52 Ancestors Week 33: Black Sheep

+16 votes

Time for the next 52 Ancestors challenge...

52 Photos and 52 Ancestors sharing bacgesPlease share with us a profile of an ancestor or relative who matches this week's theme:

Black Sheep

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in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.6m points)
My dad told me about this one: One of my Great-Grandfather's was a "Black Sheep". That was George Raymond Funderburk (His grandfather). After his wife Nancy died, a distant relative, a Wendy Clifton, asked George Raymond to buy her a new dress. He told her that he would do it if she had sex with him, and she agreed.

They did the deed, she got her new dress, and a unexpected surprise-she was pregnant with his son. When the child was born, a big family fight broke out deciding the Surname of the Family-Clifton or Funderburk. When Clifton won out, the two Families didn't speak to each other for several years.
My Black Sheep is my Great Grandfather [[Waters-5355 | Bad Bill Waters ]] He even has the {{Black Sheep Warning}} label on his page. There are many stories about him circulating around the Menifee/Powell County Kentucky area. I'm to young to know which are true and which were exaggerated. They claim he killed several people and that he had a gun he "Notched" every time he killed someone. It was said before he would kill someone he would say "I believe I'll just kill you". I don't know how many people he killed if any but He was tried and electrocuted for murder in Eddyville Prison. It was also rumored that he was a bank robber. He was in prison at least once maybe twice before his last stint when he was killed. All in all his story is an interesting tale of moinshinin', Sidestepping and murder. I still hold out hope if it becoming a movie.

39 Answers

+16 votes
Best answer
Just the other day, my mother was remarking that, if the Sharpless family, of which she is a daughter, had a "black sheep", it would be her Uncle Herb.

For one thing, he and his wife Jean retroactively backdated their wedding so that it would appear that their first-born, Bill, had come along 9+ months after they were married (which isn't what had happened).

More dramatic was the outcome of what I believe was a May 23, 1935, police raid on Toronto's Jolly Miller Tavern for illicit gambling taking place within. The photos in the next day's papers, showing suspects being led out by Toronto's finest, featured Uncle Herb front and centre. (One hopes that his parents, who didn't approve even of playing cards on Sunday, never knew about it!)
by Richard Hill G2G6 Pilot (101k points)
selected by Deidre Pell
+17 votes

 This is a repeat post from the 2018 Ancestors challenge because this is the ONLY black sheep in my family.

My family were good people. They never broke the law. However, one of my great aunts married into an English family that did have a murderer (Skeleton) in its closet!!

My great aunt was Bessie Burrow - the oldest of my grandmothers siblings. She married a man named Edward Bentall Collis from Essex in England. I mention this just so you know how this Skeleton was connected to my family. LOL

It turns out that Edward's paternal uncle - Samuel Bentall Collis - was declared insane after murdering the local farm baliff and hacking off the poor mans head. There was a huge and very detailed write up of the events, and the trial in the Halstead and Colme Valley Gazette (Essex)  in early September 1896.


Samuel was incarcerated at the Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum in Berkshire where he died in 1899 at age 37.

As far as I know, this is the only "Black Sheep" that is connected to my family in any way

by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+17 votes

I haven't been able to document any true black sheep in the family so far.  Every family has some member who just doesn't seem to fit in, even if they don't commit crimes or become mad scientist and try to take over the world.  Closest I can find in my family is 2G Grandmother Esther (Bell) Purdy.  The Bell and Babcock families were established New England families by the time she was born, both families having been in New England for nearly 200 years at that point, and both having Revolutionary War veterans who fought for the Colonies.  One would assume she would marry a nice local lad, settle down near her parents and start a family.  Nope, she married a (in my opinion) rather sketchy Irish Canadian immigrant named Israel Purdy.  When they married in the small town of Leyden, MA, he was a stable keeper and she was the daughter of a prominent local farmer.  Two years after their marriage, he's living in Cambridge, MA working as a machinist leaving her at home with their eldest child.  After Esther died, he left their four children in the care of their maternal grandmother and took off for places unknown for nearly 30 years before resurfacing in the 1920 Census.

by Dorothy O'Hare G2G6 Mach 8 (89.6k points)
+19 votes

Larkin Skaggs

This is tough for me because no matter hard I have looked, there seems to be no real black sheep in my close family. The most notorious man related to me is probably Larkin Skaggs. I know he is a Skaggs cousin to me, but how is not exactly clear, due to some deep, yet-unknown ancestry. 

By all family accounts, Larkin wasn't that wild as boy and a young man. He was raised in Edmonson County, Kentucky before moving to Missouri after 1850. There he married in 1853 and settled down. Only a few years later came the Civil War which seems to have unleashed his inner demons.

The event for which he is infamous is his participation with Quantrill's Raiders in the bloody Massacre at Lawrence, Kansas on 21 Aug 1863. Quantrill and his men were ruthless as they robbed, killed, and pillaged that day in Lawrence. Among the other raiders were the likes of Jesse James, Cole Younger, George Shepherd , and "Bloody Bill" Anderson. Unfortunately for Larkin, he was the only one to be caught and punished by the residents.

There are various reports of Larkin's activities that day, which differ greatly in detail. Over the years the stories grew and were embellished, so it's difficult to know for which acts of terror he was actually responsible. Larking would have been superhuman to accomplish all the misdeeds attributed to him. Various people have told stories about how they or their families were personally victimized by Larkin and/or how they were responsible for capturing or killing him. There is no doubt that the residents of Lawrence suffered many crimes and indignities that day for which Larkin became a handy scapegoat, and no doubt deservedly.

All reports concur that Larkin was drunk during the raid. Some reports indicate that he returned after the raid because he had left something behind. Others say he was so drunk that he fell off his horse. Whatever the truth, we know that Larkin was the only one of Quantrill's men to be captured that day, and the only one who did not survive.

You will find no marker or grave for Larkin Skaggs in Lawrence, Kansas. There are conflicting reports of what happened to his body, but most accounts agree that it was horribly mutilated in retribution for the damages inflicted. No one knows or cares to remember what finally happened to it.

It's a sad story about a man who allowed himself to be corrupted by the tragedy of a cruel civil war where neighbor fought neighbor, and the deep wounds that were inflicted upon a town in Kansas that fateful day. 

by Bill Vincent G2G6 Pilot (176k points)
edited by Bill Vincent

Great story.

Also not the closest of relations, but the wife of a 3rd great uncle was Sallie Young.  She was a hero or villain that day in Lawrence, depending on whose account you read.  It is agreed that she was out riding on horseback the morning of the raid, but whether she knowingly aided the attackers or helped convince them to spare some homes and lives is unclear.

I've read a great many accounts from families who were victims in that raid. It seems to me that nearly every family in the town has a different take or spin on the events of that day. I can imagine that the sheer terror they felt in that raid must have made it hard to have clear, unbiased memories.
Both my husband and I are related to Larkin, all from Kentucky and migrated to Missouri.
+18 votes
There are so many gray sheep in my father's family that the black sheep (plural) are hardly noticeable. In my mother's family of snowy white sheep, the only dark gray one is her cousin Aubrey Desmond, Jr (1924-1990). His family lost touch with him about the time of his third divorce, but he went on to be married and divorced seven times.
by Joyce Vander Bogart G2G6 Pilot (202k points)

I have some relatives like that. I like to say, they're not afraid of commitment -- they're no good at it, but they ain't afraid of it!

That's funny, Jessica!
My husband's father turns out was not and his birth father was good at getting married and having kids around the country....he just forgot to ever get divorced!!!!
+17 votes

One of my paternal Grand Aunts cheated on her first husband with a much older married man. The man she had the affair with was the father of one of my Grand Uncles by marriage. They were caught and charged with adultery. I had heard gossip about the whole thing, but wasn't really sure how true it was. Then I started doing genealogy and found articles confirming everything.

Melva Gauthier

by Chandra Garrow G2G6 Mach 7 (71.7k points)
+17 votes

I found my way into an old New Orleans family by way of my Great Uncle’s father-in-law Oscar Garic.  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Garic-10

In 1882 he and his brother were involved in a saloon fight and he shot and killed a man. Both he and his brother were convicted and imprisoned. In 1883 their appeal was denied by the Louisiana Supreme Court but they were pardoned by the Governor in 1884. 

There is no mention of the murder in any of his obituaries. His brother Lawson  went on to establish Garic Bakeries. 

by Joelle Colville-Hanson G2G6 Pilot (154k points)
edited by Joelle Colville-Hanson
+21 votes

My first cousin once removed, Willie McGirk. always had a tendency for getting into trouble. Willie spent a large part of his life in the California prison system. He did time in Folsom and San Quentin, and he was part of one of the most famous prison escapes ever. On 9 Aug 1979 Willie along with Forest Tucker and John Walker launched their flimsy craft, a boat made with plastic sheeting, wood, duct tape and Formica. It held together just long enough for them to paddle to freedom right under the noses of several San Quentin tower guards. The guards thought they were just the local yacht club, because on the side was written "Rub-A-Dub-Dub-Marin Yacht Club. The movie "The Old Man & The Gun" was made in 2018 staring Robert Redford as Forest Tucker that showed them making the boat they used, and the Rub-A-Dub-Dub craft is on display in the San Quentin Museum. This is a photo of San Quentin and some boaters.

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (871k points)
That is quite a story! I just read the rest of it, and though Willie spent time in prison, he doesn't seem to have been regarded as a black sheep, just a  fun-loving fellow. Did you know him?
Thank you for your comment Joyce. I spent two weeks every summer with his mother during the 1980s, and Willie’s brother and I were very close. His sister and I are still close, but Willie was locked up from about the time he was 18 on, so we never spent time together.
What a great story and wonderful photo Alexia thank You for sharing
Hi, Alexis, I just tracked down this old post. Isn't it interesting that when the question was "Black Sheep" there were so many  answers, but when the question was "Negatives" there were so few?
Joyce, thank you for your always good comment. Negatives was a hard one for me. All I could think about was my collection of photo negatives that I doubt that I will use to reproduce photos.
+16 votes

My Great (x3) uncle, John Lewis Allison (1821-1864), was evidently not the best person in the world.  Guess he could be considered a "Black Sheep" in the family.  He was in the land business and was sued numerous times for his mid-deeds.

During the Civil War he had bought or leased some land in Mississippi.  Not sure why there, since in lived in Coles County, Illinois.

Anyway, while visiting the land, he had a encounter with the Confederate soldiers ... they believed him to be a Union Spy ... so they made him dig a grave, shot him and buried him in it.

Never was sure if he really was a spy or not ... but guess it is too late to matter?  and I guess it depends on whether you were for the North or the South if he was a bad guy??

Below is a historical article about his ventures.


by Bill Sims G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
edited by Bill Sims
No link to his profile?
He resembles Abe Lincoln quite a bit , wondering if related.  My husband's birth mother's family is from Cole's Country and he has Allison cousins in DNA matches.
+14 votes

Shhhhhh!!! What first comes to mind are my bigamists. The first one I found is my uncle Clarence Winfield Driver who married another wife under an assumed name, had two children by her and then got arrested.  However my newly discovered one was Morgan E Mills husband of a great great aunt, Rebecca Jane (Driver) Mills. They were married in 1812, had  12 children, 8 surviving, and were major community members, but apparently something happened to the health of Rebecca, as we find her living with her son and listed as insane on the 1870 census. Apparently, In 1858 Morgan married another wife and had 3 more children by her.  I wonder if it was her husbands second wife that sent her over the edge? Rebecca finally died in 1872 and Morgan in 1878. Here is the transcript of a news article about the Marriage of Morgans son by his second wife. 

Married in Winchester on the 31st day of March by Nathan Reed Esq. at his office, George W. Mills of Monroe Township and Mary A. Riley of Cottage Home White River Township.  The ages of the happy couple averaged 151/2 years the bride being thirteen and the groom eighteen.  When they stood before the magistrate their tenderness reminded one of a group of children about to participate in a game of "ring around the rose," though they did not clasp hands with rapture as girls and boys do who are just in fun. But the august personages of Enoch Rogers and Morgan Mills being present gave solemnity to the occasion, and served to keep by standers from laughing to see children get married.''

by Lyn Gulbransen G2G6 Mach 5 (50.6k points)
edited by Lyn Gulbransen
+16 votes

My father's family has some true Black Sheep in it. My 3x-great-uncles Abram and Abel Kelly shot and killed their sister's paramour, John Catlin, in 1846. I think it was Abel who even went back and shot the man again after he was already dead! They went on the run but were eventually captured.

by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (322k points)
+14 votes
I don't know if I should call him a "black sheep" but my 3x grandfather was lynched by the Ku Klux Klan in Estill County, Kentucky in 1863
by David Hughey G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
He probably did nothing :(
+16 votes
I recently did a profile for my dad's Uncle Frank. He was generally a good guy, but he did do time for manslaughter, which makes his profile a good bit more interesting than most.


Also, some letters concerning that period of time, (1914-1915) when Frank shot someone, have surfaced recently.  So, that added a little color.


(The last two letters, at the bottom are relevant.)
by Jamie Cox G2G6 Mach 1 (19.0k points)
edited by Jamie Cox
That is an outstanding profile!!  Thanks for sharing it.
+11 votes
I wouldn't say that there are any for sure known black sheep in the family but I have heard rumors that back in the day when it was wrong for interracial marriage I have a family member who had some children to a native american blackfoot. Apparently it was so bad no one knows who exactly it is just that we have some dna ties from this intertwine. I have a DNA test for my son and so far I cannot confirm that it is in my direct line like my pap has told us. I believe it may have been a great uncle or something for him to have heard the rumor.
by Christine Preston G2G6 Mach 6 (66.8k points)
+12 votes
I am sure there are many 'black sheep' in the family depending on who you ask. My personal favourite however is my 3rd great grandmother's brother, John Vidler born 1801 Sandhurst, Kent, England, died 1892, Jamberoo, New South Wales, Australia. The following article entitled 'A Methodist Pioneer' from a 1905 publication on TROVE tells of a smuggler turned churchman (typo on his birth date as 1900 in the article or else he achieved a lot in his 5 year lifetime). [http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155378198]

I could not find the information reflected on his profile (Vidler-136) that was already on Wikitree when I joined a couple of months ago.
by Rosalie Neve G2G6 Pilot (177k points)
+13 votes

John Caldwell Colt (Colt-100) was my second cousin, 5X removed.  He was also the brother of the developer of the Colt revolver, the noted Samuel Colt.  He claims black sheep status since he murdered an associate,  then in attempt to cover it up stuffed the body into a barrel and attempted to ship it overseas via sailing ship.  Sadly for John someone noticed something foul aboard ship, the body was uncasked, and the subsequent investigation traced it back to John.  Since this is 1840, the fact that John was living with a pregnant woman posing as his wife may have been more scandalous than the murder.  At any rate John was convicted, and he and his lover married in jail prior to the date of his planned hanging.  I say planned, since John foiled their hangman by committing suicide by stabbing himself with a pocketknife.  All in all not an episode the Colt family likely celebrates.  More info is available at my site:  https://dunscombe.info/e1647.htm

by Edward Dunscombe G2G5 (5.2k points)
+13 votes

I can share at least three very different black sheep profiles that I've worked on in the collective tree:

The oldest is my 6GGF - Thomas Askren, who was born in Yorkshire England in 1719.  He was an immigrant to America, but not by choice.  In the summer of 1744 he was convicted of highway robbery by the Assize court in Yorkshire and initially sentenced to death for his crime.  Lucky for me, that sentence was commuted to 14 years transportation during the following Spring term and he was brought to Maryland in chains as a bonded prisoner in 1745.

The second was my third great-uncle, David McHenry, born in Murfreesboro Tenn in 1835.  He and his brother Thomas fought together with the Confederate cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forest during the Civil War, until the Battle of Resaca in 1864, when Thomas was killed and David apparently was broken.  He deserted and swore an oath of allegiance to the Union a few days later.  After the war, he made his living as a "distiller" for awhile, until he was arrested in 1879 by federal revenue officers cracking down on moonshiners in the Tennessee hills.  He drops off the map for a few years after that, and then reappears married to a mysterious widow in Missouri in the mid-1880s.  After she died, David applied to but was rejected from a Confederate old soldiers home in Missouri, probably because of his oath of allegiance to the Union forty years earlier.  He returned to Tennessee and died alone back in Murfreesboro in 1909.

And the last is much more recent  - my first cousin once removed, Dee McHenry.  She was born in Oklahoma in 1932 but moved with her family to California as a little girl during the dust bowl.  She grew up to be a beautiful woman, a professional figure skater, but she fell into hard times after divorcing her husband in 1956.  She tried without much success to make ends meet and care for her young children working as a cocktail waitress and similar jobs, but became pregnant again from an unknown father and then died mysteriously at the hands of an illegal abortionist -- leading to a sensational trial at which the abortionist was acquitted of her murder, only to confess to the killing years later.  Her body has never been found.


by Scott McClain G2G6 Mach 3 (32.8k points)
+12 votes

Well this black sheep also is one of my brick walls. Austin W Tidd my great grandfather on my fathers side. I only find him while he was married to my Gr Grandmother or directly after that when he was released from prison.  He was born in New York in 1865 (supposedly) But from what facts I gather is he married my very young gr grandmother Dora and lived with her family for a while in New York. Next I find them on a census in Nebraska where the rest of the children are born. They had 3. Then not long after my grandmother was born he gets in trouble for embezzling money from an envelope company that he was starting. 

Gr Grandma (called little grandma as she was quite short as was her daughter) divorced him and then left the town, first living with one man then marrying another. They also had a child and raised the rest, at one point the son took the new husbands name since that was how it was listed on the census. They ended up in California. Where Grandma fell in love with a tall handsome man from Australia. 

Austin W. Tidd - WikiTree Profile

by Marcella Nadler G2G2 (2.3k points)
+12 votes
I think the term "black sheep" racist.

My most evil, worthless and deadbeat father was William Carnes Hall b abt 1857 d 1810-20 Tipton Co. TN. I have a copy of a New Orleans newspaper article stating that he shot and killed a unarmed black drayman in an argument at work at an unloading dock. It was William's 2nd day at this job. The father and brothers of William's wife sent money monthly for her and the children to use, I have letters that she received with the money and I have a telegram sent to his wife stating that her father purchased a small farm near Huntland TN for his daughter's family. His wife divorced him a couple years before the 1900 census.

jim baucom
by Jim Baucom G2G6 (6.3k points)

No, the term "black sheep" is not racist. It is an idiom from sheep ranching. Black sheep are rare, conspicuous, and regarded as less valuable because their wool cannot be dyed. It has come to mean "odd or disreputable member of a group, especially within a family." Here is the Wikipedia article.

+12 votes
I do have a Black Sheep on my father's side but when my brother asked about our great great grand father, William Sherwood, he was told that "We don't talk of him!" so we have no idea what he did that was so bad!  Our great grandfather was stripped of his knighthood for having a child with his mistress and being absolutely brazen about it but everyone things he is still a lovely man.  Our grandfather is believed to have had a child with a mistress too so we can't think what it was that made William so wicked.  His first wife, Elizabeth Kennedy, was extremely rich and she died very soon after leaving him and then he tried to claim her inheritance so I have a feeling he may have murdered her!
by Jo Burnett G2G2 (2.5k points)

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