52 Ancestors Week 6: Surprise

+14 votes

imageReady for Week 6 of the 52 Ancestors challenge?

You're encouraged to share a profile of an ancestor or relative who matches the week's theme. This week's sharing prompt:


From Amy Johnson Crow:

What is something surprising that you've found in your research? What is a surprise that one of your ancestor's had? Have you found something in a surprising place?

Share below!

Participants who share every week can earn badges. Click here for more about the challenge and how to participate.

If this is your first time participating, or you don't have the participation badge, please post here.

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.9m points)
Sorry...I meant to answer rather than comment. I will paste into an answer below.
I think the biggest surprise I have found so far is that my g-g-g-g-Grandfather William Herbert Bridges, created tapestries that were works of Art, and that one of them is still in existence today in a collection held by the Sovereign Hill Gold Museum of Ballarat.

Needlecraft has always been a big thing in our family, my mother, her mother, and her mothers mothers were all excellent at embroidery, and my sister has inherited the talent - I just never imagined it may have been passed down from a male, and it struck me as unusual that a male who had migrated to Australia during the Gold Rush had found time to DO tapestry, let alone a work of art the size of the one in the collection.

84 Answers

+24 votes
It was a surprise to me that my mother and two of her sisters all married men descended from the same couple of ancestors.
by Eef van Hout G2G6 Pilot (154k points)
Definitely surprising!
That can happen in small communities!
I've found so many Bowie-Leland-Posey inter-marriages in Maryland through the centuries that I liked them to an enclave. So many cousins marrying cousins. I know they had the means to travel and meet other families. Maybe there were more prearranged marriages than we think in the past.
My grandmother's family came from an area comprised of three counties in northern Alabama. The same 8-10 families intermarried so much, they may count as their own ethnic group at this point.
+24 votes

I was surprised that my Grandfather  Leslie R Sears did not graduate from Mass. Institute of Technology.  He got a scholarship from his high school on Cape Cod to MIT, attended East Greenwich Academy (prep school) in Rhode Island in 1910 and 1911 and evidently was an avid ball-player. He attended MIT as a civil engineer in 1913-14 but had to drop out- i think it was because his father died 26 Jun 1914. At MIT he was on the baseball team and the chess club.  After leaving school  he started a grocery store with a friend and later joined the Army and fought in WW I with Pershing's Expeditionary Force in Co G, 22d Engineers building narrow gauge railroads to the front lines.  He later worked for the NY New Haven Hartford Railroad and was a Civil Engineer for Boston's Metropolitan District Commission building bridges and roads.  He was a licensed professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts so even though he could not complete his formal engineering education he still persevered and lived his life as a Civil Engineer.  I was licensed as a professional engineer in the Commonwealth in 2000 just about 70 years after him.   Growing up all i knew was that Grampa went to MIT and that helped me decide to become an engineer.

by L. Ray Sears G2G6 Mach 4 (43.1k points)
+21 votes
How many of them either had children prior to marriage, or the wedding wasn't a full 9 months prior.  One or two I could understand, but almost every generation once you get to my great-grands level.  I wasn't expecting that.
by Melanie Paul G2G6 Pilot (331k points)

I know right? I blame it on the lack of television and internet. cheeky

I have a great-grand uncle whose both kids were both born a few years before the marriage, then he upped and left his new wife a widow less than two years later.

I thought the sheer NUMBER of kids was the result of the no tv, no internet .. and long, cold winters! cheeky

I see that a lot to. My great-grandaunt once told me that it wasn't uncommon to get pregnant before marriage. That way they would know that they could have children and a secure future.

My third great grandparrents had 5 childeren before marriage. He was a military man and wan't alowed to mary without the permision of his superior. At age 35 he got the permission.

I haven't really seen that in my family at all.  Germans didn't go for such fun & frivolty? And my old-American side came from Puritan background.

There's a saying:"the first kid can happen anytime, all the others take 9 months".
Most all of my ancestors from the 1600's - 1900's were farmer / housewife couples. Whether they were the pioneers settling a new area of the country or had been settled in the area a few years, all the farmers could use "helpers".  Some had as little as four children but my father and mother came from 8 and 9 sibling families and one set of grandparents had 17 children.  As an older child would marry and leave, a younger sibling was approaching the age when they could take their place.  Some of these ancestor farmers kept up with their "help" situation quite well.  When you helped family on a farm there were no age restrictions and regulations.
My family too, I sometimes wonder if anyone bothered getting married :)
+20 votes
I've had lots of surprises, but I think the most entertaining was when I discovered that my mother's ancestors and my father's were both  among the first proprietors of Liverpool, Nova Scotia in 1759.

My mother grew up in Montreal, my father in rural Nova Scotia, and nobody expected there was any connection between them. But 250 years ago, my mother's ancestors and my father's lived as neighbors, helped each other through smallpox, and two even had a fistfight. I've had an awful lot of fun reading dry historical documents about that region, finding interactions between these unrelated branches of my family.
by Laurie Giffin G2G6 Mach 9 (92.4k points)
That is a nice surprise, Laurie, and you could conquer many lines between the two of them in the same community!
+23 votes
I was executrix for my father's estate. Everything could not be settled for several years because,even though my father had specifically bequeathed the house to his children, by law, my step-mother could live in the house as long as she wanted. Eventually she remarried and decided to moved out of the house. My siblings and I decided to sell the house and split the proceeds. My father had several large toolboxes in the garage which my step-mother left behind when she moved out and left it up to me to liquidate them along with the contents of the house she didn't want. We assumed the toolboxes contained his tools from his profession as a machinist. The keys had disappeared so we had to get a locksmith to open the boxes so we could have the tools appraised before selling them. When the boxes were finally opened we were shocked to find that they not only contained tools but a multitude of savings bonds. We found that he had been buying a savings bond every week he had been working for almost his entire adult life. It took me a couple of hours at the bank to sign all the savings bonds. This extra gift from my father was a wonderful surprise for my step-mother, my siblings, and me.

(P.S. Sorry I added this as a comment rather than an answer.)
by Nelda Spires G2G6 Pilot (423k points)
You wonder how often things get thrown away by unsuspecting relatives/new owners after a death.  My great-uncle put silver and other old coins in a secret compartment under a windowsill.  I believe they were taken out, but who knows if some fell down or if he had another storage area too.  The next owner of the farm tore down the old house and built a new one, and I'm sure he didn't know anything about the history of it.
+23 votes
My son, Robert, was Valedictorian of his high school class in 2017.  As I was going through materials while building my father's Biography, I found that my father (same name as my son) also was Valedictorian of his high school class.  Quite a surprise.
by Rick San Soucie G2G6 Mach 2 (27.7k points)
Now that’s a cool find!
+22 votes
I have triplets in my family. Meet Shadrack, Meschak, and Abdengo Pierson. They had their own new letter but the group disbanded for lack of interest. They also were in the civil war. Two were on the Union side and one was on the Confederate side. Their family story is literally what you talk about families against families in history class.



by Christine Preston G2G6 Mach 5 (51.3k points)
+21 votes

I suppose the biggest surprise was discovering my mother had two sisters she never knew existed. surprise We just made contact with the youngest in January. Unfortunately, my mom passed away in Jan 2018 so she will never get to meet them but it's still been a great experience and my youngest aunt and I share a name, both first and middle. How cool is that?

A couple of days ago I had a new surprise. I discovered that my first cousin 3x removed, Flavio A Borquez, was a governor and senator of Sonora, Mexico, Mexico's Treasurer, and played a roll in the Mexican Revolution. I have only recently made his profile and am still researching so not much there yet. Everything I have found is in Spanish so it's slow going for me but I will get it spruced up soon. blush

by Deb Durham G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)
+19 votes

In my travels exploring the tree I've found many surprises. Some of the stuff I've found have been really, really cool. Some stuff has been sad. I'm in a good mood so I'll focus on the good surprises. Here are three of them.

 1. I did a Leeds chart for my great-aunt a couple of months ago and I found a curious bunch in the Ferraiolo column. I organized all of her columns into the last names of her great-grandparents. She had a ton of close matches that merited checking out. I organized them all into Ferraiolo, Coppola, Tedesco and Gullo.

 I checked out a tree for one of the matches and I had talked to her before. She wasn't sure of the link. I said I'd look into it for her because she was busy. Life gets in the way and all that. I go check it out and I see "John Ferriola" in her tree. Ferriola is close to my last name. I was intriqued. Usually when Italians come to America they changed their last name in order to assimilate better. My great-grandfather (My great-aunt's father) did not.

 So, I checked it out and his profile had a death certificate in Philly which had him by his birth name. Giovanni Ferraiolo from San Pietro a Maida. Son of Vincenzo Ferraiolo and Caterina Campisano. San Pietro a Maida is my paternal grandfather's ancestral town. Vincenzo Ferraiolo and Caterina Campisano were the names of my 3x great-grandparents. I had gotten that info from the commune office. What was funny was that Campisano was hilariously misspelled on Ancestry's sources. I saw the handwriting and it was clearly Campisano. Not Cumpisana or whatever they called it. Either way it was clearly them and I was happy.

 2. This next story is a bit of a deep cut for me. Growing up my family and I went to a marina every summer as our boat was docked in Salisbury, Mass. The marina's facing Newburyport and a number of my family members came from there including my mom. Back to the story. The owner, Jim, was a nice guy who was always cool to my brother and I and really nice to all of the kids. Hey, he let us run around as long as we had our life jackets on. Life was good. He gave us donuts from Dunkins every Sunday! It was awesome!

 Years later Jim passed away and his son took over the marina. My mom eventually asked me to look up a woman by the name of Matilda Legault. I asked why. I mean right away the Legault name sent some gears turning in my head. My great-grandmother was a Legault. And she had a great-aunt Matilda Legault. I was thinking "Why would she want me to look up her great-aunt? I already looked her up!

 Turns out this was a different Matilda Legault. Scott, Jim's son, was talking about her with my parents and my mom remembered a few bits about her. She lived in Newburyport and my mom had met her ages ago as she lived in the city, too.

 I did my thing and looked up Matilda Legault and saw that she was a daughter of Felix Legault. Felix was the brother of my 2x great-grandfather, Antoine Legault who lived in Haverhill, Mass. I then traced the line forward through time and I came across Jim. It turns out that the man who was so nice to my brother, myself and all the kids in the marina was my third cousin once removed!

 And Scott? Scott's my 4th cousin! I wish that could give us a deal at the marina. But, it probably doesn't. Scott should get DNA tested. I should ask him about it. He doesn't NEED to as I found another DNA match and DNA confirmed him, Antoine and their parents Jacques and Delphine.

 That was a very cool surprise!

 3.  One last surprise before I go as these things come in threes. I found out I had two distant cousins long before I even did a DNA test! Both are from my dad's side. One from my grandfather's side and the other from my grandmother. The lady on my grandmother's side had been researching the Carrabs line for a long time and created a Find a Grave for my grandparents. I found out about her as she posted a Carrabs genealogy on Ancestry and even has a profile on Wikitree. She messaged me and we got to talking. She descends from my grandmother's uncle, Rocco. Sufficed it to say I was surprised. I confirmed things with my dad and here we are. Plus Rocco was at my parents' wedding so...yeah.

The other lady matches on my paternal grandfather's side and is genealogist Mary Tedesco. We haven't found the common ancestor, yet. But, we're working on it. She messaged me ages ago saying we were related. I confirmed this with my dad of course. Her grandfather was my dad's godfather and her family was at or were invited to my parents' wedding. Clearly we have a family history. We come from people who came from the same town in Italy. There are other factors as well.

When it finally came time to take a DNA test on Ancestry I saw both women there. That was awesome and expected. What I didn't count on was the sheer volume of cousins from both the Tedesco and Carrabs branches. So many people from both families.

These are just three of my many surprises. To list them all would take a LONG time! See ya next week!

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (519k points)
edited by Chris Ferraiolo
+20 votes
From the letters my grandfather wrote my grandmother I knew that her mother wasn't delighted to find out her daughter was pregnant before she got married. My grandparents married 6 months before the birth of my father. You can imagine my surprise when we cleaned the flat of my grandmother and I found the original marriage certificate of her parents, saying that they married only 3 months before my grandmother was born. Urgh!
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (928k points)
+19 votes

One of my surprises was that my 2nd great grandmother was born illegitimate and her parents never married! The scandal!! surprise I know, now a days, this is not unheard of, but I would have thought it was unheard of back in the day. However, to my surprise, children being born out of wedlock was not uncommon in Norway (or Sweden for that matter). Marie Torstensdatter was born to Torstein Johansen and Marit Pedersdatter 3/19/1876 in Tingvoll, Norway. Her parents never married each other. Her mother, Marit, stayed in Straumsnes, Norway and does not seem to have ever married. She did have children with three different men, however! Marie's father, Torstein, traveled to America in 1881 and married a Gjertine Sether in 1882 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He died there, of pneumonia, in January 1889. Marie didn't come to America until 1896 and married in Minnesota in 1897. Marie and her husband settled on what is the family farm in 1910. The farm is still in our family today. 

by Anonymous Tuma G2G6 Mach 1 (14.4k points)
+18 votes

This week I decided to write about the surprise of finding a detailed entry of burial for my 5x great grandmother Ann (Pettit) Peacock in the parish registers of St Edmund's, Abbess Roding, Essex, England. Rather than the normal one line entry such as "Ann Peacock July 19th" the minister had written an 18 line story about the unusual circumstances of Ann's death. 

Here is my blog post this week:

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 6 - Surprise - Ann (Pettit) Peacock

by A O'Brien G2G6 Mach 1 (13.8k points)
+19 votes


I'd like to introduce you to David Albert Gentry. David was born in the Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma in 1897, ten years before Oklahoma became a state. David was my gg-uncle.

To understand the surprise, I'll share a bit about Christmas Day traditions in my family. This past Christmas, the centerpiece of the dinning table was a simple glass bowl containing pecans, walnuts, oranges, apples, and a few other assorted traditional candies. It was to honor my grandparents who died twenty years ago, a nod to family tradition. As a child, I remember there was always a box of fruit under the family Christmas trees in the extended family. I once asked to add a coconut to this assortment. They were being promoted at grocery stores in 1970s Texas as another traditional item for Christmas. It never happened. I never thought about it, but no one ever bought a coconut at any time of the year and I remember my grandfather telling me that coconuts aren't good for you. Processed coconut was not an issue. Coconut pie is a family favorite, but no "raw" uncracked coconuts were tolerated.

Now, with that context, let's flashback to Christmas Day, 1915 at the David Allen Gentry home in Millerton, Oklahoma. His son, David Albert Gentry ate a coconut that was among the other traditional holiday foods. It must have been quite an exotic item in southeast Oklahoma over 100 years ago. It's likely that David ate the coconut all by himself. We can assume this because he was the only one to die. Before dawn on 26 Dec 1915, David died of food poisoning. A note in his mother's Bible attributed his death to a "bad coconut".

It was quite a surprise to learn that this is why no one trusted coconuts. Also surprising, no one knew about this incident 65 years later. The family Bible that had the note had been passed down a different family line, but was given to me when I was a teen due to my interest in genealogy. It was a great "AH HA!" moment when I found this note in the Bible family pages.

by Jeff Gentry G2G6 Mach 1 (10.4k points)
Interesting story, but so sad about David.
+17 votes
I didn't know until I started getting into research how my great-great grandparents knew each other. It turns out my 3x-great grandfather, William, owned a hotel that was managed by my OTHER 3x-great grandfather, Thomas. Their kids, John and Mary, got together and had my great-grandfather, Jack. :)
by Andrea Williams G2G4 (4.2k points)
+21 votes
I was surprised to discover  ALL FOUR of my grandparents were cousins to each other!
by Judith Brandau G2G6 Mach 1 (11.5k points)
Oh, my! That would be surprising. (My paternal grandparents were 2nd cousins--they stated such on their marriage license application.)
My maternal great grandparents were second cousins.  To know how to call my grandfather and mother and siblings as cousins, I decided to take my online tree and posting everyone after them in my tree again.  I had so many double hints popping up and when I viewed the tree it had lines crisscrossing all over the page.  I finally deleted the "cousin" relationships to make the tree look normal.  One grandfather's cousin became his second wife after the young lady was likely sent by her mother to help raise three children under the age of five after wife one died, probably during childbirth of the third child.  I'm not even touching that part of the family tree to figure out how everyone down the line is a stated cousin to each other.
+16 votes
Finding out I had not one, but two, great-great-grandfathers who were bigamists (one on each side) was a little surprising.  It was very surprising when I learned that one of them, Miles Dighton Cass, not only married a second wife while his first was still living, but he thought it was acceptable to have both his families living in the same town.  My other bigamist ancestor at least had the decency to move several states over.
by K. Anonymous G2G6 Pilot (129k points)
edited by K. Anonymous
+17 votes

I was very surprised to find out that my husband’s grandmother had a tragedy that they never talked about. She and I sent a great deal of time together, but she never told any of us that when she was 17 her sister, Edith Florine, age  8, died of diptheria https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Alexander-10087. Her   younger sister was only two, and she was my neighbor and dear friend, but she never did mention Edith. I only started looking for sources after seeing the census. I only knew they had two brothers that we seldom saw. Maybe it was just to hard to talk about.

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (530k points)
+14 votes

My Aunt Laura was the surprise. Nine years after what was supposed to be the last child, here came Laura. My mother tried to have me on Laura’s birthday but I was a day late.


by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.3m points)
+14 votes

Unfortunately the first surprise I thought of is not a happy surprise, but rather a tragedy. My first cousin, David Dodge Huber, who had been a highly decorated US Marine, was murdered by his ex-wife. She hid his body for five months and told his worried parents that he was overseas for his work. Of course, eventually all was discovered and she went to prison. It was a terrible shock to all the family.

by Robin Shaules G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
edited by Robin Shaules
How horrible for all of you.
I'm so sorry for your family's loss. You might consider adding the category "murder victim" to David's profile, and "murderer" to his ex-wife's. I'm glad your family found justice eventually.
Thank you for your concern, Nelda.
Andrea, thank you for your comments. I would like to add the sticker. Do you know how to do it?
That was horrible! I am so sorry.
Thank you, Jerry.
I'm sorry for your loss Robin, I hope you don't mind I added that category for you.
Thank you, C. I wanted to do it, but didn't know how.  Now I do -- Thanks!
+17 votes

Not just family lore but internet "research" showed that my 10x Great-Grandfather was the governor of Pennsylvania.  I did quite a bit of research and found that he was on the provincial council but wasn't the governor.  Most (over 99%) of online research of William Clayton still show he was the governor - it may take decades to expunge the earlier "overly optimistic" research.


by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)

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