It is always difficult to find death certificates or other documents that tell of extreme problems in the lives of our ancestors and extended family. We wonder what events were happening in their lives to cause such disastrous results.
We find them loosing their homes due to financial difficulties, weather and other calamities.
We find them loosing child after child to early death.
We mourn with the parents who loose their young children. When I first visited the Burial Hill Cemetery in Plymouth, Massachusetts, I was surprised to find the headstone of three of my great uncles and aunt who died as little ones. One of the names was new to me and apparently to all records, as he had never been listed in any governmental or historical record before my own publications.
In another visit to family graves thousands of miles from Plymouth, I mourned in sympathy for the parents of other distant cousins who lost six babies in ten years.
Last week, I worked on the records of a distant female cousin who murdered her husband during the night and attempted to kill herself afterward. We know she had a nervous breakdown afterward or perhaps before. Who knows what precipitated the event? Poking in the old sore wound was hard for me even at my relative distance in time and space.
I’ve found a number of records of extended family members that were murdered. Most of the time it is women who were killed by their husbands or boyfriends with the same violent attitudes of men represented then just like it is today. It is hard to read about the impact on the families of both parties.
All of these discoveries are difficult to read and consider, but they are part of the fabric of the lives of our family members. Hard times happen – then and now. Fortunately, for genealogists, disasters are the only contextual information we have about the lives of our ancestors other than the raw stats of name, births, marriages and deaths.
I’m always happy to find the jail or prison records of a family member because at least something was written about them while they were alive that I can now find. Maybe they were guilty and maybe they weren’t but their black sheep status elevates their record length in my knowledgebase.
How about you? Were there any black sheep or disasters on the families of your ancestral families? Don’t you secretly hope to find disasters too? – Just for the added info they convey about your family?