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MONDAY MUSINGS: When you find a criminal or horse thief in your ancestry

Surprise! Genealogy research doesn’t always turn up heroes and royalty. Sometimes you may find a criminal or horse thief and it may be hard to write much of a biography about them. Here is a humorous, but a fictional example of how an amateur genealogist tried to improve her ancestor’s image.


Hillary, an amateur genealogical researcher, discovered that her great-great uncle, Remus Rodham, a fellow lacking in character, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows.

On the back of the picture is this inscription:

“Remus Rodham; horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.”

In Hillary’s Family History, her staff of professional image consultants cropped Remus’s picture, scanned it, enlarged the image, and edited it with image processing software so that all that’s seen is a head shot.

Hillary’s biography of Remus

The accompanying biographical sketch is as follows:

“Remus Rodham was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.”

Acceptance can be hard when we find a story that is particularly grisly about an unsavory relative in the family tree, but we need to remember our ancestors were only human and we need to accept the good with the bad.

Where Do I Start?: HINTS and TIPS for BEGINNING GENEALOGISTS with ONLINE RESOURCE Do you need some guidance in your genealogy search? Save time and avoid pitfalls in your research. This book provides simple, no-nonsense instructions to help you get started. Many FREE research links included.

Tips include:

  • WHERE TO FIND – on-line resources, experienced genealogists will not be aware of many of these.
  • COURT RESEARCH – how to do courthouse research, where to find birth, death, social security records free on-line.
  • EIGHTY – ONE QUESTIONS – you should ask your elderly loved ones before it’s too late.
  • TIPS ON BREAKING DOWN THE WALL – Everyone faces some difficulties in research, often called a ‘brick wall’ but WHERE DO I START? provides suggestions for overcoming them.

WHERE DO I START? Hints and Tips for Beginning Genealogists with On-line resources


By (author): Donna R Causey
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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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One comment

  1. Michael D. Snell

    This story is hilarious!

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