Adventures in Genealogy
International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists
Or "Rednecks, Bootleggers and Family Shame"
by Uncle Hiram
It was one of those perfect East Texas summer days. The temperature was only in the mid 90's, the blonde was wearing short shorts, we had the Statler Brothers Treasury on the CD player and I had the grill loaded down with hot doggies, hamburgers and Brauts. There were kids playing on the trampoline, throwing horseshoes and playing badminton. Cousin Tyrel and his seven kids had come over, Elmer Joe and Kimberly Sue Cox had brought their grandkids and her world-famous North Carolina Potato Salad. As we all sat down to eat, Tyrel asked Elmer Joe, "Do you know anything about this Black Sheep Society of Genealogists?"
Elmer Joe took a deep breath and said, "I know a little about it. What would you like to know?"
Tyrel got that eager look in his eyes and said, "Well, everything you can tell me about it."
Lets see…it was initially started on AOL in the Family Treehouse chat in late 1997. October, I think. They went official on 1 Jan 1998 when they created the Rootsweb mailing list. I believe there were 42 charter members active at that time.
They started it up because of the difficulty they were having in getting relatives to talk about the "unique characters" of the family. It seemed like every time the subject came up there was a concentrated effort to redirect the conversation. The relatives were down right evasive. You know, like you get when anyone mentions that incident up in Canada with the female truck driver and the load of Oreo cookies.
The goals of the IBSSG (International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists) is to provide a social atmosphere where open discussions of the less than sterling individuals in your family search can be discussed, to suggest places and methods for getting the "Facts" recorded, so that research can progress beyond the black sheep, to gather and compare genealogy and find mutually related individuals (you know cuzzies), and to work toward the goal of eliminating the family stigma through presentation of a factual account.
Their membership requirements are to (Quoted from Jeff Scism, IBSSG Flockmaster) declare association with a Blacksheep ancestor in a public forum, or if the individual is recent, through the private qualification process.
Blacksheep are those who have felony convictions, served prison time, were a part of the witchcraft persecutions on any side of that issue, bigamists, traitors, kidnappers, murderers, family deserters, military deserters, on the 10 most wanted list, member of a house of royalty, voted for McGovern in 1972 (OK, I made that last one up), and many more.
Social qualifications: Immediate family relationship to a living blacksheep, or being in the household of one, including family deserters, wife/child abusers, and living family who may be hurt by public knowledge.
The 1 degree rule they use in determining eligibility is as follows:
- Primary qualification - any direct ancestor who was a "Black Sheep"
- One degree rule: Any person qualifies to be a black sheep who:
- lived in the household of a direct ancestor in what would normally be a family relationship
- all Uncles, aunts, step parents, step siblings, half-siblings, adoptive or foster relationships, EXCLUDING any cousin relationships
- any direct ancestor or the spouse of the individual seeking qualification
- Having dated a Kennedy, (OK, I made that one up too)
Person seeking qualification must be a genealogist, or the spouse/child of one.
There are about 380-425 active members of the society, with a historical membership of 2000 qualified members. (I wanna point out, I am a member of the IBSSG)
All jokes aside, the Society does make it easier to research those Black Sheep in your tree and will help you get over the shock of finding out that Great Great Granpa Earl was a cattle rustler.
Subscribe to the Blacksheep-L@rootsweb.com mailing list:
Visit the website:
July 31st -- Gentrek chat in the Golden Gates Forum on AOL - Uncle Hiram gives a talk on what to include and what not to include in your family history.
Aug 7th -- Leonard, Texas - Uncle Hiram gives a talk on Internet Genealogy to the Tri-County Gen Society.
September -- About.com/Genealogy Chat - Uncle Hiram gives a talk on Mail List Manners
Remember to check out Dear Myrtle's Online Radio Talk Show at www.DearMyrtle.com.
- Adios and Keep Smiling!
Return to the Adventures in Genealogy home page.
About the Author
"I am not rich or famous so I don't have a pre-prepared Bio written by some high paid ghost rider. So I will just give Yall the relevant facts."
- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)
The County Courthouse