Friday, September 27, 2013

Famous and ...Notorious Relatives

Are you related to anyone famous? How about notorious? Got a black sheep in the family? A mystery? Maybe there is a story somewhere in the family history that is just a little bigger than life, worth repeating, sharing, and savoring.

Maybe you've found it, and maybe you've found many such figures and their stories.

And maybe that story is out there waiting to be found.

Think about where, when, why, and how to find them.

First you find out who is in your tree, and then you find out what has been left to learn about that person.

 The more you use search engines on their names, the better your chance at finding their interesting bios.

Great stuff to add to the notes in the family tree and to pass along to relatives, both close and distant.

You may have some of those early American ancestors linked to or themselves  the early members of local or federal governments. Many of those early Americans were involved in some way, whether in the formation of early militias, or serving on town or county juries, or as town clerks, or perhaps as governing officials, even on the federal level. In that case, you will find that the digging for historical gems is relatively simple. Finding more and more details may take more dedicated attention,  and possibly the expertise of  a genealogist, but the surface details can easily be found by anyone . maybe that the story is not so much about fame or infamy, but rather about the nuances of settling in a new area and encountering the challenges of the frontier.

Examples can easily be found--for starters, if you've got any ancestors from the wild west, there you go... and the east was not that much less wild at times.

Search for the ancestor's name with any combination of the following--locations where he/she settled,  dates of birth or death, occupation (pony express) or name of company or town....and keep going!

Just found some great info on distant relative William Augustus Brown, myself. For years I only had the information of his name and a note that he had been murdered in 1853 (California was a baby in the nation at that time)  in Stockton. But things are different now, and the story of his life is easily expanded. Search engines now provide so much info in various forms that I know he ran a pony express (and I can see examples of the stamp he put on the letters). He's neither notorious nor particularly famous, but he was a victim of a wild west shooting. The story is good, and remains contemporary, as even the auction house Christie's offers some of his stamped envelopes for auction.

Photo from Western Cover Society:

Update 2015: the name of the murderer and the entire narrative of the murder have been uncovered in old newspaper articles.

Find those great stories about the family history, and make sure to keep looking for the best details and the tie-ins to the growth of the country or the current culture and economy.

See an example of  Pony express covers for sale at Western Cover Society. Use search engines to see more examples of covers and stamps. They are all interesting.