Week 6: Surprise

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Clockwise from upper left: Harry Lehman, c. 1920, c. 1915, c. 1921, c. 1945

Have you ever run across a hint from an online database and immediately discounted it? “My ancestor was never THERE!” you cry. And then you realize that all the names — unusual names even — match. You look at the record, and see that names, dates, places, all match. Huh??

That happened to me last week. Twice.

Apparently my great-uncles liked to get married in Mexico. My maternal grandfather’s older brother and my paternal grandmother’s younger brother both appear on Mexican marriage licenses.

No one is left in my mother’s family who would know or remember Uncle Harry, and since he was a bit of a black sheep anyway (just look at that face!), no one might ever have known what really happened. But in April 1940 he was (apparently) happily living in Sacramento with his wife and five daughters. Nine months later, he’s in Mexico getting married to some one we’ve never heard of before. So unless there’s a divorce record hiding among the California records, dear Uncle Harry was a bigamist.

Now for Uncle Bill, that’s a bit easier. His marriage was several years later, and while my father wasn’t born yet, his two older siblings were. They remember Uncle Bill and apparently this Mexican marriage wasn’t a surprise for them — it was only one of FIVE marriages. Maybe the first one, but definitely not the last.

I’m still researching these marriages and the women involved. But my simple, stodgy family tree just exploded with multiple marriages, step-children everywhere and (hopefully) missing records waiting to be found.

So the moral of this surprise story, is to don’t discount a record just because the place isn’t “right”… make sure it’s NOT your ancestor before ignoring it and moving on!

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