If you are one of those a bit afraid to go searching too deep into your family past — have no fear, everyone has on some part of their family tree a couple scandalous characters, or a bigamist, or the notorious relative or even the illegitimate child. It can turn out to be a fascinating journey trying to uncover their hidden, secret life.
There are sources to use, a big one is using newspapers of the times. Especially smaller hometown newspapers loved to cover ever type of social misconduct they could learn about, even if sometimes it wasn’t always the truth. Use many of the online digital vintage newspapers available, starting with the time frame and location the ancestor lived in. You can also contact the county or hometown museum and genealogy society; Google to find their name and address. You would be amazed of some of the information those institutions keep on individuals and families of a community. For more information also contact the county public library, they may have on microfilm old newspapers of the area or even collections of photos and information on families in the area. Remember not to check newspapers just of a specific time period, but papers have been known to rehash old stories that happened decades earlier. Check all time periods for that ancestor’s name.
Check other family members and ask what they may have. True, they may not even be aware of any scandal in the family, but rather ask for copies of any family letters, documents, journals or diaries. Those are the type of paper trails you need to careful go over.
Numerous U. S. states have in digital format and online their state prison records, especially before 1950. Check those for any relatives’ names, you never know what you might uncover.
Also with state records investigate marriage records. Many a lady married and they divorced soon after wards and that marriage was never spoken of again in the family. My mother had two female cousins, who both had early marriages that were then annulled within months of the wedding. No one in the family knew of their marriages until I did a complete research with their names in all the state marriage records.
An annulled marriage does not make them a ‘black sheep’ in the family, but it was these details in a portion of their life no one ever talked about or mentioned.
Photos: Belle Starr, female outlaw born in 1848 and Al Capone of the 1930s.
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