Saturday, December 31, 2005

To Burn or Not To Burn

From The (Staunton, Va.) News-Leader of Dec. 31, 2005:

Demolish the old courthouse? Some said 'yes,' some said 'no'

By Charles Culbertson/contributor


Almost no one, it seemed, agreed on anything having to do with the Augusta County Courthouse at the corner of South Augusta and Johnson streets.


Two letters to the Staunton Spectator and Vindicator in December 1897 epitomized the arguments of both sides.


South River [...] advocated piling up useless papers, books and other "valueless stuff" and burning them in order to create some room in the courthouse's storage area.


"Shades of Aladdin! What is this useless stuff? The marriage licenses of our ancestors for 150 years, the wills of our ancestors for the same period signed with their own hands and seals. The deeds that they have written and signed ... All the papers which go to show every act, civil or religious, of which any record was required.

"About as well burn the family Bible," [his opponent "Augusta"] noted.

Unable or unwilling to abandon this angle of attack, Augusta wrote that South River would, naturally, want this stuff burned because "possibly he never looked in these files for a paper in his life."


[Read the whole story]

Oh, What Fun It Is to Drive a Four-Wheeled ATV

From The Fairfield (Ia.) Ledger:

Piece of family history returns to Lamanskys


A piece of Lamansky family history, a one-horse sleigh that was sold at an auction in 1972, is now back in the family.

According to Harry Roy Lamansky, the sleigh originally belonged to his great-grandparents, Peter and Anna Lamansky.


Although Lamansky has even built a tongue to pull the sleigh with a four-wheeler, the Lamanskys haven't yet had a chance to test it out.

[Read the whole story]

Friday, December 30, 2005

The 2005 Genealogue Awards

The time has come to honor the best Genealogue news articles of 2005 (and by "best" I mean the best I could round up in the last fifteen minutes).

The award for Worst Family Reunion Ever goes to . . . "Worst Family Reunion Ever." The runner-up is "The Next Best Thing," which describes a planned reunion of people whose ancestors had lunch with Abraham Lincoln.

The coveted Double Entendre of the Year Award goes to "Archivist Finds Faithful Cock in Cornwall," with a second-place finish by "The French Keep Track of Their Seamen."

In the category of Worst Location for a Graveyard, the winner is "Cemetery in Middle of Road Perhaps a Bad Idea." Runner-up: Six Feet Under the Sunoco Station.

Winner of the I Hope This Doesn't Catch On Award is "A New Way to Publish Your Family History."

There was a tie in the voting for Dumbest Desecrater: "Criminal Geniuses" and "Grave Desecration Taken to New Low." Runner-up: "Just Say No."

There was one clear winner for Worst Last Request: "Better Late than Never . . . I Guess."

The Easiest Pun Award goes to "New Orleans Long Plagued by Luters."

The Weirdest Cause of Death was difficult to decide, but the award goes to "The Dangers of Cold Water." Other contenders: "Is Death Contagious?" and "Cause of Death: Acute Henpecking."

The award for Most Needlessly Topical Title goes to "Bodies Dug Up in Front of White House; Karl Rove Not a Suspect."

The NSFW Award goes to "Rasputin Remembered and Dis-membered."

There were two rivals for the Strangest Japanese Census Article Award. The winner was "Census Taker Takes Leave of His Census," which barely nudged out the follow-up story, "The Catchiest Census Jingle Ever."

Best posts in the Cosmogenealogy category are "Astro-Genealogical Interference" and "Space Cadet Approves of Astrodome's Use as Shelter."

The winner of the Dysfunctional Family Award is "Family Honors Relative Out of Spite." In second place is "Man Prefers Deportation to Marriage." A third nominee — "Nothing Says 'I Love You' Like a Homemade Casket" — was disqualified when the family depicted proved to be odd, but not dysfunctional.

Finally, in the category of Cemetery Mishaps the winner is "Belgian Woman Starts Out Drunk, Ends Up Stoned." Running a close second is "Next Time, Use the Gate," in which a woman discovers what those spiky things on cemetery fences are for.

The Bushranger Who Couldn't Shoot Straight

From the Melbourne (Australia) Herald Sun:

Ned Kelly under fire, again

Danny Buttler

BUSHRANGER Ben Hall's great-grandson has fired a salvo at Ned Kelly, more than 125 after he was hanged.

Shepparton man Ben Hall Jr said his famous ancestor, who was shot by police in 1865, was a better bushranger than Kelly, who swung from the gallows 15 years later.

Mr Hall, 79, said his great-grandfather was known as the "gentleman bushranger" who never killed anyone, despite committing 600 crimes in just three years.

"He didn't shoot anybody because he was an awfully bad shot," he said.


[Read the whole story]

Tacky Prom Dress Now a Suit

From the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader of Dec. 30, 2005:

Trial set over Rebel flag prom dress

By Beth Musgrave

An August trial has been set for a woman who sued a Kentucky school district for turning her away from her senior prom for wearing a Confederate flag-themed prom dress.

Jacqueline Duty sued the Russell Independent Board of Education in December 2004, alleging the school system violated her First Amendment right to free speech and her right to express her heritage.


Included in the documents filed this week are genealogical records showing that Duty's family includes at least two Confederate soldiers, William and George Tackett, who were members of Kentucky units of the Confederate Army.


[Read the whole story]

Huge Private Genealogical Collection Still Private

From The (Logan, Utah) Herald Journal of Dec. 30, 2005:

Everton Collection collecting dust

By Adam Benson

Nearly six months after Logan Mayor Doug Thompson announced the city’s acquisition of one of the largest privately held genealogical collections in the country, the exhibit still remains closed to the public and is still something of a political football.

All that’s standing between the 82,000-piece Everton Collection opening its doors, Logan Library Director Ronald Jenkins said, is the hiring of a full-time librarian to catalogue and oversee the daily operations of the $1.7 million collection.

“So far, we don’t have a person who has the qualifications we need,” Jenkins said. “If we had a person, we could probably have it open within a week.”


[Read the whole story]

Roving Stones Reunited

From the Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal:

Out-of-place gravestones puzzle police

Last update: December 30, 2005

ORMOND BEACH -- Police have a mystery on their hands in the form of two cemetery headstones.

Bearing the names "John H." and "Pearl L.," the headstones were found Wednesday and Thursday at two separate locations in the city, Sgt. Kenny Hayes said.


Police believe the headstones could be sections of another stone because they have adhesive material on the back and because the people named were close in age.

John H. was born in 1880 and died in 1965. Pearl L., meanwhile, was born in 1882 and died in 1964.


[Read the whole story]
Update (Dec. 31, 2005): The stones have been claimed by the couple's great-great-granddaughter.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

You Get What You Pay For

From, posted Dec. 28, 2005:

How Jews Got Their Names

For all those Jews wondering where their last names came from

Edith Dinar, ESRA Magazine


In general there were five types of names (people had to pay for their choice of names; the poor had assigned names):


Bought names:

Gluck (luck); Rosen (roses); Rosenberg (rose mountain); Rosenblatt (rose paper or leaf); Rosenfeld (rose field); Rothman (red man); Diamond; Koenig (king); Koenigsberg (king’s mountain); Spielman (to play); Lieber (lover); Berg (mountain); Wasserman (water dweller); Kershenblatt (church paper); Stein (glass).

Assigned names (usually undesirable):

Plotz (to die); Klutz (clumsy); Billig (cheap); Drek (shit).


[Read the whole story]

California Does the Least It Can Do

From Scripps Howard News Service:

Mass eviction to Mexico in 1930s spurs apology

Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Carlos Guerra was only 3 years old when Los Angeles County authorities came to his family's house in Azusa and ordered his mother, a legal United States resident, and her six American-born children to leave the country.

It was 1931. The administration of President Herbert Hoover backed a policy that would repatriate hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans, more than half of them United States citizens.

Amid the economic desperation of the Depression, Latino families were viewed as taking jobs and government benefits from "real Americans."


On Sunday, Senate Bill 670 — the so-called "Apology Act for the 1930s Mexican Repatriation Program" — becomes official. It acknowledges the suffering of tens of thousands of Latino families unjustly forced out of the Golden State that was their home.


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill Oct. 7, but vetoed a companion measure — Senate Bill 645 — that would have created a commission to study paying reparations to survivors of the 1930s repatriations.


Jose Lopez Sr., was a factory worker at the Ford assembly plant when his family was ordered to Mexico after nearly two decades in the United States. He wound up cutting sugar cane and died in poverty in the Mexican state of Michoacan.

"I think an apology is the least they can do," said his son, Jose Lopez, 78, a retired autoworker in Detroit who came to testify on behalf of the California bill.

[Read the whole story]

Recoloring the Decolored Past

Dick Eastman wrote Wednesday about a free software application for Windows that colorizes black & white photographs.

My first effort with Recolored put some color back into the cheeks of my great-grandfather, Elton Dunham:

Rendered speechless by his stunning good looks, I immediately clicked over to to see which celebrity he most resembled. The results were better than I had hoped: my great-grandfather was a 70% match for Niels Bohr — generally considered the most attractive 20th-century Danish physicist named "Niels."

With a little practice you'll find that Recolored offers results on a par with the hand-tinting of yore. Skin tones are the biggest challenge, and may require some manual tweaking to avoid giving your ancestor a funeral-parlor complexion.

The program is incredibly easy to use, the only problem I found being an infuriating bug in the "Color Picker" that made entering RGB codes difficult. The beta version is free for non-commercial use, with a commercial version coming early next year.

My next colorizing project: see what Michael Jackson would look like if he were black.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

1940 Census Release Countdown

Why spend your New Year's Eve in Times Square waiting for a ball to drop when you can spend it staring at your computer screen? Here's a countdown that really matters: the days, hours, minutes, and seconds we have to endure before the 1940 U.S. Federal Census is released to the public.

Take This Surname and Shove It

From The Rising Nepal:

Haiu community changing their surname to Rai

By Our Correspondent

RAMECHHAP, Dec. 27: The Haiu community, a minority group in Nepal, residing in Ramechhap and Sukajor VDC and Ratanchura of Sindhuli district have started changing their surname to "Rai", after finding that doing so would open up lucrative job prospects for them in the British Army and elsewhere.


[Read the whole story]

In Case You're Wondering What Brings Folks Together

From The Ann Arbor (Mich.) News:

Vandalism brings folks together

Village volunteers work to repair toppled and smashed cemetery gravestones

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

As Unadilla Township Police still search for vandals that smashed and toppled 108 grave markers in mid-October, volunteers are patiently repairing and returning the stones to the 160-year-old Plainfield Cemetery.

"It's a lot more work than I thought," said Unadilla Township Supervisor Jim Peterson. "But it's been really interesting. You start reading the stones and then you go back and look at the history. I've learned a lot about where I live."


[Read the whole story]

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Top Ten New Year's Resolutions for Genealogists

10. Post no more than thirty message-board queries a day.

9. Learn to accept that the 1890 U.S. Census is gone, and isn't coming back.

8. Quit calling the Obituary Department for leads.

7. Interview those relatives most likely to die from bird flu in 2006.

6. Pay off your debts by replacing your laptop with an Etch A Sketch.

5. Go for a daily jog somewhere that doesn't require hurdling tombstones.

4. Read at least one book in which nobody dies of consumption.

3. Stop citing the The Da Vinci Code as a source.

2. Perform one Random Act of Genealogical Kindness for each time you've run over a neighbor's cat.

1. No more transcribing while intoxicated.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Genealogist's Christmas Gifts Misunderstood

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Maxine Ford of Brentwood, N. Y., worked for months on her Christmas gifts this year. Each present required hours of research and labor to create. But on Christmas morning, she received nothing in return but polite "Thank yous."

Ford is a genealogy fanatic, and for each member of her family this year she created a fake obituary — a brief life history, with all of the recipient's accomplishments listed. The obituaries were matted and presented in fine oak frames, but her relatives didn't seem to notice these details.

"At first I thought they were just speechless with happiness," Ford says. "But then they looked at me with these confused expressions. I've never felt more embarrassed."

Ford's brother, Harold Knox, says the gifts caught the family by surprise.

"We know her heart's in the right place, but . . . obituaries? On Christmas?"

Most disturbing was the obituary given to matriarch Florence Knox, who turned 97 in October. It included her date of death: December 30, 2005.

"Now she's convinced she's gonna die next Friday," says Harold Knox. "She asked me this morning to cancel her TV Guide subscription."

Maxine Ford is heartbroken that her hard work was so misunderstood.

"I should have followed my first instinct and just gotten them cemetery plots."

No Fear of Cremains, But Clowns Are Creepy

From the Quincy (Ill.) Herald-Whig:

Quincy duo documents, puts to DVD burial of Civil War veteran

Monday, December 26, 2005

By Casey Lewis
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The re-enactment of the funeral for John Peyton Byrne, the last soldier from the Civil War to be buried, is captured on a DVD that was filmed and produced by local filmmakers Randy Dickerman and Dustin Hall.


"The Last Farewell" captures a historic and personal ceremony on film, but for Dickerman and Hall, it also taught them about the history of the Civil War, provided experience and sparked an interest in documentaries.

Dickerman said they hope to do a documentary about the history of Quincy, and another about coulrophobia, the fear of clowns.

[Read the whole story]

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Leave It to Beaver's Mom to Lie About Her Age

Sharon Elliott at BackTrack reveals the truth about Leave It to Beaver star Barbara Billingsley: she's been lying about her age all these years.

Billingsley, of course, is best remembered for uttering the line, "Cut me som' slac' jak! Chump don wan no help, chump don git no help."

[Hat tip: EOGN's Other News]

Santa's Gravesite Found?

From, posted Dec. 24, 2005:


By Aidan Mcgurran

FATHER Christmas died more than 400 years ago - but there's no need to worry.

He was another Father Christmas, who lived in the Essex village of Dedham and was buried there on May 30, 1564, according to ancient parish records.

A spokeswoman for Essex records office in Colchester said: "We don't think the real Father Christmas is buried there. It will just be a person in the village who happened to be called Father Christmas."


[Read the whole story]

Prince Charles Wants Grandfather's Job and Name

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

Call me George, suggests Charles

By Andrew Pierce

THE Prince of Wales has discussed rejecting the title Charles III when he becomes King to avoid unhappy associations with some of the bloodiest periods in the monarchy’s history.

The Prince’s favourite alternative name is George VII, in honour of his grandfather — one of the best-loved monarchs of the past century.


Patrick Cracroft-Brennan, a genealogist from Cracroft’s Peerage, said: “There has been a tradition over the last century for the regnal title to be different to the christian name. The change would make sense.

“Monarchs called Charles have not had much luck. One was beheaded, one was in exile, and one was a pretender to the throne.


[Read the whole story]
He wouldn't be the first Prince to change his name.

Land Patents for Christmas

The Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office Records are finally back online, and make great stocking stuffers. The land patents have been off and on and off and on and off the web since 2001.

Inactive Plots Given Second Chance

From The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette of Dec. 24, 2005:

Unused cemetery plots are reclaimed by city


Every year about this time, Will DeBoer goes into Evergreen and Fairview cemeteries and repossesses hundreds of grave sites.

It's not grave-robbing: He's not hauling out caskets or disrupting bodies.

What DeBoer, the manager of Colorado Springs' city-owned cemeteries, does is check the books at Evergreen and Fairview to find plots that have been inactive for 100 years.

If no descendant of the site's owner is found, the land goes back onto the cemeteries' books and is open for others to claim as their final resting place.


[Read the whole story]

Friday, December 23, 2005

The New Face of Genealogy

A soon-to-be-released website will allow you to search for relatives based on facial characteristics — a technology sure to render traditional genealogical research obsolete.

The beta launch of is scheduled for January 2006, but an alpha test — "Find the Celebrity in You" — is already up and running: "Just upload a photo of yourself or family and in a few moments we'll automatically show you which celebrity you resemble the most!" This blogger's boyfriend was a dead ringer for Bette Davis, Cat Stevens, and Mao Zedong.

Here's the gist:

Once you teach what your relatives and friends look like, it recognizes and tags them automatically in your photos and in photos submitted by other users (subject to privacy settings that you specify). So you can find any photo you're after by searching for those in it, and find photos of yourself, your ancestors or people who resemble you, even in albums contributed by other users. Our face recognition technology is built to scale to hundreds of thousands of faces, and to recognize peoples' faces throughout different ages of their life. also promises more conventional genealogical fare:
What else will we have here? For lovers of genealogy, there's MyHeritage Search: the world's first search engine built specifically for genealogy – a great tool if you're searching for your ancestors or trying to uncover your heritage. Family Tree Builder is our very own genealogy program for setting up a family tree. And there are also searchable genealogy message boards for sharing info with others. All our products are multilingual and multicultural and will support 10 languages initially and additional languages later on.
Update (Dec. 24, 2005): Interesting results when I uploaded a picture of Don Knotts: the closest matches were Yuri Gagarin and Jesse Jackson. For really fun results, go to The Smoking Gun's mugshot archive and borrow the mug of your favorite celebrity.

Humble Birthplace Marked By 38-Foot Monument

From The Washington (D.C.) Post:

Millions of Mormons Fete Founder's Birth

The Associated Press
Friday, December 23, 2005; 3:55 AM

SHARON, Vt. -- On the eve of the 200th anniversary of Mormon church founder Joseph Smith's birth, church President Gordon B. Hinckley voyaged to the Vermont hillside where Smith was believed to have been born.

Looking up at the monument built in Smith's honor, he had just one observation: "Beautiful."


Records from Smith family diaries place his birth on Dec. 23, 1805 on the country hillside, near the New Hampshire border. A hearthstone and a moss-covered front step are all that remain of the original home where the Smith family ran a small farm.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built and dedicated the 38 1/2-foot monument to Smith — one foot of granite for each year of his life — in 1905.

[Read the whole story]

Woman Meets Granny Pocahontas

From The (Newport News, Va.) Daily Press:

CW meets Hollywood

Rolling out the glitz amid the gravel at the film's debut draws some stars, and those hoping to see them.

December 22, 2005

WILLIAMSBURG -- The red carpet sprawled out in two directions on Wednesday afternoon outside the entrance to the Kimball Theatre.

To the left was the line of guests waiting to see the East Coast premiere of the historical epic film "The New World," filmed on location at nearby Jamestown last year. And extending straight out from the front door was the ceremonial crimson for the stars and other celebrities.


The 15-year-old screen newcomer [Q'Orianka Kilcher] who plays Pocahontas stole the show at the premiere even more than she stole it on screen.


As she made her way up the carpet, she stopped to pose for photos and sign autographs. Jackie Spangler, of Williamsburg, exchanged pleasantries with Kilcher over the velvet rope and came away gushing.

"I really came out here today to meet her," Spangler said. "I do a lot of genealogy, and Pocahontas and John Rolfe are my grandparents if I remember to say 'great' 11 times. I'm glad I got the chance to meet her."


[Read the whole story]

I Was Hoping For 'Larry Christmas'

From Discovery News:

Farmer Named Roger 1st Father Christmas?

By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Dec. 21, 2005 — A genetic study is underway in England to determine the first man with "Christmas" as a surname, and indications are that he was a fellow named Roger who lived in Sussex in the year 1200, according to Oxford Ancestors, a British company that specializes in analysis of ancestral DNA.


The DNA study, however, has just begun, so another individual may take the Father Christmas title away from Roger. Any male bearer of the last name Christmas may participate through Oxford Ancestors.


[Read the whole story]

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Funny, She Doesn't Look Chinese

From the National Post (of Don Mills, Ontario):

The Xs and Ys that bind

A new project uses DNA samples to dig deeper than your family tree and trace the migratory patterns of your ancestors

Mary Vallis, National Post
Published: Thursday, December 22, 2005

When I was a Grade 4 student in Leduc, Alta., my teacher gave my class what seemed like a simple assignment. Mrs. Newman asked us to find out about our ancestors.


I did as Mrs. Newman asked and went to my parents for help. My mother hauled out my baby book and showed me what it said. My parents were both born in Montreal. My stubby family tree had few branches: A few great-grandparents went back to England, and one to Ireland. But the source of my surname remained a mystery: All I knew was my paternal great-grandfather was born in Newfoundland.


What little I knew about my ancestors didn't seem exotic enough. I looked past the countries the other students were pointing at and decided to invent something better. When it was my turn to stand in front of the class, I told them all I was from China.


[Read the whole story]

City Bans Bucket-Kicking

From BBC News, posted Dec. 14, 2005:

Brazil city proposes ban on death

Municipal regulations normally ban anything from smoking in public places to parking in certain zones.

But officials in the Brazilian town of Biritiba Mirim, 70km (45 miles) east of Sao Paulo, have gone far beyond that.

They plan to prohibit residents from dying because the local cemetery has reached full capacity.

Mayor Roberto Pereira says the bill is meant as a protest against federal regulations that bar new or expanded cemeteries in preservation areas.


[Read the whole story]
[Hat tip: Legacy News]

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Death Database Released on DVD, Panned by Critics as 'Derivative'

From U.S. Newswire:

Social Security Administration's Death Master File Official Version Now Available on DVD

SPRINGFIELD, Va., Dec. 21 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Official Version of the Social Security Administration Death Master File is now available on DVD. The Death Master File is the complete and official SSA database of persons reported to SSA as being deceased. The new DVD version is available from the National Technical Information Service.

The SSA Death Master File is used by leading government, financial, investigative, credit reporting, medical research and other industries to verify identity as well as to prevent fraud and comply with the USA Patriot Act. The new DVD version delivers the complete database on one DVD disc, rather than 37 magnetic cartridges or 4 CD-ROM. The DVD will save backup storage space as well as save time uploading the file.


[Read the whole story]
To buy your own copy for only $6,900, visit the NTIS website. The DVD comes without a commentary track, and don't expect to find any Easter Eggs.

A Genealogy of Biblical Proportions

From CBC Manitoba:

University's Bible discovered to be rare first edition

Last Updated Dec 21 2005
CBC News

Scholars have discovered an old Bible in the University of Manitoba's archives is a rare first edition, first printing of the King James Bible.

"We had hoped that it was going to be a first editing, first printing, but we couldn't confirm it until now," said Dr. Shelley Sweeney, head of archives at the University of Manitoba Libraries.


Only about 50 first editions, first printings of the King James Bible exist in the world. Others have sold for more than $400,000 at recent auctions, Sweeney said.

This particular Bible could be worth even more; Sweeney says it includes a rare "genealogy" page, following family lineage from God to Jesus. . . .


[Read the whole story]
As I recall, the "family lineage from God to Jesus" was rather direct on the paternal side. Much more interesting through his mother and step-father.

Basketball Rules in Naismith Family


History for sale

Naismith family wants $10 million for basketball rules

Posted: Wednesday December 21, 2005

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The original rules of basketball, as drafted by the man who invented the game in 1891, are being put up for sale by his family.

The asking price is $10 million, or less under the right circumstances, according to Ian Naismith, grandson of the Dr. James Naismith, who came up with the idea for the game while he was a physical education instructor at a YMCA training school in Springfield, Mass.


After Naismith's death in 1939, the rules ended up in the possession of his youngest son, Jimmy -- Ian's father -- who lived in Corpus Christi, Texas. He kept them in the dining room and told his children never to tell anyone where they were.

"I remember when I was 7 or 8, Dad kept them in a secret drawer," Ian Naismith told The Kansas City Star for a story Wednesday. "I wasn't sure what it was, but I knew it was something special."


[Read the whole story]

Top Ten Genealogy Headlines of 2005

10. Entire Cast of 'The Jeffersons' Descended from Thomas Jefferson

9. National Archives Releases Civil War Dental Records

8. Soundex Revealed to Be a Hoax

7. Forgotten Graveyard Discovered Beneath Another Forgotten Graveyard

6. DNA Tests Prove None of the Osmonds are Related

5. Atlanta Genealogist Steals Own Identity

4. Man Loses Hand in Freak Transcribing Accident

3. Bush Administration Violates Privacy Rules, Looks for Terrorists in 1940 Census

2. National Genealogical Society to Merge with National Rifle Association

1. Hurricane Katrina Rids New Orleans of Excess History

Who Wants to Be a Miserable Aristocrat?

From UTV (of Belfast, Northern Ireland), posted Dec. 21, 2005:

Aristocrat to give away 'terrible' mansion

An eccentric aristocrat is hoping to give away his 16-bedroom mansion to a complete stranger and then move into "the comfort" of a council house, it emerged today.

Without a heir to inherit Maunsel House and its 1,300 acre estate, Sir Benjamin Slade, 59, is desperate to find a distant and preferable wealthy American relative to take over his Somerset mansion.

The baronet will give a DNA sample to a team of genealogists, who will then search for the closest match among the 5,000 Slades living in the US.


[Read the whole story]

Priest Discovers Irish Women

From Irish Voice, posted Dec. 21, 2005:

Forgotten Irish Women Found by Priest

By Sean O' Driscoll

Father Peter Meehan opens up a giant ledger and peers down its pages. Mary from Co. Donegal, age 18, was going to a cousin’s house in New York.

Sheila from Cork was going to Brooklyn. Maire from Kerry is staying in the Bronx.

One 8-year-old McCarthy girl was going to an aunt and uncle on Pearl Street in Manhattan.

In the four ledgers he keeps at Our Lady of the Rosary church in downtown Manhattan are the lives of over 60,000 Irish women who were forced from poor houses and on to emigrant ships in the 19th and early 20th century.

He found them in a vault in the church at the tip of Manhattan, where once an organization called the Our Lady of the Rosary for the Protection of Irish Immigrant Girls provided temporary shelters for young women to keep them from the pimps, thieves and sweatshop owners who lined the docks looking for easy prey.

The ledgers are one of the most valuable records ever found of Irish emigration to the U.S., giving a far fuller picture of the women’s lives than records at Ellis Island.


[Read the whole story]

He's Got a Sandwich in His Genes

From, posted Dec. 20, 2005:

Subway, Quiznos, Togo's & Blimpie Pave The Way For Growth In The Sandwich Franchise Industry

By: Eddy Goldburg

The sandwich has come a long way since its invention in 1762 by the Fourth Earl of Sandwich - or so the story goes. That's when the Earl is credited with being the first person to slap a couple of slices of bread around his meat (or order his servants to).

Today, his direct descendant, the 11th Earl of Sandwich, is cashing in on his legendary ancestor's name, turning it into a franchise opportunity across the pond. While the large majority franchises begin by opening a successful home-grown site and spreading regionally, the Earl of Sandwich is hoping to take the U.S. by storm.


The British are coming back - and bearing sandwiches!


[Read the whole story]

It Could Happen to You (When You're Dead)

From (of Providence, R.I.):

Residents Want Action In Cemetery Desecration Case

People Charged In Case Have Yet To Be Arraigned

POSTED: December 20, 2005

WESTPORT, Mass. -- Westport preservationists are putting pressure on the Bristol County district attorney to prosecute three people accused of desecrating a cemetery.

"A neighbor had come to the police department -- a neighbor of this property -- and said that the cemetery had been disturbed. This goes back now [to] November of 2004," Sgt. Jeff Majewski said Tuesday.

That's when Westport police charged the owners of Bristol, R.I.-based contractor ELJ with two felony charges of destroying a burial site. The company was clearing land for a housing development.


Preservationists worry that this case could endanger dozens of other cemeteries in town -- some of which are unmarked.

"We all die. We all have dead ancestors. This could happen to any of us," [concerned resident Betty] Slade said.

[Read the whole story]

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

No Points for Guessing

From The Chicago (Ill.) Tribune:

Mission to demystify the Class of 1938 at Oak Terrace school

Josh Noel
Published December 18, 2005

HIGHWOOD -- There's no telling how many people are left from the Class of 1938, but it's proving almost as difficult to tell exactly who was in the Class of 1938.

Leonora Cervac, former president of the Highwood Historical Society, is trying.

Cervac, 75, has set in a glass display case at Highwood City Hall a black and white class photo from Oak Terrace Elementary that was given to her last year by a man who thought it belonged in the care of a local historian.

Atop the case Cervac laid out a pad of paper last month on which she urges passersby to identify the students, but implores them in red block letters, "NO GUESSING."


[Read the whole story]

Chase Tablet Chased Down

From The (Newburyport, Mass.) Daily News of Dec. 20, 2005:

Historic stone rolls to library

By Adam Martignetti
Staff Writer

NEWBURYPORT — A piece of the city's past has been unearthed and brought to Newburyport.

The Aquila Chase Tablet, carved in 1924 to honor one of the first settlers of Newburyport, was hung in the library yesterday thanks to the efforts of two Chase descendants and a local historical organization.

The 100-pound, engraved tablet had disappeared from the public eye for more than 40 years.


Carving plaques was a popular way to commemorate ancestors in the early 1900s, [Dr. William] Watts said. Dozens of similar markers could be seen at the headquarters of the New England Genealogical Society. George F. Sanborn Jr., a descendant of both Aquila and Thomas Chase, recalled seeing the Chase tablet alongside others as a teenager.

"Some of them were huge, much bigger than that Chase one," Sanborn said. "When you walked in, it looked like a cemetery or mausoleum."


[Read the whole story]

Fascists Have Family Trees Too

From the (Wolverhampton, U.K.) Express & Star:

Blue blood in family trees

By Roger Poole
Dec 19, 2005

Question: what's the connection between Henry the Second and Hermann Goering? Answer: the Nazi leader was descended from the English king.

Surprised? So was I until I looked a little deeper into the subject of royal genealogy, prompted by the recent discovery of lines of descent linking new Tory leader David Cameron with William IV, and his wife with Charles II and Nell Gwyn.


The more one looks into the whole subject of family links, the less intriguing one's position becomes.

We're probably all related to Nancy [Reagan] - and to [British fascist] Oswald Mosley - and to old Hermann Goering. And if that's the case, this is definitely a good place to stop.

[Read the whole story]

Braveheart-like Battle Brewing in Missouri

From The Kansas City (Mo.) Star of Dec. 20, 2005:

Student asked to change out of kilt seeks dress code change

Associated Press

JACKSON, Mo. - When Nathan Warmack wore a Scottish kilt to a high school dance, the senior wasn't trying to make a point. He just wanted to honor his heritage.

But then a principal told him to change into a pair of pants. And what began with a few yards of tartan has sparked an international debate about freedom, symbols and cultural dress.

More than 1,600 people have signed an Internet petition seeking an apology for the student. Scots in the United States are assembling a traditional ensemble they hope the student will wear to the prom. And his family is trying to change the school's dress code policy.


... Clan Gunn member, Beth Gardner, started an online petition seeking an apology for Warmack. It questions in part the notion that the kilt was a distraction.

"From what? From the intense concentration it takes to dance?"


[Read the whole story]
Sign the "Nathan Warmack's Right to Wear his Kilt" petition here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ask The Genealogue 3

Dear Genealogue,
I've only been working on my genealogy for two weeks, and I've already hit a brick wall. All eight of my great-grandparents were born in Europe, but I can't afford to travel there. How can I continue my research?

Harold in Ottumwa, IA
Continuing your research is really unnecessary, and would just make your family tree more complicated. Besides, European research is — by definition — unAmerican, and might earn you a visit from the FBI.

Dear Genealogue,
I've gathered conflicting information on one of my relatives. Some records call her "Mary Elizabeth Nichols," and others "Elizabeth Mary Nichols." What should I call her in my family history?

Barbara in Winchester, MA
To prevent confusion, omit her from your family history entirely. Serves her right.

Dear Genealogue,
My 4th great-grandfather has the letters "G.A.R." on his tombstone. What does this stand for?

Loretta in Barre, VT
"Gamblers Anonymous Reject."

Dear Genealogue,
Could you look up Timothy Fleming of Dade County, Florida, in the 1920 census?

Paul in Sarasota, FL
Yes, I could.

Civil Disobedience Defense Fails for Gandhi Relative

From The Monterey (Calif.) Herald of Dec. 19, 2005:

Gandhi descendant gets prison term for hiding money from IRS

Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. - A man who claims to be a distant descendant of Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi was sentenced to two years in prison for trying to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federal government.

Yogesh K. Gandhi, 55, of Pleasant Hill, was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Oakland after pleading guilty this summer to four counts of unlawfully structuring currency transactions.


At the time [of his 1999 conviction for mail fraud and tax evasion], he ran the Gandhi International Memorial Foundation, which was named after Indian independence leader and pacifist icon Mohandas Gandhi, who he claimed was his great granduncle.

[Read the whole story]

Don't Bury Me Near the Trailer Park

From the Detroit (Mich.) Free Press:

A cemetery, a trailer park and one lonely headstone

Man looks for more than dead relative's grave

December 19, 2005


The biggest problem for Southfield's pioneer Beekman Cemetery is not its long history of abuse -- from the gravel pit operator who ran dump trucks over graves in the 1930s to the trailer park residents of later decades who stole headstones and used them as doorsteps.

It's biggest problem is that few know it's a cemetery.


On Friday, [Clark] Risley brushed snow off the inscription of Samuel Beekman's monument. Yellow paint from graffiti stains the stone. "Logically, the first thing to do is re-mount it," said Risley.

[Read the whole story]

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Heritage Societies Now Admit Riffraff

From The Philadelphia Inquirer of Dec. 18, 2005:

New Blood

By Jacqueline L. Urgo
Inquirer Staff Writer

Don't think for a minute the blue-blooded cashmere-and-pearls-ladies-who-lunch set isn't around anymore.

But among chapters of Daughters of the American Revolution, the Mayflower Society, and other heritage societies, growing contingents are more blue collar than blue blood - retired factory workers, people who live in mobile homes, farmers' wives, those of every race and creed - being counted in the ranks.


[Read the whole story]

Witnesses to Witnesses to History Witnessed in N.C.

From The (Nags Head, N.C.) Outer Banks Sentinel of Dec. 17, 2005:

Wright Memorial unveils new statues


The national memorial of the first powered flight in history is now complete and forever frozen in time as three new statues were unveiled at the Wright Brothers National Memorial on Friday.

"Forever memorialized and captured in bronze is that one 500th of a second when flight was first achieved," said US Coast Guard Chaplain Rob Heckathorne during the ceremony.

More than 50 descendents of the four individuals who witnessed the first flight were present to see their distant relatives immortalized in bronze.


[Read the whole story]

Hugh Grant's Secret Past Revealed

From The (Glasgow, Scotland) Sunday Mail of Dec. 18, 2005:


The most English of superstars traces his roots back to David Livingstone's Scottish sidekick, a Jacobite rebel and a major decorated at Dunkirk

By Heather Greenaway

UPPERCRUST Hugh Grant is everyone's idea of the archetypal English gent.

But the Love Actually and Four Weddings star is as Scottish as William Wallace.

The 45-year-old's great great-grandfather Dr James Stewart helped Dr David Livingstone explore Africa and his forefathers were Jacobite rebels who fought at the Battle of Culloden.


London-born Hugh, who is dating heiress Jemima Khan, 31, is delighted with his Scots ancestry.

He said: "I grew up knowing a bit about my recent Scottish heritage but now I know about the ancient links and it's something I hold dear."


[Read the whole story]
Hugh is apparently more Scottish than Sean Connery.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Government Agency Comes to Genealogist's Rescue

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Karen Canwell's worst fears were realized last week when the hard drive in her computer self-destructed.

"It made a horrible grinding sound," she says from her home in Lewiston, Idaho, "and then there was a whiff of burning plastic. I knew that wasn't normal."

Karen took her computer to a local repair shop, called the drive manufacturer, and consulted with companies that specialize in data recovery, all to no avail.

"They told me that, with such a catastrophic failure, I had no hope of recovering my data."

This was devastating to Karen, whose entire genealogy was saved on the drive.

"Twenty years of research, and all of it was lost." Her voice trembles as she speaks. "There were scanned pictures of all my relatives, audio files of my late grandparents talking about emigrating from Poland. . . I never thought to back anything up."

Fortunately, someone else did have the foresight to back up Karen's data.

When the National Security Agency heard about her plight last Thursday on a wiretap, they contacted her with good news.

"I got a call from someone at the agency — I'm not allowed to say who," she says. "He told me that they have a recent copy of the contents of my hard drive, and that they'll send me the files as soon as I'm 'ruled out as a threat,' whatever that means."

It appears that Karen attracted the agency's notice when she signed a petition last year opposing the closure of her local library branch. She says that if she had known about the services the NSA provides, she would have signed up directly.

"This is a godsend for any genealogist. I'm getting my data back, plus they're giving me transcripts of all my telephone conversations for the past year. How great is that?"

Officials at the NSA refused to comment.

Ancestors Turn in Their Graves


Madagascan Christians reject "turning of the dead"

Sun Dec 18, 2005 8:27 AM IST13

By Tim Cocks

MAHATSARA, Madagascar (Reuters) - For as far back as their collective memory stretches, the Merina people of highland Madagascar have been exhuming the corpses of their dead relatives in a ceremony of reverence for their ancestors.

After prising open the entrances to their magnificent stone-walled tombs, they remove the bodies of their loved ones and wrap them in a fresh burial shroud in a ritual called the famadihana - the "turning of the dead".


Once wrapped, a man pens the name of the ancestor in blue ink on the sheet.


[Read the whole story]

Experts Say History Began Several Years Prior to WWII

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

Schools blasted for Yo! Sushi take on history

Lessons put too much focus on the effects of war in shaping Britain's identity, claim experts

Gaby Hinsliff, political editor
Sunday December 18, 2005
The Observer

History teaching in schools has become obsessed with the Second World War, at the expense of understanding other events that shaped Britain's national identity, an expert report warns.

Pupils are getting a 'Yo! Sushi experience of historical understanding', sampling a series of short, unconnected modules on detailed issues but unable to connect them into a broader picture, according to the Labour MP Gordon Marsden, who heads an informal advisory group on history teaching for the Department for Education and Skills.


Marsden said the fascination with genealogy and TV programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are?, in which celebrities traced their family trees, showed a keen national interest in history. But he said lessons needed to do more to join up the dots: 'We are all now obsessed with - from a memorialising point of view - World War Two. But [history] is all about connections and feeling part of something bigger than yourself.'


[Read the whole story]

Insert Rigor Mortis Joke Here

From Seacoast Online, posted Dec. 17, 2005:

Nashua man writes book about Jewish cemeteries

By Associated Press

NASHUA, N.H. - Far from spooky, cemeteries are treasures of history and culture to one man who's written a guide book.

Joshua Segal, a senior scientist at the MITRE Corp. and a rabbi, is the author of "A Field Guide to Visiting a Jewish Cemetery." Segal said his book is designed to help visitors learn about the past.


"Every time you think you have seen it all, something new comes up," he said. He said he is fascinated by how people choose to be remembered.

One monument Segal visited was engraved with the image of a can of Budweiser beer. Another had an apparent error that changed the meaning of the phrase "my beloved wife" to "my frigid wife."


[Read the whole story]

Friday, December 16, 2005

50 Relatives Worse Than Yours (I Hope)

The book description for 50 Relatives Worse Than Yours by Justin Racz:

The author of 50 Jobs Worse Than Yours is back with fifty relatives so bad they might make you actually look forward to your next Thanksgiving.

They’re kooky, they’re crazy — 50 Relatives Worse Than Yours is a nightmarish family reunion that will have you appreciating your own weird clan. There’s the Family Newsletter Publisher who keeps you updated on how Uncle Carl’s hip is doing; there’s Holistic New Age Aunt, who knows Madonna from Kabbalah class but refuses to introduce you because that would be bad karma; and there’s Child Who Was in a National TV Commercial, who has more money than you do. And then there’s Uncle Speedo, the Monopoly Bank Thief, and Your Son, the Tenant.

Filled with hilarious photographs and bullet points listing all their horrible characteristics, 50 Relatives Worse Than Yours is the perfect gift for anyone who’s embarrassed by some members of their family, which let’s just admit it is about everyone. And who knows, you might even recognize a relative or two…

Ballplayer Honors Two Nations, Plays For Neither

From, posted Dec. 16, 2005:

Report: A-Rod won't play in WBC

By Mark Feinsand /

Despite saying earlier in the week that he was leaning toward playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, Alex Rodriguez has decided not to participate in the event at all.

A-Rod, who was born in the United States, is eligible to play for the Dominican [team] because his parents were born there. But he told the New York Post in Friday's edition that he will not play for either country, as he doesn't want to dishonor either one.


[Read the whole story]

Top Ten Worst Ways to Honor an Ancestor

10. Scatter his ashes in the lobby of the crematorium.

9. Name a kidney stone after him.

8. Spruce up his burial place with Christmas lights.

7. Carve his name into your neighbor's windshield.

6. Erect a statue depicting his triumph over syphilis.

5. Prop him up on the porch swing each Halloween.

4. Wear his death mask to the family reunion.

3. Write a limerick that commemorates his youthful antics in Nantucket.

2. Finish off his hit list.

1. Marry his widow.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Immigrant Experience (with Candy)

From the (Glenview, Ill.) Pioneer Press of Dec. 15, 2005:

Students act to empathize with immigrant forebears


The eighth-graders at Cary Junior High were subjected to intense interrogations Friday.

If their birth certificates, passports and marriage licenses weren't in order, they were sent packing.

Luckily for them, the mock Ellis Island was only a simulation, and packing meant a trip to the end of the line, not back to their home country.


Upon entering the U.S., the immigrant-students' first checkpoint was with Master [Brent] Lueck.


If he questioned their loyalty, they were sent to a possible political threat area where they were required to copy the preamble to the U.S. Constitution five times.

Travis Comer, 13, was one of the students whose loyalty was questioned.

"My hand hurts, but I guess it's a good way to judge my loyalty," he said.


After about four hours of waiting, processing and testing, the students finally made it to the New York harbor with a smile and Jolly Rancher candy to greet them.

[Read the whole story]

Her Postman Never Rang Twice

Seen on eBay:

Personal housewife diaries 27 years 1936-1962

Large lot of personal diaries spanning 27 years....From the perspective of an everyday housewife...most basic kind of stuff from the weather to baking bread....I've only briefly looked at some of this and who knows there maybe some juicy stuff in here...(the postman rings twice kind of thing).


On Dec-13-05 at 00:49:28 PST, seller added the following information:

These diaries are from one individual housewife from Oregon..who was apparently afflicted with polio...from what I can tell...Some of these diaries are the lock and key variety. From what I have read it's just the day to day going's on from doing the wash...baking and visiting with friends..etc...


[Read the rest]

Genealogy Reduces Risk of Dying

From The (Longmont, Colo.) Daily Times-Call of Dec. 15, 2005:

Probing your genealogical past

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — In recent decades, the genealogy hobby has hooked many otherwise unscholarly Americans.

Probing the past, after all, occasionally turns up a love child, a hush-hush divorce or kissing cousins — information that branches out the family tree and deepens family identity.

Family health history may be dry by comparison. But it could prove more valuable for flagging inherited health risks such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes and giving family members motivation to pursue a healthier, risk-reducing lifestyle.


[Read the whole story]
How's that for a sensational headline? (Disclaimer: This headline has not been evaluated by the FDA.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

National Archives Yields to My Demands

From The Washington (D.C.) Post:

Archives Smooths Web Access to Records

The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 14, 2005; 5:34 PM

WASHINGTON -- Photos of natural and manmade disasters. Lists of combat air missions flown during the Vietnam War. Rolls of those who fled Irish famine for the United States in the 1800s.

And much more, all newly accessible.

The National Archives and Records Administration has made it easier to search online through tens of millions of the electronic records it holds.

The revamped Access to Archival Databases site — — allows the public to search for free through 85 million documents in 475 files amassed by more than 30 federal agencies.


When the program debuted in 2003, it allowed users to search only one electronic records database at a time, slowing the hunt for information. The update allows users to search all databases in one fell swoop and comes after survey respondents and test subjects said the system needed to be more user-friendly, [David] Kepley said.


[Read the whole story]
This can mean only one thing: the United States government reads my blog. Now I wish I'd complained about the Patriot Act...

A Kindred Spirit

Dave at OakvilleBlackWalnut finds humor in the obituaries of strangers. An admirable quality, I think, so long as one doesn't laugh at every death notice one reads.

Confession Not Scandalous Enough

Myrt, our friend in genealogy, had me intrigued today with her reference to a podcast described as a "Discussion of research investigating an immigrant's deathbed confession."

Alas, the confession was not of murder, or even of transvestism, but of birth-record doctoring. An informative listen, but not as titillating as I had hoped.

Valeve, Not Valeber

From the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union:

Faith, family help her overcome adversity

Valeber Crowson copes with illness by focusing her energy on positive

By BRENDAN LYONS, Staff writer
First published: Wednesday, December 14, 2005

ALBANY -- There is only one Valeber Crowson. She was born in southern Mississippi 59 years ago and should've been named for her mother's friend, Valeve.

But a nurse miswrote her name on a birth certificate, and Crowson's mother learned it would cost $25 to correct the error, even though it wasn't the family's fault.

Money was tight in Waynesboro, Miss., a community where grandmothers ran many of the small farms, and neighbors leaned on one another for help in tough times.

"My mother said, 'Well, you're going to keep the name,'" Crowson recalled.


[Read the whole story]

So That's What 'Workhouse' Means!

From DyNAstyBlog, posted Dec. 14, 2005:

Prostitute, Aged 17 Dies - Brum’s First
by Benny @ 8:43 am.

Apparently, the first recorded death by the Birmingham (that is the original Birmingham in the UK, OK?) Registry office was a prostitute whose death was notified by the master of the workhouse.


[Read the whole post]

Genealogy By The Numbers

From Response Source, released Dec. 14, 005:


THE GROWING interest in family history over the last few years has been remarkable. With a new series of the popular BBC programme "Who do you think you think you are?" due to start in the New Year, family history and genealogy research is becoming easier thanks to the internet. Leading the way in online genealogy is the website which has begun to revolutionise Family History research by making the process of locating Birth, Marriage and Death records (BMD) for England and Wales much easier, more accurate, cheaper and without the need to visit the Family Records Centre in Central London.


The Birth, Marriage and Death indexes in the Family Record Centre weigh approximately 5 kg each, with approximately 8,000 indexes which equates to approximately 40,000 kg or over 40 tons of paper

If each page was placed end to end it would cover a distance of 1,008 kilometres or 625 miles

There are approximately 300 million names in the indexes since Registration began in 1837 – the same year as Queen Victoria ascended to the throne


[Read the whole story]
By my calculations, each of those 300 million records weighs about 0.13 grams, or 0.0045 ounces, and measures approximately 3.36 millimeters, or 0.13 inches, in length.

Additional Food for Worms

From The Philadelphia (Pa.) Inquirer of Dec. 13, 2005:

Hidden family grave comes to light

By Stephan Salisbury

Inquirer Staff Writer

[O]n Saturday, workers digging in the Christ Church Burial Ground in preparation for laying a new path to Benjamin Franklin's gravesite felt shovels and rakes clang against stone.


"We discovered this marker that we had no idea existed," said John Hopkins, burial ground coordinator for the Christ Church Preservation Trust.

The marker, about six feet by three feet, lay about six inches below ground.


Hopkins said the church vestry would decide what to do with the marker, which lies directly under the path to the Franklin grave. It is likely that several graves are even farther below ground.

[Read the whole story]
I would hope that the graves are farther below ground.

For a full description and photographs of Franklin's gravesite, and to read his mock epitaph, visit The Electric Ben Franklin.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Curse of the French-Sounding Surname

From This is Guernsey, posted Dec. 3, 2005:

Priaulx cool on snub

Motor Sport
by Aaron Scoones

FANS of World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx have criticised the BBC for snubbing their man at its annual gala sports personality night.

But the champion was quite relaxed over the affair.

Having just flown back into the island from London where he attended the live television event, Priaulx said: "I can't say I was surprised.


"The problem is my surname doesn't sound English and people think I'm French."


[Read the whole story]

The Great, Colorful Depression

From The Washington (D.C.) Post:

Library of Congress to Show Rare Photos

The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 13, 2005; 7:18 AM

WASHINGTON -- For those too young to have lived through them, it can feel like the Depression and World War II happened in black and white.

So the brilliance in a trove of rarely seen color photographs of the era are startling: a female railroad worker sports a red kerchief and matching nail polish, a seaside town is framed in a range of blues, factory rows of B-25 bombers sprout like yellow corn.


The Library of Congress holds 1,600 color images covering both periods, and it's exhibiting 70 of them as digital prints at the Thomas Jefferson Building, across the street from the Capitol, through Jan. 21.

All of the color photos — as well as more than 160,000 black-and-white images of the period — can be viewed on the library's Web site....


[Read the whole story]

Santa Skips Family Reunion

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
The annual Claus reunion was held Sunday in North Pole, Alaska, and yet again the most famous member of the family failed to appear.

Reunion organizer Lionel Claus of Duluth, Minnesota, says this is the tenth straight year his cousin Santa has missed the family get-together.

"He always RSVPs that he's coming, and then he doesn't show. My wife Polly makes his favorite casserole — something with tuna and potato-chip crumbs — but it always goes to waste."

The excuse is usually a heavy work schedule or a recurrent back problem. This year, Lionel received a last-minute email from the famous toymaker claiming that he had forgotten "a prior commitment in Sheboygan, Wisconsin."

"Sheboygan!" snorts Lionel. "He'd rather spend the afternoon at a parade than with his own family."

Not all of the Clauses were miffed by Santa's absence. Myrtle Claus, the family genealogist, gives him the benefit of the doubt, citing his contributions to her work.

"He's not much for giving sources," says Myrtle, "but I can always count on him when I need an accurate list of the children in a household. He won't hand it over until he's checked it twice."

Lionel Claus says Santa's snub will sting for a few days, but that he won't dwell on it.

"I won't let him ruin my Christmas."

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