If you’ve found an ancestor who was infamous, a crook or scoundrel, don’t despair over your disgrace: You may qualify for membership in the International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists blacksheep.rootsweb.com. Public knowledge of these black sheep, reasons society flockmaster Jeff Scism, enhances the possibility of finding more about these ancestors, who otherwise might be genealogical dead ends.
Ancestral acts of automatic qualification are:
- armed robbery
- theft of any item of fame
- membership in a famous gang (documented)
- political assassin
- posting on the FBI’s Most Wanted List
- political expatriate
- extreme public embarrassment
- involvement in witchcraft trials
- bigamy (outside the Mormon faith, which condoned it at one time)
- expulsion from normal society
- convicted felons (documented)
Ancestors married to such a perpetrator also qualify. Living individuals shouldn’t be mentioned by name or should have an alias to protect their privacy. And no, your own unspeakable acts don’t qualify you for membership.
Documented and declared members may append the letters “IBSSG” after their names in all genealogy correspondence. Membership is free of charge.
You can participate in the Black Sheep-L mailing list even if you’re not an IBSSG member; see the Web site for instructions.