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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Genealogue Exclusive: Thomas Jefferson May Have Fathered No Children

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
DNA tests released Friday establish that every member of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society claiming descent from the president may actually be descended from his younger brother, Randoloph.

The tests were conducted at the request of purported Jefferson descendants after similar test results in 2000 suggested that several of the progeny of Sally Hemings, Jefferson's slave, were fathered by the president. Skeptics have argued that the 2000 test results prove only that one of Jefferson's close relatives—perhaps Randolph—fathered the children. Hemings descendants have suspected racial motives behind the refusal of some Society members to acknowledge their probable ancestry.

In a stunning development, Geneticrit Associates reported Friday that none of the attendees of the 2004 Jefferson reunion at Monticello could prove their genetic descent from Thomas Jefferson.

"They're all in the same boat," said Geneticrit chief geneticist Norm Lobowski. "We tested samples taken from supposed descendants of Thomas Jefferson and [his uncle] Field Jefferson, and from those of Sally Hemings. All we can conclusively say is that they all share identical Y-chromosome haplotypes. In other words, they all descend from a Jefferson, but I can't say which one."

The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society could not be reached for comment, but a message left on the Monticello answering machine indicates that a vote will be taken at its August meeting to decide whether to rename the Society, "The Randolph Jefferson Heritage Society."

Double Dating in Colonial America

Ever wonder why September is, etymologically speaking, the "seventh month," October the eighth, and so on?

Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII face offThis is a consequence of the Julian Calendar, which held sway in Europe from Roman times until 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII imposed the present system. Prior to 1582, March 25 was celebrated as New Year's Day, and March was considered the first month of the calendar year (even though only seven days of March fell within the new year). Worse, the Julian calendar required leap years every four years without exception, leading to a "drift" in dates. Equinoxes and solstices were still tied to their celestial hitching posts, but the dates on which they occurred drifted as much as ten days.

Gregory's new calendar was a sensible solution to these problems, and therefore was ignored by the British. In England and its colonies, the Julian remained the de jure calendar, even as the Gregorian became the de facto calendar. The most troublesome problem for those recognizing both calendars was designating dates from January 1 through March 24. On the Julian calendar, these were the last days of the old year, while on the Gregorian calendar they were the first days of the new year.

An example from my own family demonstrates the confusion that could arise from the Julian calendar. Jonathan Coolidge, son of John and Mary (Ravens) Coolidge of Watertown, Massachusetts, was born (according to town records) on the tenth day of the first month of 1645. A glance at adjacent records shows that the clerk was using the Julian calendar, whose first month was March. But in the Julian system, the first day of the first month is March 25. Undoubtedly, Jonathan was born on the tenth of March, but the year of his birth was actually 1644 (by the Julian calendar). The clerk's record is both correct—Jonathan was born in the first month of 1645, and on the tenth day of that month—and incorrect—Jonathan was born on the tenth day of March, which lay in 1644.

Such confusion led to a compromise: "double dating," or "split year dating." For dates on the Gregorian calendar prior to March 25, both years would be given. For example, "March 4, 1643/4" was both "March 4, 1643" (Julian) and "March 4, 1644" (Gregorian). This convention was widely used until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752.

For genealogists, it is important both to understand and to respect the double-dating system. When transcribing a record, one should always write the date as given—either in Old Style (Julian) or in New Style (Gregorian). For dates prior to 1752 written without double dating (e.g. "March 4, 1733"), one should not assume the use of either calendar without evidence. If one can reach a conclusion, the conclusion should be bracketed to prevent confusion (e.g. "March 4, 1733[/4]"). If evidence is less than conclusive, this should be indicated as well (e.g. "March 4, 1733[/4?]").

More Reading:

London Boxer Beats Odds, Survives Own Death

From The London Free Press:

Battling butcher doubly dead

James Reaney, Free Press Arts & Entertainment Reporter
2005-07-31 02:34:05

Battling butcher and boxer Gavin Park must have been one tough hombre.

It took two obituaries -- published three years apart -- to lay the big man from London to rest.

[snip]

London Public Library Ivey Family London Room librarian Arthur McClelland first noticed the two obituaries while researching material for a boxing fan in Britain.

"He died twice, this guy. His obituary appeared in 1910 and 1913 . . . it's a mystery," McClelland smiles.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Royal Dynasty Ends With a Whimper

From The (Toronto, Ont.) Globe and Mail:

Korea's royal lineage ends

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Associated Press

Seoul — Five hundred years of Korean royal blood flowed in Yi Ku, but he lived in such obscurity in Japan that when he died of a heart attack in a hotel room last week his body was not discovered for two days.

Nonetheless, thousands of mourners in black suits and traditional white robes followed the coffin of the last direct heir to Korea's throne through the streets of Seoul on Sunday, paying their final respects to the dynasty that ruled the peninsula from 1392 until 1910.

Mr. Yi, the son of Korea's last crown prince, died alone of a heart attack at age 73 in his hotel room July 16 in Japan, where he lived for most of his life. His body was discovered Monday.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Family Remembers Man At the End of His Rope

From The (Georgetown, Ohio) News-Democrat of July 27, 2005:

Gravestone donated to the last man hanged

by Wade Linville
Staff Writer

ABERDEEN — William "Billy" Paul, a Huntington Township man that was hanged over a century ago for the killing of his father-in-law, Joseph Yockey, has finally received a gravestone.

Since April 29, 1896, the day Paul climbed the scaffold where he took his last breath, he has been without a gravestone. Surviving family members felt a gravestone may not have been placed to mark his final resting place because of immediate family who may have been ashamed of the accusations that garnered Paul a death sentence.

[snip]

"Regardless of whether he's guilty or not, the family still felt giving him a gravestone was the right thing to do," said [great-nephew] Bill Paul.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Not Bogeymen After All

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

Once a slur, now a source of pride

By Steve Ivey

HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER

FRANKFORT - When S.J. Arthur started tracing her lineage more than 20 years ago, a fellow researcher stammered as she noticed recurring family names.

Was she connected to a unique group of people known as Melungeons, the researcher timidly asked, afraid Arthur might slap her. The reference was once considered a racial slur.

[snip]

The Melungeons have been described as a "tri-racial isolate," with a mixture of white, black and Native American ancestry. Others have claimed Portuguese and Turkish lineage.

Often, they had olive skin, black hair and blue eyes, setting them apart from Scotch-Irish settlers in their native Appalachia.

The group has been there for more than two centuries, enduring discrimination until recently.

[snip]

Until the past 20 years or so, such a branch in the family tree might not have been welcomed.

Ill-behaved children in eastern Tennessee and western Virginia were told the Melungeons would come for them.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
To learn more, visit the Melungeon Heritage Association.

Genealogist Seeks Vital Record

From the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times:

Genealogical project needs unusual record

By LINDA D. COLE and INGRID L. KOHLER, Times Staff Writers
Published July 30, 2005

When Sherri started out her e-mail to us by saying that she was making an odd request, the staff just had to smile. "Odd" is a relative term in Exchange Land, particularly in this case: Sherri's question is all about her relatives. Actually, hers isn't the first genealogical question we have received. We don't know how the others worked out, but let's give Sherri's a whirl.

[snip]

Apparently when Sherri looks for historical records, she doesn't mean just the boring paper variety: She means the VINYL kind. Specifically, she needs a recording no longer being made; it's titled Swamp Country by Jimmy Walker, on Swamper Records, and it tells the story of Obediah Barber, one of Sherri's ancestors.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
I wonder if her father was A Boy Named Sue.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Hoboes No Longer Welcome in Ward County, N. D.

From the Grand Forks (N. D.) Herald of July 29, 2005:

Historical Board gives OK to raze Ward County poor house

JAMES MacPHERSON

Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. - The State Historical Board has voted to allow the demolition of a 95-year-old poor house south of Minot.

The board on Friday "looked at everything from other uses to moving it, but could not find anything reasonable or realistic," said Merl Paaverud, director of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

And, he said, "there is no money."

[snip]

The poor house was slated for demolition in June, but the Historical Society ordered a temporary halt.

The more than 5,000-square-foot home was built in 1910 to house poor farmers and drifters. Historians say it is the last of eight such facilities that remain in the state.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
For more on the history of poorhouses, see The Poorhouse Story.

10 Million Immigration Records Online Monday

From The New York Times:

The Fort That Let Outsiders In

By SAM ROBERTS
Published: July 29, 2005

The government has been keeping tabs on immigrants since 1820, and Castle Garden at the Battery, originally built to defend New York from foreigners, was the city's first official debarkation point. It was the gateway for immigrants until 1890, when federal officials took over responsibility for the newcomers, who were processed first at the nearby Barge Office and, starting in 1892, on Ellis Island.

Ellis Island may claim more of the ancestral spotlight, but Castle Garden was no slouch. More than one in six native-born Americans are descendants of the eight million immigrants who entered the United States through Castle Garden in Lower Manhattan beginning 150 years ago next Monday.

[snip]

On Monday, Warrie Price, the founder and president of the conservancy, a nonprofit group formed to rebuild the 23-acre park, will also begin a free Web site for scholarly and genealogical research, CastleGarden.org, which includes a database of more than 10 million of the 12 million immigrants who arrived at the Port of New York from 1820 to 1892.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Kentucky City Makes Monumental Mistake

From The (Danville, Ky.) Advocate-Messenger of July 29, 2005:

Danville workers discard grave markers

By EMILY BURTON
Staff Writer

Paul Winston Morgan died in 1979 as a veteran of the Air Force, though his family never saw the bronze marker designating him as such placed on his grave at Bellevue Cemetery.

Yet 26 years later, Morgan's bronze marker was found Thursday in a heap of broken tombstones, dirt and brush at a city dump, left by cemetery employees ordered to clean out the cemetery's building before its destruction.

[snip]

Morgan's bronze marker was one of several in the dump, along with gray granite stones as new as 1990 to worn white granite markers dated 1913. Most were freshly broken in large, lateral chunks. Some had already become a flower bed border for a nearby home.

Of what stones and bronze markers were visible through the dirt, all were those of veterans.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Genealogue Exclusive: Hereditary Society Denies Bias

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
An officer of the National Society of the Daughters of Privileged Colonists defended her organization Thursday against charges of prejudice.

"It's preposterous," said Rebecca Mildieux, secretary of the Society's New Jersey branch. "Our members trace their lineage from every English-speaking country in Europe. We even had a recent applicant who descended from an Irish colonist. If she had remembered to send her application by registered mail, I'm sure she would have been accepted."

Wendy Schisler, a descendant of Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, also claims that membership requirements are far too strict. "My ancestors weren't delegates to the Continental Congress, and they didn't own 'land equal in area to the District of Columbia as originally bounded.' They were just poor farmers."

NSDPC membership is granted, according to the Society's website, only to those who can prove descent from a colonial ancestor "whose deeds or estate contributed significantly to the foundation of our Nation." Nevertheless, Mildieux insists that the Society excludes no one without careful consideration.

"I can assure Miss Schisler that her application would be welcomed and given a fair hearing," she said, adding, "It's not like she's Polish."

N.C. Woman Apologizes to Dead Relatives

From The Kinston (N. C.) Free Press:

Smithsonian to examine Kinston caskets

July 29, 2005
Lee Raynor
Managing Editor

An occasional breeze tickled stalks of green bamboo and crickets chirped at the night sky while Susan Burgess Hoffman sat quietly at the foot of the cemetery.

"I wanted to tell them why we were going to do what we did," she said. "I wanted them to understand."

Hoffman is the five-times great-granddaughter of Gov. Richard Caswell. Historians believe Caswell family members are buried on the hill behind the parking lot between Kinston Clinic South and the Bentley. Two graves in the old cemetery were to be excavated the following day. Hoffman wanted her long-dead relatives to know why.

[snip]

The graves were opened five years ago when [Kinston businessman Ted] Sampley offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could find Gov. Caswell's grave.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
As a general rule, scavenger hunts should not be conducted in graveyards.

Update (Aug. 5, 2005): The graves have been opened. Find out what was inside.

Update (Sept. 8, 2005): And now they have been reburied.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Finding a Missing Tombstone in One Step

From The Waterloo Cedar-Falls (Iowa) Courier of July 28, 2005:

Old tombstone found in Waterloo back yard

By TINA HINZ, Courier Staff Writer

WATERLOO — Ryan Jensen dug up more than expected last week while redoing a path from his back door to his driveway.

What appeared to be a "nice little stepping stone" to enter his house was in fact a woman's tombstone. As he brushed away dirt from the backside, which had been lying face-down, the word "died" stood out.

"I was shocked," said Jensen, who lives at 837 Western Ave. "I didn't know what to think. I set it up on my deck and cleaned it up. I just felt really bad. I've stepped on it for seven years."

[snip]

Jensen hasn't ruled out the possibility of a body buried beneath.

"I don't like to think about that," he said. "A couple people at work wanted me to look into it and call the city to dig about 45 feet. I kind of wanted to at first, but I don't know. It probably wouldn't make me want to sleep very much at night (if a body is uncovered)."

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
I guess Ryan won't be getting that in-ground pool he's always wanted.

Update: For the apparent solution to the mystery, see the The Waterloo Cedar-Falls (Iowa) Courier of July 30, 2005.

Canadians Come to Their Census

From The Brampton (Ont.) Guardian of July 27, 2005:

Access to census data finally granted

Like a starter's pistol, the pop from a champagne bottle cork sounded the beginning of celebrations in the Senator's office. It also signaled the end of a seven-year political struggle for Lorna Milne.

The Senate member from Brampton has walked point on Parliament Hill for a grassroots movement lobbying for legislation that will permit the release of Canada's historical census records to the public. That legislation was passed in the House of Commons June 28, just before Parliament wrapped up business for the summer.

"We popped champagne in my office," Milne said after the bill received Royal Assent and went in to effect.

"I'm just absolutely delighted! It has been seven years," said Milne.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Rapper Embraces Jewish Ancestry

From TotallyJewish.com:

Science Tells TJ: 'I Am A Jew'

by Zeddy Lawrence - Thursday 28th of July 2005

After eight weeks of speculation, TJ can finally answer the question on every Big Brother fan’s lips, is Science Jewish?

The 22-year-old rapper, who was evicted from the Big Brother house last weekend, sparked a furious debate among viewers on day two of the gameshow when he described himself as “a black Jew” and revealed he’d been circumcised.

[snip (ouch!)]

Speaking to TJ yesterday, the musician from Leeds, admitted: “Religiously I wasn’t born like Jewish. I’m not a part of no Jewish church or stuff like that.”

But he added: “I am a black Jew in terms of my ancestry. There’s a lot of mystery about my ancestry, who I am and where I originally come from. But a lot of people in Ethiopia are Jewish.”

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Genealogisms

The prospect that Wikipedia will delete its entry for Censuswhacking because it is a neologism has prompted me to think up some other genealogical neologisms—call them "genealogisms," and let that be the first—which, with any luck, will be banned as well someday.

  • Charlemagnia - A condition suffered by those who expect all their ancestral lines to end in royalty.
  • Deshamification - Destroying or concealing evidence of an ancestor's disgraceful behavior, such as membership in the Hitler Youth, participation in "midget tossing," or voting for Warren G. Harding.
  • Fumblineage - One's descent from a series of ancestors, each of whom was conceived on his parents' wedding night.
  • Haleytosis - An unfortunate reliance on oral tradition when compiling one's family history.
  • Incestors - Married ancestors so closely related that their union would now be illegal.
  • Kleptonamiac - One who steals names from another's genealogy database to add to his own.
  • Nepotaph - A memorial inscription carved into the gravestone of another, more prominent member of the family.
  • Polygameetup - A reunion for certain families in Utah.
  • Pyroblamia - The propensity of town and county clerks to blame the lack of records related to one's ancestors on a mythical conflagration.
  • Thanatopology - The study and mapping of burial places. Most often practiced by genealogists and serial killers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A Family So Nice They Counted Them Twice

A recent thread on the Ancestry.com message boards brings to light an interesting phenomenon. Devon Jones asks, "How common is it for a family to appear more than once on the same census?"

Let me borrow an example from Michael John Neill's Famous People Enumerated Twice in the United States Census. Writer Jack London and wife appear twice in the 1910 census—once in Oakland, California, and a second time in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, California. The first enumeration was recorded on April 15, and the second on May 14, but both should have reflected the London's place of residence on April 15, the official census date. One would guess that the second enumeration is mistaken on this count.

In my own research, I have found countless individuals enumerated twice, and more than a few non-famous families. William H. and Betsey E. Herrick appear twice in the 1860 census for Norway, Maine. Harold A. and Martha M. Swift lived in both Greenwood and Paris, Maine, in 1910.

Devon Jones' example is especially intriguing: the two enumerations were taken by the same man, in the same ward of Memphis, Tennessee, on the same day. The enumerations are not identical, but are too similar to dismiss as coincidence. The wife's name differs, but the husband's name is the same. The same seven children's names are given, in the same order, but the age of each child is slightly different. The husband's mother appears in one enumeration, but not in the other.

Every genealogical instinct tells us that these were two enumerations of a single family, except the instinct to caution we all should develop. A little more research should tell Devon which instinct to heed.

Tracking the Beasts in Your Family

It may seem odd, but genealogists can sometimes learn important information because of the animals their ancestors owned. In my own hometown in Maine, several pages of town records around 1890 were devoted to recording the names and owners of licensed dogs in the town. Along with the joy experienced upon learning that one's great-great-grandfather named his dog "Rufus" comes the more valuable insight that he did indeed live in the town in the year noted.

Sometimes establishing residence is of vital importance. In Plymouth, cows and goats were distributed among the settlers in 1627. Records of the division of cattle offer a sort of census of the colony, giving the names of every man, woman, and child. As records for some families are sketchy in the early years of the colony, genealogists can point to this record as proof that their ancestors arrived prior to 1627—or, as with my own Dunham forebears, as evidence that they had not yet arrived.

Also useful to genealogists are records of crop marks, or ear marks. These were the slits and notches cut into animals' ears to show ownership.1 The first pages of Plymouth town records list ear marks, in compliance with a law of the Colony Court, passed Nov. 15, 1636, that "every mans marke of his Cattle be brought to the towne book where he lives and that no man give the same but shall alter any other brought by him and put his owne upon them."2

Some examples:

John Wood a hollow cut out on the top of right yeare.
Giles Rickett the top of the left yeare cutt of and a slit upon the same yeare.
Lieftennant Southworth the marke of his Cattle is a cropp on the left eare.
John Dunhame senior the marke of his Cattle is a croch on the left eare.3
A son would often inherit or adapt his father's mark—a sensible policy if inheriting his father's livestock. In towns where crop marks were diligently recorded, a genealogist may find in them proof of parentage, in addition to proof of residence in the town. Two men sharing the same name may be distinguished by their different crop marks. And record of a young man's first crop marks might be taken as evidence that he had that year "come of age."

Notes:
1Occasionally a mark somewhere else on the animal, for example on a hoof, was used.
2Records of the Town of Plymouth (Plymouth, Mass., 1889), 1:1.
3Ibid., 1:2.

Disrespectful Johns Flushed Out

From U. S. NewsWire:

Toilets Removed From Profaned Jewish Burial Ground in Poland

7/27/2005 9:43:00 AM

To: National Desk

Contact: Daniel Schatz of the World Jewish Congress, 917-216-5579 or dschatz@wjcmail.org

JERUSALEM, July 27 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Yielding to pressure by the World Jewish Congress (WJC), local authorities in the town of Szczekociny in Poland dismantled the public toilets that were built on the grounds of one of the town's two Jewish cemeteries.

"The World Jewish Congress is committed to the preservation and restoration of Jewish heritage sites around the world. We will not hesitate to take this issue to the highest levels to ensure that the material evidence of Jewish presence be saved for future generations," declared Bobby Brown, director of the Israel Branch of the World Jewish Congress.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

English Methuselahs

From the Boston (Mass.) Evening Post of Oct. 10, 1748:

Henry Jenkins, of Yorkshire, was upwards of 153 when he died.—As to his way of living, we have no account of it. Thomas Damme of Leighton, near Minshual, in the palatine of Chester, was 154 years of age when he died, and was buried at Minshual aforesaid, on the 20th day of Feb. 1648, as it appears by his gravestone, cut in words at length, not figures ; and to prevent disputes, as the event, is so remarkable, it is now to be seen in the church register, sign'd by the Rev. Mr. Thomas Holdford, vicar, and by Tho. Kennerly and John Warburton, church-wardens, who were then living.—I thought proper, to mention this relation, as it never was taken notice of by any chronologers ; few know it, but it ought to be handed down to posterity.
The author has sold Jenkins short. A website devoted to the role of Honey in Longevity states that he lived to be 169, and "that shortly before his death he was still swimming like a fish." In the case of Thomas Damme, one has no doubt that Messrs. Holdford, Kennerly, and Warburton were privy to the circumstances of his death, but were they also present at his birth?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Grave Error Committed in Wales

From icNorthWales:

Why is my son's photo on another man's gravestone?

Jul 26 2005

By Eryl Crump, Daily Post

A MOTHER told last night of her distress after seeing a photo of her dead son on another man's grave.

Winifred Roberts was shocked when she saw the picture of 25-year-old motorbike fan Arfon on a headstone in a North Wales cemetery.

Arfon, from Llys Einon, Llannerchymedd, died six years ago during a bike race crash at Aintree, as his dad Owen, a farmer, watched the race.

[snip]

Yesterday, Morris Granite admitted the photo was wrongly included in its catalogue of headstones.

The company said it planned to replace the other man's headstone later this week.

[snip]

Winifred said: ". . . The stonemason had no right to use the photograph but they put it in their catalogue and another family have chosen it from this in all innocence. This has affected us terribly."

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

A Holiday Named by Committee

From Taiwan News:

Indigenous peoples given special day

2005-07-26 / Taiwan News, Staff Writer / By Chen Hung-lin

The Executive Yuan has designated August 1 as "Indigenous Peoples Re-designation Day" to accentuate its determination to preserve aboriginal cultures and ways of life and to boost their well-being.

The special day's date was chosen to commemorate August 1, 1994, when the official term used to describe local aborigines was changed from the perjorative "mountain people," or "mountain compatriots," to "indigenous peoples" as part of constitutional amendment.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
Does Hallmark make an Indigenous Peoples Re-designation Day card?

Governor Cracks Down on Sensible Record-Keeping

From New York Newsday:

Romney Instructs Hospitals on Birth Papers

By Associated Press

July 22, 2005, 12:23 PM EDT

BOSTON -- The governor's office has instructed hospitals to cross out the word "father" on birth certificates for children of same-sex parents and substitute "second parent," angering municipal clerks.

Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for Gov. Mitt Romney, said Thursday that the certificates are perfectly legal.

But municipal clerks, who register and store birth records, say the cross-outs could leave the documents open to challenges by passport agents, foreign governments and other officials.

"They should not have a birth certificate that has crosses on it," said Barnstable Town Clerk Linda E. Hutchenrider, a past president of the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association. "They should be allowed to have a birth certificate that really looks valid."

[Read the whole story]
Some might say that Romney is a son of a XXXXX. For my thoughts on how the kids of same-sex couples should be treated, see my previous post, Leave Genealogy Out of It.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The History Defectives Strike Again

By all rights, I should be happy with tonight's episode of History Detectives on PBS. After all, it was devoted entirely to genealogical research, and even included a case involving someone bearing my own surname—Daniel Dunham, a Loyalist fugitive to Canada.

I can't, though, ignore the horrible advice given tonight to those researching their African-American heritage. At the close of the story about a banjo once owned by an emancipated slave, one of the Detectives explained that tracing enslaved ancestors before the Civil War is so difficult that one should expect to rely on oral tradition. He went on to hold up Alex Haley as a role model for African-American genealogists, and urged viewers to follow Haley's example in exploring and proving their own ancestries.

Problem is, Alex Haley's research methods and conclusions were thoroughly discredited long ago (see Roots Revisited). Oral tradition should not be relied upon except as a last resort. African-American genealogy does require special skills, and knowledge of sources which may be safely neglected by others. Records of property are of merely historical interest to many of us; but to descendants of slaves, whose ancestors were considered property, these can hold vital information on their lineages.

AfriGeneas is a good place to start one's African-American research. See also Cyndi's List of African-American resources, and the following instructional articles at Ancestry.com:

Aussies Proud of Criminal Past

From the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald:

The dead persons society

July 26, 2005

Once, skeletons were locked in the closet. No longer, as we dig deeper for the roots of our family trees, writes Steve Meacham.

MORE than 40 years ago, says Heather Garnsey, the sober staff who worked behind the counters of the Society of Australian Genealogists felt they had to protect innocents from the "C" word.

If someone came in researching their family tree and asked to see the all-important 1828 census, they wouldn't be allowed to look themselves. A member of staff would do it for them, fearing the worst.

"If it was found that they had convict origins, they'd be told, 'No, there wasn't anything of interest for you'. [The researchers] knew that the person would not be happy to have convict ancestry. They felt they had to mask the truth." The convict stain was too awful to admit.

And now? Garnsey, executive officer of Australia's premier genealogical body, laughs. "Now it's a badge of honour to collect as many convicts in your family tree as possible - even if you wouldn't have wanted to meet any of them today."

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
To find scoundrels in your own family tree, visit Black Sheep Ancestors.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bureaucracy Results in Sex Change

From The New Hampshire Union Leader of July 24, 2005:

A gender-bending clerical error

By JOHN CLAYTON
Union Leader Staff

Before you get the wrong idea, you should know that my friends, Tonya Angwin and Steve Houle, are thoughtful, liberal, progressive people who are more than willing to thumb their noses at the establishment.

That having been said, until recently, they had no idea that their marriage may go down in history as the first same-sex union in New Hampshire.

"And we got it 10 years ago before it was in vogue," Tonya said.

The only hitch?

They're not the same sex.

See, Tonya is a woman and Steve is a man, but in the recently opened eyes of a long-slumbering bureaucracy, Steve's gender has suddenly been called into question.

It started innocently enough.

"We went to City Hall to get new birth certificates for travel purposes," Tonya explained. "Mine went fine, but the clerks were laughing at Steve's. His original birth certificate lists him as female. While they seemed to believe that he is, indeed, a male, they couldn't issue the new copy of the birth certificate saying he is a male."

Tonya suggested a rather obvious means of proof.

"I don't think they were amused," she said.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Connecticut Man Close to Death, and Doesn't Like It

From the Waterbury (Conn.) Republican American:

Woodbury headstone dispute refuses to rest in peace

Sunday, July 24, 2005

By Paul Singley

Copyright © 2005 Republican-American

WOODBURY -- There are people who find it hard to understand John Novak, who continues to crusade to have graves in the cemetery across the street from his house moved away from his property line.

Novak maintains his request is justified.

He built his home across from the newest section of North Cemetery and believes headstones are too close to Washington Avenue, which separates his home and the cemetery. Despite being told otherwise by town officials, Novak claims the stones are in violation of town zoning regulations, and he wants them moved.

[snip]

Town zoning regulations say anything considered a "structure" cannot be placed within 50 feet of a road, and there is nothing that stipulates what a "structure" is. Because of this, Novak believes the gravestones are "structures," and that they should be moved at least 50 feet from the road.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
I propose a compromise: Leave the graves where they are, and seize Novak's land by eminent domain. Then put up a Wal-Mart, because we know they don't mind building on or around cemeteries.

Top Ten Signs Your Wife is Cheating With a Genealogist

10. All she wants to talk about in bed are Dutch naming patterns.

9. Files your marriage certificate under "Miscellaneous."

8. Gets frisky while watching Roots.

7. Asks if you would mind separate headstones.

6. Clips obituaries instead of coupons.

5. Microfilm rental receipts under the sofa cushion.

4. Calls out her great-great-grandfather's name in the heat of passion.

3. Lots of weekend trips to Salt Lake City "with the girls."

2. Blushes every time she passes an old graveyard.

1. Named your youngest son "Persi."

A Tree Grows in Singapore

From ChannelNewsAsia.com:

Five-generation family wins Singapore's Largest Family Tree title

By Valarie Tan, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : One Singaporean family put together the details of their extended family with over 200 members and walked away with the title of Singapore's Largest Family Tree.

The final turnout was just a quarter of the five-generation Tham family, but it was enough to win them the grand prize at the Singapore Family Tree Project, organised by the National Heritage Board.

The total number was 210 -- all born and raised in Singapore.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
210 doesn't seem like a lot. My father had 48 first-cousins when he was growing up, most of whom are still living. All of them married, and most had children and grandchildren. I don't know if they'd all fly to Singapore to win me a plasma TV, though. . .

You can learn more about the contest at Singapore Family Tree.

Genealogued Blogs 2

Another attempt to fill a non-existent need.
Legacy News writes about the Family History Archive at BYU, an amazing repository of family histories, all of which can be viewed online as PDF files.

DavidLambertBlog.com answers the question Why there may be multiple marriage locations for your Ancestor.

GeneaBlogie argues that there are No Easy Cases in genealogy.

Genealogy Blog makes easier the task of Finding a German Place When all You Know is the Start of the Town Name.

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter wonders, Will we soon be Phasing out Printed Books?

Family Matters expounds the virtues of Firefox Search Features - A Researcher's Best Friend, an assessment with which I wholeheartedly agree.

DearMyrtle offers advice on what a genealogist should do if she finds that two relatives canoodled, but were Not Married. Read also Readers' Feedback on the subject.

Banjo Strings says, Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe I am the child of a million bazillion gajillion people. He's not, as shown in my previous post, An Argument for Inbreeding?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Non-Essential Sites: WWI Draft Registration Cards of the Rich and Famous

As the World War I Civilian Draft Registrations Database at Ancestry.com slowly grows toward completion, one cannot help but wonder: What color were Jack Benny's eyes?

The answers to this question and others may be found at World War I Draft Registration Cards of the Rich and Famous, another Ancestry.com preview provided by Michael John Neill. Those interested should also check out Neill's 2004 article "World War I Draft Cards of the Rich and Famous".

Some other celebrities whose cards may be viewed:

  • Babe Ruth - Back when he still played for my beloved Red Sox (sigh).
  • Gabby Hayes - Already employed as an actor, but not yet as a sidekick.
  • George M. Cohan - Who apparently was "born on fourth of July."

More Reading:

Nobility Ain't What It Used to Be: Part 2

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

Experts attack sale of ‘bogus’ Barony of Clare for €90,000

John Burns

A BRITISH lord is selling the Barony of Clare through a London auctioneers, with an asking price of £60,000 (€86,000). But Irish experts say the title is bogus, and there is no evidence that the former Conservative peer’s family ever used it.

[snip]

. . . Irish experts have disputed the claims being made for the barony. “In the light of the Abolition of Feudal Tenures Act of 1662, how it can be claimed that feudal titles still exist today in Ireland as hereditaments to be bought and sold?” said Sean J Murphy, a leading genealogist.

[snip]

Kenneth Nichols, a former history professor in University College Cork, said: “If people want to assume a bogus barony, they could do it themselves without paying any money to Robert Smith [of Manorial Auctioneers].”

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Man Buries Great-Great-Grandfather for $10

From the Littleton (Mass.) Independent:

Restitution comes late for burial costs

Thursday, July 21, 2005

File this under "all in a day's work."

Town Treasurer Don Armstrong reports that last week a man from Connecticut was researching his family tree in the Littleton Historic Society building on King Street, and uncovered the fact that the town paid for the burial of his great-great grandfather in West Lawn Cemetery.

"The guy had been studying the genealogy and found a town report from 1889 listing the burial fee paid by the town," said Armstrong. "He came in and wanted to know how to pay the debt."

Armstrong sent him to Walter Higgins, manager of the cemetery. Higgins took $10 off the man, and he and Armstrong drew up an official letter on town letterhead and an official envelope indicating that the debt had been repaid.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Brits Encourage Their Dead to Stay Close to Home

From icSouthLondon.co.uk:

'Outsiders' may be buried - at twice the price

Jul 21 2005

By Ben Clover, The Post

GRAVES in Merton could be available to people living outside the borough if council plans go ahead.

Merton hopes to raise up to £50,000 a year from the increase in prices at cemeteries in London Road, Mitcham, and Gap Road, Wimbledon.

Currently only Merton residents can be buried in the graveyards.

The council plan is to charge double for outsiders.

[snip]

The report also said the take up for graves in the council-run cemeteries was low enough that outsiders could be fitted in.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
This is a good start. As a genealogist, I would support a federal law that all Americans be buried within five miles of their homes, and that their graves be arranged in alphabetical order.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Gettin' IGI Wit It - Using Batch Numbers

Anyone wanting to take full advantage of the International Genealogical Index needs to understand batch numbers. Using batch numbers allows you to narrow your search to a specific set of records—say, the marriage records of a certain town.

Take, for instance, the record of my ancestor Moses Dunham's birth in Carver, Massachusetts. The batch number "C500641" is given at the bottom of the page, and if I click on it, I'm taken to a new search page, with the batch number filled in. Searching for "Dunham" now gives me all Dunham births in Carver (or, at least, all those that were indexed in this batch). If I had clicked instead on "Source Call No.," I would have been taken to an entry in the Family History Library Catalog showing the original source for the birth date: the Vital records of Carver, Massachusetts, to the year 1850.

An easy shortcut to finding batch numbers may be found at Hugh Wallis' website, IGI Batch Numbers - British Isles and North America. Find the town or county you want to search, click on the relevant batch number, and you're taken to a search page where you can enter a surname, or perhaps two if you're searching for a marriage. For a more powerful search, simply copy the batch number and paste it into the official IGI search page.

Archives Redux

Well, the National Archives website is back up and running. Sort of.

Don't try typing in "www.nara.gov" as I tend to do: you won't be redirected [Update: This redirect has since been repaired]. And you'll find that a few of the links on the site don't work, including one to the AAD, which holds the World War II enlistment database I complained about recently.

On the bright side, the site seems much more welcoming, and navigation has been improved with less reliance on pull-down menus. Their prominent inclusion of "most requested" and "often requested" resource lists is also helpful.

Let's hope they don't stop at redesigning, and start adding even more genealogical databases and indexes to the site. Broad outlines of archival holdings are great, but how about more names and dates? Arguing that they have too much material to put everything online misses the point. We don't want everything—just the good stuff. The BLM database of land patent images (now offline for "security" reasons) was a good start. They can't always leave it to private companies to do the job—how long has Ancestry.com been working on their database of World War I draft registration cards, twelve years?

To be fair, the Archives website does have some digitized records of interest to genealogists. See Archival Research Catalog: Historical Documents Online for links to selected court, immigration and military records, as well as resources for African- and Native-American researchers.

This Day in Pilgrim History: July 22, 1620

On this date, 385 years ago, the Pilgrims—also known as Separatists, Saints, and Marauders of the Native Wilderness—departed Holland aboard the Speedwell, a vessel renowned for its unseaworthiness.

The Pilgrims had intended to sail to America aboard two ships, but decided that their 17th-century devotion to inconvenience and squalor demanded they all travel together.

But which ship to choose? Bradford and Brewster scratched their hat-buckles and awaited revelation, until young Mary Chilton reminded her elders of the riddle, "If April showers bring mayflowers, what do mayflowers bring?" Whereupon they knew the answer, and the Speedwell was promptly scuttled.

In related news, on this date in 1927, Speedwell Movers was founded in Indianapolis, Indiana. After several of their trucks broke down and failed to reach their destinations, the company renamed itself Mayflower Transit, and went on to great success.

For more accurate details, see MayflowerHistory.com.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Our Northern Neighbors Come Through

The 1911 Canadian census is finally online. As is customary in that frozen and mostly uninhabited land, the census is indexed by geographic location and not by family name. The Library and Archives Canada website adds the following caveat:

The creation of the microfilms was authorized in 1955 with the paper records destroyed afterwards. The microfilming of these records was not of consistent quality and therefore not all images are decipherable. Unfortunately, the destruction of the paper records means that there is no recourse when a record is unreadable.
While you're there, check out the other databases offered by the Canadian Genealogy Centre, like:

Wow, I thought only Americans and British royalty got divorced.

Leave the Sling Blade at Home

From the Galway (Ireland) Advertiser of July 21, 2005:

Billy Bob's looking for his Galway cousins

BY DECLAN VARLEY

Hollywood actor Billy Bob Thornton is heading to Galway in the coming weeks to track down his relations in the county.

[snip]

He said that although he has been to Ireland several times, he intends to visit Galway in the coming weeks to locate his family roots.

Recent research carried out by the star have indicated that his ancestors hail from Galway and he is keen to document them and meet his Galway cousins.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

A Rags to Riches to Rags Story

From the Chicago (Ill.) Tribune:

FORGOTTEN DICKENS
Few realize Francis Dickens, third son of Charles, came to a sad end in Moline. How did that happen?


By Mike Conklin
Tribune staff reporter
Published July 21, 2005

MOLINE, Ill. -- It might seem curious enough that Francis J. (Frank) Dickens, son of England's most-acclaimed Victorian-era writer, Charles Dickens, was buried nearly 120 years ago in a cemetery in the heart of Midwestern farm country.

[snip]

In [a Chicago Tribune] story, Dickens was said to have worked his way east after his discharge by partying away $5,000 he received selling land awarded by the Canadian government. When he arrived in Chicago, his drinking (alcohol was called "Fleet Street microbes" in the article) and gambling left him broke.

He sponged off old military buddies in Chicago, it was reported, and made one final push: He took $200 for his watch, a family heirloom, and tried the gambling tables to parlay enough money for a return to London. He failed, then decided to go to Moline and take advantage of [Moline physician A. W.] Jamieson's hospitality.

[snip]

In Riverside Cemetery, two stones now mark Frank Dickens' grave since the Canadian police added their memorial. Both note he was the son of Charles Dickens, but the only hint of an unfulfilled life may be the inscription on the original marker:

"Take ye heed, watch and pray for ye know not when the time is."

[Read the whole story]
Especially true of one who pawns his only watch.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Good Story, Poor Genealogy

From the New Jersey Herald:

A civil rivalry, without the war

Sunday, July 17, 2005

By JEANNETTE SCHEIN
Herald Staff Writer

The competitive spirit of Civil War adversaries Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee has stretched into the 20th and 21st centuries in Hampton. That's where Jennifer Rosen, 17, a descendant of Lee, and Kira Grant, 18, a descendant of Grant, have lived across the street from each other in Hampton Commons.

Friends virtually since birth — Rosen says Grant "was at my house from the day she was born" — the two have had their eyes on similar prizes often.

"We compete for everything," she said, laughing. "It's amazing we're still friends."

[snip]

According to Kira's father, William Grant, Ulysses S. Grant was his great, great, great uncle, once removed.

"My father kept a lot of records about it," William Grant said. "Our family came over on the second trip of the Mayflower."

[snip]

Rosen, who said Lee was her "great uncle from way, way back," admits she and Kira Grant both found their Civil War connection interesting.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
A nice story, but the girls are not descended from Grant and Lee (though the generals could be called collateral ancestors), I'm not sure how a great-great-great-uncle can be "once removed," and the Mayflower didn't make a second trip.

Related to the Hiltons? That's Hot

Those of you eager to learn how Paris Hilton is related to Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor should direct your attention to today's Indianapolis (Ind.) Star. Wikipedia has a bit more information. Brian Hines revealed last year his own Paris connection.

Unfortunately, Conrad Hilton was the son of a Norwegian immigrant, and is not related to the Hiltons who settled early in New Hampshire, from whom I am descended. My closest connection to obscene wealth is through my great-grandfather Elton L. Dunham, who was the second-cousin of Henry Solomon Wellcome.

Who was he? Well, an exhibition at the British Museum is dedicated to him. He was a physician, and helped found Burroughs Wellcome & Co. in England to import American pharmaceuticals. His wife having run off with British novelist Somerset Maugham, and having no children, Henry left his company and estate of about £3,000,000 to the Wellcome Trust, now "the world's largest medical research charity," in 1936. You might know the Burroughs Wellcome company by its current name: GlaxoSmithKline, whose annual earnings would make Conrad Hilton blush.

But, as my father bemoans, our ancestors were generally of the dirt-farmer variety, and no hefty checks are forthcoming from long-lost cousins. On the bright side, we don't have to hang our heads in shame whenever Paris speaks.

Nobility Ain't What It Used to Be

From The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News of July 20, 2005:

Retired California grocery clerk could be next Earl of Essex

KATHLEEN HENNESSEY

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO - Retired grocery clerk Bill Capell woke up to a phone call from a British reporter last month informing him that a cousin had died. He told his wife to go back to bed, gave the reporter a comment and was snoozing minutes later.

Capell's cousin was the 10th Earl of Essex and his death puts Capell, a born-and-bred Californian, one step away from the title. But he was largely unimpressed by the news that he might become a nobleman.

"I'm a pretty laid-back guy," Cappell, 52, said from his Yuba City home on Tuesday. "I've known since way back in 1966, as a teenager, when my dad got a call. It's always been on the back burner, sure, but I never really thought about it."

As the Right Honorable Lord William Capell, Capell would be entitled to an honorary seat in the House of Lords, he says, and the Queen of England would formally address him as "Our right trusty and entirely beloved cousin."

"But that's about it," Capell said. "You get the title, there's no money."

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

If I Could Save Time in a Mason Jar

From The (Greenville, Mich.) Daily News of July 19, 2005:

Jar contains 100 years of memories

By Marc Rehmann - Daily News intern

GREENVILLE -- Nels Hansen likes cake, history and his family.

Ironically enough, in the palm of his hand he can hold something significant to all three.

On a stand in the bedroom of his Greenville home, Hansen has an 1858 Mason jar filled with pieces of cake, candy and a cigar from the 50th anniversary of his great-great-grandparents, Richard and Elizabeth Boyd of Orleans Township. They were married July 5, 1855, and their golden anniversary was celebrated in 1905.

"I feel kind of lucky to have this," Hansen said. "It's kind of like a piece from a puzzle. It's a missing link to my family's history."

[snip]

Both the candy and cigars appear to be homemade. Despite being 100 years old, they have remained in good shape.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
Word to the wise: Do not eat the candy.

Insane Cemetery Decision in Canada

From The (Toronto, Ont.) Globe and Mail:


Giving dignity to the dead B.C. tried to hide from view

By MARK HUME

Monday, July 18, 2005

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. -- 'It's here somewhere," Pat Feindel said as she pulled at the weeds and tall grass that had grown up in a corner of the lost graveyard.

After a moment she found a simple headstone, and brushed dirt from the faded, concrete surface to expose the inscription: Leong, Sue, DIED, Oct. 19, 1950.

"Somehow this one got overlooked. It's one of the few that was never taken," said Ms. Feindel, who is part of a remarkable project aimed at restoring dignity to a graveyard that government authorities tried to erase from sight nearly 30 years ago.

[snip]

The project is not simply a case of tending to a few neglected plots, but involves recovering the history of an entire graveyard that was all but wiped from British Columbia's memory in 1977, when the province authorized the removal of 3,000 headstones.

The stones had marked the graves of former inmates of the Woodlands Institution, a notorious asylum on scenic, wooded lands that slope down to the Fraser River in New Westminster that became known as the "prison for the insane" shortly after it opened in 1878.

[snip]

"What happened," explains Ms. Feindel, a spokesperson for the BC Association for Community Living, "is that when Queen's Park Hospital was built next to the graveyard [in 1976] somebody decided that the elderly patients would be disturbed by looking out at headstones. So they tried to erase the graveyard."

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Dangers of Cold Water

From the (Salem, Mass.) Essex Gazette of Aug. 13, 1771:

DIED—In this Town, the Beginning of last Week, one Mr. Macnamara, by drinking and wetting himself with cold Water.—At Danvers, last Tuesday, Mr. William Hutchinson, who was taken up in the Road, almost dead, carried into a House, and died in a few Minutes, having, it is supposed, drank too freely of cold Water ; and the same Day, Mr. Daniel Marble, whose Death was also occasioned by drinking cold Water.

These Are the Days of Our Lives

How old are you? This question would appear to have just one correct answer, an answer usually expressed by adults in years. Those who enjoy a good mathematical puzzle might try to express their age in days—also a unique and determinable answer. But what if you were asked to express your age in years, months, and days?

Let's say I was born March 20, 1964 (I was not, actually, and my Social Security number is not 004-76-3893). Today is July 18, 2005. In two days, I will be 41 years, 4 months, and 0 days. Today, I am 41 years, 3 months, and . . . how many days? Counting back to June 20, I find the answer is 28 days. But this is not the only possible answer. If I count back three months, and then count back the days to March 20, I find the answer is 29 days. Since March and June have 31 and 30 days respectively, the order in which I perform my calculations changes the outcome. Look at it another way: I subtract 1964 from 2005, and get 41 years; I subtract March (3) from July (7) and get 4 months. In order to subtract 20 from 18, I must "borrow" a month. But do I borrow a month of 31 days, or of 30 days? There is no single correct answer.

On old death records and gravestones, the age of the deceased was often given in years, months, and days. Whoever recorded the death, or carved the gravestone, probably had two dates in hand—the dates of birth and death—and used these to calculate age at death. But, as we've seen, what age results may depend upon the process by which it was calculated.

To make matters worse, some clerks adopted a "30-day month" policy. When calculating age at death, they assumed that all months had 30 days. This makes it easy for us genealogists to figure out the date of birth, but only if we know that this was the clerk's policy, and only if he followed this policy correctly and without exception. (There are also rare reports of a "28-day month" policy, to which a similar caveat (and a few others) would apply.)

Unfortunately, a death record or gravestone which bears only the date of death and age cannot be considered a reliable source for date of birth. (Death records should always be considered secondary sources for dates of birth, except in special cases, e.g. stillbirths.) Such sources, though, can be useful in confirming a date of birth found elsewhere, or confirming that a birth record and death record refer to the same person. If a calculated date of birth is the only birth date you can find for an individual, don't fret. Include it in your genealogy, but explain in detail the source of the date, and how you arrived at it.

More Reading:

Washington's Hair Out of Place

From the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader:

Heir to hair wants $750,000 for Washington locks

BOONEVILLE WOMAN HOPES EBAY HELPS HER SELL AMERICANA

By Amy Wilson

HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER

BOONEVILLE - Christa Allen has a hank of George Washington's hair. Well, not exactly a hank. Two hairs secured under glass in a pocket watch. Two more hairs are in an envelope.

She has always known they were from Washington's head because her father, William Allen, said so. The former Philadelphia lawyer also said he had the proof. Only he was a pack rat who didn't much believe in safety deposit boxes. So he hid things in his old suburban Philadelphia house. Then he forgot where they were.

[snip]

It all started sometime in late 2000, when her father, in failing health, handed her the watch with the hair (along with a Revolutionary War map and an antique land deed) and told her to search the house for what he knows are two pieces of proper documentation to establish the hair's pedigree.

For the first, he advised, look in the "far left-hand corner of the house attic in a small cardboard box with various other papers." The second document, he assured her, "is located somewhere inside the house."

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
Four days left to bid at eBay!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Not Buried at Sea After All

From Galveston County (Tex.) Daily News:

Three tombstone mysteries solved
By Kelley Hawes
The Daily News

Published July 7, 2005

GALVESTON — The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston says it has resolved most of the mystery surrounding the discovery of four tombstones in a bayou at Calvary Cemetery.

[snip]

“Research of cemetery records and gravesites shows that three of the four tombstones had been discarded for legitimate reasons,” the archdiocese said in a news release. “The marker for one man was replaced with a tombstone matching other family members on their family plot. The stones for two others were replaced by headstones that included the names of their spouses.”

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Proof that Genealogy Can Be Thrilling

From the (Salem, Ore.) Statesman Journal:

Genealogy gets ugly in 'Always'

Elizabeth Lowell's thriller also is a mystery and has plenty of romance

DAN HAYS

July 17, 2005

Genealogy is a peaceful pursuit. The search for personal histories involves poking about in old papers and comfortable reading at such centers as the one maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of The Latter-day Saints in their Salt Lake City temple complex.

One doesn't expect to become a target of violence while engaged in genealogy. So when professional genealogist Carolina "Carly" May is hired to look into the history of a prominent Southwest family, she doesn't expect to be endangered.

"Always Time to Die," the new thriller from Seattle's Elizabeth Lowell, is a clever take on a reality: If politicians intend to run for high office, they had better make certain their past is clean or hidden.

Lowell sets up a situation in which forensic genealogy solves crimes both past and present.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Even More Censuswhacking

It's time for yet more censuswhacking. This time, I'll focus on strange and unique name-combinations in the 1880 U.S. census.

I started by trolling for Hairy Trout in Pennsylvania, and Happy Bass in Illinois.

I found a Dusty Pope in North Carolina, and a Happy Monk in New York.

There was a Lazy Tumbling in Virginia, and a Plesent Rolling in North Carolina. (There was also a Virgin Rolling reported in Virginia, and a Christian Rolling in New Orleans—surely scandalous at the time.)

There was a Red Neck in California, a Red Chest in Mississippi, and a Red Cross in Georgia.

Pink Floyd lived in Alabama, as did Pink Crump (this one best if read aloud).

Finally, one is compelled to ask why a couple would name their daughter Pig Slaughter, or Hog Pye.

Friday, July 15, 2005

A Lesson in Consanguinity

Seen in the Windham (Ct.) Herald of Mar. 20, 1800:

From the Trenton (N. Jersey,) Federalist.

Married, at Middletown, (Monmouth) on the 5th ult. Thomas Tilton, in the 76th year of his age, to Mary Lucar in her 13th year. She is the daughter's daughter of Thomas Tilton's former wife; so that this husband and wife were at least half grand father and half grand daughter.

—At the same place, a few weeks since, John Lucar, the brother of the above-mentioned bride, to his half-aunt, Catharine Clinton, widow, and daughter of Thomas Tilton, the above named brides groom.

Query If both the above pairs should be blessed with legitimate issue (if their issue can be legitimate) how would genealogical readers rank them in the degrees of affinity, so that the term might clearly express their nearness of kin?
Let's see. . . If Thomas and Mary had a son, he would also be Thomas' step-great-grandson, and both the half-brother and nephew (by marriage) of his daughter Catharine. If John and Catharine had a daughter, she would be the granddaughter and (by marriage) the niece of Thomas. Thus, the boy would be both the half-uncle (through Catharine) and the first-cousin (through John) of the girl. If they were to marry (God forbid) and have a child, it would be its own second-cousin.

I think.

For more, see I'm My Own Grandpaw and An Argument for Inbreeding?

Is "The Boss" Still a Mensch?

From The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles of July 15, 2005:

Rock ‘n’ Roll of Ages

by Liel Leibovitz

“Litigation is one of the sincerest forms of flattery,” said David Segal, co-founder of Jewsrock.org. Shortly before the Web site — which originally used the phrase, the Jewish rock and roll hall of fame — was to go online earlier this year, Segal and partner Jeffrey Goldberg were slapped with a trademark infringement suit, by that other Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, the one in Cleveland.

After much back and forth, a compromise was made late last month: the Jewish hall of fame turned into the Challah Fame, and the site’s address changed to the non-trademarked Jewsrock, which just opened for business. The sleekly designed site is devoted to Jews who rock, including Alecia Moore (Pink), Lou Rabinowitz (now known as Reed), not to mention more celebrated boychicks such as Neil Sedaka. There are essays about rock’s luminaries and their Jewish connections, such as an excellent meditation by Goldberg on Bob Dylan, Reed and Jewish rage. The two even hired a genealogist to try and find Semitic branches in the family of their idol, Bruce Springsteen (no luck there).

[snip]

[Read the whole story]

Thursday, July 14, 2005

But Oh, What a Night it Was

Seen in the (Portland, Me.) Eastern Argus of Feb. 22, 1825:

Married
In Woodstock, Mr. Daniel Daisy, aged 50, to Miss Anne Howard, aged 22; after a tedious courtship of part of one night.

Anything's Probably Possible

The Holy Grail of genealogy is proof—of names, dates, relationships, or whatever else we hope to establish. But the best genealogies aren't necessarily those which assert their conclusions with certainty.

Certainty is an unattainable goal—one we should aim at, but not expect to meet. We can exhaust all available resources and still be wrong. Even a well-established "fact"—say, the birth date of Abraham Lincoln—may be called into question by a chance diary entry, or a newly discovered Bible record. The best we can hope for is a high degree of certainty—as high as the available evidence allows.

Degrees of certainty (or probability) should be assigned to any alleged fact. In my own research, I use a scale of descriptive terms:

"Possibly" (or "perhaps") — low probability (evidence is wanting)

"Probably" (or "presumably") — medium probability (evidence exists)

"Most Probably" — high probability (only conclusive evidence is wanting)

[No qualification] — near certainty (conclusive evidence exists)
I also use two degrees of improbability: "probably not," and "certainly not." (These I often use when my research disproves an accepted opinion, to show that I have considered and rejected that opinion.) Certainty is more easily claimed when denying, than when affirming, an alleged fact: Abraham Lincoln was certainly not born in 1938.

Here's an example of how I would assign degrees of probability. John McDonald, aged 40 years, appears in the 1850 census with a 40-year-old woman and a 10-year-old boy, both bearing the McDonald surname. No relationships are noted. The man and woman, I might conclude, are probably (presumably) married, and the boy is probably their son. If the man and woman were fifteen years older, or fifteen years younger, the boy was possibly (perhaps) their son. If I find that the couple married in 1839, and that no other McDonald family lived in the vicinity, I might conclude that the boy was most probably their son. If the man and woman were twenty years older, or twenty years younger, the boy was probably not their son. If I find a birth record for the boy consistent with his age in 1850, I would declare that he was their son, without qualification. I could still be wrong, and further research would be warranted in any case.

How liberal one is with these labels may depend on one's gut reaction to the evidence, and dozens of external factors, including:
The area one is researching (Densely or sparsely populated?)

The mobility of the population (Horse-bound or train-riding?)

The rarity of the names involved (Was it the only Rabinowitz family then living in Kansas?)

The reliability of the source (17th-century church records or Joe Blow's WorldConnect page?)
Items marked as less probable should be targets for future research. As more and better data becomes available, "possible" facts can be upgraded to "probable"—and perhaps some unqualified facts will need to be downgraded in probability.

Even if, after years of research, some dates or relationships remain only "probable," this is no cause for alarm, and no bar to publication. The genealogical community understands that those who jump to conclusions often fall short.

Marrying Above Your Weight Class

Seen in the (Portland, Me.) Eastern Argus of Dec. 27, 1825:

Married
Master Winslow Small, aged 17, and weighing 90 pounds, to Miss Polly Small, aged 20, and weighing 150 pounds.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

9,000-Year-Old Man Completes Final Exams

From NewScientist.com:

9000-year-old man released

16 July 2005

He lay undisturbed for 9000 years but for the past nine he has been at the centre of a bitter legal tug of war.

"Kennewick Man", an almost-complete human skeleton, was discovered by college students in 1996 next to the Columbia river in Kennewick, Washington. He is coveted by scientists anxious to study his unusual features, and by Native American tribes who claim he is one of their ancestors. They are equally anxious to rebury him.

The courts decided last year that the tribes could not prove ancestry, and 11 scientists were given from 6 to 15 July to study the bones. The remains are held at the University of Washington's Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

[snip]

[Read the whole story]
Couldn't prove ancestry after 9,000 years? Maybe they should have consulted a psychic archaeologist.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Log of Genealogued Blogs

Conceived as something less than a carnival, but more than a waste of time.
DearMYRTLE, Your Friend in Genealogy explains why ages reported in censuses sometimes suggest Different Dates of birth.

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter gives examples of Genealogy Newsfeeds available in RSS Format.

Genealogy and How reviews a website focused on Australians who fought in the U.S. Civil War.

GeneaBlogie reflects on a recent court ruling denying reparations to descendants of slaves in "Reparations:" Paid in Full: Debt Expired.

Antique Hunter tells us why we should care about Coffin Plates aka Casket Plaques.

Digging Up Your Roots tells the story of Finding Joseph O'Dell, the author's great-grandfather, in this and succeeding posts.

Genealogy Blog reports on a website that indexes U.S. Military Aircraft Accident Reports. You never know where might find a relative.

Olive Tree Genealogy Blog offers a short tutorial on using the Ontario Land Records Index.

Ozarks Genealogical Society discusses using Flickr as a Genealogy Tool.

LO QUACI TY ponders Genealogy Website Possibilities, and considers the use of web portals.

World According to Beth has been featuring letters to and from Beth's father, Frustrated in Germany during World War II. A good reminder that genealogy is about more than names and dates.

The Roche Family Genealogy Blog shows the right way to use a single-surname blog with this entry on Col. John Finnis.

OhioGenealogyBlog gives a quick review of new software, saying "Try Personal Historian; You'll Like It."

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