Are there any “Black Sheep” in your family?

February 7, 2010 at 6:01 pm (Uncategorized)

Last week, I picked up a handful of mug shots at a local flea market because the price was right.  I didn’t expect to find any big name criminals in the group and, as far as I have been able to determine, I didn’t.  What I did get was a bunch of guys who were picked up in various towns around Ohio for such things as drunk and disorderly, theft, and vagrancy.  It could be that this was the only time in their lives they got in trouble with the law.

Years ago when I first started researching my own family tree, I discovered that one of my uncles had stolen a car when he was 12.  I wouldn’t have expected it of him given the high regard in which he was held in his community.  But there it was, written indelibly into the court records.  If anyone remembered it, I am sure they chalked it up to a youthful indiscretion and never held it against him as an adult.  (And, given his age and the size of the town, I doubt they took any mug shots.)

When Mike Harden of The Columbus Dispatch interviewed me about my book, Central Ohio’s Historic Prisons, he mentioned that he was in the process of researching a book he planned to write about his uncle who had been a bank robber by trade.  I would expect that his uncle’s chosen profession had once been an embarrassment to the family, but the fact that Mike intends to write a book about him suggests that our views on “black sheep” have changed.

I know I like to mention that I had an aunt by marriage whose cousin was Charles Makely of the Dillinger Gang (Makely was the one who was shot to death while trying to escape over the wall of the Ohio Penitentiary).  However, he wasn’t a blood-relative.  On the other hand, my grandfather made the newspapers at one time for having discovered Dillinger’s getaway car after he broke out of the Lima jail.

Now, if I had a dollar for everyone who has told me that they had a great-grandfather who was an axe murderer, I would have at least $5.  I don’t know what it is about claiming kinship to an axe murderer as opposed to other types of murderers, but I am a little skeptical.  It’s just that the numbers of axe murderers is rather small in proportion to all the other kinds.

Among my group of mugshots, there is only one who had a prior offense listed. I checked them all out on FamilySearch.com and FindAGrave.com, but with little success.  I might have turned up social security death records on two of them, but there wasn’t enough information to confirm it.  I also was unsuccessful in locating any of their graves, although most if not all of them are certainly dead by now.  If I were related to one of these guys, I would probably like to have a copy of the mug shot for my files, but other than getting arrested at least once, they seem to have left few traces behind.

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2 Comments

  1. Mitchel Roth said,

    I am a professor in Texas working on book about the fire. Having purchased and enjoyed your book on Central Ohio prisons I figured you might be able to suggest some sources (that have thus far eluded me) for info on the disaster and the Columbus Penitentiary. I have been collecting materials for about a year and will be visiting Columbus in near future to complete archival work. Anyway I hope to hear from you.

  2. Jill M Marcelli said,

    I have a gggrandfather Joseph Mounts who was confined to 20 years in the penitentiary during the Pike County March term 1830. I would love to know if he served out the term or died in prison. How can I find this information?

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