52 Ancestors Week 48: Thief

+13 votes

Time for the next 52 Ancestors challenge!

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


From Amy Johnson Crow:

The theme this week is "Thief." We don't always like to admit it, but sometimes our research uncovers people who have run afoul of the law. Have you found someone who didn't exactly have a clean record?

Share below!

Participants who share every week can earn badges. If this is your first time participating and you don't have the participation badge, or if you pass a milestone (13 in 13, 26 in 26, 52 in 52) let us know hereClick here for more about the challenge. 

in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)

34 Answers

+10 votes
Best answer
I'd like to dedicate all of my tree to the thief theme... They keep stealing my time ! Not complaining but time sure does steal away when you are deep in the work of fixing/proving/working on your family tree.
by Christine Preston G2G6 Mach 2 (27.5k points)
selected by Judy Bramlage
+15 votes

Not an ancestor, but a relative, my first cousin (4x removed) Theodore Handy. He was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1851 while his father was serving as a lieutenant on the US Revenue Cutter Morris; his father died when he was 7. At the age of 13 he lied about his age and joined the 1st Regiment, US Veteran Volunteers, as a drummer, serving for over a year and being discharged at Baltimore in 1866. He re-enlisted in the Army, serving as a bugler in the 5th Cavalry on the Plains and was honorably discharged in 1871, returning to Washington DC. He then became a member of a unit known as the Governor's Mounted Guard, and was thrown from his horse while on parade and "quite badly injured"; I strongly suspect he suffered a subdural hematoma and frontal lobe damage, because he displayed a significant and marked change in personality from this point onward. Within three months he had been arrested and hauled up in police court on assault charges, and again a few months later. This went on for the next 40 years, with him being arrested for assault, assault with intent to kill (one incident reported in the Washington papers described him as just walking in off the street into a house, and finding the occupants sitting down to dinner and confused by his presence he was invited to dine...and he began picking up plates and throwing them and then got an axe and chased these people through their own house), burglary, robbery, making threats of violence against his uncle Mathew Brady (saying to him "you don't like me as much as my cousins"...gee, I wonder why?) and being divorced from his wife on grounds of "exceptional cruelty" (reported as beating her, verbally abusing her, and forcing her to walk home almost naked after he'd forcibly ripped off half her clothing, among other things). Unrelated to his criminality I have some vague suspicions that he may have been at least bisexual; one newspaper account describes him as "a well-dressed young man who hangs about the YMCA", and he appears in Walt Whitman's diary from his time in Washington in the early 1870's with a name that may be either a hotel or a rooming house (and Whitman reportedly had certain proclivities where young men were concerned).

Theodore Handy had a son, Walter; in this case it looks like the apple didn't fall so very far from the tree. Walter became a police officer in Baltimore, and was arrested in 1903 for larceny for stealing items of jewellery from several people. He received a harsh sentence on account of his betrayal of public trust, and served six years in prison; on his release he made his way somehow to California, where he was arrested in Los Angeles in 1910 trying to cash a forged check at a hotel under the alias "James T. McDaniel" (McDaniel was his mother's maiden name) and sentenced to three years in San Quentin.

by C Handy G2G6 Mach 7 (74.5k points)
edited by C Handy
very interesting - agree, probably some brain damage
+15 votes

This guy is a relative (third cousins 4x removed).  He was the second cousin of my 3x great grandma Elizabeth Ringo.  Johnny Ringo was an outlaw in American West and was in Tombstone, AZ.  He was depicted in the 1950 movie The Gunfighter.  

by Caryl Ruckert G2G6 Pilot (178k points)
The first thing seeing his name makes me think of is Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday saying "you ain't no daisy at all".
LOL C Handy!  I love the lore and the stories.
Tombstone is my favorite movie of all movies ever made. I can watch it over, and over again. So many great phrases came out of that movie that I had never heard before. "I'm your huckleberry", and "My hypocrisy goes only so far".

Love the slang they used back then.
+14 votes

This is a tricky one because I haven't looked for my own ancestors in legal cases or even in newspapers to see if there have been any convicted of crimes, although I occasionally come across examples when researching other families in other countries.

I have previously discussed my only direct ancestor who I definitely know ended up in the county gaol so I won't use him again this week.

I have recently been researching some distant relatives who emigrated from England to Australia in the 1850s and 1860s and the Australian newspapers (which can be viewed on https://trove.nla.gov.au) have been very useful. Apart from family notices there were various people mentioned in legal cases for maintenance and divorce, insolvency, criminal damage (to their property), public indecency, and other crimes. The biggest event where one of the family members was mentioned was where he appeared as a witness in the trial of Henry O'Farrell who attempted to assassinate the Duke of Edinburgh in Australia in 1868.

But there was one person who had the most mentions of all and that was George Glading. George was Inspector of Fisheries in Sydney, Australia from 1884 and 1922 and he is mentioned in dozens of newspaper articles relating to charges he had brought against people for violating
fishing regulations. He was clearly good at his job but probably didn't have many friends in the fishing community.

by Ray Hawkes G2G6 Mach 3 (38.3k points)
+15 votes

So far I have only found one thief, though not a very good one, in my family tree that otherwise definitely contains some criminals. My uncle Malcolm Driver was mining for gold in 1933 with some buddies and apparently got hungry.  Not only were they hungry, but that hunger must have affected their thinking, because they left a trail to their whereabouts!

by Lyn Sara Gulbransen G2G6 Mach 2 (21.2k points)
edited by Lyn Sara Gulbransen
+13 votes

It's hard to believe there are no shady characters in my family tree, but I can find none. If bankers and shopkeepers are considered crooks, I could profile a few. 

I decided to present a lad whose only crime was he stole his uncle's name. It seems Oliver Warren Heald didn't like being called Oliver. (Maybe he didn't like his grandfather, Oliver D Heald?) So he called himself 'Ira'. (Who did he steal that name from?) 

But 'Ira' wasn't a perfect fit and he settled on 'Joe' instead. The name 'Joe' happens to belong to an uncle, Joseph Tierney. Uncle Joe opened his home when Oliver and his mother didn't know where else to go. He was a pretty swell guy. I don't blame Oliver for stealing another name.

by C Ryder G2G6 Mach 5 (55.9k points)
+14 votes

This is a story about my great-grandmother, Mary Belle Hardin Witcher Woods.  Though she was not a thief, her father was alleged to have been one of the notorious Younger Gang and her family was well acquainted with Frank and Jesse James as you will see in the following narrative written by Flip Boettcher.  (The whole story can be found at http://www.witchergeny.com/mary-belle-hardin-witcher.html )

Belle was born February 15, 1860, in Blue Township (later Lee’s Summit) Missouri. Her brother William Joseph was born two years later, January 14, 1862. Their parents were Joseph P.L. Hardin and Sarah Isabelle Stokes, who was the daughter of Lamira Young. Presumably Younger, as Sarah’s children called her Grandma Younger. Perhaps Lamira dropped the “er”, as was done in those days, to escape recognition as belonging to the infamous Younger family, according to a 2002 account of Dorothy Houts, Belle’s granddaughter and Nancy Thompson, Belle’s great-great niece, as remembered from stories they were told and research.

February 8, 1863, near Independence, MO, Belle’s father Joe was killed while in winter hiding with Cole Younger’s guerilla fighters. Houts “feels that he [Joe] is buried in an unmarked grave in the Younger plot, next to Cole.”

Without a husband or means of support and two young children, Sarah went to live with Grandma Young. At that time Grandma Young had another woman living with her named Auntie Dickie Hylton. Auntie Dickie did the outside chores and Sarah was supposed to do the inside work, as some days Grandma was unable to get out of bed; perhaps because of arthritis, added Houts.

According to Houts, Belle remembered the Younger boys and the James boys coming to visit, and as Belle grew older she was given the job of lookout for them.

Belle’s mother Sarah did not seem quite normal after her husband Joe’s death. In fact, according to Belle, she seemed no longer able to defend herself or her children. So, Jesse James taught Belle how to shoot.

In 1870, when Belle was 10 years old, the family moved back into town, Lee’s Summit, where Sarah took in boarders. Interestingly, among the boarders was Esther Young (Younger?).  She had lived next door to the Young family before Joe’s death.

A short time before 1875, the nearby home of Zelenda Samuel, the mother of Jesse and Frank James, was bombed. Their half-brother Will James was killed and Zelenda lost half of one of her arms.

Because of the bombing, and the fact that her husband Joe had supposedly found gold in Colorado while there on a hunting trip, Sarah decided to move to Colorado in 1875. Shortly before Belle left for Colorado, Jesse James gave her a Smith and Wesson just like his. “He told her to keep it near her always and she did.” Houts still has this gun today, 2002.

by Robin Shaules G2G6 Pilot (598k points)
+10 votes
The thief in my tree is the German Democratic Republic. When my father was born, the youngest brother of my granddad was "midhusband" to help him be born. They always had a close relationship. Fast forward some decades later in the time when there were two Germanies, my dad died and his uncle was a responsible veterinarian for the stocks of the county he lived in. Don't ask me why, the GDR authorities considered him to be a secret carrier and didn't let my granduncle come to the funeral of his nephew. My granduncle always said afterwards: "They stole me the opportunity to come to the funeral." Later when there was the reunifications and my granduncle came to visit us, we went to the grave, but it was not the same, although he was happy he could go there.
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (343k points)
+9 votes

This week I post about a cousin named Francesco and wonder what he might have done to get himself shipped back to Italy: https://allroadhaverhill.blogspot.com/2019/11/52-ancestors-week-48-thief.html

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (285k points)
+9 votes
52 Ancestors, 52 Different Surnames

My 3ggm Nancy (Cochran) Walker Donald Barr https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Cochran-3497 was born 1777 in Ireland.  She came to east Tennessee and married Hugh Walker about 1797.  After he died, she was left a widow with three young children.  She remarried to Rev. Matthew Lyle Donald in Blount County, Tenn. in 1802 and STOLE AWAY into Alabama. She had more children in Tennessee and Alabama before marrying, as a widow a second time, to Donald Barr.

I wondered why she didn't stick around and raise her three children by her first marriage: William Walker (my 2ggf) and his sister Mary Walker McReynolds (sister Jane "died young").  She remarried even before her first husband's estate was settled and must have followed Rev. Donald on his preaching circuit. It took me a while to realize that the Nancy Donald listed in the administration of the estate was Hugh's widow.
by Margaret Summitt G2G6 Mach 7 (76.8k points)
She ended up in Rhea County, Tennessee and she related to my family through the Fines that went from Washington County to Rhea County. So that makes you related to me also through her Margaret. My name is Linda Barnett of Barnett-3517
+14 votes

My grandmother Nellie Marvin spent her last five years in a nursing home near my house. She went there after a hospital stay, and she actually liked it there and decided to stay by choice. She played the piano, and she always had an audience. The only problem was that her clothing was often stolen. One day I realized that she had taken the scissors to all of her dresses, gowns and robes, and she had cut a square hole the size of a postage stamp about where her heart was. I asked her why she had cut all of her clothes, and she said that the thieves would not be taking them anymore. She certainly was right.

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (136k points)
+12 votes

This is an example of following a rabbit trail or in this case a duck's tail and ending up with an answer of sorts to this week's question.  What did we do before the Internet? :)

Not long ago a cousin shared information that my great-great grandmother Elizabeth Savoy's brother William had been a duck decoy keeper in England. I was clueless. Was this some one who maintained the duck decoys or maybe make them which seemed a rather odd job. But, it turns out a duck decoy is a fixed structure to capture wild ducks that was used in England and other places in Europe.

From my attempts to find out more about ducks, I stumbled across an entry for a Michigan Supreme Court case Sterling vs. Jackson from 1888 regarding the rights of duck hunters which included some interesting references to English law.

"We can borrow no light, in this discussion, from the English game and forestry laws, which are not a part of our common law, and which are repugant and hostile to the theory of our institutions."  Whoa! and goes on to state: "The wild game and fish abounding in our woods and waters have never been the property of the general government or of the State, in the sense that they were held the property of the crown in England." and " "The fish of our waters, and the game of our woods, and the wild birds of the air, belong to the people, and not to the crown, and should always when they can be captured or killed without deteriment to private rights, be preserved to the people." (p. 527) And then references laws enacted in the Massachusetts Bay Colony circa 1641 or 1647 regarding "a common right in the people to the fish and wild game abounding in the waters and woods of the new world." (p. 528).

The laws defining who owns wildlife (deer, rabbits, game birds and such) and the impact of laws regarding their hunting particularly on the common people wasn't something I had thought about. I recently read a novel set in early 19th century England whose main character's father had been a game keeper and unfairly charged with a crime related to his job and transported to Australia which made me more aware that there had been some very harsh English laws regarding game.

Which lead me to find out more about poaching in the 18th century.  I came across an entry which explained it was more complicated than starving peasants trying to get enough meat to survive while wealthy landowners used the law to keep them in their lowly place.

So at least in regard to wild game, who is a thief has been a contentious issue for centuries.

I need to do some work to add William Savoy whose occupation started this complicated, but interesting trail.

And, here's a citation for the Michigan court case and a link to the google book:

Ewell, Marshall Davis., Stoddard, John L.., Chaney, Henry Allen., Cooper, Richard W.., Clarke, Hovey K.., Jennison, William., Denslow, Van Buren., Gibbs, George C.., Brooks, John Adams., Lazell, Herschel Bouton., Gott, Edward., Meddaugh, Elijah W.., Post, Hoyt., Fuller, William Dudley., Reasoner, James M.., Eaton, Marquis B.., Manning, Randolph., Cooley, Thomas McIntyre., Cooley, Edgar Arthur., Ostrander, Russell Cowles., Hutchins, Harry Burns. Michigan Reports: Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of Michigan. United States: Phelphs & Stevens, printers, 1889.    Sterling vs. Jackson.  (Begins on Pg. 488)


by Jill Perry G2G6 Mach 3 (38.9k points)
+9 votes
My family seems to have actually been very law-abiding (as far as I know, anyway).  I don't know of any thieves, but I guess I'll have to pick on my grandma's grandfather, Jakob P. Mampel, again.  He found himself in court over "alleged seditious utterance" during WWI at age 82.  While the FBI wasn't yet around, the Bureau of Investigation was.  I found out about this case thanks to Ancestry's Fold 3.
by K. Anonymous G2G6 Mach 9 (91.7k points)
+10 votes

I'm not sure that my gr. grandfather's brother, James Mayoh aka Thomas Dunn was a thief, but he was definitely a fugitive. Why else would he be using the alias, Thomas Dunn. This is still a little mystery for me to follow, as I have not yet found anything in the New South Wales newspapers of the period.

by David Urquhart G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
+11 votes

The thief I have was found by a cousin. What Joseph Pozzi (junior) did was especially unkind to his family, because his father had the same name and profession of watchmaker as did his brother John Andrew. They were watchmakers, and the thief took watches brought to his employer for repair. He was convicted in 1865 of theft and sentenced to 5 years penal servitude at Rothesay Bute. In 1872, he was jailed in Ochiltree, Ayrshire, Scotland for 46 days for theft of a gold watch. Other thefts came to light and on release from there he was taken to Kilmarnock where he was tried in 1873 and sentenced to 7 years this time. Isabel, the cousin who did the research, turned up a detailed description of him in court and prison records as well as a revealing list of things he had taken. We do not have that kind of detail about his more reputable family members. If you want lots of detail, maybe you should look for thieves.

by Judith Chidlow G2G6 Mach 3 (39k points)
+9 votes

Mine is my mother's sister who is dead husband dad Emory Eron Sapp https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Sapp-1214.  

Emory was born in 1878. He passed away in 1963. The son of Dr. James Monroe Sapp and Mary Melissa Brassell.

Emory Eron Sapp was arrested in Johnson City, Tennessee. Emory Eron Sapp admits masquerade as his Brother. Emory Eron Sapp was arraigned on fraud charges. 

Emory Eron Sapp was convicted of fraud and returned to Texas to finish 99 year sentence for murder

On November 19, 1914, thirty-six-year-old Emory Sapp murdered his wealthy wife and her two acquaintances. That's what the jury said when they sentenced him to ninety-nine years in prison. All that was missing was the truth.

Emory Sapp was born in a small town in East Texas in 1878, and for most of his years - when he wasn't incarcerated - he worked in law enforcement. Sapp was in his early thirties and married when he began an affair with a wealthy older woman who had a special fondness for men-in-blue. Divorcing his wife to marry her, the two enjoyed each other's company as they lived the high life. The only problem were Ellen's two nephews, who despised the fact that she had given Emory control of all of her money, land, and personal items - and left nothing for them in her will. Then came that awful day when Emory and Ellen decided that a hunting trip with a group of friends would be fun...

Despite errors in the prosecution's case, disreputable witnesses, and a number of appeals, Emory Sapp was convicted on circumstantial evidence and sent to one of the worst prison farms in Texas. Feeling that his days were numbered because of what he knew about the prison's illegal activities, Emory took it on the lam. In Johnson City, he began life anew, using his dead brother's first name. In 1940, Sapp was arrested for mail fraud, which led to his discovery as a fugitive. He was seventy-two when he was paroled, but because he knew that there were those on the outside who wanted him to disappear, he found a way back into prison and remained there till the day he died.    


Emory Eron Sapp

 in the Texas, Convict and Conduct Registers, 1875-1945

Texas, Convict and Conduct Registers, 1875-1945   

Name:Emory Eron Sapp 

Record Date:13 Jul 1920 

Place of Residence:Beaumont 

Prison Location:Huntsville, Walker, Texas, USA 


Convict Number:44999 

Texas, Convict and Conduct Registers


The book above called The Man With Two Names is the book that my uncle which is my mother sister who is dead now husband wrote about his dad Emory Eron and Emory Eron other brother also.

by Anonymous Barnett G2G6 Pilot (454k points)
+11 votes

Wow – this is a tough topic!  After scratching my head to try to answer I recently did come across one relative, the brother of my g2 grandfather, who was recorded as being “in Belfast Gaol”.  I've not written a profile for him yet as the trail runs fairly cold, but at least in 1851 Hugh Wilson was listed in the Ireland census for his father, my g3 grandfather John Wilson, as being in the household previously and being absent, reason “in Gaol” and the helpful addition that he was there as “prisoner”, presumably to clarify that he wasn't an employee!  Also listed with him is another absent brother William, a labourer, this time with the legend “in America”.

by Linda Hawkes G2G6 Mach 3 (33.4k points)
+10 votes
Couldn't find anything regarding a thief or stealing for one of the ancestors, bu one of the sons of Edward Elmer (https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Elmer-195) was accused of stealing an ax.. though it seemed that there was just a feud between Edward's family and the other.
by Eric McDaniel G2G6 Mach 3 (38.3k points)
+10 votes
I seem to have more cops than cons in my family. Nevertheless, there is a relative by marriage who was married to my 2nd great aunt on my mother's side. George (aka Jiggs) Perry (1871-1951) was legitimately married to my Aunt Mary (1892-1972). They had three children. Their daughter, Grace (1929-1934) died of consumption. Sons John (1913-2004) and Dan (1920-2012) served honorably during WWII. Dan saw action in Europe as part of Patton's team. 'Jiggs' (perfect name for a con man), a traveling salesman, became known as the 'Marrying Railroad Man' and was put on trial in Milwaukee in the 1930's for murdering one of his many 'wives' between Wisconsin and South Dakota. I recall my grandmother telling me how the police took notes as to when she last saw Jiggs. Cousins John and Dan, just boys themselves, escorted their mother to the trial and supported her during her testimony. While not thief per se, Jiggs was a thief of life, of hearts, and of family integrity. He was found guilty and died in prison in 1951.
by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (161k points)
+7 votes

Rebecca Turner was the bad girl of early New Haven Colony. She and her future husband were punished for "sinfull miscarriages" before their marriage. After their marriage they were punished for having a feast on stolen goods, with some other men's servants who should have been home in bed.

by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)

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