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A Family of Black Sheep

So many genealogists look for outstanding ancestors. They point with pride to kings, presidents, Mayflower descendants, and other famous people in their family trees.

Me, not so much. Other than a very distant relationship to Henry David Thorough (via our common Dunbar line), I have found no illustrious ancestors. In fact, mine seem quite the opposite. I have a tree full of black sheep forebears:

  1. Seymour Riddle (1858-1934). My great-grandmother Laura’s brother Seymour served time in Michigan’s Jackson prison for larceny.
  2. Franklin Glover (1858-1936), Edward Glover (1861-1936), and Henry Glover (1865-1905). My great-grandmother Petronellia’s cousin Franklin spent time in the Illinois penitentiary for assault and robbery. Edward paid fines for selling tobacco to minors. Their brother Henry was arrested for assault several times, and he also received two jail sentences for counterfeiting. Henry came to a tragic end when he was shot to death in his home by an unknown assailant. Henry lingered awhile and attempted to pin the crime on two different foes, but both had alibis.
  3. My dad’s cousin Henry displayed a bad streak from an early age. When my toddler-aged dad and uncle visited Henry’s family farm one summer, Henry enticed them into a haystack and then set it on fire. This Henry later served time in the Nebraska penitentiary for a different crime.
  4. Dean Reed (1938-1986). My third cousin became a socialist during the Cold War and defected to East Germany. A singer and actor, he achieved tremendous fame behind the Iron Curtain. The press called him The Red Elvis. His gravestone reads “American Rebel” after the title of a documentary film made about him shortly before he died. He drowned under mysterious circumstances in Berlin.

These colorful characters are just the black sheep ancestors I know about. How many more do I have? As I continue to research my family tree, I keep a sharp lookout for people who stray from the accepted path. After all, these behaviors seem to run in the family.

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