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Friday, June 30, 2006

While I Was Away...

  • The Advertising Standards Authority in Britain ruled that Ancestry.co.uk was dishonest for claiming to offer "Everything you'll ever need to research your family tree in one place." The revised ad campaign will promise only "Some of the things you might need to research somebody's family tree in two or more places."
  • The National Archives in Washington opened a new exhibit in the basement exploring the historical implications of mildew.
  • Hereditary Health Solutions launched a service that will find your lost relatives and extract stool samples from them.
  • ITV announced a new celebrity genealogy series called "You Don't Know You're Born." The title is a common British phrase which means "Idea Ripped Off From the BBC."
  • Sharon Elliott found more evidence that no one in America has Welsh ancestors.
  • Paul Allen revealed that the key to Ancestry.com's rise to power was purely alphabetical.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Vacating the Premises

For the next few days, I'll be in seclusion at the family camp—located in a corner of the old Dunham homestead in western Maine. There's no phone, so in case of emergency, here are directions and a map:

He'd Given Them Up for Dead

Forty descendants of author Nathaniel Hawthorne gathered in Concord, Mass., on Monday to witness the return of his wife and daughter from England.

Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, died in New Hampshire in 1864. His wife, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, moved to England with their three children and died there six years later. She and their daughter Una were buried at Kensal Green cemetery in London.

Hawthorne's daughter Rose returned to the United States and started a Catholic order dedicated to caring for cancer patients. The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, based in Hawthorne, N.Y., paid to maintain the Hawthorne graves in England.

When cemetery officials told the nuns that the grave site needed costly repairs, the order arranged to have [the] remains reburied in Concord instead. [Link]

Monday, June 26, 2006

Census Name Number Nonsense

Of all the stories about Ancestry.com's indexing triumph, this one stands out.

US genealogy site Ancestry.com has now completed indexing and digitizing the entire US Census from 1790 to 1930 – featuring more than five billion names.
Ancestry.com's team spent 6.6 million hours of labour deciphering handwriting from 13 million original census documents and 21.9 billion keystrokes manually entering information into the database. [Link]
Five billion names from 13 million census pages over 15 censuses? That comes out to about 385 names per page, and would give the United States an average population in those years of 333 million.* This is odd, since our population isn't supposed to reach 300 million until this fall.

Also, they managed to type in 5 billion names with only 21.9 billion keystrokes, meaning that the average American's name was only 4 or 5 letters long. Notwithstanding "Cher," most American names ramble on for at least 6 or 7 characters.

This is what happens when you read a press release too quickly:
The addition of the complete census collection makes Ancestry.com the most comprehensive genealogical database ever compiled online with more than five billion searchable names.
*The average population would be even higher since only the head-of-household was named in the first six censuses, and the 1890 census was mostly destroyed.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

When You Wish Upon a Star and Consult an Attorney...

A couple in Britain wanted to put Winnie the Pooh on their child's gravestone, but The Walt Disney Co. turned down the request.

Disney had warned that a stonemason would be in breach of copyright if he included the bear's image along with "bear of very little brain," on the gravestone, The Telegraph reported. The parents had sought approval from Disney, but were rejected. [Link]
The company later reversed its decision.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Only GEDCOMs and Meds are Vital

The Arizona Republic asked 14 people what they would take from their homes if a raging brush fire were 10 minutes away. Only one guy—Howard Dendurent of Gilbert—gave the right answer.

I'd grab all my medications and the flash drive on which I have my genealogy and leave. [Link]
We'll assume that Howard doesn't have pets or children.

Ancestors Offer Career Counseling

Genes Reunited has been looking into the phenomenon of people sharing the same occupation as their ancestors.

In addition to large numbers of people who found they came from a long line of sailors, watchmakers and the like, it found that growing numbers of people were turning to their family trees for evidence of a “grand design” that would give them guidance on what kinds of jobs they are likely to be good at. Of the 3,000 respondents to a survey, 71 per cent said that they had come to their family history to seek out patterns, such as a bias towards a particular occupation or a penchant for a certain talent. [Link]
This would explain why Drew Barrymore thinks she can act.

Germanic Descent Lowers Age of Consent?

Joey Michaels is only a "sporadic genealogy buff," but has learned enough to maybe write a pilot for HBO. Among his cast of characters: an Irish mobster, a pious dwarf, and a guy who's, "well, ewwww."

At the time of the 1930 census, my Great Grandfather Melvin on my Mom’s Mother’s side was 59. His wife, Belle, was 49. Now, the interesting thing about the 1930 census is it also asked for your age at the time of marriage. According to this column, Melvin was 22 when he married Belle, who was listed as 14.

Now, I was a little freaked out by this until I went back and did the math. In 1930, they were 10 years apart. When they were married (in 1893), they were only 8 years apart. Now, does it make more sense to claim that Melvin was 22 when he was really 24 or to claim that Belle was 14 when she was only 12?

Basically, my great grandfather married a 12 year old. At this point I stopped being a little freaked out and started being a lot freaked out. My mother points out that A) He was of German descent, B) He was a farmer, and C) This was Tennessee we were talking about. Apparently, any one of those things alone is justification for marrying a child, but together, it is a wonder he didn’t marry a six year old. Basically, he showed considerable restraint by waiting until she was 12, since his Germanic, Tennessee farming blood was demanding he marry somebody straight out of the womb. [Link]
Heck, in Colorado these days you don't even have to be a farmer.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Flushing Out the Truth

When investigating a mysterious death, the coroner in Great Falls, Montana, wasn't above asking tough questions like "Number one or number two?" and "Did you wash your hands afterwards? With soap?"

One event that [Jan] Thomson recalled vividly from her research was a death at the Stockholm Concert Hall, a popular Great Falls watering hole around the turn of the last century.

A man was found dead in the restroom. Apparently "the guy went in there to take a leak and died," Thomson said.

The subsequent coroner's inquest included interviews with witnesses as to what exactly they were doing in the water closet at the time of the death. Predictable answers followed, and foul play was soon ruled out. [Link]

Butcher Finds Himself On the Hook

The following appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Oct. 13, 1896.

UNUSUAL WEDDING GUESTS
Jacob Dohm of 1,022 Columbus avenue, New York city, and Gertrude Fulham of 748 Halsey street were married this morning by Justice Van Wart. Dohm was arraigned before Justice Harriman on the girl's complaint and on his promise to marry her they were sent off to Justice Van Wart's court. An hour later Officer Cloonan, who accompanied the couple, returned and smilingly reported that they had been married. Dohm was then formally discharged. The groom is a butcher and has a good business.
As if Jacob's day weren't bad enough ...
The representatives of no less than four furnishing houses had heard of the affair and hoping to get a good order for household goods they waited on the groom in a body. That individual was very much disgusted and told them to clear out.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Undercover Genealogy

Viewing digitized records online just doesn't match the experience of reading microfilm at the FHC with a light-shielding hood over your head. A student at the Royal College of Art in London has come up with this hoodie for "computer obsessives" that should supply stay-at-home genealogists with the missing element of embarrassing isolation. Plus, it'll keep the kids from looking over your shoulder while you're browsing erotic GenForum queries.

1930 Free for Three

If you want to check out the 1930 U.S. Federal Census at Ancestry.com free for three days, click here. If you want to check out the entire Ancestry.com site free for 14 days, click here. If you want to check out my great-grandmother in a bikini, click here.

The Nutty Profession

Ancestry.com knows how to make America care about genealogy: dish some ancestral dirt on a Hollywood celebrity like, say, Tom Hanks.

It seems that the multiple Oscar-winning actor may have gotten his droll humor from his grandfather Clarence Frager, who listed his occupation as "squirrel inspector" on his daughter's birth certificate.

Frager got a little more serious when it was time to fill out the 1930 Census. He described his occupation as "rodent control," and we can only imagine that he wasn't talking about rug rats. [Link]

How to Get the Librarian's Attention

Ever had one of those days at the library when everything falls into place?

[Photo Credit: Klara Kim (license)]

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Nowhere Left For Your Ancestors to Hide

Ancestry.com has completed indexing every name in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census. This means that every name in every available U.S. census is now available for searching. If you still can't find your American ancestors between 1790 and 1930, consider giving up genealogy and taking up something less challenging—like neonatal neuropathology, or perhaps gum-wrapper collecting.

Sometimes an Accountant Is Just an Accountant

Tom Robinson—the Florida accounting professor supposed to be descended from Genghis Khan—has been featured in hundreds of newspapers, and was offered a free trip to Mongolia by a movie company. Then he made the mistake of asking for a second opinion.

The discrepancy occurred because Oxford Ancestors only tested Mr. Robinson's Y chromosome at nine sites, ones at which the DNA mutates quite often between generations. Finding a match between Mr. Robinson and Genghis at seven of nine sites, Dr. [Bryan] Sykes assumed that was good enough to declare a direct relationship, since he had never seen such a match outside of Asia, he said.

But the major branches of the Y chromosome family tree are defined by mutations at sites that change very seldom. Oxford Ancestors did not check the slow-mutating site that defines the branch to which Genghis Khan belongs. [Link]
Despite the headlines reading "Prof Not Direct Descendant of Warlord," Robinson might still be a direct descendant of Khan. This proves only that he didn't descend through a unbroken line of fathers and sons. Believe it or not, several people in the world don't even have a Y chromosome. In fact, there's about a 50-50 chance you're one of them.

Robinson's blog proves that he has retained his Mongolian sense of humor.
The only things I am willing to conclude based on the weight of the evidence at this point is:
  • My Y-Chromosome ancestors were likely nomadic horsemen in Central Asia/Eastern Europe, but not Genghis Khan (and I will not be taken that previously scheduled trip to Mongolia).
  • Vikings may have been involved.
  • While I may be the closest match to the Mongolian DNA from west of the Caucasus mountains in databases at this point in time, other closer matches are likely to be found some of whom will be haplogroup C3. There goes any inheritance!
  • I am an accountant (not practicing), living in the Miami area.

Is Your Family Rusyn, or Just Strange?

Click over to Megan's Roots World for telltale signs of Rusyn roots, including:

  • you have weird family traditions, including dressing up and going from door to door at Christmas time scaring the kids -- or throwing water on the girls at Easter
  • your idea of dancing strongly resembles wrestling, skipping or a combination of both

Crossing the Atlantic by Horse

Jane Glenn Haas knows there's more than one kind of "illegal immigrant." Her great-grandfather, Patrick Glynn, found his ticket to America in someone else's stable.

Stole a horse, he did. Well, “borrowed” would be a more delicate term.

He sold the “borrowed” horse at the weekly market in County Mayo and used the money to buy a ticket to America.

His daughters hotly denied their daddy’s dark past, but a third cousin still living on the family farm in Ireland confirmed it when I met him years ago. [Link]

Focus on the First Families

Sure, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have their own libraries and museums, but what about Billy Carter and Roger Clinton? Nicholas Inman—a 24-year-old Wal-Mart greeter who lives with his mother in Marshfield, Missouri—wants to open a museum devoted to our former First Families and their descendants.

He expects the displays to include photos, White House Christmas cards, personal letters, invitations to inaugurations, books and perhaps items owned or even worn by presidents and their families. Many of the items will be from Inman's personal collection.

Inman rounded up descendants of 26 U.S. presidents and in April brought them to Marshfield, where they announced the launch of the museum.
He isn't sure where the museum will be, though he has narrowed it to a building in the town square and the unused second floor of the old high school. [Link]
Given Inman's other accomplishments, I'm betting he'll succeed.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

That First Step Is a Doozy

Genealogists can take nothing for granted. Consider Joan Mushka, who's trying to prove she's a descendant of a United Empire Loyalist.

"It's funny but the hardest thing for me to prove was that I was my dad's daughter; the rest of the stuff I had documented from my genealogy," Mushka said. [Link]

Delaying the Inevitable

The Australian government awarded women giving birth on or after July 1, 2004, a $3,000 "maternity payment." This had a predictable result:

Birth records for 2004 show 490 babies were delivered on June 30, one of the quietest days in the year for midwives and obstetricians. The babies' parents received no bonus.

But on July 1, the first day of the $3000 bonus, the number of births doubled to 978, making it the busiest birth day in 30 years of Bureau of Statistics data. The next day, July 2, recorded 902 births. This was the seventh most popular birthday in the three decades. [Link]
The two researchers who discovered this "shifting" of births also found that several rich Aussies "shifted" their deaths from June to July 1979 to avoid a soon-to-be-abolished inheritance tax. They predict that the same effect will be witnessed in the U. S. in a few years.
"Under current United States law, the estate of an individual worth more than 3.5 million dollars will be taxed at a marginal rate of 45 percent if they die in the final week of December 2009, but untaxed if they die in the first week of January 2010," they wrote.

"Even the super-rich cannot cheat death forever, but some may be able to stay alive long enough to avoid the estate tax." [Link]

Monday, June 19, 2006

Mass. Hysteria

If you have ancestors from Massachusetts, or might someday have descendants with ancestors from Massachusetts, the alert issued today by the Massachusetts Genealogical Council should make your hair stand on end.

A proposed law would restrict access to Massachusetts birth records for the last 90 years, to marriage and death records for the last 50 years, and (it gets worse) to the indexes of these records. They don't even want genealogists to know what records they can't have access to!

The MGC site has info on contacting legislators, who should be reminded that the biggest genealogy conference in history will be held this summer in Boston. If they succeed in this foolishness, I'm inviting all the FGS/NEHGS folks to my house in Maine instead. BYOB, and don't park on the lawn.

A Curious Canine Query

Randy Seaver spotted this post to the Chihuahua, Mexico, message board at RootsWeb.com:

I finally brought my baby (Female Chihuahua) home Thursday and she turned 8 weeks old yesterday (06/16/06). I read in a few books and article that Chihuahua puppies were one of the top ten hardest to house train. Mine hasn't used the potty inside once in the last 3 days, she goes outside sniffs a few seconds squats and pees/poops and all she seems to do is sleep. And I mean sleep. Which is my question. I wrap her up in her blanket and she probably sleeps 22 hours of the day. I have to wake her up to eat and of a night at 3pm to go outside. Might she be sick? [Link]
Before offering advice, Randy wisely asked for the dog's "pedigree."

Famous Genes In Demand

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
"We're nobodies," reveals Frank, an auto mechanic in suburban Atlanta. "They couldn't find Genghis Khan or Daniel Boone or anybody cool. Just some guy who sat on the House of Burgesses in the 1700s. Big deal."

They were doubly disappointed because they were planning to start a family, and wanted to pass on illustrious genes to their children.

"We'd want our kids to be interested in their roots," says Nancy, a Sunday-school teacher. "But you know kids today. It's all about celebrities."

The couple was considering adoption when Nancy spotted an advertisement in the back of People for CelebriDNA—a Los Angeles company that is capitalizing on the growing demand for famous genes.

"I'm not a scientist," founder and CEO Alberto Fuentes tells The Genealogue. "I'm just a guy who makes dreams come true. Who wouldn't want to share genes with a famous actor or a rock star? It's too late for the parents, but the kids not born yet—they've still got a chance."

For a fee, CelebriDNA will match a couple with a celebrity willing to contribute genetic material. The company's catalog of donors is a "Who's Who" of Washington, Hollywood, and the sports world, with at least one ex-President, three Oscar winners, and one Heisman Trophy winner with a penchant for Bruno Magli shoes on board.

"Yeah, O. J.," Fuentes smiles. "No one's picked him yet. Too bad, 'cause he could really use the money."

The most elite figures fetch a staggering price, so the Hammonds—whose budget is tight—have set their sights lower.

"We were thinking about a Senator," explains Nancy, "but we finally settled on Pauly Shore. In fact, he's coming tonight, so I'd better get dressed and light some candles."
[Photo Credit: Michell Zappa (license)]
[tagged: , , ]

Last Name First, Last Name Last

The reversed order of names in some Asian countries can confuse slow-witted Westerners. An actress and model from Singapore was born Fann Woon Fong—her surname being Fann—and she resisted early in her career pressure to use a "Christian" name that Western clients could more easily remember. That changed when she was 18, and a magazine misspelled her name as "Fann Wong."

She stormed home and threw the offending magazine on the table to show her mother. Before she could lament, her mother, Wong Siew Toy, saw the name and said delightedly: “Woon Fong, it is so sweet of you to do this! I am so happy you went to such lengths for me.”

“I didn’t know what Mum was talking about (at first),” says Fann Wong with a grin. “Then it dawned on me that Fann is Dad’s surname and Wong is Mum’s surname. Of course, I was smart enough to keep quiet and not tell her how annoyed I was over that name. ‘Fann Wong’ made her so happy, so I decided to use it from that day onwards. It was years later before she found out, ha ha!” [Link]

Sunday, June 18, 2006

World War Wonderful

World War I Color Photos has, of all things, photos from World War I. In color! Like this shot of a camouflaged commode, titled "The pause that refreshes."

The images are taken from Gallica, a digitization project of la Bibliothéque nationale de France.

Pater Familias

But Who Has His Car Keys?

When Torbjorn Johannes Maage emigrated to the United States from Norway in 1882, he left behind his wallet. It somehow ended up in the family of Tor Oevsthus, who recently tracked down a descendant of Torbjorn in Minnesota.

"I have taken for granted that it came into my family in an honorable way," Oevsthus said. "But you never know. Maybe it was won in a poker game? My thought is that this family needed some money to make the journey to America, and they sold this wallet with other possessions.

"It is a very nice piece of work, but it had nothing to do with my family. I thought it was very important to find the right address for it." [Link]

Friday, June 16, 2006

Her Name Is Lee, and She's a Geneaholic

It's good to see that Lee Anders—late of Kindred Matters—is back blogging, and is now a confessed Geneaholic. I do take issue, though, with the seventh of her Seven Genealogical Laws of Success.

7. Last but not least, never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
This conflicts with my own credo, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do next Thursday."

DNA Test Leads to Confucian Results

The Chinese have jumped on the celebriDNA bandwagon. A genetics lab is offering a test to prove descent from ancient philosopher Confucius for just 1,000 yuan ($125)—a lot of yuan in a country where the average farmer might take home $300 a year.

"We would like to help these unconfirmed claimants to test their DNA and to establish a Confucius-DNA database," [the Shanghai Morning Post] quoted Deng Yajun, a DNA expert from Beijing Institute of Genomics at the Chinese Academy of Science, as saying.

How the scientists had obtained a sample of Confucius's DNA was not explained. [Link]
Given how well-documented his family tree reportedly is, it shouldn't have been hard to find living male descendants carrying around his Y chromosome (though the 2,500-year time span is daunting).

A Rising Tsar in the Music World

Eleven-year-old Georgian pianist Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili is proud of the great-great-grandfather from whom he inherited his name. You probably know his ancestor better by his nom de guerre: Josef Stalin.

Josef said that he knew who his great-great-grandfather was — “President of Russia!” — and had admired his portrait hanging in his grandfather’s home.

“He was very clever and everybody knew him because he ruled all the world — he was a tsar,” he said. “I want to be famous, too. But I want to be a pianist, not a tsar.” [Link]
Something tells me young Josef has been skipping history class to practice his scales.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Transparent Tombstones

Lundgren Memorials in Seattle produces headstones made from glass—glass so thick that "you can take a baseball bat to it," says owner Greg Lundgren. (Given the price tag, you should probably just take his word on that.)

"It's a very conservative industry," Lundgren said, "and I think it takes a lot of time for people to digest what we're doing and understand what we're doing."

Education is key, he said. Glass, which isn't corrodible or stainable, is more resilient than granite -- though they both contain high levels of the mineral silica and can chip.

And just like windows on a house or skyscraper, glass monuments won't crack in cold weather or melt when it's warm. [Link]

M-O-R-M-O-N M-O-U-S-E?

Somehow, Mickey Mouse's family tree found its way into an LDS database. (Here are his birth and marriage to Minnie in the IGI.)

While conducting an investigation into the extensive genealogical database operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, researcher Helen Radkey discovered records detailing the mouse’s family tree—complete with clearance for temple ordinances.
Fortunately, church authorities found a way to maintain some control—according to Radkey, after she made her discovery, they banned her Monday from the library. [Link]
(It should be noted, and wasn't in the cited article, that Radkey has had run-ins with the Church before.)

Oh, Say Can You See the Idiocy?

Floridian Effie Mae Key Schneider was born in the Bahamas, married a U.S. soldier and became an American, then gave up her citizenship in 1979 to return to work in her native country. She's been going back and forth ever since to visit her Bahamian kids and grandkids without trouble, but now the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to kick her out for good.

Oh, and did I mention that Schneider says she's a descendant of Francis Scott Key?

Yes, that Francis Scott Key.

I started on Tuesday, trying to verify the Key lineage all the way down to Effie Mae Key Schneider, 77, who lives in a nice double-wide over by the dog track in West Palm Beach.

"Oh Lord," said one genealogy expert. "It could take you several months, even several years, to do that."

Well, all I know is she and her son Eugene, 50, have reams of genealogy paperwork, all presenting a convincing argument that she's a direct descendant of the guy who wrote The Star Spangled Banner. Francis Scott Key's family did own 228 acres of land in the Bahamas in the early 1800s, according to one library book on the family. [Link]
One last thing: She has an inoperable aneurysm in her belly, and her doctor has advised her not to travel. She's just the sort of person al Qaeda would want to recruit.

Top Ten Signs Tom Cruise Is a Genealogist

10. So excited about an SSDI update that he jumped up and down on Oprah's couch.

9. Wanted to film Risky Business subway scene with Elizabeth Shown Mills instead of Rebecca De Mornay.

8. Demanded proof that Ron Kovic really was born on the fourth of July.

7. Had nearly finished compiling a 7,000-page Cruise genealogy when his publicist reminded him his real last name is "Mapother."

6. Was spotted at an after-Oscars party transcribing the guest list.

5. Named his baby after his great-great-grandmother—a pointy-nosed Indo-Japanese pickpocket banished from Israel.

4. Shouts "Show me the Mommy!" whenever he's handed a birth certificate.

3. Wrote a Mission Impossible script in which agent Ethan Hunt infiltrates a records vault in Utah.

2. Bought the film rights to the 1930 census.

1. Made Katie convert to Legacy Family Tree.

[Photo Credit: Kevin Ballard (license)]

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Columbus a Papal Bastard?

Some historians in Italy are claiming that Christopher Columbus came not from Genoa, but from a small village near Turin. They'll be holding a conference this weekend to present proof that he was a native of Cuccaro Monferrato. The explorer's descendants are invited to attend—not a few of whom will be eager to learn whether they also have a Pope in their family tree.

An Italian historian, Renato Biagioli, has gone further in claiming he was the illegitimate son of a Roman noblewoman and a pope, who sired him as a teenager before he entered the Church. According to Biagioli, Anna Colonna of the famous Roman family had intercourse with the 14-year-old Giovanbattista Cybo, later Pope Innocent VIII, in the Neapolitan castle known as the Maschio Angioino in 1446.

The resulting child was later adopted by Domenico Colombo in Genoa, Biagioli claims. [Link]

Breeds Bred to Battle Bunkers

Every History Channel fan knows that the Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed's Hill. According to AP writer Allen G. Breed, the misnomer still bugs his family.

Cousins have fired off letters to the editor when some hapless columnist makes the mistake of calling it the Battle of Bunker Hill. My youngest brother briefly attended Bunker Hill Community College, and whenever a piece of mail from the school arrived at our home, Dad would scribble "and Breed's" into the name.
In 1975, at the bicentennial battle re-enactment in Charlestown, I watched with a 10-year-old's mixture of pride and mortification as my father nudged his way up to the Bunker-laden reviewing stand, reached up and tugged on the sleeve of one of the town fathers. "The Breeds are here, too," he announced and, sure enough, the mayor told us to come on up. [Link]

Plagiarism Update

Well, the crisis is over. The content thief has taken down my posts, and issued a non-apologetic apology in which he claims to have been trying to "promote" my blog.

Too bad for the authors that their work only will be on their own sites and maybe not found by the masses.
If I need traffic from a cheesy scraper site, I'll give you a call. And no, I'm not giving a link to your website. I wouldn't want to "promote" your blog without your permission.

Update (8:45 PM): In one final, ironic twist, my original post on being ripped off has been ripped off by another scraper site. This one, at least, only grabbed a snippet, and gives me a link back.

A Plagiarist Among Us

Like Dick Eastman, I too have been ripped off. The culprit is stealing entire articles from me, Dick, Ancestry.com, Interment.net and others, and listing us as "Contributors" in the sidebar. (Listing us as "Victims" would have sent up too many red flags.)

The domain—TargetDates.com— is registered to this upstanding citizen:

Registrant:
George Ehrlekrona
45 prince of Wales Billings, MT 59105
,
United States

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: TARGETDATES.COM
Created on: 25-Aug-04
Expires on: 25-Aug-06
Last Updated on: 13-Nov-05

Administrative Contact:
Ehrlekrona, George filehouse@worldnet.att.net
45 prince of Wales Billings, MT 59105
,
United States
+1.4066612332
This person has shown legitimate interest in genealogy in the past, but somewhere along the line decided that becoming a parasite would prove far more rewarding.

You might have noticed a Creative Commons "Some Rights Reserved" logo over in the sidebar of The Genealogue's homepage. The linked license allows anyone to reprint original material from this blog for non-commercial purposes. All I ask is proper attribution and a link back to this website. I have received and granted several requests to reprint specific articles in society newsletters, and have granted similar requests from a couple of commercial outfits.

This situation is different, and leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth. Whatever meager revenue I earn from The Genealogue and my other websites goes to fund my own genealogical research. I have a special fondness for this blog, to which I have devoted hundreds of hours over the past year. Creating an enjoyable experience for my readers requires more than just skill at cutting and pasting text. I have, on more than one occasion, risen from my bed and rushed back to the computer to change the title of a post or fine-tune a Top Ten list. The Genealogue is never far from my mind. All in all, I would rather have my TV stolen than the content of this blog.

This is not a victimless crime. In the eyes of the search engines, The Genealogue may be devalued because of the duplicated content. You, my regular readers, are also victims. Many of you use this blog's RSS feed, but I'm seriously thinking about cutting it back to a snippet, or eliminating it altogether to discourage theft. I'm also hesitant about writing new content, knowing that it probably will be stolen within a few hours of posting.

In closing, let me offer two pieces of advice to the plagiarist:
  • Stealing from a poor genealogist like me is one thing, but stealing from the biggest genealogy company on the planet might actually get you sued.
  • You might not want to steal this post.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ensuring Deadness in 1889

On page 103 of Burroughs' Encyclopaedia of Astounding Facts and Useful Information, 1889 is a section called "How to Distinguish Death."

As many instances occur of parties being buried alive, they being to all appearance dead, the great importance of knowing how to distinguish real from imaginary death need not be explained.
In case there is great doubt, the body should not be allowed to be inclosed in the coffin, and under no circumstances should burial be allowed until there are unmistakable signs of decomposition.
Among the foolproof tests for "imaginary death" are these:
4. A coal of fire, a piece of hot iron, or the flame of a candle, applied to the skin, if life remains, will blister--if dead it will merely sear. 5. A bright steel needle introduced and allowed to remain for half an hour in living flesh will be still bright--if dead, it will be tarnished by oxydation. [Link, via Boing Boing]
Red-hot coals applied to the soles of the feet remain an excellent way to distinguish the truly dead from the soundly sleeping.

Monday, June 12, 2006

DNA Tests Taken To Task

On her blog today, Rebecca Skloot encourages the genealogical world to take a deep breath. As her December 2003 PopSci article argued, DNA tests for ethnic heritage are pretty good at proving what you are, but pretty lousy at proving what you're not.

These tests can be fun, and they have some definite use in medical research, but they simply can't tell you anything definitive about your heredity unless you're testing your DNA and comparing it to someone else's to find out if you're related. These tests most certainly can't tell you what you're not -- as in, you're not African-American. [Link]
Genealogy has lately been cast as the ugly step-sister of genetealogy—liable at any moment to be undermined by science. But Skloot cautions that one shouldn't lop off a limb of the family tree just because a DNA lab turns up nothing. According to family legend, Skloot's great-great-grandmother Elenor was black, but you wouldn't know it from her test results.
To date, no ancestry test can rule out part of a person's history simply because it doesn't detect it. When I told Noah Rosenberg that my DNA tests found no evidence of Elenor Hickenbottom, he chuckled. "Let's put it this way," he said. "I wouldn't discount your family story just yet." [Link]

Elvis Gets a Gettysburg Address

Barbara Lee Rowe, a fourth cousin of Elvis Presley, has opened a store called "Kin of Rock and Roll" in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (here's the website). Her aim is to commemorate Presley relatives who served in the rebel army, and to sell some "decorative plates, candle holders and T-Shirts."

In a black binder with shiny silver text saying "Elvis' Family," Rowe has pages and pages of enlisted Presley kin from the Civil War. But she's proven Elvis' connection to only some of them, like Darlin Presley of the 26th North Carolina, who fought in Pickett's Charge and was taken prisoner. He later died at Point Lookout Prison in Maryland.

Horton Presley, of the 55th North Carolina infantry also served at Gettysburg and is related to Elvis.

"Confederate Americans are Americans too," Rowe said. "He knew he had Confederate ancestors and he was proud of it. But he was also proud to be an American. He would have put it in the proper perspective." [Link]

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Loverly Theory

Olive Maude Turner, who died unmarried in 1992, may have been the last living descendant of the real-life "Eliza Doolittle."

Suffolk-based writer Ann Gander is researching the possibility that the playwright George Bernard Shaw based characters in his play Pygmalion - which later became the musical My Fair Lady - on real people.

According to her theory, the fictional relationship between Professor Henry Higgins and his protégé Eliza Doolittle was drawn from the real life pairing of Sir Frederic Leighton and Ada Pullan.

Just as Professor Higgins trains Eliza to behave like a lady, the real life Sir Frederic - who was a famous painter - also paid for the low-born Ada to be tutored. [Link]
In return, Ada agreed to pose nude for the artist—a plot twist that appears only in the NC-17 version of My Fair Lady.

CelebriDNA

A growing number of people are checking their DNA to see if they're related to famous historical figures. Tom Bopp of Kailua, Hawaii, found out he's related through his mother to Marie Antoinette.

The guillotined French queen's mitochondrial DNA had previously been extracted from a lock of hair clipped when she was a child, and the analysis published in a genetics journal.

Just who Mr. Bopp's and the monarch's shared ancestor might be is unknown. But that doesn't stop Ms. Bopp from telling her husband to "eat cake" when, for instance, he expresses premature concern about what's for dinner.
Of course, not everyone gets the results they're hoping for.
Of the 74 Lees who have had their DNA tested with Relative Genetics in hopes of finding a link to Robert E., for instance, none matched the signature of the known descendants of the general.

"One lady who sponsored a male cousin of hers asked if he did the test incorrectly," said M. Clint Lee, the project coordinator, who counts himself among the disappointed. "She didn't want to believe the results." [Link (reg. req.)]

The Names Have Not Been Changed to Protect the Innocent

James Pylant has written yet another interesting article over at GenealogyMagazine.com: "Vintage True-Crime Magazines: An Untapped Goldmine for Genealogists."

Antiquarian bookseller and publisher Patterson Smith, based in New Jersey, specializes in true-crime publications. "I had in mind only collectors of materials on famous cases," the bookseller tells GenealogyMagazine.com. But then he noticed a trend. "After getting a number of inquiries from people whose lives had been personally touched by crime — themselves, their ancestors or their friends — I realized that there was a large number of people seeking articles in detective magazines that they could not even identify by name and date, let alone find on the market." [Link]
Smith is building a database that now includes 20,000 cases featured in these magazines, with the names of victims and villains. Read the article to learn how to request a free lookup.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Whole Lotta Lottie

You have to admire genealogist Lottie Smalls' persistence.

A relative had taken on the role of family historian but had tired of Smalls’ persistent questions as she tried to track the family’s genealogy herself. Soon, no one came to the door when Smalls visited. So she hid in bushes across the street and sent her daughter to the door — and that worked. [Link]

Must've Been a Slow News Day in Minnesota

The release of The Da Vinci Code prompted a reporter from the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week to call local people bearing the surname "Sinclair"—a name prominent in the lackluster blockbuster novel and movie.

A quick call to several listed in the St. Paul and east metro telephone directory brought responses of total confusion.

"You mean our name is in the movie?" one woman asked.

Another woman said Sinclair was her late husband's family name and he never mentioned anything about the family.

Patrick Sinclair of Lake Elmo finds the family's recent notoriety both humorous and intriguing.
Sinclair owns The Dock Stop in Lake Elmo, selling and installing boatlifts and docks. The only times he walks on water, he noted, is in December, January and February.

That ability comes "from being a Minnesotan," he said, "not from being a Sinclair." [Link]

What Happens to Obituarists in Vegas, Stays in Vegas

If you're an obit writer, the good news is that the Eighth International Obituary Writers' Conference will be held June 15-17 in Las Vegas. The bad news: it's being held in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The conference is put on by The International Association of Obituarists, whose website is kind of a hoot. There's an archive of Great Obits, with titles like these:

Jimmy Rae
Pilot, Diver, Inventor - Performed Handstand Atop the Eiffel Tower

Louis Heckert
Ex-Mayor Dies From Run-In With Moose

Iris "Fluff" Bower
Nurse who did not Neglect to Apply her Lipstick Before
Tending the Wounded Troops on D-Day
They also sell for $15 an Obit Kit-"designed as a guide for gathering information to be used in the preparation of an obituary—either for you, a family member or friend." Here's a free tip: It's considered bad manners to fill in the date of death in advance.

Friday, June 09, 2006

It's My Party And I'll Lie Six Feet Under If I Want To

A birthday party was held Wednesday at Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts, for the city's first mayor, Leverett Saltonstall. He's been dead for 161 years.

The birthday party, it turns out, was a few days premature. Saltonstall's 223rd birthday is on Tuesday but was held yesterday to coincide with a trustees meeting. After the speech-making, guests were treated to Hoodsies and a cake on which "Happy Birthday, Leverett" was written in blue icing. [Link]

WorldVitalRecords.com Gets a Makeover

It doesn't look like much now, but this may be the next great genealogy website. Opening for business on July 3, WorldVitalRecords.com promises to become "the number two player in the genealogy industry." The unmentioned leader in the industry is, of course, me.

Provo Labs will revitalize an existing site, WorldVitalRecords.com, and build it to be a vast library of genealogical resources, including international genealogy databases, references to top genealogical resources, a blog planet, podcasts, videocasts, Webinars, expert advice, training, and user-generated content.

"People shouldn’t have to spend their life savings to find their ancestors. We’re making it easy and affordable for our users to access our content," said Whitney Ransom, Corporate Communications Director. [Link]
When they say "revitalize," they really mean it. Here's what the same website looked like last week (courtesy of Google Cache).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Royal Roots in Rural Maine

This ad for a homegrown museum appears regularly in a local small-town newspaper. The proprietor is reeeeally proud of his royal heritage.

Senator Checks the Family Closets

This afternoon on the Senate floor, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) stood before a large photograph of his family and shared this important fact: "I’m really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship." [Link]
The Senator must be alluding to the article recently published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly: "The Inhofes—America's Least Gay Family."

Update: Leave it to Sharon Elliott to prove the Senator wrong—and in record time, too. Makes me wonder what other family secrets ol' Jim's been hiding. Perhaps an uncle who died a "confirmed bachelor"?

They Smell a Pulitzer

The folks at 10News in San Diego are patting themselves on the back for blowing the whistle on the SSDI.

Obituary identity thieves [are] gleaning names of the dead from obituaries, and matching them up with Social Security numbers posted on the Internet, on privately run genealogy sites and on the site run by the Social Security Administration, the Master Death Index.
10News took concerns about identity theft to the Social Security Administration, asking them to consider taking the Master Death Index off its Web site. [Link]
Apparently they didn't read my previous post explaining why they are a bunch of sun-baked nitwits. Until I hear of a single case that proves me wrong, I'll continue to maintain that no one has ever used data from the SSDI to steal someone else's identity. It's dead people not listed in the index who are vulnerable to identity theft. Once they're listed, the credit companies know that their SSNs are not valid.

By the way, asking the SSA to take the index off their website was a bold move, but I doubt they'll comply. The SSDI isn't on their website.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Tooth Is Out There

In life, Harold Berg enjoyed crafting mosaics, including in each one a single tooth. So it's not surprising that, in death, he lies beneath a self-designed mosaic set into a stone bearing the inscription, "Of the Mosiac Persuasian."

"That started years and years ago, when we had our first child," [his widow] Pearl said. Their daughter "was sitting in the high chair eating … and I yelled down to him: 'Harold, the baby just lost a tooth.' "

"Bring it down and I'll put it in the mosaic," Harold yelled back.

The tooth-in-the-mosaic became a tradition.

"When people would see his mosaics, they had a good time finding the tooth," Pearl said.

On Berg's grave, in the center of the colorful starburst mosaic, is a silver cap and tooth, taken from his mouth. [Link]

Monday, June 05, 2006

Congress Considering Marriage Ban

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Today in Washington, conservatives in Congress continued their push to ban same-Soundex marriage.

"It just confuses the children," explained Nebraska Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, who is running for re-election this year. "And Lord knows the children in my state are confused enough, what with the hippity-hop music and all."

Same-Soundex marriage is legal in twelve states, with seven others considering legalization. The problem arises when a couple married in one state moves to another which bans the practice.

"We had a case where a feller named 'Strader' went off to Vermont with a woman named 'Streeter' and got married," Nelson said. "Now you just know their kids are going to ask someday, 'Why were my parents born with the same Soundex code?' I think I'd be too embarrassed to explain it to them."

Opponents of the proposed ban charge that Nelson and his Republican allies are just being "homophonophobic."

"Having similar-sounding surnames doesn't mean two people can't fall in love and raise a family together," responds Patricia England-Engelman, founder of Same-Soundex Americans for Marriage Equality. "It just means that their kids might be born with webbed toes."

Senator Nelson isn't buying it.

"Marriage should be between a man and a woman with different-sounding names. I'm just following what the Bible says. The first two people were named 'Adam' and 'Eve'—not 'Adam Martin' and 'Eve Morton.'

Other People's Children

Whoever sent in this postcard to PostSecret is going to leave some genealogist in the future very confused.

Daniel Handler's Seriously Unfortunate But Eventful Family History

Daniel Handler, author of the wickedly clever Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events, gives a wickedly clever interview as well.

What are the origins of the Handler name?
It was a German name, and my father's mother changed the spelling of it when they arrived in America. I've actually heard before that it refers to money-lending. I've never really traced my family roots — my mother's maiden name was Walpole, and her family were distant relations of Hugh Walpole, the British writer, and there's a coat of arms in that somewhere with some scarcely reliable story attached to it. And my father's family were pretty much wiped out in World War II. I guess you could do some intensive genealogical research but nobody in my family has done it, and I have a tendency to make things up so I wouldn't be the ideal researcher. [Link]

Sunday, June 04, 2006

'Pigden' Prestigious, 'Windsor' Not

The Surname Profiler from University College London (which I wrote about in January) proves that "Pigden" is more prominent than the princes' proper name.

The name Pigden, despite its prosaic origins, is also in the top 1%.

Roger Pigden, 57, owner of a car repair business in Newbury, Berkshire, said he was surprised at the status of his name.

Pigden, son of a British Airways pilot, said he was “reasonably well to do” but added:

“I don’t have any important connection . . . I don’t mix with any famous people.”

Windsor, the assumed name of the royal family — formerly Saxe-Coburg-Gotha — turns out to be outranked by about a third of the population. [Link]

Saturday, June 03, 2006

How About 'Damien' If It's a Boy?

Some expectant mothers are getting nervous about their due dates as 6/6/06 approaches. It may be irrational, but they'd rather not have their babies born the same day as the Antichrist.

The remake of the 70's original called "The Omen" is scaring the devil out of expecting mothers to the point that many have canceled their appointments to be induced next Tuesday. Dr Suzanne Roberts, an OBGYN who's delivered thousands of babies, is amazed by all the hype and its effect on mom's to be. “A lot of our patients are requesting that they be induced either before that or they get scheduled for induction after that and they are wanting to know, if they happen to come in, is there anything we can do to prevent them from delivering on June 6," said Dr. Roberts.

Hollywood's big-screen is fiction, but here in the birthing room, it's 100% reality. Nature's reality. "If the baby wants to come on June 6th, the baby will come on June 6th," laughed Roberts. [Link (Thanks, Dave!)]

The Kopets Cope With Fame

Larry and Linda Kopet of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, have taken photographs of 100,000 headstones in 903 cemeteries, and contributed them all to the Wisconsin GenWeb Archives. Now Larry can't show up at a cemetery without getting mobbed by autograph-seekers.

“Once, when my husband was out taking pictures, a little old man approached him and said ‘I know you! Wait until I get back into to town and tell people I met you!'” Linda said. “A lot of people come up to him.” [Link]

Friday, June 02, 2006

Extra! Extra! Read All About IG!

Internet Genealogy is offering a free extra issue that you can "read at your leisure," should you have any. (The preview issue is still available, as well.)

The issue is chock-full of good genealogy links—including eight sites for researching war graves, seven places to volunteer your transcribing services, and website recommendations from a gaggle of respected genealogists. Among the many well-written features I enjoyed is a piece by Colleen Fitzpatrick that expands upon one of the photo contests over at Forensic Genealogy.

This freebie is yet more evidence that Internet Genealogy is the up-and-comer in the genealogy mag market.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Transcribers Shouldn't Spell-Check

Connie Lenzen gives some good advice today for genealogists eager to "correct" their ancestors' mistakes: Leave 'em be.

The spelling and punctuation quirks give us a sense of the times when our ancestor was living and when Standard English was different than it is now.

Besides, we may make dreadful errors if we insert commas where they shouldn't be. The ancestor whose will says, "And I leave to my derely belovd children viz: anna mariah jane martha john hennery mary louizer and stephen " did not have nine children. He had five: Anna Mariah, Jane Martha, John Henery, Mary Louizer/Louisa, and Stephen. [Link]

Viva Il Duce!

The granddaughter of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini wants to make sure her infamous name lives on.

Alessandra Mussolini's two children have their father's surname of Floriani, but she said she and her husband had gone through a lengthy and expensive legal procedure to allow the children to also use the Mussolini name, The Telegraph reported.

Italy requires children take their father's name, but Mussolini has the backing of numerous politicians to reform the law, and most recently, a Supreme Court precedent. [Link]

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