A website just went live Celebrating the Queen's 80th Birthday. Elizabeth's birthday falls on April 21st, but will be officially celebrated on June 17th, giving her time to recuperate from the family festivities (I hear they're hiring the Chippendale Dancers).
You can send your birthday greetings to the Queen on the website, paw through her photo album, and even view her birth certificate. This last is not the sort of document I've ever run across. Her father's occupation is given as "Duke of York K.G.," the last two letters indicating that he was either a Knight of the Garter or an early advocate of the metric system.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
A website just went live Celebrating the Queen's 80th Birthday. Elizabeth's birthday falls on April 21st, but will be officially celebrated on June 17th, giving her time to recuperate from the family festivities (I hear they're hiring the Chippendale Dancers).
If you're the descendant of a Confederate officer interned at the Johnson's Island Prisoner of War Depot in Ohio, you might not want to read this.
Archaeologists have been digging for 15 years at the camp, focusing on the "sinks," which is to say the latrines. It was into these "rectangular pits 8 feet wide by 12 feet long and 2 to 5 feet deep" that the prisoners dropped their most valuable treasures.
The sinks proved to be remarkable time capsules containing objects dropped accidentally or deliberately into the sewage. Understandably, even valuable objects were left. For example, the excavators found a gold locket containing a badly deteriorated photograph and a lock of hair. [Link]The latrines were also a means of egress from the camp: at least ten prisoners are known to have escaped from Johnson's Island, and evidence has been found of tunnels leading from the "sinks" to the stockade wall.
Escapee's Wife: "Oh, my dear husband! You must have gone through so much to return to the loving arms of your family!"
Escapee: "Madam, you have no idea."
In case you haven't noticed, it's Wales Week in New York—kind of like Mardi Gras with a wind chill advisory.
In New York on March 1, daffodils and red dragons will abound around town, as the Welsh community in New York celebrates St. David and Dylan Thomas, Wales' most famous poet, with weeklong events that include lighting the Empire State Building in red, green and white, the colors of Wales. [Link]The press release from the Welsh Development Agency goes on to tell us what we'd be missing if not for Wales: principally Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jack-Daniels-induced blackouts.
There's a whole website devoted to Wales Week, with a page devoted to Welsh genealogy. The Wales Tourist Board pitches in a website of its own—Homecoming Wales—with tips on finding your Welsh family, and answers to the question, "What's Happening in Wales?"
What is happening in Wales? A Man Versus Horse Marathon, of course.
I almost wish my ancestors hadn't subjugated the Welsh.
Monday, February 27, 2006
The predicament in which Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown finds himself should be familiar to many genealogists. He based his work on the work of his predecessors—in Brown's case, the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail—and now those predecessors want credit.
And several million dollars.
The outcome of the court case in London could hinge on whether the content borrowed—including the genealogy of Jesus Christ's descendants—was factual or fictional. Here's the problem for the plaintiffs: If their book was factual, they may not have a leg to stand on. As all Internet-educated lawyers know, "You can't copyright facts," although the arrangement of those facts may be protected. If, on the other hand, they argue that the Jesus genealogy sprang from their own feverish minds, they'd better stop touting Holy Blood, Holy Grail as an "extraordinarily provocative, meticulously researched book."
The lesson for genealogists is clear: Steal only from people who didn't make stuff up.
William Popomaronis was born in Baltimore to Greek immigrants, which made him wonder why his eyes are blue and his hair blond.
A DNA sample he submitted to Oxford Ancestors with a $400 check gave him the answer: He shares a bit of genetic ancestry with people from Finland and Northern Norway. Needless to say, the results left him in a state of utter equanimity.
"It wasn't earth-shattering," says Popomaronis, who lives in Phoenix in Baltimore County. "I didn't find out I had a long lost brother or sister somewhere or that I was the illegitimate son of somebody, but it did satisfy my curiosity." [Link]
Some family heirlooms are more difficult to preserve than others—and some just won't fit in a scrapbook. For instance, the two ice cream parfaits that a woman in Silvis, Iowa, has been saving for 38 years.
Ty Thomson bought them while visiting a Quincy, Illinois, store with her three-year-old son, who told her they were too beautiful to eat. So into the deep freeze they went, and there they have stayed through two changes of address and four changes of refrigerator.
"At a party, he will tell friends that his mom has ice cream parfaits stored in her freezer that were bought for him when he was a little kid," she says. "People don't believe him. He will still call me and ask about the parfaits." [Link]
Sunday, February 26, 2006
10. Fought in the Civil War, but was allowed only one bullet.
9. Last words to his doctors were "Nip it in the bud!"
8. Spent most of his life locked in broom closets.
7. Never rose above "Deputy Grocery Clerk."
6. Accidentally let Jack the Ripper go free.
5. Unanimously voted out of his church choir.
4. Locked his kids in the basement every time they double-parked their bikes.
3. Married your grandmother Thelma Lou after a courtship of 19 years.
2. Was always misplacing the keys to the Bastille.
1. Named his sons "Gomer" and "Goober."
Google Fight compares search engine results for two words or phrases in a bloodlessly violent way. Of couse, I immediately began a survival-of-the-fittest-name contest, pitting the surnames in my lineage against one another, to see which would come out on top.
My mother's kin are French-Canadian and Finnish, and were beaten handily by my father's brutish English ancestors. My paternal grandfather's "Dunham" narrowly beat out his wife's "Coolidge," despite the dead President in her corner. "Dunham," however, fell in the next round against "Morgan" in what can only be called a bloodbath. Somewhere in my distant past I had a "Smith," which flattened "Morgan" in a most unsportsmanlike way.
Scientists are 99% certain that a skull dug up from beneath the floor of a Polish cathedral is that of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. The only way to know for sure is to match DNA from the skull with that of a known relative—a difficult task, since Copernicus was too busy thumbing his crooked nose at the Pope to father any children.
But researchers think they have a solution. They are now preparing another excavation to look for the remains of Copernicus's uncle, the former bishop of Warmia, who is also believed to be buried in Frombork Cathedral. Exactly where, no one is sure. [Link]If it turns out they can't positively identify the bishop's remains, I guess they'll just dig up one of his uncles.
Fun Fact: Gwen Stefani is a distant cousin of Madonna. Her great-aunt's mother-in-law shares the last name with Madonna. [Link]Here's another fun fact: My great-aunt's mother-in-law had the same last name as actress Liv Tyler. And yet Liv refuses to admit that we're related.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
A part-time judge and truck driver in Hildale, Utah, was removed from the bench Friday for having more than the usual number of wives. Walter K. Steed married his first wife in 1965, and proceeded to marry two of his sisters-in-law in 1975 and 1985. By 1995, he had evidently run out of sisters-in-law. Steed has 32 children by his three wives, which explains why he took the judging gig.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says his office won't prosecute bigamists unless some other crime has been committed.
"If you charge one where do you stop? You start prosecuting 10,000 people and have 20,000 kids go into the (child welfare) system?" Shurtleff said. [Link]Shurtleff didn't mention any other laws Utahns with children can safely ignore.
- Today at 7:16 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) the population of Earth will hit 6.5 billion.
- About one of every five people on Earth is Chinese.
- I have two parents and two siblings, and not one of us is Chinese.
- 4.4 babies are born every second.
- 396 women give birth every time I microwave popcorn.
- Four times as many people live now as lived in 1900.
- Most of the people alive in 1900 are no longer contributing members of society.
- People in poor countries have more children than people in rich countries.
- People in rich countries have more edible underwear than people in poor countries.
- If every person on Earth jumped up at precisely the same moment, I'd be very surprised.
Friday, February 24, 2006
The Braddock District in Fairfax County, Virginia, traditionally dedicates its Winter Town Meeting to senior issues. This year, residents of a local senior center were asked to share stories of their pasts. Stories like that of Lola Petsche, who arrived from Cuba with her four-year-old daughter in 1949:
Upon her arrival, [...] she remembers seeing her host preparing eggs in a strange way, by boiling them and dyeing them bright colors. It was Easter, but Petsche had never seen anything like it.
"I said, 'I think I am going to like the United States, even though they eat weird things,'" said Petsche. [Link]
A Sudanese man has been forced to marry a goat, after being found in a compromising situation with the animal. The goat's owner took the case before the village elders, who decided that the offender should pay a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars ($50).
"We have given him the goat, and as far as we know they are still together," Mr Alifi said. [Link]
10. It begins, "Years ago, when your mother and I were first abducted by aliens. . ."
9. It involves three brothers who came on the Mayflower's second voyage, had their names changed at Ellis Island, and married Indian princesses.
8. Granddad only tells it after he's washed down a fistful of Vicodin with a quart of Jim Beam.
7. It takes place during the Great Flatulence Pandemic of 1876.
6. Your father sometimes forgets to replace Daniel Boone's name with his own.
5. All the main characters have been depicted on coins.
4. It sounds suspiciously like the plot of Brokeback Mountain.
3. Grandma has to pinch herself while telling it to keep a straight face.
2. You first heard it from James Frey.
1. It ends, ". . . and that's how I invented Velcro."
Thursday, February 23, 2006
The current issue of National Geographic has a brief progress report on The Genographic Project.
The Seaconke-Wampanoag tribe was the first U.S. group to participate in the project, members gathering in Seekonk, Massachusetts, last summer to give DNA samples. Chief George Silver Wolf Jennings is hoping the samples will yield clues about the path their ancestors took when migrating to New England, but he doesn't want any ugly surprises.
Says Chief Jennings: "I just hope these guys aren't gonna tell us we're all Swedish." [p. 73]
Genealogists have a friend in Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucindo Suarez. He ruled that Robbie Bishop can't change her name to just "Robbie."
"That there may be many people with the same surname and even the same given and middle name does not provide a valid reason to set a precedent which could have overwhelming untoward consequences," Suarez found. [Link]
A teenager was tipping tombstones in Roodhouse, Illinois, recently when one of his victims decided to fight back.
Authorities say it took four firefighters to lift a 600-pound gravestone off the 16-year-old boy's leg early Tuesday after he helped knock over that headstone and dozens others. [Link]
While interviewing Harrison Ford last month, Jay Leno mentioned that former TV newsman Roger Mudd had spent years trying to clear the name of his ancestor Dr. Samuel A. Mudd—imprisoned for tending the wounds John Wilkes Booth suffered the final time he took to the stage.
Trouble is, it wasn't Roger Mudd but Dr. Richard D. Mudd of Saginaw, Michigan, who spent all those years of name-clearing. Dr. Mudd's son couldn't let the error pass, so he sent a letter to Leno, receiving in return a telephoned apology from the Tonight Show host himself.
"He could have had his secretary call," says Thomas B. Mudd, "if anyone called at all, but no. He called me directly and said, 'This is Jay Leno. I want to apologize.'"
This egregious error corrected, Thomas is now steeling himself for the release of Manhunt, a movie in which Ford will hunt for Lincoln's assassin.
"I'm getting ready for battle," Mudd said. "There is not one shred of evidence linking my great-grandfather to a conspiracy plot, and all of this Mudd-bashing is not funny to me." [Link]
Photo restorer Carolyn Schultz explains why there are so few pictures of 19th-century children smiling:
"Because children fidgeted all the time, photographers had a brace that they would put around their waist. A metal rod would go up the middle of their back and clasp around their neck," Schultz says, grimacing. "In some pictures, you can see the rods poking up from behind their ears. It kept their heads still, but it would often make them cry because it was painful. They had to hold that pose for more than five minutes." [Link]
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Don't even think about naming your kid "Lolita" or "Mona Lisa" in Portugal. Those names are on a hit list kept on the Ministry of Justice's website, together with "Guevara," "Marx," and "Rosa Luxemburgo."
The site has 39 pages of legally acceptable first names, and 41 pages of banned monikers. Some are seeking to scrap the national list, as Norway has done. In Norway, you can choose any name for your child, except "swear words, sex words, negative names and sicknesses."
So what's wrong with naming your kid "Malaria"?
“What it does is handicap a kid who has to deal with it,” said Albert Mehrabian, a University of California professor emeritus of psychology and author of “Baby Name Report Card: Beneficial and Harmful Baby Names.”
Some parents are capable of labours of lunacy. Portugal’s reject list includes Ovnis. OVNI is Portuguese for UFO.
Danish authorities nixed Monkey and Lucifer. Mehrabian knows of an American named Latrina. [Link]
Just a reminder that you have one more week to enjoy 13 free databases at Ancestry.com. Don't come crying to me when they slam the door in your face on March first.
Here's the list again:
- World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
- Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874
- 1870 U.S. Federal Census
- 1860 U.S. Federal Census: Slave Schedules
- 1850 U.S. Federal Census: Slave Schedules
- Civil War Service Records
- Slave Narratives
- Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina, Black Deaths 1871-89
- The First African Baptist Church of North America
- Blacks in the State of Oregon, 1788-1971
- Slave life in Georgia: a narrative of the life, sufferings, and escape of John Brown, a fugitive slave, now in England
- Slavery petitions and papers
- The Black presence in the era of the American Revolution, 1770-1800
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Professor Noboru Karashima puts the rest of us to shame.
The respected Japanese scholar specialising in Indian studies says he has records of his ancestors, including mythological ancestors, going back 74 generations, a timeline that stretches to the days of Confucius in the fifth century B.C. [Link (emphasis mine)]Says Professor Karashima, "We cannot really rely on records available until the 8th century, when one of my ancestors clearly appears in Japanese history."
A study published today in Current Biology compares the DNA of 150 randomly chosen men who share British surnames, and finds that some of them are actually related.
We show that sharing a surname significantly elevates the probability of sharing a Y-chromosomal haplotype and that this probability increases as surname frequency decreases. [Link]It's long been a rule of thumb among genealogists that the rarer a surname is within a limited geographical region, the more likely it is that two people sharing the surname are related. The study showed that there was "no link for Smith, Jones, and Taylor, but a clear link for Attenborough, Widdowson, and Grewcock."
The study summary does raise some interesting possibilities for new CSI episodes.
Within our sample, we estimate that up to 24% of pairs share recent ancestry and that a large surname-based forensic database might contribute to the intelligence-led investigation of up to ~70 rapes and murders per year in the UK.In a column today at Nature.com, researcher Mark Jobling admits that some of the results were obvious, but that the degree of correlation between genetics and surnames has never been established, and that he could have gone even further.
Interestingly, a search of the UK electoral register turns up some 61 entries for the surname Bastard.
Jobling says that he toyed with the idea of investigating this group to see if their degree of relatedness is lower. But in the end, he says, he tactfully demurred. "We were worried that people would think we were taking the piss." [Link]
A new genealogy e-book—The Desperate Genealogist's Idea Book: Creative Ways to Outsmart Your Elusive Ancestors—is available for downloading. For just $14.95, you get 150 pages of genealogical wisdom from the likes of Lisa Alzo, Joe Bott, Emily Croom, DearMYRTLE, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Charlie Gardes, John Konvalinka, Megan Smolenyak, Maureen Taylor, and Andrew Yeiser. Your purchase goes toward supporting DeadFred.com, a site I recently confessed I do not hate.
A tag-team effort by DeadFred.com and some of genealogy's top ancestral sleuths and accomplished writers, this 150-page e-book is packed with articles and case studies that reveal invaluable tips, shortcuts, resources and even step-by-step instructions on how to use overlooked research tools, conduct specialized searches and tackle brick walls with sheer ingenuity.
What do Osama Bin Laden and Apprentice washout Omarosa have in common? Neither can get a free Yahoo! email account.
Or at least not using their names as Yahoo! IDs. The company has banned IDs that include the letter-combinations "allah," "osama," or "binladen," among others. (Inexplicably, the Romanized spelling preferred by many, "usama," is allowed, as well as other names for God.)
There aren't too many surnames that include the banned words, but if your name is "Callahan" or "Kallahar" you're out of luck. So also if your first and last names come together in just the right way, like those of the unhappily named Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Michael Brown is the Homeland Security Department's new Director of Genealogical Impediment, and he sees a bright future for genealogy in America.
"Imagine, if you will," he says, "a country where birth and death records are kept not in thousands of dangerously unprotected facilities spread out over fifty states, but in one secure location in Washington, D.C. Imagine the convenience!"
The convenience will extend not only to officials of the FBI and NSA, but to any employee of the Executive Branch with adequate security clearance. Genealogists, of course, will not be admitted.
"Genealogists will still be able to search locally through any records that bear their own name," Brown says. "If there's information they need but can't get, maybe they should just ask themselves why they want to lend support to our enemies."
As an added convenience, the names of genealogists who request records will be sent to Washington and compared against lists of known or suspected terrorists.
Brown says that loyal Americans shouldn't be troubled.
"If you haven't done anything wrong—and don't have the same name as someone who did something wrong or might have done something wrong or voted against the President—you have nothing to worry about."
[For more information on the possible implications of the very real Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, see Information is Power]
With the six-month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina drawing near, you may want to consider donating your unneeded genealogy books or journals to the libraries affected by the disaster.
The New Orleans Public Library is now looking for book donations:
The New Orleans Public Library is asking for any and all hardcover and paperback books for people of all ages in an effort to restock the shelves after Katrina. The staff will assess which titles will be designated for its collections. The rest will be distributed to destitute families or sold for library fundraising. Please send your books to:The Louisiana State Library website has guidelines for material donations, and specifically asks for "Genealogy-Louisiana or otherwise."
Rica A. Trigs, Public Relations
New Orleans Public Library
219 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70112
If you tell the post office that they are for the library in New Orleans, they will give you the library rate which is slightly less than the book rate. [via NYFA Interactive]
Madison Mackenzie—a third-grader in Newton, N.H., nicknamed "Baberaham" by her stepfather—is related to Abraham Lincoln, but her classmates didn't believe it until her family tree was posted in the hall of the elementary school.
"She was really excited and she told everyone at school, but they were like, 'Yeah right, I'm related to George Washington,' and, 'President Bush is my uncle,'" she said. "She looked at me and said, 'Mom, tell them to stop.'" [Link]
I'm hoping that someone can help explain this photograph, found among the effects of my Finnish great-grandmother (click for a larger image). The gentlemen pictured don't appear to be relatives—although clobbering people with large sticks of wood is common practice in my family. Two questions remain: What is the man in front reading, and is the man behind concealing his face with a mask or with an actual pig's head?
If you have any clue as to what it all means, drop a comment below. My best guess: a Finnish dramatization of Animal Farm.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Sharon Elliott today reports a frightening statistic:
In the past couple days, two-thirds of all Americans aged 115 have died. That leaves only one. [Link]
Another wandering gravestone has turned up—this time under a porch in Canton, Ohio.
Anna Wolfe was born June 22, 1869, died December 26, 1924, and somehow in the 81 years since became separated from her marker. Homeowner John George resisted the urge to toss the stone into a Dumpster.
George asked that anyone who may have been related to the Anna Wolfe inscribed on the tombstone to call him and claim it. “That’s something that you don’t throw away,” George said. [Link]
When Sir Benjamin Slade announced last December that he would give his Somerset mansion to whichever Slade most closely matched his DNA profile, he didn't realize how many Slades would crawl out of the woodwork.
'I've had 10,019 letters from Slades living all over the world and the variety has been amazing: there is an Indian man in a Delhi jail who claims my great-great-grandfather had a fling with his mother during the Indian mutiny, and two black women in America who claim to be relations,' says the 59-year-old baronet. 'There are even families in Australia, who probably come from an ancestor who fled there in 1820 because he was unable to pay the upkeep of the 22 children he had fathered back home in Devon.'So now Sir Benjamin is digging up his oldest known ancestor—Walter Atte Slade, dead since 1120—in hopes of collecting some additional DNA and winnowing the field down to one lucky cousin. Naturally, the outcome will be decided on television.
The television series, to be screened later this year, will move the 20 families who pass initial genealogy tests into Maunsel House with Slade. Each week, Slade, a genealogist and a DNA specialist will confer to nominate a family for eviction, until a single heir remains. [Link]
Saturday, February 18, 2006
10. Sponsored a bill to make mistranscription a capital crime.
9. Only shows up to vote when the National Archives closes.
8. Wants the President to create a Graveyard Security Department.
7. Once exposed his ahnentafel on C-SPAN.
6. Reads his family group sheets aloud during filibusters.
5. Was caught in a compromising position with the DAR librarian.
4. Is in the pocket of the microfilm lobby.
3. Was shot in the face while hunting tombstones with Dick Cheney.
2. Won't accept a bribe without jotting down the source.
1. You live in Utah.
Genealogist Lauri Gartner takes great risks when visiting her ancestors at the Essex Cemetery in Drury Township, Illinois. The yard lies "a half-mile off the main road, it's surrounded by corn fields and pasture and is barred by two cattle gates."
Once there, she often has to contend with sheep and goats grazing on the property. One recalcitrant animal ate the tabs off her license plate, causing her to have to make the nine-hour drive home with expired plates.
"I was buying apples, carrots and celery to make him be nice to me," she said. [Link]
If you have Swiss ancestors, keep an eye on swissroots.org the next month or so. It's not exactly clear what resources the website will offer ("genealogical search engines" are promised), but part of its mission will be to "enable people to track down the Swiss branches of their family tree and reach out to long-lost Swiss relatives."
For a bit more info, check out this PDF file from the Swiss Embassy. Or enter your email address on the swissroots.org website while sipping Nescafé and yodeling.
Britain has been troubled by a string of gravestone incidents in the past ten years, resulting in seven deaths and numerous injuries. Now the masons have instituted strict accreditation standards to guarantee gravestone stability for ten years, and do away with the "tombstone cowboys of the memorial industry."
Tim Morris, of [the British Register of Accredited Memorial Masons], said yesterday: “You can get a guarantee on just about anything else, so why not a headstone? If a cowboy installs it, then the council complains that it’s dangerous and insists on it being laid flat. It’s the poor bereaved that are left in the middle as the innocent party.” [Link]
Friday, February 17, 2006
Matching your mug to that of a celebrity is one thing, but what if you could take a DNA test and learn how closely you're related to the Windsors, or the Osbournes?
Chris Eglington of London applied recently for a U.S. patent for his "Method of determining a genetic relationship to at least one individual in a group of famous individuals using a combination of genetic markers." Available groups might include "US Presidents, Founding Fathers, Royal Families from various nations, Baseball Players, Football Players, Rock Stars, Actors and Actresses, Hockey Players, Authors, Artists and Scientists." Submit your cheek-swab, and Eglington will tell you which Desperate Housewives actress is most likely to return your phone call.
The method could be used for four-legged wannabes as well, letting you check your mongrel's DNA against that of a group of privileged pooches.
For example, groups of famous animals include, without limit, Triple Crown winners, champion racehorses, kennel club champions, Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show winners, champion cats, Hollywood cats, Hollywood dogs and Hollywood horses.Best of all, "the customer can send in any biological sample that contains DNA, including, without limitation, bone, teeth, mouth wash and blood." Eglington says that DNA from famous people may be collected "using any method known in the art."
I'll start checking eBay for Queen Elizabeth's teeth.
The blog of the Athanasius Kircher Society today features the world's foremost diarist. In a 1994 interview, Robert Shields of Dayton, Washington, said he'd been spending four hours a day for twenty years recording whatever he ate, did, dreamed, said, and heard. He said he had stopped traveling, because when he gets back "it takes me a day to catch up with the notes." His diary—now housed at Washington State University—ultimately included about 38 million words, stored in 81 cardboard boxes.
This reminds me of Joseph Heller's book Good as Gold, in which the President of the United States spends his first year in office writing a memoir of his first year in office.
If you have the surname of a U.S. President, Liberty Tax Service will prepare your taxes for free on Presidents' Day. If your name is "Agnew" or "Quayle," you'll get 50% off.
This is quite a gamble, since "Johnson" is the second most popular name in America, according to the 1990 census. Our estimated population as of today is 298,129,242, which means that if the name still appears with a frequency of 0.81%, more than 2.4 million Johnsons could show up at Liberty's 2,000 offices next Monday. Add to that a million Wilsons (8th most popular), and 900,000 Jacksons (13th). Fortunately, many Americans do their own taxes, and some not at all.
Oddly enough, "Carter" is considerably more popular than "Bush."
The National Archives Central Plains Region facility in Kansas City is looking for new headquarters. Details are sketchy, but the Archives reportedly "has to relocate" by 2007. I suspect they've ticked off their current landlord by playing loud music at all hours of the night.
They're looking for a more accessible facility, and more room for 50,000 cubic feet of non-military federal records generated in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska between 1821 and 1990. This doesn't include the "3 million cubic feet of less important documents [kept] in area caves," available only to researchers with spelunking privileges.
If you live in Kansas City, and have an extra room that could accommodate the Archives, give them a call. Just be sure to lock the liquor cabinet and ask for a security deposit.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
DNA evidence that Native Americans came from Asia and not the Middle East is testing the faith of some Mormons, who've been taught that American Indians descended from a lost tribe of Israel.
For those outside the faith, the depth of the church's dilemma can be explained this way: Imagine if DNA evidence revealed that the Pilgrims didn't sail from Europe to escape religious persecution but rather were part of a migration from Iceland — and that U.S. history books were wrong. [Link, via OakvilleBlackWalnut]Of course, we know that the Pilgrims did not come from Norse-infested Iceland, because they wore hats with shiny buckles and not horny Viking helmets.
Norwegian Torkild Waagaard has been studying his Viking heritage for years, and wants to make one thing perfectly clear:
I would like the world to know the truth. And that is that Viking helmets did not have horns. The only real Viking-age helmet ever found in the world was found in my hometown, Ringerike just north of Oslo. The cliché is of course that if you see a picture or representation of a Viking, you’ll see a helmet with horns. But that’s not true at all. [Link]Update: Upon further reflection, I've concluded that this statement is an indictment of the kittens in this video. What does Torkild Waagaard have against kittens?
In Montana, there's an effort underway to clear the names of 82 men and one woman convicted of seditious libel during World War I. They were jailed for speaking their minds about the war, "many of them in saloons." A team of law and journalism students from the University of Montana is "piecing together the life stories, criminal histories and family trees of those inmates in an effort to exonerate them," and will submit a formal petition for posthumous pardon to the governor next month.
Law professor Jeff Renz explained the importance of finding out everything they can about the jailed freethinkers:
"We don’t want to seek a pardon for someone who was a serial killer apart from being a seditionist," added Renz. [Link]
The brainchild of teacher Dolores Duncan, Teeny-Weeny Genealogy aims to introduce the concept of family heritage to kids as young as five. She starts by asking them questions about their family history, and sending them home to find the answers.
"The kids learn so much from hearing the answers to these questions," says Duncan. "Questions like, 'What's Grandma's maiden name?' and 'What numbers are on Daddy's credit card?'"
All the information gathered is fed into a computer in Duncan's classroom for later use. The kids have asked to make family scrapbooks, but their teacher says it's the process that matters, and not the results.
"What I really want to teach these kids is that they can profit from knowing more about their families. All of us can profit."
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Les Lailey of Denton, Greater Manchester, England, recently celebrated fifty years of wedded bliss by eating a tin of chicken. A tin of chicken he and wife Beryl received on their wedding day in 1956.
"We kept it safe, and I always said 'on my 50th wedding anniversary I'm going to eat that chicken' - so I did," said former soldier, Mr Lailey, aged 73. [Link]A food safety expert at the University of Salford advises that "If anyone is going to eat old canned food, I would suggest they heat it thoroughly first of all, just in case to be extra safe."
Renee Zamora reports that the LDS Church's Family History Department is gearing up for the next phase of its new Family Tree project.
For the second beta test, we will invite most of the beta 1 testers to participate. And we are asking you to invite your friends and family who HAVE NOT significantly participated in family history work in the past.They're looking for complete novices—"people who do not use a family history software program such as Personal Ancestral File, who have never submitted a name to the temple, or who have never visited a family history center." In other words, people who would have no interest in beta-testing a genealogy program. If you're one of those people, be sure to seek out a "beta 1 tester" and confess your complete ignorance.
An orphanage in Dalian, in China's Liaoning Province, is abolishing a policy requiring that all boys bear the surname "Guo" ("Country," in English) and all girls the name "Dang" ("Party").
[T]he orphanage decided to change when they found the surnames might attach labels to the orphans. The kids might feel inferior to others for their special identities and revoking the rule might help them integrate themselves into the society more easily, according to the orphanage. [Link]A second Chinese orphanage will start handing out a different surname each year, chosen from a book of 100 common names. This year it's "Li," next year it's "Wang."
This sort of thing once happened in Cuba as well. Orphaned boys at the Casa de Beneficencia were given the name "Valdes," and girls the name "Rodríguez." A contributor to CubaGenWeb says that "Around the 1950's, according to what my grandmother used to tell me, the custom of using the last name Valdes was discontinued by the Beneficencia in favor of picking a surname at random from the telephone book."
Members of The Clan MacFarlane Society are painting their faces Braveheart-blue in preparation for a battle over an island in Loch Lomond.
Eilean-I-Vow—less poetically known as Cow Island—was claimed by Douglas MacFarlane nine years ago for about £500 after he'd traced the roots of the clan to that location and established that it had no official owner. Now the rest of the clan—a family of "notorious cattle raiders"—wants ownership.
The clan's descendants, who span the world, believe the ruins of a historic seventeenth-century castle are being further dilapidated by party-goers. By assuming ownership of the land, the society wants to preserve the relics, one of the last few remaining traces of the clan in the region.Douglas is willing to give it up for the ever-so-reasonable price of £1 million. His wife Bernadette says, "I've e-mailed the society several times but never had a reply. I don't understand what they're trying to do." She concedes that the island has had unauthorized visitors, but "It's very hard to stop people coming over to the island."
"We thought about hiring someone, maybe an eccentric poet, to stay there, but we can't build anything on the land." [Link]
Recent claims that John and Emilia (Antonelli) Rocchio—married 1922 in Providence, Rhode Island—are the longest-married couple in the world have genealogist Erlene Huntress Davis fuming. She and the Guinness Book of World Records agree that her ancestors Lazarus and Molly Rowe are the longest-married couple living or dead. (A couple in China who married at age 5 don't count, because that's just weird.)
Lazarus and Molly were married for 86 years, until Molly's death, June 20, 1829, in Limington, Maine, "in the 104th year of her age." Her husband hung on for another few months, according to his obituary in the Connecticut Courant of Sept. 29, 1829—itself remarkable for the number of exclamation points used:
At Limington, on the 14th inst. Mr. Lazarus Rowe, aged 104 years! Mr. Rowe was a native of Greenland, New Hampshire, and was one of the first settlers of Baldwin, in Maine, where he lived till within about two years since. His wife, Molly Rowe, who died last spring, was born the same year with her husband, viz. in 1725; they were married at the age of 18, and consequently lived together eighty-six years! It is presumed that the United States do not contain another man and wife, who have lived so long in the conjugal state. They reared a numerous family, and saw their descendants of the fifth generation! Their youngest son is now a pensioner of the revolutionary army!
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Ever wonder what an ancestor really looked like? Send some photographs and a few thousand dollars to Dorfman Museum Figures and they'll craft a life-size likeness so real you'll swear your great-great-grandfather survived cremation.
You can choose the hands, eyes, and hair that suit the subject—or even supply some of your own hair for implantation. Head and hands come installed on a rigid body form, or on a flexible foam mannequin body "that can be bent into the position you desire."
On second thought, maybe I'll send in some pictures of Angelina Jolie.
As many as twelve close relatives of Abraham Lincoln reside in the St. Simon the Apostle Cemetery in La Harpe, Illinois. The yard was rediscovered ten years ago and the stones cleaned by a well-intentioned volunteer named Jeff Thompson.
For two months, he cut back brush with a chainsaw and mowed the plot."Comet and a wire brush" are not among the stone-cleaning implements recommended by The Association of Gravestone Studies.
To bring the remaining headstones back to their original white, Thompson scrubbed a few of them with Comet and a wire brush. [Link]
Nevertheless, the cemetery is safe from an influx of rabid Lincoln-lovers: it's marked by only a handmade sign and lacks an access road. Just like the graveyards where half my ancestors chose to hide themselves.
Scientists in France are testing a rib and skin fragments to see if they could have belonged to Joan of Arc (no relation to Noah). Dr. Philippe Charlier says they'll perform DNA tests to see if the samples came from a woman, and other tests to determine the approximate age of the original owner. But no certain link to the roasted martyr can possibly be established.
No DNA comparison can be done with possible descendants since Joan of Arc's genealogical tree "is probably false," he said. [Link]Apparently the French have not plumbed the depths of the WorldConnect Project, which returns 7 results for surname "Arc," first name "Joan of."
The England & Wales, FreeBMD Index: 1837-1983 is now freely available at both Ancestry.com and Ancestry.ca (for those of you who speak Canadian). Not only can you search the partial index created by FreeBMD volunteers, but also the complete images of the original Civil Registration books. Should you find an record you need, you can order the certificate directly from the General Register Office, or through a third party like BMD-Certificates.
My heart you have carried.
There's no proof our grandparents
Ever got married.
Violets are not.
I think that your census
Transcriptions are hot.
But the truth must be told:
I've learned that your genome
Is really quite old.
Who captured my heart
Has now wrapped it up
In a pedigree chart.
Inside of the gate.
I'm saving the crypt
For our Valentine's date.
I need to know this—Earn my love!
Don't leave me here forlorn!
Just scribble down your middle name
And where your folks were born.
Locked in my mind.
I promise I'll never
Forget to rewind.
The way our forebears did.
I'll steal some land from Indians—
You squeeze me out a kid.
My brain explode,
Your Soundex code.
Just look in the mirror.
Your age must be
A transcription error.
Monday, February 13, 2006
As Valentine's Day approaches, let's take a moment to recognize the creepily close couples from whom we descend. I'm talking about those couples who shared one set of grandparents—or maybe two—and still managed to produce offspring able to walk upright. We have them to thank for lopping whole branches off our family trees, and keeping the number of our ancestors from getting out of hand.
The people at Cousin Couples are all about simplifying family trees. They aim to destroy the taboo of cousin marriage by exposing our commonly held beliefs as myths. Who knew that you can marry your first cousin in 26 states, Canada, Mexico, and anywhere in Europe? Who knew that in my home state of Maine you can marry your aunt or uncle's child "as long as . . . the man or woman provides the physician's certificate of genetic counseling"? If my cousins were at all appealing, I'd be tempted to make a move.
The site also lists several famous figures who married a cousin, among them Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Jerry Lee Lewis. In case you don't recognize the names, two of them were geniuses, and the third was a noted scientist.
So, the next time you learn that one of your ancestors married his cousin, don't think of it as creepy—think of it as probably not illegal. And the next time one of your first cousins flirts with you, just ask yourself one question: "What would Jerry do?"
Archaeologists from Texas A & M University did some digging this weekend at a cemetery in West Columbia, Texas. Local legend said that 248 Mexican-American War soldiers and 16 Civil War soldiers were buried in the yard, but the team turned up just the corner of a coffin and six probable unmarked graves.
Whereupon the dig was pronounced a success.
“Our whole objective was to see are there unmarked graves in this area of the cemetery,” said Alston V. Thoms, the assistant professor of archaeology and anthropology at Texas A&M University who led the effort. “We learned yes, there are, but there aren’t nearly enough graves here to account for the local folklore.”
That wasn’t a surprise, he said.
“I’ve never done an excavation project where I found what I thought I would find when I started,” Thoms said. [Link]
Sunday, February 12, 2006
10. He'll consider your family's long history of violent criminal behavior a selling point.
9. He'll always remember your anniversary—even after you dump him.
8. He'll actually enjoy spending time with your immigrant grandparents.
7. Most of the guys he hangs out with are Mormons.
6. He'll do your taxes if you say, "Imagine! Our great-grandchildren might read these records someday!"
5. The grass stains on his pants really do come from crawling around in cemeteries.
4. He'll cry at sappy movies—but only if somebody dies intestate.
3. He can find out the real ages of all your girlfriends.
2. He won't look at another woman—unless her obituary includes a photograph.
1. You can use his Ancestry.com membership while he's in the shower.
There's a Parlowtown Road in Marion, Massachusetts, and a plethora of Parlows buried in two of the town's graveyards, but locals aren't exactly sure where "Parlowtown" was.
Pete Smith at the Sippican Historical Society points out a few cellar holes remain today in what may have been Parlowtown, "but following what is designated as Parlowtown Road back into wherever it leads from Route 6 could be a problem nowadays, since a sewage treatment plant was built nearby." [Link]
Some families in Bury St. Edmunds, England, are upset at the way the borough council tested the stability of stones in the local cemetery. One woman from nearby Thurston was especially miffed:
"After speaking to the stone masons, it appears they placed a large mechanical device on the headstones, causing many of them to collapse under the pressure," she said.
"It seems a rather unfair way to test them and, while I am able to pay for the remedial work, I'm sure a lot of people, especially widows and the elderly, will not be able to." [Link]
A line of "multi-racial heritage dolls" will be unveiled at the American International Toy Fair this week in New York. Younique Gemz will encourage multi-racial children to take pride in their ancestries, while at the same teaching them how to misspell two common English words.
Also coming is the Younique Gemz Scrapbook, whose purpose is to "give children and parents the opportunity to share their personal heritage, helping to build a strong sense of self within the child."
The front of the scrapbook will have a special section for mapping out a family history. The entire scrapbook will be created with all people groups in mind and will display the many unique aspects of various cultures, traditions, music and foods. [Link]This will give the child something to do after she's stripped her doll naked, pulled off its head, and flushed its shoes down the toilet.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Edward Anthony Greenwood IX was fired recently for playing computer solitaire at work. That wouldn't be news if Greenwood hadn't been employed by the New York City Office of State Legislative Affairs at the time, and hadn't been fired by Mayor Bloomberg himself.
What makes the story genealogical is the "IX" in Edward's name—a number rather high in this day and age.
The executive director of the National Genealogical Society, Diane O'Connor, said she had never run across anyone higher than a V. "Off the top of my head," she said, "I would say that it is unusual."Edward is ninth in a line of Edward Anthony Greenwoods (Anglicized from Édouard Antoine Boisvert at some point) running back to Édouard-Étienne de Nevers, sieur de Brantigny (alias Édouard Boisvert), who settled in Québec in 1654. It's not a straight line: his father was named for an uncle, Edward VII.
And yes, he has a son named Edward Anthony Greenwood X.
Edward IX said he hoped that out of all this publicity he might get a job. He was asked if the illustrious numeral after his name might add some weight to his résumé.
"Maybe that'll be a bolster to my cachet," he said. [Link]
AstroGen—"The original ancestral astrological profile"—offers horoscopes for dead folks. For just $29.95, you'll receive an astrological chart and personality profile of the dearly departed, based solely on date and place of birth. If your relative was a twin, I guess you can order one profile and make a photocopy.
Friday, February 10, 2006
There appears to be a change on the FamilySearch Indexing website. Register now to receive more information on volunteering and updates on the project's progress. You can specify when registering which states, provinces, and countries interest you most, and what types of records you'd prefer to index.
A Pennsylvanian schoolmaster with the unfortunate name "Hugh Pugh" drafted a marriage proposal in 1801 directed toward a young woman named Mary Fisher. Now, his sappily sweet missive is amusing conservators at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia.
There is but oneSadly, Mary turned Hugh down despite his penchant for silly abbreviations ("X" stands for "cross").
And only one
And I am only he
That loves but one
And only one
And thou art the only she.
AX, AX, ICUBMary married another man, but she kept the love letter, which was passed down in her family. Perhaps she retained a spark of affection for the amorous schoolteacher.
A double XU are to me. [Link]
Or perhaps she liked sharing a good joke.
Maxwell MacMaster will no longer be selling his $45 "Family Yearbooks." Well . . . actually, maybe he will, but he can no longer claim that they're worth the paper they're printed on.
Here's how the books worked: If you were a customer named John Smith, MacMaster would send you a letter identifying himself as your distant relative. He would promise to sell you a yearbook authored by someone in the Smith clan and containing jokes and recipes from the Smith family. [Link]Of course, he was lying through his teeth. The yearbooks were not published yearly, were not individually researched, and MacMaster knows no one by the name of "Smith."
A settlement with the state of Colorado requires that MacMaster pay a $30,000 fine, $25,000 in legal fees, and desist from promoting his books as even slightly useful.
Strangely, MacMaster's website seems to have disappeared in the last week (here's a recent cached copy from Google). He's probably too busy to maintain it, figuring out how to convert stacks of unsold yearbooks into America's next alternative energy source.
Looking through the other cached MorphCorp pages on Google, I found something curious. Consider this one—"The boot to the groin Family Website." And is there really an "Ass Hat Family Newsletter"? It seems that someone was having fun at poor Maxwell's expense.
If you were duped by MorphCorp's pitch, call them for a refund. If your request is turned down, give the Colorado Consumer Line a jingle at 1-800-222-4444.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
David P. Brown reveals the secret behind "calendar calculating"—the ability to figure out which day of the week any date in history fell on (well, at least any date since Sept. 14, 1752). The only prerequisites are a modicum of memory, the ability to count backwards, and way too much free time on your hands.
You may want to double-check that 19th-century picture of your great-great-grandfather. A portrait being auctioned on eBay conceals a naughty secret.
Unusual Early "Secret" Nude Print, mid-19th century. It appears to be an ordinary portrait print of a young gentleman in a birdseye maple frame, but a notch on the upper back allows the portrait to be pulled up revealing a hand-colored and rather explicit lithograph. 16.25" x 13.25" overall. [Link]The unpixelated photo is not suitable for work, home, or anywhere else.
Update: I missed this note on the portrait's condition, which proves that the naughty secret was not so secret (emphasis mine).
Appears to be all original, with expected toning to both prints; portrait has worn losses from many years of pulling it up to reveal what is underneath.
In an effort to scare the bejeezus out of his readers, Dick Eastman offers a link to The Death Test—a chance to determine with scientific exactitude the precise year of one's demise.
The best part of the test is the medical history questionnaire, which asks if you or your family have a history of depravity, ugliness, or gun ownership. Fortunately, my family suffers from only two of the three.
I'm not sure why they ask how often you've "Held in your farts" or "Worn the same pants two weeks straight." Do these factors lengthen or shorten one's lifespan? Should I change my pants more often?
As for me, I'll be around until 2050—just enough time to see if my predictions come true. In the meantime, I'll be working on my family history, and filling in my relatives' death dates in advance.
Doris Gray was only 23 when she arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Aug. 23, 1944—one of more than 43,000 European women who married Canadian servicemen during the war. Her thoughts while waiting for the husband she'd known only briefly were undoubtedly shared by other war brides.
"I didn't know anyone here," said Ms. Gray, now 84.
"I met friends on the boat but they were all going out west," she recalled.
"You're just going to the man you love, but I think after it wore down a bit you think, 'Oh what have I done?'" [Link]
Why do I love Finland? Because it was the birthplace of my mother's grandparents, but also because the Finnish language is pleasing to the ear, and yet delightfully incomprehensible. I have long suspected that the Finns pad words with extra syllables just to confound foreigners (according to the rules of Finnish grammar, words can be arbitrarily long). Now it seems that my suspicion has been confirmed.
Markku Uusipaavalniemi is a member of the Finnish curling team competing at Torino—nicknamed "U-15" for the number of letters in his last name.
One of the highlights at the 2000 World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, was when the crowd did the old spelling cheer: "Give me a U, give me a U, give me an S ... and so on through all 15 letters in his surname. When they finally finished and asked, "What does it spell?" the stadium went silent. On the meaning of his name, Uusipaavalniemi says "Uusi" means "new" and "niemi" means "peninsula," but the middle part doesn't mean anything. [Link]
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
10. Where in Sheboygan did my ancestors come from?
9. Who signed my great-grandparents' wedding guestbook "Seymour Butts"?
8. Why did my ancestor give up beet farming to become a burlesque dancer?
7. When did Aunt Hazel start growing a beard?
6. How do I program my DVD player?
5. Was I really conceived in a phone booth?
4. When did my family change its name from "Dinklefuzz"?
3. What number am I thinking of?
2. Where did they bury the loot?
1. Why does Grandma smell like cheese?
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Study: Combat Trauma Seen in Civil War
By CARLA K. JOHNSON
The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 7, 2006
CHICAGO -- A look at the medical records of Civil War soldiers suggests post-traumatic stress disorder existed back then, too, according to a study.
The researchers found that veterans who saw more death in battle had higher rates of postwar illness. Younger soldiers, including boys as young as 9, were more likely than older ones to suffer mental and physical problems after the war.
Eric T. Dean, author of "Shook over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War," used the same records in his research. He said he is skeptical the 19th-century medical records could be made standard enough for the researchers' statistical analysis to be valid.
He also questioned relying on the diagnoses of doctors from the 1800s.
"This is a heroic effort," Dean said. "I just think it's a stretch. Beyond proving war is hell, I just question their nuanced conclusions."
[Read the whole story]
Monday, February 06, 2006
"You bet they did."
Arnold Trafton, a researcher from Butte, Montana, was interviewing Donner descendants at a family reunion recently. Hoping to gain some insights on the family for a forthcoming book on pioneer wagon trains, Trafton learned far more than he had expected.
"About 30 minutes into the reunion, it became clear that the caterer wasn't going to show up. Some of the family started getting restless . . . belligerent, even. They started looking at me in a way that made me very uncomfortable."
Trafton says that one small girl—no more than two to three years old—approached him, curtseyed, and began gnawing on his left leg.
"I screamed, of course. But nobody did anything, not even the kid's parents. They just kept staring at me. I saw that some of them were drooling."
After detaching the child from his calf, Trafton fled from the building, pursued by an octogenarian wielding a salad fork.
"I'm not saying they would have eaten me," says Trafton, "but I strongly suspect it. I'm just lucky that my wife was with me. If I hadn't pushed her to the floor, I don't think they'd have let me out of the room."
Sunday, February 05, 2006
From The Norman (Okla.) Transcript of Feb. 4, 2006:
Web pages reveal truths and untruths
The Norman Transcript
Researchers using the Internet may be surprised with the results they receive when using search engines.
In 1998, I set up a Web site with some genealogical data, but eventually lost access to that Web site. I could not find it anywhere.
Recently, I was sent a link to look at pictures and stumbled on my name listed with an untitled Web site. Lo and behold my old Web site had reappeared.
[Read the whole story]