Genealogy Humor

Started by Patricia Ann Scoggin on Tuesday, April 29, 2014
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4/29/2014 at 5:55 PM

Anyone interested in having a discussion that would contain humor in genealogy???

Anyone could contribute jokes, poems, stories (found on the internet or in real life situations), etc, comments to what is put here & hopefully provide some levity for all those who are working hard to find that "missing link". It would be appreciated if contributions could be kept "clean" and hopefully will not be offensive (although some people are always ready to take offense!). I have found many sites on the internet (even from other genealogy "systems") with humor in genealogy & wondered if there were others in Geni who might enjoy sharing humorous situations/comments, & stories they have found in searching for that elusive ancestor as well the jokes. I have several collected already including "Murphy's Laws of Genealogy" & "Genealogists' Sayings" (it has over 125). Don't know how long each contribution can be... or how it will do with formatting... Guess we will learn as we go if there is an interest.

For those who would enjoy receiving genealogy related cartoons/pix etc or humor with different formatting than what can be created here, you can contact me at my home email address ( I enjoy sending emails that are humorous, FYI, & inspirational and could add a group that is just for my "Genealogy friends/cousins". I use the Bcc line for addresses so your privacy is respected & I erase all prior email addresses before forwarding and ask that you do also. I attempt to be sensitive to the needs/requests of those I send or forward emails to.

If you would like to be added to my list of those I send humorous/inspirational (non-genealogy) emails, let me know by sending me a message to my home email address. I usually send at least 1 a day plus forward any I receive & often more/day before holidays. I love Maxine & have saved over 800 of her comments & observations. I feel we all need a little humor in our lives to keep us light (so we can fly like the angels). Humor can also relieve some of the frustrations that genealogy & life can sometimes cause!!!

I am retired and spend a lot of time on the computer and attempt to respond to emails promptly (if I am online).

Please let me know what you think. Is there an interest???
Pat Scoggin

4/29/2014 at 5:59 PM

To get this discussion started:

Murphy’s Laws of Genealogy
“I’m not stuck – I’m ancestrally challenged"

AND on the eighth day God said, "OK, Murphy, take over."
Ever experience any of these??? I’m sure there are many more!

1. The records you need for your family history were in the courthouse that burned.
2. Your great-grandmother’s maiden name for which you’ve searched for years was on an old letter in a box in the attic all the time.
3. When at last you have solved the mystery of the skeleton in the closet, the tight-lipped spinster aunt claims, “I could have told you that all the time.”
4. The relative who had all the family photographs gave them to her daughter who had no interest in genealogy and no inclination to share.
5. You learned that great aunt Matilda’s executor just sold her life’s collection of family genealogical materials to a flea market dealer “somewhere in New York City.”
6. No on in your family tree ever did anything noteworthy, always rented property, was not sued, and was never named in wills.
7. The spelling of your European ancestor’s name bears no relationship to its current spelling or pronunciation.
8. Your great-great-grandfather’s obituary states that he died, leaving no issue of record.
9. The keeper of the vital records you need will have just been insulted by another genealogist.
10. The town clerk you wrote to in desperation, and finally convinced to give you the information you need, can't write legibly, and doesn't have a copying machine.
11. That ancient photograph of four relatives, one of whom is your progenitor, carries the names of the other three.
12. Copies of old newspapers have holes, which occur only on maiden and surnames.
13. Yours is the ONLY last name not found among the billions 
in the LDS archives in Salt Lake City.
14. Ink fades and paper deteriorates at a rate inversely proportional 
to the value of the data recorded.
15. Anything that could have burned, did. 

16. The census taker with the clear handwriting and good ink never enumerated your ancestors.
17. If you find a well-documented, illustrious ancestor, you've probably made a mistake.
18. Your folks hated government and never filled out forms. 

19. The book you need is never indexed, or, if indexed, doesn't include people. 

20. Your families never had attics, much less Bibles or boxes full of photos. 

21. All real library "finds" are made five minutes before closing, when the copier is broken.
22. The correctly shelved books and correctly filed forms are never the ones you need.

23. The person sitting next to you at the research center is finding ancestors every five minutes... and telling you. 

24. The e-mail address that bounces is the one from a person who listed your exact names. 
If you find a working address, you aren't related. 

Your microfilm reader is the one that squeaks, has to be turned backwards, and doesn't quite focus. 

25. Your cemeteries have no caretaker or records archive. 

26. Alternate spellings and arcane names were your folks' favorite pastimes.
27. Your ancestors only knew three names, and used them over and over in every collateral line.
28. The critical link in your family tree is named "Smith." 

29. The document containing evidence of the missing link in your research invariably will be lost due to fire, flood or war. 

30. The will you need is in the safe on board the "Titanic". 

31. The blot on the page of the census covers your grandmother's birth date!
32. Your ancestor's will leaves his estate to his beloved wife and children 
but he doesn't name them. 

33. The only overturned, face-down gravestone in the cemetery 
is your great-great grandfather's! 

34. The information you desperately need could be only found in an 1890 census? 

35. You finally find your ancestor's obituary in an old newspaper and all it says is "Died last week." 

36. You finally get a day off from work to travel to a courthouse -- and when you get there it's closed for emergency plumbing repairs. 

37. Your ancestor’s maiden name will be recorded on the one record page that is missing.
38. John, son of Thomas, the immigrant whom your relatives claim as immigrant ancestor, died on board ship at the age of twelve.
39. The public ceremony in which your distinguished ancestor participated when the platform collapsed turned out to be a hanging.
40. Records show that the grandfather, whom the family boasted, "He read the Bible at four years and graduated from college at sixteen," was at the foot of his class.
41. You receive a box of old family photos, but they have no names on the back!!!
42. You never asked your father about his family because you weren't interested in genealogy while he was alive.
43. You find an old family photo album and upon close examination, there are no names on the pictures.

photo owned by Tamara Tucker Swingle
Private User
4/30/2014 at 11:39 AM

I love genealogy humor- probably because it's so true to situations I'm always running into. I have photos which are labeled with really helpful things like, "Grandma". Or "taken at the picnic".

And I have a #44. Every branch of the family starts with "three brothers immigrated..."

5/1/2014 at 12:42 AM

As I get new ones for Murphy's Laws, I will add them to my "master" list.

I also have several branches that have "Three brothers immigrated..."
All I can do is hope that they are named in that elusive "somewhere" & that there is more info about them!!!

5/1/2014 at 12:45 AM

Here is another contribution. Hope those who read it will get chuckle or two...

Beethoven's Ninth

Quite a number of years ago, the Seattle Symphony was doing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony under the baton of Milton Katims. Now at this point, you must understand two things:

1.There's a quite long segment in this symphony where the basses don't have a thing to do. Not a single note for page after page.

2.There used to be a tavern called Dez's 400, right across the street from the Seattle Opera House, rather favored by local musicians.

It had been decided that during this performance, once the bass players had played their parts in the opening of the symphony, they were to quietly lay down their instruments and leave the stage, rather than sit on their stools looking and feeling dumb for twenty minutes. Well, once they got backstage, someone suggested that they trot across the street and quaff a few brews.

After they had downed the first couple rounds, one said, "Shouldn't we be getting back? It'd be awfully embarrassing if we were late."

Another, presumably the one who suggested this excursion in the first place, replied, "Oh, I anticipated we could use a little more time, so I tied a string around the last pages of the conductor's score. When he gets down to there, Milton's going to have to slow the tempo way down while he waves the baton with one hand and fumbles with the string with the other."

So they had another round, and finally returned to the Opera house, a little tipsy by now. However, as they came back on stage, one look at their conductor's face told them they were in serious trouble. Katims was furious! After all...

It was the bottom of the Ninth,
the basses were loaded,
and the score was tied.

5/1/2014 at 4:04 AM

Loved #30...

And the Beethoven's piece was precious.

5/1/2014 at 4:05 AM

Correction, loved # 39.

5/1/2014 at 4:12 AM

17. If you find a well-documented, illustrious ancestor, you've probably made a mistake.

27. Your ancestors only knew three names, and used them over and over in every collateral line.

34. The information you desperately need could be only found in an 1890 census? 

(for those who may not know - the 1890 census Is here

Private User
5/1/2014 at 8:27 AM

They're all funny, but #39 is the one that made me actually LOL:

39. The public ceremony in which your distinguished ancestor participated when the platform collapsed turned out to be a hanging.

5/1/2014 at 9:29 AM

No 39 reminds me of a discussion I once had with my mother on the results of a sailing contest at a camp I attended.....she asked how I had done....and was pleased when I told her we had ccome in 3rd........a bit later, she got more into it and asked how many were in this which I answered "three".!

It's all in how you look at it....and present it....

Should I find anyone in my searches who got hanged, I will keep #39 in mind....(perhaps I can tweak the data to give it a bit more ::-)

5/1/2014 at 6:00 PM

Erica, I checked out the 1890 census site... all I can say is: 'Oh, my!!!'
(If you haven't already done so, please do check out the site she mentions.)

My favorite & most frustrating is #27-- reuse of the same name!!! I have one branch that has at least 13 with the same name, all within 3 generations (I stopped counting & going down the different branches at that point!) & nothing to distinguish one from another!!! To add to the confusion, at least 4 of them were 1st generation Americans & settled in the same area so land deeds are real confusing also!!! Major HEADACHE!!!!!!!!!!

Old pix are great, but recently #41 became true for me!!! (I am now the senior member of my family so no one is alive who might know who they are!)

Anyone else with some "Genealogy Murphy Laws"??? (I'll add them to my master list.)

5/1/2014 at 6:20 PM

Several of you liked #39. Here is a story to substantiate the validity of that "Law". in fact I just received an email with pix & the story--Remus was related to a professional genealogy researcher & also apparently connected to Senator Harry Reid, his great, great uncle, (at least according to this version) & when the info was sent to him, his staff created the alt. biography.

Family Skeletons

You are working on your family genealogy and for sake of example, let's say that your great-great uncle, Remus Starr, a fellow lacking in character, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. 

A cousin has supplied you with the only known photograph of Remus, showing him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture are the words: 

 "Remus Starr: Horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison, 1885. Escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged, 1889." 

Pretty grim situation, right? But let's revise things a bit. We simply crop the picture, scan in an enlarged image and edit it with image processing software so that all that is seen is a headshot. 

Next, we rewrite the text: 

"Remus Starr was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1885, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

5/1/2014 at 6:56 PM

What a great example of hagiography!

5/1/2014 at 7:33 PM

I sent this to a cousin in an email with the pictures & her response was:

This is a scream! Except whitewashing the truth is all too frequent.

A better option would have been for the senator to have owned up to this disreputable ancestor and said, "thank goodness I take after my mom's side of the family."

5/1/2014 at 8:09 PM

None of these are mine but all of them amuse me:

Every family tree produces some lemons, some nuts and a few bad apples.
Genealogy: where you confuse the dead and irritate the living.
I shook my family tree, a bunch of nuts fell out
My ancestors are hiding in a witness protection program.
Searching for lost relatives? Win the lottery!
Only a genealogist regards a step backwards, as progress.

As far as Murphy's List, i have a #41, actually it's not just a box but a whole filing cabinet. Geni users have been good help at identifying some of them.

5/2/2014 at 6:45 PM

I have 157 "Genealogists' Sayings". Should I include all of them at one time or would you like them in smaller "batches"? Right now they are alphabetized so I minimized the chance of duplications! Contributions are appreciated!!! Any more that start with an "A"???

Here are the ones (19) that start with "A"... just to get you started on these.
(My favorites are #1, 6, 15 & 18.)

Genealogists' Sayings
1. A cemetery is a marble garden not to be taken for granite.
2. A family reunion is an effective form of birth control 

3. A family tree can wither if nobody tends its Roots 

4. A great party is when everyone joins in the gene pool.
5. A genealogist is a person who leaves no stone unearthed.
6. A genealogist is someone who must have the patience of Job, the curiosity of a cat, the stubbornness of a mule, the eyesight of an eagle, the luck of the Irish and the ability and stamina of a camel to go long hours without food or drink.
7. After 30 days, unclaimed ancestors will be adopted.
8. A great many family trees were started by grafting.
9. All the really important information is on that missing page
10. Alright! Everybody out of the genetic pool!
11. Always willing to share my ignorance…
12. Am I the only person up my tree... sure seems like it 

13. A miser is hard to live with but makes a fine ancestor.

14. A new cousin a day keeps the boredom away
15. A single fact can spoil a good genealogy.
16. A Step Backwards is Progress to a Genealogist.
17. An in-law is someone who has married into your family; an outlaw is an in-law who resists letting you do their genealogy!
18. Any family tree produces some lemons, some nuts and a few bad apples. 

19. At last, a chance to make my skeletons dance!

Well, I was born in Brazil, but much of my family is here, in this Fifth of Hell ( So was called the Brazil by the Portuguese) for almost 5 centuries. I got old Grandparent murdered, other murderers, some cases which I know nothing and still I insist on knowing where they came from. I call them STONES IN SHOES or Stones thrown in the Holy Cross. I read too, live in a universe of dead and still think I can enjoy myself reading old records unreadable. Anyway, genealogists or historians, are always a little crazy and often forget to draw trees, the most correct, would be the bellies of women.

5/4/2014 at 12:40 AM

Hope you laugh at this one!!!

Don't Go Alone When Transcribing Cemeteries!!!
Author: Sandi Gorin

A woman in KY, an avid cemetery hunter did what no gal should do.

She had heard about a cemetery in the woods long sought after and went by herself. It was way off the beaten path. She found the cemetery and was getting ready to mark the names and dates down when she heard a click on either side of her. She was on her hands and knees.

She looked up and saw a fellow on either side of her with a rifle, cocked.
In her excitement, she had been pulling up grass and weeds to clear the stones. When she glanced down, she saw what she had been pulling ... their "crop" ready for harvesting - the illegal type of hemp! Thinking quickly (and likely praying a lot!) she turned on the tears and said "Oh, I hope I'm not trespassing... I'm just so happy... THERE'S GRANDPA!" "I've hunted for his grave for years (sob, sob), and there he is, oh Grandpa!"

They took one look at her and just walked away. Never go cemetery hunting alone!!! By the way, she didn't have the foggiest idea of who was buried there, but bet her real grandpa was proud of her!

5/4/2014 at 10:18 PM

A Genealogist Is…

A full-time detective
A thorough historian
An inveterate snoop
A confirmed diplomat
A keen observer
A hardened skeptic
An apt biographer
A qualified linguist
A part-time lawyer
A studious sociologist
An accurate reporter
A hieroglyphics expert
A complete nut!

5/6/2014 at 1:45 AM

Genealogy Related Quotes & Comments

Why waste your money looking up your family tree? 
Just go into politics and your opponents will do it for you. Mark Twain

I don't know who my grandfather was, I am much more
concerned to know what his grandson will be. Abraham Lincoln

You live as long as you are remembered. Russian Proverb

Anybody can make history, only a great man can write it. Oscar Wilde, Aphorisms

He who has no fools, knaves, or beggars in his family was begot by a flash of lightning. Old English Proverb

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance. George Bernard Shaw

There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors,
and no slave who has not had a king among his. Helen Keller

Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future. Gail Lumet Buckley

On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia: "Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102, The Good Die Young."

A lawyer's epitaph in England: "Sir John Strange Here lies an honest lawyer, And that is Strange".

To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, 
a tree without a root." Chinese Proverb

5/6/2014 at 8:28 PM

Isn't anyone else going to contribute??? Or don't you have any time to laugh???

5/6/2014 at 8:32 PM

Here are a few more Genealogist's sayings:

20. Before you brag about your family tree, better do some pruning!
21. Beware of the Genealogy Bug; its bite can be addictive!
22. Can a first cousin, once removed, return?
23. C A U T I O N ! … You have now entered the Genealogy Zone.
24. "Crazy" is a relative term in my family.
25. Cussin: what genealogists do when they can’t find one.
26. Cousins marrying cousins: Very Tangled Roots.
27. Cousins marrying cousins: A non-branching family tree.
28. Damn! My family tree was just wood-chipped.
29. Death is just nature’s way of dropping a carrier.
30. Do I even WANT ancestors? Some I found I wish I could lose.
31. Do I need a Genealogical Search Warrant to see the records?

#26 & 31 are my favorites in this group.

5/7/2014 at 4:34 AM

I liked your #16 S step backward is progress to a genealogist .

Cousins marrying cousins....another way to tell when it is again time to move to new territory.

Why is it that EVERYONE seems to have a certain noted person as relative? That seems only possible if he/she was an only child.....but add siblings and a genealogist can open all sorts of cans of worms.....and sometimes new and MORE noted personages.

5/7/2014 at 4:43 AM

You have a problem when your elusive relative has been spotted in more different places than Elvis.

You have a problem when you intorduce your son/daughter as your descendant.

You can recite your lineage back eight generations but have forgotten your nephew's name.

Genealogy without documentation is mythology!

5/7/2014 at 6:23 AM

IMHO this thread should really transform into a project form so that folks can also add/store crazy images, docs and movie clips on the topic.

A wild guess would be that there are tons of great visuals and mock-ups of shifting quality on the subject out there in the wild interwebz. Would be cool to see if we're able to build "The World's Greatest & Bestest Genealogy Humor Repository" to complement the more “serious” ambitions of the World Family Tree. Unless you already consider the Big Tree as the greatest of all genealogical jokes, of course :P

Oh, and my little contribution:

Flowchart: The Genealogue's Guide to Internet Genealogy

5/7/2014 at 6:28 AM

Amazing how little close relatives actually know off the tops of their heads....but go back to the colonial days nd they quote dates, places, spouses and children....

5/8/2014 at 1:01 AM

Olav, loved the flowchart... it is soooooo true!!! Have added it to my iPhoto collection of Genealogy Humor

Fay, I love your suggestion for "cousins marrying cousins" & moving to new territory!!!

It would be nice if we had a site or a place to put cartoons, diagrams, docs, etc. I started a folder in my iPhoto system for genealogy related humor... have over 70 pix in it right now that I would love to share & add to from others.

5/8/2014 at 1:18 AM

Patricia - Geni projects store images & documents you upload to them, just like profiles. That's what Olav is suggesting. :)

5/8/2014 at 1:47 AM

I know about adding images/docs to profiles, but how do you add them to a discussion???

Would "Genealogy Humor" (or what ever name we come up with) be better as a "project"???

I'm not sure how many people read this discussion as not that many have commented or contributed. As I said above I have 70 some pix/cartoons etc that I would like to share & I am sure others may also have some that they might share. Genealogists do have a funny bone, at least most do, but would they join a "Humor" Project & contribute???

5/8/2014 at 1:52 AM

Here are some more: Genealogists' Sayings [starting with E & F] (#'s will be off from those above as I have added from here...)

33. Every family tree has some sap in it. 

34. Everyone has a photographic memory. Some don’t have film.
35. Ever find an ancestor HANGING from the family tree?
36. Evolution is God's way of issuing updates.
37. Family trees are great for hanging out your genes.
38. Family tree? More like a noxious weed!
39. Famous quote that applies (all too often) to questionable genealogy: “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” —Mark Twain
40. FLOOR: (n) The place for storing your priceless genealogy records.
41. Friends come and go, but relatives tend to accumulate & never leave. 

42. "Found a Yankee in my Tree - Will Trade for Horse Thief or Black Sheep"

(have 24 that start with "G")

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