Everything’s Relative

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Where There’s a Will…

Because my paternal grandfather died when my father was a small child and his mother died soon after, we knew very little about my father’s family. One fact that my dad did remember was that his paternal grandfather had been married three different times and had fathered 21 children who’d lived.

One day several years ago I received a letter from a gentleman who said he was a distant relative of mine and would like any information that could help him in his search for family history. I helped as best I could but questioned whether we were really related as his name was spelled differently from mine.

This is what he told me:

“It was true that Great-grandfather had been married three times and fathered 21 children. When he died a very rich man, he left all his wealth to the children from only one of the wives and left nothing to the children of the other two women. This caused a terrible feud. The two families of children who were left out of the will were so angry they changed the spelling of their name.”

(Naturally, I come from one of the families that missed out on the inheritance.)


Monticello, Iowa

Who’s Your Daddy?

My great-great-grandfather left Central Indiana and took his family to Illinois. That family increased in size while there to a dozen or so children. One of the older sons, my great-grandfather, returned to Indiana, married and raised a family. That’s where I was born and lived for many years.

In 1977, I asked a professional researcher to locate some of the records of the Illinois branches of the family. She wrote me that Great-great-aunt Gertrude’s birth had not been filed, probably because “for that period, not all births were recorded.” However, she very generously sent me the listings for everyone with that surname in the birth record books of the county from 1877 to 1913. Book 3 included Gertrude’s niece, as well as a girl born Nov. 14, 1908, to a Kentucky-born mother with the same surname who was only 18 years old — Mattie. The baby’s father was listed only as an unknown “shyster.”


Beverly Hills, Mich.


One of those e-mail lists that spread humor through the Net almost as fast as the “I Love You” virus served up the following, which we share in the same spirit. (If anyone can prove authorship, we’d be happy to pay for excerpting this here — and to learn how the heck these things get started.)

You know you’re taking genealogy too seriously if…

You’re the only person to show up at the cemetery research party with a shovel.

To put the “final touches” on your genealogical research, you’ve asked all of your closest relatives to provide DNA samples.

Your house leans slightly toward the side where your genealogical records are stored.

The latest document in your “Missing Ancestors” file is a 36-page contract between you and Johnson Billboard Advertising Company.

Ed McMahon, several TV cameras and an envelope from American Family Publishers arrive at your front door on Super Bowl Sunday, and the first thing you say is, “Are you related to the McMahons of Ohio?”

“A Loving Family” and “Financial Security” have moved up to second and third, respectively, on your list of life’s goals, but still lag far behind “Owning My Own Microfilm Reader.”

A magical genie appears and agrees to grant you any one wish, and you ask that the fire-ravaged 1890 census be restored.
From the December 2000 issue of Family Tree Magazine