Gransnet forums


Have you proved or disproved any family stories?

(36 Posts)
Durhamlady Tue 10-May-11 22:22:47

I first started to look at my family history to try to verify a couple of stories one of my paternal aunt's told me back in the mid 70's.
The family came from Cornwall to County Durham and one of the uncles murdered his wife in America. shock

Her stories were slightly incorrect.

Yes the family were originally from Cornwall but they first went to Northumberland when my great grandfather along with many Cornish and Devon miners accepted work at what they thought was a new mine. Several trains were chartered over December and early January 1865/66 to transport men women and children to a new life. When the miners and their families arrived they found the mine was not new but they had been hired to take the place of striking miners.
Sadly my great grandfather was killed by a fall of stone 3 weeks after arrival in Northumberland. My grandfather was 11 years old at the time.

The murder story was another not quite correct tale. Yes one of my great uncles did murder his wife, not in America but in Canada and his death certificate states 'Hanged in accordance of the law' Through trying to put this story together it has enabled me to have contact with descendants of my grandfather's siblings in America and descendants of grandmother's brother the murderer in Australia.

milliej Tue 10-May-11 22:34:23

Well we've all got 'skeletons in the cupboard' I think! My mother was very proud of her Scottish ancestry although she was geordie born and bread. She used to tell us (with great pride) that she was related to bonnie prince Charlie...but he never married so....;).
I also had a great-grandfather who was a bigamist, seemingly not uncommon way back when, he had a family in Scotland, moved to England where my grandmother was born, left that family here and had another over in the U.S.A.
My husband who never knew his father, researched his family tree and to his brothers horror found out that they weren't of Jewish decent after all. His brother had always had this thing in his head about his dad being Jewish (for some reason) when my husband disproved this...they didn't talk to each other for months! smile.

milliej Tue 10-May-11 22:36:02

I'll have to start previewing my posts, my spelling! that should of course be bred, not bread lol.

Durhamlady Tue 10-May-11 22:44:38

I decided to preview when I realised there is no edit button after a post has been sent. This is the first site I've come across without that facility. I'm not findng it easy to get around this site layout and miss being able to click on a smiley to add it.

mollie Tue 10-May-11 22:57:12

Those are interesting skeletons to have in the closet, Durhamlady! I wouldn't be upset to discover some colourful characters but so far mine have stayed on the right side of the law. However, I did discover the truth of one story that was the familiar story of a 'maid' taken advantage of at the beginning of the 20c by a well-to-do employer but the truth seems to be an army wife playing away while her husband was in South Africa and having to cover her tracks before he returned.

My mum's family had no interesting stories at all - they didn't talk about the past and the few details they told us were almost spot on. But my dad told me lots of tales that proved to be true but with missing details and sadly by the time I managed to fill in the gaps he was dead and I couldn't tell him...that was hard as no one else was interested in my discoveries...ho hum!

harrigran Tue 10-May-11 23:14:03

My son has researched our family tree and it is interesting to see stories I thought were fact turning out to be just hearsay. For many years I believed my mother's cousin was married to a hero in the Dambusters, turned out he lived in the same village and everybody talked about him as if he was their relative. My father's cousin was the first civilian to be killed in an air raid in Sunderland.

nanamo Fri 13-May-11 19:18:25

Nearil everyone in my dads family has the middle name of Bruce, including me. I was always told that we were related to RobertBruce.

stomp Tue 17-May-11 21:01:32

Well my Great Grandmother told stories of a smuggler in the family who was hung…I’ve found the story is correct, there is a person of that name hung for smuggling, but I’m two generations missing that (may) link this person to our family. One day I will have time to get to the records office and may be find out the truth.

Eleanorre Wed 18-May-11 21:15:00

In my husbands family we found a sad tale. David Reid was a shoemaker in our town and suffered from some unknown ailment . We found records of him being pulled up by what was a union of shoemakers for not paying his dues . This happened several times and then we found his wife going to the guild to ask if she could get his pension when he died ( he was still just alive ) if she paid back what was owing once she started to get his pension. Sadly she was refused and she subsequently died in the poorhouse.

perrygran Sat 28-May-11 16:32:30

LIke Nano most of my dad's family have the middle name of Bruce, (taking your mothers maiden name as a middle name , whether boy or girl is an old scottish tradition) . My Aunt always told me that my great grandfather was the illegitimate child of Lord Elgin, I traced back , found his birth cert etc proving that he wasn't, but was the son of a farm labourer but she still doesn't believe me, saying it was a cover up.

Nano with reference to Robert Bruce, I am sure you are aware that Robert Bruce never had a son only a daughter so the name would not have come down in the family. Wishful thinking by most of our ancestors, especially for all the American 'Bruce' families.

mischief Sat 18-Jun-11 16:41:03

I too have Bruce as a middle name on my father's side. It was the maiden name of my Gt.Gt Grandmother, she and my Gt Gt Grandad came from Aberdeen, Scotland and settled in Sheffield. Any connection ladies?

I was told by my mother that her grandfather was a spendthrift. That he came into some money and would hire a coach and take his 'cronies' down to London for a good time (this was from Pontefract, Yorkshire) then he went bankrupt (what a suprise!) and went to prison. I have found that he certainly inherited over £200 in the mid-1800s, which was quite a sum then, from an Aunt in Scarborough but obviously didn't keep it because he was living in Lemon Alley, Pontefract, when he died, which I am told by my mother was one of the worst places to live there. I haven't been able to find if he was an inmate at Wakefield prison yet, but hope to one day.

I have an ambrotype photograph of two middle aged men taken in a studio, inherited from his side of the family. Is one of these men my Gt. Grandfather and was it taken on one of his trips to London? It's so intriguing.

Another thing I love about family history is to be able to walk where they walked. On one of my lines I have got back to the 13th Century to a politician and when I take a trip to London and take a tour of Westminster Hall I like to think I am seeing the things he saw (in the parts that are original of course). I like to see where they lived, where they worked, it's taken me all over the country and I've seen places I otherwise wouldn't have seen. This is still a hobby as I work fulltime but I have been doing it for over 30 years and I find it much easier now because of the internet.

Elegran Sun 19-Jun-11 14:01:04

I discovered a hint that my grandfather's uncle died rather spectacularly, so I followed it up and proved the story true.

He was 15. On the day after Boxing Day in 1881, he told his father he was going "to the pantomime" with a couple of friends that evening. The boys then headed off to the Music Hall instead.

A new show had opened the previous night, including a Chinese conjuror whose act finished with him balancing a small cannon on a sword, and firing a blank from it. Unfortunately, the blast had blown out one of the gaslights and resulted in a stampede when someone yelled "fire". The boys were keen to see this act, and managed to get seats at the extreme right of the Gods in a packed theatre.

The management had insisted that the cannon be aimed well away from the lights. The conjuror aimed it well to the side, and his beautiful lady wife (English) warned everyone to keep very still, and those in the balconies not to lean over. He waved his hands to indicate that they should sit back. She repeated the warnings. Finally he was satisfied that all was safe and fired.

George leaned forward for a better view and was hit on the forehead by a wad of paper and killed instantly.

Whoever had loaded the cannon (identity not established in the manslaughter trial that followed) had used newspaper instead of the usual wisp of tissue to tamp down the black powder. Whether the tissue paper would have been just as fatal was not determined. Certainly if George had stayed back as requested he would have been safe - but he was clearly of the same temperament as my grandfather and my own uncle - both also called George. Heredity will out.

This event was influential in bringing about legislation on the discharge of firearms in theatres.

Oxon70 Tue 21-Jun-11 12:34:21

This is the one I haven't managed (yet) to prove.
My uncle left notes about my ggrandfather, one of the things he said was that my ggrandfather, a bottlemaker in Dublin for years, supplied Guinness with bottles. I couldn't find anything that said he did. Then my distant cousin in Canada comes up with the same family story, and can I prove it?
He went bankrupt and left for South Africa, and I know that the people who bought up the bottleworks did supply bottles to Guinness....but I still can't find anything to say that my ggrandfather did.
It is even possible that he went bankrupt because he couldn't get a contract to do so!

FlicketyB Tue 21-Jun-11 17:07:22

My Grandfather was born in Northern Ireland and enlisted in the Royal Artillery to fight for Queen and Country in the Boer War. He rose through the ranks, was commissioned as an officer and retired with the rank of Major and an OBE

He married and had a large family and we, children and grandchildren, were always told that his father had died before he was born and his mother died when he was 10 and he was brought up by an uncle who was a farmer.

One day in the early 2000s when there was a family gathering of the older generation a discussion about where he came from arose and the usual story was being referred to when one of my aunts who had lived at home all her life suddenly commented that she wasnt sure about it because she had seen his mother's death certificate and she was described on it as a 'spinster'. There was a stunned silence and the conversation moved on. He also had her surname

I have since done some research and now know that in fact he was born illegitimate and grew up in close to abject poverty and that his uncle was actually a farm labourer. But as a clever and ambitious young man carving out a quite remarkable career in a prestigious regiment and in a society where illegitamacy was a badge of shame he was, of necessity, economical with the truth.

If it hadnt been for the chance sight my aunt had we would never known because she saw it when my grandfather, as an old man, was bundling up and destroying any documents, including his mothers death certificate, that might reveal his origins. How my aunt managed to see the certificate I will never know as she has since died.

raggygranny Tue 21-Jun-11 22:20:24

My brother and I had long suspected that our mother's parents had not been married, although they were known as Mr and Mrs. We knew our grandmother had been married to someone else prior to setting up home abroad with our grandfather, and we had no evidence that her first husband had died. Eventually my brother turned up a marriage record for the pair - 19 years after our mother's birth. He also discovered that our grandfather too had been married previously and had a wife living until shortly before this second marriage took place. We still haven't been able to discover if either grandparent was divorced, and we have no idea whether our mother (who died 10 years ago) ever knew any of this.

janreb Wed 22-Jun-11 18:56:45

I have long suspected that my father's parents weren't married - haven't proved it either way yet.
For several years no one could find the details of my husband's great grandparents marriage. We eventually found the wedding - over 40 years and 13 children after they'd first become "Mr and Mrs." Both of them died within two years of getting married!

raggygranny Thu 23-Jun-11 11:08:47

janreb, I think there were a lot more of these 'irregular unions' going on than was realised at the time! Another interesting thing that came to light when doing the research was that my grandmother was born 3 months after her parents' marriage. After the wedding but before the birth they moved 200 miles away, presumably to cover up the embarrassing fact of the pregnancy.

pinkprincess Fri 24-Jun-11 00:37:06

My father always said his father was a b###### in both meanings of the word.I never knew what he meant until I started researching my family history and found that my paternal grandfather-whom I never knew as he had left the family home-was born to a single mother in 1889 and never knew who his father was.

numberplease Thu 20-Oct-11 17:32:55

My grandma was always going on about bringing back hanging for murderers. She used to say if nobody wanted the job she`d do it, and that her father had been the local hangman. But I`ve checked the records of hangmen, and can`t find anyone with her father`s surname, unless he worked under a pseudonym, would that be likely in the 1800s? I`m presuming it was about then, as she was born in 1884.

glammanana Thu 20-Oct-11 18:43:45

Numberplease Somewhere I read that the hangman alway's had a partner who worked with him,someone who would help him to work out the weight's etc of the condemed man so the noose would work first time,maybe your realative was one of these people hmm

crimson Thu 20-Oct-11 20:57:04

Elegran; I've been thinking about your granndfather's uncle while I've been doing the washing up. Find it so sad. [back to the washing up...]

Elegran Thu 20-Oct-11 21:44:48

A terrible accident. I think it had an effect on all his family. His father seems to have vanished a year or so later - at least, I can find no sign of him at home or anywhere else after that, and no death certificate, unless he was one of the many listed as "unknown male", who were often drunks or down-and-outs.

expatmaggie Fri 21-Oct-11 15:24:39

Hello Durhamlady-- my grandfather came from Cornwall to work in the mines in the N of England and landed in the Barnsley area, he made good and could leave the mines and later had a beer-off shop on Barnsley Road, Cudworth which did so well he sent my father and uncle to a private grammarschool.
Which part of Cornwall does your family come from?

granbunny Mon 02-Apr-12 21:19:27

yes, dad's auntie doris really did ride the wall of death.

gracesmum Tue 03-Apr-12 10:08:43

I was watching a BBC2 programme last night about the Commandos and their training at Achnacarry in Scotland in the 1940's. Lord Lovat was due to lead No. 4 Commando in a raid near to Dieppe and out of the corner of my eye I saw familiar face - or at least I guessed it might be. My late FIL as a young Commando officer!! He went on to lead a section of No. 4 Commando in the D-day landings and was seen as something of a war hero in Normandy where he has a street, a square and an avenue named after him. Pa died in 1987 so it was amazing to see this face from the past. (The programme will be on BBCiplayer until this time next week if anybody is interested.)