Friday, May 3, 2013

10 Unexpected Things I Learned Doing Family Research

1. Revolutionary War Heroes-- It seems there is a revolutionary soldier or 6 lurking on my Mother’s side of the tree.  This surprised me because I hadn’t known when I started doing research that any of my family was in this country at that time.  While doing a Google book search for my 4th great grandfather Austin Wells I found a book containing an interview with him.  Of course I had to have this book, Their Own Voices.  I found a used copy at Amazon for just a few dollars and surprise—an interview with another grandfather George Fowler; they were in the same unit and saw some pretty grisly sights.  Silvester Worden, (yes, he spelled it with an i) and Johan Fiedler, other 4th great grandfathers also served among others.

2. Civil War Veterans—While we’re talking about soldiers, turns out I had at least 4 cousins who enlisted; three McGarr’s from Auburn, NY and William Lead from Manchester, NY.  They all perished except one of the McGarr’s, done in by disease, not enemy bullets.

3. The Parents of Morgan Lash- Morgan was a 3rd great grandfather, on my mother’s side.  I found him in census records and also a book about Wolcott, NY, where he lived, but could not learn his parentage.  I assumed someone over the years must have checked, but no!  When I sent for his death certificate, not expecting much, there they were, Henry Lash and Sally Fiddler [Fiedler] the daughter of Johan the soldier.

4. My Ancestors Owned Bristol Mountain Resort—In the 19thcentury, Bristol Mountain was known as “Worden Hill”, as in Revolutionary War veteran Silvester Worden and his family, and I want it back!
5. Blood Poisoning Was Common, at Least in my Family-- My 3rd great grandfather Paul Worden died in 1914, his son in law, my 2nd great grandfather, Joseph Warner in 1911 and Joseph’s daughter in law Maggie Power, wife of his son Carlton and my great grandmother, in 1909, all from this malady.
6. McGarr Family Facts—Almost everything I’ve found on them was totally unexpected because for years, as the song goes, there was “Ab-so-lutely  Nuthin”!

7. Officer O’Leary—A cousin, Alice Ryan, married divorced Rochester Police Officer Charles O’Leary expressly against her family’s wishes.

8. A Kinsella Cousin's Alias- This one blew my mind.  I simply don’t understand a nice Catholic girl from a fine family having an alias.  The poor thing got herself mixed up with demon run, drove her husband away and died pretty much alone in a sleazy boarding house in Denver, the result of her drinking habit.  Her death certificate listed the alias Annie Wilson.

9. The O’Hora Gang--  That’s right, a gang!  One branch of the family that remained in Auburn, NY was not exactly the sort you’d want for neighbors.  The web site Fulton Postcards has newspapers from the late 19th century that detail their exploits.  Well, really just petty assaults and robberies.  No wonder my 2nd great grandfather James left the area.

10. There are Nuns in the Family—Lest you think I come from a family of reprobates, let me set you straight, we had nuns!  Amazingly enough, Sister Cecelia was the niece of George Gunn; yes that George Gunn.  Two McGarr cousins also became nuns, one of them, Mother Stanislaus, was a mother superior, so there.


  1. You are so right. I agree with Civil War and Revolutionary War, didn't think my family went back that far in the USA. My biggest surprise is the number of first borns that came sooner than 9 months after marriage. Also that I could get back to the 1600's on my own on a couple of European branches due to good church records and lots of squinting.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting mystery person, good luck with the search