Recently, I went “shopping” in the genealogy section of the Decatur Library and came across the book, Finding you Famous {& Infamous} Ancestors by Rhonda R. McClure.  Being that to my knowledge I’m not related to any celebrities, the part that caused me to pick up the book was the mention of the Infamous.

When I began my journey to find information about my ancestors, the thought of them being trouble makers or bad boys (or girls) who may have had run ins with the law never crossed my mind.  Now after a few years, I’ve discovered some very interesting tidbits of information about my family that I’m not going to share here but I found that information using a database on the local African American newspaper.  Being a native of Atlanta, the Atlanta Daily World, one of the more recent African American newspapers for the city, is a valuable resource for my research journey.  I’m not sure of any other institutions who has it but the Auburn Avenue Research Library offers access to the collection of ProQuest Historical Black Newspapers from the AARL Online Databases page which includes Atlanta Daily World newspaper database covering 1932-2003.  I even found an article about me in there! (No, I wasn’t in trouble with the law!!)

But I digress.  You have to be at the library to use the database.  Just like any other database, simply enter the name of the person you’re researching in the search box in quotes and see what comes up.  I created a list of names of relatives who I knew lived in Atlanta at that time and was rewarded with quite a few articles, including a few that mentioned some infamous activities of my relatives.  So if you haven’t already, make sure to look at the archives of the local paper in the area where you are researching to see if your people show up.  Newspapers from many of the urban areas have been digitized and can be found through various means.  But don’t be dismayed if your people lived in a rural area or the suburbs.  You never know, the newspaper covering that area may have been digitized as well.  Check with your local repositories, Digital Public Library of America, newspapers included in the Digital Library of Georgia (because its all about GA!) or Google the name of the newspaper to see if it has been digitized.  Not sure of the name of a newspaper in your area?  Take a look at the U. S. Newspaper Directory at Chronicling America sponsored by the Library of Congress. There you can search for newspapers by state, county, and even ethnicity.  If you haven’t visited the site, click the link.  You won’t be disappointed.

Now, back to the bad boys and girls of genealogy.  When I saw the title of the book, it reminded me of a question one of our genealogy group members asked one night about prison records.  I did not have any experience with the records and have not had a reason in my research efforts to seek them out but when I saw the book, I knew I had to write a blog about it with the hopes that this may help him and others.  Another book that deals with the topic of infamous ancestors specific to Georgia is Robert S. Davis’s book, The Georgia Black Book: Morbid, Macabre & Sometimes Disgusting Records of Genealogical Value.  I haven’t really looked at this book but I will make a point of looking at it the next time I’m at the Decatur Library.

I figured why stop at the two books, so I did a Google search for prison records and received the links below.

And there are others but I think this is a good start.  Hopefully this was helpful and if you know of other resources, comment below.  Also, let me know what you think by dropping me a comment. I would love to hear from you.

Advertisements