OMFG. I found my grandfather in the 1930 census. IN PRISON.

I know very little about my biological grandfather, Louis McFatter, as he died back in the 1960s, only what little my biological father told my mother. She had some vague idea that he’d spent time in prison, something I was never able to verify – until tonight.

I was browsing, and got the idea to search his name. His wife, parents, and young daughter are easily found in the 1930 Mississippi census, but Louis himself is MIA. I assumed, but once again never knew for sure, that he was in prison or off riding the rails somewhere. Previous census searchs were for naught. But happened to have his record – in Oakley State Farm and Hospital in Hinds co. MS. A prison farm.

I found (frustratingly partial) mention of his case on Google Books, namely in the Southern Reporter, Volume 113. I was able to piece together that in 1927, my grandfather was convicted of manslaughter. He had shot and killed a Mr. Sandifer, aged about 17, at a boxed supper social being held at a local schoolhouse.

At that, Louis shot and killed him. :eek: :eek: :eek:

Louis came from a family with a tragic history. His aunt, his father’s sister, killed five of her children by shooting them in the barn, burned down the house with the sixth child inside, and then drowned herself in the Mississippi river. One cousin spent her entire adult life in an asylum, and another cousin committed suicide. I think something, perhaps mental illness, was afflicting this family. Both my grandfather and father were known to be violently unstable, as young Mr. Sandifer discovered too late.

Genealogy. Not for the weak of heart.

Wow, I guess them’s fightin’ words!

I also just want to say that “McFatter” sounds like one of those derogatory made-up names – you know, “Tubby McFatter” or “Smokey McPuffsalot.” My condolences.

No shit!

Though really, I think every family has at least one person in the family history that is not quite right in some way or another, even if it is as innocuous as believing in a flat or hollow earth, or only wearing pink, or eating the same weekly menu every week of the last 20 years of their lives or something relatively harmless like that.

Some of my ancestors were slave owners; one of them massacred thousands of Carib indians, and lured his own Carib half-brother to a truce meeting on the pretext of everyone being unarmed - then armed men leaped out from the jungle and killed him. Another one married his brother’s 14-year-old daughter. Nice.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s time to ban box supper socials.

I don’t think it’s unusual to have a family member who went to prison. The more family members you include, the more you’ll find, I would guess. It’s just a numbers game. And, given the US’ historically racist legal system, the more non-white family members you have, the higher the percent.

Gosh, do you think? :dubious:

Box supper socials don’t kill people, people kill people.

I was a little shocked too when I heard the tale of my great grandfather and great uncles. Apparently these good gawd-fearin’ country folk were the area moonshiners that, in the course of their work, had to bury a body or two.

He was just trying to save her from Jud Fry.

Did you find out how long he had to serve? The 1940 census isn’t available yet, is it? Can you get records from the Department of Corrections?

One of my direct ancestors had to “relocate” rather suddenly after a slave was killed. Nothing was ever proven in a court of law, but all evidence available indicates that Great-times-whatever Grandpa was the killer.

Interesting. Obviously, antebellum laws would have varied between states, even in the South - but was killing a slave widely considered murder at the time? Slaves enjoyed so few legal protections, I’m slightly surprised.

Oh - and for my own family: My great-grandfather on my father’s side of the family was a bootlegger during Prohibition. My dad insists, of course that the man only drove the truck. The conversation goes something like:

Me: Cool! Great-grandpa was a bootlegger!

Dad: No, no - he just drove the truck.

Me: The truck … full of booze.

Dad: Well …

Me: Illegal booze.

Dad: Yes, I suppose.

Me: Isn’t driving trucks full of contraband booze sort of the sine qua non of bootlegging?

Didn’t say it was “murder.” But even the most hard-core slave-holding states had laws against “destruction of property” and the like.

My great-great (or maybe just great) grandfather was a murderer. He killed his sister-in-law, apparently over a cow.

My maiden name has a common spelling variant. The people with the T in the name are descendants of the victim. The people without a T are descendants of the murderer.

It’s me, it’s me, it’s Julie without a T.

An amusing sidenote is that somehow my grandfather had the courts convinced that he didn’t speak English, so things were delayed while they found translators and the like. He spoke English as his first language.

Never trust the ones without a T. :smiley:

I know we’ve got two murderers in our family. And they were both ladies :eek:

My great grandfather worked for Vito Genovese. He never went to jail, but I get the sense that he was doing more than “driving the truck.”

My great, great grandfather (there may be another great there–not sure) on my mother’s side moved from Virginia to Kentucky when he was about 30 and with the move, he changed his name to Jones. He never told anyone his original surname…

So who knows what lurks back there and then?

If I’m not mistaken, the hospital side of Oakley (no relation :D) was a mental hospital.

He wasn’t a tailor, was he?

So many people get into genealogy trying to find some connection to Robert E. Lee if they’re southern or Nathan Hale if they’re New Englander or what not. Personally I love finding out stuff like this.

The 1940 Census is released in a couple of years and I hope to find some info on my great-aunts who were sent to Bryce Hospital (the Alabama state hospital for the insane) in the 1930s. More likely I’ll just find their names among the rolls there.

A friend of mine who already knew that his grandfather had gone to prison for killing a man was surprised to learn that the man he killed was black. A white man going to prison for killing a black man was very rare. I’ve promised him that if I can ever get access to the newspapers from that time and place I’ll try to find the details since the family conveniently forgot them- they in fact said he went to prison for bootlegging during Prohibition- but unfortunately this was a tiny Alabama town and their local newspaper hasn’t been put on microfilm yet and I haven’t found anything about it in the Montgomery papers.

One of my favorite finds was a relative (the brother of an ancestor) who was supposedly killed in the Civil War, yet another man with his name (which wasn’t a common name) and state of birth and the same age turns up in Arkansas in the 1870 Census and then in the 1880 and 1900 Census in Oklahoma. In 1870 he was married and all of his kids by her (there were many) were born after that date, so he apparently married just before the Census. My guess is that he was having marital problems and that either with his wife’s knowledge or without it he just never went home when the war was over and she told people he was dead. (She never remarried.)

Footnote is fantastic for the Civil War soldier’s papers. Some of them are very simple but on a couple I found detailed descriptions of ancestors and their medical histories during the war. I also found one who deserted the Confederacy but I already knew that.