brothers coming from England from whom all of the name had descended, was one familiar to many of the Elys, who supposed they were descendants of one of the brothers. When the clans gathered at the time mentioned (July 1878), it was found there were representatives present from three distinct families…Nathaniel, Richard and Joshua Ely…but all effort to connect them as brothers, cousins ,or even cousins removed has failed.” If you listen to enough family stories you will hear the one about the three brothers who came to America and each went in a different direction and there is usually one that has never heard from again. Now why would you want to have a healthy bit of skepticism about this particular story? Imagine it’s a year 1850 or 1750 and two of your brothers sail from Ireland or Germany with little money but lots of hope to the new world and you don’t know anybody. What are the chances that you and your brothers get off the boat shake hands and say it’s been good knowing you and head off in different directions? Not likely unless there was a pretty big fight on the journey over. People depended on each other for health and safety, splitting up especially in a new environment was not that likely. So where does this myth come from? It usually starts when someone is trying to explain a hoped for connection. Let’s say you have a family in Georgia, one in Virginia and one in Boston, all with the same surname and someone researching your family wanted them to be connected without doing enough research to verify those connections. Enters the three brothers came to America and went their different ways story. Want to learn more about how people moved around and who they were likely moving with? Then check out Mark Lowe’s Ancestry Academy course, “Whiskey, Farming and The Choices to Move: Understanding Family Migration.”


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