I just finished writing a super-comprehensive article on heirloom preservation for our December issue. We asked our coworkers if they had any particularly interesting heirlooms to show off, and got some great items to photograph for the magazine.
An item we didn’t use was very intriguing, though. Kelly wrote:
Let me know if you guys ever do an article on gruesome heirlooms—my family has this shirt that my great-great grandfather was wearing when he was shot and murdered. (Gross! And weird—who keeps that kind of stuff?)
Genealogists do! I wanted more details.
Basically, all I know is my great-great grandfather was a pig farmer who had a farm in Lockville, Ohio. According to the story, my great-great-grandpa turned to go back into the house after refusing to sell land to this guy, and when he did, the guy shot him in the back. Yikes! And that’s how my grandpa ended up with a bloody shirt in a trunk in his basement.
All I knew was her grandpa’s last name, Boyer, and that the murder took place in Lockville, Ohio. Surely there would have been newspaper articles about the fracas, but I couldn’t search GenealogyBank until I had a specific name. I decided to do an old-fashioned Google search, for Lockville Ohio murder.
One of the very first results was a Google Books excerpt of a tome of Ohio penitentiary pardon petitions. Bingo! A John L. Tisdale pleading for clemency after serving eight years for the murder of a George L. Boyer in 1890. With that name, I searched GenealogyBank and found this article in the June 24, 1890, Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Murder at Lockville.
LANCASTER, June 23.—[Special.]—George (sic) Tisdale, a farm laborer, shot George L. Boyer, a prominent famrer, at Lockville, this county, this morning. As the two sons of Tisdale were quarreling with a son of Boyer about hogs that had trespassed on Boyer’s farm, he came up to protect his son, when Tisdale came out of his house and shot Boyer in the right breast, Boyer dying in five minutes after.
The Google Books result gives a little more insight into Tisdale’s side of the story. He says Boyer was “a coarse, passionate man, of cruel heart” and was “a quarrelsome man and possessed a violent temper.” (If you were trying to suss out your ancestor’s personality, what a find! Read the September 2009 issue for more on ancestral psychoanalysis.)
With a little searching on Ancestry.com, I found the Boyer family in the 1880 census:
And going back, the family appeared in the same spot in every census going back to 1850. Amazing, what one bloody shirt can do for a family’s research!