In Nigeria, in the 1800s, the British Imperial Government, to keep order had their court system in place to hear disputes between various groups within tribes regarding disputes, most often concerning land. This particular situation involves a group called the Tiv. The British, being meticulous record keepers, kept written records of what transpired at various hearings. To assert claims of a family to a certain section of land, a tribal leader will read off his genealogy showing his ancestral claim. The British wrote this down. However, a situation arose when the the same piece of land came up in dispute and the same tribal leaders appeared and recited their genealogies establishing their rights to the land. To the surprise of the British, the genealogies were not exactly the same. Now, there was no accusation of lying (at least none that I am aware of) or bad faith on either the Tiv or the British. But, one thing you must remember about an oral society is that as their language is not codified and is more fluid so thus they are more fluid with expression. For the Tiv, a person's prominence in the genalogy is reflected by not only audience but also by circumstance in which is retold.
This sounds really interesting. Could someone expand on this? How did the conflicting genealogies not cause problems and how did they demonstrate claims to land?