This item appeared in the July 30, 2004 eNews issue of The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), Vol 6, No. 31.
I have no connection with these families. Just passing the story along in case it may help others trace their family lines.
My Favorite Black Sheep Ancestor
By Patty Martinez of Long Beach, California
My maternal great grandmother, Sarah Henrietta Miller Watson Longbottom Schneider, is my favorite black sheep family member. She stretched the truth about her name and working-class family background to suit her purposes, and those lies have driven the amateur genealogists in my family nuts trying to unravel her story.
Henrietta immigrated to Canada from England when she was very young. She married my great grandfather, Sergeant-Major John Watson, a Scot who was twenty-seven years older and a widower. His adult children disapproved, but John and Henrietta made quite the handsome couple. Henrietta soon gave birth to six children, including my grandmother.
The family moved to Wisconsin and lived with Alfred Longbottom, who would later father nine children with Henrietta. John returned to Canada without the family in 1905 and died. Henrietta then gave up almost all of her Watson children for adoption, and claimed, according to the documents, that her children's uncle was a duke.
In 1906 Henrietta gave birth to her first child by Alfred Longbottom, but no marriage license has been located.
In an attempt to regain custody of her children, Henrietta began writing very touching letters to the adoption agency, in which she noted her supposed highborn birth, and indicated that her father had been a governor in England. One child refused to return, and another's adoptive family gave him back.
Alfred was a known alcoholic, and Henrietta left him when they lived in Flagstaff, Arizona. He was found dead on a snowy street in 1937. Henrietta then married Fred Schneider (no marriage documents) and died in 1949.
The many lies, names, kids, and adoptions made research difficult. Before Henrietta died, she alluded to a secret about her life, but there were so many untruths we're not sure which one she meant. The challenges of overcoming Henrietta's stories have proven difficult but rewarding.
If Alfred and Henrietta had the first of 9 children in 1906 and he died in 1937, it is likely that the youngest of their children was born between 1920 and 1930. Some may still be alive. There are very likely a number of grandchildren who have their own grandchildren by now.
Does anyone posting here recognize Alfred Longbottom living in Wisconsin around 1900, or in Flagstaff, AZ with Henrietta (nee Miller) Watson in the last 30 years of his life ?
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