Dark history in your family tree

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Aussie Willy, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2005
    Messages:
    18,029
    Does anyone else have some dark historical stuff that went on in their family tree?

    My mum was telling me today about one of our descendents who back in 1944 drowned herself and her 5 children. I think she was pregnant with a 6th child, which considering the youngest was 3 months old must have been very stressful. Quite fascinating. There are a few articles available on the internet about it too so it made the news of the day back then.

    In fact the most fascinating thing is the link to this article which explains her state of mind.

    http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/11826286?searchTerm=drownings
  2. Amy L

    Amy L Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2001
    Messages:
    2,202
    Since my mother's side of the family are all from the rural South (U.S.), and most of them RIGHT NOW are extremely racist, I don't even wanna know what my ancestors got up to.:slinkaway
  3. victoriajh

    victoriajh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2002
    Messages:
    1,997
    wow aussie that is so sad =( poor woman probably had ppd and i can only imagine having 3 month old and being preggers-
    so sad!
  4. tracylynn

    tracylynn New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    Messages:
    842
    One of my mom's younger brothers was murdered along with their dog when he was about 9 years old, and to this day it is an unsolved case. I don't know much else about it because it's hard for my mom to talk about and my grandparents never talked about it, which is understandable.

    Also, on my mother's side of the family one of my ancestors was a slave owner and the family disowned him. All it says in our family tree book is his name, slave owner and disowned.
  5. ChelleC

    ChelleC Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2002
    Messages:
    4,438
    My great-great grandfather was involved in the Hatfield-McCoy feud.
  6. KHenry14

    KHenry14 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2002
    Messages:
    1,517
    I am a direct decendant of a survivor of the Donner Party. :eek: She was my fraternal grandmother's grandmother, and the rule around the house was, "that subject" was never to be mentioned. Also, evidently she never smiled, even to her many family members.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2011
  7. Lainerb

    Lainerb New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Messages:
    2,737
    Yes,

    One of my grandfathers several generations back on my mother's side supposedly caught a witch bathing in the river outside the Pueblo and she was also singing. He caught this woman, pulled her down to the ground by her hair and forced her into confessing her witchery. In retrospect it frankly sounds like he beated women.
  8. screech

    screech Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2004
    Messages:
    3,870
    I actually researched mine a few months ago (went back about 1000 years!! however accurate it was...) and found out one of my noble ancestors from about 700 years ago murdered another noble ancestor in public because he slept with the first guy's wife. It's fun to find out you have nobility in your history because then you can wikipedia the names. I found out lots of juicy tidbits.
  9. nubka

    nubka Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2006
    Messages:
    7,648
    It's not really history, but I have a paternal great-uncle that lived and died on the street (literally,) on skid row in San Francisco.

    He would pop up occassionaly on our farm in Oregon during the 60's, and always scared the bejeebies out of my sister and I. :( :( :(
  10. taf2002

    taf2002 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2003
    Messages:
    13,845
    I have a cousin who traced back my mom's side to 1610 when our ancestor landed in Virginia from England. He also found birth records in 1600 in London for him. He was only 10 when he got to Virginia...he either came alone or his family died on the trip because he is the only one of his name recorded that year. That side has an illustrious history until the Civil War. They were not slave owners, their fortune came from shipping, but my grandfather's father & relatives were all soldiers for the South.

    I don't know about my dad's side. His parents immigrated to the US so we don't know much about the ancestors. I do know his mother was forced into an arranged marriage when she was only 15 & he was 27. Then he came to America & left her to come later. She came steerage when she was 17 or 18 & had a baby by then. He was a lousy husband but I wouldn't call that dark history.
  11. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2003
    Messages:
    2,516
    I remember the Donner Party being mentioned on the Golden Girls for some reason. Not knowing the history, I looked it up and...:eek:
  12. Scintillation

    Scintillation New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Messages:
    2,727
    Well my maternal grandfather and great-aunt escaped Germany in the 1930's--my grandfather was given the only family Visa by his mother, and my great-aunt was smuggled by nuns. The rest of the family was killed in concentration camps, including their then 9 year old brother. My grandfather came here, got his citizenship, joined the army, then went back to Europe to fight and free concentration camps. After the war was over he was Hermann Goering's translator during the Nuremberg Trials. Goering killed himself with a cyanide capsule rather than be executed. Once that was all over my grandfather came back and got his PhD in biochemistry. In conclusion, my grandfather makes us all feel like our accomplishments are insignificant. The man is now 91, sharp as a tack, and travels all over the world for pleasure. And he even resembles Albert Einstein. My great-aunt is a fun lady too, but she's been beset with health problems all her life and isn't doing as well.

    As for my dad's side, Millard Fillmore is a distant relative. Blergh.
  13. Marge_Simpson

    Marge_Simpson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2001
    Messages:
    5,164
    Nothing very shocking, but there are 2 scandals in my family:
    My maternal grandfather went AWOL from the Italian navy somewhere around 1920. He jumped ship while it was docked in New jersey, and hooked up with a friend who was living in Brooklyn. He eventually became a US citizen, the immigration laws were quite different then. When people who didn't know his history would ask why he never went to Italy to visit his family, he would quickly change the subject. The truth was, he was afraid he was on a list of deserters and would be arrested at the airport.
    Also on my mother's side, her cousin's wife had a baby while her husband was in the army and stationed in Viet Nam during the war. They told everyone she'd gotten pregnant when her husband got compassionate leave to attend his father's funeral. However, the funeral took place a year before she gave birth. I was very young at the time and don't know the whole story, obviously, but they are still married. :eek:
  14. Ziggy

    Ziggy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2002
    Messages:
    20,569
    There isn't a single relatively sane, socialised and balanced person in my family but I guess you could tell that already. :p
    agalisgv and (deleted member) like this.
  15. ballettmaus

    ballettmaus Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2004
    Messages:
    1,680
    My great-great-grandfather on my mother's side is completely unknown. My great-great-grandmother got pregnant but married someone else who accepted the baby and never told anyone who the real father was. It wasn't even put on the birth certificate. Maybe not that much of dark history (though I guess having a baby from another man at that time was pretty scandalous :D) but definitely a deep dark hole in my family history.
  16. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2001
    Messages:
    17,469
    :cool: Do you mind sharing which survivor is your ancestor? I have read a lot on the subject and have even visited several of the key sites. The part of the story that remains infamous is really only the tip of a larger, very interesting tale in a fascinating period in American history.
  17. loulou

    loulou Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2005
    Messages:
    1,735
    My ancestors of five generations ago were Madonna's too.

    Does that count?
  18. KHenry14

    KHenry14 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2002
    Messages:
    1,517
    Sure, her name was Nancy Graves, and she was 9 years old at the time of the trip west.

    Here's a remarkable story....In 1996 they held a sesquicentennial celebration, where all of the many descendents gathered. My father decided to mingle and walked up to some rather dour people who happened to be of the Reed family. He introduced himself and commented about what a great thing it was that all these people came and were able to meet. This stern guy agreed, and said that they felt that this time they might actually talk to the Graves family!!! :rolleyes: Evidently these people were carrying a 150 year old grudge!!! You can't make this stuff up!

    BTW, anyone interested in the Donner Party should read Ethan Rarick's "Desperate Passage", the definative work on the subject.
  19. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2008
    Messages:
    4,765
    My great-grandfather on the paternal side also has an unknown father. The name on his birth certificate was his mother's dead husband--who had been dead for almost a year and half when he was born. He had that last name, which is my maiden name, but clearly is "incorrect". We knew that for years, even though it was not really talked about.

    Recently, doing some research, my brother found out that our great-great grandmother ran a "boarding house" after her husband died. Several other women lived there and men (particularly traveling workers, railroaders) came and went "quickly". It very much appears that "boarding house" was a euphemism. And, thus, no research will ever uncover the father.
  20. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2001
    Messages:
    17,469
    Fascinating! So great to have a direct line into history like that, and to still have access to other descendants. (Just too bad your ancestor is one of the ones who never wanted to talk about it afterward!)

    Another great book is The Donner Party Chronicles by Frank Mullen Jr - it's a compilation of articles from the Reno Gazette on the 150th anniversary of that winter, with tons of images past and present and maps.

    Have you been to Donner Lake and the memorial? Sutter Fort in Sacramento also has a little exhibit, and gives great context for the journey they were on, and what California was like back then.
  21. rjblue

    rjblue Re-registered User

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2001
    Messages:
    5,867
    My great-grandfather on my mother's side showed up in the census as a three year old- bastard son of Matthew Donavan- mother unknown. We know that one of the daughters of a wealthy family in the nearby town was probably the mother, but I've always thought it was kind of romantic that his father took him and raised him.
  22. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Messages:
    3,128
    Some of my ancestors on my dad's side of the family were involved in the Witch Hunts that occurred in Massachusetts in 1692. It was in Andover, which is in the same region as Salem, and is usually included as part of what we refer as the Salem Witch Trials. My ancestors were some of the accusers and a few were accused. No one was executed, as it was becoming clear at that point that it was just mass hysteria and a lot of bunk.
  23. Ajax

    Ajax New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2002
    Messages:
    3,302
    My maternal grandfather once hung a man... It's not as bad as it sounds. He was a prosecutor and someone he tried was sentenced to be hung for murder (this is a long time ago, when Turkey still had the death penalty). For some reason I can't remember, my grandfather did the hanging, rather than the state executioner. This isn't really something to be ashamed of, as I guess he was just doing his duty and the legal system was ok with the death penalty, but it still feels weird to think that someone in my family physically killed someone else.
  24. Cachoo

    Cachoo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2010
    Messages:
    2,422
    I know Ken Burns deservedly gets the accolades for his documentaries but his brother Ric made "The Donner Party" which was shown on PBS' "The American Experience." Did you see that? It is one of the best but most chilling (no pun intended) documentaries I've watched. Your poor (many greats) granny...I can understand why she never smiled.
  25. Kruss

    Kruss Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2001
    Messages:
    2,117
    We're supposed to be 9th cousins to the Kennedys...I always say they got the money and we got the integrity. ;)
  26. AYS

    AYS Cruder than you thought

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2002
    Messages:
    19,468
    I hate to say it, but this really isn't that far off from much of my family tree. There's actually a lot of dark stuff in the not-to-distant past I don't care to go into.

    My mom was the product of a second marriage of her mom (so my grandmother) and it's a well known fact that the marriage was shotgun (literally gun point) as my maternal grandfather knocked her up (w my mom) and tried to avoid the marriage. He apparently carried on with another relationship through much of the 30+ year marriage and remarried her almost the minute my grandmother passed away.

    My paternal ancestors, back to my great-grandparents and before, were Gypsies from Bohemia, and there was always the implication that there were a lot of shady characters among them.
  27. Marilou

    Marilou New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2003
    Messages:
    1,595
    My husband's ancestor was one of the last women hung in Salem as a supposed witch. She was also one of the oldest, a widow in her 70s.

    My great-grandfather was paid to get out and stay out of England - no one quite knows why. Apparently, he was not a very nice man and was planning to kidnap his grandchildren (my dad and uncle) after the death of his son. Someone in the family got word to my grandmother and the boys were officially adopted by their step-father.
  28. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2005
    Messages:
    17,494
    One of my relatives - my dad's great-uncle, I think - was a Member of Parliament in Canada who introduced the first resolution in the House in the 1920s calling for the restriction of "Oriental immigration". :slinkaway:
  29. Cachoo

    Cachoo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2010
    Messages:
    2,422
    Wow that is fascinating---did your grandfather hate going to work each day because it was Goering he translated for? I'm so sorry about the family members you lost: I cannot reconcile the Germany that I love to that period when so much evil occurred.
  30. Louise

    Louise Banned Member

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2003
    Messages:
    560
    I logged onto ancestry.com a few years ago, and someone posted a message on my family's site looking for info regarding my grandfather. He had apparently fathered a child outside of his marriage with a black woman and no one in the family knew about it. My father refused to believe it, but I kept in touch with the daughter's daughter, my cousin, and learned a great deal about her upbringing. My father is still convinced she's after the 'family money' (Huh? There is no family money anymore...) and refuses to accept that his hero father would step out on his family like that. But it is all true. My father hates the internet, because it creates rumors and falsehoods in his mind. I thought it was interesting.
  31. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2001
    Messages:
    17,469
    I can see that in a way - if you've always thought one thing and then find out something different, it makes you question everything else you held true. It's especially hard when it's someone as close as your own father.

    Conversely, one would think centuries would soften things - I did a little checking for a friend who has an interesting family history, and found out that an ancestor from the 1700s had spent time in jail. No record of why - could have been major, could have just as easily been as minor as taking a loaf of bread to feed his family in that timeframe. But my friend's father was very displeased when she told him, and refused to believe it.
  32. KHenry14

    KHenry14 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2002
    Messages:
    1,517
    Oh yes, I've seen it...and it scared the HECK out of me! Obviously it's more personal to us, but we all thought it was beautifully done. Less enthusiasm for the Crispin Glover film on the Party though. How they could make this story boring is beyond us....:rolleyes:
  33. skategal

    skategal Bunny slave

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Messages:
    2,710
    Let's see...from my distant past, we all share my paternal great-grandmother's last name as she and my paternal great grandfather were not married. Speculation is that he was married to someone else.

    In the not so distant past...We are pretty sure some of my first cousins are part of an organized crime ring (drugs.)
  34. Buzz

    Buzz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2001
    Messages:
    16,774
    There is some family lore that are hard to ignore but as to how truthfull I cannot say but here they are:

    1) There is a distant cousin who it was rumoured (when I was very small) would hire domestic workers and not only not pay them but physicall brutalise them as well. This cousin is known for being extremely rich so people just put up with her bad behaviour. I vaguely remember visiting her house at about 6 or 7 years of age and hearing a very thin young woman complain about her bad treatment. But nothing was ever done.

    2) My great grand mother was rumoured to have been born to very wealthy family of goldsmiths. And as per Indian tradition of the time she was married while still a child, but her husband turned out to be a drunk. Her family insisted that she stay at home but once she was of age she refused and left home to live with him. Her family then disowned her. As it turns out, they were right about him, and he died young leaving her to take care of her only child, a girl, all by herself. That child then died young while giving birth so she spent her old age alone because my grand father would not let her see her grand kids much.

    3) There is a distant cousin it was rumoured who ran away from home was she was young and was forced into prostitution. Her mother then paid a private detective to find and bring her daughter home.
  35. pamela95

    pamela95 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2010
    Messages:
    74
    Not really a dark family secret, more a story of disgrace.

    My mother’s side of the family was some important member of the aristocracy in the Ukraine. Until my mom’s great-grandfather fancied himself a jack-of-all trades (even though he really wasn’t-he was a very inept lawyer), and volunteered to repair a neighbours malfunctioning gun. He botched the job and the neighbour accidentally lost a hand when the gun exploded in it. So he sued my great-great grandfather and ended up winning both all the family money and the land. My great-great grandfather, broke and humiliated, decided to move his family to Canada. I can only imagine the shock of having to go from important land owner in Europe to being dumped out in the middle of nowhere Saskatchewan to live in a sod hut.

    I’ve always wondered if they realised how lucky they were to leave Ukraine right before the start of World War One and the Russian Revolution. Had my ancestor not been an ‘arrogant fool’ (as my great-grandmother called him) who knows where I’d be.

    I also thought it was a sweet story that on the boat over to Canada, my 9 year old great-grandmother became best friends with a little boy. For the whole journey they played together, and then separated once the boat docked in Montreal. Twelve years later they met again, fell in love and got married.
  36. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2006
    Messages:
    6,463
    Well, if you go back REALLY REALLY REALLY far, thousands of years ago my father's ancestors domesticated the horse in Central Asia. (My parents did the National Geographic DNA kits. Told them there was a reason I had to have a pony.) Don't know if it's DARK...

    More recently, on my mother's father's side, HIS father and aunt were left in a tavern in Poland. (Though their last name is probably Ukrainian, and possibly Jewish, though said DNA traces don't suggest it on either side of the family. Not, at the time, there was a Polish state officially at all as it was oppressed and divided by the Russians, Prussians, and Austro-Hungarians.) He came over, but enough relatives stayed in that little town that we know they lost their home because the Germans bulldozed it to build the camp Birkenau.

    Slightly more recently still, my Australian cousins are Australians because when they escaped Ukraine in the confusion at the end of the war before the Red Army butchers came back (many Ukrainians viewed the Germans, SS death squads aside, as a liberator army because of the millions the Russians murdered in the 1930s) one member of the family was sick with some kind of fever, and the US authorities wouldn't allow them entry into the country. Australia, apparently, wasn't as selective and the whole family still lives in Sydney. (IIRC, the grandmother of the kids my age is MY maternal grandmother's cousins.)

    And...yeah, as you might tell, no one in my family is a big fan of the Russians, at least not from 1917 on (on Dad's side that's when his parents got out of Russian-occupied Poland.) Actually my grandmother and great-grandmother (both dead now) probably wouldn't even have been thrilled with some of my dance teachers being Hungarians, either. And really, my Russian roommate's mother told her and me both to stay away from Russian men, they were nothing but trouble. (She also said Polish boys were all charmers, and I was like "Yeah, so you met my uncles...")
  37. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2005
    Messages:
    30,765
    ........
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2011
  38. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Messages:
    7,512
    This is all fascinating to read!

    My family is boooooring. The most interesting thing I can think of is that my maternal grandfather converted from Catholicism to Lutheranism to marry my grandmother, which apparently was unusual in the 1940s (usually the woman converted?).

    Most of my ancestors came to the US in the 1880s and early 1900s from Switzerland, France and Germany. The German branch had money, but no large sums, which makes me wonder why they left (they were Christians, so not escaping persecution). They fought in the wars and became shop owners and carpenters. I don't even think I'm related to anyone interesting or famous. :yawn:
  39. Susan1

    Susan1 Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2005
    Messages:
    759
    Not "dark" - just history. My uncle (my dad's sister's husband.....) was an aide to General Patton in WWII and was captured at the Battle of the Bulge and was starved and beaten in a POW camp. He was rescued and came home (of course). He has a POW license plate.

    And not a bit dark, but scandalous for the 50's, (no names, just numbered in order of birth) - my aunt (4) (my mom's younger sister) had a baby her senior year and put it up for adoption during the summer (no one at school knew). I have known this since the 70's. We were at my mom's (1) other sister's (2) house, and they were gossiping about her new neighbors. My cousin and I were talking about what saints the four girls were growing up and how the family didn't have any "skeletons in the closet". My aunt looked at my mom and my mom said "go ahead". So my aunt told us all this. We have never been allowed to mention it to the aunt (4) who had the baby. And it gets better..........

    In the late 80's, their other sister (3) called my mom and told her that Aunt 4 told her that the "baby" showed up at aunt 4's house out of the blue (duh) and said that he had been living in our city all this time and wanted to meet her!!!! She said she went on with her life (husband, three kids, divorce) and did not wish to have a relationship with him. (cold, huh?) Aunt 3 picked us up one Saturday half an hour before we were to pick up Aunt 4 and told us all about this and took us past where his parents lived and everything. Aunt 4 still does not know that I know any of this. I don't know if her three adult children ever knew any of it either.

    Just wanted to share my "secret" with somebody..............
  40. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Messages:
    3,128
    They could have been lured to the "land of promise" that the US was called during that time period. Because even if they were doing well in Germany, just imagine how much better they'd be off in America since all was golden!