My Children’s Boring Ancestors

I’ve been thinking about “boring ancestors” lately and the feeling by some that it’s necessary to add extraneous “stuff” to your family history in order to liven them up. To that I say “balderdash.” There’s nothing like good ol’ exhaustive research to discover that your ancestors are not all that boring. My children have no famous ancestors, no bluebloods, and no wealthy or elite forebears hiding in their tree. Most of their ancestors were farmers, artisans, laborers, factory workers and the like–with an occasional English merchant of modest means thrown in.

Yet here are quick summaries of just a few stories:

  • Pension applications indicate that in 1902 my great-grandfather was working as the hired man for his future mother-in-law, complete with his salary, what parts of the work he did and what his regular work was. 
  • Probate records on my third great-grandmother indicated that her one grandson borrowed $1800 from her about 1899, never paid her back, never drew up the mortgage that was supposed to have been drawn up to secure the loan, and was almost sued by his uncle after his grandmother’s death.
  • My great-great-grandfather was arrested for illegal distribution of beer around the turn of the 20th century.
  • My great-grandmother’s brother was shot (and probably murdered) in a hotel in Kansas City in 1921.
  • My 3rd great-grandfather accidentally shot himself while hitting a cow with the butt of a gun.
  • I had an aunt who, while suffering from cancer in the 1930s, “cut her stomach” out because of the pain and died.
  • My great-great-grandparents were step-siblings.
  • My ancestor at the age of nearly 70, returned to his native Germany leaving his wife and grown children in the United States.
  • My wife’s ancestors lived with 7 children in a square cabin fourteen feet on a side in Missouri in the 1850s.
  • My ancestor went to Nebraska, started a homestead in the 1870s and returned.
  • My aunt’s third husband killed a man in Nebraska after a bar fight in the 1870s.
  • An ancestor was censured by the Virginia House of Burgesses in the 1740s for interfering with an election.
  • A cousin was involved in mining speculation in Columbia in the 1890s.

And that’s just scratching the surface. 
There aren’t boring ancestors, just research that’s not done. And virtually none of these stories were discovered on While I like and use it every day, the bulk of these items were located in original, offline records. 


2 thoughts on “My Children’s Boring Ancestors

  1. Sue W. McCormick says:

    So far, I don’t have any interesting stories, such as yours. My ancestors, farmed, were merchants, and taught. My husband’s ancestors were farmers and mechanics. We have found 1 possible scandal in my father’s family and 1 possible scandal in his father’s family.

    And I don’t care. The “common” man is what we are! The common man makes our society and represents it. I continue to remember the quote from Lincoln, ‘God must have ove the common man, he made so many of them”

    Being “common” or “ordinary” DOES NOT mean being boring. My family is full of people who asked questions and it is full of people who told family stories. They were “common” but they were also interesting.

  2. I feel I have one famous ancestor John Howland who came on the Mayflower. May not be famous in somes terms but famous to me.
    But it is the less known ancestors that can have interesting stories. Those who fought in a war or ended up in prison because of embezzlement.
    Stories to search and tell.

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