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Sunday, April 30, 2006

(S)MOTHER

Call me crazy, but I think this image recently uploaded to Flickr would look great on a Mother's Day card.

It's Not Always That Easy

About five years ago, Pat Coppel picked up a family tree he'd created as a student back in the '80s.

An unusual name on the tree caught his eye - La Mothe. He knew this branch of the family came from the Isle of Man, and decided to try seeing if he could find any mentions of Manx-based La Mothes on Google.

He hit the jackpot immediately. The very first result that came up on the search engine was an 1895 document written by John Corlet La Mothe, high bailiff, who turned out to be Mr Coppel's great-great grandfather. It outlined the history of the La Mothe family going back 10 generations. [Link]
It should be noted that this method doesn't always work. Sometimes you have to look at the second result on Google.

Ireland Puts Bounty on Centenarians

Here's an easy way to make some extra cash. First step: Get Irish citizenship by having "at least one parent, grandparent or, possibly, a great-grandparent who was born in Ireland." Second step: Live to be 100.

The Irish government has announced that it's extending its "centenarian's bounty" to citizens living abroad.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the Government’s decision to extend the €2,500 bounty to all citizens who turn 100, regardless of where they live, was a token of the regard of the sacrifices emigrants had to make. [Link]
€2,500 comes to about 3,150 USD—a tidy sum for doing nothing but not dying.

The Point of No Returns

If you can't find record of your ancestor's 1841 birth in Boston, don't blame it on the NEHGS. An article from the Barre Gazette of Mar. 24, 1843, shows that the newly installed system of recording births, marriages, and deaths and returning those records to the state was failing miserably.

A report from the Secretary of State revealed that thirty-five towns had failed to return any vital records at all. Other towns provided records that were obviously incomplete.

"In Ipswich, with a population of over 3000, there have been but 22 births recorded for nearly forty years." But the climax is, that "the return from Salem, amongst a population of more than 15,000, gives not a single birth;" certainly a very modest people. The Secretary waggishly remarks that "the fact that there were 145 couples married last year in that city, is perhaps more indication that the next return will be less barren." In Boston, it appears that 19 persons have been born in the course of the past year.
This last number seems somewhat low, considering that Boston in 1840 had a population of 93,383, and—with the exception of Oct. 25, 1986—has never lacked the urge to procreate.

Live Free or Die in Prison

Milli Knudsen's new book sounds like a page-turner. Hard Time in Concord, New Hampshire: The Crimes, the Victims and the Lives of State Prison Inmates, 1812-1883 has 2,100 ne'er-do-wells on its companion CD-ROM—every one of them worth a chapter in someone's family history.

There's also some background on the law in New Hampshire, including a list from 1679 of fifteen capital offenses.

Some of those offenses involved creative Colonial spelling, such as “Idollitry,” “Blassphemy,” “Publique Rebellion” and — I am not making this up — “Chill’n Cursing Their Parents.”

My other favorite offenses involve an unhealthy affection for animals, if you get my drift, plus “Man Stealing” and “Slaying by Guile; poison, Devilish practices.” [Link]

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Will a Shopping List Do?

A former mayor of Schenectady, New York, is embroiled in a legal dispute with an 86-year-old woman over the $680,970 estate of the woman's late uncle.

Frank Duci says a will was dictated to him by Walter Sengenberger shortly before his death in 2003. It's hard to understand why the authenticity of the document was ever doubted.

The attorney general's office has raised questions about the validity of the will, which Duci wrote on a blank shopping list taken from his wife's purse and then had Sengenberger sign with an "X" because the 84-year-old General Electric retiree was too weak to write his own name. [Link]

Chicken George's Roots

Actor and dancer Ben Vereen learned when he was 21 that the woman who had raised him was not his birth mother.

He was going to London with Sammi Davis Jr. in the late 1960s and needed to apply for a passport. When he found his birth certificate, he found the names didn’t match.

The woman he believed was his mother wasn’t listed on the birth certificate. But neither was the name Ben Vereen. Instead, he found his mother’s name listed as Essie Middleton. His was Benjamin Augustus Middleton. His birthplace was listed as Laurinburg [North Carolina].
Vereen had no luck finding his mother until he met amateur genealogist Roxie LaFever in a doctor's office last year. They planned a trip to Laurinburg, and just last Tuesday discovered that "Essie Middleton" was in fact Essie May Pearson—a woman whose baby was somehow misplaced while she was away on a trip. Pearson died 24 years ago, and reportedly was a fan of Ben Vereen, never knowing that he was her son.

Vereen will be attending a reunion of his new family next month, and is thinking of buying a house in Laurinburg.
“Everybody’s been wonderful,” he said, tears in his eyes. “Mom has led me here.” [Link]

ABC Greenlights Genealogy Sitcom

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
In a move meant to bolster its lackluster comedy lineup, ABC has greenlighted a sitcom starring veteran actor Abe Vigoda as a dedicated genealogist, and Cloris Leachman as his shrewish sister bent on keeping the family secrets secret.

In the pilot episode of Uprooted, Vigoda's character discovers that their great-great-grandmother was not a "Cherokee princess" as his sister hoped, but rather a German prostitute with unusually dark complexion. In an uncredited cameo role, Marie Osmond appears as a Family History Center volunteer who helps Vigoda rewind a reel of microfilm during the closing credits.

"This show can't miss," says executive producer Jay Barnett. "People love genealogy almost as much as they love Abe Vigoda. It can't miss!"

TV critic Mandy Crommett is not so sure.

"The genealogy angle has been tried before in sitcoms, and it's always fallen flat. Remember the time on Seinfeld when Jerry, Elaine, and George spent the whole episode waiting for a tour at Ellis Island? Or the time on Happy Days when Fonzie taught Chachi the importance of family history by jumping his motorcycle over Grandma Nussbaum's grave? Of course you don't. They were instantly forgotten."

Barnett thinks Uprooted will prove the critics wrong.

"The time is ripe for genealogy-based television. Once Uprooted takes off, we'll have a dozen other projects ready to roll. In fact, we have a comedy based on Alex Haley's Roots already in production. It was skewing 'urban,' so we recast the Kunta Kinte part," Barnett confides. "With Clay Aiken as the lead, there's no way it can miss!"

Friday, April 28, 2006

WeRelate.org is Wiki-Wonderful

WeRelate.org is a promising new wiki genealogy project beta-launched just last month. The site features a genealogy-targeted search engine that singles out websites with names and places. You can help improve the searches by adding new sources, tagging sources for removal, or contributing usage notes for a source already included. The site also features family history articles, which anyone can edit, and user pages, which only the creator can edit. A GEDCOM-import option might someday be available.

As Phil Windley notes, the site's name is "WeRelate.org," not "WereLate.org"—a domain better suited to a support group for habitual latecomers.

The Importance of Middle Names

Tim Horsch of Jackson, Michigan—owner of The Loyal Handyman General Contracting—seems always to be in trouble with the law. Just last Sunday he was reported to have been sentenced to six months in jail for criminal sexual conduct. Except it wasn't Tim Horsch of Jackson who did the crime and will do the time, but his distant cousin Tim Horsch of Jackson.

Timothy Michael Horsch is 40, works as a contractor, and stands about six feet tall. Timothy James Horsch is 39, works as a contractor, stands about six feet tall, and is due to spend 180 days somewhere up the river.

Timothy M. Horsch's mother once had to come to her son's rescue when the police arrived at their door, ready to arrest the wrong man.

After she explained the two had different middle names, the officers apologized and left.

Leo Lalonde, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections said it isn't the first time two names have been confused, but it usually happens with more common names.

"What can be done about the confusion, I don't know," Lalonde said. "It would be different if it were a John Smith." [Link]
All the more reason to keep the middle names of your ancestors straight. You wouldn't want your great-grandfather Alphonse Terwilliger Capone confused with his distant cousin.

Neither Heroes Nor Villains

Following up on a story from last February:

The governor of Montana has agreed to pardon nearly eighty men and women convicted of sedition in 1918 and 1919. University of Montana students mounted the Montana Sedition Project last year seeking posthumous pardons for people whose only crime was speaking their minds about World War I—and sometimes straying beyond the bounds of good taste.

A Rosebud County farmer got 8 to 16 years for making the curious remark that, “These free taxi rides given to the soldiers at Miles City were just for the purpose of getting them into private houses, so that they may have intercourse with women (meaning the wives, sisters and daughters of the citizens of Miles City) and get war babies.” [Link]
E. V. Starr was sentenced to 10-20 years for refusing to kiss the American flag, saying, "I will not kiss that thing. It might be covered with microbes."

The Project is still looking for information on the seditionists—on their lives before conviction and after—and invites comments and contributions of research. If you have one of these scapegoated scoundrels in your family tree, speak up. Or show up at the pardoning ceremony in Helena next Wednesday and tell those assembled what you think of the war in Iraq.

MSM Type Seeking Like-Minded Genealogists

If you felt your ears burning on Thursday, there's a simple explanation. A panel of news executives were griping at a conference in Seattle about diminished access to public records when someone brought up genealogy.

Kathleen Carroll, senior vice president and executive editor of The Associated Press, suggested partnering with genealogy experts, who rely heavily on public records laws to mine historical data.

"We don't talk to that group of people very well, and they could be very powerful allies," said Carroll, one of four executives who spoke on a freedom-of-information panel at the ASNE annual meeting. [Link]
So, if in the next few weeks an AP reporter starts throwing you "come hither" glances, you'll know why.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

SSNs Issued by Woolworth's

Sharon at BackTrack has found further proof that 078-05-1120 is the most misused Social Security number of all time. The number has been traced to wallets once sold at Woolworth's five-and-dime stores.

The wallet came with a fake Social Security card with a preprinted Social Security number on it, empty spaces where the name and birthdate would go, and the word SPECIMEN stamped across it. When these people died, their next of kin opened the wallet and pulled out the card. They gave the social security number on the card to the person who filled out their loved one's death certificate. [Link]
The number wasn't arbitrarily chosen: a wallet company executive used the SSN of his secretary, Mrs. Hilda Schrader Whitcher.

Cohanim Beware!

An expansion project at the Knesset complex in Jerusalem recently ground to a halt when a cave containing Second Temple period graves was discovered on the property. The concern wasn't archaeological, but religious.

Dating back to traditions formed nearly three thousand years ago, when the Jewish Temples in the Holy Land were standing, priests who served in the Temple are forbidden to have any contact with the dead.

Three millennium later, Jewish law stipulates that their descendants - commonly identified with the last name Cohen - are still enjoined from entering, or even passing over, a cemetery. [Link]
Problem is, at least six parliamentarians are cohanim (or kohanim), and the whole Parliament building could be declared off-limits to them. Officials have come up with a solution that might save the day: they're covering up the tomb, and keeping the Knesset windows closed "to prevent any exposure to the impure winds from the adjacent burial cave."

The care that cohanim must take is evident from this plaque affixed to a wall in Krakow:
COHANIM BEWARE !!!

ONLY THE OPPOSITE SIDEWALK CAN BE USED FOR WALKING ON THIS STREET !!!

THE SIDEWALK ON THIS SIDE AND A PART OF THE ROADWAY HAVE BEEN PAVED OVER GRAVES.
See The Tribe: Cohen-Levi Family Heritage for a history of the cohanim, an account of their family-specific privileges and responsibilities, and a very good article on the discovery of the "Cohen Gene"—a remarkable confluence of science and tradition.

A Name That Will Live in Infamy

Three sons of Adolf Hitler's "loathsome nephew" Willy live on Long Island, New York, and are planning to write a book. All three are childless, as was a fourth son who died in 1989. Among the questions left to be answered are whether the eldest really was given the middle name "Adolf," and whether the brothers made a pact to let the Hitler bloodline peter out.

After coming to America in 1939 and serving in the U.S. Navy, Willy changed his surname to "Stewart-Houston" (later "Stuart-Houston"), and was understandably reticent about his father's infamous half-brother. Teresa Ryther grew up in the Patchogue neighborhood where the family lived, and never made the connection.

Photographs of Willy as a young man show some likeness to Adolf Hitler, but most friends and neighbors in Patchogue remained unaware of the connection until Willy revealed it to them shortly before his death. Still, Ms. Ryther said her father noticed a resemblance.

"My father used to say to my mother, 'Doesn't Patty look a lot like Adolf Hitler?' " she recalled. "Once, my father told my mom, 'I just saw Patty mowing the lawn, and he turned around real quick and, my God, he looked exactly like Hitler.' And I remember thinking, 'Oh, Hitler — he was that bad guy.' " [Link]

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Karolina's Survey

Polish grad student Karolina Walczyk—whose first attempt to elicit the help of genealogists was met with skepticism—has now very wisely created an online survey.

The multiple-choice questions she asks don't always cover all the possibilities (I started my genealogical research more than five years ago, but after elementary school), but the open-ended questions further down will give you a chance to lay out the details more fully. Unlike her previous attempt, this survey is completely anonymous—unless you want her to send you the results.

And as for those of you who doubted her good intentions, For shame!

Genograms: They Work for Cartoons, Too

A recent post at Megan's Roots World mentioned genograms, which put me in mind of a shareware program called GenoPro that lets you diagram your family's dysfunction quickly and easily.

A GenoPro genogram can be a simple family tree with some additional medical information, or a complex web of diseased relations and regrettable affairs. Every sort of relationship is allowed—including "Non-sentimental cohabitation" and "Temporary relation/One night stand." You can also specify the emotional relationship between any two individuals, whether healthy (In Love, Best Friends) or unhealthy (Hostile, Indifferent/Apathetic). Even pets can be listed—in which case being "In Love" might also be unhealthy.

Here's a quick example I threw together for the Simpsons. As you can see, Homer and Marge are very much in love, but Homer has a "Close-Violent" relationship with his son ("The two individuals have frequent contacts, yet argue and have violent behavior when together"). Communication is limited between Homer and daughter Maggie, probably because of "lifestyle differences." And Bart and Lisa's relationship is characterized by distrust—as is that between the family's dog and the latest incarnation of their cat. I've colored one corner of Homer's symbol blue to signify an ongoing addiction to alcohol. Dead pets are omitted.

GenoPro is free to use for 30 days, and free to own for $39.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Roberts' Royals

If the blueness of your blood concerns you, you should probably consult Gary Boyd Roberts' freshly updated The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States. Dick Eastman has a review and ordering info.

Among the notables with newly established royal roots are Madonna and actors Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Coincidentally, Madonna is often called the "Queen of Pop," while Jake Gyllenhaal is often called "Tobey Maguire."

Be aware that Roberts might puncture your dreams of taking tea at Buckingham Palace.

A new indexed Addendum and a Coda outline descents from kings for nineteen additional immigrants, improves the lines of eighteen more, lowers the descent for eight others, fully disproves one, and suggests disproof for a further seven.

Mummy Dearest

The New Hampshire mummy story has inspired the most watched video at CNN.com. Charles Peavey insists he is "not a freak," and I am inclined to believe him. Until I'm reminded that he cuddled a mummified baby and gave it a pet.

Top Ten Signs Your Child Will Be a Genealogist

10. Checks the newspaper each morning for grandparents' obituaries.

9. Asked if Disneyland has its own Family History Center.

8. Theme of last birthday party was "Ellis Island: The Immigrant Experience."

7. Cried for days when told by a kid at school that the 1890 census doesn't really exist.

6. Kicked out of kindergarten for swabbing the cheeks of little girls.

5. Always asking impertinent questions like "How old are you?" and "Did your maternal grandfather die intestate?"

4. Recorded and transcribed your "birds and the bees" lecture.

3. Reenacts Civil War-era schoolyard fights.

2. Caught rubbing the family stones with a neighborhood boy.

1. First two words were "Mommy" and "GEDCOM."

Monday, April 24, 2006

Posthumous Debauchery Banned in China

During the Qingming Festival each spring in China, people visit the resting places of their ancestors, sweep their tombs, and burn fake money so their deceased relatives won't get caught short in the afterlife. But the government is cracking down on some burnt offerings.

China will ban the burning of paper villas, condoms and mistresses as sacrificial articles to curb the "vulgar" practice in [the] future, a newspaper reported yesterday.

Those who burn these things will be punished, the Huaxi Metropolis Newspaper reported, citing Dou Yupei, vice minister of civil affairs, without elaborating. [Link]

Grave Robbers Offered Amnesty

Jeremy Nichols is a cemeterian with a mission. And he's started Tombstone Amnesty to carry it out.

Tombstone Amnesty, a new endeavor of the Sonoma County Historical Society, exists to return lost, strayed, or stolen tombstones to their rightful cemetery. Tombstone Amnesty will accept, no questions asked, tombstones that someone has at their home or where ever. If the possessor knows where the tombstone came from, so much the better. If not, we will figure it out and return the tombstone.
Last Thursday, the program had its first success, returning three wooden grave markers from a barn near Guerneville, California, to their proper home in Calistoga. And no one went to jail.
Tombstone Amnesty is not a police organization. It is not our intention to go around questioning people as to the origin of the tombstone that happens to be in their back yard. We don't want people ratting on their neighbors. If someone has a tombstone and wants to keep it, fine. Tombstone Amnesty was created to take in unwanted tombstones, so they're not lost or destroyed forever. [Link]

Hundreds and Wapentakes: The 1841 UK Census

Ancestry.com has the 1841 UK Census up and running—16 million names from England, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man. This makes the UK Census Collection (1841-1901) complete. You'll need a World Deluxe Membership to take a peek, or else sign up for a free trial.

Since people were enumerated "at the location where they spent the night on census night," don't forget to check the local brothels for your hard-to-find ancestors.

A Treat For the Census-Diggers

Michael Neill is handing out prizes over at Rootdig.com. Be the first to find Hank Williams, Sr., or B.B. King in the 1930 census and you'll win a copy of Family Tree Maker. Here's a hint: neither lived in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Searching for God at RootsWeb.com

With all the controversy over The Da Vinci Code and its premise that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, it's easy to forget that, according to Catholicism, Christ has had many brides.

The proof is as close as the WorldConnect Project, where several genealogists have listed "Jesus Christ" or "God" as the spouse of their convent-dwelling relatives. Relatives like Gertrude Griffin (Sister Mary Margaret), and Elizabeth Eugenia Vannucci (Sister Betty).

Searching for God references at WorldConnect shows how creative family historians can be when recording nonstandard information. His birth and death dates are given as "Alpha" and "Omega," and as "Always Was Always Is Always Will Be" and "Never." Ian Thomas reveals that God is "Deceased," but omits the date. The GEDCOM format allows for no easy explanation of God's begetting children centuries apart—in some cases leading to confusion over Adam's relationship to the Virgin Mary and to Jesus.

And then there is this entry, which lists God only as an uncooperative witness.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Oh, Canada!

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
The upcoming Canadian census will ask respondents whether they want their answers made public in 2098. Now comes news that privacy zealots in Canada want to make headstones optional as well.

Ontario MP Paul Morrison explains: "We've read that identity thieves sometimes practice 'tombstoning'—copying the names and dates from gravestones and creating false identities with the information. Before it ever happens here, we must stamp it oot . . . I mean out."

A measure before Parliament would require Canadian citizens to declare whether they want their graves marked. Those who "opt in" will have stones placed on their graves 92 years after their deaths. Those who "opt out" will lie forever in unmarked graves. Those who fail to respond will be deposited in a mass grave somewhere within the icy bounds of Nunavut.

"This is just unacceptable," says genealogist Claudine Boucher. "We have a responsibility to leave our descendants accurate and complete records of our lives and deaths. How will they trace their ancestries without these resources?"

"There's a flaw in that logic," counters Morrison. "If your identity is stolen, your descendants won't be yours—they'll be somebody else's. We're just trying to keep somebody else's descendants from thinking you're not their ancestor—even if that means keeping your own descendants from knowing who you are. It's really that simple."

God is in the Details ... and in the Index

Rob Manderson's wife received in the mail an Alexander family history whose author was nothing if not thorough.

I have to say that I consider it 50 bucks well spent; it was worth every cent for the laughter it gave us both. Here's a sample of the Table of Contents.

Introduction...
The earliest of early records...
God
Adam
Seth
Enosh
Cainan

and so on...

you have to admire the presumption of someone who sets out to catalogue a list of ancestors and traces it all the way back to God! [Link]

Grave Situation Not So Grave

The headstone of 5-year-old Leo Goldman once stood in the Sandpointe Mobile Home and RV Park in Gold Canyon, Arizona. The stone said Leo died in 1911; local legend said he died while traveling through with his parents. Park residents looked after Leo, setting out flowers and weeding his plot.

One can understand, then, how upset they were to witness Leo's apparent removal last year.

Last summer, before the property was sold to a California firm, people were alarmed to see a backhoe near the grave. There was digging, and the stone was moved to a fenced storage area, amid cinder blocks and assorted junk.
Sandpointe's residents kept quiet about what they had seen, not wanting to upset the new owners. When the new owners handed out eviction notices in January, the residents were free to report the suspected crime, but . . . was there really a crime?

As it turns out, the carefully tended grave was not a grave at all. Leo Goldman's death record says he died and was buried in Kelvin, Arizona, where his family was then living—35 miles from Gold Canyon.

Former Sandpointe property manager Geff Gunsalus knows what really happened last summer. He says that the new owners "wanted Leo gone." When consulted, state health officials told him to check if it really was a grave by conducting a simple test: dig until bones appear, then stop. Gunsulas did as he was told, and found nothing.

But what about the headstone?
[H]istorians brought to the site cast a wary eye on the stone. Ninety years old? Hardly, they said to Gunsalus. It probably dates back to the 1960s or ’50s.

But who would create a fake tombstone? Gunsalus said the property’s old-timers, never believing there was a body, told him it may have been the work of a long-ago owner, Ed Kosak. “You have to know Ed,” they said. [Link]

Saturday, April 22, 2006

What, Not Blogging Yet?

This has been a good couple of days for genealogical blogging. Three new blogs turned up on my radar last night, and today I see that Cyndi's List has a new Blogs for Genealogy category, and Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter has adopted an even bloggier design, which looks great.

I encourage every genealogist to start up a blog—free and easy to do at Blogger or WordPress. Before you decide that you have nothing to write about, consider these possibilities:

  • Personal Research Blog — Keep an online journal of your genealogical life. Share both your successes and your failures, because everyone will want to learn from your successes and laugh at your failures.
  • Transcription Blog — Do what I've done with Oxford County Genealogical Notebook and start abstracting and transcribing offline info.
  • Family Blog — Instead of writing for the whole world, write for your extended family. Post pictures and stories. Invite your cousins to collaborate—after all, there's no reason a family can't have more than one genealogist to hide secrets from.
  • News Blog — There are plenty of blogs that cover national stories of genealogical interest, but we can always use more narrowly focused sites, like OhioGenealogyBlog.
  • Single Surname Blog — Every researcher has a surname he's especially fond of—and it's not always the one printed on his library card. Set up a blog about an obscure surname and you might become an Internet authority overnight.
  • DNA Project Blog — Follow the example of the St*r**v*nt Genetic Project Blog and coordinate a DNA project.
  • Humor Blog — Write lame top ten lists and phony news articles to conceal your self-hatred and lack of marketable skills.

A Genealogist Who Loves His Mummy

Charles Peavey of Concord, New Hampshire, was distressed when the police came and took away his mummified baby last week. After all, it was part of the family.

Of all the stories surrounding the mummy's birth and death, Peavey favors the one that says he's an ancient relative - the stillborn son of a great-great uncle. He calls the mummy "Baby John." Through DNA testing, a forensic anthropologist will be able to determine whether that theory is plausible.

"I've always treated him as a family member," said Peavey, a cook at a Hooksett restaurant who spends his free time tracing his family history. "And I'll be disappointed if he's not." [Link]
Peavey's family had given the baby gifts: "ceramic angels, antique marbles, a quartz candle holder and a dried but once-living beta fish. (It was supposed to be the mummy's pet.)"

Police learned of the mummy's existence when Peavey's 4-year-old great-niece told a day-care bully, "Be careful. My uncle's a killer. He has a dead baby."

Genealogy Can Be Nauseating

Judith Argent, a library tech at British Columbia's Cloverdale Library, has seen the toll that genealogical research can take—especially the hours spent staring at microfilm.

It’s time-consuming, and physically grueling. Fatigue and nausea are common after staring at moving images for hours.

“We joke at (researchers) saying, if they’re looking at ship passenger records they’re getting seasick." [Link]
Microfilm nausea is a well-documented ailment, and one that will remain with us until the last roll is digitized, and the last bulb burns out. Here are some ways to keep your lunch in its proper place:

  • Take Dramamine, but first ask your doctor if a microfilm reader qualifies as "heavy machinery."
  • Wear a wrist band like those sold by Sea-Band. Requires no drugs, so you can be sure it won't work.
  • Stick a Transderm Scop patch behind your ear (sorry, I cannot legally write prescriptions).
  • Close your eyes while advancing the film. I sometimes take a short nap between pages.
  • Stop playing that game where you drink a shot of whiskey every time you find your surname misspelled.

It's Only Geneablogical

I've added to my blogroll three brand-new sites from three people who've confessed to occasionally reading The Genealogue, but who—for reasons I cannot comprehend—still think blogging is worthwhile.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bribery Complete With Yells

According to legend, some 170 years ago Arkansas' second governor Archibald Yell offered the leaders of Shawneetown $50 if they'd name their town after him. They obliged, but, like any good politician, Yell neglected to pay the bill.

Now David and William "Sonny" Yell—great-great-great-nephews of Archibald, we are told—have shown up to settle his debt.

The Yells were in the city of Yellville on Thursday to present Mayor Janell Kirkwood with the payment. David Yell, of Lapeer, Mich., said his cousin, from Monticello, Ga., had heard of Yellville, and the two joked about visiting one day.

They began conducting genealogy research more than a year ago and discovered they were Archibald Yell's descendants.

The mayor said the interest will be waived. [Link]

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Top Ten Spring Genealogy Projects

10. Mow the family burial ground, being careful to avoid any protruding elbows and knees.

9. Plant a tree in honor of a relative who served in the military. Cut down a tree for each of his reported kills.

8. Throw away any family heirloom that came in a McDonald's Happy Meal.

7. Hang a May basket on the door of the family crypt, and then run and hide.

6. Reach way back in your genealogy files and remove anyone who doesn't smell fresh.

5. Pick up trash along a roadside, and then store it in archival-quality acid-free boxes to be cataloged later.

4. Check the drains in the guest bathroom for DNA samples.

3. Ensure Grandpa's presence at Thanksgiving dinner by scattering his ashes in the vegetable garden.

2. Continue scrubbing the bloodstains from last year's family reunion.

1. Hang your grandmother on the clothesline and beat her with a stick until she comes clean.

It's On the Tip of My Tongue...

An investigative journalist has turned up some disturbing information about a California judicial candidate.

A genealogy website provides this information on Los Angeles Superior Court candidate Robert R. Davenport, who will be listed on the June 6 ballot as “Disabled Veteran/Attorney”:

“Robert Ralsey Davenport was born in Brookline, Suffolk, Massachusetts…30 Apr 1950. He married an unknown person in Alexandria, Virginia…25 Apr 1981.”

Uncertainty over the identity of the spouse is inexplicable inasmuch as the website is maintained by Robert Ralsey Davenport. [Link]

Strange But Possibly True

Heather Whipps collected at Live Science the most plausible of the implausible San Francisco earthquake stories in honor of the centennial on Tuesday, including these:

One man, long paralyzed from the neck down before the earthquake, regained the ability to move when a looter tried stealing his bags from beside him in a park, where he was placed by friends after rescue. Enraged, the man’s first act of mobility was to crack the criminal over the head with a plank of wood.
As San Francisco threatened to descend into lawless mayhem, Mayor E.E. Schmitz enforced a shoot-to-kill policy against looters. Taking the orders too far, one officer shot a thirsty horse who was “looting” water leaking from a broken hydrant.

And You Thought Genealogy Was Addictive

"Needle bins" have been installed at two cemeteries in Edinburgh, Scotland, so visitors have somewhere to discard their drug paraphernalia. According to Sharon Simpson of Action on Alcohol and Drugs, the graveyards are popular both with family historians and with heroin addicts jonesing for a fix.

"The recent interest in people researching their genealogy has led to an increasing number of visitors to our graveyards.

"We are worried that if drug equipment is left in the graveyard there is the real hazard that someone could be injured." [Link]

The Corpse is Recovering Nicely

Hard as it is to believe, what Americans feared most 200 years ago was not typhoid, cholera, or getting shot by Aaron Burr. It was being mistaken for a corpse. That explains why this item was printed and reprinted in every newspaper in the country in the autumn of 1809.

Caution against premature Interment.
A woman of the name of Proffer residing at Hay, Breconshire (England) who had been for some time in a very ill state of health, was lately supposed by the person in attendance to have died, and the necessary preparations for the funeral had commenced; the body was laid out by a female usually employed on such occasions, who, on returning to the house at about six hours afterwards, and observing the hands had been removed from the situation they had been placed in, concluded some person had been in the room; but on going to close the mouth was greatly alarmed by the supposed corps exclaiming "Do not close my mouth, for I am not yet dead," which threw her into fits.

The sick person has since so far recovered as to be able to sit up in her room, is still living, although in a very languishing state, and she declares that she heard all the conversation which passed relative to her funeral, but from extreme weakness had not the power of speech or motion. [Eastern Argus of Portland, Me., Dec. 14, 1809]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

AncestryBank Now Accepting Deposits

AncestryBank is an intriguing new genealogy website that purports to be "the largest archive of manuscript images and transcripts from private sources on the web." My failure to find documents featuring any of my own favorite surnames would seem to give lie to this claim, but I'm willing to give the AncestryBank folks the benefit of the doubt, and a year or two to build up their inventory.

Search for your ancestors by name, language, country, and range of years, and (if you're lucky) you'll get brief descriptions of pre-1875 documents matching your criteria. See something you like, and you'll be able to download it for $5 per image and transcription.

And now for what's intriguing: the site is built on user submissions. Transcribe and upload images of documents you own, and you'll earn $2.50 whenever someone downloads it. You can also earn money ($0.25 per download) by transcribing other people's documents.

The site has some bugs to work out, but could become a successful enterprise and—what's more important—bring genealogists some extra cash. And if it motivates people to make their private archives public, that's all to the good.

Amy's Most Embarrassing Day

Idaho genealogist Amy Crooks has had a lousy couple of weeks. She and her husband each suffered injuries, she screwed up their checking account, her son was caught flashing his underpants at a girl at school, and yesterday she came close to burning down her house.

But, despite all this, she hasn't lost sight of what's important in life.

When I told my husband the story last night he couldn't help but laugh. He asked me "well why didn't you just let it burn?" My response was "I really could care less about this house, but what I couldn't bare to loose [sic] is all my research, the old photos of our ancestors I have collected, things I have from both of my grandmothers, and more." [Link]

My Left Elbow is East Asian

Salt Lake City Weekly reports today on a body artist with a penchant for genetealogy.

I know of one entrepreneurial tattoo artist who will for a modest fee, as well as certified proof of your DNA results, demarcate on your body the exact percentages of your ancestry. Using a complicated formula based on the body/mass index and latitude and longitudinal calibrations of epidermal surface area, Harlow McBain, owner and proprietor of Tattoo You in South Salt Lake, has been helping people express their ethnic heritage for the past three months.
The requirement of "certified proof" shows how seriously Harlow takes his work. One mostly-Danish woman wanted her 4 percent of African heritage inked into her posterior—so she could tell unwanted suitors to "kiss my black ass."
"After some intense negotiation, and very detailed measurements, as to how much of her shapely derriere actually constitutes 4 percent, I went ahead with a very tasteful tattoo. Confidentiality precludes me from describing the actual tattoo itself, but let me just say that the nice lady left my parlor a happy camper, albeit one with a very sore keister." [Link]

Chapel Dwellers Pleased With Easement

Geoffrey and Kirsty Everett-Brown's dream house is a somewhat-converted Victorian Baptist Chapel in Swimbridge, North Devon, England. I say "somewhat" because the former tenants have not quite finished up their business in the churchyard.

The agent told them, unreassuringly, that funerals had been booked only for two former worshippers. Even so, the widows concerned were getting on and the gravedigger could turn up any time. Not to worry then if a deep hole appeared unexpectedly outside. [Link]
Geoffrey says that, far from it being a sticking point in the negotiations, "We thought it might be rather interesting to have a funeral in the garden." He also encourages family members to visit the graveyard whenever they like—despite the sales agreement's requirement of 48 hours' notice.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sorry, Grandma

Dave at OakvilleBlackWalnut noticed a request for volunteers to administer RootsWeb message boards for certain surnames.

The thing is, the surnames are apparently acceptable in the United Kingdom but potentially "dirty" in American English. The example offered was CRAPSTER.

I know it's juvenile, but I wish the whole list was posted. I don't think any of my surnames are as interesting.
Since I don't have the whole list either—and since I am irredeemably juvenile—I've made a list of my own: Assmann, Dinkhoff, Fuckens, Humplik, Shitler, and the ever-popular Buttafuoco.

The Fuckens board is a special case, and perhaps should be removed entirely. It has only two messages, both from Julie Baxter. The first asks for info on one Wilhelmina Fuckens who married Peter Kiistner. The second—posted two years later—is a retraction of sorts:
Finally, after several years being horrified at my great grandparents name, we got hold the written name. The German was difficult to discern - their name is Frickens. [Link]

Identity Thieves Can Find Out How Tall You Are

An article posted yesterday at Computerworld offers more evidence that, when it comes to handing over sensitive information to identity thieves, genealogists can’t hold a candle to their local government officials.

The pieces of personally identifiable information found on county Web sites and made available to Computerworld by [B.J.] Ostergren and other privacy advocates included the Social Security number of Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas) on a tax lien document; the Social Security numbers of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife on a quitclaim deed from 1999; the driver's license numbers, vehicle registration information, height, race and addresses of people arrested for traffic violations; the names and birth dates of minors from divorce decrees; and complete copies of death certificates.
But all is not lost. Darity Wesley of Privacy Solutions Inc. notes that identity thieves are far lazier than is generally thought.
There is ... little evidence to show that the public availability of personal information on government sites has contributed to an increase in identity theft, Wesley said. For most identity thieves, the chore of sifting through millions of public records for useful data simply isn't worth the effort, she added. [Link]
Speaking for myself, "sifting through millions of public records for useful data" sounds like a great way to spend a summer vacation.

Genealogy: It Gets the Juices Flowing

Elaine Collins—business development manager and resident genealogy expert at 1837online.com—finds some interesting parallels between genealogy and that other Internet pastime.

"After p*rn, family history is the next most searched for category on the internet," she says. "People get gripped by it and spend hours online. It really sucks you in." [Link]

In Search of Lost Time Capsules

Random Genealogy passes along a great link to The Nine Most Wanted Time Capsules. The list overlooks the gazillion capsules buried and forgotten at family reunions over the years.

3. Corona, California, Time Capsules
The City of Corona seems to have misplaced a series of 17 time capsules dating back to the 1930s. Efforts to recover the capsules in 1986 were in vain. "We just tore up a lot of concrete around the civic center, "said the chairman of the town's centennial committee. A Los Angeles Times reporter has called Corona "the individual record holder in the fumbled time capsule category."

Some Were Saints

Longtime Genealogue readers will have noticed a few recurring themes in my posts, one of which is this: Our ancestors were human beings with faults, vices, and (occasionally) criminal pasts. They were not saints.

Except those who really were saints.

Brian Starr has gone to great trouble to prove me wrong, going so far as to spend three years writing a book called Saints Who Left Descendents and Their Ancestry.

This book is intended to help the reader find all the Saints that are in his or her ancestry by showing the relationship to the Nobility and Royalty of Europe. If your ancestry includes the nobility and Royalty of Europe this book is for you. The book attempts to explain ancient lineage of the Saints, with charts showing some lines to linked Saints. Included Saints are from any source, the Holy Roman Catholic Church as well as Saints recognized in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Saints as well as Saints found on the internet. Some Saints are not yet canonized but still recognized as a Saint by some source. [Link, via EOGN]

Monday, April 17, 2006

1,000 Posts and Counting

This is my 1,000th post at The Genealogue, and I've decided to celebrate this milestone by sending you off to other genealogy blogs less likely to confuse and annoy you.

A blogger lives and dies by his traffic, and traffic depends largely on links from friendly strangers. Some of the sites below gave me early and much-appreciated links. Others are simply blogs I've enjoyed visiting and stealing ideas from.

  • OakvilleBlackWalnut — Dave has favored me with links and comments many times. He was one of the volunteers responsible for indexing the Missouri death certificates recently put online.
  • Random Genealogy — George Lewis spots genealogy items that might otherwise fall through the cracks, and has suggested items for this blog. He also maintains the increasingly useful Genealogy-Blogs.com.
  • GeneaBlogie — Craig Manson gave me an early link, so I was pleased to finally learn his true identity.
  • Renee's Genealogy Blog — Renee Zamora is a dependable reporter on the LDS family history scene.
  • BackTrack — Sharon Elliott takes particular pleasure in exploding genealogical myths in the media.
  • The Genealogy Journey — The journey is more pleasant with Mary Kaye along for the ride. Lots of tips and resources for newbie genealogists.
  • Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter — Required daily reading, especially good for software reviews. Commenters can be a bit snarky, though.
  • DavidLambertBlog.com — The blog of NEHGS Online Genealogist David Allen Lambert. My only criticism is the long wait between posts.
  • Along Those Lines ... — A new outlet for Ancestry.com columnist George G. Morgan. Anything goes here.
  • The Genealogy Guys Podcast — Let George G. Morgan and Drew Smith's weekly podcast play in the background while you tend your family tree.
  • 24-7 Family History Circle — Ancestry.com's new blog is a great improvement over the old Daily News. It's now more like a conversation than a lecture.
  • Legacy News — Posts on Legacy's fine products, but also on more general topics.
  • Rootdig.com — The blog-style gateway to Michael Neill's fantastically fun website.
  • Genealogy Blog — A talented crew reporting on all aspects of the genealogical landscape.
  • About Genealogy — Kimberly Powell is your very proficient guide. The site now bravely allows comments.
  • Cow Hampshire — Janice Brown celebrates the genealogical history of the Granite State, using "Cow Hampshire" as her shibboleth.
  • Olive Tree Genealogy Blog — Though not updated recently, this has been a reliable source for finding free genealogy stuff on the web.
  • Mac Genealogy Software — All the info you need on software for those machines we all wish we owned.
  • DearMYRTLE, Your friend in genealogy — The blog version of Myrt's columns.
  • Taking Genealogy to the Common Person — Dan Lawyer leads this discussion on bringing genealogy to the untutored masses. The untutored masses have yet to respond, not knowing how to turn on their computer monitors.
  • Students Of Descent — All about turning Google Earth into a genealogical tool.
Lest I run out of wind and you out of patience, here are a few bare links to other genealogy blogs I've run across that deserve a visit. I've undoubtedly passed over many worthy sites, so feel free to drop a link as a comment below—to plug your own blog, or one that you've run across.

Oregon Man Too Old to Prove He Was Born

Joe Worden was born April 19, 1919, in La Grande, Oregon.

Or, at least, that's what he wants us to believe.

His birth was recorded only in "a family Bible he hasn't seen since he was a kid." Without a record of his birth, he can't get a passport to visit his granddaughter, stationed with the Air Force in Germany. Worden himself served on the USS Enterprise during World War II, the Navy foolishly accepting his word that he had been born.

Family friend Rochelle Lake is having trouble digging up the necessary proof of Worden's birth.

Additional paperwork he’ll need, according to the Web site for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, include other documents that prove his birth, such as Census records, school records, family Bibles or a statement from the doctor who treated him as an infant.

Additionally, an affidavit from an older family member, with knowledge of his birth, is required.

"So now I have to find a doctor that’s known him all his life," said Lake.

"Well, he’s outlived everybody. Family members? Anyone that was older than him are all dead!" [Link]
Because I couldn't help myself: 9-month-old Joseph appears at the bottom of sheet 117A of the 1920 census for La Grande (Precinct No. 8).

Not All Men Are Cremated Equal

The New York Times today examines the growing demand for ostentatious mausoleums in some affluent communities.

Some mausoleums echo the temple of the goddess Fortuna Virilis in Rome. Some are hefty, rusticated stone barns. Some have more square footage than a good-size Manhattan studio apartment, their interiors fitted out with hand-knotted carpets, upholstered benches and nooks for the display of memorabilia. In late 2004, a Southern California family ordered a mausoleum with room for 12 coffins, 20 cremation niches and a patterned marble vestibule. [Link]
The Hartford Courant explores the other end of the funereal spectrum: the burial of indigents in Connecticut over the years.
Hartford undertakers were steaming under their high collars in 1904 when an East Hartford funeral director underbid them for a contract to inter the capital city's destitute. The city's charity board was paying $6.50 to bury an infant, $10 for children up to age 12 and $15 for adults. More important, the funeral parlor that held the city contract also took donations from friends and relatives. Competition was fierce.

"At times," The Courant reported in 1899, "the police have been bothered by rival undertakers scrambling for a body found in the river, or in cases where the medical examiner has been called. " [Link]

Sunday, April 16, 2006

John Paul's Bones?

This month's Smithsonian Magazine asks whether the corpse disinterred in Paris in 1905, then shipped to America and reinterred in the basement of the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland, was indeed that of Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones. The article's author, Adam Goodheart, thinks DNA testing should be done to settle the matter.

Which is not to say that the folks a century ago were less than thorough.

The corpse was that of a middle-aged man, dressed in a simple linen cap, ruffled shirt and shroud, with his waist-length dark hair gathered up at the neck. In photographs at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C., even the stubble on his chin is visible. One eye appears half open, as if in an eternal wink.

Under cover of darkness, the cadaver was transported to Paris’s École de Médicine, where the city’s most eminent anthropologists could examine it. They took measurements, performed dissections and, as [Ambassador Horace] Porter, his aides and family hovered anxiously, compared the body with known portraits and descriptions of Jones. (Sixty years later, the ambassador's great-nephew recalled, with a shudder, being urged to hold the corpse’s "soft and pliable" hand.) [Link]

Some Longoria Historia

Desperate Latina housewife Eva Longoria talks about her American ancestry in today's San Bernadino County Sun:

[B]y any measure, Longoria is far more authentically Texan than a certain president we could name.

"Something like eighth, ninth, 10th," she says of her generation, which includes three older sisters, that grew up on the family ranch outside of Corpus Christi. "We didn't cross the border; the border crossed us. We've got the same Spanish land grants our Mexican ancestors did." [Link]
Raul N. Longoria includes Eva on his Longoria genealogy website, which shows she is the great-great-granddaughter of Ponciano Longoria—born about 1852, and "probably the first 'American' born ancestor from the Longoria branch." (The 1860 census for Rio Grande City, Starr County, Texas, says that Ponciano was born in Mexico, but who am I to argue?)
My father, Raul Longoria, recalls hearing stories about Ponciano's stubbornness. He recalled one story about a time when Ponciano was standing in a pasture talking to two other men. One of the men, Celso Villarreal, noticed that Ponciano was standing on a hill of fire ants and told Ponciano that he should move to avoid being bit. Ponciano, in his stubbornness, responded that the fire ants could not harm him and he continued standing on the ant hill while resuming the conversation. Though the ants bit, he refused to acknowledge that they were there or that they even bothered him. [Link]
The website also has some info on Eva's less ant-bitten maternal lines, in case anyone wants to try proving her wrong.

Town Escapes Threat to Privacy

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Kentucky privacy advocates are breathing a sigh of relief with news that 97-year-old Georgia Callaway passed away in her sleep Friday night.

Callaway was the unofficial town historian of Binford, Kentucky. She knew everyone in town, and never forgot a birthday. That's what had people like Andy Thurlow worried.

"She was a ticking time bomb," says Thurlow, a member of Americans for Absolute Anonymity and a neighbor of Callaway. "She knew my home address, my date of birth, and my mother's maiden name. I'm sorry she had to die, but c'mon . . .  Better that than have her give away my identity to some Nigerian con artist."

Thurlow's fears were not unfounded. In 1987, Callaway wrote a newspaper column on Binford's early history which revealed the illegitimacy of the town's founder, Azariah Binford. The townsfolk were shaken by that revelation, and realized for the first time that Georgia Callaway held the keys to their personal and financial ruin.

"Georgia was a lovely old gal," says Mitzie Waller, who runs the local beauty salon. "But she knew way too much. Nowadays you can't be too careful with personal information like that."

The citizens of Binford all agree that Mrs. Callaway's passing was a sorrowful event, but it was also a blessing—especially for Andy Thurlow.

"I'm just glad the Lord took her when He did. Better Him than me."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Witch is Where?

Students from Phillips Academy Andover will be participating in an archaeological dig at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers, Mass., this summer. They're bound to turn up arrowheads and artifacts from Colonial times, but some are undoubtedly hoping for a bigger discovery.

It's even possible — though highly unlikely — that students could unearth the remains of Rebecca Nurse, hanged in 1692 during the height of the Salem witch trials. After she was executed, her son recovered the body and buried it somewhere on the 300-acre property.

Today, the portion of the homestead that's been preserved is just 27 acres.

"She could be buried in someone's house on Adams Street for all we know," [homestead volunteer Glenn] Mairo said. [Link]
(In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that Rebecca Nurse is a great-aunt of mine—the sister of my equally witchy ancestor Mary Easty. The evil spirits called forth by these wicked women played no part in the writing of this post.)

Squatters, Squatters Everywhere

A column in Sunday's Washington Post reveals an ugly truth about our pioneering ancestors: they weren't above bending the law.

Fordham law professor Eduardo M. Peñalver notes that many settlers of America's midsection were once considered (to quote James Madison) "uninformed or evil disposed persons," and (added Henry Clay) "lawless rabble."

Although federal law made it a crime to enter publicly owned land slated for auction, hundreds of thousands of squatters trespassed on this land, as well as on absentee-owned private holdings, and began to farm it illegally. The federal government tried at times to protect the land by sending the Army to clear squatters out, but the settlers would simply return once the soldiers had moved on. [Link]
Perhaps if the government had built a wall to keep out these opportunistic scofflaws, they would have given up their dreams of better lives.

Scientists ID Indian DNA

DNA testing has established that Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket was not a white settler named Marmaduke van Swearingen.

A 19th-century writer apparently created the controversy in 1877 when he said Blue Jacket was actually van Swearingen, a white Shawnee captive who grew to be a noted warrior. In a dramatic twist, the chief was said to have killed one of his white brothers in the great Indian victory over the U.S. Army along the Wabash River in today's Mercer County. [Link]
DNA testing has not yet disproved the theory that Lakota Chief Sitting Bull was in fact Mary Todd Lincoln.

Friday, April 14, 2006

There Is a Thief Among Us

OK, whoever stole Matt's debit card number and charged over $500 at "some genealogy website" better come clean. Stealing a guy's genealogy data is one thing, but this is really unacceptable.

On the bright side, Matt thinks his account was breached due to a past online transaction, and not because some rogue genealogist requested an informational copy of his grandfather's birth certificate.

Genealogy? What's the Point?

With the Nash County, North Carolina, courthouse undergoing renovation, the county's oldest court records will be moved from the basement to a storage facility nearby. Superior Court Clerk Rachel Joyner assures the public that these records are useful only to people doing pointless research.

"This is some of the records we don't access even once a month," Joyner said. "The oldest records would basically be things that people who do genealogy, basically things they want to look at because they want to look at it." [Link]

Pride and Prettiness

Anna Chancellor does not approve of the actress chosen to play novelist Jane Austen in an upcoming movie, Becoming Jane.

"In my mind Anne Hathaway is just too pretty to play her." Chancellor says. "Jane was a very plain woman. Her beauty was in her brain. But that's what Hollywood does."

Chancellor—herself an actress with beauty in her brain—has the authority to speak on this issue, for she is, we are told, "a direct descendant of Austen"—a remarkable fact, given that Jane Austen never married or had children. (Jane is actually her "eight-times great aunt.")

I took the liberty of running a portrait of Austen through the face-recognition demo at MyHeritage.com, and found that the female celebrity she most resembles is Ava Gardner—a 60% match. The next closest match is Bill Cosby, at 59%. Coincidentally, Cosby was offered the Jane Austen role, but declined due to scheduling conflicts.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Yes, Virginia, There is a Chuck Showalter

Those famous Santa illustrations created for Coca-Cola ads were supposedly done by Swedish-American illustrator Haddon Sundblom using the nom de plume "Chuck Showalter." But through a bit of genealogical research, Bob Olsen of Madison, Wisconsin, has found the truth: Chuck Showalter was a real person, and he died just last October (here's his obit).

It started 15 years ago when Olsen was attending a Sundblom Santa exhibition with his wife Carol. He mentioned that he had a relative who served as a model for the Santa images.

"Yeah, sure," Mrs. Olsen said, or words to that effect.

Five years later, Sundblom's Santas were in the news again, and Bob once again mentioned his distant connection. Carol was, shall we say, not persuaded.

"So I decided to look into it," Bob recalled.

He began by writing to his cousins, trying to learn more. Olsen finally found, in Arizona, the photographer who had taken the original "pose photos" for Sundblom's Santa models, and sure enough, Bob's great-uncle was one of them.
Olsen also found evidence that Chuck Showalter really existed.
In 2002, Olsen said, "I stuck an inquiry on a genealogy Web site." He heard nothing for two years. Then, in December 2004, he received an e-mail: "I think you are looking for my uncle."

Not long after, Olsen heard from a Chicago area surgeon, John Showalter, who said he was Chuck Showalter's son. Olsen explained why he was trying to get in touch. The son said, "He will be amused to learn he is a myth." [Link]

Doomed to a Watery Grave

I've crawled over and through obstacles to visit graveyards, but I've never been required to swim.

When the Hales Bar Dam was constructed in 1913, no one thought to relocate the graves in Long Cemetery #2. Now the Marion County, Tennessee, yard is knee-deep in water, and accessible only by boat. Intrepid Ida Smith ventured out to photograph the three standing stones.

If descendants of the three known occupants can be found, the cemetery could be relocated to drier ground. The site also intrigues state archaeologist Nick Fielder, who says the graveyard would be of "archaeological interest."

"I've never seen (a graveyard) with tombstones that ended up above the water," Fielder said. "I will raise the subject with the TVA archaeology group." [Link]

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Genealogy Rules to Be Enforced

A Genealogue News Flash [What's That?]
The same consortium that sets standards for the World Wide Web will soon begin enforcing genealogical standards on the Internet.

The W3C has empowered the National Academy of Genealogists to police genealogy websites starting next week, and to remove any sites that fail to meet minimum standards.
NAG president Jasper Hodgdon cautions website owners to double-check their online data by this weekend or risk the consequences.

"We'll be looking for inconsistent dates, improbable marriages, implausible births—all the things that signal sloppy research and detract from the genealogical authority of the Web." His face darkening, Hodgdon adds, "Of course, our main target will be unsourced data. Anyone found skimping on primary sources may well be banned from the Internet for life."

News of the coming crackdown has sparked a panic among online genealogists, who have long enjoyed lower expectations than their counterparts in print. A surge of activity at RootsWeb.com's WorldConnect Project caused the site to shut down briefly on Wednesday evening. The number of queries posted to online message boards has skyrocketed, but there is no one to answer them: volunteers are busy shoring up their own family trees.

Hodgdon sympathizes with his fellow genealogists, but is quick to point out that those who break the rules of sound research are not really his fellows.

"They are—for want of a better term—genealogical terrorists."

Asked if there really is no better term, Hodgdon replies, "No. There isn't."

Family History Writing for Fun and Profit

Erika Dreifus offers tips today at Writer's Weekly on getting published in family history magazines. She includes submission guidelines for several of the major glossy-covered genealogy publications. Writing even short pieces can earn you a few extra bucks—maybe enough to get your grandmother's cremains out of hock.

Houdini Escapes the Military

Michael John Neill of Rootdig.com switched his homepage to a blog format a few weeks ago, and has been highlighting some of the treasures to be found on his website. My favorite recent entry: the WWI draft card of Harry Houdini, on which the escape artist is given the unlikely middle name "Handcuff."

Vicariously Vikings

Does your family sit around the Easter dinner table boasting of crimes they've committed in the past year? If so, you might have Norwegian ancestry.

Norwegians at this time of year indulge in a tradition known as "Easter Crime," which involves reading crime novels and watching police dramas on television. The country's crime rate is currently low, but historically Norway was the home base of a notorious gang of thugs.

Nobody knows when the Norwegian tradition of crime telling at Easter began, but their warrior ancestors -- the Vikings -- were renowned for raiding trips to the British Isles.

On their return the Vikings would settle down with flasks of mead, an alcoholic drink made from honey, and recount tales of murder and pillage to their women and children. [Link]

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