Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Family Skeletons

{chortling and rubbing my hands in satisfaction}

Another fascinating family record came zinging out of the blue today via an email from Kentucky. If you've been following my family research endeavors for any length of time, you will probably recall the nasty divorce proceedings that I unearthed in the Bastrop County courthouse a few years back. Great-great grandparents Henry and Mary Hodge had a mud-slinging fest in open court that added gobs of interest to the old family tree, while completely destroying any pride I might have felt in having a doctor in my ancestry.

Further research over the years has uncovered Henry's first marriage, which also ended in divorce and I suspect if I ever find those records there will be some more mud to slog through.

I've been aware for some time that there was also some discord in the marriage of Henry's parents, John and Mary (Reese) Hodge of Crittenden County, Kentucky. In the deed records I found where John had deeded his real property to his infant son Henry in 1854. Accompanying that record was an "agreement" between John and Mary to live separately and apart and no longer as man and wife. Census records continued to record them in the same household, so I assumed that they found some way to co-exist peacefully. Deed records continued to make reference to Mary, wife of John.

I received an unexpected email this last weekend from a cousin in Kentucky who is working with a genealogist who specializes in western Kentucky. The genealogist made a casual reference to the divorce petition of John Hodge, a copy of which she had obtained years ago before the original court records were bundled up and shipped to the state archives. Cousin Marty coaxed a copy from her and the scans arrived today.

Without going into too much detail (that will wait for the next family newsletter), John accused Mary of threatening to kill him on multiple occasions and he asserted he had done nothing to warrant her hostility. (John was a well-respected Baptist minister and I expect he was telling the truth.) A couple of months later, the petition for divorce was dropped and they continued to be married. Not happily, I would assume.

This family was very dysfunctional, it would seem. Mary was 7 years older than John and had her first of four children in her late thirties. Her first child was apparently mentally challenged, as he is recorded as "idiot" in census and court records. Her next two sons died as infants. Finally she gave birth to my ancestor Henry when she was about 40. The petition for divorce was filed by John when Henry was about 5 years old. Mary was alive for at least 20 years after that (census records), though I've not found any evidence of her death.

Henry's life was full of tribulations and I now am faced with the possibility that his mental instability may have been a genetic predisposition inherited from his mother. I've spent a great deal of time researching the Hodge line and not as much on the Reese line. I think I should get busy and see what I can find out.

That's what I love about genealogy. Just as you think you have a handle on an ancestor, someone casually drops a record in your lap that points you in a new direction. God, I love it.


No comments: