As genealogists, we occasionally encounter funny genealogy records that makes us giggle. Here’s a collection of some of our favorites!
Most researchers have felt the thrill of discovering a little-known document that connects the dots on a family tree, but generally a lot of time is spent slogging through pages of records with little to show for the effort. However, researchers who spend copious amounts of time in censuses, wills, and land records are often rewarded with a few giggles to make the journey more enjoyable. The gems in this article were collected by researchers from Legacy Tree Genealogists.
Funny Genealogy Records: Unusual Occupations
The occupation of J.F. Brown was listed on the 1880 census as “whorehouse pimp,” and the occupation of his wife Maude was “whore.” It is unknown whether these jobs were self-reported or if the census taker used other means of ascertaining their employment.
1880 census entry for J.F. and Maude Brown, Rockport, Atchison County, Missouri. Ancestry.com
Oliver Butts worked as a “pettifogger” on the 1860 census ,and his presumed son Eli Butts, age 23, was “running around.” Merriam-Webster defines a pettifogger as a lawyer whose methods are petty, underhanded or disreputable.
1860 census entry for Oliver and Eli Butts, Franklin, Delaware County, New York. Ancestry.com
Charles V. Stewart, the census enumerator in Clifton, Mason County, West Virginia, in 1880 listed the occupations of several young children as “idle.” He apparently had high expectations for the work ethic of children under 10.
In American colonial times, names often reflected qualities or characteristics that parents wanted their children to emulate, like Charity, Patience, or Virtue. Preserved was a name associated with salvation – preserved from sin, death, or destruction. However, Thomas and Mercy Fish should probably have given a little more thought to the burden their son would be forced to bear when they named him Preserved Fish.
Birth record for Preserved Fish, 6 November 1731, Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Ancestry.com
There is no direct evidence that the name Pleasant Bottoms inspired its bearer to become a soldier, but it could have easily been a contributing factor in the decision. His father Turner claimed land in Illinois awarded to his deceased son Pleasant Bottoms in 1852 as a result of his military service in the war with Mexico.
1852 Illinois land grant to Pleasant Bottoms claimed by his father, Turner Bottoms. Glorecords.blm.gov.
Doctor Nose, son of Solomon and Sarah Ann Nose, was born 15 April 1853 in Taylor County, West Virginia. Confirming that he used this name throughout his life was his will, written 2 October 1906 and proved in Etam, Preston County, West Virginia.
Birth record for Doctor Nose, 15 April 1853, Taylor County, West Virginia. wvculture.org
The Kay Hollis family of Lamar County, Alabama, chose similar-sounding names for their children. Between 1907 and 1930, they had daughters named Destie, Lestie, Bessie, Sessie, Essie, and Effie, along with sons Girlie, Earlie, Jonnie, and Gurty. It’s a given that the children would have been called by the wrong names from time to time.
1920 census entry for Kay Hollis household, Beat 3, Lamar County, West Virginia. Ancestry.com
1930 census entry for Kay Hollis household, Beat 3, Lamar County, West Virginia. Ancestry.com
Other examples of laughter-inspiring entries abound and are sure to brighten a monotonous research session. What “genealogical giggles” have you encountered in your family history research?
We’d love to help you with your family history, whether we’re breaking down brick wall mysteries, finding your biological parents, or just starting from scratch finding the stories about your ancestors. We may even find a few “genealogical gigles” in your family history! Contact us today for a free consultation.
George McAuliffe says
I ran across an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1890 reporting on the Regular Democratic Club meeting. “Alderman McMahon announced that the Village would no longer pay to rent wagons to take people to the polls on election day. Michael Guinan (my great-great Uncle), who rented wagons to take people to the polls on election day, threatened to punch McMahon in his head and stated “I voted for you twenty-nine times one day, but you’ll get no more votes from me.””
Patricia Ryan says
My husband’s nieces and newphews: Doreen, Colleen, Nooreen, Maureen, Loreen, Randy, Darren and Raymond. No lie…
Greg Kleist says
I found a “giggle” in a 19th century Ohio newspaper. An ancestor of my wife was running for a local elected office. The result of the election was a tie. How were they going to break the tie? They were going to have a footrace between the two candidates! I never did find the result of this tie-breaking event!
James B. Liddle says
My 6th great aunt Thankful Cutler married Ebenezer Puffer, making her Thankful Puffer. Alas, there was no mention of her smoking habits.
I’ve come across Weeney Feeney onna census looking for a Feeney relative thankfully that family isn’t mine..at least that I’ve made it to yet. Also came across a TON of petty court registers that likely belong to one specific great great great grandfather (you know the Judge cursed under his breath everytime he appeared on the rolls) but infractions included unlawfully removing neighbors seaweed (many times) to taking a sons rope and refusing to reurning it in which a family brawl ensued (multiple assaults) on that page as well as his sheep trespassing and eating neighbors potatoes from the field and something about someones ass(prob donkey) doing something on neighbors grass…that was only like the first 10 I read ??
Amber - Legacy Tree Genealogists says
Sounds like quite the character!
Patricia Slocum says
These stories are funny. Thanks. I have been tracing a cryptic comment I found in court documents I believe are related to my ancestors: the father is dead and the mother is of ill repute. I assume that was the reason tge children, my ancestor and siblings, were placed in the Knox County Industrial School. Tennessee.
Alice Winslow says
My fellow librarians and I that are regularly looking through old records have come across some “great” names in our research. Such as: Ida Wacknyt, Lethel Bickerdite, Erastis Colip, Indiana Clements, Polly Owlneck, Mary Popsichal, Egbert Bliss, and on and on.
Sometimes during the tedious research it’s great to have a few giggles!
Rene' Obear says
In Sharp’s History of Delaware, I found a story about a Methodist minister who avoided capture by the Revolutionary Police by hiding in the bushes.
Amber - Legacy Tree Genealogists says
Wow, thanks for sharing!
David P. says
Heather - Legacy Tree Genealogists says
Thank you! Glad that you enjoyed the article.