While some people may be embarrassed by what a family member has done wrong, or the mistakes he or she has made, finding these skeletons in your family’s history is a great opportunity for you to find more important information for your LDS family search. This could lead to more documentation about your ancestors appalling mistakes that are a part of your family’s story. If you aren’t sure how to go about researching this information, I have a few tips that will help you find the information you are looking for. First of all, it is important to begin your LDS family search along these lines, as you would begin searching for any other information. Check vital records, census schedules, military records, and any other records you have, or have access to by means of a family bible, national archives, and other repositories. If you have exhausted those resources, don’t give up, because there are a few more steps you can follow to find the black sheep of your family.
Consider what your family members did to earn them the title of “black sheep.” Committing a crime, getting a divorce, abusing another person, having a mental or physical disability are some of the many mistakes and issues that have occurred that are embarrassing to your ancestors. No matter what your ancestors have done, or experienced in their lives, knowing what these skeletons are, can help you find other valuable resources for your LDS family search. If you have a family who was victimized in any way by another family’s black sheep ancestor, you can find valuable information about the wrong done to your ancestor during your genealogical research. To find information about these types of events or cases, you may find the information for which you are searching in back issues of newspapers, historical court case records and other such sources. You may also want to find the witnesses in these cases, as they may be family members or close friends of the victimized ancestor. After you find the records you need, use a word processor, spread sheet, database or some other type of software to put together a timeline of the lives and activities of your ancestors, no matter whether they have committed a misdeed, or had a misdeed done to them. By starting a timeline you can add dates and places where the activities took place, sources where you found the information, and your own observations and notes about the events. This timeline of events will help you keep track of any information you have and haven’t found.
Online and digitized newspapers make your LDS family search much easier than ever before. Many newspaper offices have their own web sites, so that you can search by keyword to find references to your ancestors, along with dates that you weren’t expecting to find. When you search for your ancestors in online newspapers, be sure to leave out a specific location, so you can broaden your research to towns and cities outside the ancestor’s home town. Notices of such magnitude may not be covered in local newspapers alone, depending on the misdeed, especially if a major crime was committed, the misdeed may be covered in national newspapers as well. If you are a member of ancestry.com, newspapers are one of your most prominent resources for finding information about your family’s misgivings. Newspapers.com is another wonderful site devoted to digital newspapers. You may also want to check the Library of Congress for their collection of digitized newspapers. Many repositories that are local to your ancestor’s home town may have newspapers available for you to view, and you may be able to borrow microfilmed copies of back dated newspapers from your local library. These are a few of the many resources available where you can find information for your genealogical research through newspaper reports.
After combing through the newspapers and other usual documents you have researched, consider the paper trail left behind by the black sheep in your family. Those people who have committed a crime go before a judge; therefore there will be court records to research. These records can usually be found through red book, state, county, and local sources. You may be able to find the court records you need through a state library. A listing of all libraries can be found by visiting the United States libraries web site, and by checking the council of state archivists as well.
It is better to do your homework before taking a field trip to view court records, as some of these documents are much easier to access, while others are nearly impossible to obtain. For the first time court record researcher, there is a great genealogists guide to researching court records entitled Courthouse Research for Family Historians, which is written by Christine rose, published in 2004. There are several specialized database web sites that provide many documents for family historians who are searching for black sheep’s in their families. The black sheep ancestor’s web site provides databases of prison records throughout the United States and in several countries abroad.
One final suggestion for your black sheep research is to visit your favourite genealogical web site such as ancestry.com. There you will have access to several prison and court records as well as many other important records to aid you in your LDS family search. Although you may not want to think about the mistakes your ancestors have made in their lives, or the misdeeds that were done to them, you will learn more about them when you look at the good and the bad sides of their lives.