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Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Blue-Collar Blue Blood

The New York Sun tells the interesting story of an enigmatic genealogist and art collector named William M. V. Kingsland, who died last March. No one knew of his origins until two other genealogists, Leslie Corn and Roger Joslyn, took on the case. They found that he was a native New Yorker born Melvin Kohn.

In a motion filed in 1960 to change his name, Kingsland's parents said of their 17-year-old son: "in order to more successfully pursue his career in the field of literature and languages, which are his chief interests, it would be to his benefit to assume the name of William M. Kingsland, as this name has a more literary sounding and flavor."

The family was then living at 1420 Grand Concourse in the Bronx. Reached by phone, the attorney who made the motion for Kingsland's name change, Zoltan Neumark, recalled a quiet young man who "had an idea he wanted an aristocratic name." Kingsland would later tell close friends his middle initials stood for "Milliken" and "Vanderbilt." [Link]

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