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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Black Sheep

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Black Sheep.  Find more blogs about family history at No Story Too Small has been offering up monthly themes that are designed to encourage family historians and genealogists to write about their ancestors. The project is called “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”. It’s a great way to add content to your genealogy blog.

The theme for Week 20 (May 14 – 20) is “Black Sheep”. Pick an ancestor that you would consider to be the “black sheep” of the family, and take the time to write about him or her. No Story Too Small describes the “black sheep” as a “troublemaker” or “ne’er-do-well”.

The Free Dictionary defines “black sheep” a number of ways. The most relevant definitions include: “One who is considered disreputable or disgraceful by his or her relatives or associates” and “A person who is regarded as a disgrace or failure by his family or peer group”.

Where did the idiom “black sheep” come from? It originally referred to the color of a sheep. The majority of sheep have white wool (due to a dominant gene trait). Once in a while, a sheep will be born with black or dark colored wool (due to having inherited recessive traits from its parents).

The black wool makes that sheep stand out in the herd. The wool from white sheep can be dyed into a different color. But, black or dark wool cannot. Some would consider the black wool, and therefore the black sheep, to be undesirable for that reason.

How can you use the “Black Sheep” theme? One way is to select an ancestor who had gotten into some legal trouble. Write about an ancestor who robbed a bank, stole a horse, or committed some other crime. Why did he do it? How did he get caught? What was the penalty? It might be interesting to include whether or not the person changed his wicked ways after getting out of jail.

You could write about an ancestor who caused embarrassment to her family by refusing to marry the man her parents arranged for her to be married to. Why didn’t she want to marry that man? Who did she choose to marry instead? What was her life like as a result?

Another option is to write about a female ancestor who became pregnant before she was married. There were a lot of years when this situation was considered to be a huge scandal. Did her parents try to hide the pregnancy by sending her away until the baby had been born? Was this ancestor allowed to raise the baby herself, or was the child taken from her? What happened to the father of the baby?

Or, you could put a completely different twist on the “black sheep” theme. Did you have a relative who was a farmer or sheepherder? It’s possible that an actual black sheep was part of the herd that ancestor was taking care of. There must be a story in there, somewhere, about what your ancestor thought about unexpected birth of a black sheep.

Image by Amanda Slater on Flickr.

Related Articles at

* 52 Weeks of Ancestors

* 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Favorite Photo

* 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Luck of the Irish

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