Beware of what you might find when researching your family history. My family in particular seems to have more than its share of ghosts in the closet. Here are a few that I’ve discovered so far.
1. My Oldest North American Relative Assaulted a Tailor
I was hoping to figure out where my oldest North American relative came from. Instead I discovered that this relative, William Thompson, spent time in jail for assaulting a tailor. After he got out of jail, his wife bought a coffin. Six months later he died.
2. My Fourth Great Grandfather Exported Freed Slaves to a Colony Off the Coast of Haiti
Bernard Kock is widely regarded as one of the most despicable figures in American history. He’s called a scoundrel, a swindler — and all for getting Lincoln to sign off on a deal to export freed slaves to a foreign country. It would be nice to exonerate him, but that will be tough.
3. My Most Successful Relatives Were Also the Fattest
A recent scientific survey has proved this beyond the slightest doubt. Even so, speculation continues about the causes for obesity among the wealthy. Were they trying to impress people with their ability to buy massive quantities of fattening food? Further research is needed.
4. My Great Uncle Denied Blacks the Right to Vote
I remember reading about Jim Crow laws in high school. But I never imagined that my great, great uncle authored them in the state of Louisiana. Ernest B. Kruttschnitt, my second great grand uncle, did a bunch of things that are difficult to write off as mere events of their time.
5. My Great Grandfather Killed a Man
I’ve been holding this story back. I may have time to write it soon. J.E. Thompson shot and killed a man who kidnapped his son. But he also saved the life of his sister in law. After four doctors had declared Gertrude Hickman dead, he brought her back to life through artificial respiration.
6. My Illustrious Uncle’s Townhome is Now a Strip Club
Judah P. Benjamin was one of the founding fathers of the Confederacy. His plantation home is gone. But my third great grand uncle’s in-town residence is still standing — only it houses a gentleman’s club, complete with a small shrine to the former Secretary of State, according to “someone” who works there.