Family black sheep have their own group

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 30, 2000

In the waning days of October, it is hard to escape the growing interest in ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. The bad guy is suddenly the guest of honor at all gatherings and I am reminded that even in genealogy bad guys abound.

Researchers, both beginning and experienced alike, are always running across skeletons in their family closets – an errant twig on a family tree that otherwise would be a perfect specimen. Some families delight in the notoriety, others dare not even mention it. And in many cases these bad apples bring research work to a grinding halt.

So imagine my delight a few months back when I discovered a new society nestled at the bottom of a list of hereditary organizations (such as the DAR, Society of Mayflower Descendants and the Colonial Dames). Keeping this fine company was the International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists, a group dedicated to those of us with less distinguished (and maybe slightly more interesting) ancestors. Their motto – A bad ancestor is good to find!

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The group started as a tongue-in-check kind of thing with admission being granted to those who have discovered a family individual who has been ostracized by the family – or society – for acts that are not acceptable in polite society. These acts must be of a &uot;significantly antisocial nature.&uot;

So if great granddaddy was a cattle rustler, your 5th great a spy for the British army or Uncle Billy Bob rode with Jesse James, you may have found your spot.

The purpose of the Society is to discuss these individuals in order to learn more about them and share information about the &uot;Black Sheep&uot; with other members of the IBSSG. And to this purpose they serve a good end. In many cases families have erected a &uot;wall of silence&uot; around this family member and research becomes very difficult. It is the goal of the organization to help find alternate routes to information sources and to &uot;normalize&uot; the view of the blacksheep as a person who has a FACTUAL place in the family history without regard to behavior.

Acts of automatic membership qualification in the society (and smile as you read this!) are: murder, kidnapping, treason, armed robbery, political assassination, political expatriate, theft of any item of fame, member of the FBI’s most wanted list, membership in a famous gang, extreme public embarrassment, involvement in witchcraft trials, bigamy (outside the Mormon faith), persons expelled from normal society and convicted felons (documented).

All circumstances beyond the automatic qualifiers will be considered on an individual basis. Black sheep do not have to be criminal. Family blacksheep are accepted based on relationships within the family. And qualified members may append the letters IBSSG after their name in all genealogy correspondence. Any potential new members out there yet?

The web site ( is charming and the members I’ve met constitute a delightful, helpful group with a good sense of humor (sometimes necessary!).

For those of us with living blacksheep or blacksheep who are too close or too dangerous to discuss publicly, there is a Tender Lambs membership category which is anonymous. Another interesting activity is the IBSSG Scavenger Hunt wherein the entire membership of the group actively searches for a member’s Dead End ancestor. These activities are coordinated and designated by the Huntmistress, while Flockmaster Jeff Scism tends to the rest of the flock matters.

So if you have a real Salem witch in the family tree, drop by this Halloween and celebrate your good fortune with the rest of the Black Sheep Genealogists. But be warned…Black Sheep genealogy can be addicting!


4Jane McCoy (127 Cooper Street, Hattiesburg, Ms., 39401) is seeking help with her search for the maiden name of her ancestor, MARY BRITTON DAVIS, who died in South Carolina in 1814. She was the widow of Daniel Britton and of Benjamin Davis. Mary’s year of birth was around 1743.

Her son, John Britton, and her daughter, Sarah GODFREY HAND, along with their respective families settled in Wayne County, Mississippi. It seems that none of John’s descendants have any idea what his mother’s maiden name might have been. There was, however, a paper written by one of Sarah’s descendants which said that her mother was Mary GODDARD, yet no proof or source of that fact was given. That &uot;paper&uot; was written in 1960 and the author of it evidently has died. Was there an old family record in a Bible or was there an oral-history of that Goddard name? Can someone in John or Sarah’s line help with the answer to this puzzle?

4Charles Ferguson (811 South Market, Shawnee, Ok., 74801) needs information and would like to correspond with descendants of the PRICE family who lived in Choctaw County in 1860. This included the following people listed as living together in the 1860 census: AMBROSE PRICE (age 47, married, born South Carolina); Eliza Price (age 47, housekeeper, born South Carolina); Ann Price (age 15, born Mississippi); Joseph Price (age 13, born Texas); William GRIFFIE (age 22, student, born South Carolina); John Price (age 18, born Mississippi); and Thomas Price (age 13, born Mississippi). Can any reader help with these folk?

4Timmie Dan McEachern (1615 Dorcheat Road, Minden, La., 71055) is trying to find information on his McEACHERN family of Holmes County, Mississippi. His fourth great grandfather, John, and his wife, Mary, lived and died there in the early 1800’s. There is reason to believe that they are buried in the Hopewell Cemetery near Pickens. Does any reader have access to the Hopewell cemetery listings? The couple had several children of which little is known. Does anyone know anything about Peter McEachern (born April 1804); Neal McEachern, Hector McEachern or John McEachern, Jr. Any help or information would be greatly appreciated.

Please send your announcements and queries to FAMILY TREES, 900 Main Street, Natchez, Ms., 39120 or email (with your full snail-mail address) to We look forward to hearing from you!

Family Trees is a weekly column written by Nancianne Parkes Suber of Natchez.