Grandma’s second cousin was General Robert E. Lee, at least that’s what I was told as a child. How exciting! I wanted to know more so I did what every inquisitive person does, I researched. The more I researched into my family and who they are and the more I researched into the family history of Robert E. Lee, the more questions I had. As hard as I tried, I could not find any relationship between my 2nd great-grandmother Malinda Lee and the family of Robert E. Lee. I asked others in my family and learned they all had heard the same story but no one had any actual facts or proof.
After years of research I was stuck, I had hit the proverbial brick wall. So what am I to believe? Were the family stories wrong or am I barking up the wrong family tree? Most families have that one story that has been passed down through the generations, some have been told they are Mayflower descendants, others “know” they share Native American bloodlines, or maybe like one of my other lines they are descended from someone famous. I was told my Chaffee line was descended from Geoffrey Chaucer but just a few minutes of searching one night proved that our forefather was actually a foremother, Katherine Chaucer, Geoffrey’s much lesser known sister.
So what am I going to do about the Robert E. Lee story? I am going to sit on it. I am going to let it simmer in the background until I get enough information to either discount it entirely or prove it to my satisfaction. Sometimes our success comes from our failure, like my failure to prove descent from Geoffrey Chaucer instead added a new line for Simon Manning born about 1344 in England. Embrace your failures.