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My great-great-grandfather was a skeevy person.

I came to this conclusion after finding out that following his wife's death in 1882, he went and married her baby sister. She was nearly thirty years younger, and he had probably known her since she was in diapers. (His oldest child was about four years younger than she was -we think she was in her early 30s, not that that makes it much better.)

In England, at the time, this would have been illegal and he could have been prosecuted for it if anyone wanted to bother. But they lived in a small town in Maryland, USA, where there was no law against it and nothing to worry about but raised eyebrows and wagging tongues.

On the other side of the Potomac, at about the same period, one of my cousins married his aunt. Well, he wasn't exactly a cousin and she was only his aunt by marriage. It came about like this: Cousin Carrie married a rich widower with a teenaged son, and brought her younger sister (call her "Annie") with her into the household. A few years later, when they were both of age, Cousin Annie married her sister's stepson. There was, presumably, gossip about it for a while.

Then there are all the first-cousin and double-cousin marriages, and a few cases of step-siblings who married each other after their families were blended by his father marrying her mother (or vice versa). The old family tree starts looking a bit kinky.

Originally posted to TheOtherMaven on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 03:11 PM PST.

Also republished by Genealogy and Family History Community.


Do you know what's in YOUR family tree?

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Comment Preferences

  •  yeah.. (7+ / 0-)

    a couple of my relatives were arrested for stealing watermelons in Maryland in the 1600s, and some other scandalous misbehavour like out of wedlock children. And there were a couple of first cousins who were married in California 300 years later. Probably a few things in between, as well.

    This Rover crossed over.. Willie Nelson, written by Dorothy Fields

    by Karl Rover on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 03:28:35 PM PST

  •  republished to GFHC (9+ / 0-)

    I know what you mean, but stuff like this seems to happen a lot. My 3g-grandfather married sisters (not at the same time). His grandson, my g-grandfather was married four times--wife No. 4 (my g-grandmother) was the same age as her oldest stepdaughter. And that is only the beginning of some of the twists and turns I've found.

    Better than a soap opera.

    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

    by klompendanser on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 03:51:19 PM PST

  •  My grandfather did that too. (6+ / 0-)

    Wife died. Married her somewhat younger sister. Must've been a thing.

    •  The opposite was also common (6+ / 0-)

      Husband dies and wife marries his brother. Not surprising for a couple of reasons

      1. In the 1800s peoples dating habits were restricted by lack of easy transportation. If you lived outside an urban area, your choices  were limited to mates who lived within 10 miles or so of your home. A brother or sister in law was someone you knew pretty well.

      2. There was no social safety net in those days. If someone lost a spouse and still had young children,  they needed to remarry fairly quickly to provide for the children. Young widows often had to marry an older widower.  Yeah,  ick, but it was better than farming your children out to friends and neighbors or living in the poor house.

      My gr grandfather married his babysitter.  His first wife contracted something called "brain fever" after the birth of my uncle. Poor thing spent the rest of her life in a state mental hospital. Great gf was a farmer, so had to hire a young woman to care for the baby.  Yep, they ended up getting married in OK in a Native American ceremony, since his wife was still alive. He and my gr grandmother were married nearly 60 yrs.

      Genealogy is fun. I recently found another gr grandmother was married at least 5 times, possibly more. Most of these men were younger than her, one 17 yrs younger. Strange woman.

      Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

      by Betty Pinson on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 04:55:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A woman marrying two brothers successively (3+ / 0-)

        is not uncommon in northern Bas Rhin, where I do quite a lot of research.  This is 19th century, of course, after marriage was taken out of the church's hands.  In the 18th century I've seen one dispensation for a man marrying the younger sister of his dead wife.  Under canon law dispensation was also required for marriage between cousins.  First cousin marriages are quite common post-1793 but very rare before.

        In the case of brothers with the same wife, my guess is that the marriage contract with the first brother put the wife into actual possession of some or all of the property.  Women could and did acquire property by marriage in France.  

        My tree has a number of innkeepers.  In the earliest case, the inn was probably acquired after the husband's (second, from which I descend) marriage, hence, not covered in the articles of the contract, and went to the surviving son of the third marriage.  Perhaps neither of his sons wanted it (one was innkeeper in another town), as it went to his son-in-law, who eventually sold it and moved away.  In the 19th century a different inn, owned by a cousin who was a cooper and distiller, also went out of the family by the remarriage of the widow and passed down, maybe to the present day, in her family by the second husband.

        As for your other point, in the mid-19th century all the children in one generation of my family married people who lived within about 3 miles and from 2 specific places.  Obviously this was where the boys did farmhand work, either across the ridge on the west side of the valley or across the ridge at the north end of the valley.  All within walking distance, and all of the spouses were from 3 family groups.  Not just the boys; the girls also married men from those same places and families.

        And absolutely a widower with 6 or 7 children had to marry again.  One of my high school teachers told me, decades ago, about his gr-grandfather, I think it was, whose father died when he was a small boy and the mother remarried to a widower I'll call Joe Jones (because I can't remember his real name), who didn't want the children of her first marriage. So they were farmed out.  This would have been around 1840, and there was a family story that when he was a man the rejected boy and a friend passed an older couple, to whom Yost nodded.  His friend asked "Who was that?" and Yost replied, "That was Joe Jones and his wife."

        •  I'm always amazed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          at how many of these families in rural communities managed to grow and marry without intermarrying. I've studied the community of my dad's ancestors for years, researching all the families in the area. Most were descended from several large families who migrated together from Virginia, with a few other migrant families from South Carolina and KY and some local Native Americans. In 5 generations, there was no intermarriage, but several instances of widows and widowers marrying surviving siblings.

          Variety in religous faith also helped, when families didn't have strict rules about marriage to those of other faiths.  When studying my husband's strict Catholic ancestors, there were a couple of instances of marriage between first cousins.

          Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

          by Betty Pinson on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 10:56:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I believe it was sometimes expected (5+ / 0-)

    of the widower, to marry a sister of his late wife who was not having any luck finding a husband.  Maybe related to dowry customs?  I could even construct a scenario where that could in your g-g-g-father's case (if his wife died at 60, the much younger sister might have been viewed as on the verge of spinsterhood).

  •  Well, my maternal grandparents (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    swampyankee, schumann, FarWestGirl

    were second cousins.  There may be other mild oddities on that side of my family – most of it for several generations back lived in the same small region in Norway – but I’d have to dig through my files to check.

    I frankly have no problem with your great-great-grandfather’s second marriage, either with the 30-year age difference or with the fact that she was his first wife’s sister.  Seems to me that it’s strictly their business.

  •  it doesn't seem kinky to me at all (9+ / 0-)

    we're trying to figure out what happens with our tree. When my nanna and her brother passed away, their surviving spouses married each other. My cousins became my aunt and uncles. My aunt became my grandmother.

    not sure how to draw all of that now.

    Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy. -Dr. Brene Brown

    by thankgodforairamerica on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 04:11:05 PM PST

  •  Doesn't the bible give the OK to this stuff? (nt) (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mint julep, bluedust, schumann

    warning: snark probably above

    by NE2 on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 04:15:57 PM PST

  •  I have an ancestor (7+ / 0-)

    whose second husband was the oldest brother of one of her daughters in law. (Yes, there were children.) I can't even describe the complications in that case.

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 04:21:03 PM PST

  •  Here's an odd one for you (9+ / 0-)

    My grandfather remarried a couple of years after my grandmother died. Not so unusual...

    ...but here's the deal: His 2nd wife was a widow, her husband did work for the local cemetery and had a heart attack while digging the grave for my grandmother.

  •  My maternal grandmother's (8+ / 0-)

    3rd husband,was the brother of her first husband's ex-wife.  They were all friendly during all 3 said marriages.  I knew three of the 4 of them and played cards with them together.  My grandfather was the first husband of both women (his first and second wives).  he died before I was born.

    On the other side, my paternal grandfather's two sisters both married the same guy, (the younger one broke up her older sister's marriage).  That situation wasn't so friendly. They still didn't speak of each other 40 years later when I was a child, let alone speak to each other.  Very confusing to a youngster who didn't understand the situation.

    Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

    by benamery21 on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 04:45:50 PM PST

    •  Love those long running fueds (6+ / 0-)

      Many year ago I met a woman my age who had the name unusual last name. I discovered that her great grandfather had decides to leave our town and move to one that is now about 1/2 hour drive away, her family still lives there. In her g grandfathers day it was at least a days journey.

      I came to find out from her there had been a family fight that caused him to leave but no one in her family knew what it wa about. When I asked my great aunt, our family historian, about it her answer was "they are dead to us" Interesting take since everybody involved was dead and no one knew what the fight was about.

      I have maintained a 20 year friendship with Kitty but can't mention her around my aunts without glaciers forming.  

      It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

      by PSWaterspirit on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 06:34:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  One of my housemates in college: (7+ / 0-)

    Ok, how to explain this one....her parents were married when she was born, just not to each other. In fact, they had met at the wedding of their housemate's half brother and her half sister....

    Fox News: Rich People paying Rich People to convince Middle Class People to blame their problems on Poor People.

    by MikeIa on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 04:49:45 PM PST

  •  I have one of those… (9+ / 0-)

    …although not at all skeevy (so far as I know). My great grandfather, Willis had married Ida and they had five children together. The last of them (twins) included my grandfather, and Ida died in the childbirth (1896).

    Willis was thus thrust into working the farm, managing a 13, 10, 7, and 6 yo (the first three girls) plus not one, but two newborns. Circumstances obviously forced the twins to Ida's sister, Martha.

    However, the tale diverges wholly from yours, as Martha was married, with two daughters, and she simply took in Claude (my grandfather—and not sure where his twin sister, Ethel, went), and raised him as her own, eventually adopting him. She was also about three years older than Ida. Eventually Martha's marriage ended (don't know whether widowed or divorced) and sometime subsequently, Willis married her.

    In our family, we've always joked that Claude's aunt became his step-mother—his two cousins, his step-sisters—and Willis' sister-in-law became his wife. There were other complications, as well, but this relationship was all legitimate and above board. It's also the sort of thing not uncommon in a closed community. Willis' father was one of three boys who settled in the hollow south of (and over the hill from) the "big" town nearby, and the boys' descendants continued to live there, some to this day.

    The above to be sung to "I'm My Own Grandpa"…

    LRod—UID 238035
    ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired
    My ATC site
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    by exatc on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 04:51:20 PM PST

  •  My great uncle (4+ / 0-)

    I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

    by ruleoflaw on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 05:47:27 PM PST

  •  I have a g-g aunt who married her REAL nephew. (8+ / 0-)

    In the 1860s, oldest sister and husband from GA went off to TN where their children were born.  In the 1880s, youngest sister went from GA to TN for a visit--married the nephew. Might not have been able to get away with it if her older sister had still been alive! I will admit discovering that relationship set me back a step or two--and I'm a real old hand at tracing ancestors.

    In places like GA and KY cousin marriages were so common no one thinks anything about them.  My late husband was descended from the same man FIVE times--cousin marriages in every generation. I'm descended from the same man in GA three times--one first, two second cousin marriages. In fact, the whole county believed in incest--a wonder those of us with ancestors there don't have six toes.  

  •  I have spent several years... (4+ / 0-)

    ...studying the family trees of European royalty.  Your genealogy doesn't have anything I haven't seen.

  •  I have several instances of odd marriages (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    schumann, ruleoflaw, FarWestGirl

    Modern people keep forgetting:  In the past, love was never the consideration for marriage.  It was a contract to live together and help on the farm, and if they had children it was understood they were free labor.  If the couple was lucky, they developed affectionate bonds, but love was never a primary consideration for marriage.  "Love and marriage" is a recent innovation - because - profits are obtained by merchants who sell wedding finery and accessories, as well as bakery and catering services.

    In many instances of odd marriages in centuries past, it was a matter of inheriting property, especially in certain countries where land is at a premium, and unless one is the eldest son who inherits property, the other alternative is to inherit the property from a widow(er).

    One in a side lineage in my family tree was that of a young man in his 20s who married a MUCH older post-menopausal woman.  She got a person to work the farm when she was physically unable to do so; he inherited the land as a surviving spouse when she died, he remarried a young woman of childbearing age, they had children, and the land was inherited by their eldest son.

    It works the other way, too.  Young woman of childbearing age marries an elderly man, often a widower, he has children by both marriages, only one inherits, but if the farm holding is big enough and the land can be split into smaller units, one or two of the younger sons will inherit unless they have professions (mariner, shopkeeper, carpenter for others, etc.) where owning more than a house and garden plot or land enough to have a few chickens for eggs, a cow or a couple of goats for milk, butter, cheese, and meat is important, but a larger tract of land for growing grain or raising a large amount of livestock is not a consideration.  Occasionally when there are no sons and only daughters, the daughter who inherits the land needs to find a husband of suitable age and her offspring inherit the land.

    In a much nearer time frame, a maternal great-aunt's husband's mother married two brothers.  She had three children (one of a set of twins died) by the elder brother, he died young.  The younger brother had come to the US, acquired homestead land, went back to Norway, the widow of his brother and her remaining two children traveled from their home valley off the fjord to Bergen where the younger brother and widow married, and the four of them set out for America and his homestead..., and they proceeded to have a huge number of children.  In US census data her eldest two sons were listed as their sons (no formal adoption took place), even though they were technically her sons, their farm-name-that-became-the-US-surname was the same (there are about ten different farms that carry the same name in Norway in that one location; some people were related, others just used the same farm name as their US surname), but the birth records of the eldest sons in Norway use her first husband's patronym, of course.

    [There is a huge difference between a patronym and an inherited surname, but that confuses a lot of Americans unless they have prior knowledge of how that all works; it's super-simple and women keep their own names their entire lives, but newbies continue to be confused until it's all sorted out.  After laws in those countries mandated a single inherited surname, sometimes then the patronym also became a surname, as it did in America.  Iceland and the Faroe Islands still use the patronymic naming system, just as their Viking ancestors did.]

    They aren't the only couple I've recorded where the another sibling married the widow(er) of the dead sibling, but they're just the one I can remember off the top of my head the easiest.

    Then, back in colonial New England when there was a population bottleneck and choice of people to marry was very limited: Desire Doty, daughter of Edward Doty, married three times, had children by all three men, and outlived them.  Her third husband was a widower and a daughter from her first marriage married a son by his first marriage.  The step-siblings had no blood ties to each other, but it certainly looks odd to follow the tangled pedigree lines, especially since the children they had together were also half-siblings to the step-siblings who married. [Through another couple of marriages a couple of generations later, I am actually twice-descended from Edward Doty of the Mayflower.  He was quite a "colorful character."]

    So, until / unless one remembers that love didn't enter into marriage contracts until at least the Victorian age or later, those odd marriage ages and pairings are for property rights, inheritance for children (especially if the woman was pregnant before marriage; illegitimate children normally had no right to inherit their father's property, so the marriage had to take place before a child was born - in many instances; some countries did not tie inheritance to legitimacy) and have little or nothing to do with love.  The best that could happen for the social contract that is marriage is that the couple eventually developed affectionate bonds that maybe turned into love.

    I suspect the many tales of love-before-marriage found in fairy tales are romantic notions many people had to replace the reality of marrying for practical reasons, not love.

    Then there are the adulterers (they produce three daughters who are half-siblings to the two children he had from his first wife and two children she had by her first husband - but no divorce documents are found for the first spouses and no marriage record for what is presumably always the adulterous union) and the one who lives longest becomes a bigamist when he marries another woman (I have a certified copy of the marriage certificate)..., and is still married to the first woman who is still alive in another state, and he knows darn good and well she's still alive.

    ;-)  It makes for some really interesting genealogy research, though.

    Not to know what happened before we were born is to remain perpetually a child.  For what is the worth of a human life unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?
      ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero  106-43 BCE
    If you can't get rid of the skeletons in your closet, you'd best teach them to dance!
      ~ George Bernard Shaw
    (1856-1950, Nobel Prize for Literature: 1925)
    It is not the least debt we owe unto History, that it hath made us acquainted with our dead Ancestors.
      ~ Sir Walter Raleigh

    I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

    by NonnyO on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 08:54:01 PM PST

    •  My paternal grandparents (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NonnyO, FarWestGirl

      had an arranged marriage.
      Grandpa wrote home to his family in Germany to find him a wife and send her to America.

      The home folks sent a likely young lady and they wed. They got along well enough to produce 14 children. I don't know if they were deeply in love. My Dad didn't recall them being especially affectionate with each other.

      I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

      by ruleoflaw on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 10:31:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Several strange stories in my family. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    One great uncle had a child with his wife's sister. The sister went away and had the baby. When my great aunt and great uncle were very old, this man showed up. Looked a lot like their son. I guess my great uncle had known, but not my great aunt. She was angry and heart broken. She left him for a while, but I think she went back to him.

    My maternal grandmother's half brother had an ongoing affair with my paternal great aunt. They were both married to other people. When my Dad's cousin got interested in my mother's brother, my great aunt had to tell her she couldn't date him. He might have been too close kin. She wasn't sure if her daughter belonged to her husband or her lover.

    My maternal grandfather had 10 kids with my grandmother. He died in his early 40s. After my grandmother died and all the children were old, a woman introduced herself to them as their sister. Their father had an affair with this other woman and had a child with her. My mother says she had known for some time that she had another sister. Someone had told her and pointed the girl out to her when she was young. I don't know if my grandmother knew.

    My mother's family made and sold moonshine. I think it was after their father died, but I'm not sure. Her oldest brother spent time in jail for this. While he was in jail,  the next oldest brother took over and my mom's younger sister said she could remember helping him when she was just a little girl.

  •  Researching my wife's tree... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I just this week discovered that her mother and father share a common great grandfather.  They are 9th cousins. Which of course makes her a cousin to both of her parents.  

    Earlier it was interesting to learn that she was a cousin to Thomas Edison's wife on her mothers side. Later came to find that she is a cousin to old Tom himself on her fathers side.  

    fun stuff...

    Earthbound but aspiring...

    by barrel of laughs on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 09:33:58 AM PDT

  •  Well, I've got a wierder one... (0+ / 0-)

    This one guy got his teenage step-daughter pregnant, and then he and her mother adopted and raised the kid.

    Since the kid was born somewhere outside the US in 1946, I will say no more.

    •  And here's another one (0+ / 0-)

      One of my gg uncles was a 36-year-old bachelor in 1882 when he married a young woman half his age, but unfortunately, she died in childbirth less than two years later.  

      In 1887, Uncle Tom tried again--but this time he married his first wife's aunt--who, being three years younger than her niece, was only 20.

      They had one son, Carl, born in 1896.  

      Tom died in 1910.  His obit mentions the grieving widow, but failed to mention that she had given birth to a second son (not Tom's) a few months earlier.

      I haven't found out when wife #2 married the father of her second son, but she did so.

      Carl wasn't too happy about this.  He married at 18, had three kids really fast, and divorced about 12 years later.

      Come 1929, he met a divorcee and remarried. This marriage lasted.

      Wouldn't you know, his younger half-brother George liked her younger sister!

      George, however, was kind of wild; he died of "spleen trouble" in December of 1931 at age 22, so I'm guessing he was in some kind of fight.  But he had had time earlier in the year to get married (April) and become a father (September).

      I'm totally confused about how Carl's second family related to George's child--but that's about the most tangled family I have.

      OTOH, I've just been reading about the Wars of the Roses. Edward III's g-granddaughter married her great-uncle, and THEY were grandparents to Edward IV.

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