By Leslie Albrecht Huber of FamilySearch
Relationships can be complicated. Everyone knows that. There are many songs, movies, and plays out there detailing the tangles and twists of relationships, each with their own dose of dramatic flair. And despite what anyone might say about life being simpler in the good old days, complicated relationships are nothing new—as demonstrated by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which was originally published in 1597 and is still the standard for complicated relationships.
Each of us has plenty of these messy relationships in our family tree. Sometimes the juicy details get lost in the abyss of history, but other times family stories that offer glimpses into our ancestors’ complicated relationships survive. Occasionally, evidence of these relationships has been preserved in the records. Of course, you’ve got to be careful when researching these stories. You can’t believe everything you hear or see in your family history—especially when it comes to what might be less-than-exemplary behavior from ancestors. But if you dig deep enough, you’re sure to find a few interesting stories.
Here are a couple relationships with some bumps and bruises from my family:
When I was sixteen, I interviewed my great-grandmother who was then in her 80s. She was a vivacious woman everyone called Dolly. When I asked her to tell me the story of marrying my great-grandfather, Walt Mulford, she answered with a mischievous smile, “Now that’s a secret I can’t tell you until you’re older.”
While I had only been mildly interested in the story before, now I was hooked, and eventually I did uncover her story. With her long, blonde hair and love of dancing, Dolly turned a few heads in her teenage years. She lived at home in Escalante, Utah, with her father and siblings. Dolly’s mother died when Dolly was 14, leaving her and her older sister with heavy family responsibilities and little supervision. When Walt Mulford, a handsome, older man came to town and showed interest in her, Dolly was instantly smitten. Dolly’s father, however, did not share her enthusiasm. Walt was more than a little rough around the edges, and the excitement of those rough edges is exactly what drew Dolly to him. She had known him only a few days when he asked her to elope with him and she agreed. Her father tried to chase after them, but he was too late. By the time he found them, they were married. The marriage certificate says Walt was 21 and Dolly was 19. Dolly’s age was a lie—she told the official she was 19 so he would agree to marry them. Dolly was actually 15!