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Skeletons in Their Closets-My Ancestor Did What??


Skeletons in Their Closets-My Ancestor Did What??

This group is for researchers who want to chat about what "Skeletons " they found in there ancestors closet.

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Latest Activity: Oct 28, 2020

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Comment by Bonnie Lymer on August 24, 2010 at 1:21pm
My great uncle was married in 1917. At some time during the 1920s, he disappeared, and was presumed dead for many years. In the late 1960s, his sister checking with the Canada Pension Plan office, assuming that he would be likely collecting pension at that point. Privacy laws not being the way they are today, she was able to get confirmation of the city that he lived in. Coincidentally, he lived just a short drive away from my grandfather, his brother, who then tracked him down. It turned out that he disappeared because he wanted out of his marriage.
Comment by Tammy Mellard Wheeler on January 30, 2010 at 2:00pm
My husband's grandmother sued her brother because he accused her of defaming her name by saying she had a abortion at her father's house she asked the jury for $5000 and the jury awarded her $1. She left the church, I wonder if this is why she left the church. But this was 20 years after the fact that it happened. Her brother went off to war, we are wondering if he came back with something wrong with him to bring this up 20 years later, after she was married to my husband's grandfather.

We found all this out about a year ago. We went to the museum where all the papers were and found this information in the books and papers.
Comment by Daryl Polley on October 17, 2009 at 8:44pm
I just what to know everything. LOL.

Seriously - I would love to find the lost diary detailing my ancestor's life but my main interest at this point would be filling in the two gaps in time.

How did he get from Lambourn, Berkshire, England in 1861 to New Hampshire, USA in 1863?

What happened to him (and his wife and kids) between October 1864 when he joined the Confederate army and 1872 when he shows up in the Independence district of Kenton County, Kentucky under an entirely different name.
- Why did he come to Kentucky?
- Where was he and his family for that 8 year period?
- Who was the father of Thomas Morgan?
- What name was the family using for those 8 years.
- Why didn't he go back to using his birth name after the war. He actually shows up in several records as Columbus A. H. Morgan so it appears he was hinting that his real name was Ambrose Honey. Maybe everyone at the time knew his real name, clearly his one son knew, but it had me stumped for years until those letters came to light.

I really don't expect to ever answer any of those questions but in this incredible world of e-mail, scanned records and long lost books being placed on the Internet you never really know what hidden gem may suddenly appear next week. The cousin with 100 year old family letters was certainly a surprise. The military pension record with more letters from the son was another surprise. I have often wondered who else received letters from the son. A Congressmen? The President? The Governor of Kentucky? Is there another file somewhere yet to be re-discovered? A confederate soldier's diary discussing what happened to the two British guys captured in September 1864? A ship's log showing Ambrose Honey as part of the crew?

At this point I think you have inspired me to re-examine all the records I have to see if I missed any clues. I may never have all the facts but I find the search to be fascinating.


Comment by Daryl Polley on October 16, 2009 at 11:12pm
Thanks Debbie. Yes - This man is my most interesting ancestor by far and I have an interesting assortment. Since you have expressed an interest I will tell the known story and hope this is not overly long and overly boring, I have researched this to death but it never hurts to get a fresh perspective.

Fortunately one of my ancestor's sons in the 1890s started writing back to his father's family in England and his mother's cousins in Johnson County Kentucky and copies of those letter passed down to a cousin in another state who read them and stated her own research only to find one of my on-line queries asking about the same people. I pretty much had the mother's line figured out and later proved it when I found her burial record listing her parents but those letters were still interesting. I would have never figured out the father's name or family in England without the letters which mentioned names and locations and allowed me to quickly identify his entire family in the records. Unfortunately, nowhere in the letters do they discuss how he ended up in the USA or why he changed his name several times but I guess that was asking for one miracle too many.

Ambrose Honey was born in 1844 and is found in the 1851 and 1861 Lambourn, Berkshire, England Census records. The 1900 Kentucky, USA census record says he arrived in the U.S. in 1861 but the first record I can find is where "John Tucker" was enlisted in a New Hampshire Civil War unit in November 1863. The enlistment papers list him as a mariner born in England but provides no further details. I have always heard stories about how new recruits were hard to find at that point in the war and recruiters would get a guy drunk and he would wake up enlisted. It is pure speculation on my part but I always figured that may be how he ended up in the U.S. army and it is possible the recruiter made up the name for him. Than again, if he was stowaway or involved in a mutiny that would also explain the name change.

In any case "John Tucker" seems to have served honorably for several months and eventually ended up in the Union lines outside Richmond VA. He participated in a battle in Mid May 1864 in which he was badly wounded and shipped off to a hospital for 3 months. At this point I am going to step back and mention that this was a white unit but for some reason they had a black cook named Columbus Morgan. Why did Ambrose Honey AKA John Tucker later in life steal the name of a black cook? Again I can only speculate. Maybe the cook Columbus Morgan helped take care of him when he was wounded? Maybe as a man from England he felt out of place and identified with another man out of place? Maybe he just liked the name? Who knows? This black cook can be traced after the war and I can find no evidence he ever knew my ancestor was using his name.

In August 1864 my ancestor Ambrose Honey AKA John Tucker returned to his unit after recovering from his wound. On September 10, 1864 John Tucker and another man from England named John Pacey were on sentry duty and disappeared. The Union army declared them both to be deserters. There is good reason to think this might be the case. At about this time the South was getting desperate to find some way to cut into the growing Union number of men and Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued a proclamation aimed at foreigners in the Union Army, This proclamation declared that foreigners were fighting in a war in which they had no interest and offered that if they crossed over to the Confederate lines the Confederacy would help them return to their own country,

The next record of John Tucker and John Pacey is a month later in "Richmond Prison". Apparently there were several POW prison camps in Richmond and I have never been able to determine exactly where they were held. I am not sure if this was intended to be in conjunction with the Jefferson Davis proclamation but the Confederacy at that point was making an effort to recruit foreigners out of the POW camps to serve the confederacy and they reportedly told people that the Union, which had stopped prisoner exchanges, cared nothing for them and they could either starve in prison or serve the Confederacy and get a new uniform and good meals, The records show that both John Tucker and John Pacey were signed up in Richmond prison to serve in what eventually became the First Foreign Confederate Infantry. This unit had a questionable reputation at best and nobody trusted them. Apparently a lot of the men deserted at first opportunity. Some were accused of theft and other crimes. A few were shot for treasonous actions taken against the Confederacy, At the same time the Confederacy was losing the war and record keeping was low priority so very limited records survived from this unit. The first, last and only proof I have of John Tucker or John Pacey serving in this outfit is the enlistment document from October 1864. Neither man was listed on the record of men paroled when the war ended. John Pacey seems to disappear entirely from this point forward.

Family legend is that my ancestor returned from the war with an unknown man from Kentucky and when the other man died my ancestor married the widow but took her name, The wife's maiden name was Mahala Caudill of Johnson County, Kentucky and I have proven her parentage. Her oldest son Thomas Morgan is reported on his death record as born in Johnson County, Kentucky in 1864 and lists his father as Columbus Morgan. Within the family it is well know that he was a half brother and the timing of his birth seems to rule out my ancestor possibly being his father but I have no clue who his father may have been. I have found no marriage record for this Mahala Caudill. Johnson County records show a marriage with the right name but that has been proven to be her cousin.

The 1900 census says Columbus and Mahala was married in 1868 and the next child was Ironton Morgan born in 1869. Ironton's burial record and death certificate both say he was born in Ironton Ohio. I have been unable to prove this family ever being in or around Ironton Ohio using the name of Morgan. I have repeatedly searched the 1870 census using every name variation I can think of but I can not find this family. The rest of the kids are reported as born in Kentucky and the family first appears in Kenton County, Kentucky in 1872. They moved into Campbell County Kentucky in about 1883 just about the time they gave birth to my Grandfather.

In the late 1880s Ambrose Honey AKA John Tucker AKA Columbus Morgan started having real problems as a result of his war wound and the same son that was writing to relatives decided to fight to get his father a Civil War pension. The result is a pension file for "John Tucker AKA Columbus Morgan" which includes a series of fascinating letters where the son is telling his father's side of the story to the U.S. Government, According to the letters, John Tucker and John Pacey were relieved from sentry duty and turned over their guns to their replacements. As they started back to camp some confederates jumped out from behind a bush and captured them since they had no guns. The confederates marched them into their line where reportedly they were both interviewed by "General Lee". They were then thrown into prison and nearly starved to death and then take out and forced to march around by the confederates. They were marched around South Carolina until the word came down that Lincoln had bee assassinated at which time the army dissolved and he had no idea what else to do so he "wondered up to Kentucky". He argued he was a prisoner and had no choice. The U.S. said he was a deserter and denied his pension. Columbus Morgan died in poverty in 1912.

I would love to fill in the blanks between 1864 and 1872 but I am out of ideas regarding how to do that.

For the record I do believe he and Pacey deserted but I find it hard to blame him. He was a British Citizen fighting in another country's war and may have been signed up against his will. The Confederates lied to him and his friend and then offered them a choice of starvation or serve the Confederacy. As a British citizen I don't know why he should have felt any loyalty to either side. In any case, I am no better or worse person because of the actions of my various ancestors so I am not afraid to admit they did good and bad things in their lives. I always figured the real question should be what my ancestors would think of me.

Comment by Daryl Polley on October 16, 2009 at 7:44pm
I have an interesting ancestor. Born in England As Ambrose Honey but ended up in the United States sometime between 1861 and 1863. Legend is he was possibly a stowaway or involved in a possible ship mutiny. In the USA he ended up serving in first the Union and later the Confederate army as John Tucker and then disappeared from sight between1864 and 1872 when he reappeared using the name Columbus Morgan. I am guessing he used another name during the 8 missing years.

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