unusual obituary

I’ve been on a journey of discovery this winter, making use of Ancestry’s powerful search engine to add more and more branches to our family trees. Part of the excitement comes from finding new distant cousins through DNA matching. And a cousin, who I haven’t seen in many years, recently submitted her DNA sample to Ancestry. When I popped up as her genetic first cousin she contacted me and said, “I guess it works!”

But the search engine at Ancestry is constantly rummaging through the paper trail, too. It searches hundreds of databases, periodicals and books, some of which I never would have dreamed of looking at. A couple of weeks ago a little leaf (a hint) popped up next to the profile of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Ann Isabella (Hughs) Thompson, who was born in Ireland in 1830, came to America, and then married my 3rd-great-grandfather, sea captain Martin Thompson, the Norwegian ancestor (born Ingebrigt Martinus Hansen) who I’m always going on about.

I’ve never found the identity of Ann’s parents and my few attempts to research her origins have never been successful. The only thing I knew about her was a story I had been told about her religion. She lies buried with her husband in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis on Cape Cod. I was told she was Catholic and that Martin’s relatives wanted her body removed from the Protestant family’s plot. Martin’s second wife was born in England and sometimes I wonder if she was the “relative” who wanted Ann’s body disinterred.

So then, imagine how startled I was when I followed the “hint” to a publication called Saints’ Herald Obituaries, 1885, p. 426 and read the following:

Ann L. (Thompson) was baptized and confirmed a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on 30 September 1874 at Dennisport, Barnstable, Massachusetts, by C. N. Brown.

Birth Date: About 1830
Death Date: May 1885
Death Place: Dennisport, Barnstable, Massachusetts
Spouse: Captain Thompson

the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Sea St. in Dennis Port, a six minute walk from my grandparents’ house

Religious differences are forever popping up on our family tree. And many of our ancestors have changed religions, sometimes later in life. Ann was 44 when she did so. I am more and more convinced there is something in our DNA, traveling down the through the ages, stirring up conflict in almost every generation.

But until now it has always been the men I’ve found stories about. I’ve often wondered what my female ancestors were thinking and believing. If they disagreed with their husbands did they keep their thoughts locked up inside? Finding out about Ann’s conversion was so remarkable because she is the first female ancestor I have found who apparently believed differently than her husband and had the gumption to follow her own spiritual path.

13 thoughts on “unusual obituary”

  1. Good on Ann Thompson! The findings on Ancestry often raise more questions, rather than leaving us to rest easy with the answers. I love poring through Ancestry and often lose hours, unexpectedly, when I’m on the trail of an ancestor. The best findings are the stories though, such as you have made for Ann, and I can share your feelings of excitement in your discoveries, Barbara. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. That is certainly the case, Joanne! I pretty much lost a whole winter following leads on Ancestry. ๐Ÿ™‚ Now that I’ve exhausted that line of research for a while, I’m itching to travel to various towns and states to do some local research. There are so many other records out there. I’m wondering if your research has led you mostly to England or if you found any surprises…

  2. Boy that was a bold move on her part.

    I am also on Ancestry and find it both fascinating and overwhelming. All those damn “hint” leaves can be a bit much !

    As a musical junkie of course the song “I Believe” from the “Book of Mormon” immediately began rolling around in my head.

    1. I still wonder who these relatives were that wanted her body removed from the cemetery. As far as I can tell all of Martin’s siblings stayed in Norway. The only relatives left could only be his children and I don’t want to think they were against their own mother. Unless perhaps it was his second wife.

      Those hint leaves are a mixed blessing. Some people add the most ridiculous items. But it’s worth plowing through the garbage to find the gems!

      I’ll have to find the song online – I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it.

    1. I wonder about that, Rosie. I have found plenty of Norwegian and Canadian records with my international membership but none from Ukraine or Czech Republic.

  3. How exciting to find out about your ancestors! Whatever is there increases your understanding about them and how they lived. I wish I could do the same, but Ancestry is not a place where I can find out about my Swedish or Finnish ancestors ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. It does seem that Ancestry’s international records are rather random. Hopefully they will keep expanding their database so everyone can find at least some of their ancestors. I’ve considered hiring a genealogist to do research for me in Ukraine… ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I’ve found lots of information on Ancestry. My great-grandfather had a very common name but I was able to narrow him down to two possibilities by going carefully back and forward. I think it is so strange that often only a name survives, so little of personality and history! Jane

    1. Sometimes that’s all we will ever know, a name and date, a mark for a signature on a will written up by someone else. And those common names can be so puzzling. There were three Abigail Johnsons in one town who could have married Tim’s 5th-great-grandfather. Thankfully a woman with a Johnson genealogy in her possession cleared up the mystery for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. What a wonderful find! It’s really interesting to think about how religion and religious differences played out in family dynamics over the years.

    1. It is really interesting. It seems many families keep to the same religion generation after generation, and then others seem to be restless and searching for something that suits them better.

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