Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ambitions Without Ambition

Sweet Knees is the blog of a woman who wants very much to make a career of genealogy. I think we were separated at birth.

[Jan. 13] If I could be a paid genealogist, I would. In a heart beat. (I'd do it for free! Shhh.)
[Jan. 29] God, why am I such a mess? A bundle of contradicting feelings.

Laziness, apathy, boredom, wanting to do something that I probably can't make money at (professional genealogist). Wanting to write a book, but not doing it.

What is wrong with me????

Why can't I DO things?
I too would be a paid genealogist if I could do it for free. I'd feel guilty charging for something so enjoyable—like I was robbing my clients of the enjoyment that comes of doing the work on one's own. I'd never make it as a gigolo.

Their Bid for a Little Bit of Britain

Members of the American Balcom and Balcombe families gathered in Buffalo, N. Y., in August of 1901 for a reunion, but also for a second purpose: to lay claim to the town of Balcombe, Sussex, England, valued at about $2,000,000. Representatives were appointed from each of three branches of the family that settled in the United States.

The idea to claim the old family seat in England occurred to Frank Balcom some twenty-five years ago, and ever since then he has, with the aid of his relatives, been trying to make the chain connecting the family with the town of Balcombe complete. There are still a few links missing, but it is expected that they will be supplied at the reunion.
The results of the deliberations of the representatives are to be published in book form and will constitute the basis of the claim to be filed with the British government. [Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 9, 1901]
I find it interesting that this notice of the reunion and this account of the gathering make no mention of a plot to seize land in England.

A Lot of People Have Ancestors

The Berkeley County Landmarks Commission in West Virginia searched for the grave of Civil War soldier Nimrod Wright for nearly a year, but now they're giving up. Descendant Dennis Wright had hoped to place Nimrod next to his widow, and is upset that the Commission gave up so quickly.

“There we are with Nimrod Evans Wright laying somewhere, rest his soul. His body probably never will be found,” Wright said.

[Chairman Don C.] Wood said the effort to exhume Nimrod was no longer the responsibility of the Landmarks Commission, adding Wright is free to continue the search for his relative on his own.

“A lot of people have ancestors,” Wood said. “He can go and get a permit.” [Link]

Certainly Possible It's a Cenotaph

Hal Belcher's efforts to record the history of Fernandina Beach, Florida, included an inventory of Bosque Bello Cemetery.

During his Bosque Bello inventory he found that two Union Civil War soldiers from Pennsylvania had died in Fernandina of natural causes, but there was no record their bodies had been returned home.

"So they put a Yankee monument up for them at Bosque Bello. Now they've got a monument whether they're there or not," he said. [Link]

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

This Gandhi Likes Meat

Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mohandas, says it's sometimes a drag being known as the Mahatma's descendant.

"I have been termed Gandhi-in-Jeans by the press. I recall an incident when I was joint candidate of the Samajwadi Party and Congress from Mumbai north-west constituency in 1997. The campaign was held sometime during Ramzan. There were lavish spreads of non-vegetarian food. Photographers would click pictures of me eating non-vegetarian food all the time. I wish they could understand I am a descendant of the Mahatma, not Mahatma myself. If being Mahatma was hereditary, there would be 54 living Mahatmas today!" says Tushar, recounting another episode. [Link]

How Could He Say No?

A man in China has reportedly married himself.

Liu Ye, 39, from Zhuhai city, married a life sized foam cut-out of himself wearing a woman's bridal dress.

"There are many reasons for marrying myself, but mainly to express my dissatisfaction with reality," he said.
Liu says he is not gay, but admits he's "maybe a bit narcissistic", reports New Express. [Link]

A Wedding That Defied Comprehension

From the Brooklyn Eagle of May 19, 1896:

Whitestone, L. I., May 19—A peculiar marriage was solemnized here yesterday. The contracting parties were Corporal John Notter of the engineer battalion of Willets Point, and Miss Louise Schlungle of College Point. The ceremony, which was in the German language, was performed by the Rev. Frederick Kroencke, pastor of the German Lutheran church. The groom did not understand German, and the bride, who is not conversant in the English language, would not consent to having an English ceremony. Several times the groom interrupted the ceremony to ask the clergyman what he was saying.

Digging for a Dimple

The remains of Col. Joseph Bridger have been exhumed from beneath a Virginia church and sent to the Smithsonian for analysis. And it's all because Jean Birdsong Tomes, president of the Bridger Family Association, wanted a look at the guy.

Tomes, a direct descendant who lives in North Carolina, initiated the move to exhume Bridger’s body less than a year ago. There was never a portrait of Bridger, or, if so, it was destroyed in a fire that burned his plantation. At an association meeting, she suggested exhuming the bones at St. Luke’s Church because she longed to see what her ancestor looked like, she said. A facial reconstruction is possible.

“I wonder if he had a dimple in his chin?” asked Merry Outlaw, another descendant, fingering her own cleft chin. [Link]

Monday, January 29, 2007

Genealogy in 3D

Want to see what it would be like to fly through a three-dimensional family tree? Of course you do.

Out of Africa (By Way of Yorkshire)

The seven British men who share an unusual surname and a West African Y chromosome were not named Marton, as the Sun reported, but Revis. John Revis should know.

John responded to a newspaper advert by Leicester University asking for people who have traced their ancestry to give DNA samples for a study on world populations.

He said: "The scientists took some of my DNA away for analysis and then one day they called me up and were very excited. They said I had a Y-chromosome that was extremely rare. I was flabbergasted. I had no idea that I was so culturally unique. But I am not going to start eating couscous and riding a camel." [Link]

A Carolina Conflation

North Carolina erected a marker in 1963 to recognize James Hunter—a militia leader who challenged corrupt tax collectors in the 1700s, and later became a state legislator. But amateur historian Warren Dixon has discovered that the militia leader and the legislator were two different men, both named James Hunter.

One led a band of backwoods men known as the Regulators into the 1771 Battle of Alamance - one of the first acts of rebellion against British rule in North Carolina.

The other was a member of the state Legislature from 1772-82 and a state auditor. He also fought at the 1781 Battle of Guilford Courthouse, according to the N.C. Genealogical Journal.

He is the one most likely to have been buried near the former marker.

"They ought to put a sign up for him," Dixon said. "He sounds more important than James Hunter the Regulator." [Link]

Late for His Own Wives' Weddings

From the Salt Lake Tribune of Sept. 28, 1895:

Kentucky Man the Uncle of His Own Child.
Vanceburg, Ky., Sept. 27.—William Sargent, a young man of this place, find himself in the peculiar position of being a bigamist, a brother-in-law to his own wife, and uncle to his child, which will, when big enough, call him father. And, to make his burden still harder to bear, Mrs. Kate Evans, an estimable widow of Vanceburg, is twice his mother-in-law.

A few years ago Sargent married Rose Evans and lived with her a few months. Then he went West to seek his fortune. After two years the report came that he was dead, and his wife discarded her weeds a year later and married again. Sargent suddenly turned up in his old home. There was no divorce, but an agreement was entered into by which husband No. 2 was to have possession of the wife, while Sargent wooed and won Mary, his wife's younger sister. A few weeks after the second marriage, the roving young man again left for parts unknown. A year ago the report came to Vanceburg that he had been killed in Cuba, and wife No. 2 married Charles Simpler, to whom she bore a son.

Thursday Mary and Rose, while sitting on the porch of the home they jointly occupied, were astonished to see Sargent coming up the road. Another agreement was proposed, but Sargent refused to entertain it, saying he was going to stay at home this time, and wanted his wife Mary, with the child. Simpler had other alternatives, but chose the simpler way out of the perplexing difficulty. He packed his baggage, kissed his wife good-bye and left for Ohio.

Sargent is now in full possession of the house, but does not seem to know just where he is at, and it will take considerable calculating of genealogical and domestic problems to set him exactly right. [Link]

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Cigar-Smoking Ghost of Cape Cod

Some current residents of Sagamore Cemetery in Bourne, Mass., were transplanted from other graveyards in 1909 when the Cape Cod Canal was built. Some remains ended up in the wrong graves, under the wrong headstones. Caretaker Donald Ellis thinks that the cemetery is haunted by the troubled spirit of Isaac Keith, late owner of the company that built new coffins for the transplanted bodies. As evidence, he reports "an incredibly distinct aroma of cigar smoke."

“Isaac Keith was a big cigar smoker, and he died in 1900,” Ellis says simply.

Or the supernatural aroma could be from the ghost of Emory Ellis, who held off the folks with shovels intent on disinterring the dead in Bournedale so long ago.

Emory Ellis reportedly smoked cigars too and was not too happy – until some money passed hands – with the dead moving to Sagamore.

“That’s another story,” Ellis says. [Link]

Harry McFry Investigates

The first chapters of Harry McFry Investigates: The Case of the Missing Family are now online. This is sure to become a blog noir classic.

“OK, ma’am – I’m listening. What exactly is the problem?” There was another pause, before she went on “Someone’s stolen my family, and I don’t know what to do.” Her voice was soft as a silk scarf – but Harry knew that it was the kind of scarf that could be pulled around your neck, tied tight and, before you knew it you were done for. He wanted to meet this woman – a dame with a silky, soft voice that hid a threat wasn’t that common in Birkenhead, and he felt a curious need to see her.

Angling for the Cherokee Vote?

I'd like to be able to claim Barack Obama as a cousin, but I can't. His mother's maiden name was Dunham, but she inherited it from a guy named Jonathan Singletary alias Dunham who DNA tests show wasn't related to my line. According to family friend Julia Suryakusuma, Mama Obama's complexion belied her native roots.

“You know Ann was really, really white,” smiled Suryakusuma, looking through the album, “even though she told me she had some Cherokee blood in her. I think she just loved people of a different skin colour, brown people.”

Dunham was from Wichita, Kansas, but her parents moved to Hawaii in search of a better life. According to Obama, a distant ancestor was a “full-blooded Cherokee”. [Link]
No evidence was found by William Addams Reitwiesner of Cherokee heritage in Obama's pedigree.

His Buddy Must Have Been a Yankee

Robert E. Lee of Cordele, Georgia, is honored to have the name of a general celebrating his 200th birthday this month.

But it didn't carry much honor when he was Pfc. Lee fighting in Germany with the 95th Infantry Division during World War II.

"I got a lot of kidding about it," he said. "'The famous General Robert E. Lee,' they would say."

His buddies' kidding he could take; getting shot was different.

"One [of] my buddies shot me accidentally while we were pulling back from the front for a rest," he said. [Link]

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mona Lisa Smile Runs in the Family

Giuseppe Pallanti recently announced that he had found the resting place of Mona Lisa model Lisa Gherardini. Now a genealogist says he's found some of her living descendants.

"It's a matter of great emotion and great pride to learn that we are descended from La Gioconda," said Natalia Strozzi, 30, an actress. The subject of Leonardo's most famous painting is known as "La Gioconda" in Italy. "We had a vague knowledge of this family story, but the fact that it's been documented proves that it is true, which makes us take it more seriously." And what about the celebrated smile? "Yes," she went on, "once in a while a smile like that flits across our father's face, and that's the most convincing proof there is." [Link]
Natalia and her father stand on the left in this photo. A Tuscan engineer has offered to crawl around under the Florence convent to find what remains of Lisa. Only then can a side-by-side comparison of the smiles be made.

She's Her Son's Sister

When Paul and Leanne needed a surrogate mother, Leanne's own mother, Antoinette, stepped in to help. The baby that resulted—a boy named Kye—is legally his mother's brother.

Victorian law demands the birth mother and her partner are registered as parents.

Antoinette's husband, David – Leanne's father – is registered as Kye's father and Leanne is legally considered Kye's sister. His biological father, Paul, does not rate a mention.

Leanne and Paul would need to adopt their own son to have his birth certificate amended – but even this is not allowed under Victorian law. [Link]

Still Beating That Dead Horse

Remember that weird horse picture I blogged about here, here, here, and here? Two articles appeared today—one in Sheboygan, the other in Fort Worth, Texas—claiming that the mystery has been solved.

Arthur Perry of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, believes that the man on the horse is Frank L. Roenitz of the C.T. Roenitz Leather Company.

"Maybe he wanted to lay a claim to that animal for the hide," Perry said.

A picture of Frank Roenitz, found in the Illustrated Atlas of Sheboygan County published in 1902, shows a man who could possibly be the mysterious man in the picture.

Both men seem to have dark and deep-set eyes, prominent noses and bushy mustaches. [Link]
Jim Hodges of Glen Rose, Texas, though, has a different theory.
"That horse isn't dead," said Hodges, a 70-year-old horseman. "Jesse Beery is the man in the photo, and he would lay a horse down like that and usually he would have an accomplice walk around the horse beating on a pan or something to show that the horse wouldn't move."

Hodges said that it was 50 years ago, or more, when he became familiar with Beery. "He used to advertise in all the old horse magazines and farm magazines. You could buy some of his training pamphlets. I bought them and there were a number of photos just like the one in the paper. He was doing the same thing, always in a top hat and black suit."

Hodges concluded, "That's him, I'm sure of it." [Link]

The Downside of Digitization?

I learned through Irish Roots Cafe of a provocative new article by Emily Heinlen called "Genealogy and the economic drain on Ireland: Unintended consequences."

Heinlen argues that digitizing genealogical records has had the negative effect of discouraging people from traveling to Ireland and spending money. As more records have gone online, she says, fewer genealogy tourists have made the trip. The number of visits actually increased from 1999 to 2000, but dropped by almost a quarter in 2001, and remained stagnant through 2004.

I'm curious why she fails to address the obvious explanation for a precipitous drop in tourism in 2001. Given the aftereffects of 9/11, I'm not sure that the correlation between digitization and lack of tourists is as strong as Heinlen needs it to be. (You can check out Irish visit stats for all classes of tourist here.)

That being said, some of Heinlen's recommendations to raise more genealogy tourism revenue are worth a read. And listen to the January 30 Irish Roots Cafe Podcast for an interview with the author.

Update: Megan says She's Got It Backwards on her Roots Television blog.

[Photo source: Aer Lingus A330 on approach by Rob Colonna]

Friday, January 26, 2007

Copy Right or Risk Blindness

Paul sends along this reminder that, before capturing an image of Aunt Millie for the family album, one should first tape her eyes shut.

It's the standard office prank to photocopy some part of the anatomy.

But the experience of Luke Wilson, five, has been anything but light-hearted for his family. Complaining of sore eyes, he told his parents his face had been photocopied at school. A doctor has diagnosed allergic conjunctivitis caused by strong light, and his mother fears his eyes could be damaged. [Link]
[Photo credit: Copy by late night movie]

I Glad I'm Not on His List

Emma Faust Tillman, the world's newest oldest person, is unmoved by her accomplishment. But her great-nephew John B. Stewart has been keeping score on her behalf.

Stewart, a self-described family historian, ... had a copy of a page from the Guinness World Records that he has been saving since August.

Tillman was listed as the sixth oldest person in the world then, but Stewart has marked tiny X's in the margin as those above her passed away. [Link]
There's no sense waiting till the last minute, so I've started my own list of people older than me:
Emma Faust Tillman
Gerald Ford
Art Buchwald
Ringo Starr
Saddam Hussein
My kindergarten teacher
The short guy on Barney Miller

Don't Hold It In

Here's another reason to subscribe to the recently relaunched Ancestry Magazine.

In the current issue of "Ancestry," is one of the funniest tombstone epitaphs seen to date, noted on a tombstone in a cemetery near Ingersoll, Ontario: "Wherever you be, Let your wind to free. I held it in, T'was the death of me." [Link]

What's the Truth About Booth?

Did John Wilkes Booth escape his pursuers, flee to Colorado, and end up buried in the old Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville? Probably not, but someone was buried there under the name "John Wilkes Booth."

The Leadville JWB, according to accounts, claimed that he was a nephew of the real one. Turns out that the real JWB didn't have any nephews; his sister didn't dare name her children after him (nor did anybody else in the country) and it does seem bizarre that anyone at the time would have even wanted to claim kin with Lincoln's assassin.

What makes it even spookier is that, according to a Leadville historian I spoke with, not one of the "facts" in the Leadville JWB's newspaper obituary turned out to be true. His date of birth, his biography - these were all made up, but by whom? To this day, the story goes that the real Booth descendants won't let their Leadville "relative" be exhumed and examined for DNA evidence, which might answer some questions. [Link]
It's actually not hard to find parents willing to name their kids after an assassin. These people did it. According to this page, Lincoln himself named a child after one.

Note also that JWB did have nephews, including one who came to a tragic end. In fact, this same nephew in 1903 identified a man in Oklahoma—"David E. George"—as his uncle, the escaped assassin.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Corset, But No Corpse

From The Monessen (Pa.) Daily Independent of May 17, 1948:

READING, Pa. (UP)—Genealogists delving into the history of Reading and Berks County, Pa., for their bicentennial anniversary this year, have been puzzling over a curious epitaph recorded here.

The inscription reads: "Here lies the clothing of the living Anne B——," and has researchers bewildered to explain why anyone would want to bury the clothes of a living person.

With an eye to current styles in women's fashions, one genealogist hazarded the unscientific opinion that Annie B's husband may have taken the drastic step to express his displeasure with 18th century female dress.

Any More Last Bequests?

Here are a few more selections from Virgil M. Harris's 1911 Ancient, Curious, and Famous Wills—a book I first ripped off in July.

A British sailor requested his executors to pay to his wife one shilling, wherewith to buy hazelnuts, as she had always preferred cracking nuts to mending his stockings. [p. 80]

John Parker, a bookseller living in Old Bond Street, served his wife in the following manner, leaving her no more than fifty pounds, and in the following words: "To one Elizabeth Parker, whom through fondness I made my wife, without regard to family, fame, or fortune, and who in return has not spared most unjustly to accuse me of every crime regarding human nature, except highway robbery, I bequeath the sum of fifty pounds." [p. 86]

A certain wealthy man left this provision in his will: "Should my daughter marry and be afflicted with children, the trustees are to pay out of said legacy, Ten Thousand Dollars on the birth of the first child, to the ______ Hospital; Twenty Thousand Dollars, on the second; Thirty Thousand Dollars, on the third; and an additional Ten Thousand Dollars on the birth of every fresh child, till the One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars is exhausted. Should any portion of this sum be left at the end of twenty years, the balance is to be paid to her to use as she thinks fit." [p. 88]

A certain Glasgow doctor died some ten years ago, and left his whole estate to his sisters. In his will appeared this unusual clause: "To my wife, as recompense for deserting me and leaving me in peace, I expect the said sister, Elizabeth, to make her a gift of ten shillings sterling, to buy her a pocket handkerchief to weep after my decease." [p. 88]

That's Reserved for the Devil

Should you happen to visit Union Cemetery in Guthrie Center, Iowa, be sure not to sit in the cement chair located between the Miller and Peterson gravestones. It's the Devil's Chair, according to Chad Lewis, co-author of The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations.

"A young man told us that if you are brave enough to sit in the chair you will experience a case of bad luck. When asked whether or not he had ever sat in the chair the man replied that even though he didn't believe in such things he wasn't going to tempt fate," Lewis added. [Link]

His Roots Are in the Suburbs

Actor Alan Davies would have preferred to find out that his great-grandfather was a master cabinet maker. On an episode of "You Don't Know You're Born," he discovers the sad truth.

Alan Davies harbours an instinctive antipathy for suburbia - so imagine his shock when he finds out his great grandfather helped build it.

"The suburban life I grew up in filled me with horror and dread," the Jonathan Creek star confesses when he discovers his maternal grandfather, Robert Peachey, made his fortune by erecting swathes of 1930s suburban semis that criss-cross north-east London. [Link]

A Clever Way to Make Money

Peter Kershaw is making a film about the Cragg Vale Coiners of West Yorkshire, and is hoping that some of their descendants will come forward to help.

Mr Kershaw said: "We want people who descend from the coiners or who have just grown up with the story."
The Coiners were a band of counterfeiters based in Cragg Vale.

In the late 18th century they clipped the edges of gold coins and milled them again, melting them down to produce fakes to supplement their small weaving incomes. [Link]

Could There Be a Bob Law Blog?

I know I shouldn't, but I can't help myself. I'm sure that Mr. Law is a scintillating speaker.

A series of genealogy workshops taught by Bob Law is available through Ridgefield Continuing Education this winter. [Link]
Fellow fans of Arrested Development will understand why I couldn't resist.

It Wasn't a Pauling, It Was a Pawling

Brian Pauling found out in eighth grade that someone at his school shared his name. He'd asked his mother to drop off some food for him, and five minutes later heard his name called over the P.A. system.

"They asked me if I was Brian Pauling and I said yes, and they gave me two big bags of candy," said Pauling. "I brought it back to my team and we started eating all of it. I got recalled down to the office and they said, You're not Bryan Pawling.'"

It wasn't until his freshman year that Pauling met the other Bryan Pawling and told him about the candy. [Link]
According to Brian's uncle, the Paulings and the Pawlings are two branches of the same family that split over their differing views on slavery. After this candy incident, it's unlikely that the branches will ever reconcile.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Bard Burns at Last

On Wednesday, the birth and marriage certificates of poet Robert Burns became the last available General Register Office for Scotland records to be digitized and placed online at ScotlandsPeople.

George Lyon, Deputy Public Services Minister, said the online publication of Burns's documents spearheaded a project which allowed people worldwide to capitalise on the growing interest in genealogical research and trace their Scots ancestry.

Mr Lyon said: "Scotland's old parochial records go back more than 450 years and include our national bard's birth and marriage certificates. These are the last set of registration documents to go online, marking the end of a £3m project to improve access to Scotland's records for genealogists worldwide." [Link]

A Warm and Fuzzy Myth

The New York Times yesterday covered the debunking of the quilt code myth—the legend that patterns stitched into quilts guided escaping slaves to freedom in the North. The myth stems from a story told by quiltmaker (and able saleswoman) Ozella McDaniel Williams to Jacqueline Tobin and Raymond Dobard, who repeated it in a 1999 book.

According to “Hidden in Plain View,” slaves created quilts with codes to advise those fleeing captivity. What looked to the slave master like an abstract panel on a quilt being “aired out” on a porch in fact represented a reminder, say, to be sure to follow a zigzag path to avoid being tracked when escaping. In Ms. Williams’s account, there was a sequence of 10 panels to guide an escaping slave, beginning with a “monkey wrench” pattern meaning to gather up tools and supplies and concluding with a star, a reminder to head north. [Link]
The story is no more substantiated than the lawn jockey legend I wrote about last September. Today at Boston 1775, J. L. Bell provides a plausible explanation of why these myths take hold so quickly and firmly. Here he quotes Roberta Gold:
It seems to me that the spread of the quilt myth is part of a larger popular “domestication” of African American past, in which the complex, bleak and tragic dimensions of black history are softened and smoothed into something that isn’t too disturbing to teach to kindergartners. . . . The injustice is not erased, exactly, but it’s air-brushed with a disproportionate amount of heartwarming, feel-good interpretation. In the case of “code quilts,” it’s literally made into something warm and fuzzy. [Link]

The Newest Oldest People

Just days after the death of the world's oldest woman, the world's oldest man has died. Emiliano Mercado del Toro of Puerto Rico was 115, and was a lifelong bachelor who claimed to have had three girlfriends (presumably not, like Hugh Hefner, all at the same time). He credited his longevity to eating boiled corn, cod and milk, a diet which apparently failed him in the end.

This makes Tomoji Tanabe of Japan the world's oldest man, and Emma Faust Tillman of Connecticut the world's oldest person. Emma (according to Wikipedia) was the child of former slaves, and once worked as a servant for Katharine Hepburn's family. She was one of 23 children, five of whom lived past 100. Imagine if they'd eaten cod every day.

Mexican Mennonite Marriage Muddle

Hundreds of Mennonites now living in Canada may lose their Canadian citizenship because their ancestors married in Mexico. Some 7,000 of the church members moved to Mexico and Paraguay in the 1920s, and many have returned to Canada in the years since.

Many of them married while living in Mexico, and that's what is causing the problem now. They were married by the church, and Mexico doesn't recognize church marriages as being legal.

That means their children were born out of wedlock, and they — along with their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren — are not eligible to be Canadian citizens. [Link]

Low Mileage, But Warranty Has Expired

A 1957 Plymouth Belvedere buried under the lawn at the Tulsa County Courthouse nearly fifty years ago will be dug up June 15 as part of Oklahoma's centennial celebration. But will it run?

Sharon King Davis, who has chaired Tulsa's centennial efforts, is managing the efforts of a committee of Tulsans interested in the old car and their ranks grow daily. Davis, looking at photos of the 1957 planners, was surprised to see the face of her grandfather, the late Sam Avey. Avey was a Tulsa promoter, banker and civic leader.
There was a contest before it was buried. Tulsans were asked to estimate the population of Tulsa as of June 1. The estimate closest to the population posted by the U.S. Census Bureau on June 1, 2007, wins the Plymouth. If the winner is dead, the car goes to heirs. If a winner can't be located, it goes to the Tulsa Historical Society. [Link]

The World's Oldest Baby?

The Huge Entity reports that the world's "oldest baby" was 17 months, 11 days in the making.

The result of the longest recorded human gestation, Baby August was the oldest newborn ever. [Link]
The mother was Anissa August, M. D., according to this page.
One of the residents to deliver a healthy baby boy last year was Dr. August. Her pregnancy is also of note because it was the longest recorded human gestation on record. Dr. August was pregnant for a staggering 17 months 11 days.
Sadly, the other pages on the site reveal that this was a joke.

I did find a 1945 Time article about a reported 375 day pregnancy. Some mothers need to learn when to let go.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Paul's Back Pages

Paul Etherington is an old acquaintance (in Internet years), and was to blame for the Censuswhacking craze of 2005 (he, in turn, blames it all on Bob Dylan). On his website you'll find links to other wonderful things, like a RootsChat thread on Favourite Census Mistranscriptions (one contributor's great-great-grandfather was described in 1901 as a "Surveyor....... of cats meat," but turned out to be just a purveyor of the stuff), and the genealogy-laden summer schedule of UKTV (I do hope an American channel picks up "Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?").

Then there's Capwatch, where Paul charts his ancestors' tastes in headgear, and where visitors vie for the honor of contributing a Capwatch Guest Cap ("Top prices paid for unwanted cap pics!"). It's much like Baywatch, except with caps instead of red swimsuits.

And if you're planning a trip to Britain, be sure to consider Club 18-37. Your dissatisfaction is guaranteed!

Did They Come From the British Moors?

Seven white British men who share the same unusual surname have been found to share a Y chromosome usually found in West Africa.

The African Y chromosome — the packet of genetic material passed down through the male line — probably originated from a man from Senegal or Guinea-Bissau who lived in Yorkshire in the early 18th century and was inherited by his male descendants.

It is even possible that the line goes back farther still, to Roman soldiers from North Africa posted to Hadrian’s Wall 1,800 years ago. This “division of Moors”, which included the earliest known Africans in Britain, included recruits from what is now Morocco. [Link]
Update: This is from Wednesday's Sun Online:
University of Leicester boffins refused to reveal the name — but the Sun found it to be ‘Marton’.

A genealogist told us: “We know it derives from a village in Yorkshire and there were 122 people with that name. This fits only the name Marton.” [Link]

Gestate, Then Rotate

Ever heard the phrase, "I'm gonna hit you so hard your kids will be born dizzy"? A patent issued in 1965 for an Apparatus for Facilitating the Birth of a Child by Centrifugal Force made dizzy infants a real possibility. George and Charlotte Blonsky thought that their spinning invention would be welcomed by "civilized" women who lacked the necessary muscle development to speed childbirth along.

It is the primary purpose of the present invention to provide an apparatus which will assist the under-equipped woman by creating a gentle, evenly distributed, properly directed, precision-controlled force, that acts in unison with and supplements her own efforts.
[Hat tip: 2Spare, via Neatorama]

Hail to the Chief Family Historian

Congratulations to Megan Smolenyak2 for being named's Chief Family Historian. I regard Megan as my genealogical patron saint, and have no doubt that she will continue to speak up for the little guy while hobnobbing with the powers-that-be in Provo.

Heck, she's even familiar with classic literature.

I don't know how many of you all remember "Horton Hears a Who!" (which is being made into a movie incidentally). Remember all the whos of Whoville? "We are here. We are here! WE ARE HERE!"

Well, that's the way I feel about genealogy. There are millions of us -- all pursuing one of the most popular hobbies on the planet -- but you hear relatively little about us. In my new role as's CFH, I'm hoping to be have the opportunity to let folks know that WE ARE HERE! Wish me luck! [Link]

He Got the 'ell' Out of the Army

81-year-old James Pickell of Loudon County, Tennessee, got his last name in World War II.

His farmer father was Robert Pickel, with one "l." When James was born, he says, the doctors put "le" on his birth certificate, so he arrived as James Pickle, the son of Robert Pickel. If that is clear.

"When I came out of the Army, they had my name spelled 'ell' on my discharge. So, I stuck with that." [Link]

Kids Took Three Years Off Her Life

Some obituaries are incorrect through ignorance or accident. Others are intentionally incorrect, like that of dance-studio owner Joan Harris.

Her obituary says she was 73, but [her son] Sean said that’s not entirely correct. The fudging on the obituary is par for Joan’s course.

“That’s not her true birthday,” Sean said of the printed April 14, 1933. “The date is right, but the year is off by three because Mom would have wanted it that way.” [Link]

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Lesson in Phonetic Etiquette

Representatives Nicole LeFavour, James Ruchti, and John Vander Woude sit side-by-side-by-side in the Idaho Legislature, and all have had their surnames repeatedly mispronounced. But it was House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet who finally took a stand.

Tired of having her name butchered by colleagues, she interrupted a House Revenue and Taxation Committee meeting Monday to offer a little phonetic direction on the northern Swiss surname she took when she married her husband, Jim.

It's not jacket, juh-quet, jay-quet or jack-kay — though lawmakers have used all of those during her seven terms.

"A person came up to me and said, 'You've got to fix this.' He thought it was a distraction that didn't reflect well on the entire body," Jaquet said. "Think of it like this: There was a guy named 'Jay,' and he 'quit' his job." [Link]
"Rep. Jaquet, I'll try to remember that," Rep. Dennis Lake said, pronouncing it "jay-quet."

Do Two Halves Make a Whole?

A query at GenForum asks whether the children of half siblings may be called half cousins. (They may.) A more interesting question arises if two individuals are half cousins through both their fathers and mothers.

Let's say Bill and Bob are half brothers (they share a father, but not a mother), and that Sarah and Sue are half sisters (they share a mother, but not a father). If Bill marries Sarah and has a son Mike, and Bob marries Sue and has a son Ike, then Mike and Ike have a grandfather and a grandmother in common, thus meeting the weak definition of "full first cousins." (A strong definition of the term would require that their shared grandparents at least had dated.)

A monograph I found on Genetic and Quantitative Aspects of Genealogy confirms that single (full) first cousins and double half first cousins share the same "coefficient of relationship"—i.e. are genetically equivalent. Scroll to the bottom of the linked page for the freakiest family of all. Figure 58 explains how two individuals can have no grandparents in common, but share all eight great-grandparents. (Warning: This requires considerable wife-swapping.)

Birthday Greetings From the Grave

Researchers at Microsoft are working on an "immortal computing" project, which would "let people store digital information in physical artifacts and other forms to be preserved and revealed to future generations, and maybe even to future civilizations."

One scenario the researchers envision: People could store messages to descendants, information about their lives or interactive holograms of themselves for access by visitors at their tombstones or urns.

And here's where the notion of immortality really kicks in: The researchers say the artifacts could be symbolic representations of people, reflecting elements of their personalities. The systems might be set up to take action -- e-mailing birthday greetings to people identified as grandchildren, for example. [Link]
How long will it work before Grandma gets the Blue Screen of Death?

Index Left Out

Archivists looking for ways to preserve digital art have gone to the depths of the earth looking for answers.

[T]he Long Now Foundation has visited the Mormon Church's genealogical archive kept buried in a vault in Utah's Cottonwood Canyon. The church is building an archive of all the world's genealogical data on microfiche in a vault designed to last at least 1,000 years. Still, the data in the vault doesn't have an internal index, according to those at the Long Now Foundation who visited the site. "The index of where things are is in an Oracle database outside the vault. And without an index for the vault, (the data) is useless," one executive said. [Link]
Useless? Lock me in there with a microfilm reader and a lifetime supply of doughnuts and I'll die a happy man.

Pencil Artist Needs Tracing

Swiss-born Ferdinand Brader made his living as an itinerant artist, drawing pictures of Pennsylvania and Ohio farms in the 1880s and '90s in exchange for room and board. One of his drawings sold for $62,250 at auction, which would buy a considerable amount of room and board.

Brader’s meticulous graphite pencil representations of family farms in this area are both realistic and idealistic.

Men, women and children plow fields on horseback. Others tend to crops of vegetables and bales of hay. Brader also was known to draw himself (a la Alfred Hitchcock later) into his pictures, talking to the farm owner, sitting under a tree, or wherever else he might fit in. [Link]
I suppose I should mention the second part of the story, in case there are any genealogists reading this. No one knows what became of Brader. The article says that he was born in 1833 in Switzerland, and "spent at least some time at the former Portage County Infirmary, where he suffered from mental or physical problems, or both." No death record or gravestone has been found. Anyone care to take up the search?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Retirement Has Much in Store for Him

Dick Rudisill's great-grandfather ran a small general store in North Carolina. Now that he's retired, Rudisill is turning his Syracuse, N. Y., home into a small general store.

Dick calls his hobby "close to addictive." The Rudisills' home is almost completely decorated with "store items." Fortunately, Cindy's a fan of the old-time things, also.

Above the fireplace mantle, for instance, is not a peaceable landscape or an ancestor portrait, but a piece designed to steal your heart: a large metal sign for None Such mincemeat, made in Syracuse until recently by Merrell-Soule and later Borden. [Link]

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Lunch Order

Schelly at Tracing the Tribe turned up an interesting piece on the menu at the Ellis Island restaurant in 1894. They didn't come for freedom of speech or the right to vote; they came for the bologna.

A Genealogist's Special Jeans

Like me, Steve Danko was tagged by Jasia. His fifth fact about himself has us all intrigued.

5. My blue jeans were on display at the Smithsonian Institution (The National Museum of American History) in Washington, DC from 1985-2006. They are now in storage while the museum undergoes renovation.
I visited the NMAH a couple of times in that period, and don't remember seeing Steve's jeans. Perhaps I would remember if they had been worn by a bearded woman breastfeeding.

He Has a Little Tyme on His Hands

Justin Tyme of Indiana County, Pennsylvania, had a daughter recently. Her name is Summer Tyme.

Tyme, 52, was well aware his name was a play on words before his daughter's birth - he legally changed his name when he turned 21 as a "rite of passage," he told the Indiana Gazette.

"I was at a party in Florida and someone said, 'Ah, you're just in time,' and it stuck," Tyme said. He did not say what his birth name was. [Link]

The Unlisted Are Unlucky

Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara was the illegitimate son of an aristocratic woman, and had no children and few friends.

So when it came to writing out his will almost 20 years ago, he asked a Portuguese notary for a copy of the Lisbon phone book and plucked out names at random.

Now, with the unhappy man having drunk himself into the grave, his randomly chosen heirs are receiving lawyers' letters telling them they can claim a share of his fortune. [Link]

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Those Jokes Are So Old

A stash of jokes gathered by 19th-century touring clown Thomas Lawrence has been discovered, and will be performed next week by Manchester University students.

The books contains such gems as: "What's the difference between a rowing boat and Joan of Arc? One is made of wood and the other is Maid of Orleans."

Academic Ann Featherstone came across the volumes when she helped a friend's family research. [Link]

Get a Wife for the Weekend

"Enjoyment marriages" are regaining popularity in Iraq. The practice of arranging temporary unions has a long history among Shia Muslims, but was banned by Sunni Saddam.

According to Shiite religious law, a mutaa relationship can last for a few minutes or several years. A man can have an unlimited number of mutaa wives and a permanent wife at the same time. A woman can have only one husband at a time, permanent or temporary. No written contract or official ceremony is required in a mutaa. When the time limit ends, the man and woman go their separate ways with none of the messiness of a regular divorce.

Although the temporary arrangements are becoming more common, they are still controversial, and people usually conduct them secretly. [Link]

Polish Plaid

Poles living in Scotland now have their own tartan, which incorporates the red and white of the Polish flag.

"I want to buy a kilt because I am living in Scotland," Sebastian Flasza, owner of Rock and Roll Tattoo and Piercing in Edinburgh, told The Times of London. "But I am a Polish Scot. I feel this represents me. Oh, aye."

Poland and Scotland have a long common history. Bonnie Prince Charlie, the ill-fated Stuart heir, was half-Polish, and there is also a myth in Poland that Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity movement, is descended from Sir William Wallace, the Scottish nationalist executed by the English in 1305. [Link]

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

EOGN has a post today about Hibberts Gore, Maine, whose population in 2000 consisted of one person: Karen Keller. I wish I'd had the idea to blog about that. Oh yeah, I did.

The First Last Word

Humorist Art Buchwald stars in the first episode of "The Last Word." Too bad he didn't live to see it.

"Hi, I'm Art Buchwald and I just died," the late columnist says on the video posted this morning on, just minutes after his death was made public. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer then goes on to discuss his life with reporter Tim Weiner, in an unusual embargoed interview conducted last July.

The interview is the first in a series of obituary chats the paper's Web site is planning to run, titled "The Last Word."
"It occurred to me that we ought to revive the tradition here of interviewing people whose deaths are likely to be Page One news for their obituaries," Weiner said. "And do it in high definition video." [Link]

Mona Lisa Found Dead in Florence

An Italian researcher says that he has discovered Mona Lisa's resting place in Florence.

Leonardo scholar Giuseppe Pallanti said documents indicate she was buried in the city's former Convent of St. Orsula in the heart of the city, ANSA said Thursday.

"I've pored through thousands of archive pages and I'm convinced the remains of Leonardo's model Lisa Gherardini was buried there," Pallanti said. [Link]
Pallanti produced evidence in 2004 that Leonardo's father knew Lisa's husband, and suggested that the painting had been commissioned by Ser Piero da Vinci himself because Leonardo "was hopelessly vague when it came to money matters."

So That's Where We Put It

Archivist Greg Jarrell was researching a Revolutionary War-era ancestor of a patron at the Georgia Archives when he found something he didn't expect: Georgia’s official copy of the Declaration of Independence.

“It was an oh-my-God moment — just awe struck, just thinking of what this document went through,” said Jarrell, 44, who also is a portrait artist.
Officials have determined the document is authentic. It will remain in a vault at the state archives until Georgia Day on Feb. 12, when it will be displayed along with the state’s Charter at the state capitol.

“It is absolutely stunning,” Jarrell said. “That is just the most amazing thing we have is this document. It is irreplaceable. It is a treasure. It is priceless.” [Link]

Friday, January 19, 2007

An Old, Old Maid

The world's oldest woman, Julie Winnifred Bertrand, has died in Montreal at 115—just a month after inheriting the title from Elizabeth Bolden of Tennessee. She never married, perhaps because she could never find the right cabinet minister.

She had her suitors, [her niece Elaine] Sauciere said, adding it was difficult to say how close she may have been to Louis St. Laurent, a young lawyer who went on to become prime minister.

"She was friends with his sister and I think she was sweet on him, but how serious it was, I don't know," Sauciere told the Gazette. [Link]

Her Site Will Survive Her

Shari Milks of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, has spent years creating an excellent website on Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Genealogy. To keep the site from expiring when she does, she's made arrangements with the Lester Public Library in Two Rivers.

"(Milks has) spent literally thousands of hours entering genealogical data into the site, and she doesn't want it to disappear once she's gone," said Chris Hamburg, acting library director.

Milks asked the library to inherit the Web site because the library has worked closely with her in the past to make the material available, Hamburg said.
The library will inherit Milks' computer, her database and her Web domain. It will be responsible for paying the annual and monthly fees to the company that hosts her Web site. The library also could add to her Web site, Hamburg said. [Link]

King Outranks General

Today is the 200th anniversary of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's birth. His birthday is celebrated as a state holiday in Georgia—either two months early or ten months late.

It's observed on the day after Thanksgiving, a time when most folks are thinking about Christmas shopping and not infantry maneuvers at Chancellorsville. Lee's birthday celebration was moved after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday became a federal holiday, thus avoiding two days off in the same week. [Link]

Five Things You Should Know About Me

Jasia at Creative Gene has kindly tagged me, which obliges me to divulge five things that you should know about me, but probably don't. Here goes:

  • I'm a vegetarian who loves the smell of frying bacon.
  • I once drove from Maine to Florida just to see three Grateful Dead shows.
  • I have a master's degree in philosophy, but haven't read a book on philosophy cover-to-cover since leaving college.
  • My handwriting is so bad that I sometimes have trouble reading my own signature.
  • I went to England, France and Spain on a class trip when I was 15, and the only artwork I remember seeing is this painting.
Since I don't like to impose upon the living, I will in turn tag my ancestors Moses Dunham, Mark Shepherd, Ephraim Wilds, Cyrille Cyr, and Toivo Tamlander. C'mon, guys, tell me five things about yourselves that I don't already know!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Non-Celebrity May or May Not Have Jewish Ancestors

Radar Online has undertaken some in-depth genealogical research to establish the Jewish ancestry of Britney Spears' estranged husband Kevin Federline.

According to, a genealogy website, "Federline" is an Americanized form of the German "Federlein," a German and Ashkenazi Jewish name derived from the German word for feather. A spokeswoman for Federline could not immediately say whether he has Jewish ancestors. [Link]
All I can say about this is—Kevin Federline has a spokeswoman?

I've Always Known I Was Mad White

A middle-school teacher in the Bronx had 11 of his students send in their DNA for testing.

While some kids were flabbergasted to learn just how "European" they really were, others proudly showed off the Certificates of Ancestry they received.

"You mad white," laughed Sheila Guernos, 12, looking at classmate Rossy Gomez's chart. "I'm mad white, too."

"I didn't know I had European family," said Guernos, who was 63% European, 25% sub-Saharan African, and 12% East Asian. "That's weird to me," she said, adding that her family was confused by the East Asian lineage because both parents are from Puerto Rico. [Link]

Newspapers To Be Delivered Next Month

Keep an eye on this URL in February. The Library of Congress is set to launch the "General-access Phase 1 prototype" of American Chronicle—"a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers from all the states and U.S. territories published between 1836 and 1922."

The digital collection will begin with 118,000 pages from newspapers published between 1900 and 1910 in California, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Over time newspapers published between the 1830s and 1922 will be added from all states and territories. Also "American Chronicle" will offer a Newspaper Directory of records for more than 125,000 newspaper titles published between 1690 and the present, along with library holdings information, acquired from OCLC WorldCat, with links to digitized page content when available. For more see [Link]
You can already sample the California and Utah offerings. Here also are links to the Florida, Kentucky, New York, and Virginia project pages, and to a list of the DC papers to be included.

The Most Virile President You've Never Heard Of

On This Day in Mythstory, President John Tyler died in 1862. After dissing my playboy cousin Calvin Coolidge, Chris Regan offers this bit of trivia:

His children were spread out over such a long period of time that — and here’s a great factoid to bring up at your next cocktail party – his youngest daughter, Pearl, died 100 years, 1 week, and 6 days after the death of his eldest daughter, Mary.

Then, it might be a good time to end your cocktail party, because if the conversation has drifted to the virility of our tenth president, chances are you really suck at throwing parties. [Link]
The children in question were born 45 years apart to two different wives—the second of whom was five years younger than his eldest daughter. Tyler thus established the popular White House tradition of seducing women young enough to think that presidents have special "constitutional powers" in the bedroom.

From Grave to Cradle

Science and law have again conspired to make the job of future genealogists harder. Rachel Cohen has received permission from an Israeli court to use her late son's semen to impregnate a woman he never met.

Mrs Cohen said that she was guided in her decision by her dead son. “An hour after being told he had been killed I took his picture and started talking to him. I asked him, ‘Where are all the children you wanted?’ then looked at the picture and heard him saying, ‘Mum, it’s not too late. There is something you can take from me’.

“Then it came to me — ‘Your sperm, that’s what you want me to take from you’. Right there, I asked the officers who came to visit to make sure his sperm be kept.” [Link]

Opt for the Preordained Pastor

Pennsylvanians who were married by an Internet-ordained buddy may wish someday they'd walked down an aisle instead. Commonwealth law requires that a marriage be solemnized by someone with a "regularly established church or congregation."

It's become such a concern that legislators are proposing an amendment to the law, and couples who apply for a marriage license in York County are receiving a warning letter about being careful who they choose to marry them.

The disclaimer of liability states: "If you choose to be married by someone other than the officiants specifically listed & authorized by PA law, the burden of proof regarding the legality (or lack thereof) of your marriage will be upon you - should future issues arise that require a determination of the marriage's validity." [Link]

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Oprah's Roots Are Showing Next Week

Check your local listings for Oprah's Roots, An African American Lives Special, scheduled to premiere Jan. 24 on PBS. You can watch a promo by clicking the link above.

The program features a wealth of previously unseen material, including portions of Professor Gates' original African American Lives interview with Winfrey and new revelations about her family history.

"Our first African American Lives series made for riveting viewing and was a life-changing experience for each of the participants, myself included," says Gates, Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. "Now, with an in-depth focus exclusively on my friend Oprah Winfrey, we bring to life in even greater detail the remarkably rich and always inspiring stories of her ancestors." [Link]
Didn't any of her ancestors have uninspiring stories?

Maybe the Province Should Deliver Pizza

Ontario has extended its 15-business-day money-back guarantee on birth certificates to marriage and death certificates ordered online.

Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips said his ministry has had to issue only 121 refunds for 315,000 online birth certificate applications since the program began just over a year ago.

"Pizza Pizza would drool over these kinds of service levels," Phillips said, referring to the pizza chain's famous 40-minutes-or-free guarantee. [Link]

A Shivery Sheep Shipment

An organization called Meat & Wool New Zealand (which reminds me of the documentary title Pets or Meat) is looking for descendants of the clever Kiwis who shipped frozen sheep carcasses to London in 1882.

“New Zealanders are proud of their forebears,” says Meat & Wool Chairman Jeff Grant.
“We’re sure there are people out there with historic family anecdotes about their association with that first refrigerated meat shipment and we’d love to hear their stories, see any photos they might have or other memorabilia.” [Link]

Blog Finder Update

The number of blogs categorized at Genealogy Blog Finder passed 500 tonight. Thanks to all who've made suggestions. I've had to turn down a few sites that were not genealogical enough or not bloggy enough, but the large majority of suggestions have passed my rigorous screening process.

I've also added a handy new feature: When browsing any of the 23 categories, you can now sort the blogs alphabetically by title (the default) or by date last updated. This will make it easier to figure out which bloggers are still active and which have joined that big blogroll in the sky.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Weakest Link in the Chain Gang

Bartholomew Taylor was never a master of his trade, but Tony Burke is still proud of his convict ancestor.

We were originally told he was sent out to Australia for "stealing arms" and presumed he must have been part of the armed resistance against British rule in Ireland.

It wasn't until my sister started searching the family tree and got hold of the original documents that we discovered the arms he was stealing were spelt "alms".

That's right, he was taking money from the poor box at the local church.
Bartholomew later spent ten years imprisoned on Norfolk Island for stealing jewelry.
One night in The Rocks he walked past a police officer who snapped at him: "Don't you know to tip your hat when you pass an officer of the law?"

So he lifted his hat and the jewellery fell out. [Link]

Meet Geni

A new social networking site called Geni has launched.

Geni works like this: the website allows users to create a family tree through a fun simple interface. When the user adds a relative's email address, that relative is invited to join the tree. That relative can then add other relatives, and so on. Each tree continues to grow as relatives invite other relatives.

Whereas conventional family trees show only direct ancestors, the Geni tree includes siblings, cousins, and their families. The result is a living family network. Each family member has an individual profile which allows other relatives to learn more about them and stay in touch. Geni plans to layer on additional family networking features like photo sharing.

When separate trees start to overlap, Geni will provide the option of merging them. Eventually, the goal is to get to one family tree of the whole world. [Link]
In other words, Geni is like other social networking websites, except the predators you meet will be your cousins.

GRO Gems

Scotland's General Register Office has on its website a list of Genealogical Gems extracted from old parish registers. Among them:

  • 'Alexander MacHattie in Ardoch had a Child by his Wife who was born with a wooden leg.'
  • 'Septr 29th to George Anderson in Swannyside (a scoundrall a knave a scrub a rascall a villain a cheat) a son called Andrew'
  • 'Something - George Something lawful son to what-ye-call-him in Mains of Barskimming was baptized April 9th 1704.'
  • '25 June. Patrick Cheyne, Schoolmaster at Echt & Mrs. Sophia Garioch, Daugtr. of Alexr. Garioch Farmer in Glack in the Parish of Kinernie were contracted in order to Marriage but by the mutual consent of both Parties [the match was broke off]. 'Ha ha ha ha! He he he!' [in different writing]

A Regrettable Mistake

Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook lies buried beneath a stone that repeats one last time his opposition to Tony Blair: "I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did succeed in securing the right of parliament to decide on war." James LeFanu thinks that this is the latest example of a "peculiarly Scottish tradition" of using epitaphs to make bold statements. He offers as proof the epitaph of Donald Robertson of the Shetland Isles, who died in 1848.

"His death was much regretted, which was caused by the stupidity of Laurence Tulloch," it reads, "who sold him nitre instead of Epsom salts, by which he was killed in the space of five hours."

The mistake, regrettably, is easily made, both compounds being white powders. But whereas Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) is a most effective laxative and would no doubt have relieved Mr Robertson's constipation, nitre (or saltpetre), when ingested, displaces oxygen from the blood, rendering the sufferer blue, as if being suffocated, and progressively short of breath. [Link]
[Update: This passage actually comes from a parish register in Esherness, Shetland.]

It Pays to Procrastinate

Ten years ago, Carl Hooker reserved a plot in the couples section of the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery, and bought a large granite headstone to go with it.

As a personal touch he had the manufacturer add a rendering of the Washington, D.C., Mormon Temple, an outline of Vermont for himself and an outline of Australia for his wife. On the back is his wife's name and birth date and his name and birth date.

Centered beneath are the words "For Time and Eternity." [Link]
Hooker has since divorced his wife, joined the Episcopal Church, and moved to the Midwest.

Québécois Kilts

Bryant Johnson's Scottish kilt shop in Montreal has thrived for 60 years—despite being located in Montreal.

"A lot of my contemporaries in Toronto say, 'How does a guy sell kilts in Montreal?'" Johnson, the proprietor and son in Chas Johnson and Son, told Canadian Press.
"The truth is that there's a lot of French-Canadians who have Scottish heritage going back to the Hudson's Bay Company," Johnson said in a recent interview.
"They don't speak English, but they'll be walking by the door and they'll see scarves with their name on it," Johnson said.

"They'll come in, make inquiries, and go home to La Tuque or whatever. But they always come back." [Link]

Lovely Weather For a Run

More than 100 Northern Cheyenne ran a 400-mile relay last week in subzero temperatures and blowing snow. They were commemorating an attempt their ancestors made in the winter of 1879 to escape from an Army outpost in Nebraska to their Montana homeland.

This year’s Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run began Jan. 9 in Crawford, Neb., and ended Sunday in Busby, where dozens of people greeted the returning runners with ululating and the sound of car horns.

“It’s a privilege and an honor to be with these kids, they’re so strong,” said 67-year-old Marie Sanchez, who ran the relay with six of her grandchildren. “They might be a little rowdy at first but they settle down, they are respectful.” [Link]

Notice of Change of Address

You might have noticed a change here at The Genealogue: the site has moved to its own domain— Visitors will be automatically redirected from the old address to the new, so there's no need to change links or bookmarks.

One problem has been found (I need to move 150+ images to a different server), but all in all the move went smoothly. If you notice anything malfunctioning horribly that wasn't malfunctioning horribly yesterday, please let me know.

(To RSS subscribers: Because of the screwy Blogger way is handling feeds these days, many of the old posts I am updating will be showing up as new posts. I apologize for this, because Google probably won't.)

Monday, January 15, 2007

I Suspect a Genealogist

Some good Samaritan mailed Ned Hethington a postcard his great-aunt should have received in 1949.

The envelope the card came in was postmarked in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Dec. 9. The return address is an e-mail account held by someone using the moniker "lost.postcards." Hethington has e-mailed the account several times but has yet to receive a reply.

Did someone find the card in an old mailbag and send it on its way? Or was it a collector who decided to have a little fun by tracking down a descendant of the intended recipient? For the record, the postal service says it wasn't them.

"Someone paid 39 cents to send it to me, but why didn't they put a note in there?" Hethington said. "I'd just love to know who it was and where it's been all this time." [Link]
Click over to Honoring our Ancestors for info on known heirloom rescuers.

What They Wore Under There

You may know your great-grandfather's middle name and cause of death, but how much do you know about his underwear? A site called Vintage Skivvies claims to have "the world's first e-museum totally focused on what American men have worn under their trousers."

Throughout this modern marvel called Vintage Skivvies, you'll find news clips, special features and fascinating facts — everything to ensure you are a hip and informed consumer, an enlightened enthusiast of the fine art and science of men’s classic underwear.
[Hat tip: Neatorama]

C'mon, Just Six More Years!

Meng Qingrong and Meng Nishi of Dalian, in China's Liaoning Province, have been married for 80 years. He's 101, she's 100. Believe it or not, that's not even close to a record.

A Taiwanese couple, aged 103 and 102, had been married for 85 years in 2002 (she died in 2003). A couple from Kerala claimed in 2005 to have been married for 86 years. No word on whether either of these couples surpassed the 86-year union of Lazarus and Molly Rowe of Maine.

[Hat tip: Random Citations]

Children Are Hazardous to Your Health

Researchers used LDS genealogical data to measure how many years kids take off their parents' lives. They looked at 21,684 couples married between 1860 and 1895 to determine the "fitness cost" of human reproduction.

Older mothers were four times as likely to die in the year after having a child than their mates. Having lots of children was especially risky. A mother of 12 had five times the risk of dying prematurely as a mother of three.

The price of parenthood wasn't trivial for men, either. Despite the obvious fact that men avoided the hazards of childbirth, fathering more children meant more risk of dying before their time, too. [Link]

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Boxed Like an Egyptian

I don't know how I missed this one. While moving graves in Tennessee last summer, Dan Allen stumbled upon an unusual casket.

Allen and other archaeologists found a pre-Civil War cast-iron coffin shaped like an Egyptian mummy while moving a cemetery for developers at a site on Whites Creek Pike in North Nashville.

“I've only seen three of these in my life,” Allen said. The headstone lay near the site. “It says her name was Mildred Casey, which was her maiden name,” Allen said. Casey was 54-years-old when she died in 1851. [Link]

Past the Sell-By Date

Paul Collins wrote a piece for New Scientist on "Real slow food"—food that's been on the shelf way too long.

Take the case of Fidelia Bates of Tecumseh, Michigan: after baking a fruit cake for Thanksgiving in November 1877, the unfortunate Mrs Bates promptly expired. This presented a rather delicate question at the family farmhouse: who would be the first to eat a piece of the dead woman's cake?

As it turned out, nobody was. Mrs Bates's family has resisted temptation for 129 years, and counting. "It's hard, it's crystallised, it's fossilised," says her 86-year-old great-grandson Morgan Ford. "Nobody wanted to eat it after she passed away, and so now I have it." [Link]
You can read more about Collins' research on his blog [via Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society].

The Head of the Kellogg Family

Gladys Kellogg was a "daring world traveler," according to granddaughter Kathy Fulton, and the shrunken head ("human or monkey, no one could tell") she brought back from a trip and passed down to her son bears this out.

She carried a "ladies bag" filled with modern items --- matches, bubble gum, etc. --- to trade for unique ethnic items, her granddaughter said. Some, like the shrunken head, were illegal to bring back.

"She was pretty determined," Fulton said. "If she wanted something, she wouldn't let anything stand in her way." [Link]

Saturday, January 13, 2007

It Was a Spur-of-the-Moment Idea

Lone Stars of David is a collection of essays about the Jewish presence in Texas, but gives handy baking tips as well.

Consider Helena Landa, matriarch of the only Jewish family in New Braunfels in the early 1850s. She used a spur – the kind that make horses go fast – to put air holes in matzo she baked for a Passover Seder. [Link]

Khaki Genes

When Jim and Kay Moody's 18-year-old son announced that he wanted to join the Army, they did what any concerned parents would do: genealogical research.

Jeffrey's enlistment prompted Kay and Jim to begin genealogical research to chart Jeffrey's ancestors and to learn if they had served with the military.

Shortly after they began the research, they can make a proud claim.

"Our family is rich with military heritage," Jim said, noting one distant ancestor, Henry Crydenwiser, served with the 12th Regiment from Albany in the Revolutionary War. [Link]

Waiting For The War to Begin

I've been waiting since The Civil War premiered back in 1990 for Ken Burns to turn his sights to World War II. My wait will be over this September, with the debut of The War—"a seven-part, 14 1/2-hour exploration of World War II through the eyes and emotionally charged recollections of 'ordinary' citizens who either served in the trenches of the European or Pacific theaters or who lived through it on the home front." Editors at TV Guide were given a glimpse last week, and Matt Roush had nothing but praise.

No talking-head experts or academics in this vivid history — it’s mostly first-person, focusing on nonfamous (for now) members of four communities meant to symbolize the impact of this “worst war” on a country at once united and shattered by the horrors of combat. (The witnesses hail from Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and Luverne, Minnesota.)
From legendary to lesser-known battles, through to the liberation of the concentration camps, even the most familiar material takes on a new, devastatingly affecting urgency as narrated by these everyday Americans. It looked to many of us in the screening room like The War could well rival Burns’ breakthrough landmark The Civil War in its simple yet profound artistry and universal appeal. [Link]
You can watch a way-too-short teaser on the PBS website already set up for the series.

Straight From the Munster's Mouth

Sharon Elliott spent most of Thursday tracking down the family history of recently departed actress Yvonne De Carlo, only to find that Yvonne herself had written down all the details in her autobiography.

Don't feel bad, Sharon. I spent years of my life transcribing half of Maine's census records from microfilm to "save myself time," only to have publish them online. The bastards.

Town Could Use Hughes Museum

Yesterday was the 50th wedding anniversary of Howard Hughes and Jean Peters, who were secretly married Jan. 12, 1957, at the L&L Motel in Tonopah, Nevada. The motel has been demolished, but residents want to erect a statue of the lovebirds nearby.

The group led by Tonopah businessman Bob Perchetti also is pursuing plans to open a Howard Hughes Museum and Wedding Chapel across the street from the motel that was razed about 18 months ago.
"It'll be a life-size statue of Howard Hughes and Jean Peters looking into each other's eyes and appearing as they did when they got married," Perchetti said. "We think it's finally time to recognize Howard Hughes in Tonopah." [Link]
This is how Hughes appeared after he got married. That's why I'm remaining a bachelor.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Genealogists Go Back to Basics

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
A small but growing number of family historians are parking their hard drives and doing genealogy the old-fashioned way.

"All this technology just makes it easier for errors to propagate," says Cindy Lewin, founder of a support group called Retro Roots. "By avoiding the Internet, we can be confident that our mistakes will be shared only with close relatives."

Cindy and her group refuse to use genealogy programs like Family Tree Maker to record their data. Instead, they store their facts in stacks of notebooks and reams of typewritten family group sheets. The Retro Roots gang also prefers microfilmed to digitized documents—a preference that large genealogy outfits like are starting to acknowledge.

"We understand that different people have different tastes," says Andrew Mueller, spokesman for's parent company The Generations Network. "That's why we're working to convert hundreds of thousands of digitized documents back to microfilm. We'll also be offering an offline version of our popular message boards. They'll be located in Provo, Utah, and thumbtacks will be provided free of charge."

Even the extreme position taken by Retro Roots is not extreme enough for some Luddites in the genealogical world. George Donnelly of Calumet, Wisconsin, doesn't trust microfilm, but relies solely on documents that he has personally inspected. He corresponds solely by registered letter. And don't get him started on Soundex.

"Soundex was the beginning of the end," he forcefully opines. "Making things easier for the general public is never a good idea. You give them Soundex, and pretty soon they're asking for the Pill and no-fault divorce. Where does it end?"
[Photo Credit: Cracked Laptop]

Man Mistakes Corpse For Father

Tomokazu Mihashi is on trial in Japan for leaving his father's body in their apartment for eight months after his death last March. Except it wasn't his father.

Mihashi said he didn't know that the victim was not his real father until the DNA test was carried out on the body after his arrest.

"I was shocked (when I heard the result)," he said.

In the opening hearing on Thursday, public prosecutors changed their description of Mihashi's father from "real father" to "father as listed on the family register," based on the result of the DNA test. [Link]

Towns That Refuse to Give Up the Ghost

Those towns in Georgia may be small, but nothing compared to the towns that appear in Wikipedia's List of places with fewer than ten residents.

One of the townships listed under "Places with one resident" is Erving's Location, New Hampshire, which may or may not have one resident.

According to the 2000 census, one person lived in Erving's Location. However, in a recent "Sunday News" New Hampshire newspaper edition (printed on June 27, 2004), Suzan Collins, the Coos County administrator, said the following about Erving's Location: "We're required to do an inventory of property lists and there isn't anyone who is a registered resident. I don't know how the census picks this up." She also said that the only taxable property in Erving's Location are telephone poles. [Link]
My great-grandfather's family lived for a time in a nearby township called Cambridge. It just missed the list, having exactly ten residents in 2000.

Also on the list for having one resident is Holy City, California—founded in 1919 by William E. Riker, a cult leader who propounded celibacy for others and bigamy for himself. The tiny town even had its own radio station once.
A radio station offering a variety of programming was built in 1924, and went on the air on July 7 of that year under the call letters KFQU. Though the call letters may appear obscene, they were issued sequentially and could not have been deliberate. The station went off the air in December 1931, and had its license renewal denied on January 11, 1932, due to "irregularities." [Link]
This article about Karen Keller of Hibberts Gore, Maine, makes an interesting point: If you're a town's only resident, your personal census data is available for all to see.

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