I also discovered that one of the infamous Culworth gang, a group of approximately 15 highwaymen who terrorized Northamptonshire and the surrounding counties for nearly 20 years in the late 1700s, shared my (rather uncommon) maiden name. However, thankfully, I have yet to find a link between his family line and mine! He and three others were publicly executed by hanging in 1783.
Apparently, although called highwaymen, this group was noted to be non-violent. While they sometimes would threaten a household servant to get him to do their bidding, they were never known to have killed or seriously harmed anyone.
Interestingly, one of the members of the gang was the clerk in a nearby parish church. When the gang was arrested, it was discovered that he had stowed many of the stolen goods inside the church, including in the parish chest, where vestry and other parish record books were kept under lock and key!
This fellow, no less guilty than the others who were hanged – indeed, one could almost see an argument for an additional “crime”, in desecrating a church by using it for such nefarious purposes! - was transported to Australia.
A few of my other ancestors and their siblings whom I have researched, although not in trouble with the law, and so not technically "black sheep" or "bad apples", were quite colorful characters.
Kings, Queens, and the Nobility
Many family history researchers may find that they are descended from "blue bloods" – people in the nobility and royalty - as I am through another family line.
A distant cousin in the US recently sent me a copy of his research, which traces his line back through the British peerage to Charlemagne. My maternal line merges with his line where we share a great-great-grandmother. So both he and I - and all of my maternal cousins - can trace our ancestry back to Charlemagne!
Now, one might think, this is not such a great thing. After all, it has been said that everyone in Europe is descended from Charlemagne (see Steve Olson’s article “The Royal We”, published in the magazine The Atlantic in 2002.
This notion that everyone in Europe is descended from Charlemagne, of course, would explain why, in tracing the ancestries of many of the US presidents, we can find royalty in their family trees:
So what's the big deal? Ahh – as Steve Olsen puts it in the article, the question then becomes, can you prove it? Thanks to my cousin, I can!
However, as I read somewhere along the way, it may not be such a great thing to be descended from royalty, or to think of them as the opposite of 'bad apples' or 'black sheep' - some of the members of the nobility were the worst 'bad apples' of the lot!
Have your found black sheep
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