Skeletons in the Family Closet


Its an common belief that every family history will uncover at least one of the following:

  • lunacy
  • bankruptcy
  • illegitimacy

It is certainly true that you should be prepared to uncover family secrets that are revealed whilst you delve through historical records.

In my own family tree somethings were well known and talked about such as one ancestor being the son of his mother’s employer and not her husband. Another distant cousin had been jailed for manslaughter. One of my great grandfather’s died from the complications associated with syphilis (a much more common disease in the 19th century than you might think).

What we didn’t know until I requested my 2x great grandfather’s police employment records was that he was thrown out for embezzlement. I haven’t yet had a chance to visit Preston to discover the details of his crime to see quite how bad he was.

Another interesting find was brought to light when I ordered my 3x grandparents marriage certificate and their eldest daughter’s birth certificate. When I looked at the date her birth was recorded as the day after their marriage. It does make you wonder if they did make it down the aisle on time or they falsified her birth registration!

A couple of my ancestors have appeared in listings for bankruptcy as these were widely published back then and are well indexed now. At least one went bankrupt more than once so he obviously wasn’t a very good business man.

So keep your eyes open as you look in the records. Dates on certificates and church records can be very informative as can household composition on census returns.

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