Baa Baa Black Sheep

Who’s the black sheep in your family?

I haven’t found any murderers or criminals in my family tree, but the Tories, divorces and suicides have popped up. Even those events disrupted the families which led to migrations to new countries and states and some of them are difficult to follow. The family is even quite tight lipped about my husband’s grandfather. No one wants to give up the stories. So what about the black sheep in your family? recently offered a free guide “Black Sheep: 10 Things to Know “. Here’s a summary of what you will find in the guide.

1. Who’s the black sheep in your family?

How closely do you read your census records? You may find your black sheep simply by reading the comments. You may find things like “Drunkard” or “Says we must keep away or get shot” or “was a woman of ill fame”.

2. Black sheep often have long paper trails

You may find their trail in newspaper records, court records and even prison records. A trial may have lasted months and extended well beyond where the crime was committed.

3. Family Stories are comfortable homes for black sheep ancestors. Research those family stories but remember they are often notorious for the edits handed to the next generations.

4. What’s in a black sheep’s name?

Your ancestor may have adopted a new name. If you believe that’s the case with your ancestor, try the following method of searching.

(a) Search by criteria. Forget the name and use birthplace, age, gender, occupation, etc that match your ancestor. Pay attention to familiar sounding names like maiden names or middle names.

(b) Lengthen and shorten names.

(c) Follow their address in city directories

5. Other people may have written about your black sheep ancestor in their own histories.

6. Certain geographic locations attracted black sheep like the American West or Australia.

7. Black sheep on the lam. Check passports and passenger lists.

8. Everyone has a mother – even black sheep. Follow the family of the black sheep in census records and newspapers. Pay attention to boarders and neighbors.

9. Even the government tracked black sheep. A special census taken in 1880, the Defective, Dependent and Delinquent schedule included details about people who were imprisoned. Also, prisons and asylums were enumerated in state and federal censuses.

10. Other members of the family may not want to talk about the black sheep. Check out the black-sheep-only collections at

To download your copy of “Black Sheep: 10 Things to Know” go the learning center on and select “Research Guides” and you will find their list of free guides that can be downloaded.



One response to “Baa Baa Black Sheep

  1. Very interesting. Thank you. Marlene Overton

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