Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Genealogical Logic Problem

From the Rochdale (U.K.) Observer of Aug. 30, 2005:

Parish Church goes off record after licence gap

HISTORICAL detectives in Rochdale are being forced to shell out for a full family tree because 50 years of marriage licences have been misplaced.

Records of marriages at the Parish Church between 1898 and the 1950s, are not held at the church, the Local Studies library nor Manchester Central Library.

The only place with a full record is Rochdale Register Office, which charges £7 for a copy.


Donald Foster, deputy registrar at Rochdale Register Office, said: “The church has two registers running at the same time, one for them to keep and one they send to us.


But the Rev David Foss, Vicar of Rochdale, said they only compile one list, which they send to Manchester Central Library when complete.


A Manchester City Council spokeswoman said: “We hold marriage records for the church of Rochdale St Chad’s from 1582 to 1898 [at the Manchester Central Library].”

“No other marriage records have been deposited by the church.”


A spokeswoman from Touchstones Local Studies Library said: “We’ve had Manchester Library phone us asking for the marriage records, but we get ours from the library themselves. We only have records up to 1898.”

[Read the whole story]
If only one of these people is lying, where are the missing marriage records? (30-minute time limit)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Genealogue Exclusive: Genealogy Turns Man's Life Upside Down

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Harold Jackson of Pomfret, Vermont, thought he knew who he was. He thought he was the son of Joseph and Miriam Jackson, born July 18, 1943, in White River Junction, Vermont.

Last week, Harold discovered that he was wrong.

It began when Harold became interested in his family's history. After doing some reading online, he decided to order his birth certificate from the Vermont Division of Public Records in Middlesex. Last Thursday, an envelope arrived in Jackson's mailbox. Inside was a document which would change his life.

"As it turns out," says Jackson, "My name is not Harold Allen Jackson. It's Harold Alan Jackson. My parents were Louis and Barbara Jackson, and I was born on May first, 1943, in Rutland. Of course, I was shocked."

Jackson at once confronted his widowed mother—now 89 and living in a Pomfret nursing home.

"She denied everything," Jackson says. "She kept saying 'It's a mistake, it's a mistake!' Even when I showed her the paper, she wouldn't admit it. Just kept begging for her heart pills."

Jackson reluctantly broke off ties with the woman he had thought was his mother, and is now seeking his true parents. One detail on the birth certificate is especially intriguing to him.

"It says both of my parents were African-American. Sixty-two years old, and I never knew I was black!

Grandfather Rescued from Tin Can

From the (Klamath Falls, Ore.) Herald and News:

Discarded soul at peace

Published Tuesday August 30, 2005


A small group of family members gathered Monday afternoon around a simple granite headstone at Linkville Cemetery.

The gleaming new headstone shone in sharp contrast to the tattered can that contained ashes which had spent close to a century gathering dust on a shelf at the state psychiatric hospital in Salem.

The ashes belonged to Oscar Caldwell, a one-time Klamath Falls resident who spent the last five years of his life at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.

When Caldwell died in 1919, his ashes joined what eventually became more than 3,400 other unclaimed tins at the hospital.


[Read the whole story]

Arresting Drama at Family Reunion

From The (Centralia, Wash.) Chronicle of Aug. 27, 2005:

Rags to riches

By Julia Nicholls

A half-wrapped mummy, a police officer and camcorder-bearing tourists may have confused Centralia drivers last Sunday.

Dwight Milne, Vancouver, Wash., rushed down Centralia’s Main Street with his head encircled in gauze and topped with a cap. Behind him trailed Dan Kolhoff, Los Angeles, wearing jeans, Birkenstocks and a Centralia Police Department jacket.
About 20 people followed in church-like attire.

The group ranged from a toddler in a stroller to a 92-year-old woman with paper-white hair.

The parade was not a cult nor a costume party, but a family reunion — with a historical twist.

The relatives had come from all over the West Coast to reenact one of the most pivotal moments in their family history: the capture of Roy Gardner, played by Milne, by Officer Louis Sonney, played by his great-grandson, Kolhoff.

[Read the whole story]
Hat tip: EOGN
technorati tags:

The ABCs of Exhumation

From Slate:

How Do You Move a Cemetery?
Also, what happens when a grave gets flooded?

By Daniel Engber
Posted Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005, at 2:51 PM PT

On Sunday, Israel Defense Forces began relocating remains from a cemetery in the Gaza Strip. By the end of the week, 48 graves will be moved to new sites across the border. How do you move a cemetery?

In Israel, with coffins; in America, with boxes.


[Read the whole story]
For those interested in this sort of thing (you know who you are), check out this 1998 Slate article on exhumation.

Montana Prospector Excavated

From The Billings (Mont.) Gazette:

Zortman's namesake exhumed after 72 years

Posted Aug 26, 2005

People and Places By MIKE STARK
Of The Billings Gazette

BIG TIMBER - Tall, square-jawed and confident, Pete Zortman spent half his life scouring Montana's badlands and beyond in search of treasures.


Although his death on July 17, 1933, was noted in the local newspaper, Zortman was buried in a pauper's hand-dug grave beneath 4 feet of thick chocolate-colored dirt.


But this week, Zortman came home.

Seventy-two years after being lowered into the ground, his yellowing bones were dug up, placed into a freshly built pine coffin and driven to Zortman in the bed of a pickup truck.

His remains will be reburied Saturday in the Zortman cemetery with all of the pomp and ceremony befitting a local dignitary.


The remains are being kept in the fire hall in his namesake town until activities this weekend.

"We've used it for everything from funerals to potlucks," Candy Kalal said. "We might as well use it for Pete."


[Read the whole story]

Interracial Interaction in Intercourse, PA?

From The (Hanover, Pa.) Evening Sun of Aug. 29, 2005:

Volunteers sought for study on Pennsylvania Dutch dialect

For The Evening Sun

Speech is telling, and Jennifer Bloomquist can tell if people are from southcentral Pennsylvania by the words, phrases and idioms they use.

She is collecting this linguistic harvest from the area under the auspices of the National Science Foundation.

Bloomquist, an assistant professor of linguistics and African-American studies, and her student assistants at Gettysburg College are beginning their final year of the two-year, $40,000 grant.

They're investigating if the language of rural and urban blacks in Adams, York, Lancaster and Dauphin counties has been added to or influenced by the dialect peculiar to this area, she said. That includes Pennsylvania Dutch's influence on black Americans and vice versa.


[Read the whole story]

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Village of the Damned Weird Names

From The (Bangkok, Thailand) Nation:

The Name Game

Published on August 27, 2005

Shunning the auspicious name he was born with, a devout Buddhist of the Asoke sect has changed his name to Tai-Nae Mungmajon (Dead-for-Sure In-Search-of-Poverty) as a repudiation of this worldly life. “I am not being sarcastic,” the 28-year-old former leftist student said.


“More than 90 per cent of residents in this village have changed their names,” Tai-Nae said.

If Tai-Nae is not weird enough, then there are other strange names too such as Kon-Hin (Piece-of-Stone), Kla-Tai (Dare-to-Die), Yen-Yen (Cool-Down) and Palang-Jit (Psychic-Power).


[Read the whole story]

Family Tree Maker: Totalitarian Edition

From the (Tokyo, Japan) Mainichi Daily News of Aug. 24, 2005:

Report: North Korea computerizes personal information to tighten control

SEOUL -- North Korea has started computerizing personal information about its citizens in an apparent move to tighten control of the population, a news report said Wednesday.


The software registers each citizen's gender, age, birth and death records, marital status, as well as changes of residence within the country, [South Korea's Yonhap news agency] said. The computer program, which works in the Windows 98 operating system, also keeps track of citizen's political activities and detailed criminal records, it said.


[Read the whole story]
This is just what I need to compile my family history. Where can I buy a copy?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

An Errant Stone Gathers No Slime

From The Barre-Montpelier (Vt.) Times Argus:

Submerged tombstone a recent mystery in Barre

August 27, 2005

By Joshua Larkin Times Argus Staff

BARRE – Eleven-year-old Tory Stoltz plays along the brook that runs behind her Eastern Avenue home regularly. That's why she knows the World War II veteran's gravestone that appeared in the brook this week hadn't been there long.

"I was just looking around in here and I just saw it," Stoltz said while standing next to the brook. "And I haven't seen it here before."

Moreover, Stoltz said there was another reason why she knew the stone was a new addition to the brook: "It wasn't too slimy, it was just wet."


[Read the whole story]

Warning to Genealogists: Don't Flush

From The (Provo, Utah) Daily Herald of Aug. 27, 2005:

Sewer backs up into 15 homes

Rashae Ophus Johnson DAILY HERALD

Friday morning wasn't the first time Paul Dalebout discovered a foot of raw sewage in the basement of his Timpview Drive home, but it was no less horrifying the second time. He screamed.

"It was just gushing up out of the toilet like a geyser," Dalebout said.


As firefighters walked door-to-door notifying residents and asking them to avoid flushing, the Dalebouts recounted the roughly $6,000 worth of losses from their first disaster. That time, at Provo city's expense, restoration contractors tore out the flooring, replaced drywall around the lower perimeter and cleaned any salvageable items, but genealogy records, family photos and other priceless belongings were destroyed.


[Read the whole story]

Top Ten Worst Family History Titles

10. The Dummy's Guide to Finding Mute Ancestors

9. Manson Family Memories

8. 101 Creative Crafts with Cremains

7. Puritans to America: An Erotic Journey

6. Guys Grandma Slept With (abridged edition)

5. Waiting to Exhume

4. Surprises in My Father's Genes

3. They All Were Horrs: A Genealogy of the Horr Family

2. They Came to Rape, But Stayed to Pillage

1. The Donner Party Digest

Friday, August 26, 2005

What About O. J.?

From Brainsnap:

No Relation to Homer, says Jessica Simpson

Submitted by Nikolai Stephens on 25 September, 2005

Los Angeles, CA - Famed starlet Jessica Simpson held a special press conference today in order to deny any rumors of her relation to cartoon celebrity Homer Simpson.


The blonde reality television star and amateur pop singer told press that she'd been dumbfounded to learn she was not related to Homer Simpson.

"Just like everyone else, I'd assumed that if we had the same name, we were obviously related!"


[Read the whole story]

Genealogy an Effective Anesthetic

From The Toledo (Ohio) Blade of Aug. 25, 2005:

Bowling Green: Cemetery tales told as living history


There are nearly 9,000 stories tucked away inside Bowling Green's Oak Grove Cemetery.

Ten of them will be told on Sunday during the second Oak Grove Living History Day sponsored by the Wood County Genealogical Society.


Whenever possible, the Oak Grove committee lined up descendants of the deceased to play their relative's part.

"They do it in the first person and we try to limit it to four minutes," [Dorsey] Sergent said. "We keep the genealogy out of it because if you get into too much of that, pretty soon people's eyes glaze over."


[Read the whole story]

Posted By Red-Hot, Churlish Ape-Men

If you ever get tired of slogging through the names in your family tree, you might take a break and visit Anagram Genius. Plug in a name, and a scrambled version is rendered. You might gain new insights into your family.

In my own case, I discovered that my father is either "Humbling or talented," while my mother is a "Humane, drab Arab." Concealed in my late grandmother's name is the message "I am the prime and mean ill will," but I don't remember her as such.

One wonders about the webmaster's political leanings. "George Bush" becomes "He bugs Gore," while "George Walker Bush" returns "Blush, war geek ogre." The current president's father was evidently a "Huge berserk rebel warthog." Ronald Reagan gloats from beyond the grave: "No, darlings, no ERA law." Richard Milhouse Nixon and William Jefferson Clinton should have seen their names as warnings: "His climax - ruined honor!" and "Jilts nice women. In for fall."

Use the search box at lower left to view archived user-submitted anagrams of famous names. Or download a free trial of the software and make your own. Only then will you learn whether Pat Robertson (born Marion Gordon Robertson) is a "rant-sore brooding moron."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cause of Death: Bureaucracy

From The (Surry Hills, NSW, Australia) Daily Telegraph:

Immigration blamed for elderly woman's death

August 24, 2005

IMMIGRATION officials are facing possible legal action after being accused of contributing to the death of an elderly Syrian woman seeking to extend a visitor visa due to ill health.

Melbourne GP Dr Chris Towie said 79-year-old Azize Agha died of a heart attack on August 10, two days after being forced by officials to travel 30 minutes into the city for a medical examination.

He said he had written to the department, warning it Ms Agha was unfit to travel.

"And so I wrote on her death certificate that the cause of her heart attack was being harassed by the department of immigration," he said.


[Read the whole story]

Grave Desecration Taken to New Low

From the Boston (Mass.) Globe:

Man, 19, accused of desecrating Civil War corpse

By Cristina Silva, Globe Correspondent | August 25, 2005

NEWBURYPORT -- A 19-year-old man from Salisbury was supposed to be cleaning up a cemetery last week as part of court-ordered community work after he broke into an apartment building last fall.

Instead, officials said, Neil J. Goodwin Jr. invaded the tomb of a Civil War veteran, pulled apart the 142-year-old skeleton, and then played with the bones, balancing the skull on his shoulder and posing for pictures.

"It's bizarre, absolutely bizarre," said Lieutenant Richard Siemasko of the Newburyport police. "I can't even imagine what was in his head. This is just a whole new level of weird for me."


[Read the whole story]

It's the Thought That Counts

From the (Elizabethtown, N. C.) Bladen Journal of Aug. 24, 2005:

Much of her world is more than two centuries old


White Oak resident Laurie Smith lives and has lived most of her life only a few hundred yards from where she was born into a family with deep roots in Bladen County.


The daughter of Roland and Winefred Beard Robeson, Smith grew up on a farm in a remote part of the county that was one of the last to get wired for electricity.


"I remember one thing that sticks out as particularly amusing from that time," she said, with a hint of a smile. "We had an uncle who lived in Fayetteville who gave us an electric lamp five years before we got electricity. It was a really nice lamp, and when we moved across the millpond where the house had electricity, I remember how pretty it was when we were able to use it.


[Read the whole story]

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Genus Envy

From the Tri-Valley (Ariz.) Dispatch of Aug. 23, 2005:

Historical reunions descend into madness

Mark Bazer, Tribune Media Services

August 23, 2005

From time to time, you'll hear about how the descendants of one of America's Founding Fathers are holding a reunion. I've always been puzzled as to what goes on at these get-togethers. I suppose today's Adamses, Madisons and Jeffersons just shoot the breeze, maybe compare passed-down anecdotes, and then wind things up by reflecting on how far the family name has fallen.

Still, I must cop to feeling a tad jealous of these folks, with their distinguished lineages and automatic entry into such exclusive gatherings. The most I can ever hope for is a meeting of all the descendants of people who complained in 1922 about the quality of the cantaloupe at Murray's Fruit Stand.


[Read the whole story]

A Stone-Cold Case in Toledo

From the Toledo (Ohio) Blade of Aug. 24, 2005:


Police seek clues to marker's home


It's a case of a missing person.

But all Toledo police have to work with in this caper is a gravestone carved with "Conard Yahn 1876-1898."

"If only it could talk. We could take it home," property room Sgt. Jerry Heer said yesterday as he turned the approximately 80-pound marker over to expose a few grass stains on the bottom.

The modest, unweathered stone was found July 22 in an alley behind 124 West Park St. in North Toledo. The marker - which police believe is made of granite and has a more modern polished face - is being kept in the large-item storage area in the old alarm building on Erie Street downtown.


An oddity the marker is. Most items found by police are more practical - safes, bicycles, lawn mowers, license plates, and basketball hoops. Some have serial numbers to help track the owners.

"It's not often property has a person's name on it," Sergeant Heer said.


[Read the whole story]

Update (Aug. 27, 2005): Mystery solved.

Update (Sept. 10, 2005): Marker laid to rest.

Modern-Day Braveheart: Death March Not So Bad


700 years on, a funeral is held for William Wallace

By Sally Pook
(Filed: 24/08/2005)

There was little of William Wallace to bury after he was strangled by hanging, released near death, drawn, quartered and beheaded.

His head was placed on a pike on London Bridge and his limbs displayed across Scotland to serve as a terrible warning.

Seven hundred years later, a symbolic funeral service was conducted for the Scottish rebel leader in London yesterday, close to his place of execution.


Tied to horses and stripped naked, he was dragged for six miles through the city in 1305 to a site next to St Bartholomew's church in Smithfield, where he is commemorated by a plaque dedicated to his "immortal memory".


Colin Hay, 32, a youth worker from Perth, who walked the death route from Westminster to Smithfield, said: "It was the easiest six miles of my life. I didn't feel it. We were walking for a purpose, in honour of Wallace."


[Read the whole story]

Could Snoop Dogg Be Next?

From The (London, U. K.) Times of Aug. 24, 2005:

Dog days over as villagers recover their lost respect

From Jane Macartney in Beijing

AFTER a thousand years, the ridicule and barking provoked by the mention of their surname finally proved too much for families from a village in central China. They won permission this month to change their name legally from Gou, a word that means "humble" but is pronounced the same as "dog".


Police chief Guo [Junchao] defended his decision against scholars who disapproved of the name change — an unusual move in a society where tradition is to revere ancestors and to ensure the transmission of the family name. He said: "I think these people don't understand the feelings of the villagers. They would know better if their name was Gou."

[Read the whole story]

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What's a War Without a Slogan?

From the Chicago (Ill.) Tribune:

Troops' Gravestones Have Pentagon Slogans

Associated Press Writer
Published August 23, 2005

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Unlike earlier wars, nearly all Arlington National Cemetery gravestones for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are inscribed with the slogan-like operation names the Pentagon selected to promote public support for the conflicts.

Families of fallen soldiers and Marines are being told they have the option to have the government-furnished headstones engraved with "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Iraqi Freedom" at no extra charge, whether they are buried in Arlington or elsewhere.


[Read the whole story]
Some suggestions for retroactive slogans:
  • American Revolution— Operation White-Guy Freedom
  • Mexican War— Operation California Dreamin'
  • Civil War— Operation Surplus Population Abatement
  • Vietnam War— Operation Enduring Quagmire
  • Invasion of Grenada— Operation Foregone Conclusion

Man Prefers Deportation to Marriage

From the Yorkshire (U. K.) Evening Post of Aug. 23, 2005:

Back at the court of our Aussie ancestor


WHEN mischievous John Naylor stood before magistrates in Ripon after pinching a bag of coal in 1836 he was warned another misdemeanour could result in his deportation down under.

But quick as a flash, Naylor informed the bench he wanted to go to Australia immediately – just to get away from his wife.

And his wish was granted when he was sentenced to a seven-year stint working as part of the Gold Rush. He went on to become a successful farmer and married again twice.


[Read the whole story]

Genealogue Exclusive: National Archives to Hold Yard Sale

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
In an effort to close a projected $331 billion dollar gap in the federal budget, the National Archives will hold a yard sale Saturday on the Mall in Washington, D. C.

"This is a day we hoped would never arrive," says Archives spokesman Jeff Huffle. "But when the call came, we agreed to do our part."

Workers will be busy this week placing yellow price tags on thousands of historic documents. But not all of the nation's treasures will be available at the sale.

"You won't see the Bill of Rights lying out on a picnic table," Huffle says. "We sold that last week to the Sultan of Brunei."

Genealogists will be eager to paw through the stacks of census records, passenger manifests, and pension applications. Those looking for a more personalized purchase can buy their own FBI file for $5. File folders of unindexed records from the Carter administration will be offered as "grab bags" for the kids.

The Archives has put in place a few rules for the sale: Cash and carry, no returns or refunds. Merchandise is offered "as is"—including any documents scorched when Washington was burned in the War of 1812. Papers with presidential signatures are subject to a ten-percent surcharge—waived if the president in question was unpopular or served less than six months.

And no early birds.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Descendants Make a Mockery of War Hero's Funeral

From The (Columbia, S. C.) State of Aug. 22, 2005:

Mock funeral honors de Kalb

Revolutionary War re-enactors, German soldier’s descendants attend

From Staff Reports


In August 1780, Baron Johann de Kalb was laid to rest among others felled in the Battle of Camden.

As part of the celebration of the 225th anniversary of the battle, the German who led colonial troops against the British was buried again in a mock funeral Sunday by Revolutionary War re-enactors. Observing were his descendants from Leipzig, Germany, and Rock Hill.


[Read the whole story]

Ancestors by Gooooogle

There is no better way to peer into the hidden corners of the web than to type a query into Google. But Google's utility to genealogists depends on the rarity of the terms searched for.

Take my hometown of Greenwood, Maine. There are 86 populated places named Greenwood in the United States (not including variants and trailer parks), and three Greenwood Counties. Pennsylvania alone has three Greenwood Townships. There are Greenwoods in British Columbia, Ontario, and Queensland, Australia. And it is a fairly common American surname (1276th in 1990). Searching for "Greenwood" is pointless: I have to search for "Greenwood ME" or "Greenwood Maine" to produce useful results. (Try Easy Google Genealogy Searcher for some other good tips.)

On the other hand, take the nearby town of Dixfield, Maine. Dixfield's claim to fame has resulted in the adoption of a slogan: "The Only One." It is the only Dixfield in the world, and far easier to research than Greenwood. Searching for "Dixfield" in Google (or searching for "dleifxiD" in elgooG) yields 81,200 results—almost all of which would be found relevant to the town. Compare this to search results for the smallish towns neighboring Dixfield, which include Carthage (1,670,000 results), Peru (47,600,000), and Mexico (168,000,000).

The same problem applies to surnames. My own name, Dunham, provides good search results, but try searching for surnames like "House," "Thing," "Work," "Small," or (God forbid) "Bush." Including both first and last name in the query will sometimes work, but not if the person searched for is Miles Long—a settler of Buckfield, Maine, who does not merit 768,000 Google results.

Often, though, a given name can save an individual from obscurity. That is the case for an early resident of Paris, Maine, who bore the most common surname in America: Smith. His Christian name? Merodachbaladan.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

If You've Got the Time, We've Got the Ahnentafel

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

In champagne of families, some are on beer budget

Posted: Aug. 20, 2005

Ashley Clausen, 15, stood on the front steps of the mansion that her great-great-great grandfather Frederick J. Miller built and told me she's proud of her heritage but hesitates to tell people she is a sixth-generation descendant of the beer baron.

"They say, 'Are you like rich?' And I'm like no," said Ashley, of the Cleveland area.

And, sorry, but she can't get you any free beer, either.

She is one of more than 100 descendants of Miller who assembled in Milwaukee last week for a family reunion timed to coincide with the Miller Brewing Co.'s 150th anniversary celebration.


[Read the whole story]

Top Ten Genealogist Pick-up Lines

10. "Come to this gravesite often?"

9. "I haven't felt this way since the 1930 census was released."

8. "Should I pencil you into the family tree, or can I use ink?"

7. "What do you say we merge our collateral lines?"

6. "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen . . . except for my great-grandmother. Want to see a picture?"

5. "Ever been to the archives after closing? I know a guy who can get us in."

4. "Enough about me. What about your immigrant ancestors?"

3. "Is there a Mr. Smith . . . and if so, is he related to the Smiths of Paducah?"

2. "Why don't you come upstairs and check out my rubbings."

1. "I know this is our family reunion, but I just can't help myself."

Family Honors Relative Out of Spite

From The (Big Stone Gap, Va.) Post:

Two-headstone grave idea causes concern

By JEFF LESTER, Senior Writer
August 17, 2005

BIG STONE GAP - Owners of burial lots in the Glencoe cemetery can't put headstones at the head and the foot of a grave.

Or can they?


Freda Bishop, chairman of the town's Citizens' Cemeteries Committee, said one group of people proposes to mark a particular grave with headstones at both ends. It's part of a family feud, she said.

Councilman and committee secretary Edward Hutchinson and others said apparently, the aim is to place a headstone at the foot of the grave specifically to block the view of the headstone for the grave below it, as an act of spite within the feud.


[Read the whole story]

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Developers Dying to Get Hands on Land

From The (Phoenix) Arizona Republic:

History buried at tiny cemetery

Final resting place for ranch workers, Valley luminaries

Linda Helser
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 20, 2005 12:00 AM

Land developers must salivate every time they pass this anonymous little cemetery sitting in the midst of some of the toniest multimillion-dollar real estate in Paradise Valley.

But they aren't likely to get their hands on the two acres that make up Camelback Cemetery, where tombstones carry names such as Herberger, Kiser and Powell.

"According to comparable properties in the immediate area, it has a value of approximately $1 million an acre," said Kathy Cerreta, 54, an agent for Re/Max Fine Properties in Scottsdale.


[Read the whole story]

Grand Wizard Descendant Kurses Klan Konnection

From The (Memphis, Tenn.) Commercial Appeal:

Forrest descendant has a different take

By Wendi C. Thomas

August 14, 2005

In the clamorous debate over what to do with the three city parks that honor the Confederacy, there's a man whose story hasn't been told.

His name is Douglas Turner Ward, and he is a descendant of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

He's also a black man, a founder of the Negro Ensemble Company in New York, an established playwright who was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.

Ward, 75, is not one to suffer fools gladly, especially ones who turn a blind eye to Forrest's sins as a slave trader and a grand wizard of the country's first terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan.


[Read the whole story]
Ward suggests that they "Put [Forrest's] grave where it belongs, back in the woods . . . or wherever he came from." They'd have to dig an awfully deep hole to put him where he truly belongs.

For Those With a Penchant for Pensions

The July/August issue of Everton's Genealogical Helper includes an interesting article on the often neglected Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900.

Those looking for Civil War pension records are usually directed to the Civil War Pension Index. A search of this index is sometimes frustrated, though, by illegibility of the microfilmed cards.

A second index of the pension files may be helpful in some cases. The Organization Index is arranged by state, arm of the service (infantry, cavalry, artillery), and regiment, and then alphabetically by surname. Each card will show the veteran's name, rank, unit, the terms of his service, information on dependents, application and certificate numbers, and the state from which the application was filed. Some cards will include the veteran's death date.

The Organization Index includes veterans not only of the Civil War, but of the Indian wars, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, and World War I.

To find which states and units are covered by each microfilm reel, see the Family History Library catalog (click on "View Film Notes"). Be sure to check the last reels listed for "miscellaneous" units.

Once you've identified your veteran, you can order his pension file (for service prior to 1913) online through the National Archives.

More Reading:

An Oddity In Deed

Deed extracts from Donald A. Wilson's Deed Descriptions I Have Known . . . But Could Have Done Without (Rancho Cordovo, Calif.: Landmark Enterprises, 1982):

"Two hundred twenty three undivided two hundred forty third parts of a certain piece of land situate in said Exeter. . . . " [p. 27]

". . . a certain Parcel of Land & Meadow . . . Containing Sixty Three Acres & half it being that Forty Acres of Land that I Purchased of the Props. of Kingston. . . ." [p. 53]

". . . running Northwesterly by said wall eight rods & thirteen links to the West cart rut, from thence running Northerly by said Cart rut. . . ." [p. 85]

". . . [running] sixty eight rods and eighteen links to a hole in the ground. . . ." [p. 87]

". . . thence North 57 degrees West twenty-seven (27) rods twenty-two (22) links to a hemlock stump (now long gone) . . ." [p. 101]

". . . [running] one hundred eighty-six and twenty-six one-hundreths (186.26) feet, more or less (within 5 feet) to the point of beginning." [p. 181]

"Reserving as food for the Beavers living in said brook the willows and poplar trees on the bank of the same." [p. 195]

"Meaning to convey all the land that is where I the said Pinkham now lives [sic]. Also all the manure that is on said premises." [p. 197]

Brady Bunch Flashback

From the Honolulu (Hawaii) Star-Bulletin of Aug. 19, 2005:

Kawananakoa sues, seeking return of Hawaiian artifacts

The treasures were believed to have been secretly buried in a Big Island cave

Sally Apgar

Abigail Kawananakoa, a wealthy heiress and descendent of royal Hawaiian blood, filed a federal lawsuit this morning against the Bishop Museum and a controversial native Hawaiian group, demanding the return of Hawaiian treasures believed to have been secretly buried in a Big Island cave.


Hui Malama reburied the items in Kawaihae cave to honor ancestors and refused repeated requests by the museum to return them. The group allegedly secured the cave from treasure hunters by sealing it with stone, cement and metal rebar.


[Read the whole story]
Everything I ever needed to know about the preservation of native Hawaiian artifacts I learned from watching the Brady Bunch.

Friday, August 19, 2005

A Crypto-Jew, Born and Bread

From the El Paso (Tex.) Times of Aug. 19, 2005:

Families unearth truth about Jewish roots

Leonard Martinez
El Paso Times

After learning her family's history of being crypto-Jews, Guadalupe Ramos made the decision to formally convert to Judaism in 2001.


Crypto-Jews, originally called Marranos, are the descendants of the hundreds of thousands of Sephardic Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity and ultimately expelled from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition 500 years ago. Many were tortured or killed.


Ramos realized the connection she had to Judaism because she would make matzo -- Jewish unleavened bread -- just as her great-grandmother had done.

"I didn't meet my great-grandmother, and I didn't know why but I was making this bread," Ramos said. "Now I realize it is because we were crypto-Jews."


[Read the whole story]

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Simpsons' Secret Scottish Subtext

From The Scotsman of Aug. 16, 2005:

Scots abroad create a heritage of profits


BRAVEHEART: myth or historical realism? That's the question faced by Robert Sproul-Cran, co-founder and chief executive of Tartan TV, an Aberdeen-based company which makes shows to satisfy the insatiable North American appetite for all things Scottish - especially the desire to trace their roots back to the "old country".


So, the Aberdeen firm enlisted the unlikely aid of hugely popular cartoon series The Simpsons.


"They've got this character Groundskeeper Willie, who is bearded and all "och-aye the noo", and he's supposed to be the archetypical Scot. The joke is really that, with names such as Simpson and Burns (the arch-industrialist character), about half the other characters are of Scottish background."


[Read the whole story]
What about Apu Nahasapeemapetilon? Doesn't sound Scottish to me.

The British Are a Testy Bunch

From The Boston (Mass.) Globe:

Effort ties citizenship to 'Britishness'

Standards raised for immigrants

By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff | August 18, 2005

LONDON -- Ali Kasim, a PhD student from Iraq, hardly remembers the letter that came in the mail three years ago, informing him that he had become a British citizen.

But his wife will remember the moment she became British: At 3:25 p.m. on Friday, she stood at the town hall, swore allegiance in halting English to the Queen and all her heirs, and received a commemorative medal.


In November, the government will require all new citizens to pass a "Britishness test" demonstrating a minimum standard of English and knowledge of government practices, a move that officials say is also unprecedented in British history.


[Read the whole story]
Other requirements of the Britishness test:
1. Expressing nostalgia for British colonial rule of one's native country.
2. Deriding the French while secretly coveting their food.
3. Viewing a photograph of Camilla Parker Bowles without wincing.
4. Singing "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" in full wardrobe.

Next Time, Use the Gate

From The Saginaw (Mich.) News:

Woman found impaled on spike

Thursday, August 18, 2005


A woman who spent hours in the company of the dead early today nearly joined them when a failed fence-hop at a Saginaw Township graveyard left her impaled on an iron spike, police said.

The 38-year-old woman was entering surgery at Covenant Medical Center about 7:15 a.m. Her body temperature had plummeted to 84 degrees and the 3-inch spike was inches from a main artery in her groin, police said.


[Read the whole story]
Update (Aug. 19, 2005): The woman is recovering from surgery, while police and undertakers speculate as to her motives.

Porcupines Seek to Undermine Culture

From BBC News- World Edition of Aug. 18, 2005:

Porcupines raise thorny questions in Kenya

Porcupines are wreaking havoc with Kenyan farmers' crops and upsetting the ancestors, but not everyone is complaining.

Residents of Kenya's central Kiambu district are calling on the government and the Kenya Wildlife Service to do more to contain the invasion by the porcupines, or "nungunungu" as they are called in Swahili.


They have started burrowing in local graveyards and as they dig holes to live in, they are also exhuming human remains, causing great distress.

"The porcupines are against our culture - once someone dies we just want them to rest peacefully," one man said.


[Read the whole story]

No Merovingians Allowed

From Forward (of New York, N. Y.):

A Reunion of Biblical Proportions

August 19, 2005

Think you are a direct descendant of King David? Then make sure you have an invitation to his family reunion.

The Eshet Chayil Foundation is planning the first Eternal House of David Family Reunion, to be held in 2007. It's a three-day event in Jerusalem for people who believe they are descendants of King David.


One group that is not invited, despite tradition or even genetic lineage, is the gentiles.


Though one wonders how the group accounts for the fact that David's first ancestor, Solomon, allegedly had 700 wives and 300 concubines — many of whom decidedly were not Jewish — [project coordinator Joseph] Meyersdorf's position is firm.


[Read the whole story]

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Top Ten Mistakes Made by Newbie Genealogists

10. Assuming without documentary proof that they themselves were born.

9. Rounding off birth dates to the nearest decade.

8. Rearranging headstones in the family plot alphabetically.

7. Citing "Uncle Arnie Talking in His Sleep" as a source.

6. Erasing and rewriting medieval parish registers so they're easier to read.

5. Posting queries to the message boards with nude self-portraits attached.

4. Checking Ellis Island records for the Titanic's arrival.

3. Inviting relatives of Grandpa's murder victim to the reunion.

2. Keeping track of ancestors by only their initials.

1. Asking Scientologists where they keep their microfilm.

Genealogued Blogs 4

Just a way to kill time between manic episodes.
The author of This, that, and the other finds proof of descent from Adam while doing research On the Origins of my Family.

St*r**v*nt Genetic Project Blog reports on DNA test results: 3 Major Spellings Not Related!

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter describes the history-altering events of Eighteen Hundred and Froze To Death.

Treesearches offers a brutally honest portrait of Grandpa Joseph Emery Schwardtzfigure 1924-1991. explains what to do when an ancestor's spouse is Lost in the Cemetery.

Sangroncito's World was shaken by a visit to, and entry into a world he describes as "Mormon Gothic."

Janet's Genealogy Blog describes a long-awaited genealogy trip in My Portland, OR Genealogy Trip Journal, Part 1, while Carol's Blog reports that Salt Lake City Is Amazing!.

Graveyard Visit Leaves Woman With Sinking Feeling

From Edinburgh (Scotland) Evening News of Aug. 17, 2005:

Cemetery's unsafe headstones are toppled


COUNCIL workers have toppled gravestones at a city cemetery after leaving problems with sinking graves neglected for several months.


Denise Dickson was distraught when she discovered that the grave of her parents, Margaret and Matthew Fry, had been knocked down.


Ms Dickson had become so concerned about the grave caving in that she had taken to refilling it herself, as well as complaining to the council.

She said the problem grew so bad that "I felt like I was above a big hole and I was going to disappear any minute and land with my mum and dad."


[Read the whole story]
Only a pessimist would say these graves are sinking; an optimist would say the dead are rising.

I'm Sure Jimmy Dislikes U2

From The Hill of Aug. 17, 2005:

Jesse Helms: Bono's my buddy

By Albert Eisele and Jeff Dufour

Former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) considers Irish rock star Bono “an enormously impressive gentleman” and a friend of his and his wife’s.

So says the conservative icon in his memoirs, Here’s Where I Stand, due out late this month.


Helms also puts to rest the rumor that he and President Carter were distantly related. “[A] careful tracing of the family tree,” he writes, revealed only a possibility that each of their ancestors were neighbors in rural North Carolina.

“It hasn’t always been clear which of us would have been less enthusiastic to see the other guy show up at a family reunion,” writes Helms, who retired after 30 years in the Senate and now lives with his wife, Dot, in Raleigh.


[Read the whole story]
This explains why President Carter's ancestors left North Carolina.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Genealogue Exclusive: Man Finds Millionth Relative

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Internet genealogist Andy Lassiter reached a milestone Friday. For the millionth time, he entered a name into his genealogy software. And he did it all without leaving his Masonville, Iowa, home.

"I didn't think I'd make it," said Lassiter. "I got bogged down around 900,000—but then I found this website that listed Chinese immigrants to San Francisco in the 1800s. That gave me a boost, all right. I kept typing until my fingers cramped up."

Is Lassiter Chinese? No, but he feels he is creating a family tree for the whole world. After all, he says, everyone is related.

"We're all fruit of the same loom. That's why I added all the names in the Des Moines phone book to my genealogy."

The Internet has allowed Lassiter to accomplish this monumental task in record time—just three months.

"There are still some folks who do it the old way," he explained. "They go to cemeteries and courthouses and such, and then brag about it online. I bet those people don't have half the names I've got. Not even half."

What advice does this genealogy master have for those just starting their research?

"Start with what you know. If you know how to download someone else's GEDCOM, do that. And if your genealogy program asks for a source, just leave it blank. It'll just slow you down.

J. K. Rowling: Pureblood, Half-Blood, or Mudblood?

From The (Glasgow, Scotland) Sunday Mail of Aug. 14, 2005:


Writer in hunt for lost relatives

By Donna White

HARRY POTTER author JK Rowling has secretly traced her Scottish roots.

Adopted Scot Joanne, 40, believes she is the great-granddaughter of a pioneering doctor from Arran.

Dugald Campbell, who died aged 82 in 1940, moved from his Scots home to Hawaii, where he helped to create a national health service in the 1890s.


[Read the whole story]

The Theory of Devolution

From The (London, U.K.) Sunday Times of Aug. 14, 2005:

Lost fortunes in the family tree


ONE of the biggest studies of inherited wealth in Britain, to be published this week, reveals that one in five of the population can trace their ancestry back to a family much grander and richer than themselves.

While half of those who used a new computer system to research their family tree back as far as 500 years found that they were upwardly mobile, at least 20% discovered that their ancestors had made (and then lost) a great fortune.


[Read the whole story]

Revered Ancestor Commemorated

From The Lowell (Mass.) Sun of Aug. 13, 2005:

The Bobbles are coming! The Bobbles are coming!

The Lowell Sun

LOWELL -- The Lowell Spinners have received national attention for their Bobble Head promotions, and next up to the plate is Paul Revere. The first 1,500 fans through the gate today will receive a Paul Revere Bobble Head sponsored by Sal's Pizza and Trinity EMS. Gates open at 3:30 p.m.

As part of the festivities for the night, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-generation descendants of Paul Revere will be on hand to throw out the first pitch.


[Read the whole story]
That sound you hear is Paul Revere spinning in his grave.

CSI: Ohio

From the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal of Aug. 13, 2005:

Gravestone concerns laid to rest

No body at Green site where marker found

By Rick Armon

Beacon Journal staff writer

GREEN - Even though Jan Zehnal died nearly 90 years ago and apparently never lived in the city, he caused quite a stir this month in the upscale Fox Ridge Estates.


A worker clearing land for a new home stumbled upon a small, worn sandstone grave marker bearing Mr. Zehnal's name.


The only thing they did unearth from a huge, four-foot deep, L-shaped hole was a white leather bootie. The shoe was placed in a brown paper bag and will be shipped to the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation for analysis -- just in case, said Sheriff's Capt. Larry Momchilov.


[Read the whole story]

Friday, August 12, 2005

Yet More Censuswhacking

Time again for censuswhacking, the best thing to come out of England since Monty Python disbanded.

One hopes that Cupid Handsome later brought together Constant Beauty and Ima Lovely, and that the bride chose to hyphenate.

The dangers of adopting a husband's surname were evidently not foreseen by Zany Dummy or Tiny Head.

Curiously, there was just one Manly Beard to be seen in America, though a Girly Beard did turn up in Clinton, Indiana. Manly Work could only be found in Massachusetts.

Speaking of work, I found a Silly Baker, a Silly Cooper, a Silly Miller, a Silly Mason, and one whole Silly Crew living in Mississippi.

In the course of my travels, I encountered Strange Winters in Indiana and Bright Springs in South Carolina; Minor Summers in Tennessee and Major Falls in Arkansas.

I found no evidence of May-December romances, but did find a May January, a June February, and an August October.

There was a Turkey Hurt in Pleasant Grove, Virginia. No word on the culprit, but I suspect the Chicken Barber then living in Midway, Alabama.

Top Ten Signs You're Descended from Royalty

10. You'll only eat at Burger King or Dairy Queen.

9. You turn on The History Channel to identify people in your family album.

8. You're unusually protective of your "crown jewels."

7. You jumped onto the field and knighted Curt Schilling after last year's World Series.

6. All of your family reunions are held at Windsor Castle.

5. When you were a kid, your father was always off somewhere posing for postage stamps.

4. Your great-great-great-great-great-grandfather's nickname was "Alfred the Insipid."

3. You ordered your two ex-wives beheaded.

2. You celebrate the Fourth of July by burning Ben Franklin in effigy.

1. Your parents are first-cousins.

Honor Your Three-Fingered Ancestors

From the (Washington, Pa.) Observer-Reporter of Aug. 12, 2005:

Civil War medicine described as barbaric

WAYNESBURG – A history professor gave a unique perspective Tuesday on why so many Union and Confederate soldiers, over a half million of them, died during the American Civil War.


Physical and medical standards to enter the army on either side of the Civil War were quite low. [Rea] Redd said the physical exam consisted of the following:

Smile! If you had two teeth on top and two teeth on bottom on same side, in order to open the powder pack, you were in.

If you had three fingers on one hand, to shoot the gun, you were in.

If you could stand on one foot you probably had five toes – you were in.


[Read the whole story]

The Greatest Discovery I Never Made

Sometimes the only thing standing between you and a great discovery are the facts.

A year or so ago, I was transcribing passenger lists for Maine ports when I stumbled upon a manifest for the sloop Favorite out of Portland which showed the arrival of two men from Saint John, New Brunswick, October third, 1820. It was their shared occupation—"Astronomer"— that first caught my attention. The first passenger was named John Lewis Tiarks, 31, an Englishman. His companion was "Thomas Carlile," aged 25 years, a native of Scotland.

Somewhere in the damp recesses of my mind there rang a bell. Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish historian and essayist who lived in the nineteenth century. Could this be the same man?

A quick check of a Carlyle biography showed that Thomas Carlyle was born in 1795: a perfect fit with the age of the Favorite passenger. Thomas CarlyleIt also showed that he had never come to America, though he had considered moving here. He had asked a friend in 1819, half-jokingly, "What say you to that asylum or rather hiding-place for poverty and discontent, America?"1 Further, in 1820 Carlyle was undergoing a spiritual crisis, heightened by the lack of direction in his career and the abrupt end of a relationship with a woman to whom he had become attached. Just the sort of situation that might lead a man to jump on a ship heading west.

And what of astronomy? As it turns out, John Lewis Tiarks was an astronomer and surveyor charged by the British government with establishing the U.S.-Canada border. According to his biographer, Carlyle had studied astronomy, and in the summer of 1817 had come upon "the site of a trigonometrical survey" while hiking with a friend.2 The pair was given a guided tour of the site, and were allowed to peer through the surveyors' theodolite.

The coincidences were mounting. What were the chances that there were two Thomas Carlyles from Scotland, both born circa 1795, both interested in astronomy and surveying? The discovery that Carlyle had slipped off to America for a month or two would require a complete reappraisal of his biography and corpus. An apparent gap in Carlyle's correspondence for October of 1820 raised my hopes . . .

. . . which then were quickly dashed.

The hypothesis that Carlyle came to America turned upon one major point: the trip had to have been a quick one. The biography I consulted cited correspondence from Carlyle dated August and September 1820, and he was certainly living in Edinburgh in November.

An item in the Alexandria (Va.) Gazette of July 11, 1820, shattered my hopes for immortality:

From the Montreal Courant, June 24.
We have been informed by a person of veracity, and possessing the means of accurate information, that the operations on line 45 are to be suspended during this summer, in order that a Mr. Elicott, an American astronomer, may have time to examine the calculations made last summer by our astronomer, Doctor Tiarks. The latter gentleman is to employ this interval in ascertaining the position of some important places in New-Brunswick, for which province he has ere this taken his departure by the route of Boston. Two assistants, Messrs. Hunter and Carlisle, the former of the U.S. and the latter of the British commission, arrived in this city on Monday evening, and yesterday evening embarked in one of the steam boats for Quebec, on their route to New Brunswick.

Subsequent newspaper accounts show that Tiarks and his assistant were bound for New York early in October, where a final report on the boundary was to be prepared. It is extremely unlikely that the famous Thomas Carlyle commuted between Scotland and North America throughout the summer and fall of 1820.

This is the strangest set of coincidences I have ever encountered as a genealogist. Though unusual, it is a case from which we all can draw an important lesson: Don't jump to conclusions.

Oh, yes, and don't notify the Pulitzer committee until you've checked all your facts.

1Fred Kaplan, Thomas Carlyle: A Biography (Ithica, N. Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1983), p. 55.
2Ibid., p. 49.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Do I Smell Pork?

From the Scott County Virginia Star of Aug. 10, 2005:

$2.56 Million Going to D-B Project

Lisa Watson McCarty

The long-anticipated Daniel Boone Visitors' and Exposition Center earned a big boost Tuesday as Ninth District Congressman Rick Boucher announced receipt of some federal dollars to jumpstart the project.


The federal appropriation comes on the heels of today's signing of the Highway Bill by President George Bush. Boucher assured his audience yesterday that Bush's ceremonial signing of the bill in Chicago heralded good news for Scott County.


When complete, the visitors' center will house an exhibit area that meets Smithsonian Institute standards for museum collections. It will also feature Daniel Boone and Revolutionary War era archives, a library for genealogical research and a theater.


[Read the whole story]
Be sure to avoid the potholes as you're driving to the Expo Center.

Pallbearers' Personal Property Purloined?

From Bedford (England) Today of Aug. 10, 2005:

Car thieves target town's cemeteries

Police warning to those tending graves

Ghoulish thieves behind a spate of car break-ins at Bedford cemeteries were slammed as "the lowest of the low" this week.

Visitors to the Foster Hill Road and Norse Road graveyards have fallen victim to a spree of vehicle crime over the last fortnight, with handbags and other valuables stolen.


[Borough councillor Bob Elford] said: "It's disgusting. How low will they stoop? We don't know if it's one person or more involved, but they must be an absolute shower.

"To steal from people who are tending graves shows they are the lowest of the low."


[Read the whole story]
I appreciate the sentiment, but think the London bombers deserve more the label "lowest of the low."

News Flash: Genealogist Profits from Life's Work

From the (Northam, Australia) Avon Valley Advertiser:

State buys Jan's lifetime genealogy work

Thursday, 11 August 2005

NORTHAM'S Jan Goodacre has seen the vindication of 35 years' work with the sale of her database on Western Australia's Aboriginal genealogy to the State Government.

Price has not been disclosed but Jan admits it is a "considerable sum".

A presentation will be made to Jan this Friday by the Minister for Community development Sheila McHale, but the cheque has already been banked with some of the proceeds buying a home in suburban Perth.


[Read the whole story]

Who's Your Daddy?

From WebMD:

Paternity Study Shakes Up the Family Tree

British Researchers Look at How Many Dads Are Unknowingly Raising Another Man's Child

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Medical News
Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD
on Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Aug. 10, 2005 -- New British research is rattling the roots of the family tree, citing paternity "discrepancy" in perhaps 4% of fathers studied.

"Paternal discrepancy" is a delicate term for a loaded subject. It refers to a man who wrongly thinks he's a child's biological father.


[Read the whole story]

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

This Space for Rent

JMK Genealogy Gift StoreJimmy Kavanagh wrote asking if I would plug the JMK Genealogy Gift Store—which I believe I've just done.

I can't personally vouch for the merchandise, but the designs (like the one shown at right) appear to be well executed. And it's always good to help a fellow genealogist support his addiction.

Future requests for plugs will be considered in the order I receive them, and approval may depend on the incentives offered. I could really use a wide-screen TV and Red Sox tickets (box seats only, please).

Put That in Your Pipe and Smoke It

From Style Weekly in Richmond, Virginia:

Graveyard Detectives

When developers stumble onto unmarked cemeteries, historians help put a host of questions to rest.

by Katie T. Gantt
August 10, 2005

A building surge in Chesterfield County is turning up an increasing problem for landowners and developers: the discovery of unmarked family and church graveyards.


In Chesterfield, the county routes most of its calls from developers seeking assistance with unmarked graveyards to Rachel Lipowicz. She’s the cemetery committee chairwoman of the Chesterfield Historical Society, and she and her five-person team stand ready to respond.


. . . some graves are tampered with before Lipowicz or [team member Pattie] Grady ever gets to them. “We had one within the past five years where some young people dug up some of the bones and ground them and smoked them in a pipe,” Grady says. (They were eventually arrested and prosecuted.)


[Read the whole story]

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Genealogue Appeal: Save Our Atlases

From The Boston (Mass.) Globe:

Dealer faces probe in map thefts

'Perfect gentleman' is charged in Conn.

By Jenna Russell, Globe Staff | August 9, 2005

Seven rare and valuable maps are missing from five books at the Boston Public Library, and curators are searching for more holes in the collection, as a respected rare maps dealer who used the missing materials appears in court today on theft charges, the library's president said yesterday.

Curators at the Boston library began reviewing their collection earlier this summer, after E. Forbes Smiley III, a part-time resident of Martha's Vineyard, was arrested at Yale University in New Haven. He was scheduled to appear in a New Haven court today on charges of stealing maps worth more than $300,000 from a university library.


[Read the whole story]
Slicing maps out of old atlases has become rampant, and is a despicable practice. Soon the only copies of these treasures will be in libraries—though now it seems that not even these are safe.

Let me start a crusade right now: Don't buy maps and plates you know were recently cut from atlases. Buy from dealers who explicitly repudiate this practice— like Kitty Liebreich, who thinks "it's sacrilege to destroy an atlas unless it's already damaged beyond repair." Or buy reproductions from companies like Old Maps of New England, New York & Pennsylvania.

The situation is similar to that of ivory, the sale of which is illegal unless it was harvested from an animal before the ban was enacted. Most antique maps were once bound in atlases. There is nothing wrong with buying a map removed from its binding a half-century ago. But avoid dealers who spend their weekends carving up atlases, like the guy selling dozens of maps on eBay from the Petit Atlas National des Departements de la France et de ses Colonies and Atlas Universel de Geographie Ancienne et Moderne, published in 1835. The seller provides a photograph of each page of the atlas, taken before the butchery began. One can imagine his glee as he brandished his exacto knife, knowing that his profits from selling the 131 maps individually would far exceed the $750 he might make by selling them in their original state.

In buying his wares, you are not buying a piece of history; you are participating in the dismemberment of history.

The Dead vs. The Not Quite Dead

From the (Everett, Wash.) Daily Herald of Aug. 9, 2005:

City to excavate old cemetery

By Yoshiaki Nohara
Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH - Let the dead - if there are any left - rest in a new place, and let seniors build a new home on the pioneer cemetery site.

That plan will be set in motion when the city starts excavating a parcel this month on Cypress Avenue in the city's eastern end, where Snohomish pioneers were buried until the early 1900s and where the Snohomish Senior Center now operates in a small pink house. Near the house, the senior center plans to build a 6,000-square-foot building to meet the growing demand for services.


[Read the whole story]

That Would Be an Uncomfortable Reunion


The Hitler Family unveiled

09/08/2005 20:40 - (SA)

Hamburg - Adolf Hitler left no offspring when he died in his bunker in 1945. But despite his lifelong attempt to conceal his origins, he in fact had numerous relatives, some still living in America.

Aside from a sister called Paula, he had a half-brother named Alois who owned a bar in Berlin and he had a nephew, William Patrick "Willie" Hitler.


Filmmakers Oliver Halmburger and Thomas Staehler have unearthed rare film interviews along with hitherto unseen genealogical records in their film "Die Familie Hitler" (The Hitler Family).


[Read the whole story]

Auto-Renewal Fuels Foolish Duel

The Site Comments message board was aflame last week. The result was what you would expect when two angry non-attorneys argue about the finer points of international contract law.

At issue was the Ontario Consumer Protection Act which took effect July 30, and whether it outlaws or requires amendment of's automatic-renewal policy (the relevant section is here).

We all know and love the automatic-renewal policy. Forget to cancel your subscription before its expiration date and the friendly folks at will renew it for you. Since they already have your credit-card number, it's quite easy for them to add a zero or two to your balance. The policy is laid out in their Terms & Conditions, which every potential subscriber is obliged to commit to memory.

The policy has had its share of unwitting—and sometimes witless—victims. Take poor Doofus over at, who posted this on Saturday:

Don't want to think about how long I've been a member of the genealogy website I only joined it to get a free iPod. . . I never searched anything at


Stayed a member so long partly because you can't cancel via email, tried that, you have to call and wait on hold forever, all the while listening to classical music. I would get tired of waiting on hold and forget about it until the next time it renewed.
If only he lived in Ontario.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Not a Bright Idea, Generally Speaking

From The (New Orleans, La.) Times-Picayune:

'General' who led cemetery protest proves bogus

The Associated Press

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — A man who donned a Marine general's stars and a uniform full of medals as he led a campaign against a local cemetery's alleged abuse of veterans' gravesite flags turned out not to be a general at all.

William Lawson left the Marines in August 1946 as a private first class after just 19 months of service. He never saw combat in World War II as he had claimed.


[Read the whole story]

Actors Play Dead in Wyoming

From the Jackson Hole (Wy.) Star-Tribune:

Actors give cemetery tours authentic flavor

Star-Tribune correspondent Monday, August 08, 2005

BUFFALO -- As dusk turns to darkness and shadows deepen, a group of visitors gathers around an open fire near the entrance to Willow Grove Cemetery on the outskirts of Buffalo.

A historic tour to the gravesites of some of Johnson County's most memorable characters is about to begin.


There's a small, dark figure in a black, hooded coat standing near another lantern. This is Nettie Wright (Clair Plank), Buffalo's infamous madam who added a roller skating rink to her business in the mid-1800s. She speaks quietly and then wanders into the shadows. The site of her grave is not known.


[Read the whole story]
Hookers on roller-skates? That's the kind of service you can't find anymore.

The Census and the Senseless

Most of us use census data in our research without giving a thought to why it was gathered. Anyone curious about the United States' decennial census quickly learns that a census is mandated every ten years by our constitution, for the purpose of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives. No ethical issues there, so long as you ignore the apportionment calculations that undervalued non-white persons.

Other censuses require a second look. The United States gathered information on Native Americans throughout the 19th century. This information was ultimately used to displace Indian populations. The 1940 census was misused—against the wishes of the Census Bureau—to track down and detain Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor.

The most egregious examples of census-abuse come from Nazi Germany. Special censuses and registrations of Jews and other minorities were conducted in Germany and occupied nations for the purpose of expediting Hitler's "Final Solution." The ethnicity of their victims was established, the demographics of a potential slave workforce were provided, and convenient routes for deportation were found with the help of these censuses.

Now comes the ethical question for modern genealogists: Should we use these censuses in our research?

The question parallels one which confronted scientists and physicians in the past. The Nazis conducted inhuman experiments on their victims—experiments which could not be replicated without violating codes of personal and professional ethics. The question to be answered was, Should we use data derived from these experiments?

In genealogy the question takes on a special significance, because the people who would benefit from the use of this census data are the very people Hitler targeted for extermination. The 1939 census is an invaluable source of information for Jews tracing their ancestry to pre-war Germany. For many families, it is indispensable.

As genealogists we are historians, and as historians we cannot afford to overlook useful data. An African-American genealogist who refuses to use records created by slaveholders will find his path blocked at every turn.

Perhaps the proper approach to such records is to consider their use a protest against and repudiation of their original purpose. Using Nazi census records to perpetuate the history of a family once marked for destruction may be the best way to spit in the eye of evil.

More Reading:

Too Many Heirs Want Share of Tomb

From the Chicago (Ill.) Tribune:

Taj Mahal entangled in love heptagon

By Kim Barker
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published August 8, 2005

AGRA, India -- For hundreds of years, the Taj Mahal has been the symbol of true love, a monumental valentine from an emperor to his dead wife that took more than 20 years and 20,000 people to build.

But now, as with many true loves and good intentions, the Taj has ended up in court. The white marble mausoleum, one of the most recognizable monuments in the world, is the subject of a bitter custody dispute.

At last count, six parties claimed to own the Taj instead of the government.


. . . a self-proclaimed prince, armed with genealogical charts, says the Taj belongs to him.

In a darkly romantic gesture appropriate to the Taj, the wife of another purported descendant of the king's Mughal dynasty has threatened suicide over the whole mess.


[Read the whole story]
See also Indian Pauper Inherits Taj Mahal.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Leave 'em Laughing

From the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat of Aug. 7, 2005:

Parting shots: Save the best line for last

By Mark Hinson



When the great Mel Blanc died, after spending his life lending his voice to Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, he really had no choice but to put this on his tombstone: "That's All Folks!"

Benjamin Franklin also had a sense of humor when he composed his final zinger: "The Body of B. Franklin, Printer;/Like the Cover of an old Book/ Its Contents turn out/ And stript of its Lettering and Gilding/ Lies here, / Food for Worms./ But the Work shall not be wholly lost:/ For it will, as he believ'd, appear once more,/ In a new & more perfect Edition,/ Corrected and Amended. By the Author."

Alas, Franklin did not get the glib epitaph he'd wanted. His gravestone reads: "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin. 1790." A cooler headstone prevailed.


[Read the whole story]
My favorite remains this classic from Tombstone, Arizona: "Here lies / Lester Moore / Four slugs / from a 44 / no Les / no More."

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