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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #55

This one may be trickier than it appears.

When did Cab Calloway's father and paternal grandfather die?

Genealogue Challenge #54

Frances Bavier is best known for her role as Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show.

When did her mother die and in what city was she buried?

Genealogue Challenge #53

What was the maiden name of the wife of the doctor who attended the death of actor Don Knotts's father?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The End of Illegibility?

CMU professor Yang Cai has developed software that can decipher illegible inscriptions on ancient tombstones. He's testing it on stones at Old St. Luke's Church in Carnegie, Pennsylvania.

During the past two weeks, Cai's research team trekked through the church's three-acre cemetery, scanning unreadable gravestones and then storing the images on laptops.

"We are exploring new 3-D reconstruction technology to decipher the gravestone names," said Cai. "Essentially, we reconstruct the tombstone surfaces by applying filtering and detection algorithms for revealing the words on the archaic surfaces," he said.

In addition to discovering who is buried in the church cemetery, Cai is developing a digital cemetery for Old St. Luke's Church. [Link]

Animated Ancestors

The Glasgow City Council has added Scrooge McDuck to its list of famous Glaswegians.

[A spokeswoman said:] "We have carried out some research and were delighted to discover that Scrooge McDuck hails from Glasgow."
McDuck's nationality is obvious given his surname and his lugubrious Scottish brogue, but his hometown remained a mystery. But an obscure US comic called The Life And Times Of Scrooge McDuck, published in 1996, depicts the eponymous web-footed hero growing up as a humble shoeshine boy in Glasgow, which is shown as a grey metropolis of smoking chimneys and cobbled streets. [Link]
In case you're interested, here's the Duck family tree. Like mine, it has its share of loons and coots.

Genealogue Challenge #52

Let's start with this article from The New York Times of Sept. 19, 1884:

The gossips of South Oyster Bay and Smithville South, Long Island, are busy discussing the alleged marriage of Conklin Vandewater and Miss Cornelia Mann. Mr. Vandewater, who is 19 years of age, is the son of the late Conklin Vandewater, and when he attains his majority will become the possessor of a moderate fortune. For the past year he has been employed as bookkeeper in a wholesale coal yard in Brooklyn, paying occasional visits to South Oyster Bay to see his mother, who resides a short distance from the village. The villagers noticed that when he went to see his mother he was very attentive to Miss Mann, who always happened to be at the railroad station when young Vandewater alighted from the train. He usually accompanied her home, and, it is said, always kissed her "good-bye" at the gate.

Vandewater was in the village on Sunday, and, in company with other young men, imbibed somewhat freely of Oyster Bay whisky. He left his companions in the evening and called on Miss Mann. He had no recollection of what occurred after, but when he awoke on Monday morning he found the fair Cornelia beside him. He was surprised and asked for an explanation.

"Why, Conkey dear, don't you know that we were married last evening?" and, putting her arms around his neck, she kissed him repeatedly.

Vandewater thought she was joking, but when she exhibited a marriage certificate he thought the thing was getting serious. He left the house and returned to his mother. He stoutly denies that he was married, and says if he was that he must have been drugged. When he left the residence of his alleged wife her mother, Mrs. Mary Jane Mann, followed him and informed his mother of what had occurred. Mrs. Vandewater was thunderstruck and ordered Mrs. Mann out of the house. Mrs. Mann went away, threatening to have Vandewater arrested for abandonment. She has not put her threat in execution.

Miss Mann is a handsome brunette, 17 years of age, and said to a reporter yesterday: "On Sunday Mr. Vandewater, who has been paying attention to me, came to our house and asked me to marry him. I objected at first, but he was so persistent that I finally consented, and we went and got married. That is all there is about it. I know that Conkey loves me, and but for his mother he would be living with me now. But I know he'll come back." The young woman declined to say by whom they had been married. Mr. Vandewater was not at home when the reporter called, and his mother positively refused to speak about the matter. She intimated, however, that if they had been married her son would commence divorce proceedings at once. The villagers are about equally divided for and against the marriage story. A strange feature of the marriage certificate is that Miss Mann will not allow anybody to examine it, nor can she be induced to disclose the name of the clergyman. [Link (pdf)]
The 1900 census reveals that "Conkey" and Cornelia had indeed been joined in marriage.

Who performed the ceremony?

Genealogue Challenge #51

The house where I grew up in the village of Locke Mills, Maine, was previously owned by a different family for more than half a century. Some of the kids in that family carved their initials on a wall in the barn, including E.W.K., L.W.K., and C.C.K.

When did their parents marry?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #50

Loretta Lynn's paternal grandmother's paternal grandmother died in 1911.

How long had she been ill?

Genealogy Shouldn't Hurt

If you're ever approached by Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Jim Gunter to swap genealogy data, just walk away. Quickly.

According to a police report on the Sept. 2 altercation, Justice Jim Gunter asked his sister, Janet Gibson, for some genealogy papers he had left with her for a family reunion that day. When Gibson told Gunter that she was not through with the papers, he began screaming at her and backhanded her across the mouth, knocking her into a dresser, the report said. [Link]

A Centenarian's Shocking Secret

Rose Elliot was ready to celebrate her 100th birthday on September 16, 1907.

But after her niece, Doreen McWhirter from north Belfast, checked her birth certificate, she discovered her aunt was actually born on September 28, 1905 - making her 102.

"It was a real shock," Mrs McWhirter said.

"The nursing home she lives in was all set for a big party and I had already bought her a 100th birthday card.

"I told them that we had a wee bit of a hiccup and explained about the birth certificate and her birthday being on the 28th. They were shocked, too." [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #49

For this challenge, I want you to abstract the following record from the first book of Essex County deeds. (Click on the image to enlarge, or click here to view the original TIFF image.) For extra credit, make it a complete transcription.

The Mummy May Return

Janice sends news that DNA tests will be conducted on the famous mummy of Concord, N.H.

The testing could allow Charles Peavey to put the mummy, dubbed Baby John and believed to be about 90 years old, back in it[s] glass display case in the Peavey living room.

The mummy has been held at the state medical examiner's office in Concord since police confiscated it last year. Earlier this month a judge ordered Peavey to bury Baby John because there was no evidence that it was a member of the Peavey family. [Link]
Hmm, as long as it's a relative you can display a corpse in your living room? That's good to know.

In related news, 92-year-old Rita Rich has some theories about the identity of a mummified infant found under the floorboards of her childhood home in Toronto wrapped in a newspaper from 1925. She's quite sure it wasn't the child of her aunt Della, with whom she lived.
For one thing, Della was certain she could never become pregnant. If she had by some miracle become pregnant, she would have had no reason to hide the baby, says Rich.

Besides, Rich adds, except for a few weeks in summer when she went to visit relatives in the U.S., Rich was always with Della.

It would have been impossible for Della to carry a baby to term without Rich noticing.
Nor does she think the baby was her father's (he didn't date after her mother died), or the boarder's ("He was a perfect gentleman, and if he had gotten a girl pregnant, would have married her").
Rich thinks it's possible the baby may have belonged to Della's much younger sister, Alla Mae, a beautiful, blue-eyed blonde, who would have been in her early 30s in 1925. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #48

Myrtle Gonzalez was born on this date in 1891. She was one of the first Hispanic actresses in Hollywood, and died in the influenza pandemic of 1918.

When did her child die?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #47

Robert De Niro says he wants to investigate his Irish ancestry.

What were the full names of his Irish-American great-grandparents?

Extra credit if you can trace his Irish heritage one more generation through either of these great-grandparents.

You Can't Get That Kind of Service on eBay

Russell Crowe's great-grandfather was an auctioneer in Kelowna, B.C., "known for breaking plates and reciting poetry."

"[Mr. Crowe] wasn't the greatest auctioneer in the world; he liked to talk too much instead of sell," [Bill] Whitehead recalled. "He used to tell stories about how you could pick up a heavy dinner plate and pound a nail into a wall without hurting it. He'd ask for a 10-cent bid on something and somebody would offer a nickel and he'd get mad and throw the cup on the floor."

Instead of turning off potential buyers, Mr. Whitehead said the trick got customers' attention and turned into a regular feature. He added that Fred Crowe used to frequently recite verses while selling items, a favourite being about blue willow pattern of china. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #46

When did the half-sister of actress Frances Farmer die?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #45

Tuesday was the anniversary of Shel Silverstein's birth.

When did his maternal grandfather die?

Steve's Colorful Family History

I've always thought that World War I happened in black-and-white, but Steve Danko has proved me wrong.

Now I can't help but wonder what color the original census schedules are. Chartreuse?

A Born-Again Christian Criminal

From The New York Times of Aug. 1, 1880:

Infancy has its privileges. A woman was arrested in Presburg, Hungary, for receiving stolen goods. She was by birth a Jewess, but six months previous to her detection had been baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. When put upon her trial she pleaded that she was an infant, and could not, therefore, be held answerable for what she had done—the date of birth in Hungary running according to the date of baptism—and after serious cogitation the tribunal declared the defense a good one, and that she, a woman of 40, was legally but six months old, with a score of years before her which she might turn to dishonest account with impunity.—Chamber's Journal [Link (pdf)]

Lambs Are Sometimes Birds

Vickie Wendel guides cemetery tours in Anoka County, Minnesota.

Interpreting the carvings is not a perfect science, she said. For instance, a Victorian-era gravestone featuring a rosebud or lamb might indicate a child's grave. However, Wendel saw a lamb on the gravestone of an 80-year-old woman. And she was told about a family in the 1890s that planned to bury the bird it kept for a pet. Uncertain how to carve a bird, the stonecutter made a lamb instead. [Link]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #44

This challenge comes from Genealogue reader Debbie Atchley. It concerns American civil rights leader Benjamin Hooks, who was executive head of the NAACP from 1977 to 1992. His paternal grandmother was the second black woman in the U.S. to graduate from college.

When did she marry his paternal grandfather?

An extra credit challenge from me: When did she marry her previous husband?

Stones Tell Stories

The October issue of BBC History Magazine will feature Britain's strangest epitaphs, including:

Robert Millthorp, died December 13, 1826, aged 19

Epitaph: He lost his life by inadvertently throwing this Stone upon himself.

Location: All Saints Church in Darfield, near Barnsley

Little is known about the farm labourer, except that the stone which killed him was turned into his tombstone by his employer.
Edward Purdey, died August 9, 1743, aged 35

Epitaph: The debt I ow'd that Caused all the strife Was very small to cost me my Sweet life

Location: St John the Baptist Church, near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire

Purdey had been drinking at his local inn but when it came to pay the bill he was a halfpenny short. The landlady apparently threatened to bewitch him if he did not pay up - and then her dog savaged him to death. [Link]

Fertilize Your Family Tree

Don't miss The Ancestry Insider's latest news on the Nervous Green Duck. Mighty oaks from little duck droppings grow.

Oregon Offended By Udinks

The state of Oregon wants a family to return their vanity license plates because their surname is offensive.

The plates, UDINK1 UDINK2 and UDINK3 are on the vehicles of Mike and Shelly Udink and their son Kalei.
Last summer, Kawika Udink's application for UDINK4 was rejected and the state ordered that the other three plates be returned.
The panel's ruling surprised Mike Udink, whose name is Dutch. He says it is a common last name in The Netherlands.

"Since when can a panel dictate whether your name's offensive or not?" asked Udink, a lineman for Pacific Power. [Link]
[Thanks, Nancy!]

Genealogue Challenge #43

Amedeo Obici—co-founder of the Planters Peanut Company—was honored Saturday in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. No less than two Mr. Peanuts attended.

When and where did he become a naturalized citizen of the United States?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #42

On what date were Mariah Carey's paternal grandparents married?

Extra extra credit: In a recent interview, Mariah said that she may be related to a certain other famous singer because of a shared family name. Can you prove her right or wrong?

Towns Have Boundary Issues

Mary Moore has lived for 83 years in Jackson, New Jersey. Or so she thinks.

Keith Kugel ... is suing Jackson and Howell, claiming that in the 1960s officials from both towns secretly moved the border that divides the two towns and separates Ocean and Monmouth counties. According to the Jackson resident's conspiracy theory, 8 square miles of northeast Jackson really belong to Howell.

Nonsense, said Moore, who was born and raised in those 8 square miles and who raised her own family there.

"It's still Ocean County, Jackson Township, and it will always be," she declared, echoing the sentiments of officials in both towns who called Kugel's contention baseless. [Link]

Couple Joined in Acrimony

Eugene J. Mandziuk is suing Diana Lynn Hickson for not really being his wife.

The couple participated in a wedding ceremony in Warren in the summer of 2005 in front of 90 guests.

The Rev. Larry Sullivan signed the wrong line on the marriage license, according to the lawsuit, and Hickson was supposed to correct the oversight.

She never did, the lawsuit says.

Last March, Hickson told Mandziuk about the situation and said she didn't want to live with him any longer, the lawsuit says. [Link]
Mandziuk wants to be compensated for the cost of the wedding ring, as well as the wedding and reception.

Genealogue Challenge #41

This challenge will test your ability to read a few words of an incomprehensible foreign language and decipher patronymics. It concerns my great-grandfather, Toivo Tamlander, a Finnish immigrant.

On what date did his parents marry?

Extra credit: What was the first name of his mother's maternal grandfather?


It may help you to know that Toivo's sister, Saida, also emigrated to the United States.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gravestone a Perfect Fit

A minister in Aquebogue, New York, received a letter from Washington in 1900 concerning the whereabouts of a tombstone.

The letter, which was sent to the clergyman as an old resident of the part of the country where that tombstone was placed over the body of one of the early inhabitants, a man named Beale. This man died many years ago, on a date which the tombstone alone can tell, of smallpox, and was buried, according to the custom of the time, in the orchard of the farm.

The stone was laid flat upon the grave. When, a good many years after, strangers bought the land, they started to put up a house, and the stone was incorporated in it. There was a place in the chamney into which the tombstone would exactly fit, and the builders, having no sentiment concerning it, used it. That was the end of the second chapter of the tombstone.

The house with the tombstone in the chamney was burned after a time, and the ruins, with the old stone, were left until another family came to put up another house. When this one was finished it lacked a doorstep, and the old stone was again just the size for the purpose required, and was put into place, and performed its third service. But from that time the history is lost, and the Washington people would like to learn something of it. [Link (pdf)]

Genealogue Challenge #40

Today is Mickey Rooney's 87th birthday. After divorcing Mickey's mother, his father married a second wife.

Find the name of this second wife, and the names of her four siblings.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #39

The inimitable comedic actress Alice Ghostley died Friday in California.

Where are her parents buried?

Extra credit: At what hospital did her father die?

Can't Quit the Obits

Marilyn vos Savant may or may not be a genius, but she's definitely not a genealogist.

My husband and daughter read the obituaries daily, which I find strange. Why do some people like to do this?
—Merla Long, Morristown, Tenn.


I’ve wondered the same thing, so let’s ask. Readers, if you scan obituaries often, e-mail marilyn@parade.com and say why. A few sentences will do. For example, “I enjoy looking for my ex-husband’s name.” I’ll print the results. [Link]

They Can't Give Brides Away in Sweden

A priest in Stockholm has refused to honor a bride's request to be given away by her father.

"This symbolizes that the father is the owner of the daughter and that he is giving her away to her new owner," said Rev Eva Brunne, diocesan dean and assistant to Bishop of Stockholm Caroline Krook.

Brunne told The Local that the tradition of giving away a woman was un-Swedish. Traditionally, Swedish couples walk down the aisle to the altar together.

The practice of being given away "only came into our church in the seventies and eighties through American TV shows," she said. [Link]
[Thanks, Nancy!]

Nothing Will Save Us From Boredom

Mike Elgan—who finds genealogical research "boring"—looks forward to "The Mother of All Genealogy Databases," which he expects to appear in ten years or so.

Such a database would enable you to do absolutely amazing things. For example:
  • Enter your unique ID info (probably your Gmail username) and that of any other person, and the site would trace you both back to the most recent common shared ancestor.
  • Follow a timeline that shows the locations and migrations of ancestors all leading up to the descendant that is you.
  • Track down every living relative.
Boy, that'll be great.

Here are a few quick observations:
  • Not all ancestries are traceable.
  • DNA cannot solve every genealogical mystery.
  • Records, even if digitized, require interpretation.
  • Data submitted to websites—even Web 2.0 sites—can be incorrect, inconsistent or incomplete.
  • That computer algorithm that can reveal your genetic ancestry "in minutes" won't reveal your ancestors' names—even if you give it a couple of hours. Finding common genetic ancestry ("We're both Chinese!") is not the same as finding a common ancestor ("We're both descended from Jackie Chan!").
The gist of the article seems to be that aggregating and "mashing up" content from disparate sources will somehow fill gaps in our genealogical knowledge left by traditional ("Web 1.0") methods. This may be true to some extent, but not to the extent Elgan predicts. If "The Mother of All Genealogy Databases" exists in ten years, it will only be as accurate and useful as the data it contains. Rooting out errors and omissions would require more than an algorithm; it would require good, old-fashioned, boring genealogy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I Love Mummies in the Springtime

Some people travel to Washington, D.C., in April to see the cherry blossoms. One Genealogue reader traveled there to see the mummified remains of a possible relative.

Nancy Cunningham writes that she was involved in the investigation of the Boy in the Iron Coffin, and even went to visit "Little Willy" last year (more photos here).

Nancy is descended from undertaker Mathias White, who was at one point thought to be William's father.

The Forgotten Fire

The deadliest fire in United States history started on October 8, 1871, but it wasn't started by Mrs. O'Leary's cow. The same evening that Chicago began burning, the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, burned flat in ninety minutes.

In the aftermath of the disaster, news of a great fire in the Midwest was splashed in headlines across the nation. Tragically, none of the stories concerned Peshtigo: all attention was focused on one of the region's larger settlements, Chicago, which had suffered its own terrible blaze the same day- killing around 250. More than 1,200 souls had perished in the Peshtigo Fire, although the true total will never be known due to the town records being destroyed in the blaze. [Link via Neatorama]
Genealogist Deana C. Hipke is attempting to compile a master list of Peshtigo fire victims on her website.

Trench Testaments

A New York Times article from Sept. 30, 1917, reported that "trench wills" drawn up by soldiers in combat had been found valid in English courts even when unwitnessed.

In every case the War Office authorities make every effort to carry out the soldier's wishes, however crudely they are expressed, or however fantistic [sic] they may be.

Many of these trench wills have Tommy Atkins's characteristic touch of humor. Some are in dialect, some in phonetic spelling. Several have been in ciphers, solution of which has taxed the War Office experts. Occasionally they leave purely imaginary possessions to institutions of fictitious persons. Here is a will in rhyme which was written while the soldier was on duty at a "listening post" in No Man's Land:

I haven't a sweetheart, I haven't a mother.
I've only one sister, not even a brother;
My sister, Susan, is all I've got,
So of ought that's mine she can have the lot.

This will went through the courts without question, despite its unusual form. Another will in rhyme, leaving money to the "first comer," is the following:

Whoever first sets eyes on this
   Gets everything I leave,
For my kith and kin are dead and gone,
   And I've not a friend to grieve.
There's a tidy bit in the bank you'll find,
   And my army pay, though small,
So, stranger, breathe one sigh for me,
   You're welcome to it all.

This will was forwarded to England by the young sergeant who found it and he shortly afterwards received notification that the "tidy bit," which turned out to be a substantial sum of money, had been deposited to his account.

Still another will in rhyme was written by a private who had been cut off from his comrades for three days, without food or water and probably without sleep, for the greater part of that time, until the greatest desire in life seemed to him to get a big drink. It was as follows:

If I'm knocked out by bullet or bomb
   When over the top we go,
A gallon of beer I leave to Tom,
   Another to squint-eyed Joe.
We've borne the worst of a soldier's thirst
   Through days and nights of woe;
Give my dad the rest—but if I go west
   There's a drink for Tom and Joe.

There was some difficulty in carrying out this bequest, owing to the fact that half the men in the company insisted they have been called "Tom" and "Joe" by the testator, and the whole estate was finally turned over to the father, it being left to him to carry out the "two gallons clause" as he should see fit. [Link (pdf)]

Genealogue Challenge #38

Okay, so the Dutch Boy wasn't Dutch.

What was the model's address in 1930?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Man Loses His Mummy

Janice notified me of this update to last year's mummy story.

A probate court judge yesterday said state officials can bury the infant's decades-old remains because Peavey hasn't proven his claim that he and the mummy are kin.

Peavey, 42, of Concord, has 30 days to appeal that decision, but he said yesterday he won't.

"I'm just washing my hands of it," said Peavey, who said he skipped the court hearing because he can't afford the DNA tests needed to prove kinship. "I'm disappointed it came to this." [Link]

Appealing Ancestors

Craig Manson has announced a most excellent new venture: the Historical Appellate Review Project.

You've heard the story that Great-Uncle Festus was a no-good horse thief. But was he really? Did he get a fair trial? Did he have a good lawyer or even a lawyer at all? Can his name be cleared all these decades later? We might be able to help!

HARP, the Historical Appellate Review Project, is dedicated to setting the record straight. Using state-of-the-art genealogical and legal research procedures, HARP will investigate your family's alleged black sheep and let you know if their names might be cleared! In certain cases, we even may be able to go to court and get the official record changed!

Find out if we can lift the cloud of doubt and suspicion from your ancestors!
There's even a special deal for "GeneaBloggers"!

If Craig wants this to succeed, he should start calling himself "The Hammer".

The Boy in the Iron Coffin

Here's a great story of archaeological and genealogical detective work from the Washington Post. Smithsonian researchers have successfully identified a boy found buried in an iron coffin in Washington, D.C. He is William Taylor White, who died in 1852.

The identification was made after museum researchers, led by Deborah Hull-Walski and Randal Scott, figured out that the youth might be White, constructed a 788-person family tree -- a diagram that stretched the length of a wall -- and tracked down a descendant in Lancaster, Pa.

The descendant, Linda Dwyer, 64, a night clerk in a convenience store, agreed to provide a sample of her DNA, obtained via a mouth swab, and when that was compared with DNA taken from the boy's left shinbone, it matched.

She said elated Smithsonian researchers called her with the news, saying: "'It's you! It's you!'" [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #37

The grave of Al Brady was marked last week—70 years after he was gunned down by FBI agents in Bangor, Maine.

What were the full names (first, middle and last) of his parents?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

He Didn't Know There'd Be a Test

More archival goodness from The New York Times, this time from the Mar. 28, 1886, edition:

THE BRIDEGROOM NOT POSTED.
From the Boston Budget.

A young man in a neighboring city applied recently for a marriage license and the clerk in attendance said in answer to his request, after he had made some other inquiries, "What was the name of the lady's father?" "You've got me there," was the response. "Well, then, what was her mother's name?" "I give it up," was the answer. "You seem to be profoundly ignorant regarding your intended wife's family, but perhaps you'll be communicative enough to tell me the age of the lady you intend to lead to the altar," said the long-suffering registrar. The reply was, "Couldn't, upon my life; I never asked her; she's got red hair." Finally an old acquaintance of the lady came forward and the affair was settled in a short space in a satisfactory manner. [Link (pdf)]

Brew-haha

An advertisement for Stella Artois included the phrase, "A family dedicated to brewing for six centuries." This claim is true only when read through beer goggles.

Artois is no longer a family-owned brand. But readers were likely to interpret the claim as 'one family of common ancestry had been involved in the brewing of Stella Artois for six centuries', the [Advertising Standards Authority] ruled.

It told InBev to remove the claim.

InBev said the advert's aim had been to emphasise the 'continuity of tradition and care' found in the Artois family of beers. It had not meant to suggest that one family of 'common ancestry' had brewed the beers for six centuries. [Link]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Do-It-Yourself Marriage Ceremony

This couple invited their friends and family to watch them consummate their marriage.

CURIOUS MARRIAGE CONTRACT

In New-Albany, Ind., last Thursday, a marriage, decidedly out of the usual order, was celebrated between Mr. Gardner Knapp and Miss La Mira P. Hobbs, daughter of Dr. Seth Hobbs, all of that city. When the guests who were bidden had assembled the following written agreement was read and subscribed to by the bridal party, no other ceremony being performed. The parties are Spiritualists:

Friends and Fellow-citizens, Ladies and Gentlemen:
We, Gardner Knapp and La Mira P. Hobbs, believing that our hearts and souls are already matrimonially united, appear before you now, thus publicly to celebrate the consummation of our union. We hold the opinion that neither Church nor State has any moral or equitable right to interfere with, or any just claim to be consulted in reference to, the arrangements that our spontaneous sentiments and sympathies have prompted us to make. Therefore, in non-conformity to, and disregarding the rules and regulations in such cases made and provided by what is called society, we adopt such form and ceremony as in our judgments and consciences seem most just and proper. And now, in the presence of those witnesses and of our invisible spirit friends here assembled, we proclaim, publish, and declare ourselves husband and wife; and may God and the angel world add their blessings. [The New York Times, July 5, 1874 (pdf)]

Genealogue Challenge #36

Just months after the death of her Match Game nemesis Charles Nelson Reilly, Brett Somers succumbed to cancer last weekend.

When and where did her parents marry?

(Special thanks to Doug for his help with this challenge.)

The Times They Are a-Changin'

Leland Meitzler just reported that The New York Times has opened up a large portion of its archives.

As of midnight Tuesday, access to nearly all of the material that had been limited to TimesSelect users will be free. Article archives going back the last 20 years will be free, and so will older archives from 1851 and 1923, which are in the public domain. The Times will still charge a fee for access to archived stories published between 1923 and 1986. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #35

Florrie Fisher was the motivational speaker who inspired the comedy series Strangers with Candy.

What was her mother's maiden name?

Extra credit: On what date did her mother arrive in the United States?

Mariano Gets a Second Date

As I wrote about in June, the wrong date of birth was carved into the tombstone of General Mariano Vallejo in Sonoma, California. Last week, the correct date was added.

It took months of negotiations with the city, a nationwide search for Vallejo's descendants, and a high-powered sandblaster loaded with garnet dust to get the job done.

On Wednesday at 10 a.m., two Bay Area TV outlets and a few interested citizens gathered in Mountain Cemetery to watch the words "Actual Birthdate: July 4 1807" blasted into the marble slab of Vallejo's tomb... [Link]

Monday, September 17, 2007

Look It Up Yourself!

An article in Sunday's Washington Post mentions some of the more interesting stones in Congressional Cemetery, now celebrating its 200th anniversary.

Even the more recent deceased, such as historian Ruth Ann Overbeck, who died in 2000, lie under tombstones that make you think. Under Overbeck's name are no birth and burial dates, just an admonition and a life's philosophy: "Look it up!" [Link]
Okay, I did. She died April 2, 2000, at Sibley Memorial Hospital at age 64 years, survived by husband Robert J. Hughes.

Genealogue Challenge #34

For those who can't get enough of O. J. Simpson, here's a challenge:

What was the name of his paternal grandmother's father?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #33

Here's another opportunity to prove you're smarter than I am.

Lucille La Verne's voice has been making children tremble since the 1937 release of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She allegedly was widowed three times.

Can you find the names of any or all of her husbands?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Where the Grass Don't Grow

Back in 1806, future U.S. President Andrew Jackson shot and killed a man in a duel. Now Jim and Laura Bowen of Nashville, Tennessee—together with a descendant of the fallen man—want to see if he is buried in their front yard. According to a 1955 newspaper clipping attached to their petition (pdf), the location of the burial won't be hard to find.

In the searing heat of last summer's drouth the grass and ivy in the front yard of J. M. Southall at 216 Carden Avenue, just off West End, first began to wither and die on a spot approximately three by seven feet under an ancient hackberry tree near the street. This indicated to the owner that at this point for some reason there was an unusual thinness of the soil.

Reference to Mr. Southall's deed shows that here is located the grave of Charles Dickenson [sic], killed in the famous duel with Andrew Jackson. When this area was opened as a sub-division a number of years ago; and the flat stone marker was covered shallowly by an earth-fill, the last visible evidence of Dickinson's mortal remains was obliterated.

Genealogue Challenge #32

Humphrey Bogart's third wife was an actress named Mayo Methot.

Who was her first husband?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #31

Character actor Ian Wolfe had roles in more than 270 movies and TV shows—my favorite being Hirsch the butler on WKRP in Cincinnati. His Wikipedia and IMDb bios are pretty thin, considering his long resume.

As a first step, find his wife's maiden name.

I've had no luck figuring out his parentage using the census and free online resources. Can anyone out there prove my incompetence and find Ian in the 1900-1920 censuses?

This Birth Certificate Makes Me Look Fat!

Paula Black, who works at the Milwaukee County Clerk of Courts office, received a call from a woman asking how to makes changes to a birth certificate.

The woman, who now lives in Waukesha County, said her daughter's birth weight was listed incorrectly — the baby weighed five pounds, not 10, the mother said, adding that her daughter was upset by the error.

How long ago was the baby born, Black asked. Fifteen years ago, the mom replied. [Link]

A Couple in Need of Guidance

From the Columbia, S.C., police blotter:

While on patrol at 5 p.m. Sunday, an officer found a package filled with a strange assortment of items lying in the road: a Bible, a sex manual, a marriage certificate and a packet of photos. Police tried to contact the people named on the marriage license but couldn’t reach them. [Link]

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #30

I have an old bottle on my shelf labeled "F. W. KINSMAN DRUGGIST AUGUSTA ME."

What was the full name of F. W. Kinsman's son-in-law's eldest son?

Genealogue Challenge #29

The actor who appears in this film clip also introduced a popular TV show in the 1960s.

What was his mother's maiden name?

A Bourbon Dynasty

If Fred Noe ever forgets his ancestry, he can just head down to the liquor store and buy a bottle of bourbon. He's the seventh member of his family to have his portrait displayed on bottles of Jim Beam.

Noe, 50, who is assuming the role as Jim Beam’s distiller, became choked with emotion when he saw his portrait next to that of his father’s, longtime master distiller Booker Noe, who died in 2004.

“This is a huge honor,” said Noe, whose family traces its Kentucky whiskey heritage to 1795, when family patriarch Jacob Beam set up a frontier still.

Jacob Beam is atop the family tree portrayed on the label, with Booker and Fred Noe at the bottom. [Link]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Fussy Family Recipe

The Dexter family of Westport, Massachusetts, has been hosting a Labor Day picnic for 100 years. A book sold at this year's picnic includes an "old family recipe" for the chowder served at the event.

The recipe is printed on the inside back cover of the book, and precision is the key with directions:

"It is essential to cook on a granite base, with a SW wind, and granite wall not less than 10 feet high to the NE."

Or, "Salt Pork: diced in 5/8" cubes with surgical scalpel."

And, "Remove from fire and add milk and cream. Serve not less than 25 yards to leeward and not less than 10 feet above the level of the fire." [Link]

The Truth Hurts Hurt

Actor John Hurt was disappointed to learn that his ancestors were not Irish aristocrats. In fact, they weren't Irish at all.

He felt so close to the country that he even moved there for a spell. Now he can no longer be included in the roll call of great Irish actors.

"As far as I was concerned I was Irish," he said. "My disappointment was that they had managed to prove that the one thing I thought I did have was Irish blood and I haven't got any." [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #28

The actress who played "Auntie Em" in 1939's The Wizard of Oz was born aboard a ship.

What was the name of the ship, and who was the captain?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mom Finds Love in the Cemetery

For the past few years, Carolyn Fritz and her daughter Sandy have been visiting B.F. Gray and J.H. Love—two Confederate soldiers buried in Camp Butler National Cemetery.

"We didn't choose these two for any particular reason," Sandy says. "Mom just likes the name 'Love.' I made up a name for mine, B.F. Gray. I call him Beauregard FitzWilliam Gray because it just sounds very Southern. We were thinking about mom's J.H. Love. It could be John."

"John's a good name; nothing wrong with John." Carolyn says.

"But maybe we should call him Jackson for Stonewall Jackson or Jedediah to make it Southern," Sandy says. [Link]
I think "Benjamin Franklin Gray" would be more likely, but I could be wrong.

She Wants to Be Alone

On a trip to Sweden, Alan W. Petrucelli learned that Greta Garbo is reclusive even in death.

When I get to my hotel, I ask the clerk: How do I get to Garbo's grave? She makes some calls . . . "after all," she tells me in near-perfect English, "that was a long, long time ago. Most people don't remember her anymore."

I learn Garbo is buried at Skogskyrkogarden, a huge cemetery outside town.
I walk back into the crematorium, round a corner and bam! walk right into a female employee. She is far less startled than I am. I ask how to get to Garbo's grave. "Garbo! You're here to see Garbo?" Her tone is incredulous. "No one comes to see Garbo."
Finding Garbo's grave is easy, she insists. "Walk to that parked car. Turn there, turn here, walk there, go here." She punctuates the air with her finger. "You cannot miss it."

I miss it. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #27

Jane Wyman—the first woman to be a president's ex-wife—died on Monday. When she was a young girl, she was taken in by a middle-aged couple named Fulks.

When did these foster parents die?

Extra credit if you can find a reference to her foster mother's exact place of birth.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #26

The last Edsel Ford challenge was too easy, so let's try another.

What was the maiden name of Edsel Ford Cartmill's mother?

Extra credit if you can prove my hunch that she died in 1984.

A Tomb With a View

When Timothy Clark Smith was buried in New Haven, Vermont, he had an exit strategy.

Beneath the odd, grassy mound of earth, Timothy's face was positioned beneath a cement tube that led to the surface. The 6 foot tube ended at a piece of 14x14 inch plate glass allowing Tim to gaze upward in the event that he was buried alive. A bell was placed in his hand just in case he needed to signal that he was still alive. Which brings forth the questions...who could hear a bell under 6 feet of earth anyway? If he were alive, how long would the oxygen last if and when someone came to his rescue?

Genealogue Challenge #25

Ford introduced the Edsel on Sept. 4, 1957, but pulled it from the market two years later. Milo and Blanche Miller of Linn County, Kansas, introduced their own Edsel Ford in 1922.

How long did their Edsel last?

Phoenicians and Freckles

Geneticist Pierre Zalloua has found traces of Phoenician DNA in Lebanon's Muslim and Christian communities. But not in Joseph Tabat.

"I was always intrigued as to why I look different to the rest of the guys in high school," he said. "I'm a red-head with freckles." Tabat's DNA matched types found in France and Spain, perhaps a sign that one of his ancestors was a European who arrived in the Middle East during the Crusades. [Link]
Note that having one Western European ancestor 1,000 years ago does not cause red hair and freckles. If it did, redheads wouldn't be going extinct.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I Should Start Climbing Poles

Alice Zetterstrom and her husband are restoring cemeteries in Upstate New York—including the beautifully named Dunham Cemetery in Stillwater.

"It's an interest we have," Alice said. She became interested in Dunham when she realized there weren't good records of all the epitaphs there.

Chuck Zetterstrom used to spot forgotten cemeteries from the tops of telephone poles; he's retired from National Grid. Then they would go visit them.

"Cemeteries are interesting places," Alice Zetterstrom said. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #24

Inventor Philo T. Farnsworth transmitted his first television image 80 years ago last Friday.

  1. Find the doctor who signed his father's death certificate.
  2. Find the doctor's undertaker.
  3. How did the undertaker die?
Update: Just to be clear, you'll have to find records of three deaths: Philo's father, Philo's father's doctor, and Philo's father's doctor's undertaker. The third of these men died in an unusual way.

Maybe They're in the Witness Protection Program

George and Clarissa Vickers want to celebrate their 50th anniversary in the company of complete strangers—specifically, Owen and Mary Coyle, the two strangers they asked to witness their nuptials.

The 18-year-olds were married at the old Preston Register Office by special licence as Clarissa's father wouldn't consent to his daughter marrying a "teddy boy".

But on the day of the nuptials their intended witnesses, George's school friends, were taken ill with flu and were unable to attend.

So the pair were forced to ask total strangers from the street to act as their best man and bridesmaid. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #23

Abe Zapruder was famous for filming the Kennedy assassination in 1963.

On what date did his father arrive in America?

Extra credit: Where is his father buried?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Romney's a Deserter's Descendant

Genealogical muckraking is again rocking the world of presidential politics.

[E]xactly 150 years ago, an ancestor of Mitt Romney deserted from U.S. Army troops sent to put down a purported Mormon rebellion in Utah.

Carl Heinrich (Charles Henry) Wilcken, Romney's great-great-grandfather, would give Mormons information about approaching troops, eventually joined the LDS Church and ultimately became a bodyguard and confidant of two church presidents.

The middle name of Romney's father, former Michigan Gov. George W. Romney (also once a presidential candidate), is Wilcken, after that soldier-ancestor. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #22

Hannah Noonan, who emigrated from Ireland in 1911, was later hired by a couple as a nursemaid for their one-year-old child.

Who was the child?

Friday, September 07, 2007

His Uncle Was Fearless

Supreme Court Justice and civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall's forename has an interesting history.

In honor of his paternal grandfather, Thurgood was given two first names, Thorneygood and Thoroughgood, when he was born. When Thurgood's grandfather, a former slave, had joined the U.S. Army, he hadn't been sure what to call himself. So he signed up under both names and later wound up getting two sets of retirement checks. In time, grandson Marshall would decide he preferred the name Thoroughgood. In the second or third grade, he would shorten it to Thurgood. [Link]
His mother's family had its share of unusual names as well.
His maternal grandfather, Isaiah O. B. (for Olive Branch, he said) Williams, also went to sea, came home with money and a taste for opera and Shakespeare. He opened a grocery on Baltimore's Den-meade Street, and sired six children. The first was Avonia Delicia and the second Avon (both for the bard's river), the third was Denmedia Marketa (for the store), another was Norma Arica (he heard Norma in Arica, a Chilean port) and the remaining two, for reasons lost to history, were Fearless Mentor and Ravine Silestria. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #21

Natalie Schafer is best known for her role as Lovey Howell on Gilligan's Island.

On what date did her parents marry?

Extra credit: Who was her maternal grandfather?

I Find That Hard to Swallow

Pat Boone may not be a descendant of Daniel Boone, but what about competitive eater Dale "Mouth of the South" Boone?

While in Anchorage, Boone consumed a world-record 28 Glacier Brewhouse reindeer sausages in 10 minutes. The record still stands.
It was during that trip through Alaska that Boone obtained his trademark coonskin cap, a staple of his competitive-eating persona. Brash and confident, Boone claims he's a direct descendant of the legendary explorer Daniel Boone. [Link]

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #20

This challenge concerns late actor Billy Barty.

When his father changed the family name, why (probably) did he choose "Barty"?

My Kind of Town

Some hugely wonderful news out of the Windy City:

If all goes as planned, newly digitized versions of county records such as birth and death certificates and marriage licenses will be available beginning in January on one searchable Web site that will revolutionize how such research is done, [Cook County Clerk David] Orr said.
The Web site is part of a massive yearlong effort to digitize the county's 24 million vital records, which date to 1871, when record-keeping began after the Chicago Fire wiped out previous stockpiles, clerk's office spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said. [Link]
If you need some Chicago resources to tide you over until January, check out Joe Beine's Cook County page.

Grave Used to Trap Tourists

Steven Sederwall is no longer fighting to exhume "Brushy Bill" Roberts to see if he was Billy the Kid. He can't be certain where to dig.

Sederwall said he suspects Roberts' actual grave is at the back of the cemetery and the one up front is "a tourist trap for them to sell their wares," referring to the Billy the Kid Museum in Hamilton. The back of the headstone, which is visible from the highway, contains a clear plastic cylinder full of museum fliers.

"I find it hard to believe that a pauper would get a front and center next to the highway gravesite," said Sederwall, who is investigating Bonney's jailhouse escape and the murder of two deputies during a courthouse shootout in 1881. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #19

This challenge was submitted by John at Transylvanian Dutch:

J. Henry and Eliza had a daughter. Though the name she was born with was pretty well-known, she made a name for herself.

In 1910, two out of the three mentioned in the first sentence were living together, with one servant. Name the servant.

This may help: J Henry also had a brother who drowned.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #18

I'm going to leave Challenge #17 open until this evening. In the meantime...

On what date did George and Ira Gershwin's mother arrive in America?

Extra credit: On what date did her father die?

A Titanic Family Squabble

Irish author Martina Devlin stumbled upon a family secret while scanning a list of Titanic passengers.

Idly running my eye down it, a name and address leapt out: Thomas O'Brien of Bonavie, Co Limerick. My grandmother, Josie English née O'Brien, came from Bonavie. It's such a small townland (near the Tipperary border) that I assumed there had to be a connection between the two.

"Did Granny have a relation on the Titanic?" I asked my mother. Her forehead pleated. "That's ringing a vague bell," she admitted. "I don't know anything much about it, just that there's a family connection. We knew never to talk about it as children. It upset your granny too much."
Devlin learned that Thomas O'Brien was her grandmother's uncle, and had boarded the ship with a woman named Hannah—possibly his bride, and certainly pregnant. Hannah survived and gave birth five months later to a daughter. Devlin also discovered the reason for her family's secrecy: Hannah and Thomas' mother fought over who should be considered his next-of-kin and collect compensation from the White Star Line. A letter from Hannah to Tom's sister was less than conciliatory.
"You needn't worry about me. My baby and myself will be alright. I knew ye were all trying to get some money. I produced my marriage certificate, and I had the nearest claim. So you nor the lawyer needn't bother," she said. [Link]

Bill Henry Still in the Bullpen

Bill Henry claimed to have been a major league pitcher right up until his death last week in Florida.

Naturally, his obituary made headlines nationwide. After all, Bill Henry had been in the majors for 16 years, even pitched in two games of the 1961 World Series while playing for the Cincinnati Reds.
His obituary (now retracted) caught the attention of the real Bill Henry, who is very much alive, and of genealogist and SABR member David Lambert. It was Lambert who noticed that the deceased Henry's vital stats didn't add up: the ball-playing Henry was born 1927 in Texas, not 1924 in Missouri.
Henry left behind a handful of honest-to-goodness Bill Henry baseball cards, one of which is autographed, although no one's sure if it's authentic.

His widow and third wife, Elizabeth, said her husband was fond of showing the cards to friends, even though the biographical information on the back of the cards didn't match his own.

She said he just told everyone that the printing company made a mistake on the cards by saying that he was born in Texas in 1927. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #17

This challenge is presented with the help of Bob Dylan, circa 1965.

Click here.

Don't Take Her Love for Granite

Emery Pierce gave his wife Winona a rock back in the '60s. A very big rock she had spotted in a quarry and fallen in love with.

"I had to call eight different places to get somebody to haul it. I finally got a tow truck operator who said, 'Lady, you've got rocks in your head,'" Winona recalls. He added, "I'll try anything once."

After much huffing and puffing, the rock, estimated to weigh between 1,000 pounds and a ton, arrived in their yard.
The Pierces have moved three times since then, and each time the "family rock" has followed them. For Winona's 78th birthday in August, her husband arranged to have the boulder delivered to their latest front yard.
In Windward Village, where people casually stroll, Winona has observed their reactions to the front-yard addition. "People walk by and say, 'Am I crazy? Has that been here all this time?'" [Link]

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #16

How about one more Beverly Hillbillies challenge?

What was the maiden name of Nancy Kulp's maternal grandmother?

Genealogue Challenge #15

We've dealt with Granny, so now it's time for Jed.

On what date did Buddy Ebsen's mother arrive in the United States?

A Genetic Exhibitionist

Scientist J. Craig Venter led a project at the J. Craig Venter Institute to sequence and publish the genome of ... J. Craig Venter.

Among the ethics questions raised by the prospect of people posting their genomes is whether they have an obligation to kin who may not want their familial patterns put on display.

Asked if he had consulted his living parent, his three siblings or his 30-year-old son before posting his genome, Venter said: "I've not asked any of their permission, but we've discussed it all extensively. Their main response is not "Oh, my God.' It's 'Can I get my genome done, too?'" [Link]

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #14

Patrick Cranshaw is another of those character actors whose face is familiar, even if you don't recognize the name.

What was his mother's date of birth?

Redheads a Dying Breed

Remember the story that circulated a few years ago about blondes becoming extinct? That one turned out to be false, but a new one says redheads are an endangered species.

According to genetic scientists redheads are becoming rarer and could be extinct in 100 years.

The current National Geographic magazine reports that less than 2 per cent of the world's population has natural red hair - created by a mutation in northern Europe thousand of years ago.

Global intermingling, which broadens the availability of possible partners, has reduced the chances of redheads meeting and so producing little redheads of their own. [Link]
[Thanks, Nancy!]

Genealogue Challenge #13

Under what name is "Granny" from TV's The Beverly Hillbillies listed in the 1920 census?

Extra credit to anyone who can confirm that the woman she is buried with is her sister.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Dead Relatives Are Always More Interesting

Griff Rhys Jones had always been told his great-grandparents, Daniel and Sarah Price, had died together in a railroad accident.

But while in Wales researching his family tree the TV presenter found that Daniel was a drunk who died in a street brawl in Llanelli, and Sarah was an unfit mother who put three of her four children in the workhouse.
The discoveries left Rhys Jones "feeling pretty miserable," but perhaps not as miserable as he felt as a child.
“My mother used to dump me on my relatives for holidays and they were so utterly boring it was hard to imagine I’d come from a fascinating background or have interesting ancestors.” [Link]

Minors in the Military

I wasn't aware before reading this article that there is an organization called Veterans of Underage Military Service.

We have only one requirement for full membership; U.S. military service under the age of 17 (under 16 for World War II Merchant Marine vets and under 20 years of age for women veterans of World War II). If you meet this single requirement, please join us now. Our members have experienced many of the same problems and joys as you did in the military but at an age when most kids were still dreaming of high school proms. Indeed, some of our members joined too young even to have attended high school! Three of our active members served at the age of 12, twenty-eight active members served at 13 while most were between 14 and 16 years of age.

Pat's Paternal Pedigree Probed

Pat Boone has claimed in interviews to have "inherited some of the DNA of my great, great, great grandfather, Daniel Boone." Randy at Genea-Musings has concluded that Pat's paternal line runs in a different direction.

Yeah, right, Randy. Next you're gonna tell us that Diana Ross isn't descended from Betsy Ross.

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