Saturday, September 30, 2006

For the Rest of Us, It's an Honor Just to Be Non-Related

Jeremy Irons is the latest celebrity to have his family history probed on the BBC program Who Do You Think You Are? Upon learning that one of his ancestors came from County Cork in Ireland, Irons confirmed what I had long suspected: all actors aspire to be genealogists.

And as luck would have it, the Beeb found that David McCreight, an old Irons who owned a linen mill, once lived 20 miles from the actor’s abode in Ballydehob. Said Irons: “It was a strange feeling of validation, not dissimilar to winning an Oscar. And with my great-great-great-great-grandfather working 20 miles down the road — that was quite extraord—”
At which point his microphone was turned off and the BBC Orchestra began to play the theme to Jackass 2.

Controversial Census Bill Becomes Law

A Genealogue News Flash [What's That?]
Congress granted President Bush this week broad authority to interpret the census-taking guidelines of the United States government. The President welcomed the bill's passage, saying that without this new authority he wouldn't be able to fulfill his Constitutional duties.

"I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution," he told those gathered in the Rose Garden on Friday for the bill signing. "The Constitution says we have to take a census every ten years, and ... well, if people don't want to be counted that gets me wondering what they're trying to hide."

Hiding from the census taker in 2010 will be nearly impossible, given the sweeping changes to Census Bureau policies soon to be implemented. Citizens who fail to return their census forms by mail will be visited by a representative of the Bureau—now part of the Department of Justice. Enumerators will be authorized to detain non-respondents for up to seven days, during which time they will be educated on the history and importance of the census, and encouraged to complete their forms. Enumerators will be forbidden from inflicting physical harm on the detainees, with "physical harm" defined in the new regulations as "anything that might leave a bruise."

Traditional census-taking techniques will be supplemented with techniques borrowed from the National Security Agency. As a consequence, many Americans of Middle Eastern descent will discover that their census forms have already been filled out. They will be required only to sign the form, submit their fingerprints, and name three friends they suspect of having extremist tendencies.

Civil libertarians are outraged that Congress has ceded such broad powers to the Executive Branch. Opponents of the bill blame Democrats for not mounting a filibuster, but Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid insists that the criticism is unfair.

"If not for the efforts of Senate Democrats," he contends, "this bill would have been much, much worse. Thanks to us, a person who fills out his questionnaire with the wrong colored ink will be waterboarded for only 24 hours instead of 48."

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Throne Fit For a Quasi Queen

Korea's monarchy was pretty well snuffed out in 1910, but that hasn't stopped members of the formerly royal family from crowning an 88-year-old cousin their new queen.

Around 50 descendants of King Euichin, a brother of the last king Sunjong, declared Princess Lee Hae-Won the new "Empress" of the monarchy in what they called a crowning ceremony. Attired in flowing robes of gold, Lee Hae-Won received a jewel-encrusted crown and ascended to the "Dragon Throne" during the ceremony at a downtown hotel. The throne was a stage piece borrowed from a TV station. [Link]

It's Time to See Roots TV

Roots Television has launched as promised, with some blogs, vlogs, and a nice collection of free video clips. I'm impressed so far—but then, I'm impressed by anything bright and colorful that costs me nothing.

All Your Banks Are Belong to Us

The property of the Sutu family in Romania was confiscated when the Communists took power in 1945. Now Sutu descendants are asking for its return, including "several churches, the headquarters of National Bank, Savings Bank, several ministries, colleges and embassies and properties measuring a quarter of Romania."

The properties reclaimed were identified based on the book about the Sutu family, presenting their family tree and the assets belonging to all the descendants. Those who ask for properties have searched in the archives and found documents about a fraction of them. They are still trying to find the truth about the rest of them.

As many of the buildings are headquarters for state institutions, they cannot be given back to their former owners. However, two of the Sutu descendants, Carmen Pastin and Istrati Sutu, have announced they will accept damages for the buildings. [Link]
(An explanation of the title for those who don't speak geek is here.)

Man Mistakenly Marries Mother-in-Law

From The Adams Sentinel of Gettysburg, Pa., Sept. 15, 1839 (citing the Perry Forester):

In one of the adjoining counties the following singular marriage took place: A collier was engaged in burning coals near the residence of a middle aged woman and her daughter, and generally spent his leisure hours at their house. At length marriage was spoken of, the arrangements were made, and the day fixed; but as the relations were opposed to the match, and the ceremony having to be performed in the dark, the poor collier did not know until morning that he had been married to the mother instead of the daughter. He was dissatisfied at first, but appears now contented, saying, "that it is perhaps better for him, as the mother must know more than the daughter."
As this was written in 1839, before sex was invented, I'm sure he meant "must know more about darning socks."

Spend Eternity at Six Flags

Six Flags Over Georgia is auctioning off the chance to have your own headstone displayed during Fright Fest "for all of eternity." Proceeds will go to Toys For Tots.

This headstone will be produced at the end of the auction with the inscription of your choice to be approved by Six Flags Over Georgia. The winner will also receive a miniature replica of the headstone to keep forever. Once the headstone is complete, the winner will receive four tickets to the park on October 21 for their "burial." Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a part of Six Flags Over Georgia history! [Link]
If you want to see what you'll look like memorialized, check out this site.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

For Me, Every Day Is Ancestor Appreciation Day

I've only just discovered that yesterday, September 27, was Ancestor Appreciation Day. Fortunately, only three of my ancestors are still sufficiently alive to feel appreciated, and none of the three expected a card.

Which is not to say that I don't appreciate those defunct ancestors who made me the man I am today, including the French-Canadian housewife who started her second family before ending her first marriage, and the deacon's son booted from his father's church for tippling. Without them, I might have become a happily married churchgoer instead of a miserably single agnostic. So much for evidence of innate superiority.

I Am Master of My Domain

After months of waiting, I've finally succeeded in claiming the "" domain. It became available a week or so ago, and I've been waiting patiently for the speculators who snatch up expired domains as soon as they drop to figure out that it is worthless.

I might someday place content at the new address, but for now typing in "" will redirect you to this blog's main page, "" Feel free to link to either address or to both or, if you have a website but no soul, to neither.

An Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Mistake

The AP reported a few days ago that Paul Vance—the man credited with writing the 1960 novelty hit "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini"—had died. This came as a surprise to the real Paul Vance, who lives in Coral Springs, Florida, and still collects royalties on the song.

"Do you know what it's like to have grandchildren calling you and say, 'Grandpa, you're still alive?'" he said. "This is not a game."

Rose Leroux, the widow of the man who died, said she was surprised by the disclosure, and "kind of devastated." She said she had no reason to doubt that her husband - who apparently had some sort of music career when he was younger - was the writer of the famous tune. [Link]
Hat tip to Dave at OakvilleBlackWalnut for this one.

Should We Learn to Love Lawn Jockeys?

The lawn jockeys I see these days are generally of fair complexion, but the statues had a darker past. Before tonight, I wasn't aware of an effort to rehabilitate these supposed symbols of servility.

Museum curator Charles L. Blockson, the great-grandson of a slave who escaped to Canada on the Underground Railroad, has been trying for two decades to rewrite the history of the lawn jockey on the basis of two stories so good they're just begging to be refuted.

[I]n 1983, while retracing his ancestor's journey on the underground railroad, Blockson made a startling discovery: A lawn jockey had shepherded slaves to freedom.

In a 1984 National Geographic cover story on the underground railroad, Blockson told how the wife of U.S. District Judge Benjamin Piatt had tied a flag to a lawn jockey as a signal to fleeing slaves that it was safe to stop there.

Blockson also came across the Revolutionary War legend of Jocko. The story goes that a 9-year-old New Jersey farm boy named Jocko sneaked out of his house to find his father, a freed slave who had enlisted with George Washington's army.

The boy wound up in an encampment on Christmas Eve, before Washington's crossing of the Delaware. Waiting for his father's return, the boy volunteered to care for the general's horse during a blizzard. The next morning, Washington discovered that the boy had frozen to death, his hands still clinging to the horse's reins. [Link]
Washington was so moved by Jocko's sacrifice that he commissioned a tacky lawn ornament handsome statue of the faithful, frozen groomsman for his estate at Mount Vernon.

Of course, all the web references to the Underground Railroad story trace back to Blockson and no further. And a spokesman for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati has said that "there is no truth to the idea that lawn jockeys were used as part of the Underground Railroad." And the folks at Mount Vernon call the Jocko story "apocryphal." But I will withhold judgment until I've read Blockson's 1984 NG article, "Escape From Slavery: The Underground Railroad." Only then will I decide that I don't believe him.
[Photo source: Lawn Jockey Love (license)]

Now That's Frickin' Evil

I thought the theory that Scotland was colonized by Egyptians was plausible, but here's an even better explanation of how the Scots displaced the Picts.

His arch-enemies sat around him enjoying a sumptuous banquet. After a suitable period of toying with his prey, the host cackled evilly, pulled a lever and sent his guests plunging to their deaths in a concealed pit below.

It may sound like something out of an Austin Powers film, but this is actually a medieval explanation for the mysterious "disappearance" of the Picts, with the Dr Evil character played by no less than Kenneth MacAlpin, reputedly the first King of Scots. With their nobility wiped out, the story went, it was easy for MacAlpin to take over and enforce Scottish ways on the rest of the Picts. [Link]

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Defense of Genealogical Obsession

Someone has written to with the complaint that "My parents are obsessed with genealogy."

They are baby boomers and have been tracing their lineage for several years now. They are obsessed with their new hobby. This is strange because they are not the type to have obsessive interests. Every time I see them, they tell me about Great Great Uncle Jonas who died of smallpox or Great Great Grandma Enid who campaigned for the mayoral candidate of New York. At our last get-together, my mom talked so much I wondered if she was manic (although she has never had a mood disorder). I have never, at any point in my life, seen her this enthusiastic, even about anything that had to do with her children.
Advice columnist Cary Tennis responds with some armchair analysis that reveals a shaky grasp of both psychology and genealogy.
My basic take on genealogical research is that it would be wonderful if the purpose of it were to broaden our sense of common humanity, not to find evidence of some innate superiority. For such are the ideological roots of racism -- a belief in innate values that come invisibly in the blood.

Better to look for evidence of our connection, rather than our difference. [Link]
I'm not sure what "evidence of some innate superiority" would look like, but I'm quite sure I've never run across it in my research. And even an ignorant Klansman would know that "innate values"—were they to "come invisibly"—would come in the genes, not in the blood.

Sure, genealogical research may be twisted to evil purposes, but only by evil people—not by overly enthused baby boomers looking to spend their kids' inheritance. Mr. Tennis's dim view of genealogy crumbles to dust when exposed to this truth: the avid genealogist can be equally interested in other people's ancestors. That's why we answer queries from strangers and transcribe reams of records for others to use. It's about the thrill of the hunt and the joy of discovery, not the self-indulgent ego-stroking that Mr. Tennis describes.

Anyone who starts his research with the aim of finding noble antecedents soon discovers that the paupers outnumber the princes, and that the princes were mighty prolific. We all descend from kings, and all kings descend from stableboys. We're all cousins, and cousins are never too far removed. You don't have to advise us, Mr. Tennis, to "look for evidence of our connection." We can't help but find it everywhere we look.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Some Dunham Numerology

Today is the 110th wedding anniversary of my great-grandparents, Elton L. and Mabel C. (Morgan) Dunham (shown at right cutting the cake at an anniversary party/family reunion held at their old homestead).

In one of those strange coincidences that make genealogists quiver with delight, today is also my father's (their grandson's) birthday. September 26 was also the date Mabel's brother Floyd married in 1908, and the date her daughter Gladys died in 1994.

Elton and Mabel had intended to marry on September 9, 1896, but were forced to postpone when the bride's grandmother selected that day to expire. September 9 was Elton's birthday. And the birthday of his grandson (my father's cousin), Everett Cole.

And also the birthday of my mother.

No Cool Freebies for Frosh

Stephen Curry, a freshman at Longwood University, found out this summer he would be living in Curry Hall in the fall. It was only after his mother called the housing office that they learned of the family connection.

"At the end of the conversation, just out of curiosity, I asked who the dorm was named for," she said, "and was very surprised to hear it was for Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, my husband, Bowie's, great-grandfather."
Curry's roommate, Matt Holmes of Mechanicsville, said it was fun to find out his dorm was named after somebody related to his roommate.

"I hoped at first we'd get some cool freebies out of it," he said. "That hasn't really happened, but it's still kind of neat to talk about." [Link]

Spelunking for Ancestors

Genealogist Rudyard Edick recently visited the Fort Herkimer Church in Mohawk, N. Y., to photograph the grave of his ancestor Michael Ittig (Edick). He had to get special permission from church commissioner Donald Fenner.

Fenner showed Edick a trap door leading to the graves, with Edick slithering through a cramped space to an area underneath the church pulpit. Edick's background in spelunking no doubt helped a bit.

“I had done some caving in the past, so I decided to try it. It was a very tight space underneath. I had to crawl a considerable way to get to the graves,” said Edick.

Edick was surprised to find the footstone and headstone bearing the initials “M.I.” in excellent condition, further astonished that the distance between the two stones was exactly 56 inches - or roughly Edick's height. [Link]

Stowaway Ejected in Mid-Flight

Genealogy Blog passes along this story of a baby born somewhere over the Atlantic, together with a link that explains what her birth certificate might say.

A baby girl has been delivered by a British Airways crew and two medical students after her mother went into labour five hours into a flight.

Baby Nadine was born six weeks prematurely before flight BA 215, from London to Boston, could land at the nearest airport in Halifax, Canada.
Mr Dobe said he had noticed the woman looking "uncomfortable" during the pre-flight emergency procedures demonstration.

"She was clearly pregnant and I could see she was a bit uncomfortable. But I thought she was just scared of flying," he said. [Link, via Genealogy Blog]

In an Old Timers League of His Own

Genealogist David Lambert gets the credit for finding Silas Simmons—a player from the golden age of Negro League baseball who turns 111 next month.

That Simmons is still living was unknown to baseball researchers until this summer, when a genealogist near the nursing home where he lives in St. Petersburg alerted a Negro leagues expert.

A member of the Center for Negro League Baseball Research confirmed a baseball historian’s dream: that Simmons was indeed a man who had pitched and played the outfield in the equivalent of the black major leagues on and off from about 1912 through at least 1929, and that he had played against such stars as Pop Lloyd, Judy Johnson and Biz Mackey.
Wayne Stivers, who spearheaded the fact-finding committee that led to 17 people associated with the Negro leagues being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, said: “We were aware there was a Si Simmons and that he played. But we didn’t know he was still alive. We figured, 110, no — this man is not alive. My reaction was, ‘We need to talk with him immediately.’” [Link]

Monday, September 25, 2006

Proof the 1960 Census Wasn't Rigged

From the Oakland Tribune of Mar. 17, 1960:

St. LOUIS, March 17—(UPI)—Teddy Nadler, who won $264,000 on television quiz shows, today lost a chance for a $13-a-day job as a census taker when he flunked the qualification test.

Jack W. Traverse Jr., regional field director for the census bureau, said Nadler "did well on the first 30 questions but did not make the grade on the final 16."

The first part of the test consisted of multiple-choice questions on the definitions of words. The second part was a map comprehension section. The applicants were asked to do such things as indicating which of several buildings was nearest to a certain highway.

Traverse said Nadler apparently "got mixed up on east and west."
Nadler, once an obscure $70-a-week civilian clerk for the army, rose to fame and fortune on the $64,000 Challenge.

Challenge folded in 1958 during the quiz show scandals, but Nadler never was tainted by charges of "rigging."
Time Magazine was a bit more skeptical of Nadler's quiz-show success.

Nothing Like a Good Historical Movie

Steve Landwehr of The Salem News panned The Covenant this weekend on historical grounds alone.

The movie refers to the ancient families as original founders of the "Ipswich Colony," whatever that is. Like the rest of the North Shore, Ipswich was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. And because Ipswich was settled in 1633, those old warlocks would have been in their 80s or 90s in 1692, an age they'd be unlikely to attain given the downside of their powers.
[Screenwriter J.S.] Cardone appears to have a better grasp of local geography than history. The lead male character is named Caleb Danvers, although there was no Danvers in 1692. Caleb's love interest, Sarah Wenham, also has an unlikely surname, though her first name has an interesting historical tie. Sara Good, who was raised in Wenham, was hanged for being a witch in 1692.

"There's nothing like a good, historical movie," Marilynne Roach said with a chuckle. Roach spent 27 years researching and writing "The Salem Witch Trials: A Day by Day Account of a Community Under Siege." [Link]

Add Ten Candles to the Cake

The family of Theresa Walker Lamebull, matriarch of the Gros Ventre Tribe in Montana, knew she was old. But until last spring, they didn't realize how old.

They turned to Father Joseph Retzel at the St. Paul's Mission in Hays, where Lamebull is a devout, lifelong member. Soon after, the priest came to a family gathering with a copy of the baptismal certificate and some news.

"Grandma Theresa" was not 100. She was 110.

On April 4, 1897, the certificate said, a couple called White Weasel brought their daughter to the St. Paul's Mission to be baptized. They named her Theresa.

She was about 1 year old, it said, putting her birth in 1896.

Lamebull has given other birth dates in the past that put her closer to 100. But Retzel said last week that he is confident the baptismal certificate he found is accurate and is hers. [Link]
Below is her family in the 1900 census of Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. I guess Theresa's baptism hadn't kicked in yet, as her name is given as "The Girl."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Who's Robert Ken Woo?

The 300 millionth American will be born sometime in October, after which Robert Ken Woo, Jr., will once again fade into obscurity.

When Woo was born Nov. 20, 1967, at 11:03 a.m. EST in Atlanta's Crawford Long Hospital, Life magazine proclaimed him the 200 millionth American. In the years since, he has worn his footnote in history lightly and well, his flicker of fame fanned anew by the approaching milestone.

"I never took it that seriously," Woo says of his place in the annals of American trivia. "To me it seemed very random."
Back in 1967, the Census Bureau projected that the 200 millionth American would arrive between 10:58 and 11:02 a.m. the Monday before Thanksgiving. Life, then America's iconic photo magazine and today a weekend newspaper supplement, dispatched 23 photographer-reporter teams to hospitals in 22 cities, ready to capture the birth that came closest to the appointed time.

In Miami, a physician pleaded with his patient, "Push harder -- and you'll be in Life magazine." In Boston, a doctor arranged to deliver a baby by Caesarean section precisely at 11. But census officials stopped the clock for three minutes so President Johnson would be at the ceremony when it hit 200,000,000. Sally Woo awoke after delivery to snapping photographers. [Link]

There Are No Stupid Questions ... Except Maybe This One

Whoever submitted this question to Yahoo! Answers last week is either suffering a bout of existential angst, or is in desperate need of genealogical counseling.

They're All Headed in the Same Direction

Critics say that tenants of a new British cemetery, if not of the Muslim persuasion, will be misaligned for the duration of their stay.

Headstones in the new £2.5million High Wood Cemetery in Nottingham will face north-east - as Muslims believe the dead look over their shoulder towards Mecca. This is the way in which all followers of Islam in the UK are buried.

But the move has upset the Church and led to complaints that the policy discriminates against the city's majority Christian population. The traditional direction of burial for Christians is facing east. [Link]

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Beware the Obituarist

This modest proposal made the rounds in the winter of 1874:

The LaGrange Reporter desires to call the attention of the press of Georgia to the following matter: Within the last three months two or three well-known men in Georgia have been announced dead, and the newspapers have written eloquent obituaries over them. But these men, with a perversity as provoking as it is inexplicable, still live. Now, when a newspaper in good standing makes the solemn assertion that any man is dead, that man should die. For him to live, is a dangerous infringement on the liberty of the press. We hope the Press Association will petition the Legislature to pass a law that a man announced dead by the press must die. [The Stevens Point (Wis.) Journal of Jan. 17, 1874]

Weighty Proof

From The Bismark Tribune of Mar. 5, 1936:

Hartford, Conn., March 5—(AP)—The tombstone over his father's grave served Thursday as birth certificate to assure an applicant of obtaining an old age pension.

Edward H. Reeves, director of the Connecticut old age assistance bureau, assured the applicant whose name he withheld, he would not have to bring the stone into the bureau to prove his date of birth was carved thereon. A birth record is a legal requirement.

Help Build a Museum for $8

Promoters of the proposed U.S. National Slavery Museum have put out a clever plea for funds. All they want from you is $8 (though they will grudgingly accept larger, less symbolic amounts).

Why $8, you might ask?

$8 8 is the shape both of shackles (the symbol of slavery) and, if turned on its side, of infinite freedom.

$8 is an amount that allows every American to be a part of this incredible project.

$8 buys recognition for millions of enslaved African Americans who helped build America.

$8 is rewarded with an advance ticket to the Museum’s exclusive opening preview (valued at $25).

$8 will help remove shackles that have divided our nation and replace them with a new symbol for a united America.
If all the genealogists who were inspired by Roots to pursue their own family histories contribute, we should be able to get this thing built by Columbus Day.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Kennedy 'Aire' Wants His Share

A New York man wants a piece of the $50 million estate of John F. Kennedy, Jr.

In papers filed in Manhattan Surrogate's Court, Brian Land, 29, claims to be a rightful "aire" to the multimillion-dollar estate left by the doomed son of the former President.

"I never had any knowledge of me being the aire to such a large estate," Land wrote in court papers.
He identifies himself as the godson of Jackie Kennedy, the nephew of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy's aunt and a cousin to Anthony Radziwill, the late keeper of JFK Jr.'s estate.

"We are of blue blood," Land writes. "Our families relationship dates back to the year 1701."

Land's Bronx landlord said he moved out of the Bussing Ave. building two weeks ago, but had talked often about his Kennedy claims.

"I think he is imagining himself as this person," said owner Ram Ramkissoon. [Link]
Kennedy somehow neglected to mention Land in his will or the trust he established in 1983.

The Cataloguer's Computer Cart

Jim Wheeler of Total Project Solutions, Inc., touts his $225 Genealogy Computer Cart as "The Easier Way to Catalogue Cemeteries."

In your quest to document your family tree, do you spend time cataloguing cemeteries? If so, I make a cart that allows you to easily wheel around your laptop or notepads over the uneven and rough terrain often found in cemeteries.

There is also a shelf to hold a lawnmower battery and inverter to provide extended computer work time and a shelf for bug spray, cell phone, water bottle, pencils, etc. [Link]
This is so much nicer than the wheelbarrow I currently use.

Forest Has Roots

When he learned he would be playing Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in a movie, actor Forest Whitaker decided to first find out how closely they were related.

He explains, "I went and got DNA tested for my African ancestry because I wanted to see where I was from.

"I found out I was from Nigeria on my dad's side and Ghana on my mom's side. So then I went back there when I went to Africa.

"I didn't expect that I would go to East Africa first, but in a way I was going back to the source, back to the origin of man." [Link]

Someone Really Was His Own Grandpa

Genealogy Blog produced evidence in 2004 that the lyrics for Dwight B. Latham and Moe Jaffe's song "I Am My Own Grandpa" (a.k.a. "I'm My Own Grandpaw") were derived from a Mark Twain anecdote. Twain, in turn, seems to have borrowed his anecdote from an item first published in American newspapers in March of 1822, and copied from the London Literary Gazette. (The copy below is from the Republican Chronicle of Ithaca, N. Y., Apr. 24, 1822.) As it turns out, the novelty song was based on a true story.

A proof that a man may be his own Grandfather.—There was a widow and her daughter-in-law, and a man and his son. The widow married the son, and the daughter the old man; the widow was, therefore, mother to her husband's father, consequently grandmother to her own husband. They had a son, to whom she was great-grandmother; now, as the son of a great-grandmother must be either a grandfather or great-uncle, this boy was therefore his own grandfather. N. B. This was actually the case with a boy at a school in Norwich.—Lond. Lit. Gaz.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

You Can't Get Blood From a Slanderous Stone

Robert Barrows has received a patent for his Video Enhanced Gravemarker, and has issued a press release suggesting some possible implications of its use. Among Barrows' concerns is what will happen if a talking gravestone hurts someone's feelings.

"The Video Tombstone will also create some landmark free speech issues because how can you control what someone might say from beyond the grave?" he asks.
  • And will it be truth or lies?
  • What if someone confesses to a crime or makes an incrimination?
  • What if they say something slanderous?
  • What if they say something hurtful and cause emotional stress?
  • What if they say something anti-governmental?
  • Do the dead have free speech rights, too?
  • And what can you do if they say something true or untrue about you?
  • Can you pull the plug, and whom can you sue?
  • Worse yet, how can you collect?

A Hot Date You'll Never Forget

Remember that story about the genealogist who forgot his wife's birthday? Now there's an easy way to remember the dates that really matter: The Remember Ring.

The Remember Ring™ utilizes patent pending Hot Spot™ technology to deliver a reminder that it's "That time of the year again!"

24 hours before your special day, the Hot Spot™ on the interior surface of your Remember Ring™ will warm to 120ยบ F for approximately 10 seconds, and continue to warm up every hour, on the hour, all day long!

Hot enough to cause discomfort but not hot enough to burn-the Remember Ring™ is impossible to ignore! [Link, via Gizmodo]

A Case of Lineage Larceny

From The Daily Northwestern of Oshkosh, Wis., June 18, 1932:

Evanston, Ill.—(AP)—Somebody stole Mrs. M. E. Bates' family tree.

The theft occurred just when things were beginning to get real interesting in the home life of her remoter ancestors some 300 years ago.

What the thief wishes to do with Mrs. Bates' genealogical labors, no one seems to know.

"It would have been complete in one more volume," she told police. "I went to Europe twice for material and have spent 10 years and much money on the project. Now, unless the thief relents, my life work is ruined."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Playing Cards Can Lead to Reproduction

Here's another reason to buy Fyodor Soloview's Six Generations card game: it could save your family from extinction.

The governments of European nations have been worried about progressive declines in populations, which will face them with serious shortage of labor. Nobody had an answer before as to how to secure an average fertility rate of over 2.1 babies per woman, which required human reproduction.

To fix this dilemma, Soloview said, governments, schools and parents should educate children in family genealogy. At home, children must observe the family tree with several generations of their ancestors. To help the parents, Fyodor Soloview, a father of four children, designed the family history card game Six Generations, which looks like a deck of playing cards.

"You just let you children play Six Generations, and they will figure it out by themselves, what their own role in securing their family dynasty is," the inventor said. [Link]

That Goes Without Saying

[Photo source: Flickr (license)]

Perhaps They Were Running From Bulls

A team from Oxford University has established that Britain's indigenous people, the Celts, were from Spain.

Professor [Bryan] Sykes, who is soon to publish the first DNA map of the British Isles, said: "About 6,000 years ago Iberians developed ocean-going boats that enabled them to push up the Channel. Before they arrived, there were some human inhabitants of Britain but only a few thousand in number. These people were later subsumed into a larger Celtic tribe... The majority of people in the British Isles are actually descended from the Spanish." [Link]
Further, historians have concluded that the Spanish Armada was not an invasion fleet, but a family reunion cruise with a poorly planned itinerary.

Senator Casts 'Aspersions' Aside

Senator George Allen of Virginia became Jewish sometime Monday night. On Monday, he accused a reporter of "making aspersions" when she asked about his mother's Jewish heritage during a debate. By Tuesday, he had become proud of his Hebraic roots.

“I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including my Lumbroso family line’s Jewish heritage, which I learned about from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed,” Mr. Allen said in a statement.
“Some may find it odd that I have not probed deeply into the details of my family history, but it’s a fact,” Mr. Allen’s statement said. “We in the Allen household were simply taught that what matters is a person’s character, integrity, effort and performance — not race, gender, ethnicity or religion.” [Link (reg. req.)]
Gee, I guess if I want to be as open-minded as Senator Allen I should stop keeping track of the sex and religion of each of my ancestors. And from now on, I'll stop thinking of my great-grandparents as "Finnish-American," and start thinking of them as "hard-working Americans of irrelevant ethnicity."

BTW, the referenced article from The Forward is here, and argues that, given his maternal lineage, "Senator Allen would be considered Jewish in the eyes of traditional rabbinic law, which traces Judaism through the mother."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ring Up Yer Dead now has British Phone Books 1880-1984, with listings (in this first release) from 430 books. These at one time included job descriptions, making them a sort of city directory for the wired classes.

The first to go online are the phone books for Greater London, from 1880 to 1984, which contain many startlingly familiar names: Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula and business manager of the Victorian superstar actor Henry Irving, was at Victoria 1436 by 1910. Harry Houdini, the escapologist, was at Gerrard 1312 in 1916: renowned as an inspired self publicist, he had himself listed as Harry Houdini, Handcuff King. By then Buckingham Palace, Victoria 1436, had four phone lines. Four years later Viscount and Lady Astor needed a phone number each at 4 St James's Square to cope with their hectic social lives. [Link]
I was hoping to search for "Jack," occupation "Ripper," but a last name is required.

The Wrong Forum For Genealogy?

A genealogy discussion forum has been added to craigslist. Something tells me the regulars aren't going to be helpful.

One heavily edited example:

Looking for photos of Willie Ross, my great-grandfather. He was hung in Bottneau, ND, March 6, 1903, the last public hanging in North Dakota.
Response #1
One of my uncles was the last man hanged in California. I have been looking for his tree for several years.
Response #2
It was cut down about 1935.

Won't You Come Home, Benn Baily?

Benn Baily Steedly disappeared in December 1919. His brother Drew and others did what they could to find him, but as Drew's granddaughter Debora H. Fogle says, "Nobody knew how to find out anything."

Drew Steedly's family promised at his deathbed that they'd keep up the search. That's why Debora is kicking herself for letting a possible clue slip through her fingers: a stranger who passed through Midway, S. C., this summer looking for his father.

The man couldn't tell them much, only that his father left Midway one day, changed his name and never came back.

Debora H. Fogle spoke to him briefly after a cousin thought enough of his story to call her on the phone. She wrote the man's name and telephone number down, and then she lost it.

Fogle has regretted that ever since.

She remembers, though, that he said he had a daughter and son-in-law in Atlanta.

The more she talked with her family in Midway, the more she got to thinking maybe the man who passed through town this summer was the son of her own long-lost relative, Great-uncle Benn Baily Steedly. [Link]

No Defense for Grave Offense

The high school football team in San Saba, Texas, plays in a stadium known officially as Rogan Field. Unofficially, it's known as The Graveyard.

Yes, it once was a cemetery. Yes, not all the graves were removed before it was converted into a football stadium.
James Harkey, a member of the first San Saba team to play at Rogan Field in 1935, helped move tombstones from the cemetery during its conversion to a football stadium.

"There were a lot of people buried there," said Harkey, now 85. "When we started playing there, we didn't think about the graves underneath us. We just needed a place to play. We were just interested in playing football." [Link]
Additional info on the disrespected burial ground may be found here and here.

Census Takers Have Female Problems

The Oakland Tribune of Apr. 23, 1910, reported three women's responses to the census taken that year:

The census takers are having their troubles. What seemed to be on first sight an easy task to handle is becoming tangled with all the foibles of diverse human nature. Some people fill out their slips humorously, and a great many do not fill them out at all. One old maid is reported to have flung her cat at a census man as "an impertinent questioner who couldn't mind his own business," and another, a married lady, objected to putting herself down as having eight children because her figure was still good. The following story comes from Superintendent Baldwin in regard to a suffragette. The lady, it seemed, had neglected to fill out her census slip until the census taker arrived. Doing so then, she put her sex down as "suffragette."

The census taker objected. "That won't do," he argued. "Put either 'male' or 'female.'"

"Very well, then," she said seriously. "I'll put 'suffragette' as my occupation."
—News Letter.
I wonder which the average man in 1910 would have preferred: having a cat flung in his face or talking to an ardent suffragette?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Siberian Archivists Are Like Perching Birds

An article on the popularity of genealogy in Russia ends with a quote from Mikhail Kroutikhin—webmaster of Researching Russian Roots.

Genealogy has become so popular now that "some archivists in Siberia are rejecting our requests for information and document copies. They have so many, they tell us they aren't able to do it all with only one copy machine in places like Tobolsk," he said.

"To me, they feel like a bird that perches on the spine of a book you believe in." [Link]
I'm not absolutely sure what that means, but I'm pretty sure I like the image.

Is It Wrong to Like GenDisasters?

One of my favorite five-dollar words is "Schadenfreude"—a German term meaning "pleasure derived from the misfortune of others." GenDisasters allows us all to indulge in a little harmless Schadenfreude.

The site specializes in the "Events that Touched Our Ancestors' Lives"—and by "touched" they mean "ruined." Look here for the fires, floods, tornadoes, train wrecks, earthquakes, hurricanes, shipwrecks, explosions, and mining disasters that sent your relatives to the poorhouse or the grave. Ever wonder why Grandpa had only three fingers? Or why Uncle Joe refused to wear short pants in July? The causes of their injuries may be covered here (or maybe not: sadly, the section on "Work related accidents, automobile wrecks, mishaps, [and] building collapses" isn't yet available).

GenDisasters is the best site yet from Teri Brown, who earlier brought us and The only thing better would be a mash-up of two of these websites:

Monk Accused of Monkey Business

The Zen Buddhist monk Ryokan is supposed to have remained celibate throughout his life. But after studying a Yamamoto family tree from 1866, Nobuaki Tomizawa suspects that Ryokan knew exactly what he was giving up when he entered the monastery.

Tomizawa noticed that Ryokan's name, written as "Ryokan Zenshi" (Zen master Ryokan), was preceded by a woman's name, Shakuni Myokan. Written above her name were two kanji characters instructing that their names be read in reverse order.

"Whoever made this family tree wrote Ryokan's and his wife's names in the wrong order. Instead of rewriting them, the person just wrote down those two characters," said Tomizawa, 64.

Since her name lacked a kanji that was always used in a posthumous Buddhist name of a Yamamoto woman, she probably divorced Ryokan before he became a monk. [Link]

Sunday, September 17, 2006

This Old House Is Older Than Yours

Two houses are vying for the title of America's Oldest Wood-Frame Home. The Balch House in Beverly, Mass., is said to have been built by my ancestor John Balch in 1636. The Fairbanks House in Dedham, Mass., was allegedly built for some loser named Jonathan Fairebanke around the same time.

It’s not the Hatfields versus the McCoys. Just a good-natured rivalry between the descendants of two of New England’s earliest settlers.

“This has been a friendly argument for more than 300 years,” [Beverly Historical Society director Stephen] Hall said. “Our records are as good as the ones down in Dedham . . . They don’t know any more definitively than we do.”

Fairbanks House executive director Jan Eakins disagrees. Three years ago, she said, they performed a “dendrochronology” study on the house’s timber that proves the house was actually built in 1641.

Eakins said the Balch House’s caretakers have no proof that the home is the same one John Balch built when he acquired the land in 1636. [Link]
I don't know about this "dendrochronology" stuff (sounds to me like some sort of pagan tree-worship), but I do know that the Balch House (pictured below in a very, very old photograph) looks very, very old to me. On the other hand, the Fairbanks House (pictured here in color) appears to have been hastily erected circa 1957. Case closed.

Illinois Woman to Take In Homeless Ancestor

A great-great-granddaughter of Civil War veteran Clark Smith has been found. Smith was one of twenty individuals found buried in North Aurora, Illinois, graveyard whose remains need a new home.

Thanks to extensive research and leads, Linda Eder of the Kane County Genealogical Society has been in touch with Auroran Nancy Adams and, according to the family history and information Adams has provided, "things seem to fit," Eder said.

Eder and genealogist Sandy Chalupa met with Adams last Saturday to cross-check family history, discuss formalities and begin the paperwork.

To have the remains of her great-great-grandfather legally released to the family, Adams must submit a letter to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. [Link]
This should work out perfectly, as Adams has a guest bedroom and was looking for a full-time babysitter.

Celtic Musicians Left Reeling

There was a downside to finding the real Annie Moore. Some people in Texas learned that they'd memorialized the wrong Annie Moore.

The news left an Irish-culture group in Texas reeling. The Southwest Celtic Music Association dedicated a statue to their Annie Moore last March at the North Texas Irish Festival.

But that Annie Moore was actually born in Illinois, according to [Megan] Smolenyak's research.

"It's too bad we got it wrong," said Jim Miller, the festival's spokesman. "I don't know what we can do about it now. It's unfortunate." [Link]
The festival website now has a retraction and apology.

Where's Arne?

Okay, so now we know what became of the first person processed at Ellis Island. I think it's time to find out what happened to the last person launched through the "golden door."

According to newspaper accounts, a 48-year-old merchant seaman from Narvik, Norway, named Arne Peterssen was the last detainee released before Ellis Island officially closed. This happened on the morning of Nov. 12, 1954. The next day's United Press report says that Peterssen "walked across a platform at Ellis Island and boarded a Manhattan-bound ferry," having previously been paroled. A Providence Journal story dated Sept. 9, 1990, states that he had "jumped ship in New York Harbor in November 1952," suggesting that this was the reason for his detention.

I'm not sure how this jibes with a 2005 New York Times article, which says that Peterssen "was sent home 50 years ago for overstaying his work permit."

My pockets aren't so deep that I can offer a $1,000 reward for information on Arne Peterssen's whereabouts, but I can offer something just as good: Whoever provides me with compelling evidence of Arne's fate will be awarded a free lifetime subscription to The Genealogue.*

*Internet charges may apply. The Genealogue may cease publication before your lifetime ends. In fact, publication could cease at any moment. Offer void in Guam and Vermont.

No Room at the Inn for Grudges

Mark Finchum has devoted a good part of his adult life to sharing the history of the Cherokee people—including the Indian Removal Act of 1830 signed into law by President Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears that resulted. Twenty years ago, Finchum stopped for the night at the Hale Springs Motor Inn in downtown Rogersville, Tennessee.

"The only room I have available is the Andrew Jackson room and you might not want that," Finchum, who has Cherokee ancestry, quoted the innkeeper as saying.

"I said, ‘As far as I'm concerned, he's dead, we're here and I'll take it,'" Finchum said. "A lot has happened, but the Cherokee survived it." [Link]

Saturday, September 16, 2006

New Standards for Head Man in Clan

Standing Council of Clan Chiefs secretary Romilly Squire explains the origins of the clan system in Scotland.

"It came about when you had groups of people living close to one another, thieving off one another and taking any excuse to beat each other up," Squire said.

"Originally the clan chief was elected and it was usually the meanest son of a bitch who got the job. He offered to protect the clan in return for service to the larger group." [Link]
The newly installed chief of the MacDonald clan is Ranald Alasdair MacDonald—a 76-year-old retired audiologist. In his defense, he was known as the meanest son of a bitch to ever practice audiology in Edinburgh.

Oy Vey ... I Mean Arrrgh!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day and Rosh Hashanah are both just days away, so what better time to learn about Jewish pirates?

"The Jewish pirates were Sephardic. Once they were kicked out of Spain [in 1492], the more adventurous Jews went to the New World," said Ed Kritzler, whose yet-untitled book on Jewish pirates will be published by Doubleday in spring 2007.
One such pirate was Moses Cohen Henriques, who helped plan one of history's largest heists against Spain. In 1628, Henriques set sail with Dutch West India Co. Admiral Piet Hein, whose own hatred of Spain was fueled by four years spent as a galley slave aboard a Spanish ship. Henriques and Hein boarded Spanish ships off Cuba and seized shipments of New World gold and silver worth in today's dollars about the same as Disney's total box office for "Dead Man's Chest."

Henriques set up his own pirate island off the coast of Brazil afterward, and even though his role in the raid was disclosed during the Spanish Inquisition, he was never caught, Kritzler told The Journal. [Link, via Boing Boing]

President's Relative Linked to Cow-Tipping Scandal

A genealogy feature in Sunday's Washington Post reveals how one woman has come to terms with having bovine-budging, wooden-toothed relatives.

Jill Groce always knew that her father's family had a long history in America, but it wasn't until she started researching her genealogy that she discovered exactly how far those roots stretched. Groce, a 62-year-old copy editor from Montgomery Village, traced her family tree back nearly four centuries; a 17th-century court transcript details one cousin's appearance before a Maryland magistrate on charges that Groce says sounds suspiciously like cow tipping. (For the record, Groce also learned that she is the "fourth cousin, seven times removed" of George Washington.) [Link]

Low Countries, High Ceilings

Now I know why I stand six feet tall: one of my great-great-great-grandparents was Dutch.

The Dutch were not noted for their height until recently. It was only in the 1950s that they passed the Americans, who stood tallest for most of the last 200 years, said John Komlos, a leading expert on the subject who is professor of economic history at the University of Munich in Germany. He said the United States has now fallen behind Denmark.

Many Dutch are much taller than average. So many, in fact, that four years ago the government adjusted building codes to raise the standards for door frames and ceilings. Doors must now be 7-feet, 6-inches high. [Link]

A Rewarding Experience

Tonight we learn Annie Moore's name after marriage—as well as the best way to spend $1,000 in New York City.

Four generations of descendants of Annie Moore Schayer, the first immigrant to be processed on Ellis Island, gathered yesterday in New York for the first time to celebrate her rediscovery — and their own — and to raise money for a headstone for her unmarked grave in Calvary Cemetery in Queens.

The first contributions, of $500 each, came from Brian G. Andersson, the city’s commissioner of records, and Patricia Somerstein of Long Beach, N.Y., Annie’s great-niece. They donated their share of a $1,000 reward they received from a professional genealogist. [Link (reg. req.)]

Friday, September 15, 2006

Still, I'm Rooting for Roots Television

It looks like Roots Television will not be the Golf Channel rival we all had hoped. Looking at the trademark application the Provo (where else?) company filed on Aug. 30, it appears that they're more interested in the "streaming of audio and video content via the Internet" than the cablecasting of white-knuckle genealogical investigations in prime time. There's also something in there about tote bags.

I guess I'll be stuck watching the new season of Lost after all.

The Genealogy of Jesus

Have you been looking for a video of Jesus Christ's genealogy set to a bouncy tune? Your search is over.

America's Best $100 College

A student from a Chicago suburb will be attending Northwestern University without ponying up a penny in tuition.

Arlington Heights resident Mac LeBuhn's great-great-great-great uncle bought a perpetual scholarship to the Evanston school for $100 in 1866.

With it, he was granted free tuition for himself, his sons -- and all of his descendants accepted to Northwestern.

To LeBuhn, the only student on campus with such a deal, the value over four years will be well over $134,000. [Link]
As LeBuhn isn't really a descendant of his benefactor, I suppose the scholarship was willed to someone in his ancestral line (his grandmother now holds it).

Ancestors on Board, Please Sail Safely

Your Family Tree has the latest news on a new U.K. passenger list website promised last spring. has announced it’s launching a new service - - which will be rolled out over the next 15 months, with records becoming available to search in the next few months. will open up access to passenger lists from ships departing the UK on long-distance voyages between 1890 and 1960. This will cover routes to the US, Canada, Australia, India and South Africa among others, and include the roster of the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic in 1912. estimates there will be around 30 million records available once the scanning and transcribing process is complete – the first records should be available for searching by the end of this year, the project isn’t due to be complete until the end of 2007. [Link]

Pope's Pop Placed Personals

According to a German newspaper, Pope Benedict's father met his wife through the 1920s' equivalent of craigslist. I can't really stand in judgment, since my paternal grandmother's parents met in much the same way.

Bild am Sonntag said 43-year-old Joseph Ratzinger senior placed an advertisement as a "low-level civil servant" seeking "a good Catholic girl, who can cook and sew a bit ... to marry as soon as possible, preferably with a picture," in a Bavarian paper in March 1920.
The second advert in the Altoetting weekly Liebfrauenbote stressed the gendarme Ratzinger's "irreproachable past" and said that while it would be "desirable" if his bride had some money, it was "not a condition" for marriage. [Link]

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Also Good for Omelets

From the The Arizona Republican of June 7, 1906:

A singular birth certificate was submitted at a meeting of the school attendance committee at Norwich Union. A widow had been called upon to prove that her daughter had reached school exemption age. She produced an egg, beautifully colored in purple, yellow and cream, whereon, in almost copperplate characters, the name and date of nativity were picked out in white, together with the texts: "The Lord shall guide thee continually," and "Teach me to do Thy will." This novel certificate was the only record possessed by the mother, and, after being much admired by the committee, was accepted as evidence.
That's nothing. The November 1997 issue of the Law Society Gazette tells of a will written on an egg.
[W]ills are supposed to be in writing, but this does not mean that they must be on paper – as Lord Merrivale P found out when he came to hear a case of Barnes, deceased, Hodson and Another v Barnes (136 LT 380). There he was, sitting in his court one day, when the widow of the deceased arrived with a will written on an egg resting in a box filled with cotton wool. After the case started, his Lordship pointed out that the egg was not witnessed. He was met with the response that the testator was a mariner at sea (in fact, he was a pilot on the Manchester ship canal). The evidence and the argument went on for two days and, eventually, His Lordship gave his verdict: he condemned the eggshell will. [Link (pdf)]

A Grave and Tents Situation

Family historians visiting the churchyards of Ipswich, Suffolk, England, are advised to tread lightly: they might wake the residents.

A homeless man called Steve, who has stayed in one graveyard in the town, said: "You see them come out at night mainly - between 500 and 600 people on the streets of Ipswich.

"There are three or four of us who sleep in a two-man tent.

"In a graveyard, there can be up to 50 people in one evening." [Link]

Mel Gibson Isn't Moronic, He's Pharaonic

A new book purports to prove that those people we call "Scottish" are in truth Egyptian. Ralph Ellis—author of Cleopatra to Christ: Jesus Was the Great Grandson of Cleopatra—claims to present in Scota, Egyptian Queen of the Scots new proof for the old theory that a pharaoh's daughter and her husband, a Greek king, emigrated to Scotland circa way back when.

According to tradition, this royal family was expelled from Egypt during a time of great uprising. They sailed west, settling initially in Spain before travelling to Ireland and then on to the west coast of Scotland. This same race of people eventually battled and triumphed over the Picts to become the Scots – the people who united this country.

Few historians have taken the story to be anything more than a verbose bit of Middle Ages origin story-spinning, created by a nation who needed to prove that they were of ancient stock.

"Most political entities [in medieval times] try and trace the origin of their race back into biblical times," says Steve Boardman, lecturer in Scottish history at Edinburgh University. "It was a way of asserting the natural existence of the kingdom of the Scots." [Link]

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Start Spreading the News

The discovery of the real Annie Moore—the first person to pass through Ellis Island—just made the New York Times.

She married a bakery clerk. They had at least 11 children. Five survived to adulthood and three had children of their own. She died of heart failure in 1924 at 47. Her brother Anthony, who arrived with Annie and Philip on the Nevada, died in his 20’s in the Bronx and was temporarily buried in potter’s field. [see corrections in comments]

Annie lived and died within a few square blocks on the Lower East Side, where some of her descendants lived until just recently. She is buried with 6 of her 11 children (five infants and one who survived to 21) alongside the famous and forgotten in a Queens cemetery.

Her living descendants include great-grandchildren, the great-nephew and the great-niece. One of the descendants is an investment counselor and another a Ph.D.

Mrs. [Megan] Smolenyak Smolenyak described them as “poster children” for immigrant America, with Irish, Jewish, Italian and Scandinavian surnames. “It’s an all-American family,” she said. “Annie would have been proud.” [Link (reg. req.)]

Go Back Where You Came From is offering an Ancestral Vacation Sweepstakes promotion this month. Each photo of a no-longer-living relative you upload will count as an entry (of course, you're expected to enter family tree data as well). Grand prize is an all-expense paid trip to an ancestor's place of origin, but there will be a host of weekly prizes awarded as well.

An eligible photo "must contain an object (i.e. home, vehicle, or keepsake) relating to the Applicable Individual or must feature the Applicable Individual in your family tree." In other words, make sure Granddaddy's whiskey flask is properly labeled.

Genealogy Sparks Religious Revival

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Attendance at the Brookhaven Trinity Church in rural Vermont hit an all-time low last spring, with only ten congregants showing up on Palm Sunday. But these days the pews are packed, thanks to the clever marketing strategy of Pastor David Lombard.

"I got to thinking, 'What will bring people back to the church? What are the services lacking?' Then I read how hugely popular genealogy is. That's when I had my brainstorm."

Since May, the pastor's sermons have been full of genealogy—so much genealogy, in fact, that he rarely has time for anything else.

"We've cut out the benediction and the hymns so we can have more time for the 'begats,'" Lombard says. "People love the 'begats'!"

This was evident on a recent Sunday when Lombard reprised his personal favorite: Genesis, Chapter 11. As he read from the Biblical genealogy—"And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah"—parishioners scribbled on the family group sheets tucked into their disused hymnals.

Critics say that Pastor Lombard is indulging "hobbyists," and overemphasizing one part of the Bible to the detriment of others that are far more important. But Lombard says he is sure of the path he has chosen.

"It's obvious to me that God wants this 'hobby' discussed in church. That's why the Bible says so much about genealogy, and nothing about collecting stamps."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Beggars Can't Be Nurses

Rajo Devi used to be a beggar in Madhubani, Bihar, India, but for the past year has sold newspapers and worked as a nurse at a private clinic. This prompted her clan to ask the village council, or Panchayat, to fine her 7,000 rupees for leaving the family business.

"The village headmen asked me not to work because no one in our tribe works. They said that our ancestors were all beggars and that this will bring a bad name to my family," says Rajo Devi.

Sadly for Rajo Devi, most of the tribe of beggars feel that the Panchayat's decision was justified - including her own family.

Says her sister Chanda Devi, "She should stick to begging for a living." [Link]

The Blair Witch Problem

Michael Traubert of Wellsburg, West Virginia, wants to hold an event this Halloween commemorating the trial of Annie Blair for witchcraft in 1802. But two local historians aren't sure that Blair was ever even accused of witchcraft.

Gwen Hubbard, president of the Brooke County Genealogy group, said a brief court order filed for the case states only that the court found a slanderous accusation had been made against Blair. She presented a copy of the handwritten record to the commission, noting it doesn’t specify what accusations was [sic] made against Blair.

Ruby Greathouse, curator of the Brooke County Museum, said it’s clear Blair had been accused of some “untoward behavior,” but it’s not clear what it was. [Link]
Traubert responds that the historians are "taking something that was intended as a good time for everyone and twisting it around." I have to agree: Why let the truth get in the way of a good time? Even if Annie wasn't slanderously accused of being a witch two centuries ago, why not slanderously accuse her of it now?

Cat Phobia Rampant in Scotland has an article today on Scottish clan mottoes, the best of which is given in a caption:

The motto of the Clan MacPherson with its modern-day translation urging its clanspeople to "Touch not the cat without a glove". [Link]
The MacBeans are even warier of felines, urging us to "Touch not the cat without a shield."

More animal insights may be found here, such as "The eagle does not catch flies," "Flying, I despise reptiles," and "Dinna waken sleeping dogs"—surely a variant of the perennially popular "Never wake a sleeping baby."

Good Night, Sleep Tight

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of May 12, 1857:

The Bedbugs.—A man named Aaron Bedbug of Montgomery county, Ky., intends petitioning the Legislature to change his name. He says that his sweetheart, whose name is Oliva, is unwilling that he should be called A. Bedbug, she O. Bedbug, and the little ones little Bedbugs.
Ever wonder if these old news stories were manufactured out of whole cloth? FamilySearch fails to turn up a single individual named "Bedbug," there's nothing in WorldConnect, and neither of the "Aarons" I find living in Montgomery County, Kentucky, in 1860 was a Bedbug or married to a woman named "Oliva."

More Mischief at Monticello?

Thomas Jefferson Clayton II (formerly Ronnie R. Clayton) believes that his great-great-great-great grandfather was "Yellow Tom"—the spitting image and unacknowledged son of Thomas Jefferson.

When TJCII told the new Thomas Jefferson Foundation staff at Monticello, in a telephone conversation, that his grandmother told him he had three grandfathers named Thomas Jefferson, starting with his grandmother Rena Bell Clayton's own father, he was ridiculed and laughed at. Monticello told Clayton that he needed documents to prove these facts instead of only his grandmother's death bed confession.

The Monticello staff also told him that he "would be the first to show documents with Thomas Jefferson's name on them from the 1800s." When Clayton finally was able to "show" them the actual death certificate showing his great grandfather's name as Thomas Jefferson Clayton, he could not explain the look on their faces. [Link]
I think I can explain the look on their faces. After all, you couldn't swing a dead white European male in 19th-century America without hitting someone named "Thomas Jefferson."

Clayton says his family has a "right to a DNA test" to prove that he descends from Jefferson. It's not clear from the article what prevents him from swabbing his cheek and sending his cells off to a genetics lab. Given how widely the rare Jefferson haplotype has been publicized, one would think the guy on CSI could run a sample through his Instamatic Genealyzer and come up with an answer before the next commercial break.

A significant flaw in Clayton's theory is that "Yellow Tom" seems to have been a fabrication of one of Jefferson's political enemies, James T. Callendar, who wrote in the Richmond Recorder in 1802 that “It is well known that the man whom it delighteth the people to honor, keeps and for many years has kept, as his concubine, one of his slaves. Her name is SALLY. The name of her eldest son is Tom. His features are said to bear a striking though sable resemblance to those of the president himself." Problem is, Sally Hemings didn't have a son named Tom, unless it was Thomas C. Woodson—definitely not Jefferson's son.
[Photo source: American Historical Portraits, William E. Barton Collection of Lincolniana, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library]

Surveying the Genie Scene

You can get free access to for a week by completing this survey. When they ask "What is your favorite genealogical website and why?" the correct answers are "The Genealogue" and "Because I'm confident that someday he'll write something worth reading."

More Gibberish for Genealogists

Following up on my post Free Gibberish for Genealogists, Nancy Carver sends along this naughty-sounding search result.

A quick check of the original shows that Charley was not himself ejaculated, but ejaculated himself.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Genealogists' Memories Still Fresh

A few genealogists have shared where they were five years ago today. Arlene Eakle was at the Dallas Public Library.

The morning of September 11th, we arrived at the library at 8:30 am so we could be ready to research as soon as the Genealogy Section opened. We selected seats near the book stacks. We selected the first of more than 300 printed volumes we searched that day.

A few minutes later, we were deeply into our research when Lloyd Bockstruck, the Genealogy Librarian, excitedly beckoned to us. We went to see what was up. He had brought a small screen television into his office and the entire genealogy staff were gathered around it. We watched in shock as the news played and replayed the 1st airplane smashing into the World Trade Center, each commentator speculating on why such a horrible mistake could have happened. [Link]
Nancy Menton-Lyons was in Dublin researching her Irish roots when she heard the news.
On September 11, I was researching in the Library and broke for lunch. I crossed the street to Boswells’ pub and saw the television screen with the burning buildings! I thought at first it was part of Ireland’s internal struggles!

The local Irish didn’t know I was an American until I asked what had happened with my obvious American accent.

In that moment I went from being one of many of them, to being one lone American. My feelings were of disbelief, horror, isolation, and fear for my family, my country, and the world. [Link]
Ed and Annabelle Jenkins were in Washington, D. C., when the Pentagon was hit.
“We were in the National Archives when I started noticing people getting up and leaving and I mentioned to Ed what was going on and he said 'Annabelle, you're in Washington, D.C. This is a big city.' I went to get a tape and I heard these two women talking and one said 'did you hear that two planes hit the twin towers in New York City?' and the other woman said 'That can't be true.' We went to get on an elevator and this woman came off and she was crying and she told the security guard a plane had hit the Pentagon and we went back into the room where we had been and there were all these pagers going off.” [Link]
And Harold F. Goodwin had just arrived at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.
After parking, I started to walk to join the ladies. There were two men in a parked car listening to a radio. They must have seen my Maine plates. One said, "Too bad about New York."

I said, "What do you mean?"

"Two planes crashed into two skyscrapers in the city."

"Sure, sure," was my reply.


Needless to say we got very little research done. [Link]

Her Father, the Hero

Kimberly Powell spotted this fascinating story of a Minnesota woman whose search for her birth parents led to United Airlines Flight 93. Mariah Mills found out in 2004 that Tom Burnett was her biological father. Her adoptive mother was the first to read the birth certificate.

Cathy didn't know what to do with the information she held in her hand. She called her husband at work and told him the name. He recognized it right away. And they both remembered what Mariah had said on 9/11: "I think one of my parents is dead."

Of course, they had reassured her then that the chances were "one in millions." Most of those killed lived on the East and West coasts, they had said.

Walter Mills shakes his head in disbelief as he recollects Mariah's words on 9/11.

"That — what's the word? Premonition? Yes, premonition. That's nothing science could ever explain." [Link]

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling a chill whenever today's date crops up in research—even if it's Sept. 11, 1834. But imagine being a kid who has to carry around the birth date Sept. 11, 2001, for the rest of her life.

[Susan Gurspan] said her daughter, Marcy, is not aware that her birth date has a greater significance. Marcy planned to have a princess-themed party at a gymnasium Sunday and a kindergarten party with cupcakes today.

It can be difficult when some people learn of Marcy's birthday date and forget that they are speaking in front of a child, Gurspan said.

"They say, 'Oh my goodness. How terrible. What a terrible time. What a terrible date.' I'm usually quite mortified," Gurspan said. "I usually say immediately, 'Well, we look at it as a blessing and an affirmation of life.' " [Link]

The Name is Welsh Just in Case

Based on the origins of local surnames, the Isle of Barra has been declared the most Scottish place in Scotland, Ripley the most English place in England, and Llangefni the most Welsh place in Wales. Researchers also tallied up foreign names, and discovered a cluster of Dutch names in Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, Wales.

The town's county councillor, Timothy Van Rees, may have a slightly Dutch sounding surname but insisted he had Welsh roots. In fact he said he couldn't understand this link at all.

He said, "We are a tiny town of 700-800. I can't think of any Dutch people here. I've been a councillor for the town for 25 years and I've never noticed it"

There was a possibility that the preponderance of Dutch names came from Dutch farmers who bought land near Llandovery and Carmarthenshire in the past.

But Mr Van Rees, whose says his own surname is Welsh, admitted it was sometimes mistaken for Dutch.

"My family descends from the Vans of Monmouthshire. Van is a Welsh name. The difference in Dutch is that it's spelt with a small v and in Welsh it is a capital v." [Link]

Sunday, September 10, 2006

All the Names a Child Could Ever Need

From The Evening Journal of Waukesha, Wisconsin, Aug. 26, 1890:

There is a family living in Athens, Ga., whose head delights in long names for the children. The first child is named Mary Magalina Mandy Mectum Elizabeth Betsy Polly Mack Barrett, the second child is named Alice Georgia Ann Forena Barrett; the third is named Mattie Frances Anna Tranna Barrett; the fourth child is named Emory Spear Walker Buster Barrett; the fifth child is named Tila Cory Coston Estelle Liniment Ettie Isiduler Barrett; the sixth is named Montine Cinicar Barrett; and the seventh child is named Ellice Bozma Mondenay Virginia Barrett.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

In Search of In-Laws

Mary "Susie" Harris is county historian in Anderson County, Tennessee. Like so many women, she found her purpose in life in the course of proving her husband wrong.

Harris' love of genealogy in adulthood was spurred by a claim by her husband that he had few relatives. She uncovered a family tree that included more than 3,000 kin. [Link]

Friday, September 08, 2006

They're Proud of Prolific Progeny

Clyde and Ethel Higginson—residents of a retirement home in Sandy, Utah—made the evening news for having more descendants than anyone else in the home.

The Higginsons boast 12 children (from separate marriages), 64 grandchildren, and when you include all the posterity from those who married into the family, including all their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren - it equals 258. [Link]
They have a ways to go before they match the record of Samuel Mast of Pennsylvania, who reportedly was survived by 11 children, 97 grandchildren, 634 great grandchildren and 82 great great grandchildren—824 descendants in all.

Father Knows Best How to Invade Kuwait

Genealogists should always strive to place a child with the correct parents. Failure to do so can lead to situations like this:

On August 10, after his family was refused a home loan, an Arcata [California] man was mortified to find the phrase “son of Saddam Hussein” included on his credit report.

“I looked at it and couldn’t believe my eyes!” Said the Arcata man who asked that only his middle name, Hassan, be divulged.

The routine credit check, pulled by the Arcata family’s prospective mortgage company, lists the alleged alias under the section titled “Borrower Bureau Alert Information:”


Free Gibberish for Genealogists

I've been enjoying Google's just-introduced News Archive Search—even without a subscription to By searching the latter site with Google you get a free preview of your search result that is sometimes almost kind of readable.

Here's a snippet from a 1906 article that refers to my ancestor, Moses Dunham of Hartford, Maine:

The birth of a son to Mr: and Mrs. who march re- Chartes A. Dunham orwest Bethel ferred qnless the editor of the Cour- brings to mind an interesting circuni- ant has in-mind the ante-matrlmonia stance regarding ithe male descendants of Moses Dunham who came from Carver, Mass., and settled in Hartford In at that time had two sons, and today there are two grandsons. i two great-gnbidsons, and two. great- Cannot be aone unless you have gooc great-grandsons. [Link]
If you take out a few words that don't belong and squint really hard this almost makes sense. Moses had two sons, who had two sons, who had two sons, who in 1906 had two sons between them. (Moses would gain two more great-great-grandsons in years to come, the youngest of whom was my grandfather.)

In other cases, Optical Character Recognition fails miserably. This is from an 1878 Iowa newspaper:
It ia mlmiatuw. 'Tkoogmt I lkeead. PtUeaeeud bring ik towel at int. i Ordered time from pro- Drop turned out to be ft it ft towel T Cbarsje, For two eixoenta. Ooaelndedaow I tke fond iu boat out turn f the bftth-tab ebaeked it on oat, concluded t oenU wortk oat of tbtpv'gnoir. [Link]
Let's hope your ancestor's name was not mentioned in that paragraph.

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