June 13, 2011
Well, I suppose it had to happen sometime. With thousands of people in my family tree (so far!), it’d be unusual if I didn’t have a black sheep or two in there. The picture above is my fourth-great-grandfather Thomas Allen. I recently received some information on court records (as of yet unverified by yours truly) for a Thomas Allen in our ancestral home of Lawrence County, Mo. It’s quite a rap sheet:
- May 20, 1865: Thomas Allen Jr. was indicted on grand larceny for stealing several sheep.
- May 24, 1865: Released on bond by Thomas Allen (Sr.) and A.J. Davidson.
- November 1865: Thomas was found not guilty.
- May 10, 1869: Thomas Allen (no suffix listed) found guilty of forcibly taking someone’s house and land. Fined $100. Several other men were also charged but acquitted.
- Sept. 2, 1869: Thomas Allen charged with first-degree murder. The trial venue was moved to Greene County, Mo., and at that trial he was acquitted.
The problem is that I have several Thomas Allens in my tree. Only two of them fit into the right time frame for these records. However, they aren’t father and son. The Thomas in the picture was born in 1790 and had nine children. As far as I can tell, none of them were named Thomas, even as a middle name. The younger Thomas in my tree (born in 1840) was the nephew of the Thomas born in 1790. I’d always assumed the elder Thomas was the “junior,” as his father was Thomas Daniel Allen (born in 1735). You can see how confusing this is getting!
So my question is this: Could the elder Thomas be referred to as “senior” and the younger nephew as “junior” even though they weren’t father and son? And how in the world will I differentiate between the two? I understand the whole namesake thing, but it is utterly inconvenient for us genealogists.
- Techniques for common surnames
- Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist by Buzzy Jackson
- Tracking ancestors’ run-ins with the law (Plus article)