Question of the Week: What's an unusual story you've found in your research?

+13 votes
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What's an unusual story you've found in your research?

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in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
reshown by Chris Whitten
That on my great great grandmother side Catherine Townsend

Roby . She was also traced to the McCartney family who were from the same county in Virginia where she was from. I did a relationship finder and she's 9 degrees from Mary McCartney of Lewis county that is now Virginia. Thank you found some more of my roby ancestors.

My 11th great grandfather, Edward Croft was tried for sorcery: the specific charge was compassing the death of another person. The witchcraft was a risky daring measure.

In the the late 1580s, his father, Sir James Croft, of Croft Castle, Herefordshire, was the Comptroller of Queen Elizabeth's Royal Household and a Privy Councillor who was involved in the trial of Mary Queen of Scots. James went to see the Italian Governor of Holland, the Duke of Parma in Holland, to negotiate a treaty. Unfortunately he didn't speak any of the languages involved and came back with a poor deal. He was suspected of treason and imprisoned in Fleet Prison.

 Edward was incensed and went to a conjuror, John Smith in London. He was asked to come back with the names of the councillors written on paper. John pointed to the name of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the Queen's favourite. With a flick of his hand he said "The Great Bear is muzzled".

Robert died a few days later of a stomach complaint. The trial outcome is unknown, but Edward was later imprisoned for debt, promised to pay if he were released, and instead absconded to Holland.

41 Answers

+19 votes
My 3x great grandmother Mary Eliza Ball (Ball-13305) was born in Cherokee Nation while staying with her Aunt who had married a Cherokee Chief (John Rigde). Only a few months after she was born John Ridge was assasinated for his part in signing a treaty that led to the trail of tears. She and her mother where in the house when he was killed. They fled back to MA, where her mother remarried and eventually the moved north to Minisota. No one in my family had any idea of any of this until I uncovered it while researching the family.
by Janelle Weir G2G6 Mach 3 (34k points)
I remember reading about the 'Trail of Tears'.  Quite sad but it reminded me how terribly lucky I am.
+12 votes
There is a family story about my 3rd great grandfather that has been passed down for generations. His original last name was said to have been MacGill. He served in the British Army during the American Revolutionary War starting in 1777 until the war ended. His unit relocated to Canada for several years. An officer insulted my ancestors lady and MacGill responded by decking the man who hit his head on a rock resulting in death. So MacGill fled to upstate New York and dropped the MacGill name and changed it to Gill. Years later a descendant examined the war record at Kew in England. It turned out that Mr. Gill signed up as Gill in 1777 and that he was never named MacGill in the first place. Before this information became available my father and I both had sport coats made in the MacGill tartan, which I still own.
by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (2m points)
+13 votes

Unusual and a mystery was a family member that disappeared.  Record of his death and burial in a military cemetery was recently discovered, but the plot was assigned to two different names.  Death record, also has notation, of two ID’s found at his home. Whoever was the informant for the death certificate, gave the correct name for our relations mother.  But we are not sure if our relation was borrowing a false ID, due to some dust up with the law, or the other ID person, took ID of our relation. Which one is actually buried in that plot? 

by Patricia Roche G2G6 Pilot (357k points)
Ran into this, talked with a couple funerals homes. They would occasionally dig up/into an old unmarked grave. Being no vaults way back , the wood coffins deteriated and not much left. They would inter the new resident over the old one. The vaults now would kind of pulverize whatever might be left of an old coffin , hence 2 person s buried in  same plot.  Had an uncle. had a time locating his grave, old & new  plat maps of the cemetery finally located it. showed the two persons buried in same plot.
+17 votes
I just recently found a newspaper article for a relative that reads as follows: "This morning Lon Taylor clerk at JK Williams' grocery, pulled some bananas off a stock, and while thus occupied, a tarantula jumped out and persuaded Lon to abandon his work for a few minutes.  A pair of pincers were secured and the ugly fellow captured and placed in a glass jar.  The poisonous thing is not so large as the general run of tarantulas, but a fruit salesman  who happened in the store stated that it was a very rare species and its bite deadly.  (Daily Herald, Delphos, Ohio, 9 Aug 1897)
by Jennifer Harrigan G2G2 (2.5k points)
+17 votes

My great-great grandfather saved a mysterious woman from committing suicide-by-train.

https://www.wikitree.com/photo/png/Jeremias-34-6

by Matt Scheich G2G1 (1.6k points)
+9 votes
*This involves Claus and Hans Fabrin, they are brothers of Danish extraction. First of all, I'll talk about Claus for a moment.  He was wounded whilst fighting during the Napoleonic Wars and stayed in Italy until his wounds healed, he decided to stay. To this day, there are about 39 Fabrin families residing in Italy (descendants of Claus). Hans is one of my forefathers (FYI). But the thing is a few generations later, the family became refugees as they had to flee their area of Denmark as a result of Prussia invading.

*Came across several tragic (and also heroic) wartime stories of members of the family (which as a New Zealander makes April 25 tougher each year)

*One other thing which is unusual has been finding out how many 'notable' members of my family there have been in influencing New Zealand life
by Richard Shelley G2G6 Pilot (142k points)
+10 votes

At 1917 hours (Z) on 27 November 1979 Air New Zealand flight TE #901, a DC I0-30 (ZK-NZP) departed from Auckland Airport on a non-scheduled domestic scenic flight which was planned to proceed via South Island New Zealand, Auckland Islands, Baleny Island, and Cape Hallett to McMurdo, Antarctica then returning via Cape Hallett and Campbell Island to Christchurch its first intended landing point. The aircraft’s 3 engines were at a high power setting and the aircraft had rotated upwards in pitch immediately prior to impact. The aircraft collided with an ice slope on Ross Island and immediately started to break up. A fire was initiated on impact and a persistent fire raged in the fuselage cabin area after that section came to rest.

More of a sad story, as one of the persons on this flight below was Florence Hance,  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Shiplet-7  at the time of the crash. It was called the Mount Erebus Disaster. It is sad and unusual because she also served in the military during World War II but made it home ok from that, but on a what was to be a fun trip years later, she ended up dieing. 

by Dorothy Barry G2G Astronaut (2m points)
That is a sad story and tragedy.
+13 votes

I come from a long line of colorful characters, so there's a lot of stories, most of which would offend my stuffier relations if I shared them. My grandfather made bootleg moonshine and had stories about fighting in the Pacific Theater in WW2 that included things like pretending to be dead while Japanese soldiers literally stepped on him. He was missing a finger on one hand, and told everyone a different story about what happened to it. When I was little, he told me a rat bit it off when he stuck his hand in a hole (in retrospect, this story was probably intended to keep me from sticking my pudgy baby fingers in strange places). He told my aunt he lost the finger breaking a horse, and my mom was told he cut it off while cleaning fish. He also bit a man's ear off in a bar brawl, and years later ran into that same man in a movie theater!

My other grandfather, believe it or not, was even more controversial.

An ancestral great-uncle, Sebron Golding, held his dying brother in his arms after a battle in the Civil War.

by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (126k points)
+9 votes

Martin-52419 - Edward John Martin he came so close to death so many times, as a boy he was connected to the French Foreign Legion and at the seige of Savastopol, the Battlefield of Balaclava in the Crimean War....He then managed, against the odds, to board a British vessel engaged in the bombardment of Savastopol. While on this vessel a gale arose which sunk 16 out of the 21 vessels engaged in the bombardment, but his vessel managed to weather the storm. After visiting different parts of the world, Edward Martin arrived in New Zealand in 1863 on board the sailing ship "Acerington". He jumped ship, leaving the vessel at Lyttleton and after the "Acerington" cleared the southern port, it was never heard of again. 

He even had a brush with death on New Zealand's west coast (like the wild west back then) When he unkinwing entertained the Maungatapu murderers.

by Sarah Jenkins G2G6 (9.1k points)
edited by Sarah Jenkins
What wonderful detail you have about Edward, My GGG Father, Thomas Parsons, was pensioned out from the Crimean war, we have a water colour of him in the Grenadier Guards uniform, with a grenade on his collar, we know of his life in NZ but know nothing of his live before NZ. Researching him for years, no records of him anywhere pre-NZ ?
+8 votes
This involves my 5x Greatgrandfather, Army Captain John Cummings, who, along with a group of fellow inmates, conspired to blow up a wall in Kings Bench Prison in 1792 to facilitate their escape.  The group of conspirators were all well educated men from respectable families, including a Reverend and a student of law, were all interred for Debt and had been hopeful that a Bill presented in the House of Lords would enable their release.  The Bill did not pass so they decided that they would blow their way out of the prison.

The whole group were found guilty and sentenced to three years jail in different prisons.

The story is made even more interesting in that two of John Cummings' sons were also in the Army. Ensign, later Lieutenant, William Cummings came to Australia in 1791, with wife and children, on the convict ship Queen as an officer in the NSW Army Corps.  He became a a significant land owner near Penrith.

His younger brother, my 4 x Great-grandfather, Captain John Cummings, with wife and children, arrived in Australia in July 1808 on the vessel Recovery as part of a detachment of 117 NSW Corps. He ultimately became a significant land owner around Launceston in Tasmania.

There are many twists & turns in this family's story but to finish it up here, Captain John Cummings Senior came out to Van Diemen's Land to visit his sons in November 1820 and died in Hobart on 24 March 1825.
by Ian McDonald G2G Crew (440 points)
+8 votes
2nd week. I can't think of a particularly unusual story at the moment, although I'm sure I have seen a few. The most unusual thing I have seen, is the grave site of my gggg grandfather, William Rutledge, www.wikitree.com/wiki/Rutledge-1843. It is the only grave site that I have come across anywhere, that isn't in a standard square or rectangular shape. His grave site, which is shared with his wife at the local cemetery, has a triangular fence around it, or perhaps a cone shape, because one of the three sides are curved in. There is a photo on his profile showing his grave site.

Has anyone else come across an unusually shaped grave site?

Incidently, William Rutledge was a very important person in the founding of Tower Hill, which is where this cemetery is, near Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia.
by Ben Molesworth G2G6 Mach 1 (12.5k points)
My 3rd great grandfather John Reid from Rossshire in Scotland emigrated with his family to work for William Rutledge's brother L. Rutledge in the Western District of Victoria.
Ha. What a connection. You've done well to get that much information about your ggg grandfather.
+8 votes

Rebecca Bowen was married and widowed three times, which in itself is not that unusual, but her story is unlike most. Her third marriage, which ended with her husband dying of a mysterious stomach ailment, had been rocky, as attested in a local news clipping, transcribed below.

Strangely Rebecca's two brothers also married three times.

"Whereas Rebecca, my wife, has left my bed and board without just cause or provocation, this notice is to forbid, and I do hereby forbid all persons harboring or trusting her on my account, as I shall not be responsible for nor pay any debts of her contracting after this date. signed Harvey Kellogg.      

-- The Charles City Republican Intelligencer, December 26, 1863

by C Ryder G2G6 Mach 5 (56.2k points)
+8 votes

My great 3x grandfather Francis Marion Crabtree Terry, born in 1846 in Tennessee. Marion married at least four times - Harriet Smith in 1865, Elizabeth Lay around 1874, Patsy Smiddy in 1878, and Rachel Lay Freels in about 1908. (Both Elizabeth and Rachel were from the prolific family the “Rambling Lays”) But the interesting part of this was when he was married to his third wife, his second wife lived next door and he continued having children with her (at least 6). By 1910 Elizabeth has disappeared and her cousin Rachel is living next door, and according to records Marion married her 2 years previously, even though he is still living with Patsy. I wonder what information was lost on the 1890 census… I counted once and he had over 100 grandchildren.

by Laura Jarus G2G Crew (760 points)
edited by Laura Jarus
+8 votes
I discovered that an Elizabeth Schott was convicted as a witch, beheaded, then burned on June 18, 1611, Ellwangen Germany. It's plausible that she is an ancestor. We believe our line goes back to the same town and period as Elizabeths in Eggenrot Germany.  Subsequently more than 400 women, men and children fell to the same fate through about 1617.

I have the court record of Elizabeth's last statement with a translator as of this week. Looking for clues!
by Robert Schott G2G Crew (790 points)
+6 votes
My maternal grandfather, was upset about his sister-in-law being bequeathed a house that he St it alight whilst he and some of his children were still in the house.

A neighbour tried to get in, but the doors and windows were locked and my grandfather waved a pistol about . Eventually the police were called and he smiled at them, as he pointed the pistol at them. They broke in and wrestled him to the ground, whereupon they found that his pistol only contained one empty cartridge.

His military records show that he was awarded number one field punishment, for minor offences and the family legend was that he was tied to a gun carriage, which was subsequently used in a gunfire engagement.
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+6 votes
My grandfather, Perley Hartwell Foster, was born in Danforth, Maine in 1884. In those days births were not necessarily recorded, especially if born at home. In all official records, such as censuses, marriage certificates, draft forms, Perley's parents were listed as Benjamin and Orilla Foster. However, Orilla would have been 57 when she gave birth. So I question the accuracy of this. The story in the family is that Gramps was adopted by the Fosters, perhaps unofficially. His father had gone to the Yukon Gold Rush and remained out West. He would come back occasionally to visit.

When I moved to Florida 10 years ago, my sister dug out her baby book from 1941. There was a table in it for listing grandparents and great-grandparents. Perley's parents were listed as Charles and Mabel Smith. Indeed, a book written by Dr Love about the history of Danforth has one sentence in it that says that Charles Smith and 4 others  left Danforth for the Yukon Gold Rush in 1897. I assume that was when Gramps was left with the Fosters. Here's where the 1890 census would have been useful.

I found a marriage record for Charles and Maud Smith in Missoula, MT in 1927. His parents were George Monroe Smith and Elizabeth Schools. They had moved to Westbrook, Maine along with son Howard. The family had heard that Howard was somehow related to Gramps. Indeed he was the brother to Charles. In talking to Howard's son, he did not know anything but mentioned he goes to the Maine Mall for breakfast. I went to the food court the next day and picked him out of the crowd because he had the very same shape of bald head.

Soooo, am I a Foster or a Smith? DNA does show a connection through Orilla to her family, the Hardings. And Y-DNA shows a connection to the Smith's somehow. I haven't firgured that one out yet. The question remains.
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+6 votes
Story is one of my distant relations didn't much care for United States military, but invited them over for tea and lemonade at her NY estate.  Rumor is she poisoned the the lemonade... and was quickly discovered when a few didn't make it back to base. This was early 1800s or so.

Another relations was a vaudeville performer and worked all over the world with a famous actress as her light tech.  When he was back in his home state of NY he was robbed and pushed into the hudson river... abt 1850s.

Family history is so interesting.
by
+7 votes
I found among my family archives, a document stamped by the Hudson's Bay Company archives, written by John Bell, to Sir George Simpson.   re Hudsons Bay employee Heddle, William B:  1785-D:1847(Heddle of Shappinsha, Orkney, sailed from Stomness, in 1816, Orkney to Canada and was employed by the Hudson Bay Co. in Cumberland House, Saskatchewan).  The following describes his lamentable death of William Heddle"The Expedition blacksmith, in examining a gun belonging to the deceased, which was in want of some repair, and not being as he affirms, aware of its being loaded it went off and melancholy to say, shot the man (William Heddle) though the head.  He expired on the spot.  This unfortunate accident has caused a universal regret for his death.  He was a very worthy honest man, and one of the most interested that I have seen in the Coys. service.  In him, Mr. Desch has lost a valuable servant"The administration of Heddle's estate, which was valued at approx. 150 pounds, was granted to his widow, Christian Heddle.  This death occurred Dec 11, 1847.

P. S. I have yet to find where William Heddle fits into my tree.  Heddle joined the Hudsons Bay Co in 1816 until his passing in 1847.  He was described on the document as "In 1819, when his winter residence was Red Deer River, Heddle was described as 5'9" with red hair and a fair complexion and as obedient, honest and an able servant.
by
+3 votes
I found among my family archives, a document stamped by the Hudson's Bay Company archives, written by John Bell, to Sir George Simpson.   re Hudsons Bay employee Heddle, William B:  1785-D:1847(Heddle of Shappinsha, Orkney, sailed from Stomness, in 1816, Orkney to Canada and was employed by the Hudson Bay Co. in Cumberland House, Saskatchewan).  The following describes the lamentable death of William Heddle "The Expedition blacksmith, in examining a gun belonging to the deceased, which was in want of some repair, and not being as he affirms, aware of its being loaded it went off and melancholy to say, shot the man (William Heddle) though the head.  He expired on the spot.  This unfortunate accident has caused a universal regret for his death.  He was a very worthy honest man, and one of the most interested that I have seen in the Coys. service.  In him, Mr. Desch has lost a valuable servant"The administration of Heddle's estate, which was valued at approx. 150 pounds, was granted to his widow, Christian Heddle.  This death occurred Dec 11, 1847.

P. S. I have yet to find where William Heddle fits into my tree.  Heddle joined the Hudsons Bay Co in 1816 until his passing in 1847.  He was described on the document as "In 1819, when his winter residence was Red Deer River, Heddle was described as 5'9" with red hair and a fair complexion and as obedient, honest and an able servant.
by
+6 votes
This is a story I pieced together from a few Dutch newspaper articles about a month ago.  My great-great grandfather Jakob Jannes Wegener was a sea captain from Nieuwe Pekela in Groningen, the Netherlands.  In 1848 it seems he helped his older brother Hendrik buy a ship they named Gebroeders (brothers). Hendrik was the captain, Jakob the first mate.  

Hendrik and Jakob Wegener caused an international incident in 1849.  In early 1849 the Danish Navy instituted a blockade to stop all German trade in the North and Baltic Seas in the war over who would control the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.  In early April Hindrik Wegener broke that blockade by picking up some rye (rogge) in the port of Stettin in his ship de Gebroeders.  On April 15, the sea admiralty in Copenhagen towed de Gebroeders to Copenhagen with their frigate Havfruen.  On May 11 it was announced again that all neutral ships were not to break the blockade and anyone doing so would be charged to the full degree.  Somewhere around June 3 the Gebroeder's cargo was confiscated for 9 days by order of the admiralty.  Captain Wegener  was cleared on June 11 for a "good price" (a heavy fine) - they must have refused to pay it until then. But that didn't stop them - they returned to Stettin 2 months later.  They were one of five ships immediately taken to Copenhagen and charged on August 11 for once again breaking the blockade.   Hendrik was under arrest until the blockade ended (their 4318 sch of rye in their cargo hold was apparently confiscated on Aug 31).   Since the ship continued sailing, either the blockade ended soon afterwards, Hendrik was given a special pardon or Jakob may have taken the captain's chair until Hendrik was released. They then traveled between the Netherlands and England; one gets the feeling they were banned from sailing in the Baltic Sea for at least six months.
by Bertram Sluys G2G6 Mach 2 (22.2k points)
In 1856 Jakob must have completed captain's school and received his first ship as captain. A year after he would have left Hendrik's ship, it disappeared after leaving Riga, Latvia with a cargo of rye.  In 1867 Hendrik's wife put an advertisement in the local newspaper: she knew her husband would have drowned 11 years before, but she didn't know where.  She hired a local officer to discover where the ship went down.  If my great-great grandfather hadn't decided to become a sea captain, he would most likely have vanished with that ship in 1856.
OK, one more short story to go along with this.  From 1857 to 1861, there was a ship coming into ports around the Baltic sea named Gebroeders with a captain named Wegener. This would make a really great ghost story except for one thing.  In fall 1855, there were 2 completely different routes a ship Gebroeders with a captain Wegener was making at the same time!  There must have been another captain Wegener who named his ship Gebroeders in 1855.  Wegener is not a common last name in the Netherlands, so he may have been a relative of Jakob's and Hendrik's step-grandfather.  Their grandfather had the last name Schoenmaker; their father took the name Wegener from his step-father who also took over his wife's first husband's shoe making business!

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