My bigamist ancestor

By Daniel Cossins, 19 August 2009 - 9:34am

Watching the programmes in the current series of WDYTYA? conjures up many thoughts, the most prominent being how often the lives of the people investigated have parallels with those of our own families.

I suppose that’s because most people are ’ordinary’ people and even people in the high ranks of society are likely to have ancestors from much lower down the social scale  (dairymaids who married dukes, for instance).

The issue of bigamy was raised in the Kim Cattrall's episode. It’s a very familiar theme to me – not personally, I hasten to add, but from my own family history.

My grandfather was a bigamist, probably more than once, and he was also an embezzler (a dishonest lawyer, in fact) and on the run from the police in three countries. He had several aliases, and was last heard of in 1931 in Brisbane, Queensland … all very exotic, and I think it’s impossible to solve the mystery of what happened to him.

But at least we have the proof of his offence – my grandmother, the first wife, was contacted by Bernice, the second wife, the latter having accidentally found the first marriage certificate which he (clearly a far from competent criminal) had failed to destroy. She wrote letters from Australia about it, and I still have those treasured documents in my possession.

The exploration of our own past can teach us so much about history, attitudes, environments and circumstances – as well as about our own heredity and heritage.

For those of us who aren’t celebrities, the story of our ancestors is no less interesting – I get really cross when people say of their own forebears, ‘oh, they were only agricultural labourers’

What tales those ‘ag labs’ could tell, if we could discover their stories.

Alan Crosby is editor of The Local Historian

Are you trying to hunt down the double life of a bigamist ancestor? Share your experiences below, or click here to read more from Alan Crosby's blog

Extreme genealogy
previous blog Article
Irish Catholic parish registers for SoG
next blog Article
Extreme genealogy
previous blog Article
Irish Catholic parish registers for SoG
next blog Article
We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here