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Dark history in your family tree

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

  1. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    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.

  2. Amy L

    Amy L Well-Known Member

    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 trying to ignore rod and find the eurosport feed

    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 Active Member

    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

    My great-great grandfather was involved in the Hatfield-McCoy feud.
  6. KHenry14

    KHenry14 Well-Known Member

    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


    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

    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

    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 zexy demon

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    :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 Let It Snow

    My ancestors of five generations ago were Madonna's too.

    Does that count?
  18. KHenry14

    KHenry14 Well-Known Member

    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

    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

    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 Having a great day!

    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

    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 Well-Known Member

    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

    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 Not Auto-Tuned

    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 I'd rather have a pug for my president

    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 Well-Known Member

    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 Janny uber

    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

    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

    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.