Wednesday, October 31, 2007

His PB & J Did Not Survive

Coal miner Joseph Roberts went to work on Feb. 19, 1891, with an orange in his lunchbox. He was fatally injured in an explosion that day, and never got to eat his lunch. So his family kept the orange for 116 years, donating it recently to a museum in Staffordshire.

Spokeswoman Deb Klemperer said it may just be a piece of dried fruit but the story behind it made it an amazing piece for the museum.
The orange is completely blackened and dried out - the pips can be heard rattling when it is shaken. [Link]

You Can't Get Blood from a Stone, But You Can Get Tears

In Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls, Texas, stands the statue of a young woman descending a staircase. Witnesses say that the statue, on occasion, weeps.

"I saw what looked like a tear," said Julie Coley, a genealogist who has meticulously recorded the graves of Riverside Cemetery, where the girl's statue stands.

"It was a tear stain on her right cheek. I've gone back many times since in all kinds of weather and all times of day. I've never seen the statue cry again."
Of course, you can't have a spooky gravestone story without a tragic, fictional back story.
It was on her wedding day, dressed in her flowing dress, that she tripped on her train and fell down the mansion's stairs, her young life cut short by a broken neck - or so some say. [Link]
The true story? She died of typhoid in Detroit.

Genealogue Challenge #83

Debbie Atchley sent in this challenge about Fred Friendly, the American broadcaster and author whose birthday was yesterday. According to a recent movie, he bore a striking resemblance to George Clooney.

When did his paternal grandfather become a US Citizen?

How much time lapsed between the death of his paternal grandfather and his paternal grandmother?

I'll add an extra credit question: Where are his paternal grandparents buried?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Most Mysterious Memorial

BBC History Magazine has named a winner in its Mysterious Memorials contest. Sarah Johnson's epitaph recounts "the 28 times the
deceased was drained of fluid in her abdomen – the treatment for ascites, which is related to liver disease." It's thought that this was an "early example of brazen advertising" by the doctors mentioned on the stone. (If so, this was the worst advertising campaign ever. Sure, it makes me want to have a few hundred gallons of fluid drained from my abdomen, but not by these quacks.)

You can read Sarah's medical memorial and runners-up here (pdf), and all the "Shortlisted Entries" here.

Genealogue Challenge #82

Cozmo's Food and Spirits in Stockertown, Pennsylvania, is supposedly haunted by a ghost named Marvin who hanged himself in a stairwell. The Pennsylvania Area Paranormal Association was called in to investigate.

Team researcher Regina Sell said she found in 1900 U.S. Census records that a Marvin Hoff, born in New Jersey, was living at the hotel with his mother Susan, an assistant cook.

Legends differ on the details, but the gist of the tale is Marvin was spurned by a woman he fell in love with at the saloon and committed suicide. [Link]
Could Marvin Hoff have been the jilted lover at the end of his rope?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #81

I hadn't learned of Porter Wagoner's death before Drew Smith sent me this challenge. Even if you've never heard of Porter, you've probably heard the song Dolly Parton wrote for him many, many times.

What was the full name (first, middle, and maiden name) of his paternal grandmother?

The Proof is in the Plastic

Here's some good advice from Genealogy Blog: If you can't prove it, laminate it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Google Brings Me Back to School

Ain't it amazing what you can find online? While playing around with Google Book Search today, I found this—a floor plan of the first school I (and my father and my brother and sister) ever attended.

Despite the title, the report is actually for the year ending Dec. 31, 1891. The school was built in the summer and fall of 1889, and was expanded to three rooms over the years. The building now houses Greenwood's town office, and is also the first place I ever voted against anyone named George Bush.

As a bonus, Google included this image of the book-scanner's fingers. It's good to know that they use protection.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

But He Had a Pair of Pants

Micki Smith says that your great-great-great-grandfather probably owned just one shirt.

Why did your ancestor own only a single shirt?

Well, Smith said, in order to provide it, your great-great-great-grandmother had to grow, gather, ret, clean, spin and weave the flax, to create linen, or raise the sheep, shear them, skirt the wool, wash, dry, pick, card and spin it, and then weave or knit the garment.

Plus, this was in addition to minding the children, doing the laundry, milking the cow, cooking the meals, tending the house and garden, etc., Smith said. [Link]

A Run-of-the-Mill Story

An Alabama woman was able to buy back the iron mill wheel sold to pay for her birth.

Onis and Nena Harrison operated the gristmill in Goodsprings on Alabama 99 in western Limestone County during the Great Depression. They did not have money to pay a Lauderdale County doctor for the birth of their daughter, Nancy, on July 25, 1939.

"My dad sold the wheel for $125 to pay the doctor in Anderson," Nancy Harrison Gaston said.

The wheel remained in Anderson until 1996, when Gaston bought it from an Anderson police officer for $1,000. [Link]

Friday, October 26, 2007

Haunting Found Wanting

The story goes that 6-year-old Inez Clarke was locked out of her house by her parents on the night of Aug. 1, 1880, for being a naughty girl. She was promptly struck by lightning. Her guilt-ridden parents claimed she had died of tuberculosis, and had her buried in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery beneath a lifelike marble statue. Little Inez has been haunting the cemetery ever since.

A great story, if only Inez Clarke had existed.

"Based on cemetery records there's no such person buried in that grave," Al [Walavich] says.

He's even looked up U.S. Census records from the 1800s and found "no indication that such a child ever existed."

There's even an affidavit from Inez's "supposed mother" issued in 1910 -- 30 years after the child's death -- that claims the Clarkes had two daughters, both of whom were still living at the time. The document also stated neither parent had any other children, Walavich says.

"And the most telling fact was that one of the Clarke family [relatives] had been in touch with cemetery about statue and grave. When asked who Inez was, she said, 'I have no idea, but isn't it a lovely statue,'" he says. "It's kind of hard to have a haunting when the supposed person never really existed." [Link]
An 8-year-old boy, Amos Briggs, is actually buried beneath the statue. Walavich suspects that the intricately carved statue was an advertisement for its maker, Andrew Gage.
[Photo credit: Inez Clark in Her Plexiglass Case by Richie Diesterheft]

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #80

The heads of this household had a daughter who had a son who had a famous daughter (still living).

Who is their famous great-granddaughter?

A Genealogue Interview

Everyone seems to be interviewing TGN CEO Tim Sullivan these days, so I thought I should get in on the action.

The Genealogue: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.

Tim Sullivan: Who is this? How did you get my home number?

TG: Your company recently launched a DNA testing service in partnership with Sorenson Genomics. Do you do paternity tests as well?

TS: Listen, we just sat down to dinner...

TG: Because there's this girl—I swear I hardly know her, but she's got this kid...

TS: I really can't help you.

TG: I'm not saying the kid's not mine, but I'm not paying a dime in child support until—

TS: Okay, I'm hanging up now.

TG: So I should send my DNA directly to your house, huh?

TS: No!

TG: I wasn't sure which bodily fluid you guys test, so I'm sending some of each.

TS: I have Caller ID.

TG: Yeah, you can just call me back with the results. If a woman answers, hang up.

TS: click

TG: Mr. Sullivan? Tim?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #79

Challenge No. 78 still needs some attention, but let's move on to No. 79. I don't know the answer to this one.

My mother found this card today among her mother's papers. (Click the image to enlarge.) It bears the name, address and Social Security number of my great-grandfather, a Finnish immigrant. It measures 2½ inches by 3 inches, and is made of heavy cardboard.

What was the purpose of this card?

Cherish the Oddballs

Mary Penner's column today covers one of my favorite tricks for tracing families: following the weird names.

Most family trees are over-populated with Johns, Elizabeths, Henrys and Marias. It's the unusual given names that send up a caution flag. Honing in on peculiar names can help with our research.

Even though today's parents tend to create unusual names for their kids by randomly selecting eight or nine Scrabble tiles, our ancestors usually latched onto oddball names because someone near and dear already had that curious name. [Link]
When searching for a family in succeeding censuses, I always look for the strangest name first. There were many John Smiths, but only one Merodach-baladen Smith (named after this guy).

What's Delia's Defense?

As part of his ongoing effort to educate genealogists on the law, Craig has posted an interesting quiz over at GeneaBlogie. Until I find out the answers, I will not be publishing my grandmother's diary online.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Did Baby Get Sex Change?

From The New York Times of Aug. 23, 1922:

The question as to whether the baby born to Mrs. Bertha Rich of 22 Dwight Street, Jersey City, on Aug. 12, was a boy or a girl has stirred up a hornets' nest.

Mrs. Rich says it was a boy. Her husband, Edward Rich, statistician for the Underwood Typewriter Company, says his wife told him the baby was a boy. The officials of the Bergen Sanitarium, Clinton and Madison Avenues, Jersey City, say the baby was a girl.

Rich declares that the sanitarium did not give Mrs. Rich her own baby, and he has retained Charles E. S. Simpson, as attorney, to take appropriate legal action. According to Rich, his wife told him that Dr. David Russell said to her: "It's a boy." Rich told his office associates that he was the father of a boy, and mailed announcements to his friends.

On Aug. 18, says Rich, Dr. Russell asked him what name he desired to give the child. Rich selected "Edward Jr.," whereupon, Rich declares, the physician wrote "Edwina" on the birth record. On the same day, according to the puzzled father, Mrs. Rich told the new nurse to "give the boy a bath," whereupon the nurse exclaimed, "It's a girl."

Dr. Russell's explanation is that Mrs. Rich's desire to have a boy was so strong that she thought the child born to her was a boy. When the baby was born, he said, he told Mrs. Rich it was a girl, and so did the nurses. Dr. Peter Maras, Vice President of the sanitarium, said that Mrs. Rich's baby was born prematurely and weighed between three and four pounds, and that if there had been a thousand babies in the sanitarium at the time it would have been impossible to have made a substitution. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #78

I'm 97.3% sure I've figured out this one.

The character of Floyd Lawson on The Andy Griffith Show was first played (in just one episode) by actor Walter Baldwin.

Who were his parents?

Pensions Get Attention

Diane Haddad reports that all of those Civil War pension applications squirreled away at the National Archives finally are coming to the Web.

The agreement will kick off with a pilot project to digitize, index and provide access to 3,150 pension files. When that’s done, FamilySearch, along with records site, plans to digitize and index all 1,280,000 pensions in the series.
According to the announcement, the digitized records will be free on FamilySearch and at Family History Centers, and possibly on a commercial third-party site.
As Diane says, "Oh, happy day!" I've been working on a large local history project that would have required a lengthy visit to Washington or a hefty payout to some researcher for copies of pension records. I'm doubly thrilled that these will be digitized from the original documents, and not from Eisenhower-era microfilm.

Graveyard Revisionism

Richard Hill has been arrested in North Carolina for desecrating the grave of his ancestor, who served on both sides of the Civil War War of Northern Aggression.

According to the warrant, Hill, apparently a sixth-generation descendant, "tore down and removed a tombstone on the grave" of Stephen S. Shook, who is buried in a family cemetery behind Upper Laurel Baptist Church near Mars Hill, "then replaced the stone with a Confederate stone."

According to the warrant, Shook was "a Union soldier who died on June 10, 1902."

But before that he was a Confederate, the family agrees. [Link]

Monday, October 22, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #77

Who were Gummo Marx's parents-in-law?

Giuliani Related to Himself

A Genealogue News Flash [What's That?]
A genealogist tied to the Romney camp has discovered that the parents of Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani were distantly related, making Giuliani his own eighth cousin once removed.

"Never in a million years would I have guessed I'm related to someone like me," Giuliani said today in a telephone interview. "I guess there's a black sheep in every family!"

Campaign workers were stunned to learn that their candidate is related to a man who once called members of the NRA "extremists," cheated on his wife, and was kissed by Donald Trump while dressed as a drag queen. A spokesman downplayed the connection, calling it "genetically irrelevant" and criticizing Romney for his involvement in such a "desperate ploy."

This news comes on the heels of other genealogical discoveries on the campaign trail. It was learned last week that Barack Obama is related to Dick Cheney, and only yesterday Fred Thompson was found to share common ancestry with John Edward's hair stylist.

Asked for further comment, Giuliani invoked 9/11 several times, and then hung up to answer a call from his wife.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #76

Joyce Randolph—best known for her role as Trixie Norton on The Honeymooners—was born on this date in 1924.

When did her father and her father's father arrive in the United States?

Country Closed Due to Census

The president of Peru ordered everyone in the country to stay home for 10 hours on Sunday so a census could be taken.

Half a million student volunteers were going from door to door to collect information about income, education level, jobs, religion and marital status.
Although the government did not establish sanctions for people disobeying the order to stay home, police were "inviting" people to go home if they were out on the street. [Link]

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Whatever Mama Said Went

Wayne Myers is compiling a history of the "lost community" on Bald Hill in the town of Danby, New York.

According to Myers, one of the more colorful personalities on the hill was that of Grandma Felane Gunn, a rather large woman who married George Mettler and then proceeded to lay down the law. When she was pregnant with twins and the doctor was called, it turned out to be a difficult delivery resulting in two sons, Frank and Fred.

But what followed the delivery was bizarre. Upon viewing the boys, mother Mettler declared the brothers would only father one child between them. And she was correct. Fred married Florence Rumsey and they had a daughter, Marjorie. Frank married three times and all marriages were childless. “Mama said there would only be one child and the word was, whatever Mama said went,” Myers said. [Link]

Real Genealogists Don't Wear Ski Masks

A woman in New Zealand who thought she was attending a genealogical get-together was actually being recruited by a group of masked Maori "freedom fighters."

The woman, who did not want to be named, told the Herald she thought she was going to a Maori genealogy wananga (place of learning) in Ruatoki, about 15km inland from Whakatane, but was terrified after meeting balaclava-wearing footsoldiers.

"I honestly thought it was a whanau thing so I asked which family they belonged to, but they wouldn't say." [Link]
The woman refused to join, and told the men to "take those stupid bloody balaclavas off."

A Boy Not Named Sue

This correction appeared in Thursday's Los Angeles Times:

The obituary of Doolittle Raider Nolan A. Herndon in Monday's California section gave his nickname as Sue. In fact, he was known only as Nolan Anderson Herndon. In addition, his sons were listed as Nolan A. "Sue" Herndon Jr. and James M. "Debbie" Herndon. Neither son goes by those nicknames; Sue and Debbie are the names of their wives. [Link, via LA Observed]

Friday, October 19, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #75

Martha Raye died on this date in 1994.

What was her maternal grandmother's maiden name?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Questioning Methods Questioned

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Ellis Hanscom, president of the American Genealogical Association, insists that members of his organization "do not torture."

A memo leaked to The Washington Post last week revealed that AGA guidelines permit "enhanced interrogation techniques" when questioning relatives. Allegations of inappropriate interviewing methods have since come to light. An elderly man in Miami was placed in a "stress position" by an AGA member and deprived of sleep for two days because the name of his father's first wife had slipped his mind. A Connecticut woman who refused to give her date of birth was forced to listen to Britney Spears' latest single for seventeen hours straight.

"We do not torture," repeats Hanscom. When asked for his definition of "torture," he replies, "Whatever it is that we don't do."

Critic Harold Lord says that AGA's guidelines violate standards accepted by every reputable genealogical organization, and that information gained through such methods is unreliable.

"People will say anything to end a family history interview, we all know that. Why make it more unpleasant than it already is?"

Hanscom counters by saying that he has used the "enhanced" techniques on his own grandmother with great success.

"She told me things I'd never heard before. Who'd have guessed that Grandpa Ted invented Velcro and frozen yogurt while climbing Everest on horseback?"
[Photo credit: Inside the Torture Chamber by Ricardo Shuck]

Genealogue Challenge #74

Comic Joey Bishop died on Wednesday.

Where did his parents live in 1910?

Extra credit: Can you find his wife in the 1920-1930 censuses?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Meet the Other White Meat

Stahnsdorf Cemetery has pigs. Davis Cemetery has turkeys.

Turkeys don't pose a threat to humans, but they can be intimidating. If a person runs from one of the toms, the aggressive males will give chase, [Susan] Finkleman said. She's learned to sidle by the turkeys and avoid making eye contact with them.

But even if the turkeys never actually attack, their presence at the cemetery is untenable.

“Out of their own fear of the turkeys, someone could take a step backward and fall over a headstone and get hurt,” Finkleman said. [Link]
KCRA reporter Richard Sharp tried to get the other side of the story, but was rebuffed:

First Fox Was a Fuchs

Vicente Fox's grandfather pursued the American Dream all the way to Mexico.

Fox's family name is actually Fuchs, a German name that was changed to Fox at some point. His grandfather, Joseph Louis Fox, was born in Cincinnati in 1865, attended Woodward High School and moved to Mexico at age 32. His son, Jose Luis Fox, married Mercedes Quesada and had nine children, including Vicente Fox Quesada, who served as president from 2000 to 2006. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #73

There are still some outstanding questions from the last challenge, but let's move on. Actress Jean Arthur, born this day in 1900, married her first husband in 1928. The marriage lasted all of one day.

Who was this husband, and when did his eldest sister die?

Extra credit: Who were his eldest sister's husbands?

Stage Fright Keeps Me From Swabbing

After watching Alex Haley's nephew Chris take his DNA test on Roots Television, I'm hesitant to do it myself. Does it have to be done in a public place while singing?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #72

Actress Carol Bruce died last week in California. She played "Mama Carlson" on one of my personal favorites, WKRP in Cincinnati.

Can anyone find her in the 1920 and 1930 censuses, and perhaps find the full names of her parents?

Did Ellis Island Admit Dismembered Woman?

Dr. Hawley Crippen was hanged in England in 1910, having been found guilty of poisoning his wife and burying her dismembered body in his cellar. DNA tests now show that the remains were not those of his wife, Cora.

The team concede that they may never discover what happened to Mrs Crippen, but several intriguing clues emerged during the research. Cora sang on the British stage under the name of Belle Elmore. Ten years after the trial, a singer with a similar name was registered as living with Cora's sister in New York. Records show that the same woman entered the US through Ellis Island from Bermuda in 1910 shortly after Mrs Crippen disappeared.

"Are Belle Rose and Cora Crippen one and the same?" asked Mr [John] Trestrail. "We can't prove any of that - that is another investigation". [Link]

Barack Related to Infamous Dick

Lynne Cheney says that her husband is related to Barack Obama.

In an interview on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon, Mrs. Cheney said that in the course of researching her husband's genealogy for her new book, "Blue Skies, No Fences," she discovered that the two public figures share an ancestor eight generations ago.

"Think about this," Mrs. Cheney said. "This is such an amazing American story that one ancestor, a man that came to Maryland, could be responsible down the family line for lives that have taken such different and varied paths as Dick's and Barack Obama's." [Link]
By my count, it's more like ten generations back (assuming that Mareen Duvall is the shared ancestor). Two extra generations may not seem like much, but when it comes to Dick Cheney, it's always best to keep one's distance.

Genealogue Challenge #71

This one should be pretty easy. If you haven't tried answering a challenge before, give this one a shot.

A boy named Bascom (that's his first name, not his last) was born in Kansas. He was not famous, but he lived with someone in 1930 who became (sort of) famous for uttering three syllables.

What were those three syllables?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Grass Grows Greener Over Graves

Here's a foolproof way to make yours the lushest lawn in the neighborhood.

Most of the grass in the cemetery at Low’s Lutheran Church has been burned to a pale brown.

But there are spots where the grass is growing green and long, and the Rev. David Mielke said those spots reveal the location of unmarked graves.

Mielke said the church believes it has discovered the location of about 100 old graves as the result of the drought that is afflicting North Carolina. [Link]

Georgia On My Mind

Renee reports some very, very good news:

FamilySearch and the Georgia Archives announced today that Georgia’s death index from 1919 to 1927 can be accessed for free online. The online index is linked to digital images of the original death certificates. This free database will open doors to additional information for family historians and genealogists with Georgia ties. The index and images can be searched and viewed at (Virtual Vault link) or

Genealogue Challenge #70

This challenge may be difficult, so I'll give you a head start.

I Love Lucy premiered on this date in 1951. Kathryn Card, the actress who played Lucy's mother, was born Oct. 4, 1892 (supposedly in Butte, Montana), and died Mar. 1, 1964, in Costa Mesa, California. Her entry in the California Death Index says she was born in Missouri, perhaps because someone coded Montana as "MO" rather than "MT". Her mother's maiden name was McCurdy, but what Kathryn's maiden name was is not clear.

Searching for women named "Kathryn" born about 1892 in Montana turns up a Kathryn C. Sullivan living at the Neil House Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, in 1930. She was married (age at first marriage, 18), but living without her husband. Her father was born in New York, her mother in Massachusetts. Her profession, oddly enough, was "Actress-Theatrical."

Was this Kathryn Card? What else can you find out about Kathryn's life before Hollywood?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

'Hobo' a Month Older Than Thought

I've learned a second new word this weekend: antedater.

The main playing field for competitive antedaters is the e-mail list of the American Dialect Society ( that's where researchers post their new finds for the record (which also serve as challenges for others to beat). Antedaters take especial delight in finding uses earlier than those shown in the OED (and in knowing their work will be picked up on by Oxford editors). Since August, the list has seen the antedating of "hydrant" pushed back to 1801 from 1828, "hobo" to September 1888 (from only a month later), and "jamboree" (meaning "a large party") to 1858, back from 1861. [Link]
This would seem a perfect sideline for genealogists. Keep an eye out for hoboes while prowling through old newspapers in search of ancestors.

It's Not Illegible, It's Asemic

Those marks in the margins of your ancestor's diary may look like scribbles, but they might actually be asemic writing.

It looks like writing, but we can't quite read it.

I call works like this "asemic writing".

Asemic writing seems to be a gigantic, unexplored territory.

Asemic writing has been made by poets, writers, painters, calligraphers, children, and scribblers, all around the world. Most people make asemic writing at some time, possibly when testing a new pen.
If doodles count as asemic writing, here's a fine example from census taker George W. Rand, who left this work of art on a page of the Waterford, Maine, census in 1860:

Fortunately, not all of George's writing lacked semantic content.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Right Number, Wrong Year

Matt Unger's transcription of the 1924 diary of his grandfather, Harry Scheurman, has earned a write-up in Sunday's New York Times.

Mr. Unger’s mother first showed him the volume when he was doing a fifth-grade project on family history. But he examined it closely only last Thanksgiving, at which point he decided to transcribe it.

At odd moments, the two worlds occasionally seem to touch, as they did the day Mr. Unger impulsively dialed Mr. Scheurman’s old telephone number — ORchard-0505.

“Some company picked up the phone,” the grandson said. “I was so wigged out that I just blurted, ‘I’m sorry, this is the wrong number.’” [Link]

Bobby Needs Our Help

Declan Barron has offered to do some research on Robert De Niro's Irish ancestry in a comment on this post.

Our local paper says Robert believes his family came from Co. Clare. If someone can get more details on Edward I can look it up here in Clare.
We concluded that De Niro's great-grandfather, Dennis O'Reilly, was the son of Edward O'Reilly—a painter in Syracuse, New York, who died July 21, 1900. Edward hadn't yet given up the ghost when the census taker came round in June 1900:
Edward O'Reilley, Head, b. Apr. 1840, widowed, b. Ireland, Painter (House)
Mary B. O'Reilley, Daughter, b. Mar. 1869, b. New York
Catherine O'Reilley, Daughter, b. Apr. 1875, b. New York
It is noted that Edward emigrated in 1855, and was a naturalized citizen.

Here is the family in 1880:
Edward Rielly, 40, b. Ireland, Painter
Margaret Rielly, wife, 37, b. Ireland
Dennis Rielly, son, 14, b. New York
Bridget Rielly, daughter, 12, b. New York
Catherine Rielly, daughter, 5, b. New York
Edward Rielly, son, 1, b. New York
The family appears to have been enumerated twice in 1870. In West Troy, Albany County, New York, I find this household (schedule dated August 11):
Edward O'Riley, 29, Painter, b. Ireland
Ellen O'Riley, 27, b. Ireland
Dennis O'Riley, 4, b. New York
Mary B. O'Riley, 2, b. New York
And I find this household in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York (schedule dated June 17):
Bridget Hall, 60, b. Ireland
Edward W. Hall, 25, Printer, b. Ireland
Patrick F. Hall, 23, Printer, b. Ireland
Ellen Reiley, 27, b. Ireland
Dennis Reiley, 4, b. New York
Mary B. Reily, 2, b. New York
The 1860 census for Syracuse has this Hall family:
Thomas Hall, 50, Shoemaker, b. Tippy, Ireland
Bridget Hall, 48, b. Tippy, Ireland
Edward Hall, 15, b. Tippy, Ireland
Patrick Hall, 13, b. Tippy, Ireland
John Hall, 11, b. Tippy, Ireland
Ellen Hall, 18, Tailoress, b. Tippy, Ireland
(Given that Ellen's name is listed below those of other, younger children, it's possible that she wasn't a daughter of the couple, though it does seem likely. Note that Edward's spouse in 1880 was named "Margaret," possibly a second wife, or perhaps this was Ellen's middle or actual first name.)

De Niro has another pair of Irish immigrants in his ancestry that might also connect him to Clare. Dennis O'Reilly married Mary Burns, whom we identified as a daughter of John and Mary Burns of Syracuse. From the 1900 census, we learn that both John (b. Mar. 1835) and Mary (b. Dec. 1839) had emigrated in 1860, that they married about 1861-62, and that they had a daughter born in "Canada (Eng.)" in 1866. Elsewhere in the census we find that their daughter Mary (De Niro's great-grandmother), was born 1878 in Vermont (later censuses say New York).

So, we can tentatively conclude that De Niro has these four Irish immigrant ancestors: Edward O'Reilly, b. April 1840; Ellen [Margaret?] (Hall) O'Reilly, b. about 1842 in Tipperary; John Burns, b. March 1835; and Mary (???) Burns, b. Dec. 1839. (We could also add to the list Ellen's probable parents, Thomas and Bridget Hall.)

If you want to pry more into Mr. De Niro's past, please do, and post your results below. And if you are Mr. De Niro, I am dreadfully sorry for calling you "Bobby."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cemetery Is a Hotspot

Oak Grove Cemetery in Paducah, Kentucky, now has wireless Internet access.

Paducah spokesperson Pam Spencer says, "It does sound strange to have a hotspot at a cemetery but the purpose behind it makes sense."

Paducah's public information officer Pam Spencer says the purpose is simple: to allow people to use the web to help with genealogy research. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #69

Still no answer to Challenge #68, but let's move on.

For at least thirty years, an unusual family lived in Andrew Budd's neighborhood.

Who were they?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Old and Dated

WEST TROY, N.Y., March 9.— Mrs. Martin McCabe, who died at North Creek, Warren County, a few days ago, was 112 years old. It is said that the date of her birth was tattooed on her arm. [The New York Times, Mar. 10, 1888 (pdf)]

In Tune With Her Ancestors

Forget genetealogy. Jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater found a way to trace her African ancestry without swabbing her cheek or spitting in a cup.

A genealogical search for ancestors led back only 150 years, then the trail went cold. Bridgewater found a way to bridge the gap: “I’m a very intuitive person. I decided to just listen to music. I thought when I heard the music of the country my ancestors are from, I would recognize it. When I heard the music of Mali, it struck a very deep chord, and I just knew.” [Link]
The same thing happened to me! I wasn't sure of my Finnish heritage until I heard this.
[Photo credit: Dee Dee Bridgewater (ii) by Bruno Bollaert]

Genealogue Challenge #68

These two metal tags have been hanging around my parents' house for years. One of them is stamped "N. G. BACON | Bethel | Me. | 1871," and the other "J. W. MORTON | 40 MONROE ST | LYNN | MASS."

The designs of the tags are similar, but not identical. The Morton tag is more heavily worn. The metal is non-magnetic.

I know who N. G. Bacon was (a shoemaker who lived up the road), but who was J. W. Morton? And what was the purpose of these tags? (Click the picture to enlarge.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Gipper Rises From the Grave

George Gipp died from pneumonia and a strep infection during his senior year at Notre Dame in 1920. Portrayed by Ronald Reagan in Knute Rockne, All American, he is supposed to have urged his teammates from his deathbed to "win just one for the Gipper."

On Oct. 4, his body was exhumed in Michigan, and a DNA sample taken.

[Medical Examiner Dr. Dawn] Nulf said she was contacted a couple of months ago by a family representative seeking the DNA test. She determined a court order was not required for the body to be exhumed. Instead, the family presented an affidavit that was approved by the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department.

Nulf declined to identify the relative but referred a reporter to Mike Bynum, a sports author who has researched Gipp and attended the exhumation. Bynum said it was requested by Rick Frueh, whose grandmother was one of Gipp's sisters. [Link]
The reason for the exhumation was not given. My guess? Notre Dame needed another pep talk.

Genealogue Challenge #67

John mentioned Cardinal infielder Solly Hemus in a post today.

What was Solly's father's middle name, and why (probably) was it chosen?

Extra credit: On about what date did his father's first wife settle in Solly's city of birth?

The First Leaves of Grass

Janice of Cow Hampshire emailed me about an unusual research request she received. Researchers at the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review are compiling a census of extant copies of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. One of the copies was described as follows:

Bookplate from Newton Hall, Cambridge on front pasted-down endpaper; Inscriptions on front free endpaper: "Anson G.P. Segur Feb 13th 1856", "Bought by A.C. Smith".
Janice had little trouble assembling an impressive dossier on Anson G. P. Segur (there have been surprisingly few men of that name), but A. C. Smith remains a mystery.

The 1900 census for Brooklyn, N.Y., gives Anson's birth date as February 1839, so the book could have been a gift on his 17th birthday. But who was A.C. Smith? Was he the original purchaser (as the Whitman researchers assume), or did he purchase the book from Anson? If the latter, I wonder if he was Albridge Clinton Smith, in 1880 a lawyer in Dover, New Jersey—the same town where Anson was mayor, 1871-1873.

Feel free to find evidence to support or demolish my theory.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Who Do You Think You Are Fooling?

At least one scene in one episode of the BBC genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? was staged. The featured celebrity, Carol Vorderman, was unaware of the manipulation.

Vorderman wanted to know where a photo of her great-grandfather was taken and was shown asking passers-by in Prestatyn for help.

Finally, shop assistant Dawn Farrell identified it as Bodnant Gardens in the Conwy Valley.

But Dawn revealed: "A man told me Carol was going to come into the shop with a photo and ask me about it. He said, 'She is going to show you a photo - could you tell her it is Bodnant?' [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #66

This challenge requires that you delve into Harvard Law School's digital collections.

In a divorce case in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, a respected physician was accused of "playing doctor" with the libelant's wife.

Who was the doctor, and what lasting honor was bestowed upon him after his death?

Columbus Had Co-Pilots

Columbus couldn't have mistakenly landed on the wrong continent without the help of his co-pilots.

Two descendants of the brothers Martin and Vicente Pinzon say it is about time the pilots of the Nina and the Pinta -two of the three ships that were part of Columbus' expedition - got equal recognition with Columbus. So why not celebrate Pinzon Day?

"I'd like to get the name recognized," Bob Pinzon, 54, a descendant of the navigators, said Monday. "I think Columbus got too much credit." [Link]
Revelers gathered in Denver on Monday to give Columbus all the credit.

Genealogue Challenge #65

Debbie Atchley has kindly given me another day off by providing this challenge.

Piggly Wiggly, the first true self-service grocery store in America was founded in Memphis TN on 6 Sept 1916 by Clarence Saunders.

What was the name of the father of Clarence's second wife?

No Child Laborer Left Behind

I've written before about Lewis Hine's photographs of child laborers. Joe Manning has embarked upon a Lewis Hine Project.

Manning has made it his mission to find out what happened to the children in the photos, and to interview their descendants. He plans to eventually write a book and possibly make the photos and research into a traveling exhibit. [Link]
It all began with his collaboration with Elizabeth Winthrop to track down Addie Card, "the poster child of child labor"—a search that made the pages of Smithsonian last year.

Manning's website features some Mystery Photos of children still waiting to be identified. For instance, these children.
A family working in the Tifton (Ga.) Cotton Mill. Mrs. A.J. Young works in mill and at home. Nell (oldest girl) alternates in mill with mother. Mammy (next girl) runs 2 sides. Mary (next) runs 1 1/2 sides. Elic (oldest boy) works regularly. Eddie (next girl) helps in mill, sticks on bobbins. Four smallest children not working yet. The mother said she earns $4.50 a week and all the children earn $4.50 a week. Husband died and left her with 11 children. 2 of them went off and got married. The family left the farm 2 years ago to work in the mill. January 22, 1909. Location: Tifton, Georgia.
Mrs. A J. Young was probably the same living in Tifton in 1920, aged 53 years, with Ben L. and Tiffie Lanier (Tiffie, 33, presumably being one of the children who "went off and got married").

Anyone want to take a crack at finding the family in earlier censuses?

Update: Mr. Manning has contacted me, and tells me that it probably was Ben, not Tiffie, who was Mrs. Young's child (the census calls them just "Son" and "Daughter"). He has found that Tiffie's maiden name was "Oliver."

Will the Fake Willie Hayes Please Stand Up?

The burial plot of Vietnam War veteran Willie Hayes, who died in September, was found to be occupied by a man who had stolen his identity.

"I called Calverton National Cemetery to make the final arrangements. They gave us clearance to bury him," said [Isaiah] Owens, who owns the Isaiah Owens Funeral Home in central Harlem.

"Two days later, they called the funeral home back and said they couldn't schedule him for interment because they [already] have a Willie Hayes with the same Social Security number and the same date of birth and the same [military] service information."
"I've heard about identity theft in life," said Owens. "I didn't know you could steal a burial plot." [Link]

Monday, October 08, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #64

This challenge comes courtesy of John of Transylvanian Dutch.

They met at an ice cream saloon in Scranton before they got married.

The following morning, a death notice appeared for her in the local paper.

1) How many children did the groom and his "zombie bride" have?
2) Did they reach their Silver anniversary?
3) From 1911-1919 what was his profession?
4) What were the names of the zombie's parents?
5) The answer to this is silly, but what was the name of the youngest
sibling in the earliest census the future zombie appears in?

No Rubbing Required

Here's an account of Yang Cai's tombstone-reading software in action.

"This is just kind of a fun project ... but I think it's very meaningful to have something where people feel excited," said Cai, director of Carnegie Mellon CyLab's ambient intelligence lab, as research assistants cloaked in black focused a beam of light and a digital camera on Isabelle Seville's weathered gravestone. "We take this as a combination of science, art, technology and culture."
The Rev. Richard Davies couldn't read the worn indentations in Seville's tombstone. Charcoal or crayon rubbings revealed little. But Cai's technology constructed a 3-D image, complete with Seville's name, and her place and date of birth -- London, 1781. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #63

A member of Bowdoin College's class of 1883 (he did not graduate) had a son-in-law who became a household name.

Who was this son-in-law?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

And Then There Was One

Plans to offer balloon rides at a site in Devon, England, have been stalled by an interesting clause in a 1920 deed conveying the land.

"The conveyance includes a clause that the covenants imposed by it will operate only 'during the life of any lineal descendant of Queen Victoria alive at the date of the conveyance and within 21 years of the death of the last survivor'.

"Because this clause, or variations of it, was used extensively prior to 1925 we have researched the genealogy of Queen Victoria's descendants.

"There are a vast number of them and surprisingly two who fitted the above description were still alive a couple of years ago. [Link]
Too bad there's not a website listing Victoria's descendants, indicating which are alive and which dead. Oh, wait, there is. The only surviving descendant who was alive in 1920 is Prince Carl Johan of Sweden (b. 1916). It isn't noted on the website yet, but Princess Katherine of Greece and Denmark (b. 1913) died last Tuesday.

Records of NYC Marriages to Be Destroyed

Manhattan's Marriage Bureau is being relocated, leaving some to wonder what will happen to its graffiti wall.

For decades, Room 262 of the city’s Municipal Building has been a worldwide attraction for couples looking to get married in New York City. Never mind the grim Department of Motor Vehicles-like atmosphere — lack of bathrooms, the poor seating, the unsightly glass partitions and the signature-covered wall where couples leave inscriptions of their eternal love for posterity.
Was the wall going to be moved? Was it going to be painted over? Was it going to be auctioned off? What would happen to all those signatures, those loopy hearts, those couples that would be together 4ever? [Link]
The mayor's spokesman confirmed that, "In effect, the wall will be removed."

Friday, October 05, 2007

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

I've blogged before about Sir Benjamin Slade and his efforts to find someone to inherit his estate in Somerset. He neglected to mention in his advertisements that the estate comes equipped with a gay peacock.

He has put up warning signs at Maunsel House, his 1300-acre estate in Somerset, after the "peacock blue" Lexus was scratched and dented by the amorous bird.

The incident proves the bird is gay, according to Sir Benjamin, because peahens are brown and only males are blue.

He says the male damaged the car because it looked like "another peacock boy". [Link, via The Daily Dish]

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #62

Which of Molly (Simon) Theobald's grandchildren had a memorable role on The Andy Griffith Show?

One Woman's Identity Crisis

The following anecdote comes from Minnesota, which is said to have a larger proportion of blondes than any other state. Draw your own conclusions.

"My friend Lee overheard this exchange while at the post office last week:

"Woman Patron: 'I'd like to apply for a passport.'

"Postal clerk: 'Do you have a birth certificate?'

"WP: 'Yes, but it's in my maiden name!'

"The clerk told Lee that this response is not uncommon!" [Link]
I bet her marriage certificate is also in her maiden name.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #61

This open-ended challenge aims to fill out the online biography of actor Dooley Wilson.

Find whatever genealogical info you can on Wilson.

Genealogue Challenge #60

This challenge was submitted by Genealogy Guy Drew Smith. I've found the family, but not the skeletons.

In 1930, Laura Clarke of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, was probably like many other young women of her time, living an ordinary life as a wife and secretary. But one has to wonder when, if ever, she learned of the horrifying past of her new in-laws. What family skeletons would she have found most disturbing?

I've Never Been Boared at a Cemetery

A large cemetery south of Berlin has been overrun by wild boar.

Stahnsdorf cemetery has 120,000 graves, including some famous personalities including Werner von Siemens, the founder of the Siemens industrial group, and the artist Heinrich Zille.

The marauding boar didn't dig deep enough to uncover coffins, but they did ruin an area of 1,070 German wartime graves containing civilian victims of bombing raids and soldiers, said Ihlefeldt. They left a fenced-off section of British and Italian war graves untouched, however. [Link]
Advice for family historians planning a trip to Germany: When running from the wild pigs, be careful not to trip over the Nazi raccoons.

I Think We Can Rule Out Jefferson

Elmer Milton's great-uncle, Pierson Craig, turned 101 on Tuesday.

“He’s the grandson of a slave,” Milton said. “He said his grandmother, which was a slave born in 1847, was my great-great-great grandmother, Amanda Montgomery.”

Amanda would tell Craig that she was the only slave on the Alabama plantation who didn’t have to work outdoors, Milton said. “I believe she was the daughter of a president,” Milton said was his family’s story passed down through generations. “... They never did get to prove it.” [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #59

Today is the anniversary of author Thomas Wolfe's birth. The love of his life was a woman married to another man.

When did the parents of this woman die?

Extra credit: Where did her father live in 1860?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #58

Here's another challenge courtesy of Genealogue reader Debbie Atchley.

W. C. Handy is known as the "Father of the Blues."

On what date were his parents married and who officiated at the ceremony?

And an extra credit challenge from me:

On what date did W. C. Handy's wife die, and what was the cause of death?

Genealogue Challenge #57

When T. S. Eliot's paternal grandfather died, what company handled the funeral services?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Not Anti-Marriage, Just Anti-Auntie-Marriage

Capt. Di Simone was not pleased with his son's choice of wives.

"I particularly wished that he should not marry my wife's sister," said the Captain yesterday, "and that is just what he has done. You see what a position it places me in. I am my son's brother-in-law, and should he have children, I'll be uncle to my own grandchildren. I'm father-in-law to my sister-in-law, and my wife is her sister's mother-in-law. It's a bad mix up. The relationship is too close, and there's too much of it."

The son has married his aunt, and will therefore be the cousin of his own children, and should his father have more children, he will be uncle of his own brothers or sisters.

Capt. Di Simone wonders whether the young man will hereafter pay him the respect due to a father or will be the familiar brother-in-law. [The New York Times, Mar. 13, 1897 (pdf)]

Granny Wore a Bikini

Nicky Watson's grandsons are going to be very, very confused boys.

In Nicky Watson: Calendar Girl, screening on Sky 1 on October 17, the 30-year-old supermodel speaks about how the calendar will become a family heirloom.

"How cool will it be to be able to show my grandchildren how beautiful New Zealand is and the fact that granny's boobs didn't used to go down to her ankles," she says, laughing.

Images in the calendar feature Nicky modelling skimpy bikinis and lingerie against a backdrop of dramatic scenery. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #56

Have you guessed yet that I'm a fan of The Andy Griffith Show? This challenge concerns the actor who played the habitually drunk Otis Campbell.

What were the names of his sisters' husbands?

In Need of a Wife ... and a Proofreader

We've seen before that the immigration station in New York was perceived by some as a place to find marriageable women. Here's another example, from The New York Times of Sept. 1, 1883:

Superintendent Jackson, of Castle Garden, frequently receives letters from single men asking him to find wives for them from among the immigrant women at the Garden. The following letter addressed "C.O.D., Passenger Agent, Castle Agent," was received yesterday:

Detroit, August 29.

Dear Sir: I take the plusur of Writing you a few Lines over Wich You May Laugh But I Mean Business and Want to Pay you for your Troubl if tended to I Will pay you ten dollers $10 in money Next Mont. if there is any emegrants from Germany I wis you would make it your Bisness if You could find some deasant Girl who is pratey and from 25 to 30 years of age Who Wished to Get Married in respectble to a Machinist who is 30 years of age and a Germen who has an old Mother livin With him. a Red hair pirson need not aplye if pasably so from Saxon or a Mackleburg or Byron please write to me and then we can come to a better understanding I Will send her a pass When the partie is found. my address is
JOHN KEEL, 435 Lefyett-street, Detroit, Mich.
[Link (pdf)]

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