Sunday, November 28, 2010

There's One in Every Family

Of course, one might ask, there's one what in every family?  And my answer would be, there's one of everything in every family :).  But for my re-entry into the world of blogging I am referring to there's one "black sheep" in every family.  Here is mine. Or should I say, is this mine?

When I was in school we had to do one of those "trace your family tree" projects that many, if not most, children wind up doing as part of a school project. Only mine didn't come until I went back to college in my thirties!  During the course of conversation with my father it'd come out that there were a couple of stories in his family about some serious lawbreakers.  One was on my father's maternal line (HODICK) and one on his paternal line.  The legend was that a Hodick had been arrested and later hanged in Kansas for stealing horses.  The other was that a McHugh ancestor was involved in the Molly Maguires and as part of that activity had been arrested and later hanged.

Now I've found nothing to support the story that a Hodick had been hanged in Kansas for stealing horses. But I did find some references to a Peter McHugh having been involved with the Mollies and had taken part in the murder of Alexander Rae in 1869 (The Trial of the Molly Maguires: A Chronology; Northumberland County Area History: The Molly Maguires).  It is unknown if Peter McHugh was an ancestor of ours, but there certainly are a couple of coincidences: Our McHughs were coal miners in NE Pennsylvania. Stories of our grandfather's and great-grandfather's involvement in the Mollies exist across branches of the McHugh line. Certainly circumstantial at best. But enough coincidences to claim a corner of our genealogical brains as research progresses.

As I read different accounts of the trial of Frederick Hester and his co-conspirators to include the above mentioned Peter McHugh I discovered many of my ancestral names surrounding the Northeast Pennsylvania Mollies: McHugh, Doyle, Kehoe and Donahue/Donahoe.  The latter three surnames belong to my maternal lines. Perhaps I'm *lucky* and have multiple ones in my family?

Researching black sheep during one's genealogy research can be exciting, but it can also be very difficult. First, families often keep such black sheep a secret, making the process of gathering an oral family history touchy if not downright impossible. Second, you also have to deal with the occasional question of "Why would you want to claim such a character as one of yours?".  As genealogists we have to remember that our goal is not to boost ourselves up because of an elite lineage, but to understand the history of our family. History is history.

This article was posted for the 100th issue of The Carnival of Genealogy. Congratulations to Jasia for an amazing feat and thank you for all you do for the geneablogging community.


Nancy said...

Interesting post about the possibility of black sheep in your family. I hope you're able to unravel the mystery.

Greta Koehl said...

I would also welcome any advice for finding and research "black sheep ancestors and hope you are successful in your quest. I have a similar problem with some of my Brinlees - reputed to be associated with Quantrill's Raiders. They aren't on the lists and I'm not sure how to figure out whether they were "hangers on."