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Who’s Hiding in Your Family Tree?

man in bushes

March 7, 2019

Because my parents were old enough to be my grandparents, they looked at things from a different perspective. So perhaps I heard twice the stories that “normal”-aged parents would have shared. Both had good memories and were close to their families; information about the family history was shared frequently, and I knew every single one of my first cousins.

After my dad died, I had a deep curiosity to know what happened to the children of the four brothers of his father, my grandfather, so I decided to research them. I knew about a few of my dad’s first cousins because my dad, through the years, had maintained contact with them, at least at Christmastime. In checking out who was born to his Uncle William, I discovered one cousin named Morris that I had never heard my dad mention, which surprised me greatly. As I searched, I discovered that Morris was one of those black sheep with much to be said about his doings, especially in newspapers, and maybe that was why my dad never mentioned him. It was one of those embarrassing family stories that was kept hush-hush.

The first newspaper stories I saw in Chronicling America astonished me. I found Missouri and Iowa newspaper pieces that reported Morris, at a young age, had already done time for forgery in Nebraska. I found out that he had later embezzled money and even been tracked by the Pinkerton Agency. Oh goody, I thought, we have Pinkerton microfilm records here at MGC! But perhaps Morris wasn’t considered hardcore enough to make the cut for the microfilmed records, because he was not cited in our MGC Pinkerton files on microfilm.

I recently found two more Iowa prison instances for him in Ancestry Library Edition (in-library use only). He also spent some time in the Missouri State Penitentiary. Those records can be found in Missouri Digital Heritage or in our microfilm collection, Missouri Penitentiary Records, pages three to five. He had four incarcerations before the age of 30―oh my!

Here at MGC, we have a number of books about penitentiaries listed in our online catalog, which may help clarify the prison scene for any of your ancestors who were in a likewise position. Sometimes researching your family tree brings out surprises that you don’t expect. Ancestors with a checkered past are “blessed” with more documents than most. 

Perhaps you have some hidden in your branches!

Twila R.
Midwest Genealogy Center

Comments

I would love to know what she look llike. I never meet her my aunt she was born 1936

From Brenda creel (not verified)
Sat, 10/10/2020 - 06:02am

Hi Brenda, Ancestry.com has many photographs from school yearbooks that you can search. The Mid-Continent Public Library has a subscription to AncestryLibraryEdition which you can currently (temporarily) access from home for free with your MCPL Access Pass (library card) number. If so, you can get to it here: https://www.mymcpl.org/research-and-learning/research-databases/ancestr… -- then add your card number when it prompts you. If you live in another city, you might check with your local library system to see if they have access to AncestryLibraryEdition. You might also check with other family members who may have photos of her in their possession.

From Twila R (not verified)
Tue, 11/24/2020 - 09:31am

Hi Patricia, The Midwest Genealogy Center can help you in your search. To get started you can read our "Get Started" page at https://www.mymcpl.org/genealogy/get-started . If you have specific questions, click on the "Research Policy" link on that page in the box at the upper right and you will find how to contact us (email, phone) and how we can address specific questions that you might have. Also at the same place is a link to "Online Learning" which sends you to some of our basic classes in doing genealogy that you can watch online.

From Twila R (not verified)
Tue, 11/24/2020 - 09:22am

Greetings, Pam,
Look at the last census record you find for her (1910?). and nose around in the records in that location at various sources such as genealogy or historical societies in the county. Sometimes local public libraries have created obituary indexes. Try to find what the local newspaper was and see if the early issues (before about 1924) have been digitized and may be searchable for any kind of death information. Look on FamilySearch.org if you haven't already. Read our Research Policy for acceptable query requests that the MGC Reference Staff may be able to help you with look-ups or suggestions for further research: https://www.mymcpl.org/genealogy/get-started/research-policy

From Twila R. (not verified)
Wed, 03/10/2021 - 01:20pm

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