Sometimes, genealogy research reveals jaw-dropping facts, buried family mysteries, or otherwise shocking secrets. Other times, you’ll find things that make you smile. This is about the latter. On a November night in 1896, somebody scaled a fence and stole my 3rd-great-grandfather’s carrier pigeons.

Carrier pigeon with a portable camera on a timer, designed by Dr. Julius Neubronner in 1907, to take arial photographs.

Richard Kroeber was a saloon owner in Meriden, Connecticut at the turn of the century. He sold hard alcohol and enjoyed caring for carrier pigeons in his backyard whenever he was home. Footprints at the crime scene revealed that local kids decided to mess with Richard. It wasn’t their first offense — a year before, Richard’s ten rabbits got stolen in the same way.

The Meriden Daily Journal reported the theft on November 6, 1896:

Carrier pigeons can soar at speeds over 55 miles an hour for hundreds of miles. Thousands of pigeons carried messages during World War One. I’m not sure if Richard trained them and used them to carry messages. Maybe that’s how he communicated with his distant friends!

Richard was married and a father of eight. Here he is, pictured with his young family, right around the time his local kid stole his pigeons. It looks like something off in the sky caught his eye — a pigeon?

Richard Kroeber — saloon owner and pigeon enthusiast — his wife, and six of his eight children pictured in about 1896, the year local kids stole his pigeons.

Tip: Keep an eye out for the little details that reveal your ancestor’s personality! You can find them in plenty of places. This one happened to be from Ancestry’s database, but you could find them in census and military records, town history books, local historical societies, and by interviewing family members. Always keep a look out! 

Jack Palmer has done genealogy research since he was ten years old and loves writing about it for family, friends, and anybody else who might enjoy research stories and advice. He graduated from Duke University in May 2023, majoring in History and Psychology, and is the author of Helen & Frank: A Biography, a biography about his great-grandparents.

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