Odd things I learned researching genealogy

I have been spending some time recently researching my family’s genealogy, which is quite easy, as my father’s family were all Mormon pioneers, so all the research has been done by my more diligent Mormon relatives.

Anyway, I just discovered the log cabin built by my great-great grandfather Erastus Bingham in 1853 is now a theme park attraction in the Pioneer Village section of the Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington, Utah. People now pay admission to see where my ancestors made soap and ate corn pone. There is probably a funnel cake concession right next door to the very house where my great-great-grandmother gave birth to my great-grandfather. I could probably sit on my great-great-grandfather’s porch and watch fireworks over the Ferris wheel.

Any odd things you discovered in your family tree?

My great great grandfather had (at least) 27 kids by three different women.
I guess my mother wasn’t wrong when she said she had to leave home to keep from marrying a relative.

A sister-in-law of one of my great-grandmothers tried to kill her family by turning the gas on in the family flat. Two of the kids died*. Great-Aunt was acquitted of the murder, but served time in a mental facility.
*Since the youngest child was an infant, we think it was probably a case of postpartum depression.

Think I’ll post here rather than in the family secrets thread.

Looking more into my step-family, kinda hard to do since a lot of them don’t regularly appear in censuses and they seem to rather “flexible” in the info they provide on various forms. So I was searching “upstream” thru my step-father’s cousin’s family. Unusual names, easier to find.

So my step-great aunt (who I actually remember) got married in 1917. The cousin was born in 1919. The step-great aunt got married again to the same guy in 1920.


The 2nd marriage form lists them both as divorced. The first form gives the woman’s age as 18 when she was really 16. Maybe that led to an annulment or some such and then they later remarried when she was older. But that was a year after the cousin was born.

What is going on here?

(Oh, and the great aunt variously lists her birthplace in 3 different states. None of which are the state her older and younger siblings were born in.)

On my mother’s side of the family, back about three generations, there was a nice young couple who got married. A couple of years later, the bride’s father (widowed) married the groom’s mother (also widowed).

This is interesting to represent on my family tree software. Makes it look like a brother and sister got married.

On my mother’s side there are two cases that we’ve found where a man marries one woman, the woman dies and then the man goes on to marry the woman’s sister.

This was not uncommon nor unconventional, certainly not in the period of the late 1800s up until the early 1900s. My maternal grandmother was one of those. I have others in the family that did this.

One ancestor’s wife died after the head on his ax flew off and hit her in the head. He then farmed out all his children to neighbors and relatives (not uncommon back then), moved to another country, married another woman and had a whole new slew of kids. This created a two year search for me to figure out what happened.

My great grandfather served in the Civil War, was captured and released, married his college sweetheart, then proceeded to cheat on her at every opportunity. Forty years after the war ended, he committed suicide in California.

One ancestor decided to move to a new location, so loaded all his worldly goods into a wagon in Virginia and he and his family walked and pushed the wagon to Ohio. I whine if I have to walk to the local store for potato chips.

One ancestor had a town named after him. Colegrove, PA still exists.

Among my direct ancestors:

An alcoholic bootlegger.

A civil war vet (I knew his youngest son, who lived into his late 90’s)

Two War of 1812 vets.

One Revolutionary war vet who fought at Breeds (aka Bunker) hill.

One hung for witchcraft in Salem in 1692.

And an assortment of bastards, grifters, scoundrels, dukes, princes, kings, hugger muggers, huguenots, and swiffy folks.

Gentry in Germany became alcoholics in the US (Dad’s paternal line).
We discovered my mom’s mom had another sibling that we didn’t know about. She was in the 1910 census, gone by the 1920 census, cannot locate a death certificate, nothing. Also doesn’t help that there were four or five different spellings of their Polish surname.

What, no scalawags, poltroons, or ne’er-do-wells? In addition to a Civil War vet and a Revolutionary vet, I found a King Philip’s War vet (I had to look it up) and someone who served at Sackets Harbor.

I found my earliest known ancestor was Sir John de Bingham, a Saxon knight during the reign of Henry I, which would place him in the early 12th century.

Hiram Bingham, discoverer of Machu Picchu, is a relative, thoiugh not a direct ancestor.

I also have Mormon relatives (cousins in Canada) who provided the information they found to the whole family.

I actually chose my username based on what I learned from their genealogical research. ‘Mann’ should have been my real surname.

Apparently it was once common practice to send census takers to orally interview people and record the verbal information they gave. According to the research, inept census takers recorded our family surname wrong twice. For reasons I don’t fully understand, it was supposedly more convenient to just go by the new name than to try to fix the records.

(Not so odd)

I may have just learned my great-great grandmother’s birth name! The 1870 census shows someone with her first name/different surname living in the household of my great-great-great grandfather.


I’m not sure that even my great-great grandmother knew her birth name. The story that was passed down through the family (confirmed by my grandmother and a couple of cousins): GGG Grandfather was a married man, but apparently had an affair with unknown GGG Grandmother. GGG Grandmother bore the child (Julia) and raised her as long as she was able. Around 1868 or 1869, when Julia was 2 or 3 years old, GGG Grandmother brought the child to Julia’s father’s house because GGG Grandmother was dying. Julia was raised by her father Jeremiah and Jeremiah’s wife, who apparently was some kind of Methodist saint! (No really - those who remember “Mam,” including stories I heard directly from Julia’s daughter, say that Grandmother McDpnald sincerely loved Julia, and raised her as she raised her own daughters.)

So anyway, now I at least have a last name to look for in the 1860 census and other records to see whether I can track down that unknown GGG Grandmother.

My paternal grandfather’s first name is listed (as Chefguy knows too well) on official forms as “Merdchay,” “Marke,” “Emil,” “Levi,” and “Mordechai,” the last of which was his actual first name. Otherwise there were at least five different guys, all with the same last name, living with my grandmother.

I’ll see you the Civil War, the Revolution, and King Philip’s War and raise you a Sudbury Fight.

So, uh, what would you do if you were… you know? All day long?

My great great great grandmother - who “was in the habit of quarrelling” with her husband and “was addicted to drink” - interferred in a fight between two neighbourhood women who were rowing because “… One was drunk, and had been beating the other’s house with a stick all the afternoon to keep the other’s child awake”. She was rapped over the head with the stick for her trouble. She complained of not feeling well and died shortly afterwards. The inquest found her death was not caused by the blow.

My source is a newspaper article from 1872, and therefore it shouldn’t be a copyright violation to reproduce the text.

I found this little insight into their lives quite fascinating, and I love the judgemental tone of the article:

I’m sure I’m the only one they interest, but the articles can be found here (Page 5, bottom third of the fifth column) and here.

Two of my great-grandfathers participated in the Arab Revolt during World War I.

My paternal grandfather’s father was one of 16 - all by the same parents. He was somewhere in the middle.

I found out I might also have distant relatives in the United States. A few men from the aforementioned great-grandfather’s village moved to the USA after World War I. Most of the village was related, so I’m probably related too.

Yeah, I’ve a few King Philip’s War vets in my ancestry, too. Also some folks who fought at the Battle of Hastings.

Five times!