Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Top Ten Reasons I Love Genealogy

10. All the women are hot and willing to share.

9. Helped me discover my dust allergy.

8. A head start toward becoming a Mormon.

7. Keeps me from wasting time on living people.

6. Free pencil sharpenings at the archives.

5. Cheaper than space travel.

4. More lucrative than etymology.

3. Fills the empty hours between waking and falling asleep.

2. Provides a good excuse for loitering in graveyards.

1. The only one of my hobbies for which a DNA sample is voluntary.

Why We Should Prefer Our Relatives Dead

From The (Manchester, U.K.) Guardian:

Why I prefer dead relatives

Historians may sneer at amateur genealogists, but their work is a compelling business

Kathryn Hughes
Wednesday November 30, 2005
The Guardian

One of the more convenient side-effects of the explosion of interest in family history is that you need never again be stumped for what to give your nearest and dearest for Christmas. Instead of a lacklustre pair of socks or bottle of whisky, what could be more thrilling than a voucher that entitles the grateful recipient to extended access to the online version of the 1901 census?


Real relatives slump in chairs and snore. They want to watch Bruce Forsyth, and tell your children to tidy the wrapping paper. If there is anything rackety in their background - a wartime lover, a business that went bust - they won't talk to you about it.

How much more pleasurable, in such circumstances, to spend Christmas with the dead. For the dead do not mind about seeming respectable. They do not even care whether you like them. And perhaps, most important of all, they will not complain when you decide that it's time for them to go back in their box.

[Read the whole story]

A Book I'm Glad I Couldn't Have Written

Seen on eBay:

My Family Tree: Researcher Goes Out on a Limb
How to prune a family tree or pull it up by the roots

These days it seems everybody is researching their family tree; I’d just as soon prune mine. I guess I'm not exactly Miss Congeniality of Genealogy and here's why. On my mom’s side you’ve got the depressed, impractical, overweight, addicted, shopaholics, and lousy drivers. On my dad’s side you’ve got the religious fanatics, perverts, gamblers, homophobic homosexuals, and schizophrenics. Not that they drive any better.


This thing I'm writing will be finished one day and could be yours. It will include a family tree diagram with all the names or characteristics filled in as much as I can which will make a nice accompaniment to the autobiography I'm writing.


[Read the whole listing]

What About Franklin and Eleanor (Roosevelt) Roosevelt?

From The (Mbabane, Swaziland) Swazi Observer of Nov. 30, 2005:

‘Nothing wrong with couples sharing surname’

Stories by Zweli Maseko

CATHOLIC Bishop Ncamiso Ndlovu has said there is nothing wrong with marriage of people sharing a surname, especially in his church.


Ndlovu said people should not misinterpret what happened at the Manzini Cathedral Church on Saturday, where a Dlamini married another, as incest because the two were not related; it was only that they shared a surname.


[Read the whole story]

Cops Pick Up the Wrong George Bush

From The (Adelaide, So. Australia) Advertiser:

George Bush faces court justice


GEORGE Bush has been brought to justice in Queensland.

A distant relative and namesake of U.S. President George W. Bush faced Maroochydore Magistrates Court on the Sunshine Coast yesterday on a charge of driving while disqualified.


Bush's solicitor Jim Ryan told the court his client was related to the world's most powerful man. But the third cousin of the US leader said he had never met his famous relative.

[Read the whole story]

Sorry, My Pearl-Diving Uncle Ned Was Missing an Arm

From (Richmond, Va.) Style Weekly:

Treasure Hunt: Historian Seeks to Reunite Descendants

November 30, 2005

At the Thanksgiving family gathering, did anyone mention long-lost Uncle Ned? Not the one who lives in Des Moines, but the Confederate veteran who deserted a whaling ship to live with the natives on an island off the coast of Australia, where he made his fortune in pearls and sea cucumbers. The one who was missing a leg. If such an unusual character appears in your family tree, James Gray would like to hear from you. Gray, an American historian who lives in Queensland, Australia, believes the family of local legend Edward “Yankee Ned” Mosby can be found in Virginia — perhaps even in Richmond.


[Read the whole story]

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Were Your Ancestors Worthless or 'Cutneck'?

From Trinidad & Tobago Express:

Samaroo: Change 'meaningless' Chaguanas street names

Artie Jankie South Bureau
Wednesday, November 30th 2005

A name change for several streets and areas in Chaguanas has been suggested by the former head of UWI's History Department Dr Brinsley Samaroo.


Names ... like Kohria Village and CasseCou should be immediately changed.

Kohria Village meant a community of wayward, worthless people while CasseCou suggested that the ancestors of the residents were "cutneck" people.


[Read the whole story]

They Didn't Arrive as a Threesome

Using the Ellis Island website, "RC" of the Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company: A Henry Miller Blog has found the 1908 passenger record of June, wife of the scandalizing author Henry Miller. RC has also found two Ellis Island entries made by Anaïs Nin, Henry's . . . ummm . . . playmate.

This Explains My Addiction to Carson Daly

From The Philadelphia (Pa.) Inquirer of Nov. 29, 2005:

Scott likes this brand

By Stacey Burling

Inquirer Staff Writer


It turns out that most people really like their names, so much so that they prefer the letters in their names to other letters. Men are particularly partial to their last initial, women to their first.

There is evidence that this preference affects the career we choose, where we live, even whom we marry, said C. Miguel Brendl, director of the INSEAD Social Science Research Center in Fountainebleau, France.

His new study, published in the December issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, found that it is possible to boost the "name letter effect" when consumers are deciding on a brand. People were more likely to pick a product whose name shared letters with their own when their egos were threatened or when their need was high, such as when they were hungry and had to choose a candy bar.


Obviously, [critic David Burd, owner of The Naming Company in Stroudsburg] said, there is a lot more to naming than picking the letters. "If I found out that a lot of people have H in their name, and I call my product Hitler, would it sell well?" he asked.


[Read the whole story]

British Genealogists Get Their Hands Dirty

From 50, posted Nov. 26, 2005:

Trace Your Tree & Plant A Tree

Want to buy friends or family a present that will mean something?

The National Archives and the Woodland Trust have got together to create the Family Tree Present: a chance to trace your family's past and plant a tree for the future.

This special offer includes the Easy Family History pocket guide plus a choice of a Tree Dedication or a Sapling Pack.


[Read the whole story]

It's Hard to Be Silent When U Spell Like That

Seen on eBay:

Hard 2b Humble when U study Geneology DECAL

[Buy it Now] price: US $0.99
Quantity: 2222 available
History: Purchases
Item location: Land of Oz * Wichita, Kansas
United States
Ships to: Worldwide
Shipping costs: US $1.25 - Standard Flat Rate Shipping Service

Monday, November 28, 2005

Canadians Disapprove of 'Dick'

From the Ottawa (Ont.) Sun of Nov. 27, 2005:

What's in a name?

New Canadian book offers tips on naming your child


WHAT DO Dick, Barbie, Adolf, Elmo, Rambo and Nimrod all have in common? Their parents should have mulled over their names a few more times before putting them in print!


Canadian author and new mom Shandley McMurray has written the book for parents-to-be who are in the delicate situation of choosing a name for their baby. Hey Baby, What's Your Name takes you through Ashton to Uma, with humour and candour.

"This is what's going to be on her birth certificate, college diploma, marriage certificate," says McMurray. "If you give her a really crappy name, she's not going to thank you for it later!"


[Read the whole story]
Unfortunately, Hey Baby! What's Your Name? is aimed at the Canadian market, and is probably chock-full of names like "Alannis," "Avril," and "Céline."

Don't Bother Checking Their Teeth

From the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald of Nov. 26, 2005:

Photographer seeks world’s oldest people

By Michael Kunzelman
Associated Press


[Jerry] Friedman, 58, a commercial photographer who lives in New Milford, Conn., closed his studio so he could travel the world to track down his elderly subjects, verify their ages as accurately as possible and document their life stories.


To separate actual supercentenarians from those who are either mistaken or lying about their age for attention or personal gain, [Robert] Young and other researchers search for birth and baptismal certificates, marriage licenses and census records.

"Believe it or not, scientists have not found a way to accurately determine the age of a human body," he said. "So if there is no paperwork, there is really no way to prove a person’s age."


[Read the whole story]
The worst way to prove a supercentenarian's age: saw him in half and count the growth rings.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Deals to Die For

From The (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Sun News of Nov. 26, 2005:

Coffin, gravesite holiday sale sign causes stir

It's that time of year for the annual holiday special at Greenwood Memorial Gardens & Mausoleum - half price on a cemetery plot and deals on vaults and markers.

For years, the cemetery has advertised the special on U.S. 25.

"This is our way of trying to help families out during the holidays," manager Gary Blithe said. "A lot of our customers look forward to this time of year."


[Read the whole story]

Woman Seeks Her Unknown Cousins

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Elsie Wentzel of Casper, Wyoming, has taken on a mammoth task. She is compiling a database of everyone whose surname is "Unknown."

"I started finding Unknowns in my own family when I first started genealogy," says Wentzel, a retired dog groomer. "Then I found more and more. It seemed that every family line ended in an Unknown."

A search of genealogy databases on the Internet proves that Wentzel's family is not unique. The WorldConnect project at includes more than 4 million individuals with the surname "Unknown." Only 3 million people named "Smith" have been submitted.

"They were even on the Mayflower," Wentzel boasts. "No marriage record has been found, but the last name of William Brewster's wife is usually given as 'Unknown.'"

Wentzel understands the challenges ahead. "I've found them in the indexes of every census, but their last names are usually hard to read on microfilm. And it's all but impossible to link one Unknown family group to another. They appear to have come from every country on earth. As far as I can tell, no one has figured out the origins of all the Unknowns."

She has detected one trend that leaves her especially puzzled. "It's strange how often it turns up as a woman's maiden name."

Wentzel is planning a family reunion of sorts at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, D.C., next August. She invites anyone with Unknown ancestry to attend. An excursion to the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington, Virginia, is scheduled, and a genetic technician will be in attendance to gather samples of Unknown DNA.

"With any luck," she says, "I'll finally figure out what it means to be an Unknown."

Astrologists are Getting Lazy

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Georgia Nicols' horoscopes for Nov. 27

November 27, 2005



LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): As this Mercury retrograde continues, you'll find it easier to finish up old business at home. Now you can finally unpack those boxes. Research into genealogy will flow beautifully! Expect to hear from old relatives.


SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): While Mercury is retrograde, all is not lost. This is an excellent time to do research. It's a great time to finish old projects and look in the past and seek out answers you need. It brings people out of the woodwork, as well.


[Read the whole story]

Dad, I Hardly Knew Ye

From The Cincinnati (Ohio) Enquirer of Nov. 27, 2005:

Woman finds past a secret
Her father wasn't who he said he was

By Eileen Kelley and Kimball Perry
Enquirer staff writers

CLIFTON - Regina Heidelburg tried Friday to write her father's obituary.

She realized she didn't know where to begin.

A man who zealously guarded his privacy, Robert Cuthbertson left his daughter searching for answers after she found him dead Thanksgiving Day.

"I don't even know where he was born," said Heidelburg.


Heidelburg then called "my auntie," Josephine Johnson.


After Johnson saw Cuthbertson's body, she told Heidelburg she had something to tell her.

"She then told me, 'I'm not your aunt. We are actually no relation to you and I cannot afford too much to come out of (my) pockets (for a funeral).' She basically told me he was adopted into the family," Heidelburg said.


[Read the whole story]

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Were Karl and Groucho Cousins?

From The (London, U.K.) Independent:

Michael Marx: So what's a nice boy like this doing in a business like property?

He resembles Groucho, shares a name with Karl, and spends time with Gerald Ronson and Jack the Ripper

By Abigail Townsend
Published: 27 November 2005


Marx, 58, may share a surname with one of history's most radical political thinkers - and indeed bear more than a passing resemblance to a Marx brother - but at first he is quietly spoken and polite, giving little away.

As the interview goes on, however, he shows a more animated side, including a passion for the sector, theories about Jack the Ripper and a mean impression of property tycoon Gerald Ronson. He even relates how an uncle claimed to have built a family tree linking them to both Karl and the Marx brothers (no one was convinced and the uncle died before proof could be found).


[Read the whole story]

Dallas Cop Resorts to Genealogy

From The Dallas (Tex.) Morning News:

Police find tough suitcase to crack

Officers seek out the owners of mementos that span a century

November 25, 2005

By TANYA EISERER / The Dallas Morning News

The little, flowered green suitcase contains a treasure-trove of fading photos, marriage licenses, land deeds and mementos spanning at least a century. But it's a puzzle how it ended up behind an Oak Lawn mechanic shop this summer.


[Dallas police Sgt. Judy] Katz and another property room employee have spent hours poring over the photographs and documents searching for clues. The photos appear to be mostly of three related families: the Pulliams, the Foxes and the Hairs, who have links to Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle town of Olton, about 45 miles outside Lubbock.


She tracked down a possible relative in Olton, and that woman believes the people in the photographs might be distant relatives. But otherwise, police have had little success tracking down the owners of the suitcase.

"This is somebody's whole genealogical history," Sgt. Katz said. "I'm going to keep at it as long as I can to try to find family to give it to."


[Read the whole story]
Update (Nov. 29, 2005): The suitcase has been returned to the family.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Top Ten Worst Genealogy Tips

10. Start with your earliest ancestor and work forward.

9. Verify any information that you find in a book by checking a second copy.

8. Soundex is for suckers.

7. Proper cemetery research requires a pen and paper, a digital camera, and a sturdy shovel.

6. If you cite your sources, the terrorists win.

5. When entering the National Archives, assure the security guards that you're not concealing WMD in your underwear.

4. Town clerks appreciate unsolicited hugs.

3. To preserve your family's precious documents, soak them overnight in Worcestershire sauce.

2. When submitting a DNA sample, it's best to include the entire thumb.

1. Dates are optional.

A Genealogy Free-For-All

The databases of the Family Tree Legends Records Collection are free for the plundering through the end of November. The collection is said to contain more than 400 million records, though I stopped counting at 27.

[Hat tip:]

Purported Piece of Plymouth's Proud Past Purchased

From The (Quincy, Mass.) Patriot Ledger of Nov. 25, 2005:

$909 eBay bid wins a piece of Plymouth Rock

The Patriot Ledger

Gerald Beals now owns a piece of the rock.

Beals, chief curator at Brockton Historical Museum, bought a piece of Plymouth Rock last night on an eBay auction. His bid of $909 topped an $899 bid by historian Ernest Grassey of Cohasset.


After following the auction for a week and not bidding, Beals, an Easton resident, snatched the piece of Plymouth syenite with just four seconds remaining, beating out bidders who had sought the famed rock since it was first offered on the Internet auction site a week ago.

Beals’ fragment is one of three pieces of Plymouth Rock for sale this week on eBay, all offered by different sellers.


[Read the whole story]
Bid for one of the other pieces here or here. Caleb Johnson has a short history of the Rock.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Genealogy Scam Hits the Fan

From The Denver (Colo.) Post of Nov. 24, 2005:

State sues genealogy company

By Manny Gonzales
Denver Post Staff Writer

For $49.95, people who bought genealogical "yearbooks" from a Denver-based company got the same family coat of arms, the same family recipes and even the same family jokes, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

And it was a lucrative scam that swindled 150,000 people nationwide who bought into fake family histories, according to the civil suit filed by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.


Because jokes were the same in many of the yearbooks, some Jewish customers were offended when their families were referenced as being Catholic, the suit claims.


[Read the whole story]

No Pilgrims on the Mayflower

From WCCO-TV (of Minneapolis, Minn.), posted Nov. 24, 2005:

Family Name Conjures John Wayne, Gentle Ribbing

Bill Hudson

(WCCO) Many associate the Thanksgiving holiday with the Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock.

But the Pilgrims were more than religious wanderers. For some it was their family name.


"There are no problems, but a lot of questions about the name as far as, 'Did your ancestors come over on the Mayflower?'" [Leslie] Pilgrim said. "I wish I could say yes, but they didn't."


While many credit the English for the "Pilgrim" name, it's actually a derivative of a French word for a voyageur or wanderer.

[Read the whole story]

Nice Try, Wrong Religion

From Kenilworth (U.K.) Today of Nov. 23, 2005:

Man cleared of bigamy in Kenilworth


[Michael] Huntington (56) of Pegasus House, Welbeck Road, Bolsover, Chesterfield, had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court in June to bigamously marrying Linda Branagh.

During an earlier hearing the court heard it was alleged that Huntington had gone through 'a form of marriage' to Ms Branagh in May 2003 while still married.

But Huntington said that before the marriage he had divorced his previous wife, with whom he was living abroad, by telling her 'I divorce you' three times at the airport before he returned to the UK - although they were both described as Christians on the marriage certificate.


[Read the whole story]
By a Sunni Islamic procedure called a triple talaq, a husband can divorce his wife by saying "Talaq, talaq, talaq" ("I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you"). If you're not a Sunni Muslim, you'd better have a good lawyer on speed dial before attempting this.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 to Reimburse Wild Goose Chasers

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Just a day after news of's proposed settlement of a Truth in Lending lawsuit went public, news of a second settlement has been leaked.

The Provo, Utah, company has agreed to refund money spent on fruitless searches of their vast genealogical databases. Past and present members who have failed to find their ancestors on the website will be entitled to full reimbursement of their membership fees. The settlement is expected to cost close to $200 million.
"This is a victory for failed researchers," said Amy Tollinson of Chicago, who brought the original suit. "Anyone who can't figure out Soundex should be rejoicing today."

Renée Belanger of White Plains, New York, is one of those who can expect a full refund. She bought a year's access to the U.S. Census Records database before remembering that her family had emigrated from France in 2003.

Another beneficiary will be Tom Clanton of Baton Rouge — a member since 1998 who has yet to find a single ancestor.

"Everybody told me to start with what I know," he told The Genealogue. "But every time I search for my name, it gives me a bunch of other Tom Clantons. I've searched every day for seven years, and still nothing about me but my phone number — which I already knew. I guess I deserve a refund."

A highly placed officer at parent company said that she expects this lawsuit will bring a change in how the company does business.

"It's clear that we have to do more to support our members who are . . . differently abled, competence-wise. As part of the settlement, every new member will receive a copy of Genealogy for Morons and our CEO's home phone number. As a last resort, we'll go to the member's house and do the research ourselves. It's the least we can do, our lawyers tell us."

Climbing the Christmas Tree

From BBC News, posted Nov. 23, 2005:

DNA search for 'father' Christmas

By Paul Rincon
BBC News science reporter

A team of scientists in Oxford is trying to prove whether families with the rare surname of "Christmas" all descend from a single male ancestor.

They want to study the DNA of men from different Christmas clans to see if they are linked by a common genetic heritage as well as by their surnames.


DNA analysis company Oxford Ancestors is currently appealing for volunteers for the study and is being assisted in the effort by Henry Christmas, a former telecommunications engineer who has spent 50 years researching the origins and history of his own family name.


[Read the whole story] Set to Settle Suit

If you've ever had an annual membership that you paid off in monthly installments, the proposed settlement of a class action lawsuit could get you an extra month of free access.

Should the court accept the settlement in February, class members will receive 31 days of unlimited access to all of the company's subscription databases. All you have to do to qualify is provide with a valid email address.

If you paid for your membership on a quarterly or annual basis, and believe that the Terms & Conditions effective at the time of your membership were unjustly applied, go immediately to GenSuck and gripe about it.

[Hat tip: Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter]

Buried In the Back Nine

From the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times:

Where do we exactly draw the line between ‘been-heres’ and ‘come-heres’?

by Dave Russell
published November 23, 2005


I vaguely knew that our branch of the Russell family came to the United States by the way of George Russell from Antrim County, Ulster Province, Ireland.


What I did not know, though, was that George’s wife, Mary “Polly” Underwood Whiteside (Underwood her maiden name, Whiteside her first married name) is buried in Buffalo Cemetery in the Lake Lure area.


Mary somehow went and got herself buried in a golf course, right beside the 10th tee of the Bald Mountain Community of Fairfield Mountains, a golf resort on the north and east sides of Lake Lure. I even had to go through a security gate to get to where she and 48 (24 unknowns) other North Carolinians who died from 1828 to 1937 lie in rest.


[Read the whole story]
For some reason, the golf resort's website neglects to mention this amenity. Here's a list of residents.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Till Death Do Us Partner Up With Someone Else

From Hawkes Bay Today (of Hastings, New Zealand):

Remarriages putting pressure on burial space



Land is at a premium in Waipukurau cemetery and if you want a plot you need to die soon or reserve a site.

Central Hawke's Bay Council says Waipukurau cemetery is expected to run out of burial plots in the next two years while Waipawa and Otane cemeteries will be filled sometime in the next 10.

One of the problems is caused by spouses purchasing plots next to their deceased partners only to remarry and decide to be buried elsewhere.


[Read the whole story]

Must See Family Tree TV

From The (Biloxi, Miss.) Sun Herald of Nov. 22, 2005:

Long Beach man featured on Court TV show


David Hilbert, a longtime Long Beach resident and former entertainment director of Casino Magic Bay St. Louis, will star alongside his brother in a new television program premiering tonight on Court TV.

"Heir Hunters," which premieres in two back to back, 30-minute episodes beginning at 10 p.m., focuses on the Los Angeles-based company Heir Hunters International, founded by John Hilbert, 47, who for almost 20 years has specialized in finding lost heirs who are entitled to money.

"The show is about finding the rightful heirs to millions of dollars," said John. "There's never been a show on genealogy on TV before."


[Read the whole story]
Maybe there's never been a show on genealogy on American TV before. But the British are way ahead of us.

Too Virile for His Own Good

From The Pittsfield (Mass.) Sun of Jan. 26, 1837:

An Unusual Petition.—A petition was presented in the House of Representatives of Pennsylvania, a few days since, by Mr. Yearick of Union County, from Peter Streehom, stating that his family had been increased by the birth of three sons at one time, who were all doing well, and that being poor, he respectfully prayed for aid from the Legislature.

Abe Lincoln—Great President or Illegal Alien?

From the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune:

Woman sees red in driver ID law

Lack of birth certificate means two-month odyssey.

By SARA AGNEW of the Tribune’s staff
Published Sunday, November 20, 2005

Being born in a log cabin in 1922 was always a charming piece of personal history for Emogene Whitted. The retired Columbia schoolteacher never imagined that her delivery by a midwife in rural Missouri would make proving her lawful presence in the United States so difficult.

But Whitted’s humble beginnings triggered a two-month bureaucratic odyssey that has the 83-year-old great-grandmother indignant about new Missouri laws designed to safeguard residents. She said that nothing could have made her feel more alienated than having to prove her citizenship.


[Read the whole story]

Monday, November 21, 2005

Not What the Pilgrims Had in Mind

From The Times (of London, U.K.) of Nov. 22, 2005:

Sisters united thanks to father – Donor 150

From David Charter in Washington

THIS year’s Thanksgiving dinner will have a very unusual twist for two teenage sisters in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania.

Danielle Pagano and JoEllen Marsh have never met. Nor have they ever seen the father they share. They know him only as Donor 150.

The two teenage girls belong to a new type of family model where half-siblings born from the same anonymous sperm donor to different mothers have tracked each other down using the internet.


[Read the whole story]
Good taste prevents me from making a "turkey baster" joke.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Name Origin Calculometer

The great success of the Find-o-matic Person Locator has encouraged me to attempt a new project: The Name Origin Calculometer. Through a set of highly sophisticated, calibrated algorithms (patents pending), this script will determine the meaning or significance of thousands of surnames.

Please understand that the Calculometer is still in its testing phase, and that its accuracy depends largely on the credulity of its users.

OK, That's Weird

From, posted Nov. 20, 2005:

Town names reflect state's heritage

By Sandy Pantlik
Special Correspondent


Oklahoma town names range from the slightly bizarre -- such as Remus named for the traditional founder of Rome who was slain by his twin brother Romulus (coincidentally, the town of Romulus is five miles to the west) -- to the slightly uninspired Yewed, which was supposed to be named after Admiral George Dewey in the late 1800s. When it was discovered a "Dewey" township already existed, the solution was found in simply spelling the name backwards. In Kingfisher County, you'll find the bookend towns of Alpha and Omega, named after the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Only Omega remains today.


[Read the whole story]

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Soon to Be Renamed 'Elsietown'

From The (London, U.K.) Observer:

Population 1: the town that's been reclaimed by the prairie

Sunday November 20, 2005
The Observer

The entire population of Monowi, Nebraska, is sitting in a bar. Her name is Elsie Eiler, 72.

Monowi, founded by Czech immigrants seeking a slice of the American dream, is on its last legs. Only Eiler is left, surrounded by the ruins of homes that once boasted families, neighbours and friends.


Eiler's life as its mayor and sole resident is surreal. Once a year she raises taxes from herself to keep the four street lights on and a few other basic amenities going.


[Read the whole story]

Top Ten Signs You're Descended from Pilgrims

10. You promote religious tolerance toward all — except non-Christians, Catholics, Quakers, and Baptists.

9. You'll take a cruise only if it's overbooked and the ship's plumbing is out of order.

8. Your favorite part of Thanksgiving is the great taste of eel.

7. Based on the circumstances of conception, you named your kids "Wrestling," "Humility," and "Intemperance."

6. Your Cape Cod timeshare has a thatched roof.

5. You spend hours a day polishing your hat buckle.

4. Your adulterous wife was run down by a Plymouth Fury.

3. Half of your family dies from starvation each winter.

2. You get all of your gardening tips from

1. Once, when driving to Virginia, you ended up in Massachusetts.

Hollywood Infiltrated by Russians

From Pravda.Ru:

Ten American showbiz celebrities of Russian descent

11/18/2005 10:20

David Duchovny is very proud of the meaning of his last name, which translates from Russian as 'spiritual'

Emigrants have their own holiday too, the so called Day of the Emigrant, observed by those who left their homelands seeking a better life abroad. The holiday is barely known in Russia, though millions of Russians have been scattered around the world. Quite a few celebrities were Russian by origin. It is worthy of note that some of Hollywood movie stars and pop singers have Russian ancestors too. On the face of it, there is nothing Russian about the people we are listing below. But the first impression can be often deceptive. After all, it was a big surprise to learn about the Russian grandmother of Lenny Kravitz.


[Read the whole story]
Check out the rest of this article for the Russian roots of Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, David Duchovny, Winona Ryder, Sean Penn, Lenny Kravitz, Monica Lewinsky, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Connelly, and Joaquin Phoenix. (Since when is Monica Lewinsky in "showbiz"?)

Even DNA Has Its Limits

From The Denver (Colo.) Post of Nov. 18, 2005:

DNA testing may give blacks elusive answers about ancestry

By Karen E. Crummy and Katy Human
Denver Post Staff Writers

Prominent members of Denver's African-American community are lining up to find something slavery had taken away: their roots.

Denver Broncos defensive player Trevor Pryce, Jammin' 92.5-FM disc jockey Gloria Neal, and City Council members Michael Hancock and Elbra Wedgeworth are among thousands of African-Americans trying to trace ancestry with DNA tests.


. . . Denver deejay Neal said testing would give her more than what she knows now: the history of her father's family but not that much about her mother's ancestors.

"I don't know if it'll give me the boat number we came over on, but whatever it gives me will be more than what we know now," she said.


[Read the whole story]

Friday, November 18, 2005

Field of Bad Dreams

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Unused property at Jefferson Hills cemetery can be used for sports

Thursday, November 17, 2005
By Jan Ackerman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

About half the land in the 340-acre Jefferson Memorial Park Cemetery is being used to inter the dead.

Harry Neel, cemetery president, said it would be a long time before the outer ends of the cemetery will be needed for burials.

"Not for 30 years or more," he said.

So, instead of letting the cemetery land remain unused, Mr. Neel, of Pleasant Hills, has started leasing portions of it to sports organizations that want to develop sports fields on the property.


[Read the whole story]

Mayflower Myths and Missteps

Dick Eastman's article on Mayflower Ancestors is good, but neglects to mention the passengers supposed to have arrived on the Mayflower who did not.

My own ancestor Deacon John Dunham was a member of the Separatist community in Holland, but had the good sense to take a later boat. That didn't stop Isaac Watson Dunham from finding a place for him on the Mayflower. He wrote in his 1907 Dunham Genealogy that "It has been found to be a very difficult task to establish this John Dunham, of Scrooby, and reëstablish him, as the Plymouth John Dunham, who, as a Separatist, fled from England, escaped from his pursuers by assuming the name of John Goodman when in Holland and America."

A "very difficult task" because it is completely untrue. John Dunham was living happily with his wife and children in Leyden while the Pilgrim John Goodman was living out his short and miserable life in Plymouth.

Or consider George Carr, who, we are told, "married Lucinda Davenport and came to America in 1620, on the Mayflower, as a ship carpenter, bringing his young wife with him."

He located with the Pilgrims at Plymouth, and his wife was one of the unfortunate forty-one who died the following winter and early spring. [Edson I. Carr, The Carr Family Records (Rockton, Ill.: Herald Print. House, 1894), p. 12]
To support this theory, the book presents one of the most obvious forgeries ever printed: the purported diary of George Carr's sister-in-law:
Husband says he had a brother George Carr, who went to America in 1620.


Next morning the boats were lowered and we landed, but what was my surprise! Lucinda, George Carr's wife, had died early in the spring before. My husband and George his brother and myself went to view her resting place. [ibid., p. 10]
See Caleb Johnson's old website for some other Mayflower hoaxes, fakes, and forgeries.

New Law a Boon to Genealogists

A Genealogue News Flash [What's That?]
New immigration rules signed into law last week by President Bush may result in the deportation of millions of American citizens.

The so-called Lackwitty-Winesack Border Protection Act was intended to grant amnesty to illegal aliens who have resided in the United States since 1990, and to their descendants. But typographical errors discovered in the text of the bill yesterday give the law a scope and severity not intended.

"In accordance with the requirements of this statute, I must ask every American to provide written proof that he or she has an ancestor who lived in this country prior to 1490," said Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff in a speech televised to the nation Thursday afternoon. "If proof is not received by next April fifteenth, deportation proceedings will ensue."

Upon hearing this news, Americans flooded genealogy message boards with queries about suspected Native American ancestors. Professional genealogists around the country have been inundated with calls, and many have doubled or tripled their hourly rates.

Representatives of several American Indian tribes are to meet Friday in Omaha, Nebraska, to discuss how they will govern once the deportations are complete.

Lawmakers in Washington are rushing to reverse the act, but President Bush has signaled that he will not sign any repeal.

"This is not the time to change direction," he told members of the press corps traveling with him aboard Air Force One. "That would just give hope to our enemies. When you're President, you can't afford to make mistakes. Or admit to them."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Downstairs Neighbors Are Very Quiet

From The (London, U.K.) Independent:

Edward Scissorhands: Dance at the cutting edge

'Edward Scissorhands' is the latest in a string of works by Matthew Bourne that have made ballet cool. Alice Jones joins the choreographer at rehearsals

Published: 18 November 2005


Bourne has a penchant for the dark and occasionally macabre in his works, and in his own life, which makes sense of the pairing with [director Tim] Burton. Bourne collects ventriloquists' dummies and "battered old toys with bits missing". Last year, he bought a house and has been delighted to discover 20 gravestones in the cellar. He was drawn to the property by a well-preserved 17th-century gravestone in the garden. "I found that very appealing. I think Tim would love the house - it's got a lot of history."


[Read the whole story]

The Next Best Thing to Clones

From UCW Entertainment Newswire, posted Nov. 17, 2005:

Great new genealogy book written by twin sisters

/UCWE/ - Announcing the publication of “Climbing Family Trees-Whispers in the Leaves”! Spring Creek Books is pleased to release this highly informational and cleverly written book on heritage hunting, or more commonly known as family history.

Twin authors Trina Boice and Tracey Long, who share the same family tree, help readers learn how to climb their own family tree with easy to follow steps, hundreds of resources and dozens of inspiring stories by people who have found much more than just names and dates while climbing their family tree. There are helpful “how to” tips and tons of creative ideas on how to include your family in your research efforts as well as celebrate your discoveries and honor your ancestors.


[Read the whole story]
To borrow a recent joke from The Daily Show, here's a photograph of the authors.

Real Fake Families

Not all fake family trees are repugnant. With the fourth Harry Potter movie coming out Friday, I'm obliged to point out the Potter family tree at Wikipedia, and Random Genealogy's list of other Harry Potter genealogical links.

About Genealogy has links to other fictional family trees, as does Wikipedia. has family trees from all the afternoon shows.

For those whose literary tastes extend beyond Hogwarts, William Faulkner on the Web offers family trees of the Bundren, Compson, McCaslin, Sartoris, Snopes, and Sutpen clans—as well as Faulkner's own genealogy. And the confounding Buendía family from the weird and wonderful One Hundred Years of Solitude is mapped out on Oprah's website.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Beaming Him Up Didn't Work Either

From The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald:

'I canna make it go captain'

November 16, 2005 - 2:46PM

In life, James Doohan was the Star Trek engineer who worked miracles on the Enterprise, but a rocket meant to blast his remains into space has engine trouble.

A Falcon One rocket was to lift the ashes of Doohan, who played engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott aboard the fictional Starship Enterprise, into space next month but the launch has been delayed at least until February, organisers said Tuesday.


[Read the whole story]

Congratulations, Now Get Lost


Sayako weds, starts life in Kuroda family


The Asahi Shimbun

Princess Sayako tied the knot with Tokyo government official Yoshiki Kuroda at a low-key ceremony Tuesday and embarked on her new life as a commoner.


After the ceremony, Imperial Household Agency officials submitted a marriage registration document to the ward office where the couple will live. With the submission of the document, Princess Sayako formally left the imperial family genealogy and was registered as commoner Sayako Kuroda.


[Read the whole story]
(Thanks, George!)

Genealogist Loses Control, Moves to Iowa

From The (Council Bluffs, Ia.) Daily Nonpariel:

New York couple stays after school closes

TOM MCMAHON, Staff Writer

IRWIN - When people ask Adrian Brisee why he moved from the Albany, N.Y., area to Irwin, he tells them "for the school." When people ask Brisee what grade his child is in, he tells them "I don't have any children."


"I always wanted to live in a school," Adrian said. "We were looking for a bigger retirement place."

Bigger than the former hotel they lived in near Albany - not just a room, the entire hotel.

"The (hotel) ceilings were starting to sag because of the books," [his wife] Leslie said. The books are Adrian's. He is into genealogy.

"It started as a hobby, but it got out of control," Leslie said. Today he has over 12,000 items.


[Read the whole story]

Top Ten Family Reunion Pick-up Lines

10. "Didn't we use to play together at Gramma's house?"

9. "You be dominant, I'll be recessive."

8. "I don't know about you, but I found the three-legged race very arousing."

7. "You know, you have your mother's eyes. I mean my mother's eyes."

6. "Let's find someplace quiet to talk. How about Aunt Fern's room?"

5. "Wow, that was just like kissing my sister."

4. "You may be my first cousin, but I promise I'll come back for seconds."

3. "Our kids would have the cutest little club feet."

2. "Meet me in ten minutes on Grandpa Larry's grave."

1. "Pa says we gotta git hitched."

Keeping It In the Family

From BBC News, posted Nov. 16, 2005:

The risks of cousin marriage

By Justin Rowlatt
BBC Newsnight

Many people would find the idea of marrying a first cousin shocking, but such marriages are not unusual in some British communities.

It is estimated that at least 55% of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins and the tradition is also common among some other South Asian communities and in some Middle Eastern countries.


"You have an understanding," explains Neila Butt, who married her first cousin, Farooq, nine years ago.

"Family events are really nice because my in-laws and his are related," she says.


[Read the whole story]
Not creepy enough for you? Then visit Cousin Couples.

Genealogists Ruin the Best Stories

From H. Franklin Andrews, The Hamlin family: a genealogy of Capt. Giles Hamlin of Middletown, Connecticut, 1654-1900 (Exira, Iowa: H.F. Andrews, 1900), p. 108:

[Col. Return Jonathan Meigs entry]
It is traditional that his peculiar name occurred in this manner: During his father's courtship, his proposal of marriage was declined, and he retired from the contest; later the lady relented and invited him to "Return, Jonathan." They were married and on the birth of the son a name was required; the father said, that the dearest words he ever heard were "Return Jonathan," and conferred them as the name of the son. The story is spoiled when we remember that the name of his father was not Jonathan.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Sultan in His Own Mind?

From The (Malaysia) Star of Nov. 16, 2005:

Man claims Malacca ‘throne’


KUALA LUMPUR: A 48-year-old man who proclaimed himself the Sultan of Malacca at a so-called investiture ceremony here on Monday night is willing to take the matter to court to stake his claim to the state’s “throne”.

Raja Noor Jan Shah Raja Tuah has evidence, and the regal artefacts, to prove the claim, said Azri Safian, who identified himself as the alleged ruler’s organising secretary.


Azri said Raja Noor Jan had claimed he was a descendant of the last known Sultan of Malacca, Sultan Mahmud Shah (1488-1511).


“The sultan received some signs from his ancestors on the whereabouts of the regalia and, with the help of a pawang (traditional soothsayer) the artefacts were dug up from a place in Malacca,” he said.

[Read the whole story]

Police Crack Down on Illicit Shingling

From The (Troy, N.Y.) Record:

Cemetery roof job dies quick death

By: Robert Cristo, The Record

TROY - Even if it was for a good cause, a handy man hired by a private organization to repair the caretaker's house at Mt. Ida Cemetery was asked Monday by city Police to put down his tools and move off city-owned property.

City Police showed up Monday afternoon at the cemetery to find a hired worker peeling some of the worn shingles from the caretaker's house roof to make way for some long-needed repairs to the old, vacant and decaying property.

The only problem, according to police, was that the worker had no insurance and was doing the work without the city's permission.

"Basically ... the guy broke into the cemetery to fix the roof," said city spokesperson Jeff Buell.


[Read the whole story]

There's Something Queer About That Family Tree...


Queer Parenting Initiative Launches Family Tree Posters

by Victoria Ahearn, Canadian Press

Posted: November 15, 2005 9:00 pm ET

(Toronto, Ontario) At first glance, the family tree posters dotted along the main hallway of the City View Alternative School in Toronto just seem more colorful and artistic than the conventional genealogical diagram.

They depict a large tree with green leaves, colorful ribbons at the roots and adults and children of different skin tones embracing each other and swinging from the branches. Across the bottom of the poster runs the slogan "Who's in Your Family Tree?"

It's only upon closer inspection that one can see the real difference: this family tree has no names, just words — heterosexual, bisexual, queer, lesbian, straight, intersex, transgender, questioning, gay, transsexual and two-spirit.


[Read the whole story]

Top Ten Last Words Uttered by Genealogists

10. "That tombstone doesn't look so heavy."

9. "They may be cannibals, Mildred, but they're still my cousins."

8. "So, you've turned my father's birthplace into a meth lab?"

7. "Be open-minded, sweetheart. The early Mormons thought polygamy was great."

6. "It looks like the closest Family History Center is in . . . Baghdad."

5. "Wow, Grandpa, thanks for telling me about your days in the Mafia."

4. "Check it out! The mole on my back is starting to look like the family crest!"

3. "This was my great-grandparents' wedding cake? Tastes a little funny."

2. "I'm a Civil War reenactor, honey. Let the surgeon do his work.

1. "Yes, I canceled my membership. What can they do about it?"

A Pronounced Difference

From The Buffalo (N.Y.) News:

Some names in the game are no longer the same

News Sports Reporter

The Buffalo Sabres haven't acquired any new players.

It only sounds that way.

After years of having their surnames mispronounced, a few players have diffidently revealed the way they ought to be said.

Toni Lydman's last name is pronounced "LEWD-man." Henrik Tallinder's is pronounced "tuh-LIN-der." And Derek Roy's surname is "roo-AH," just as legendary goalie Patrick Roy would say it.

"It's a little bit awkward because these guys have been around a while," said Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret. "Even a guy like Lydman, who was known in Calgary as "LID-man' for years."


[Read the whole story]

A Common Complaint

From Yorkshire (U.K.) Post Today, posted Nov. 1, 2005:

Proof that we're all relatively common

With DNA analysis becoming the latest technique to be used in tracing family trees, Sarah Freeman took a swab and went on the trail of her own ancestral mother.

It is a scientific fact – I am undeniably common.

There were admittedly signs – I have tea when I should really be sitting down to dinner, I've frequently used a serviette instead of a napkin and my house doesn't have a lavatory, it has a toilet.

But in my defence there was also the university education, the ability to say please and thank you without being prompted, and the fact I have never worn a sovereign ring and don't like Pot Noodles.

However, it seems middle-class aspirations and any attempts to climb the social ladder count for nothing. I have been betrayed by my own disappointingly humdrum DNA.


[Read the whole story]

One Tapholicious Website

I wrote in June about the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. But the Rumsey site has something more than maps to interest the genealogist.

The Farber Gravestone Collection contains 13,527 images of stones located mostly in New England, but also in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Texas, Nova Scotia, England, and Ireland. If your roots are buried deep in Massachusetts prior to 1800, there's a good chance that you'll find some cousins tucked away in this collection. Anyone with a love of gravestone iconography—Goth and non-Goth alike—will want to spend an afternoon lurking here.

Read Jessie Lie Farber's introductory essay (PDF) for more information on the photographs.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Scottish Curators Lose Their Heads

From The Scotsman of Nov. 15, 2005:

Maori heads set for return to homeland


THREE preserved Maori heads will be returned to New Zealand after decades in a Glasgow museum.

The heads are believed to have belonged to Maori chiefs killed in battle in the 19th century. Together with a thigh bone, they were accepted in Glasgow by a party from Wellington's Te Papa Tongarewa museum, and will return to their homeland at the weekend.


James Te Puni, of the museum, said yesterday: "These are the remains of the dead ancestors of someone. They will be someone's great-great-grandfather back in New Zealand, so it's important that they be returned home."


[Read the whole story]

Our Parents Make Us Hungry

From The Washington (D.C.) Post:

Fruit From the Family Tree

By Sally Squires

Tuesday, November 15, 2005; Page HE01

If you're feeling hungry as you read this, your parents may be partly to blame.

A growing number of studies find that real -- and perceived -- hunger appears to be passed down from generation to generation, just like hair color or height.


"Genes can really influence hunger," notes Simone Lemieux, an associate professor of nutrition and science at Laval University in Quebec City. "Some people are telling us that they are always hungry. They are right, because they have genes that are misleading them in the amount of food that they really need."


[Read the whole story]

The Find-o-matic Person Locator

I've been working on a simple Javascript function that will help genealogists locate any person now residing in the United States. I've only been able to achieve 99.9% accuracy, so please forgive any erroneous results.

Favoritism is Genetic

From AScribe Newswire:

Genes Contribute to Patriotism, Group Loyalty

LONDON, Ontario, Nov. 14 (AScribe Newswire) -- Research showing the importance of genetic similarity to group loyalty and patriotism was published in the October issue of Nations and Nationalism (Vol. 11, pp. 489-507; an academic journal from the London School of Economics).


For example, identical twins grieve more for their co-twin than do non-identical twins. And, family members grieve more for children who resemble their side of the family than they do their spouse's side.

Also, spouses who are more genetically similar have longer and more satisfying marriages.

Based on their DNA, two randomly chosen individuals from the same ethnic group are found to be as related as first cousins.

Thus, two random people of English ancestry are the equivalent of a 3/8 cousin compared to people from the Near East; a 1/2 cousin by comparison with people from India; and like full cousins by comparison with people from China.


[Read the whole story]

Would There Be a Grandfather Clause?

From The (Racine, Wisc.) Journal Times Online, posted Nov. 14, 2005:

Can't-miss ideas for fees from minds of readers
By Mike Moore


[O]ne faithful reader e-mailed in suggestions on how to save the Racine Heritage Museum. Since then, the county hammered out a way to do just that. For future reference, I thought the ideas were still worth sharing.

First would be a "great grandmother fee," under which "genealogy patrons could pay $20 per ancestor found," she wrote.


[Read the whole story]

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tasmanians Bedeviled by Common Name

From Inside Bay Area, posted Nov. 13, 2005:

Tasmania has solitude, natural exotica — and a history of imprisonment

By Christine Temin, BOSTON GLOBE


Named Van Diemens Land by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642, the island was, like greater Australia, first settled mostly by convicts transported from Britain and their military guards. The island was a penal colony from 1803-53, and a harsh colony it was.


Convicts' histories were well recorded, while those of nonconvict immigrants are largely lost. At the Port Arthur Historic Site, once the largest of the penal settlements, a convict inquiry service will trace ancestors for their descendants. Among the complications of this genealogical research is that 251 convicts arrived with the name John Jones.


[Read the whole story]

Man Sees Intelligent Design In Family Tree

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Harry Draper's parents always told him they met by accident.

"My mother was a ticket-taker at a movie theater," the Pittsburgh architect says. "My dad was from out-of-town, came in because a meeting was cancelled and it was raining. Pure luck, they told me."

But now, Draper isn't so sure. Since becoming interested in genealogy, he has come to recognize the movement of an invisible hand in his family's history.

"All the couples seem to have been brought together at a certain time and place for no apparent reason, and this always led to marriage. Every time. And I haven't found a single case where two of my direct ancestors married and didn't have children. What are the chances?"

Pretty slim, Draper concluded. This led him to the conclusion that a mysterious force has governed his family's development for centuries.

"Something brought all of my ancestors to this country, caused them to meet and marry and have children." Draper points to a large family-tree chart on the wall, with his name written in the center. "All with the purpose of bringing me into existence."

What is the nature of this invisible force? Draper declines to speculate.

"I don't want to say its God," he advises, "but you can if you'd like."

German-Name-Police Out-of-Control

From The (London, U.K.) Independent:

German hyphen war reaches European court

By Ruth Elkins in Berlin
Published: 13 November 2005

Every time 10-year-old Leonhard Matthias Grunkin-Paul visits his dad, he loses his name. The boy is the victim of a bizarre act of German bureaucracy that is mangling the identity of hundreds of thousands of people.


The problem: Germany's strict naming law bans hyphens. Although you can hyphenate your name after marriage, you cannot pass it on to your children.


First names are a legal minefield as well. "We had parents in the other week wanting to call their daughter 'Gift'," said Dr Gerhard Müller of the Gesellschaft für Deutsche Sprache.

"The word means 'poison' in German, so it was also a no-no. We have to play by the rules."

[Read the whole story]
Perhaps they meant to ban the 80s hair-metal group Poison. If not, they should have.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

He Must Have Hated Housework

From the Hartford (Ct.) Times and Weekly Advertiser of Dec. 18, 1821:

In Goshen, N. Y. on the 25th ult., Mr. James P. McLaughlin to Mrs. Dougherty. The bridegroom was a widower of three days standing!!! His wife died on Wednesday, was buried on Thursday, he mourned on Friday, courted on Saturday, and again married on Sunday.

A Tasty Way to be Tarred and Feathered

From the (Mesa, Ariz.) East Valley Tribune:

Gilbert Ward connects with ancestors by re-enacting Mormon trek

By Lawn Griffiths, Tribune
November 12, 2005

Something unexpected happened near Coolidge when families of a Gilbert Mormon ward re-enacted the historic and rigorous handcart journeys of Mormon pioneers across the West.

As planned for the second day, a mob with blackened faces and bandanna masks ambushed the handcart companies. They fired blanks and demanded that Joseph Smith be turned over to them to be tarred and feathered.

According to script, a 16-year-old boy stepped forward to receive the abuse in Smith’s stead and was covered in chocolate pudding and feathers.

But children (ages 7 to 11) on the trek "thought this was real, they really thought the men were there to hurt their prophet," said trek organizer Jeanine Smith, no relation to Joseph. "The children attacked the mob with poles they used to pull their handcarts."


[Read the whole story]

A Mixed Marriage

From, posted Nov. 12, 2005:

Himmler relative marries Israeli

Catharine Himmler's six year-old son is a brilliant and curious child, but she is afraid of that day that he will begin to ask about his family tree. "I'm petrified when I think of the moment in which I will have to tell him that one half of the family tried to murder the other half," said Himmler, a political scientist whose grandfather was the brother of S.S. commander Heinrich Himmler.

Catharine married an Israeli, the son of Holocaust survivors who survived the Warsaw Ghetto, which was burned to the ground by soldiers acting under the command of her uncle.


[Read the whole story]

Another Victim of Kiltophobia

From KFVS12 (of Cape Girardeau, Mo.), posted Nov. 12, 2005:

Student Removed from High School Dance for Wearing a Kilt

By: Lauren Keith

Jackson, MO - Nathan Warmack says he just wanted to show pride for his Scottish heritage. So he wore a kilt to the "Silver Arrow" dance last Saturday at Jackson High School.

But when he got there, the principal said the kilt was a distraction and told him to change. Now, Nathan and his parents want school leaders to change their dress code policy.


Nathan says he's researched his family genealogy and even saved up his own money to buy this kilt. "It was embarrassing. I was hurt when I was told to change," said Nathan.


[Read the whole story]

Fake Family Founder Tries Cunning New Defense

From the (Salt Lake City, Utah) Deseret Morning News of Nov. 12, 2005:

Fake family trees online may trip up genealogists

By Lee Davidson
Deseret Morning News

Genealogists beware.

A software company is marketing a new program to Internet advertisers that could quickly generate Web sites full of extensive, but fake, family trees.

Critics say the approach appears to be part of a new money-making scheme to lure people who search for family names on Google, Yahoo or other search engines to Web sites that use bogus data to help ensure they appear high on "hit lists." They then make money if visitors click on advertisers' links.

They worry that novices might download false information that is designed to look real, and then corrupt others' family trees if they share that bad data online or through family history databases such as those offered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the commercial Utah-based


"Boo hoo," [Fake Family co-creator Don] Harrold told the Morning News in response to such complaints.


[Read the whole story]
If you're not yet outraged, see the Fake Family discussion on Dick Eastman's website.

A Typical Father-in-Law

From the will of Francis Mercer, clerk, rector of Godsmanton, Dorset, dated Jan. 25, 1667, proved Jan. 31, 1668 [transcribed in Henry F. Waters' Genealogical Gleanings in England (Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1901), 1:787]:

I give thirty pounds to the children or child of my son Peter Mercer, another thirty pounds to the children or child of my daughter Jane now the unhappy wife of Edward Furber. . . .

Friday, November 11, 2005

British Taphophiles Gleeful

From The (London, U.K.) Sun Online, posted Oct. 11, 2005:

World Wide Dead


A WEBSITE aiming to carry the inscriptions of Britain’s eight million gravestones has been launched online today.

The National Archive of Memorial Inscriptions (Naomi) could eliminate some of the legwork for those tracing their family trees.

The website is said to be the largest on the internet and already carries grave inscriptions from more than 200 cemeteries and burial grounds across the UK.

The database, at, includes more than 70,000 inscriptions and around 100,000 names, dating from the 12th to the 21st century.


[Read the whole story]
The website works well in Internet Explorer, not so well in Firefox. After submitting a query in Firefox, hit "Reload" to view search results.

Top Ten Ways to Make Genealogy More Exciting

10. Learn to identify your relatives by smell alone.

9. Take a drink every time Grandpa says, "When I was a boy. . ."

8. Hold your breath whenever you drive past or stroll through a cemetery.

7. Collect DNA samples from all your ancestors, living and dead.

6. Go to the NGS conference dressed as your favorite Rocky Horror character.

5. Visit Colonial Williamsburg and offer to play the role of your ancestor, the village harlot.

4. Try to beat the manual microfilm-rewinding record of 14.6 seconds.

3. Play "Truth or Dare" with great-uncle Louie.

2. Ask a Hells Angel if you can show him your ahnentafel.

1. Judge the wet T-shirt contest at your next family reunion.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cause of Death: Acute Henpecking

From Henry Smith Chapman's History of Winchester, Massachusetts (Winchester, Mass., 1936), pp. 41-42:

There ought somewhere to be recorded the sad story of Tufts Richardson, a descendant of Ezekiel, who met his end by drowning himself in the Aberjona on November 16, 1826. Hardly six months before, the young man had taken unto himself a wife with whom, however, he seems to have lived unhappily. We have it on the authority of his kinsman, Nathaniel A. Richardson, who was a small boy when the suicide occurred, that its cause was this: Tufts' wife Mary had baked a number of loaves of brown bread, some of which turned sour before they were eaten. The young wife told her husband he must eat them up before any more loaves were baked. He refused; she insisted. In the end rather than eat the sour bread the harassed husband went out and threw himself into the river—perhaps the only case where a man carried his criticism of his bride's cooking to so desperate a length.

Lonely in Your Genes?

From Newswise, posted Nov. 10, 2005:

Heredity May Be the Reason Some People Feel Lonely

Newswise — Heredity helps determine why some adults are persistently lonely, research co-authored by psychologists at the University of Chicago shows.

Working with colleagues in The Netherlands, the scholars found about 50 percent of identical twins and 25 percent of fraternal twins shared similar characteristics of loneliness. Research on twins is a powerful method to study the impact of heredity because twins raised together share many of the same environmental influences as well as similar genes, thus making it easier to determine the role of genetics in development.


Psychologists had previously thought loneliness was primarily caused by shyness, poor social skills, or inability to form strong attachments with other people.


[Read the whole story]

Scientists Barking Up the Wrong Family Tree

From The (Norfolk, Va.) Virginian-Pilot:

DNA from the wrong woman can't confirm colonist's identity

By DIANE TENNANT, The Virginian-Pilot
© November 10, 2005 | Last updated 11:40 AM Nov. 10

DNA samples that scientists had hoped would identify a skeleton found at Jamestown turned out to be from the wrong woman, and not from Bartholomew Gosnold’s sister.

Archaeologists still believe they have his remains; they just can’t prove it.

The results of the DNA tests were announced today at a press conference by archaeologists from Jamestown Rediscovery and a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution.

It was not the result they had hoped for when bone and tooth samples were painstakingly removed from a 17th-century burial vault in a small English church last June. Researchers were searching for Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney, a sister of the man who helped found Jamestown in 1607. DNA tests have revealed that the samples came from a woman too young to be Tilney. None of the DNA matched that of the Jamestown skeleton.


[Read the whole story]

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Persian Version of Genealogy


Family tree project underway in Iran

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 - ©2005

LONDON, November 9 (IranMania) - All Iranians can get information about their forebears and develop a family tree by providing their family trees to Iranian Documents and National Library Organization, reported CHN.

This the first time in Iran that a governmental institution has undertaken the responsibility of supplying information about families at the national level.


[Read the whole story]
A government spokesman added, "Death to America."

Send Your Loved Ones on a Cruise

From a 1995 patent for an "Interment vessel with directional capability":

There is a need for an interment device, at least for the benefit of the survivors, which retains the emotional benefits of dispersing the decedent's remains, e.g., sending the deceased to visit exotic far away places, or to occupy a favorite body of water after death, but wherein the survivors have a tangible item initially, as well as some expectation that after the deceased is dispatched this tangible item eventually will return the deceased to his loved ones for enshrinement. This need is satisfied by the device of the invention.


The interment vessel has or defines an openable watertight ash containment urn. The vessel has a main body with one or more protrusions defining at least one sail, and a keel. The sail intersects at a right angle with the upper surface of the main body and is inclined relative to the keel so as to sail at a reach. When released in the water the vessel sails in the prevailing wind and current, to an eventual destination. The vessel can include instructions to the finder of the vessel and can provide for a reward in exchange for, or in anticipation of, return of the remains to the loved ones who dispatched them.

Genealogy Helpful in Case of Torture

From a 1985 patent for a "Basic comprehensive genealogical and family history system of straightline genealogy":

During the Korean situation, for instance, the Federal Government discovered that our men as prisoners of war who knew their family histories did not break under brainwashing conditions as did those men who did not know their family histories. A healthy knowledge of ones family history plays a part in improving stability and very possibility adding to mental health. One who feels himself to be a part of a chain develops a better sense of self-worth and purpose more easily than does a person who feels isolated and alone.

Cousin George Has That on a Bumper Sticker

From the (Biloxi, Miss.) Sun Herald of Nov. 9, 2005:

Centenarian counts George W. as family


Cousin George W. Bush of Washington, D.C., may not have been among family members attending the 100th birthday party Tuesday of Lucille Marjorie Dossett Stillman in Ocean Springs, but their relationship is a thing of pride for the Stillman family.

The genealogy of the Stillman and Bush clans, as detailed on its own Web site, identifies Lucille Stillman, who was born Nov. 8, 1905, as a sixth cousin to the U.S. president.


At her party, when someone asked her advice for others who want to live to 100, she answered, "Stick with it one day at the time."

[Read the whole story]

The Weirdest Genealogy Article Ever

From the (Oak Park, Ill.) Riverside/Brookfield Landmark of Nov. 8, 2005:

Professor Sludge explains genealogy

Chris Stach

I am sitting here next to Professor Jonathan E. Sludge, who has just informed me that he is the leading expert in all the world on the subject of genealogy.

"That is correct, Mr. Stach. I am."

Very good. Professor, as you know, many residents of Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside are very interested in genealogy. Can you please tell me, what was it that first inspired you to learn all you could about this subject?

"Well Mr. Stach, I remember it as if it were only yesterday. I was a 10-year-old boy, and I was reading the book, '1,001 Arabian Nights.' It was so inspiring."


Pr-professor, maybe what I'm thinking isn't true. I hope it isn't, anyway. But could you define the word 'genealogy' for me?

"Most certainly, my dear sir. Genealogy is the study of genies."


[Read the whole story]

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Mainstream Media Gets it Wrong

A recent AP story reporting that "Cells from E.T.'s skin were cloned in a French laboratory several weeks ago by genealogist Eric Palmer" is incorrect. Eric Palmer is not a genealogist; he is a geneticist. And E.T. went home at the end of the movie.

1890 Census Records Discovered on eBay

A Genealogue News Flash [What's That?]
The National Archives announced late Monday that the missing 1890 United States census schedules long thought to have been destroyed in a 1921 fire were in fact "misplaced," and have turned up on an Internet auction site.

National Archives, Washington, D.C.Timothy Demers, Assistant to the National Archivist, now admits that the story of census records being destroyed in a Jan. 10, 1921 fire at the Commerce Building was "a fabrication" cooked up by the Census Director when he discovered the documents missing.

"It seems there was a clerk at Commerce with sticky fingers," Demers explains. "The Republicans had won the White House in 1920, and Wilson's crew was on the way out. So, this fellow took home some souvenirs."

Those "souvenirs" included a stack of census volumes, now possessed by the clerk's great-grandson, Jimmy Patrone of Mission City, Florida. Patrone — screen name "daytonastud839" — posted the volumes on eBay over the weekend.

Demers apologizes to genealogists for the Archives' role in perpetuating the myth of the documents' destruction—which included posting an elaborate article on the NARA website.

"Blaming it on the fire wasn't our idea, but we did inherit the lie and pass it on. It's the whole 'aliens-at-Area-51' thing all over again."

Due to the unusual circumstances of the cover-up, and the intentional destruction of additional census records in 1935, government lawyers have found no legal basis for reclaiming the records without adequately compensating Mr. Patrone.

The National Archives has not decided whether to bid for the census volumes, as "the reserve price is set really high."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Warrnamboolians, Prepare Your GEDCOMs

From The Warrnambool (Australia) Standard:

Streets ahead in name game

November 8, 2005

WARRNAMBOOL residents will have an equal opportunity to immortalise deceased loved ones in the naming of new streets under a city council proposal.

The plan will allow anyone to nominate a prospective street name for a city-wide list, which developers of subdivisions will be restricted to choosing from.


[CEO Lindsay Merritt said] "For example, a subdivider could own some land that he or she wants to develop. In theory, someone could bob up whose great, great grandfather owned it in another lifetime and put forward a really relevant street name that has historical significance."


[Read the whole story]

Book Review: Destination America

Destination America: The People and Cultures that Created America is a coffee-table book you might actually read. A companion volume to the PBS series, it meets DK Publishing's usual high standards, and includes so many photographs and artworks you can almost smell the immigrants climbing out of steerage.

Author Chuck Wills (who earned my utter devotion by co-writing Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip) arranges the material under six headings—an initial survey of immigration called "Settling America," followed by five sections titled "Freedom of Worship," "Freedom from Oppression," "Freedom from Want," "Freedom from Fear," "Freedom to Create." Apparently FDR's Four Freedoms proved insufficient to contain all the reasons people chose to come to America.

Even these five freedoms are insufficient to account for the forced migration of African slaves to the Americas, and black genealogists will notice the short shrift given their ancestors in this book. Nevertheless, every major ethnic and cultural group, and most minor groups—including more recent arrivals from Africa—are treated in one or another of the sections.

One advantage of the arrangement is the attention it draws to unlikely bedfellows. Descendants of the Acadians expelled from Canada's Maritime Provinces in the 18th century will find upon turning the page a discussion of Armenians fleeing Turkish persecution. Both groups found "Freedom from Fear" in America, just as both Quakers and Fulan Gong followers found the "Freedom to Worship." They came in different ships, but were all in the same boat.

The last section, on the "Freedom to Create," will be least useful to family historians because of its focus on individuals, rather than cultural and ethnic groups.

Destination America features several original maps, the most interesting of which may be that showing "Biological exchanges in the age of expansion, from c. 1500." The routes of the European explorers are depicted, but also the migration of plant and animal species from the Americas to Europe, and the spread of diseases like bubonic plague, smallpox, and syphilis—the descendants of which you do not want to meet.

Readers are encouraged to submit their own stories of immigration on the PBS website, and to browse the stories submitted by others.

Family Historian Stuck With the Bill

From EDP24 (of Norfolk, U.K.):

Family debt paid back after 125 years


07 November 2005 06:15

It was a 125-year-old family debt that Rita Mellor just knew she had to repay to Wells Lifeboat.

While researching her family history, Mrs Mellor, from Derbyshire, was shocked to discover that her great uncle John Hendry had gone to prison for stealing just over two shillings from an RNLI charity box.

The money was being collected at King's Lynn Station for widows and orphans of the 11 men who died in the 1880 Eliza Adams lifeboat disaster off Wells.


She went to meet Wells coxswain Allen Frary to look round the station and has given a donation to the RNLI to pay back what great-uncle John had stolen.


[Read the whole story]

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