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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Black Sheep are the Most Fun

Sometimes I wake up too early in the morning and can't get back to sleep right away. Rather than lay in bed and toss and turn, I get up and do a few genealogy tasks. Usually, I get tired and can go back to bed until a more decent hour.

However, lately I've been spending the better part of several really early mornings (let's call it "pre-breakfast genealogy") reading old news accounts of a very interesting murder trial in Vermont in the early 1900's. (Thanks, Google News!)

Several things made the story of the more than just interesting:

  1. The accused male and female murderers were only 19 years old at the time of the murder.
  2. The accused female murderess was married and carrying on with at least three additional men.
  3. The accused female murderess had "accidentally" dropped and killed her 6-month-old baby the year before.
  4. The accused male murderer practically gave himself whiplash turning state's evidence.
  5. The accused male murderer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment (other times reported as 20 years).

After the young lady was found guilty, it became even more interesting:

  1. The convicted female murderess was sentenced to hang.
  2. The convicted female murderess was convinced her sentence would be commuted to life.
  3. The convicted female murderess's death sentence was postponed three times while her case was escalated to higher courts. Eventually it went to the Supreme Court.
  4. The case was so sensational that it gained international attention and news articles were found from around the world. 
  5. Some of the articles were less than ten years old even though the murder happened 110 years ago.
  6. The convicted young murderess was sent to the gallows.
  7. Apparently the task of hanging the young murderess did not go well and she did not immediately die.
The young male murderer was alternately described in news articles as a "half-wit" and/or a "half-breed." He was my father-in-law's second cousin. I have no idea if my father-in-law's family was aware of the news at the time, but I have to think they did even though they lived a thousand miles away. 

I have no doubt that the male murderer was a half-wit, or at least easily led, as he allowed himself to be convinced to be a murder accomplice. Once the young man was released from jail, he was not heard from again. So the next task will be to see if I can find any trace of him after 1925. Now that is a challenge!

While I obviously don't condone any type of illegal activity, finding a story like this certainly makes the task of adding some color to the family history much easier.

I suggest checking Google News for articles about your family. Once you've entered your search terms, click on Search Tools, and from the drop down box, change the selection from Any Time to Archives. You might be pleasantly surprised to find how many old newspapers are available.