Shocking Family History Discoveries – MyHeritage August 15, 2019

I saw this on MyHeritage earlier today –

One of the most rewarding aspects of genealogy is uncovering stories about your ancestors that you may never have known — no matter how crazy — and preserving them for future generations. You never know what thrilling tales await you in the memories of past generations.

Death by Banana

Not long ago, a MyHeritage user named Becky Tweeted about a crazy story she learned about her great-grandfather:


Becky entered the information on her grandfather into her MyHeritage family tree. While she was browsing her record matches, this article popped up in her Record Matches:

It would appear that multitasking was not a strength of Becky’s great-grandfather’s. He lost control of his car and crashed through a rail fence while eating a banana.

Don’t snack and drive, kids.

“Wild indeed,” Becky replied when we Tweeted back. “I’d never have found it without you guys.”

Inspired by Becky’s discovery of her great-grandfather’s untimely and… fruity demise, we searched for more stories about unusual deaths in the family that other MyHeritage users have discovered.

Death by Guillotine

MyHeritage user Anja Toebat discovered that her 5-times-great-grandfather was executed by guillotine on November 2, 1803. Pieter-Jozef Cloedt was a member of an infamous gang of robbers in Bruges, Belgium.

“I think almost everybody in Belgium knows the history of this dangerous robber gang,” writes Anja. “They were all born in very bad circumstances and all tried to survive. Unfortunately, they chose a bad way to do so. They lived in forests and at night they robbed farmers.”

Comics were later created about this gang, called “Bende van Baeckeland.”


Struck by Lightning

One user, Dee Weingartner Bradley Grimsrud, discovered that her great-great-grandmother died in extremely improbable circumstances.

Dee’s great-great-grandmother, Karen Antonete Christonsdatter (Gryttebakke) was born in 1839 in Norway. She, her husband, her four young children, and her mother immigrated to Minneapolis in 1870. The moved into a shanty by the railroad station where Karen’s husband worked. There was a hole in the roof left by the pipe of a stove which had since been removed. Karen was standing under this hole during a thunderstorm, and a lightning bolt struck her through the hole and killed her instantly. No one else was hurt and nothing was damaged. It was like… well, being struck by lightning.


Fake Badger Fights

On a less tragic note, MyHeritage user Nora Bangerter reveals that her grandfather, William Ranson Miller (known by his nickname “Dragline”), did anything for a quick buck. His most famous scheme was his running fake badger fights in Ely, NV.


Apparently, he had his friends imitate badger noises with barking dogs and dared onlookers to put their hands in the badger hole.

Well… he sure gets points for creativity.

A Crime of Passion

MyHeritage user Margie Wirth found a story in her family history that reads like an old-fashioned crime novel. Her great-great-grandfather’s cousin was murdered by a jealous lover in broad daylight — and the killer was later acquitted under the claim that she had been overcome by “emotional insanity.”

The Janesville Gazette ran a series of articles reporting on the murder of George Schumacher in 1907, starting with the April 18 shooting and ending with his death on November 28 of that year. According to the newspaper, Florence Dugan shot George Schumacher in the back after exchanging tense words with him on the street. She claimed that they had once been married and that he had abused her, stolen from her, and eventually left her for another woman. George’s fiancé, Margaret Smith, was with him when Florence shot him and said that she had never heard of Florence until receiving a letter from her shortly before the shooting.

George survived the shooting itself but died months later from complications. Florence claimed in court that George’s behavior toward her caused a state of “emotional insanity” that led her to shoot him. The jury somehow found this convincing, because she was acquitted.

Many thanks to Becky, Anja, Dee, Nora, and Margie for sharing these amazing stories with us!


About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's
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