03 March 2012

My Children's Boring Ancestors

I've been thinking about "boring ancestors" lately and the feeling by some that it's necessary to add extraneous "stuff" to your family history in order to liven them up. To that I say "balderdash." There's nothing like good ol' exhaustive research to discover that your ancestors are not all that boring. My children have no famous ancestors, no bluebloods, and no wealthy or elite forebears hiding in their tree. Most of their ancestors were farmers, artisans, laborers, factory workers and the like--with an occasional English merchant of modest means thrown in.

Yet here are quick summaries of just a few stories:

  • Pension applications indicate that in 1902 my great-grandfather was working as the hired man for his future mother-in-law, complete with his salary, what parts of the work he did and what his regular work was. 
  • Probate records on my third great-grandmother indicated that her one grandson borrowed $1800 from her about 1899, never paid her back, never drew up the mortgage that was supposed to have been drawn up to secure the loan, and was almost sued by his uncle after his grandmother's death.
  • My great-great-grandfather was arrested for illegal distribution of beer around the turn of the 20th century.
  • My great-grandmother's brother was shot (and probably murdered) in a hotel in Kansas City in 1921.
  • My 3rd great-grandfather accidentally shot himself while hitting a cow with the butt of a gun.
  • I had an aunt who, while suffering from cancer in the 1930s, "cut her stomach" out because of the pain and died.
  • My great-great-grandparents were step-siblings.
  • My ancestor at the age of nearly 70, returned to his native Germany leaving his wife and grown children in the United States.
  • My wife's ancestors lived with 7 children in a 14 foot square cabin in Missouri in the 1850s.
  • My ancestor went to Nebraska, started a homestead in the 1870s and returned.
  • My aunt's third husband killed a man in Nebraska after a bar fight in the 1870s.
  • An ancestor was censured by the Virginia House of Burgesses in the 1740s for interfering with an election.
  • A cousin was involved in mining speculation in Columbia in the 1890s.
And that's just scratching the surface. 

There aren't boring ancestors, just research that's not done. And virtually none of these stories were discovered on Ancestry.com. While I like and use it every day, the bulk of these items were located in original, offline records.