A study in ancestors: Using genealogy to follow your family tree (1896)

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1889 Family record

1889 Family record

A study in ancestors

Result of following up, or rather down, the family line

A South side [Chicago] man tells a good story on himself. He comes of revolutionary stock, and his family for several generations back has been prominent in New York state, but he has never worried much about his ancestry, having been too busily engaged in trapping the unwary dollar.

His wife comes of good old Virginia stock and knows all about her lineage. She has frequently insisted that her husband make some effort to trace his family history, of which he could give no earlier account than that one of his ancestors moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut about 1760.

As the family name is thoroughly English, she believed it possible that this ancestor came in direct line from some old pilgrim settler.

MORE: Start a genealogical record for your family (1905)

At last the husband yielded to her persuasions and wrote to a “specialist” in the east to find out what he could about the family in Massachusetts prior to 1760.

In the course of a few weeks, he received a letter reporting progress. The man who digs up family histories said he had obtained a clue. He had learned from early records that in _____ Mass., in 1685, one _____ James had been sentenced for six hours in the stocks for public intoxication, and that in the same town the following year this aforesaid James enjoyed the unique distinction of being the first prisoner to occupy a newly-built jail, the charge against him being the theft of a cask of rum.

“My dear,” said the husband, after he had read the report to his horrified wife, “we haven’t gotten far enough along to prove that James was a relative of ours, but I think we can do it with a little more research.”

“The investigation has gone far enough,” said she. Now when she tells of her husband’s family history, she is content to dwell on the Revolutionary period.

The Encyclopedia of American Last Names

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