You know that one ancestor who is just complete time suck? The one who you spend dozens of hours on, even though she’s a collateral ancestor of a collateral ancestor, because she’s just that interesting?
That’s my Emma. She’s the step-child of my great-great-grandfather’s brother, so she’s not exactly the best use of my time…but I can’t quit her. She brings the drama, and the drama brings the records.
Emma’s first husband appears to have walked out on her shortly after the birth of their first child. When he died somewhere en route to Europe a few years later, his industry newspaper published an obituary that basically said he was a huge jerk. Her second husband wasn’t much of an improvement, and her dad’s probate file includes a ton of documents attesting to the fact that she needed money because he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) support her. Her third husband seems to have been better, but her son (from the first marriage) continued his father’s tradition of being such a weenie that there are actual records attesting to his weenie-dom.
You’ve gotta love an ancestor like this. The file on this woman is the fattest in my entire file cabinet. I feel so bad for her, because her life was tough from start to finish. But the characters in her story are fascinating, and I have spent a ridiculous amount of time on them. She’s also led me to some living cousins, who are among my favorites of all of the genealogy cousins I’ve collected.
And then there’s the convicted murderer.
It turns out that Emma’s second husband’s family has a rather easy-to-trace naming pattern. That pattern combined with the fact that Texas has great online records led me to an unusual descendant name—one that would be easy to trace. When I searched for that name, I found records of a trial for murder. To make a long story short, this cousin beat someone to death. He’s serving life sentence for murder.
Now, this is kind of a no-brainer. This guy is the great-grandson of the second husband of the step-daughter of the brother of my great-great-grandfather. That’s not a close enough relationship that I’d be super compelled to contact him even if he weren’t up the river. My goal in searching for this line was to try and find more information (and maybe a photo) of Emma and/or her second husband, but clearly this guy’s not in a position to help with that.
But I’m curious. Do you contact every cousin you find? Do you check people out first to see if they’re someone you want to be in touch with? Have there been circumstances where you’ve found a living cousin, but decided not to get in touch?