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That moment when you went "WTF", while doing research- Share your stories


samurai_sarah

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Just for fun!

I'm sure we all had that moment, when we went "what on earth happened there?". Wanna share?

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In the 1841 British census my ancestors are living in a tiny village in Cornwall with the parents, their teenage children and then two babies. Now the 1841 census only listed people, it didn't include relationships, so other researchers assumed that the babies belonged to the parents. I knew that one of the babies was a grandchild- a son had gotten married, his wife died in childbirth and he appears to have moved back in with his parents. But I couldn't figure out the second baby, I couldn't find any other records for this child. 

I finally decided to give up for a while and was researching one of the older daughters in the family. My first WTF came when up popped a bastardy order. She had given birth to a baby, and in 1841 she went to court to make the father pay child support. When I went to search for this new baby, I realized it was the same age as my unknown baby and the names were similar (Carlanda and Carlina). After doing a little more digging I was able to confirm that it was the same child.

My second WFT came when I found the marriage record for the older daughter. Three years after she took this man to court for child support, she married him. They went on to have four more children before he abandoned the family.

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As I said, I'm in Newfoundland that has never been a secret. So generally speaking, knowing when certain ancestors came is pretty hard. There was no real immigration so to speak because the province was a British Dominion. People just sort of appeared, took the land they wanted. They did like cats "If I fits, I sits." They came, they sat, their descendants are in the same place that they sat. 

So one of my ancestors had an exact date for arrival, which is odd. I was trying to figure out why in the name of god that happened. I ended up ordering a book "The Irish in Newfoundland" When the book arrived, I found the name of the ancestor and it seems that he arrived on a convict ship. He was a thief! His wife and a couple of children ended up coming over. His ancestors, not me but others, seem to be in the exact same place. 

My favourite moment was telling my mother and her family that they were descended from a convict. 

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One of my favourites was when I was going through the church records and discovered that one of my ancestresses had married three times. After her first husband died, she married his younger brother. Second husband died as well, so she married the youngest brother. What was going on there?

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4 hours ago, samurai_sarah said:

One of my favourites was when I was going through the church records and discovered that one of my ancestresses had married three times. After her first husband died, she married his younger brother. Second husband died as well, so she married the youngest brother. What was going on there?

One of my male relatives who lived in the mid-19th C. married a widow who was about 10 years older than he was, and then when she died, married her daughter (his step-daughter) who was about 10 years younger than he was. Neither was a blood relative, so no problem that way, but I would give a lot to know the mindset of those involved... I can't imagine doing this, myself.

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MrBlah’s mother had a typically French surname. Several generations have French sounding names (Louis is popular, Jeanne for the women, Francois etc). It was taken as fact that MrBlah’s (and several other family members’) enviable clear, soft skin (inherited by MissBlah, lucky girl) was the result of his French genes. Other family members refer to their “French complexion” and they firmly believe that they have French ancestors.

So when I started digging around in his family tree back to about ten generation on one line, I was extremely surprised to find exactly zero French connections. Not one. Mostly English with a smattering of Germans. The French surname tracks back for 7 generations in England before I hit a wall.

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Mine was the fact that I have a 3x great grandfather married 9at different times) to BOTH of my 2x great grandmothers on that branch.  Yup - my 2x great-grandparents are step-siblings.  I think (but am not 100% certain) that the parents married later (after both were widowed) but since the one great grandmother died in childbirth am not necessarily certain.  (No wonder I was confused on the family tree for a while)

I also had someone via PM at ancetry try to tell me that my paternal gndmother and my dad's sister died of the same thing.  To whcih my response was really?  that's funny because my grandmother died from an asthma attack.  (later found out that there is a rather intentional cloud around that aunt's death because she may have had an abortion and died  - really need to send for her death certificate which is not oline because kansas).  

And then there is the mistaken family trees from more distant cousins that have uncle Les married to my grandmother instead of my grandfather.  Found out from my uncle that the grandparents were together, had my aunt, split up.  Grandmother 'went with' Uncle Les for a while and then got back with my grandfather and they had my dad and uncle.  

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My WTF moment concerns someone else's "research" and is the final reason why I tend to distrust so much of what is out there.

An enormous book about a branch in my family came out a few years ago. My mum is a very private person and whoever compiled that part of the book had not found her. But somehow they knew about me and used their imagination to fit me into the tree. :my_dodgy:  My cousin happens to have my first name as her middle name, and hey presto! problem solved, we must be the same person! But being maternal cousins, we have different last names... No matter! They solved this little irregularity by simply erasing my cousin's husband's last name and giving him mine. Because what's a little detail like that. :5624795033223_They-see-me-rollinroll:

I sent them a very polite message via their let-us-know-if-there-are-errors feedback form on their website. Did they answer? Not a word.

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Love this.  I have two good discoveries.  One is perfect for FJ!

1.  My dad's father abandoned the family when my dad was around 10.  (They were better off without him.)  My genealogy work found that his father's sister and their parents had moved into a cultish Pentecostal religious sect (Pillar of Fire, if anyone is interested).  Sounds full-on crazy.  Turns out my dad remembers visiting them there, but he didn't really know what it was at the time.  Remembers the women wearing long dresses & that they were all very very strict.  Hey--I have fundie blood!

2.  My mother grew up idolizing her grandmother (I'll call her "Beth".)  She knew that her grandfather had married once before, and that the first wife had died.  After some digging, I found that Grandpa's and his first wife had a baby together--no one ever knew that.  But First Wife died shortly after childbirth.  Baby appears on the 1910 Census--age 1--with Grandpa's last name, but living with "Grandma Beth" and her sister!!  Huh?  A few month later, the baby died----I found the death certificate--cause listed as  "consumption"--and the very next day, my grandparents got married!!  I just cannot make heads nor tails of it.  Why was Grandma Beth taking care of the baby?  And surely the wedding had to have been planned for a while, but the timing is just so odd.

 

I debated telling my mom.  I wish that I hadn't.

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4 hours ago, Blahblah said:

So when I started digging around in his family tree back to about ten generation on one line, I was extremely surprised to find exactly zero French connections. Not one. Mostly English with a smattering of Germans. The French surname tracks back for 7 generations in England before I hit a wall.

Where in England? A Huguenot ancestor back in the C17th/18th would be a likely bet. But it's weird the way some stories really stick to a family's sense of identity.

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Not the most interesting but the most WTF stuff I found

1. On Dad's side my great great was a bastard? Child out of wedlock? Not sure what to call it exactly but no father to be found and the baby had his mothers last name and was named after HER Dad. Asked around in the family and no one had any idea except for my Grandpa and he just got very angry when I brought it up. Him being angry I'm sure is him being him but like damn. Family tree and nothing else makes sense though.

2. Also on Dad's side, I have a direct ancestor who was in The Confederate Army during the Civil War. Another member of the family died at Gettysburg. It wasn't exactly shocking because my family is white people from Alabama. I was actually expecting it. Still a WTF to see it there in front of you. 

3. On my Mom's side of the family, long before my Grandparents were born, a member of my Grandpa's family murdered a member of my Grandma's family by stabbing him outside a church and then ran off with his wife. My Grandparents had no idea. 

That's all I got haha.

 

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7 hours ago, AprilQuilt said:

Where in England? A Huguenot ancestor back in the C17th/18th would be a likely bet. But it's weird the way some stories really stick to a family's sense of identity.

Around Tunbridge Wells in Kent if my info is accurate. 

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43 minutes ago, Blahblah said:

Around Tunbridge Wells in Kent if my info is accurate. 

Loads of Huguenots in Kent. Proportionately I think they're about the biggest wave of immigrants in England's history. There's a Huguenot museum in Rochester, a French chapel (Huguenot pastors) in Canterbury and I think bits and bobs to do with the Huguenots in Kent at Rye Castle. I've no idea if this is the link with your ancestors, but this page will give you a lot of avenues towards finding out:

https://www.genguide.co.uk/source/huguenot-records-and-registers-nonconformist/11/

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Both of my parents did their own trees and gave me the information. When I was entering it all into Ancestry I did dad's first. His ancestor who came over from Ireland married a woman who's maiden name was Van Zandt in 1730 in New Amsterdam. Then I did my mom's side. One of her ancestors was having babies with a woman who's maiden name was Van Zandt in Connecticut in the 1750's. What are the odds these women weren't at least cousins? I'm pretty sure that my parents are cousins (the same way the George Washington and Robert E. Lee are my cousins, but still). Genealogy has taught me that we're all related.

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My WTF was this direct ancestor of mine whose first wife was about 40 years younger than him. She had four kids and died within ten years, whereupon he married another woman who was also a lot younger than him, but not as young as the first wife. She came from the same village as his family so perhaps they'd known one another a while. She also had a daughter who was definitely illegitimate, and would have been born around the same time as the death of this guy's first wife.

I really want to know whether this was just a mutually beneficial situation - the guy needed a mother for his young children, and the woman needed respectability and a home, so they helped each other out - or whether he had a LOT MORE TO DO with that illegitimate daughter. Either way, the woman and her daughter remained living with his children for decades after his death, and eventually took in one of his granddaughters.

I have another where a man married a widow, only for her and her teenage daughter to die within about 18 months. Tragic, right? He then married the first wife's widowed sister, but two years later she and her teenage daughter also died. They're all buried in the same plot. Either something really fucked up was going on, or they lived over an open sewer.

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This is not so much a wtf but more a case where this ancestor's life story left me wondering about personalities and circumstances that I don't know about.

My ggggm, born 1813 on a farm.

Aged 20: marries husband no 1, goes on to have 6 children. Husband dies.
Aged 36: marries husband no 2. Two months later husband is set upon by a drunken gang, suffers a blow to the head, never recovers. Dies ten months later.
Aged 40: has a child out of wedlock, so far no trace of who the father might be.
Aged 43: marries husband no 3, has one more child.
Aged 54: dies of carbon monoxide poisoning, along with husband and youngest child.

So that's quite a life, what with violence and illicit sex. But. She inherited the farm over her brothers and I would so much like to know why! Both her parents actually survived her, so it could be a case they left it to a grandson directly, but even then it seems they favored their daughter's offspring over their sons'. She is one of the women in my tree that really stand out, it's almost like I can feel the force of personality over the distance of time, yet in actual fact I know next to nothing about her. It's weird.

 

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  • 1 year later...

My WTF moment - one time I went up to the cemetery to find where some of my ancestors were buried.  Something interesting I found was that one set of great-grandparents from my mom's side of the family were buried almost right next to a set of great-great-grandparents from my dad's side of the family.  These burials were decades before my parents met but it just struck me that there was a connection between the families even before my parents met.

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  • 1 month later...

I've had some real WTF moments.

One with what little I've found pertaining to my paternal grandmother's family. The biggest being her mother going by initials in one census that don't correspond with her name.

And then there are the questions I have about my maternal grandfather's dead older brother. He was born ~3 yrs before my grandfathers parents got married, my great-grandfather is listed as his father on his death certificate, but my great-grandfathers obituary doesn't count him as one of the kids my great grandparents had together. I can only assume his biological father was another man or that he died so long ago that he was an afterthought.

I have a lot of unanswered questions about what this same great-grandfather actually did during the war. I found a record of someone who I think was him enlisting in Oct. 1945.

Edited by Dreadcrumbs
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There was a fire in the records from WWII in the 70s (I think). A lot of info was lost. My grandpa was at signal school then suddenly attached to a bomber squadron across the country. WWI records are even harder for some reason. 

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1 hour ago, DaisyD said:

There was a fire in the records from WWII in the 70s (I think). A lot of info was lost. My grandpa was at signal school then suddenly attached to a bomber squadron across the country. WWI records are even harder for some reason. 

That would explain a lot. My great-grandfather was in the Air Force too.

Edited by Dreadcrumbs
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  • 1 month later...
I've had some real WTF moments.
One with what little I've found pertaining to my paternal grandmother's family. The biggest being her mother going by initials in one census that don't correspond with her name.
And then there are the questions I have about my maternal grandfather's dead older brother. He was born ~3 yrs before my grandfathers parents got married, my great-grandfather is listed as his father on his death certificate, but my great-grandfathers obituary doesn't count him as one of the kids my great grandparents had together. I can only assume his biological father was another man or that he died so long ago that he was an afterthought.
I have a lot of unanswered questions about what this same great-grandfather actually did during the war. I found a record of someone who I think was him enlisting in Oct. 1945.


One of my paternal grandpa’s elder brothers died at about four years of age in 1924. Grandpa always said he remembered the funeral even though he wasn’t a year old yet. I always thought of this great uncle as a younger brother to my grandpa even though he was a few years older than grandpa.
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  • 1 month later...

I have had two WTF moments . The one was finding out that my one ancestor , Stephen Duncan Burns , is also a distant cousin .  So yeah , Pennsylvania backwoods folks can be inbred too .  Another WTF moment I had , and probably the most controversial yet , was when researching a family name in my genealogy , Stumpner , I discovered that some Stumpners were Jewish , and had settled in Krakow , Poland https://jri-poland.org/databases/jridetail_2.php  , while others were not Jewish , and were found among the great-great grandparents of this notable / notorious historical figure http://wargs.com/other/hitler.html  . I am not sure which , if any , of these people I might be related to .  Also , if all Stumpners are interrelated , then that would mean that Hitler would have wound up sending some of his extended family to their deaths , such as possibly this person https://www.jewishgen.org/databases/jgdetail_2.php

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