Family history scandals

+12 votes
I have two scandals in my family, and both trial records can be found in the courthouses. I created a profile for my distant uncle who stole a horse in 1909. My uncle's friend was also involved in this theft, and went to jail with him. The Huntsville Prison Records for both men are available on Ancestry, the trial records are also at the Grayson County, Texas Courthouse. Being is how this is public record, I put the name of the friend in my ancestor's profile. I received an email from a woman who was quite upset. She had no idea her ancestor stole a horse, and she believed I made the entire thing up, even though I have plenty of proof, and the trial records are public. My question is, can I write in my uncle's biography that he and his friend stole a horse (supply plenty of proof), even though it will upset descendants of the friend? My family knows their distant uncle stole a horse and they don't care one bit. They've accepted it. Obviously, my uncle's friend never told his children that he was in prison. My distant uncle died shortly after he was released, and never had children.
WikiTree profile: George Williams
in WikiTree Help by Katrina Miller G2G6 Mach 1 (15.8k points)

3 Answers

+20 votes
You can write it down, given the sources. If stealing a horse is upsetting someone, then I feel sorry for the person; there are far worse things to find in public records.
by Michel Vorenhout G2G6 Pilot (262k points)
Good answer!

Much less stealing a horse in 1909! It's only been 111 years, what will the neighbors think?? How can the children show their faces at school! wink

+13 votes
If it happened fairly recently, I would suggest it might not have been a good idea. But a hundred years ago and for the theft of a horse? As you say it’s public record and obviously easy to find, I take it you didn’t start a profile for your uncle’s partner in crime?
by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
I did because he is in our family tree. When my distant uncle Milton Hix passed away, his widow married a cousin to the partner-in-crime. My ancestors came from a small town.
Then it would seem more likely the family did know, but you can’t stop someone being indignant of it becoming common knowledge.
If he is in your family tree, then even less of a reason to be upset. This is part of your family history too.
I believe the lady does know, but didn't want me to publish it online. You can't really erase history, and public record.
If you FOUND the info online, it's already published.

Far better to have it as a by-mention on a family tree, than the starkness of the police reports etc in the newspapers of the day.
That's true. I have a distant cousin who killed himself and his girlfriend in 1940. His suicide note was published in the local newspaper directly above the obituary his mother wrote. I can only imagine her pain.
+10 votes
This happens in almost every family.
For example, I have found documents about a long inheritance dispute in the court files of the Steinhorst office of 12 Jul 1784 ( State Archive) of Schleswig-Holstein, department 234, number 354.
The grandchildren of Franz Fickbaum were fighting judicially against each other for the inheritance of Franz Fickbaum.

The good thing about these files was that the court researched all heirs and subsequent heirs and recorded them in the files. It was a goldmine for my family research.

So a certainly bitter dispute turned into a wonderful thing for me as a genealogist.
by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (2.5m points)

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