Friday, November 30, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #99

One of my childhood heroes has died. Like 90% of American boys in the '70s, I idolized Evel Knievel. I remember once setting up a ramp and trying to jump my bicycle over ... my brother, I think. The bike came out from under me and I landed flat on my back. That was the only time in my life I ever saw stars, just like in the cartoons. Rest in peace, Evel.

On what date did Evel's father's father's paternal grandmother arrive in America, and where is she thought to be buried?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

All in All That's a Really Big Wall

Tom Hendrix has built a memorial for his great-great-grandmother—a Native American woman who survived the Trail of Tears and returned to her home in Alabama.

What he did to remember her involved 6 and a half million pounds of rock, and the size of 5 football fields. Hendrix wanted the legacy of his great grandmother to be remembered for a long time.
What he did has taken much of his time and strength. "I have worn out 3 trucks, over 20 wheelbarrows, over 1,000 pair of gloves, two dogs, and one old man," said Hendrix. [Link]
Here's a blog post with photos and videos of Te-Lah-Nay's Wall—supposed to be largest monument to a woman in the United States, and the longest unmortared wall in the country.

Remember to Check the Chicken Guts

Aaron Giles lost his identity bracelet 25 years ago while playing in his grandfather's barn in Minnesota. It turned up a few months ago in an unlikely place.

The barn was dismantled a few years ago, and the materials were used to construct another barn in rural Elmore, about 45 miles away, he said. Giles thinks his bracelet was imbedded in the barn materials when they were moved.

Workers at Olson Locker in Fairmont were cutting the meat of chickens that came from an Elmore farm when one of them, Brittany McDonald, came across a shiny object in a chicken gizzard. McDonald, whose grandfather owns the locker, saw Aaron's name, address and phone number engraved on it. [Link]

Poetry So Bad It's Criminal

Workers found a tombstone in the basement of the courthouse in Bangor, Maine, for Isaac Cobb, who died Sept. 7, 1874, at age 72. A second epitaph was written on the back—presumably by inmates at the courthouse jail.

It appears to have been printed in black paint on the back of the headstone.

Titled, "Pretty Boy Floyd Redmond," the first two verses read:

"Beneath this sod so cold and deep,

Lies the once bold Floyd R,

Now, the meek and dirty creep.

He came to our town,

His motto to "do or die,"

But now he’s stocking shelves,

It makes you wonder why." [Link]
I actually know Isaac Cobb. He was born in the same town I was, and his mother was a Dunham—a distant cousin of mine. I have no known connection to "Pretty Boy Floyd."
[Thanks, Nancy!]

Just a Spoonful of Hare Spit

William Sermon's 1671 medical book The Ladies Companion, Or The English Midwife reveals his strange fascination with hares.

Sermon (c1629-1680) is said to have decided to study medicine after witnessing a woman giving birth alone in a wood while he was out hare-shooting – which may explain why hares feature so prominently in his cures.

"Take the slime that a hare will have about his mouth when he eateth mallows and drink it in wine," Sermon instructs his readers. "Two hours after lie with your husband and fear not (faith my author) but that you will conceive."

Another remedy Sermon recommends to husbands is to secretly feed their wives the womb of a hare. "Give to the woman without her knowledge the womb of a hare to eat. Or burn the same to powder, and give it to her in wine to drink." [Link]

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Their Family Histories Are Mysteries commissioned a national genealogy survey of Canada with more than 1,000 respondents.

The results show that a staggering 39 per cent of Canadians cannot trace their roots back more than 100 years, and 20 per cent don't know where their families came from before moving to Canada.

The survey, conducted by MarketTools, also reveals that a surprising 24 per cent of Canadians don't know the maiden name of any of their grandmothers and 22 per cent have no idea what any of their grandfathers did for a living. [Link]
13 percent of respondents think that genealogists are doctors who perform Pap smears, and 2 percent spoke into the wrong end of the telephone.

Hint: Most Infants Are Slackers

You can win a day in London with a professional family historian (travel not included) from Your Family Tree by answering this question:

Which of the following is NOT shown on a birth certificate?

[A] The child’s name

[B] The child’s sex

[C] The child’s occupation

Genealogue Challenge #98

No one has taken up my last challenge yet. I'll try not to take it personally.

I remember Sterling Holloway from his guest roles on The Andy Griffith Show and Gilligan's Island, but the younger set will know him as the voice of Disney's Winnie the Pooh.

What was the full name of his maternal grandmother's undertaker?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Even Computers Have Standards

The latest tool released by FamilySearch Labs is a Standard Finder. The old FamilySearch is great at "fuzzy" searches (I can search for "Chroferus Dunnum" and still get hits for my name), and I expect the new FamilySearch to be even better.

[H]ave you ever wondered how computers determine that a person your looking for may be the same as another person? It goes through a match process. One of the key ways of determining whether two possible candidate persons match with each other is to evaluate the genealogical data known about the person. Of course it gets kind of tricky. How does the computer know that Polly Pay is a pretty good match to Mary Pay? How does it know how to compare dates on different calendaring systems or just interpret 24 Jul 1847 and 8/24/1847? How does it know that SLC, UT is the same place as Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, USA? [Link]

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Neonatal Beatle

Kylie McCartney gave birth on November 12 to a son, whom she named "Paul."

The 26-year-old changed her last name from Presley 20 years ago, along with her dad Dave and 27-year-old sister Caroline who both chose a surname of Lennon.
Kylie and Paul returned home from St Michaels Hospital in Bristol on November 15 to live with her dad, whose full name is David John Paul George Ringo Lennon. [Link]

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Man Buried Without His Organist

Archaeologists hoped to dig out the long-buried gravestone of Methodist preacher James Gwin in Vicksburg, Miss.

What the excavators did not expect to find under years of dirt and grass was a second crypt, bearing a name unfamiliar to the researchers. The tomb of Elizabeth P. Mosby lay next to the reverend's, and the dates inscribed appeared to show she died on Sept. 11, 1841, barely a month after Gwin. She is named on the stone as the wife of J.C. Mosby.

Who was she? Why bury her here? Why were her remains so close to Rev. Gwin?

"Perhaps she was the organist," quipped Hobbs Freeman, a local artist who rode along on the excursion. [Link]
As it turns out, Elizabeth was the daughter of Reverend Gwin.

At Death They Did Part

At a gathering in Milford, N.H., Dave Palance explained that gravestones can reveal more than names and dates.

Early death’s heads were simple skull and cross bones, but later ones are made to look like the departed. Many have wings to show that the person went to heaven. At the graves of couple Samuel and Mary Leeman, buried in a Hollis cemetery, only the husband went to heaven.

“He earned his wings, she didn’t,” Palance said. [Link]

Friday, November 23, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #97

Is this the World War I draft registration card of gospel blues pioneer Blind Willie Johnson? Michael Corcoran thinks it's possible.

Johnson’s widow, Angeline Johnson, said that Johnson had been blinded at about age 7 when a girlfriend of Blind Willie’s father threw lye in his face to avenge a beating. In the 1918 document, when Johnson was 21, he says he’d been blind for 13 years.
The death certificate, with information provided by Angeline Johnson, has Blind Willie’s birthdate at Jan 22, 1897; draft card puts it at Jan. 25, 1897. Considering record-keeping of the time, especially among itinerant African Americans, that’s close enough. Death certificate says he was born in Independence, near Brenham; draft card puts his birth at Pendleton, near Temple, which has long been thought of as Blind Willie’s birthplace. Could it be that Angeline said “Pendleton” and the doctor heard “Independence?”
What additional evidence (circumstantial or otherwise) can you find that this document indeed refers to Blind Willie?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dracula Is Dead

Ottomar Rodolphe Vlad Dracula Prince Kretzulesco died last weekend in Germany.

He was plain Ottomar Berbig until the 1980s, when his life was changed by a chance encounter with an elderly Romanian princess who was struck by his Transylvanian appearance with his curly black hair and drooping moustache.

Ekaterina Olympia Kretzulesco, a genuine blood descendant of legendary count Vlad Dracula, was childless and wanted to ensure the family line continued.

"She thought I looked typically Romanian, so she decided to introduce me to the rest of the family," Ottomar once recalled. She adopted him and he went on to fulfil the role of Count Dracula with gusto. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #96

This article about the surviving Wizard of Oz Munchkins led me to this Wikipedia entry on The Doll Family.

The Dolls were four out of a family of seven children (the rest being of average size) born to Emma and Gustav Schneider in Stolpen, Germany. Harry and Grace were the first of the quartet to begin performing in sideshows, as "Hans and Gretel". In 1914 they were seen by an American, Bert W. Earles, who brought them to the United States to tour with the 101 Ranch Wild West Show. The siblings lived in Pasadena, California, with the Earles family. Earles also brought Daisy and Tiny to the United States (in 1922 and 1926 respectively) where they joined Harry and Grace in their act.
By this time, the entire family had adopted the Earles' surname; they would retain that name until Mr. Earles died during the 1930s, when the tiny performers became the Dolls - a name which reflected comments overheard from their audiences.
What inaccuracies and glaring omissions can you find in this passage?

Miriam Makes News

Congrats to Miriam for spilling the beans to a Spokesman-Review reporter. The article even includes a family recipe for soup.

Her most infamous ancestor was old Uzza, who was hanged in 1850 for murdering his second wife by putting arsenic in her soup, and it was later discovered that he had also struck a death blow to his own son.
I'm envious. I wish more of my ancestors had shown that kind of initiative.

Genealogue Challenge #95

Challenge #94 still needs attention, but here's a quick one sent in by Steve Danko. For this one, I want you to guess without looking up the answer question. You can wager some or all of your checking account balance.

I just watched today's (20 Nov 2007) broadcast of Jeopardy! and the Final Jeopardy category was "American Ancestry". Alex Trebec said that this was a new category for Jeopardy!

The answer was:
AT 15.2% AND 10.8%
Remember to phrase your response in the form of a question. (Cue the music.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Census Takers Don't Care About Sex

The European Union denies that a proposed census question has anything to do with a woman's sexual history.

One proposed question asks the "date(s) of the beginning of consensual union(s) of women having ever been in a consensual union: (ii) first consensual union and (ii) current consensual union".
A spokesman for Eurostat, which provides the EU with statistics at European level, said: "This definition has absolutely nothing to do with asking women about their sexual behaviour.

"Consensual union is in fact another term for unmarried partnership." [Link]

The 'son' Rose in the North

A University of Leicester study finds that surnames ending in "son" came from northern England, while names ending in "s" came from the south.

They discovered that nearly 60 per cent of northerners in villages such as Crosby, Ravensworth and Patterdale had a "son" surname in the seventeenth century.

Dr Dave Postles, from the University of Leicester's English department, said: "Looking from the outside, it will be noticeable to people that the 'north' of England is a place where surnames ending in 'son' have predominated, although they have spread more widely now.

"Whereby somebody in the North would be called Williamson in the South they would be called William or Williams." [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #94

Fran Allison—the only cast member of Kukla, Fran and Ollie to draw a paycheck—was born on this date a century ago.

With whom was she living in 1930?

Extra credit: When did her maternal grandparents arrive in America?

Lincoln Made His Own Memorial

Just before he left Illinois for his first inauguration, Abraham Lincoln stopped by a cemetery in Coles County to visit the graves of his father and step-mother. It was Gale Baker's grandfather, John W. Baker, who showed Abe where the bodies were buried.

At the time, the burial sites were mostly unmarked, so Abraham Lincoln carved the initials of Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln on a piece of wood to serve as a rudimentary grave marker.

At least, this is the tale handed down to Gale Baker from his grandmother, Susan D. Baker.

Abraham Lincoln “found those graves and then went to Washington and was shot there,” said Gale Baker, 90. “That’s the story as she told it.” [Link]
If I remember correctly, some other stuff happened between his going to Washington and getting shot.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Which Way Are the Dead Headed?

The oldest graves in my neck of the woods are generally aligned east-west, in line with the rising and setting of the sun. Thomas S. Klatka found in his study of Roanoke County, Virginia, burying grounds that the orientation of subsequent graves often depended on when the first hole in a cemetery was dug.

Individual graves were rarely dug on a precise compass orientation, but rather they were generally oriented toward the position of the rising sun on the eastern horizon. Additional variability was introduced into this procedure since the exact position of the sun rising over the eastern horizon changes throughout the year. For instance, at the latitude of Roanoke the rising sun moves from approximately 60 degrees east of true north during the summer solstice in June to approximately 120 degrees east of true north during the winter solstice in December (U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office 1964). As a result, the exact orientation of graves tended to vary from any northeast through any southeast direction depending on the time of year when the graves were excavated. Following cemetery establishment and excavation of the initial grave shaft, the long axes of subsequent graves within a cemetery generally ran parallel with only minor variation. This pattern often persisted even in cemeteries that were active for lengthy periods of time. While graves within a cemetery were usually oriented parallel to one another, the overall orientation of graves between cemeteries tended to differ more markedly. As a general rule, the orientation of graves within cemeteries tends to reflect the time of year when individual cemeteries were founded.
Rayne, Louisiana, was recognized by Ripley's Believe It or Not for having the "only cemetery in the U.S. that faces north and south"—St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery. (Klatka notes that Catholic cemeteries are less likely to follow the east-west tradition.)
Perhaps the gravedigger did not have a compass. Perhaps the priest did not oversee the work of a common laborer. Whatever the case, the most commonly accepted version of what happened is that the graves were mislaid and before the mistake was discovered, too many people had been buried; the expense of reburials (not to mention the effect it would have had on the grieving families) was too great a cost. The citizens allowed the cemetery to remain as it had originally been placed, albeit at the expense of being a rarity in the civilized Western world. [Link]
The only cemetery in the U.S. that faces north-south? That's a claim that just begs to be refuted. I can certainly think of cemeteries where the "east-west rule" was thrown out the window. (When the garden cemeteries of the 19th century were designed, aesthetics outweighed celestial considerations in the placement of graves. Just look at the layout of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass.) I can't, though, think offhand of a cemetery I have visited where the graves were all oriented north-south. Can you?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Birthplace of Justice Found

Actor James Robertson Justice was very proud of being Scottish, "habitually donning a kilt, adopting a Gaelic name, and beating Sean Connery for the job of rector of Edinburgh University." Too bad he wasn't Scottish.

[R]esearch for a new biography on Justice has revealed the actor was a "huge liar" whose real birthplace was distinctly un-Scottish: a London borough.

Writer James Hogg examined Justice's birth certificate and was astounded to discover his subject was born at 39 Baring Road, Lewisham.

He also discovered his name at birth was James Norval Harold Justice. Hogg believes he may have dropped his original middle names and adopted a new one to justify his habit in later life of wearing the Robertson tartan. [Link]

They Didn't Mention That in the Musical

Nilda Quartucci says she's the illegitimate daughter of Eva Perón.

The first inkling Nilda had that she was Eva's daughter was in 1966 when she was a mother of two. Her husband Isaur - a banker she had married at 15 - claimed he had wheedled the truth from her father after hearing rumours.

"I was numb," said Nilda. "Then one day I was out with my father and I said to him, 'So, I'm Evita's daughter?' He said, 'Oh, your husband told you.'" [Link]
A bid to have Perón's embalmed body exhumed for a DNA test was turned down by the courts in Argentina. But, given the complicated history of Evita's corpse, it may resurface on its own one of these days.

A Surge in Spanish Surnames

This won't come as news to anyone who follows Major League Baseball, but Hispanic surnames are becoming more prevalent.

Smith remains the most common surname in the United States, according to a new analysis released yesterday by the Census Bureau. But for the first time, two Hispanic surnames — Garcia and Rodriguez — are among the top 10 most common in the nation, and Martinez nearly edged out Wilson for 10th place.
And yet, only one of Ben & Jerry's 44 ice cream flavors has a Hispanic last name.
The Census Bureau’s analysis found that some surnames were especially associated with race and ethnicity.

More than 96 percent of Yoders, Kruegers, Muellers, Kochs, Schwartzes, Schmitts and Novaks were white. Nearly 90 percent of the Washingtons were black, as were 75 percent of the Jeffersons, 66 percent of the Bookers, 54 percent of the Banks and 53 percent of the Mosleys. [Link]
[Thanks, Nancy!]

A Sordid Berry-Picking Tale

Schelly at Tracing the Tribe has tagged me for the 161 Meme: open up the book you're currently reading to page 161 and share the sixth sentence. This was a real challenge for me, since I rarely read books longer than 17 pages. Fortunately, I'm just finishing Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. (My policy is, if it's bad enough to ban, it's good enough to read.)

He was in these mounded rows, stooped and picking with the sun on his neck, low against the land in a sea of green and red with the smell of the earth and its berries rising like a mist, filling by the labor of his hands the twelve woven pine baskets in his caddy.
Not sure, but I think that's a metaphor for sex.

A Cousin So Great He's an Ancestor

Bob Engel's explanation why he started up his piano store in California is a bit confusing.

“I was born in San Jose, so there was a draw to come back to California. And I have a strong heritage in Castro Valley as a direct descendant of James Harvey Strobridge, a great-great cousin who engineered the railroad between California and Utah.” [Link]

Friday, November 16, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #93 will soon release a US passport collection with "millions of names from the years 1796 to 1925."

Passports became more popular in the late 1840s. In 1914, American citizens were permitted to travel abroad without passports. If your ancestors were travelers this will be a great collection for you. If you find a hit for one of your ancestors you will get a little gold mine of information. Many of these applications include photos. [Link]
This announcement comes with a sample image, which is almost readable if you squint really hard.

What significant event was this person planning to attend?

When did his twin brother die?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #92

Judge Wapner celebrates a birthday today.

When did his father arrive in the United States?

Younger Sisters Aren't So Young

Louisiana's oldest resident is Maggie Renfro, who says she is 113. Robert Young of the Gerontology Research Group says she is the 11th oldest person in the U.S., and the 21st oldest in the world.

Young said Census records for 1900 list Renfro as 4 years old, giving her birth date as November 1895, and the 1910 census puts her age at 14. That would make her 112.

The family is long-lived: her sisters also have passed the century mark.

Renfro, Rosie Warren, 101, and Carrie Lee Thornton, 105, are the world's oldest living sibling threesome, with 320 combined years, Young said. The all-time record is 327 combined years. [Link]

Family Story Has Legs

I. A. Hutchins shot a weird wolf-like creature back in 1886. He sold the animal to a taxidermist Joseph Sherwood, who called it a "ringdocus" and put it on display.

“I never doubted the story,” said Jack Kirby, grandson of the settler who shot the animal.

After reading a Halloween-themed Chronicle story about local legends of strange creatures, Kirby tracked down the mount in the Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello.
[Loren] Coleman and [Jerome] Clark suggested that a DNA test should be done on the mount to determine what it is. Kirby, however, was not so certain he was ready to end a mystery that had been passed down by his family for four generations.

“Do we want to know?” he said. [Link]

Belle Letters May Identify Corpse

Belle Gunness was a serial murderess responsible for at least ten, and perhaps as many as forty or fifty deaths. She made a practice of enticing bachelors to her Indiana farm with advertisements in matrimonial columns, and then offing them.

Now Andrea Simmons wants to find out whether Belle is the same woman whose burned, headless body was found in the cellar of her farmhouse following a 1908 fire, or whether she escaped, as many suspect.

Simmons got permission from 63-year-old Suzanne McKay, a great-granddaughter of Nellie Larson, Belle’s older sister who lived in Chicago, to exhume the body. Because of the number of generations that have elapsed and the fact that McKay and her sister are descended from Larson’s son, Simmons said the forensic anthropology team decided not to use their DNA. The best DNA comparisons come from an unbroken line of female ancestors.

However, Belle’s letters to Andrew Helgelien, which once helped entrap him, could now help determine whether his killer got away with the farmhouse deaths, too. Some of the envelopes that Belle sent to Helgelien and his brother will be used to provide hoped-for DNA from dried saliva under the stamps and places where the envelopes are sealed. [Link]
For those who like this sort of thing, gruesome crime-scene photos may be found here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Engagement Ring Changes Hands

Peter Brady discovered Ernest Stanley Cubiss's engagement ring while diving off the Orkney islands. He recently delivered it to the owner's nephew, Malcolm Cubiss.

On a routine dive in September, company director Peter initially thought he had found a part of the doomed ship's machinery - but on further inspection found the gold ring, which was inscribed: "To Stanley from Flo, March 1916."

Together with engineer pal Bob Hamilton, who was also in the water that day, the pair eventually tracked down Malcolm, after trawling the internet and travelled to York with the precious ring.

Grandad Malcolm, who lives in Tockwith with his wife Wendy, 61, said: "I received a call out of the blue telling me that divers had found this ring which had been salvaged from the wreck of HMS Opal. The second they mentioned the Opal I knew what they were talking about, because I knew my uncle had died on that ship." [Link]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #91

This "swimming apparatus" was patented on Nov. 13, 1900.

What was the inventor's full name, and where (exactly) was he born?

Extra Credit: In what city was his second child born, and what project was he undertaking there in the year before her birth?

News of Emancipation Came Late

Cain Wall's family in Mississippi was allegedly held in slavery until 1961. It wasn't until 2001 that his daughter discovered that their bondage was illegal.

The Wall family had no idea that they were free even though Black families in nearby Liberty, Miss., owned businesses and attended school.

Cain Wall Sr. was born in 1902 into peonage in St. Helena Parish, La. He worked the fields and milked cows for white families while believing he had no rights as a man. Peonage is a system where one is bound to service for payment of a debt. It was an illegal system that flourished in the rural South after slavery was abolished. Mr. Cain was born into this system believing that he was bound to these people that held him and his relatives captive. [Link, via]
Cain (who was probably about 104 at the time) made an appearance on Nightline last year.

Descendants Are Descending

Dr. Bruce Goldberg has concluded that as many as 15 percent of "alien abductions" are committed by time-traveling humans from 1,000 to 3,000 years in the future.

In one dramatic case, one of Dr. Goldberg's abductee patients reported a time traveler using holograms aboard a UFO to reveal several of this patient's past lives. When this patient asked why he abducted her, this chrononaut informed her that he was her great-great-great... grandson! [Link]
The APG's Code of Ethics doesn't ban the abduction of ancestors, so I guess this is permitted. I'm open to being abducted and interviewed by some future genealogist, but please—no probing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #90

Norman Mailer died on Saturday.

Name two of his father's siblings.

That Tuba Looks Familiar...

Fred Brown spotted his grandfather—a sergeant with the 332nd Infantry during World War I—at the county fair.

As the Mt. Sterling native began to leave the fair, he glanced down one last aisle and saw some old military footage being shown.

Interested, he stopped to watch and talk to John Doerres and discovered the archive footage being shown was of the 332nd in Italy. Soon, the two men saw a quick flash (the video had been speeded up) of a tuba as the band marched along in Venice.
"When I was a kid, my grandma would tell all of us that grandpa played this (tuba) in World War I in Italy ... (When I saw it) Oh man, it just sent chills up and down my spine because I've been wanting physical photographic evidence and there it was," Brown said. [Link]

Blogger Seeks Blarney

Lisa at Small-leaved Shamrock has announced the birth of a bouncing baby blog carnival.

If you have a blog about your own Irish genealogy or about Irish heritage and culture in general, you are invited to participate.

Our first edition will be about something everybody loves: a good story. What is your favorite Irish story? Show us that you've got the gift of blarney. Here's the specific request:
Of all of the colorful Irish characters that you've learned about throughout your search for family history or your study of Irish heritage in general, surely you've come across some good stories. Share your favorite story about an Irish ancestor or other Irishman or Irishwoman with us on this, the inaugural edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture.
If the only story you can think of concerns a man named "Paddy O'Furniture," keep thinking. The deadline for the first edition is November 19.

I'll Wait for the Movie

Megan didn't think much of Edward Ball's new book, The Genetic Strand: Exploring a Family History through DNA. The reviewer for the New York Post was equally unimpressed.

Ball believes Americans ought to be more skeptical of science in general and of DNA testing in particular. That's not a bad piece of advice. But it would also be a good idea to be wary of the claims of self-absorbed writers. Especially one who informs us that “everyone has 16 great-grandparents," or who tells us of a man who married either the sister or the daughter of onetime Vice President John Garner. Ball refers to the bride as Garner's sister on one paragraph, and as Garner's daughter in the next paragraph. Which one was it? Well, Garner and his wife had one child, a son. Must have been his sister.

That's the great thing about writing. It's not exactly a science. [Link]

Friday, November 09, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #89

Today is the 85th anniversary of Dorothy Dandridge's birth.

What were the full names of her paternal grandparents?

You Better Watch Out for This Santa

William Powell, 73, of McAllen, Texas, was arrested Wednesday and charged with extortion.

Powell, who has a white beard and long white hair, often signs his faxes "Santa Claus" or "St. Nicholas." "He believes he might be a descendant of Santa Claus," [Lt. Pat] Davis said. [Link]

The Gipper's Off the Hook

The reason for George Gipp's exhumation has been revealed.

Ellen Weeks Easton said that she had often heard that her grandmother, Eva Bright, had dated Gipp while he was at Notre Dame. Eva became pregnant at the age of 18 and gave birth to a daughter just a few days after Gipp died in December of 1920 of complications from strep throat.

[Mike] Bynum said DNA tests completed late this week after a sample was obtained from the exhumation showed conclusively that Gipp was not the father of Eva Bright's daughter.

"The DNA match wasn't even close to those we had of tests from Eva's family," he said, adding that three tests were taken. [Link]

Thursday, November 08, 2007

2,206th Titanic Passenger Dies

Barbara West Dainton, one of the last two surviving passengers of the Titanic, has died at 96.

Her father, Edwy West, was killed when the vessel sank after striking an iceberg.

Dainton, her mother, Ada, and her sister, Constance, were rescued. They returned to England.

During her life, Dainton said she "wanted nothing to do with the Titanic people," the Encyclopedia Titanica said. [Link]

Changing Clocks Changes Birth Order

A woman in North Carolina gave birth to twins last Sunday, right around the time that Daylight Saving Time ended.

Peter Sullivan Cirioli was dubbed "Baby A" at WakeMed Cary when he arrived early Sunday morning.

“Yes, Peter was born first, it was at 1:32 a.m.,” mother Laura Cirioli said.

Thirty-four minutes later, Peter's twin sister, Allison Raye Cirioli, known as "Baby B," made her entrance into the world.

Because of Daylight Saving Time, Allison's time of birth was 1:06 a.m., which makes her 26 minutes older than her brother even though he was born first. [Link, via Neatorama]

Man Finds Spoon, Loses Arm

Descendants of John W. Matheny donated some of his belongings to the Botetourt County (Va.) Historical Society, including a very special eating utensil.

According to family lore, said Jim Keyser, Matheny had found the spoon on the battlefield earlier and stuck it in his left breast pocket. While the battle raged around him a Yankee pumpkin ball hit him in the chest bending the lip of the spoon and sending the musket ball into his arm. He lost the arm from the resulting wound.

“All of our lives that spoon hung attached to the frame that held our great-grandfather’s discharge papers from the Confederacy,” said Keyser. [Link]

Rusty Relic to Be Restored

They've finally decided who gets the rusty 1957 Plymouth Belvedere removed from a time capsule in Tulsa last summer: 93-year-old Catherine (Humbertson) Johnson.

Ever since Tulsa officials discovered in June that Raymond [Humbertson]’s was the winning guess of Tulsa’s expected population in 2007 — at 384,743, only about 2,000 off from the actual population of 382,457 — the search for his heirs has been on. Recently, it was decided the car’s rightful owner is Catherine, Raymond’s older sister.

It involved Raymond’s niece, Mary Catherine (Humbertson) Kesner, searching through records in Allegany County as well as those in Arlington, Va., where Raymond and Margaret lived. She contacted several relatives, who gave written consent they were relinquishing any rights to the car, Kesner said. [Link]
The car will be derusted, after which it will be taken back to Tulsa for one more unveiling.

I Prefer Bologna Unfried to Bulimia

A comment on this mental_floss post mentions an oddly named couple.

I once saw a photo of a grave for a gentleman named “Fredrick Unfred” and his wife, “Bologna Unfred.” Fred Unfred and Bologna? What were their parents thinking!
Fred's surname was originally "Unfried," which makes his wife's name look like uncooked luncheon meat. On the other hand, given the variety of spellings and misspellings in census and other records, her name may well have been "Bulimia."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Meticulous Grave Robber

The body of Sarah Symonds was dug up in Hillsborough, N. H., sometime around Halloween.

Someone dug up her coffin and her remains, leaving behind only a few shards of wood, a meticulously dug hole -- and a mystery for the local police.

"It was dug in a very strange manner. It's perfect," said Hillsborough Police Chief Brian Brown. "You'd have to see it. The sides are all squared. The bottom's level."

"We just don't have any answers right now," he said.
Gilman Shattuck, 80, a resident who is active in the local historical society, said he had researched Symonds since the incident had hit the news and learned she was born on March 29, 1794. Her headstone listed June 18, 1824 as her date of death. She was never married. [Link]

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Politician Flip-Flops on Birth Date

Sen. Robert Byrd—the oldest and longest-serving member of the Senate—celebrated the wrong birthday for decades. He was born Cornelius Calvin Sale, Jr., in Wilkesboro, N. C., but his name was changed when he was adopted by his aunt and uncle.

His natural mother died Nov. 10, 1918, a victim of a national influenza epidemic, [Byrd aide Cindy] Huber said.

“When Sen. Byrd met one of his brothers — I think this was in the 1970s — he told him that his birthday was Nov. 20, not Jan. 15,” Huber said.

Since the Byrds in West Virginia had no children, they adopted the future senator but somehow confusion developed as to his actual birth date, the staff spokesperson said, and wasn’t cleared up until the brother came to see him. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #88

Annie Moore was the first one through the doors when Ellis Island opened in 1892, but someone else bought the first railroad ticket sold at the immigration station.

Who was she, how old was she, and where was she headed?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #87

Debbie Atchley sent in this challenge. Thanks, Deb!

Jerry Lee Lewis is being honored all this week at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during their 12th annual "Music Master Series"

List all the siblings of Jerry Lee Lewis' father.

They Must Be From Far Eastern Pennsylvania

Charles F. Kerchner, Jr., has started a project to find Asian DNA in Pennsylvania Germans.

Kerchner’s project looks to prove or disprove that some people, or sub-groups, within the Pennsylvania German ethnic group may have a small but detectable percentage of Asian genetic content, possibly introduced into their ancestors’ genomes from the major invasions of southern Germany by tribes from Asia, such as the Huns and Mongol hordes more than a thousand years ago or of ancient times from the Scythians. [Link]

World's First Genealogical Wave

Megan reports that the attendees of the Wholly Genes cruise were caught up in World's First Genealogical Wave. Thankfully, no one was swept overboard.

Genealogue Challenge #86

Bandleader Guy Lombardo died on this date in 1977.

What was his middle name, and who were his mother's parents?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Harry's Hair?

Leila Cohoon's Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri, has on loan a possible piece of a president.

Six baby blond tufts of hair could belong to the late Harry Truman.

"It's a hair wreath made in the neighborhood where Truman grew up," Cohoon said.

It was a common practice for women to weave hair belonging to friends, neighbors and club or church members into hair crafts.
Recently, with the owner present, Cohoon snipped one of the sections of blond hair to be tested for DNA. [Link]

A Wench and Her Bench

Nancy Millar—author of The Final Word: The Book of Canadian Epitaphs—says that tombstones are no place to settle scores.

"You cannot step over certain lines and call your wife a bitch or anything like that."

One of her favourite examples of an epitaph done right -- one she describes as "a friendly agreement between husband and wife" -- is a monument along an old logging road in Grand Forks, N.D.

The top inscription reads, 'Here sits the bench of a Viking wench.' Upon the woman's companion's death, a subsequent inscription was added: 'Now the Viking wench has company on her bench.' [Link]

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #85

Doug sent in a couple of challenges in honor of tomorrow's Patriots-Colts matchup.

How many slaves did Peyton Manning's father's father's father's father's father own in 1860?

Half-time. Open a fresh bag of Doritos, and use the restroom if necessary.

Bill Belichick's paternal grandfather claimed in his naturalization papers to have arrived on the ship La Lorraine between April 13 and April 19 of 1900. Can this claim be substantiated?

All's Fair in Love and Obituaries

A young woman in Massachusetts lost her boyfriend to another girl. So she did what anyone would do: she caused a couple of newspapers to publish notices of her own death, then blamed her rival.

City Marshall Stone and Officer Mears, of Lynn, arrested a young woman named Ida M. Eddy at one of the hotels in Nahant yesterday afternoon upon a charge of publishing her own death in the Lynn Record of Aug. 29, 1878, and the Lynn Item of June 6, 1879. The notices purported to be sent from Abington, Mass., in each case, and were accompanied by letters signed in the first instance by "Deacon Gilmore," and in the second by the "Rev. Samuel Lee." The first notice stated that Ida M. Eddy died in Abington, of heart disease, Aug. 26, 1878, at the age of 21 years; the second, that Ida M. Eddy died in Abington, June 4, 1879, at the age of 21 years and 10 months. The accompanying letters gave a detailed statement as to the sufferings of the deceased during her last illness.
Immediately after the last publication in the Item, Miss Eddy herself called at the office of the paper and upbraided the editors in no measured terms for publishing the announcement of her death, when she was still in the land of the living. She, at the time, intimated that a Miss Jennie Bessom, a respectable young woman residing at Woodend, had caused the publication of the notices by forging the letters in which they were sent. [The New York Times, Aug. 14, 1879]

Friday, November 02, 2007

Moldy Oldies

After Frederick H. Gage's discharge from the Navy in 1946, his duffel bag was forwarded to Ardine Richardson of Strong, Maine. Richardson had no known connection to Gage, so he stuck the bag in his barn. It was found by the barn's current owner, who tracked down Gage's widow, Mary, and returned the duffel bag with its contents intact.

She had some fun -- well, the moldy clothes weren't fun -- going through the contents. There was an empty wallet with the name "Freddy Gage" inscribed on it; a nice Blue Star Service flag; and a blue stocking cap with a name tag stitched inside: "F. Gage, Naval Radio Station."

There was a paperback book -- a War Department Educational Manual, titled "Modern News Reporting" -- and a U.S. Navy sewing kit inscribed "So Sew Sailor."

"No hidden treasure?" Mary was asked.

"Not a dime," she said with a smile. [Link]

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #84

No answer yet to #83, but here's #84.

New York Magazine reports on the unmasking of notorious skyjacker D. B. Cooper. Using the information provided in the article, what were the names of his father's siblings?

(Almost) Forgotten Ellis Island

Lorie Conway has filmed a documentary about the 22-building hospital complex at Ellis Island. There are also a Forgotten Ellis Island book and website.

Ms. Conway found that hundreds of thousands of patient records had essentially disappeared; she hopes that her film will turn up new clues as to where they have been moved.

Over years of research, Ms. Conway said, she was able to find only one complete patient record — that of Ormond J. McDermott, an Australian who was not trying to immigrate, but merely visit to New York, in 1921. He accidentally left his passport on a ship, and was detained at Ellis Island while the authorities investigated his claims to be a sales apprentice, rather than a contract laborer. While on Ellis Island, he developed scarlet fever; he died. Mr. McDermott’s file ended up at the State Department after his father, part of an influential Australian family, filed a complaint and asked for an investigation. [Link]

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