Question of the Week: What's a funny anecdote you've found in your research?

+12 votes
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imageWhat's a funny anecdote you've found in your research? Tell us about it with an answer below. You can also use the question image to share your answer with friends and family on social media

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
My wife and I were visiting a somewhat distant cousin Gf4313 Marjorie Reaper to get information on that branch of the family.  She told us a story of an earlier relative who came home without a key and was shot by his father who thought he was a trespasser.  The man recovered she said and moved to Columbus, Ohio shortly after he recovered.  She said none of her relatives believed her but she knew it was true.  We decided to go to the library to see if we could find out if what she said was true.  Sure enough, we found an article in the paper that told exactly what she told us.

23 Answers

+10 votes
 
Best answer
I keep a file of funnies I have encountered while doing research. Here is one that we all can relate to.

Panola County, Texas 1850 Census. The certification by Henry Swearingen, the Census Taker, indicates his frustration: "I CERTIFY THESE TO BE 64 PAGES & A PIECE OF PAGE INHABITANCE. I DONE AS NEAR IN A CORDANCE WITH MY OATH AS I COULD DO IT. THE PEOPLE WAS HARD TO GET A LONG WITH. H. Swearingen, Asst. Marshal.
by Virginia Fields G2G6 Pilot (596k points)
selected by Vivienne Badgett
Henry was later found in the local saloon lamenting his encounter with the "Smith" family and their twenty children.
Funny, Chris!! And probably true.
Too bad it wasn't 1885 and in California. I'd have added "He then heard a man talk about the future and how everyone "runs for fun" 100 years from now."
20 Smiths. That’s no joke.
Chris! You are making me really LOL!
+14 votes

I did a profile on my first cousin three times removed, Robert "Bruce" Irwin. His great granddaughter contacted me, so I would put documentation that there was a warrant for his arrest for fathering a child out of wedlock. He was 21 and the mother was 20, and her parents sued him for Fornication and Bastardy. It got so bad that he threatened to shoot her mother for not letting him see her. They did marry and had seven more children together. His great granddaughter and I are good friends now, and we both are managers of his profile. These are the Fornication and Bastardy charges.

  

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (345k points)
What a magnificent story Alexis it actually make me laugh

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story
Thank you Susan, glad it made you laugh.
+8 votes

 I was looking for articles about my great-grandfather, Austin Felker and his wife, Henrietta Legault in the Digital archives of the Newburyport Public library. It was a longshot. They were residents of nearby Haverhill. Why would they be in the paper?

 It turns out that they and Austin's half-brother were involved in a boat accident at the mouth of the Merrimack River. No one was hurt. But, the story itself makes it so much more dramatic than it really was. Check it out here.

Members of the coast guard saved the three as the skiff was capsized when it hit one of their ships. Austin and Henrietta fell overboard and I can't help but think of how gross the water was. This was in June so the river wasn't TOO cold.

I say "gross" because you have to remember that in June of 1930, the river was still used for powering all kinds of textile mills, shoe factories and all kinds of mills up and down the Merrimack valley. Newburyport is right at the mouth. So, all that sludge would have to come downstream. Just thinking of my great-grandparents being soaked in the sludge is funny but at the same time really gross. They obviously lived. My grandmother was five at the time.

I grew up in the valley and it took decades for the Merrimack river to get clean thanks to the EPA. However, there are still issues. Even when I was growing up in the '80s and '90s, the river was still gross. I didn't swim in it often. 

What is even more funny is that I told this story to my aunts and uncles and they said they probably went fishing in the Merrimack using the same skiff that was involved in the accident!

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (415k points)
+7 votes
I think my funny anecdote will be one of the shortest court cases I've ever seen, tried at the Old Bailey on February 7th 1898:

"The prisoner stated in the hearing of the jury that he was guilty, upon which they found him guilty. He received an excellent character--"

Of course, I don't know exactly what happened and I really wish a quote of what he actually said was recorded, but surely rule 1 of getting away with a crime is to make sure that you don't loudly whisper that you're guilty in front of the jury...
by David Smith G2G4 (4.6k points)
Well, people announce their crimes on Twitter today so this isn't a surprise.
+4 votes

Owen Chase, mariner, Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing of the Whale -Ship Essex of Nantucket; which was attacked and finally destroyed by a largeNarrative of the Whale-Ship Essex Spermaceti-Whale, in the Pacific Ocean. An account of the Unaparalleded sufferings of the Captain and Crew in the years 1819 and 1820. The book Moby Dick was based on Owen's story. Google the title if you want to read the story. 

by June Butka G2G2 (2.1k points)
+9 votes

My 6xGt Grandfather, Daniel Gumb was an unusual man for his time.  He was a stone cutter, born into a normal working class family in 1703 in Cornwall, England.  He managed to educate himself and as he was able to read and write his services to map and chart the local estates were in demand, as well as this he also carved numerous gravestones in the churchyard of St. Melor in Linkinhorne, many of which still stand.  He would sometimes make up little poems about the deceased, but the best one I've found is the one he carved for his own headstone prior to his death.  It shows a wry sense of humour, but also an understanding that, despite his education, he would always be a poor man, along with the knowledge that death renders all souls the same.

This is what he carved on his headstone:

Here lie I by the churchyard door
Here lie I because I'm poor
The further in, the more you pay
Yet here lie I as warm as they

by Brenda Butler G2G6 Mach 4 (42.1k points)
edited by Brenda Butler
+7 votes
My Grandfather and his brothers went together and installed electricity and lights in their mother's house. My Great Grandfather came home and not wanting/needing electricity started busting all the light bulbs with his cane! I bet you are wondering why this was funny?! He was blind as a bat! How did he know where to hit?! How many did he actually break?! I never thought to ask those questions when there were people alive that knew the answers.

Sometime else about him that was funny, Every night at exactly  8 O'clock he would say 8 O'clock Nothin' Said, Y'all go on home so's I can go to bed" and with that everyone would get up and leave.  In fairness, his bed was in the living room.
by Pam Dale G2G6 Mach 5 (56.7k points)
Yes, that's funny
+6 votes
A cousin a couple of times removed wrote a letter in which he discussed his McFatter relatives (my ancestors on my father's side) whom he characterized as "restless halfassed and volatile"!

I myself am also restless, halfassed, and volatile, so if anything that proves we breed true!
by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (181k points)
+6 votes

Here’s a cute story about an older bridegroom, Isaiah Driver (https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Driver-3254).

“The Leavenworth Times”, (Leavenworth, Kansas), 18 Apr 1913, page 9, (https://www.newspapers.com/clip/64997415/the-leavenworth-times/)

Marriage Snafu

Forgets His Girl's Name.

Flint, Mich., April 17. — Wedding bells did not ring for Isaiah Driver of Kansas, seventy-six years old, who came here to marry Mrs. Eliza M. Clark of Fenton. In applying for a license he gave all the information asked by License Clerk Runyan, until it came to the maiden name of the bride-to-be; there he failed. Finally he admitted he was "stumped" and that he would have to take the train back to Fenton and get the information.

by Cathryn Hondros G2G6 Mach 2 (25.2k points)
edited by Cathryn Hondros
+6 votes
Rommert Hansz, my GGGGGGGrandfather, was sentenced by the Court of Freisland (Netherlands) for shoddy work on a dyke in Laaxum, 1671. "Between some beams a space of 3 fingers thick was found." He was sentenced to flogging and banishment from the country for 5 years. Nice going pops. (seems funny but, truly not!)
by Robert Schott G2G6 (6.2k points)
+8 votes
When I started researching my g.g.grandfather, all I knew was that “he was born in Scotland and died at the Battle of Shiloh”.  Ha!  He just didn’t come home after Shiloh, was born in Kentucky, and had a total of six consecutive wives, none of whom knew about the others.  Died at a ripe old age.  What a charming scoundrel he must have been!
by Jan Clausen G2G Crew (530 points)
+5 votes

My mom's first husband, I discovered today, has a Gateway Ancestor to Edward I, d. 1307, via Norton Claypoole. LOL! Their dad & I are 15th cousins at third remove. It freaked my mom out when I told her that MY dad was her twenty-second cousin via Waltheof, executed 31 May 1086.

1] Edward I, King of England m. 1) Eleanor of Castile

  • 2] Elizabeth of Rhuddlan m. Humphrey Bohun
  • 3] William Bohun m. Elizabeth Badlesmere
  • 4] Elizabeth Bohun m. Richard FitzAlan
  • 5] Elizabeth FitzAlan m. 3) Sir Robert Goushill
  • 6] Elizabeth Goushill m. Sir Robert Wingfield
  • 7] Sir Henry Wingfield m. Elizabeth Rookes
  • 8] Robert Wingfield m. Margery Quarles
  • 9] Robert Wingfield m. Elizabeth Cecil
  • 10] Dorothy Wingfield m. Adam Claypoole
  • 11] John Claypoole m. Mary Angell
  • 12] Norton Claypoole m. Rachael
  • 13] Jeremiah Claypoole m. Sarah Shepard
  • 14] Elizabeth Claypoole m. Lewis Davidson
  • 15] Rachel Davidson m. Samuel McKee
  • 16] Elizabeth McKee m. James Mewhinney
  • 17] Margaret Mewhinney m. Martin Clark
  • 18] Martha Matilda Clark m. Samuel Elijah Rogers
  • 19] Charles Rogers m. Ruth Fatima Rodgers
  • 20] Nathaniel Andrew Rogers m. Tennisee Eleanor Ivey
  • 21] Joseph F. Rogers m. Polly Hoke
  • 22] Margaret Rogers
  • 1] Edward I, King of England m. 2) Margaret of France
  • 2] Thomas of Brotherton m. Alice de Hales
  • 3] Margaret Plantagenet m. John de Seagrave
  • 4] Elizabeth Seagrave m. John Mowbray
  • 5] Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk m. Elizabeth FitzAlan, above
  • 6] Isabel Mowbray m. James Berkeley, 6th Baron Berkeley
  • 7] Sir Maurice Berkeley m. Isabel Mead
  • 8] Anne Berkeley m. Sir William Dennis
  • 9] Eleanor Dennis m. William Lygon
  • 10] Thomas Lygon m. Frances Dennis, his cousin
  • 11] Thomas Lygon m. Elizabeth Pratt
  • 12] Col. Thomas Ligon m. Mary Harris
  • 13] Maj. William Ligon m. Mary Tanner
  • 14] Thomas Ligon m. Elizabeth Worsham
  • 15] Phoebe Ligon m. Henry Walthall
  • 16] Phoebe Walthall m. Charles Featherstone
  • 17] Phoebe Featherstone m. Irby Hudson
  • 18] Col. Thomas P. Hudson m. Sophia Thurman
  • 19] Hon. Cicero Demosthenes Hudson m. Matilda Beadles
  • 20] Mollie Hudson m. Thomas F. Ussery
  • 21] Medora Ussery m. Basil Hoke
  • 22] Basil U. Hoke m. Pauline Bornstein
  • 23] Polly Hoke m. Charles Vigneron
  • 24] Charles Vigneron Jr.
  • # 5 Elizabeth FitzAlan, d. 1425. A small world after all...

Royal Ancestry of 600 Immigrants to The New World, Gary Boyd Roberts, p. 259/ Ligon.

Royal Ancestry of 900 Immigrants to The New World, Gary Boyd Roberts, Vol. 1 p. 554/ Claypoole.

Magna Carta Ancestry, Plantagenet Ancestry, Royal Ancestry, by Douglas Richardson

by Charles Vigneron G2G2 (2.8k points)
We have a connection to Edward 1V through my 5xgt grandmother. She was only 15 when she married my 5xGtGrandfather in Fleet prison chapel where no questions were asked, i have the entry. He was in the guards and about 35! No parents present.  She was the iligit daughter of General Henry Lumley who was descended from the Thomas Lumley who married One of the illegit daughters of the King. ann Lucy Wayte or Waite. You can find that on Google. The name Anne Lucy occurs several time further down my line. My 5x Ggrandfathers surname occurs at the beginning of the Old Testament as the 2 nd son of Benjamin.  We have used it in the family as a second name.  Unfortunately my 5xGt Grandfather used a loan to enter the guards and couldnt pay it back years later so he fled the country by joining a special,troop of marines to fight at Carthegena, S.Americas,  and he died of Fever there so buried at sea i guess.  I have it all written down with all the records apart from his Birth in Ireland to a cleric of Cloyne descended from originally families in UK who arrived in England at the time of the conqueror and intermarried over here. Queen Elizabeth 1st sent some trusted men over to Ireland to help keep the Spaniards out and they inter married but i cant find any record for mine. Even a will is recorded but no details found.
+4 votes

My mom's first husband, I discovered today, has a Gateway Ancestor to Edward I, d. 1307, via Norton Claypoole. LOL! Their dad & I are 15th cousins at third remove. It freaked my mom out when I told her that MY dad was her twenty-second cousin via Waltheof, executed 31 May 1086.

1] Edward I, King of England m. 1) Eleanor of Castile

  • 2] Elizabeth of Rhuddlan m. Humphrey Bohun
  • 3] William Bohun m. Elizabeth Badlesmere
  • 4] Elizabeth Bohun m. Richard FitzAlan
  • 5] Elizabeth FitzAlan m. 3) Sir Robert Goushill
  • 6] Elizabeth Goushill m. Sir Robert Wingfield
  • 7] Sir Henry Wingfield m. Elizabeth Rookes
  • 8] Robert Wingfield m. Margery Quarles
  • 9] Robert Wingfield m. Elizabeth Cecil
  • 10] Dorothy Wingfield m. Adam Claypoole
  • 11] John Claypoole m. Mary Angell
  • 12] Norton Claypoole m. Rachael
  • 13] Jeremiah Claypoole m. Sarah Shepard
  • 14] Elizabeth Claypoole m. Lewis Davidson
  • 15] Rachel Davidson m. Samuel McKee
  • 16] Elizabeth McKee m. James Mewhinney
  • 17] Margaret Mewhinney m. Martin Clark
  • 18] Martha Matilda Clark m. Samuel Elijah Rogers
  • 19] Charles Rogers m. Ruth Fatima Rodgers
  • 20] Nathaniel Andrew Rogers m. Tennisee Eleanor Ivey
  • 21] Joseph F. Rogers m. Polly Hoke
  • 22] Margaret Rogers
  • 1] Edward I, King of England m. 2) Margaret of France
  • 2] Thomas of Brotherton m. Alice de Hales
  • 3] Margaret Plantagenet m. John de Seagrave
  • 4] Elizabeth Seagrave m. John Mowbray
  • 5] Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk m. Elizabeth FitzAlan, above
  • 6] Isabel Mowbray m. James Berkeley, 6th Baron Berkeley
  • 7] Sir Maurice Berkeley m. Isabel Mead
  • 8] Anne Berkeley m. Sir William Dennis
  • 9] Eleanor Dennis m. William Lygon
  • 10] Thomas Lygon m. Frances Dennis, his cousin
  • 11] Thomas Lygon m. Elizabeth Pratt
  • 12] Col. Thomas Ligon m. Mary Harris
  • 13] Maj. William Ligon m. Mary Tanner
  • 14] Thomas Ligon m. Elizabeth Worsham
  • 15] Phoebe Ligon m. Henry Walthall
  • 16] Phoebe Walthall m. Charles Featherstone
  • 17] Phoebe Featherstone m. Irby Hudson
  • 18] Col. Thomas P. Hudson m. Sophia Thurman
  • 19] Hon. Cicero Demosthenes Hudson m. Matilda Beadles
  • 20] Mollie Hudson m. Thomas F. Ussery
  • 21] Medora Ussery m. Basil Hoke
  • 22] Basil U. Hoke m. Pauline Bornstein
  • 23] Polly Hoke m. Charles Vigneron
  • 24] Charles Vigneron Jr.
  • # 5 Elizabeth FitzAlan, d. 1425. A small world after all...

Royal Ancestry of 600 Immigrants to The New World, Gary Boyd Roberts, p. 259/ Ligon.

Royal Ancestry of 900 Immigrants to The New World, Gary Boyd Roberts, Vol. 1 p. 554/ Claypoole.

by Charles Vigneron G2G2 (2.8k points)
+6 votes
This story is a tragicomedy, I can see it as part of a sitcom.

My mother's mother died in 1933 when my mum was 4, her grandmother Mary Ann moved into the family home to look after my mum and her brother. Now fast forward to June 1944 when my grandfather my mother's dad remarried.

At that time Mary Ann was 76 and had been running the family home for 10 years. The second wife brought her mother Lucy age 81 to live with the family. My mother was then just turned 15. It became her responsibility to look after, fetch and carry for the 2 old ladies.

They did not like each other and could never agree on anything.

My mother described a typical afternoon like this; Mary Ann would say I'm cold, get me a shawl, Lucy said It's really hot in here, please open the window.

Then Lucy would say, I would love a cup of tea and a biscuit. 20 minutes later when the tea would be according to Mary Ann undrinkable, she would ask for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. My mother also shared a bedroom with these 2 old ladies and a bed with Mary Ann.

Bedtime routines involved disagreements about light on, light off, more or less blankets needed, hot water bottles too hot, too cold, window open or closed, blackout curtains closed correctly or not and, and .....

And this was also during WW2 with rationing and blackout regulations in effect.
by M Ross G2G6 Pilot (118k points)
Oh my, your poor mother! How did she cope, M?
I' m not really sure. She had 2 aunts that she was very close to (her mother's sisters) and their families who lived a short distance away.

She was at school full-time, she also had ballet lessons and was very good, she was offered a place at what was the Sadlers Wells ballet school now the Royal Ballet School which could have lead to a career in ballet. Actually I have just reread her memoirs and the opportunity to go to ballet school happened in 1943, before her father remarried.

Her father wouldn't allow her to attend, rightly thinking that if the ballet career did not work out, she would be left with the equivalent of a Grade 9 education and few opportunities. He was also concerned that the school was so close to London and as London was still being bombed in 1943 he was scared.

The result was that she was the first person in her family to go to university where she took a zoology degree and became a teacher.

That's how life happens. Thanks for replying. smiley

+7 votes
I started researching my Baucom line OCT 1969 and proved my paper trail to John Baucom and wife Rachel, who died about 1800, in NC by matching my Y DNA to descendants of two other sons in 2007. I have proudly been called a nit picker who strives for accuracy.  I keep from going crazy by helping others and trying to correct wrong assumptions on their genealogy. This past January I was killing time looking at the marriage and divorce record of an aunt in Birmingham AL and discovered, in a newspaper article at Ancestry, that my father had married in Birmingham AL in 1925  before coming to Colorado about 1929 for tubercular illness. He married my mother in Colorado. It was never mentioned to my brother and me,  The self proclaimed expert genealogist didn't know much about his own father.
by Jim Baucom G2G3 (3.8k points)
Wow, what a find! Did you learn what happened to his first marriage?
No divorce record has been found
+7 votes
Judge George Hildreth (Hildreth-1533) was the District Attorney, the President of the Board of Education, and the Commodore of the Yacht Club in the Hampton Bays area of Suffolk County, New York State, USA.

My mother, Lucille Bird Dawson Ceruti, related stories about Judge George W. Hildreth, who used to dive into the water head first from one of his boats, either his from yacht or from a row boat used as a tender. On one such occasion, George's mother, exclaimed, "Georgie, you should not dive into the water head first like that." Commodore George Hildreth replied, "Mother, as long as you call me 'Georgie' I'm going to dive into the water head first."
by Marion Ceruti G2G6 Pilot (104k points)

laughThat is a great story, Marion!

+10 votes
There is a persistent story that the first Sullivan in my family arrived in Virginia after stealing a pastry at an Irish port in the late 1600's. After boarding a ship to eat it in solitude, he is said to have fallen asleep only to awaken en route to the colonies. Mama always said sweets were bad for you. The story is captured in Bill Deyo's, "History of the Sullivan Family in Stafford County, Virginia," and here, in the peculiar "Book of Sullivan" at http://www-leland.stanford.edu/~meehan/sullivan/mar98.html#531.
by Gary Sullivan G2G1 (1.6k points)
edited by Gary Sullivan
Gary, great story and what a surprise it was for me to see a familiar name in there.  Bill Deyo is someone I knew personally when I lived in King George County, Virginia (which adjoins Stafford County) for many years.  He frequently attended meetings of the King George County Historical Society, to which I belonged, and is an extremely well respected historian there, so I would vouch for anything you find in his book as having been meticulously researched.
What a delight to hear from someone who shares a bit of history in real time. Bill's work really got me started on first the Sullivan tree and now other parts of the family and, yes, his work was spot on. I still have family in Virginia and hope to resume frequent visits as the pandemic subsides. Very nice to make your introduction.
I left that area in 2007 so I assume Bill is still alive (hope I'm not violating rules by mentioning him).  If you're back in that region of Virginia, you might want to try contacting him.  He was always a very friendly person and I'm willing to bet he'd be happy to meet you and talk about just about anything.  I never had that much contact with him that I think he'd remember me, but you're welcome to mention my name if you wish.  That was before I was married - my name was Gaile Goetsch then.
Thanks!
+5 votes

One of the best (apocryphal) stories I read was by Bernie Bean in 

Clan MacBean, which is full of fantasy and drama, occasionally with nuggets of real history.

A story is told that when John Bean of Moultonboro, New Hampshire (on my maternal side)  was off hunting his daughter had been "startled to hear a noise outside the house, and on looking out, she saw a large bear under the window. She at once looked for the gun, forgetting that father had it with him, which was the real cause of all her suffering, as they could not get wild meat to eat. She then caught up a shovel of live coals from the hearth, and taking an old hat out of the broken window, she poured them directly on the bear's back, and as he ran away towards the woods with his hair ablaze, she could not refrain from a hearty laugh"

I thought this was a humorous tale we could file in the "woman-pioneer-settler" myth category.  I assumed it was a unique family tale until I found an almost identical version told about  Lydia Downer- totally different family on my paternal side, living near Thetford Vermont. Flora Downer related the story, but with the added twist that "a year or more later Joseph killed a bear with the fur all burned from its back."

Now I wonder if this was a widespread, popular tale from the late 1700's in New England?

ago by Robert Seale G2G6 (7.8k points)
edited ago by Robert Seale
+4 votes
Been researching my Ancestry. My family name Young is from some where in England. Alleged that my 2 times great Grand Father came to USA to fight in Civil War. Well according to family records. He was killed at the young age of 20 years? Well his Mary, wife their son Henry along and her sister Dorothy with First Young brother Rob & his wives brother John, Came to USA to search for dead J.G. Young Ohio Infantry. Well the fun begins when the Brother of J.G. Young Marries Dorothy. During that union a Daughter was supposed to be born. The problem is that some one missed on born on or death date to Mary & Dorothy. Record state the Mary had several children that died & one was her demise. Both Mary & Daughter died in child birth. The Daughter, Maggie of Rob & Dorothy was born after both Mary & Dorothy died. The funny part is Mary supposed to have had many children with J.G. Young. He was dead. Possibly married to Rob? Dorothy supposed to have died before Maggie was born. Confused? Well Both Henry & Maggie were left in a Bar in Toledo. Rob & Dorothy's brother left to take a job in upper Michigan as Black Smiths at a Boat building company. So? The story is Dead people as well as people a ocean apart can have babies? My family is fruitful & multiplies. But not able to break the time & distance to have reproduced.
ago by Todd Young G2G Crew (320 points)
+4 votes
In 1969, my brother was married the day after Christmas in Torrington, CT, USA. There were no restaurants open on Christmas Day then. So my brother’s parents ( and mine) ate scrambled eggs for dinner on Christmas Day.
ago by Rosemary Dill G2G6 Mach 1 (17.2k points)

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