The Society of Genealogists sells a booklet called "My Ancestor was a Bastard". I have to admit that is often the way I feel about my own kin.
Here are 10 things they did to annoy me:
- They settled where three counties meet. That way they could get married in one county, baptise their children in a second and be buried in a third, all without travelling more than a few miles from home. But I have to travel to three different record offices, miles apart, to have any hope of tracing their complicated genealogy.
- Namesake cousins married namesake girls. I am either descended from John Coles and Mary Holloway, who married at Damerham, Wiltshire on 23 October 1737, or from John Coles and Mary Holloway, who married at Damerham, Wiltshire on 16 December 1738. I bet they are all having a good laugh about that one at the great family reunion in the sky.
- They were not wise children and did not know their own fathers. Mary Ann Baldwin gave her maiden name as Blakey but her father's name as William Clayton. It took years to find the marriage of Susannah Blakey and William Clayton which proved he was her step-father. William Prebble Barnes invented a bank manager called George Barnes as his father. It took decades to find his illegitimate birth to Elizabeth Prebble.
- They baptised their children in batches, in a place remote from where they were born. Susannah Baldwin was born in Portsmouth and baptised four years later in Gravesend. Thomas Heale baptised his first four children as babies but made the last two wait over twenty years until he had died.
- They left the country at census time. Thomas Bluett went all the way to New Zealand to avoid an entry in the 1841 census which would have told me whether or not he was born in Ireland.
- They lied about their ages. Frederick Rayman claimed to be 23 when, aged just 15, he married his pregnant 21 year old bride. Catherine McCarthy stayed 40 for two successive censuses. Alice Wiles was 55 in one census and 72 in the next.
- They kept just off the page of any printed pedigree. The Red Book of Perthshire contains detailed family trees for the Haldanes, Haliburtons, Reids and Stewarts which stop just short of connecting with my own proven research. Douglas' Baronage of Scotland mentions two of the children of John Smith of Glasswall, but not the daughter through whom I am descended.
- They disappeared. John Winn sailed to North America, where he vanished. Clement Davis went out prospecting in the Nevis mountains of New Zealand and never came back.
- They spent all the money. When William Winn died in 1891 he left £82,446 12s 9d, the equivalent of £5.5 million today. His son, William, inherited one quarter. By the time he died in 1906 it was all gone. In the space of 15 years he had squandered the equivalent of over one million pounds on yachts and gold plated taps.