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Monday, December 24, 2007

The Gift of Grace

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good turkey!

SAN BERNARDINO, Cal., Dec. 25.—A large camp of brake-beam tourists just beyond the city limits is without a sumptuous turkey and chicken feast to-day only because the prompt action of Mr. and Mrs. George Delaney saved from the pot the entire stock of their poultry farm which had been given the tramps by their eight-year-old daughter Grace as a Christmas gift.

Grace had just returned from a church service when a tramp wandered up to the door. The sermon had been preached from the text that it is better to give than receive. The child put it to the test by presenting the wanderer with her own pet rooster. He promptly sent all the other denizens of the "Tincan" camp for Christmas gifts, and the little girl continued applying her pastor's text through the medium of her parents' poultry.

Just as the last pullet passed into the hands of a smiling tramp, Mrs. Delaney discovered the little Lady Bountiful. A hurried visit to the camp saved several hundred dollars' worth of turkey and chicken from being spitted over the sage-brush and yucca fires of the hungry tramps. [The New York Times, Dec. 26, 1909 (Link)]

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Census Sensitivity

The Economist has an interesting article on the politics of census taking.

Counting can be even more dangerous than being counted. In 1936 Stalin told his officials that the following year's census would find a total population of 170m—a figure that took no account of his slaughter of millions in famines and purges. But the enumerators found only 162m people, and also revealed other unwelcome facts, including that nearly half the population of this avowedly atheist country was religious. So Stalin denounced the count as a “wrecker's census” and had the census takers either imprisoned or shot. A new count in 1939 came up with a similar total, but this time officials wisely classified the results and gave Stalin his figure of 170m.
Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, was "so fond of enumeration that he once wrote to a friend that he had 'ten and one-half grandchildren, and two and three-fourths great-grandchildren', and that 'these fractions will ere long become units.'"

Friday, December 21, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #110

From the New York Times of Dec. 26, 1906, comes this cheery Christmas story:

Dissatisfied because he had not had a happy Christmas, the police say Adam Heckenmuller of 516 Eleventh Avenue last night attacked his wife Margaret and a boarder, Lawrence Stanchorn, with a bread knife, and stabbed them both. Neither was seriously hurt.

Heckenmuller was sitting in his home, the police say, and heard his wife and the boarder talking about the happy Christmas they had had. Heckenmuller had not been happy, and, according to the police, he picked up a large bread knife and attacked them.
Who would become Adam's sort-of-famous son-in-law?

Dutch is All Greek to Him

One of the perks for Mark Van Vleet of being a lawyer for Fender Musical Instruments Corp. is meeting great musicians.

He negotiated an exclusive deal for the company to manufacture and distribute EVH products inspired by Eddie Van Halen, a Van Vleet hero. The lawyer told the guitarist that they shared Dutch ancestry, and Van Vleet sat enthralled as Van Halen spoke fluent Dutch for the next 20 minutes. The two shared a laugh when the lawyer sheepishly admitted that he didn't understand a word of it. [Link]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

You Can Always Find What You're Looking For at Lowe's

Steve Flaig found his birth mother working at the same Lowe's where he works.

Four years ago, when Steve turned 18, he asked DA Blodgett for Children, the agency that arranged his adoption, for his background information.

A couple of months later it came, with his birth mother's name.

He searched the Internet for her address and came up empty.

In October, around his 22nd birthday, he took out the paperwork from DA Blodgett and realized he had been spelling his birth mother's surname wrong as "Talladay."

He typed "Tallady" into a search engine, coming up with an address on West River Drive. That was less than a mile from the Lowe's store, 4297 Plainfield Ave. NE, and just around the corner from where his parents raised him.

He mentioned it to his boss.

She said: "You mean Chris Tallady, who works here?" [Link, via Ancestories]

Long Live the Queen

Queen Elizabeth will soon be the longest-lived British monarch ever.

She overtakes the record set by her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria.

Victoria, who was born on May 24, 1819, died on January 22, 1901, having lived for 81 years, seven months and 29 days or 81 years and 243 days.

According to Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II, who was born on April 21 1926, beats her ancestor's record at around 5pm on December 20. [Link]
Here's a list of British monarchs since 1603 ranked by longevity. The key to Elizabeth's longevity? She's never eaten a surfeit of lampreys.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Meme-ories

I'm flattered that the footnoteMaven has included me (or least my avatar) in her Choir of GeneaAngels—though genetic testing has established that I'm more Angle than angel.

fM also started a Blog Caroling meme, which has been making the rounds. Here's a Christmas classic sung in the impenetrably beautiful language of my ancestors by the impenetrably beautiful Johanna Kurkela. I've provided the lyrics below so you can sing along.

Jouluyö, juhlayö!
Päättynyt kaik on työ.
Kaks vain valveil on puolisoa
lapsen herttaisen nukkuessa
seimikätkyessään,
seimikätkyessään.

Jouluyö, juhlayö!
Paimenil yksin työ.
Enkel taivaasta ilmoitti heill':
Suuri koittanut riemu on teill'!
Kristus syntynyt on,
Kristus syntynyt on!

Jouluyö, juhlayö!
Täytetty nyt on työ.
Olkoon kunnia Jumalalle!
Maassa rauha, myös ihmisille
olkoon suosio suur,
olkoon suosio suur!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

There Was No Body There

Last weekend, archaeologists finally started digging for missing duelist Charles Henry Dickinson in Jim and Laura Bowen's front yard.

“The day we moved in, the guys across the street came in and said, ‘Have you heard about the body? Are you going to help excavate it?’” said Mr. Bowen, as he watched with his daughter, Lily, in his arms.
Several hours of digging turned up nothing.
The archaeologist leading the dig, Larry McKee, his jeans streaked with mud, announced to onlookers and his tired crew, “I think we’re going to call it, guys.”

The Bowens looked out from the porch as workers replaced the sod, saying they might continue after more research.

“We should let them dig up the whole yard,” Ms. Bowen said, “just to settle it once and for all.” [Link]

King David of Frederick, Maryland

Maryland businessman David Howe got a call last year from an English genealogist telling him that he descends from the last king of the Isle of Man. So, he crowned himself king and set up a website.

Many Isle of Man residents are not happy about Howe's proclamation, however. There are Internet postings questioning Howe's legitimacy, even demanding that authorities intervene.

Howe said he was surprised by the backlash.

"I haven't hired a general, I haven't raised an army, and I have no plans to invade," Howe said.
Howe has never visited the island, but he said he plans to go with his family in the spring. [Link]
Following in the footsteps of William the Conqueror and Richard the Lionheart, Howe established his claim by publishing a notice in a London newspaper (pdf).

Genealogue Challenge #109

In honor of Flat Stanley finding his British roots, today's challenge is about Stanley Flatt. Specifically, this Stanley Flatt.

What were his middle name, nickname, wife's name, the full names of his parents, and the name of his step-father?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Family History Makes Strange Bedfellows

Next November, cousins Mark Udall and Tom Udall will be running for the Senate, and their second cousin, Gordon Smith, will be running for reelection to the same body. The Udalls are Democrats, Smith a Republican.

The Udalls are descendants of one David King Udall, who as a year-old child was brought by his parents on the trek to Utah led by Brigham Young. As a young man, he was sent to Arizona and lived to be president of the Mormons' Mesa, Ariz., temple until 1934.

Having taken two wives, David Udall ran afoul of territorial law enforcement officials in the 1880s. He served a brief term for perjury, having to do with an affidavit filed on a land claim by one Miles Romney -- Mitt Romney's great-grandfather.

Baron Goldwater, uncle of the future senator and father of modern conservatism, bailed David Udall out of jail. [Link]

What Else Is Watson Hiding?

A Slate article casts doubt on the claim that James Watson is 16% African.

The company that did the sequencing claims that each base was read an average of 7.4 times, but Kari Stefansson, whose company assessed Watson's heritage, says he found enough errors in the public genome to have doubts about whether the 16 percent figure will hold up. For example, he says there are places where it appears that Watson has two X chromosomes, which would make him a woman. [Link]

Ale in the Family

Members of the famed Guinness brewing family had their DNA tested to confirm their ancestor Arthur Guinness's claim that he descended from the Magennis chieftains of Iveagh, in County Down. It turns out that he descended from "the subsidiary McCartan clan, a far less eminent family."

The book [Arthur's Round: The Life And Times Of Brewing Legend Arthur Guinness] explains that where Arthur's genuine ancestors, the McCartans, once lived is a small village called Guiness or Ginnies.

The name of which is derived from the Irish Gion Ais, meaning wedge-shaped ridge -- thus clarifying the roots of the famous surname.

However, the pretensions arose when Arthur Guinness married in 1761 and engraved a silver cup with the armorial bearings of the Magennises of Iveagh -- a lion, with the red hand of Ulster, and a boar. [Link]

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #108

Doug sent me an article that played a part in solving Challenge #104 (see also the followup):

A pioneer in a new school of dancing, Faith Yvonne Bacon has found that she also is the scion of a pioneer Alameda County family.

Her first visit to Oakland, Miss Bacon explained yesterday, brought her first visit with her uncles, Thomas P. Bacon, 1077 Trestle Glen Road and Robert Bacon, and her first details of the lives of her grandfather and great grandfather.
The great grandfather was Henry D. Bacon, founder of the Page-Bacon Bank in San Francisco, donor of the site for Oakland's Madison Park, and donor of a library and art gallery to the University of California. Bacon was offered the portfolio of Secretary of State in President Lincoln's first Cabinet, family papers show.

The grandfather was Frank Page Bacon, owner of the Bacon Block in Oakland, who died in 1928. Her father, Frank Page Bacon, Jr., never lived in Oakland.

Genealogical research by Miss Bacon's cousin, Mrs. Betty Bacon Week, Jr., shows that she can include among her ancestors of 100 to 300 years ago Sir Francis Bacon, the English essayist, and James Fennimore Cooper, the man who wrote "The Last of the Mohicans." [Oakland Tribune, Feb. 6, 1938]
Two questions:

Who were Betty Bacon Week's parents?

Was Faith really descended from James Fenimore Cooper?

Genealogue Challenge #107

Here's an unusual challenge. This postcard was featured today at PostSecret.

My grown daughter thinks she is named for a Biblical concept, but actually I named her after a KISS song.
Can you figure out what her daughter's name is?

Anne Is Alive!

Anne Hathaway of Orono, Maine, was surprised to read in her local newspaper that she had died.

The information in the short obituary and the list of death notices was correct, except for the part about her being dead.

The deceased was actually Ann Hathaway of Bangor.
At 92, Hathaway admits she’s no spring chicken but said that she’s not dead yet.

"I just laughed," Hathaway said. "I went to the pearly gates and opened the door and they didn’t have any strawberry shortcake and they didn’t like the way my hair looked." [Link]
This woman is also alive and well. This woman is almost certainly dead.
[Thanks, Sharon!]

Scary Santa Moments

Craig's Christmas photo brings to mind terrifying Santa memories of my own. Isn't there one of these photos in every family album?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #106

We've concluded that most of Nancy's missing relatives were hiding under the porch when the census taker came in 1920 and 1930. You can try your hand at that challenge this weekend, or take a stab at this one.

A Christmas card mailed in 1914 was delivered recently in Kansas.

Little is known about the post card, which features a color drawing of Santa Claus and a young girl and is still in excellent condition.
The card was addressed to Ethel Martin of Oberlin, who is deceased. The post office, however, wanted to get the card to a relative, he said.

That's how the relic ended up in the home of Bernice Martin, Ethel's sister-in-law. She said she believed the post card, which was from Ethel's cousins in Alma, Neb., had been found somewhere in Illinois. [Link]
Who might her cousins in Nebraska have been?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Grieving Through Glass

Florence Irene Ford died in 1871 at age ten, and was buried in Natchez City Cemetery in Mississippi.

During her short life she was extremely frightened of storms and whenever one occurred she would rush to her mother to find comfort.

Upon her death her mother was so struck with grief that she had Florence's casket constructed with a glass window at the child's head. The grave was dug to provide an area, the same depth of the coffin, at the child's head, but this area had steps that would allow the mother to descend to her daughter's level so she could comfort Florence during storms. To shelter the mother during storms, hinged metal trap doors were installed over the area the mother would occupy while at her child's grave.
The glass window was walled off in the 1950s to prevent vandalism, but the metal doors still work. More photos here, here, and here.

Somebody Doesn't Like Ike

obituary forum has dubbed this the "Worst obit headline ever." I must agree.

The War on Error

Regret the Error has posted a list of notable media errors and corrections of 2007, including these:

Most Delayed Correction
The New York Times:
A caption on June 8, 1944, with a photograph of Army officers at mess on the Pacific front, misspelled the given name of the first officer seated at the left side of the table. He was Col. Girard B. Troland of New London, Conn. – not Gerand. The error was called to the attention of the editors by his grandson yesterday.
The Trouble at Home Award
The Daily Miner and News (Kenora, Ontario):
Last week’s editorial had a major error in it that I must correct. I referred to my new granddaughter as three and one-half YEARS old. It should have read MONTHS old. Boy am I in trouble.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #105

Nancy Bovy needs some help finding relatives in the census.

Despite numerous hours searching at Ancestry I have been unable to find these relatives on the 1920 census and most of them on the 1930 census.

John M Nelson - head - born January 16, 1864 in Sweden (need 1920 & 1930)
Alfrida Nelson - wife - born July 8, 1870 in Sweden (need 1920 & 1930)
Edwin Reynold Nelson - son - born April 1, 1898 in Wisconsin (need 1920 only)
Esther W Nelson - daughter - born March 9, 1901 in Wisconsin (need 1920 & 1930)*
Alice Alfreda Nelson - daughter - born March 3, 1904 in Wisconsin (need 1920 & 1930)
Clarence V Nelson - son - born July 22, 1909 in Wisconsin (need 1920 only)

* Esther married Roy Matthew Curley some time after the 1920 census since he was still single on the 1920 census and living in Traverse County, Minnesota. I haven't found either of them on the 1930 census.
Roy Matthew Curley - born May 24, 1901 in Minnesota (need 1930 only)

The Nelsons lived in Grantsburg, Burnett County, Wisconsin until at least 1910 (1900 & 1910 U.S. census and 1895 & 1905 Wisconsin census). According to Alfrida's parents obituaries, John and Alfrida lived in Sandstone, Pine County, Minnesota in 1925 & 1926. When John & Alfrida died they were living in St Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota.

Both John and Alfrida died in Minnesota in 1949. Edwin died in 1993 in North Dakota. Esther Curley died in 1981 in Minnesota. Alice Nelson died in 1998 in Minnesota. Clarence died in 1964 in California.

He'll Go Down in Family History

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has a profile at Genebase. He needs to do some work on his pedigree, though.

"Rudolph's DNA "Rangifer tarandus" was sequenced by a group of scientists in 2005 (Genebank AB245426) - this is the real thing," said June Wong, Vice President, Laboratory Operations, Genetrack Biolabs. "Humans are genetically similar to many other creatures on earth, including approximately 85 per cent similarity to reindeer and surprisingly, 61 per cent similarity to the fruit fly."

Experts speculate that Rudolph's DNA holds a genetic marker that makes the likelihood of a shiny nose highly probable. Whether flight is a dominant or recessive gene in reindeer has yet to be determined. [Link]
Note: Just because your grandfather or great-uncle had a red nose does not mean that he was related to Rudolph. It is far more likely that he was a circus clown. A circus clown with a chronic drinking problem.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Faith, the Stripteasing Genealogist

The most recent Genealogue Challenge has to be my favorite so far. We started out with an image of Faith Bacon as a striptease artist with a lackluster Hollywood career who ended up dead on a sidewalk in Chicago. What have we found out so far?

  • Her great-great-grandfather, Daniel Dearborn Page, was the second mayor of St. Louis.
  • Her great-grandfather, Henry Douglas Bacon, was a generous benefactor of the University of California at Berkeley.
  • She was a not-too-distant cousin of General George S. Patton (it appears that her great-grandmother, Mary Catherine (Hereford) Cooper, and his maternal grandmother, Margaret (Hereford) Wilson, were sisters).
  • She sent General Patton fan mail, and "included a photocopy of her Colonial Dames papers." She was a genealogist!
  • At her death, she was separated from her husband, Sanford Dickinson, "song writer and publisher of Buffalo, NY." He seems to have been the music consultant for the cult-classic transvestite flick Glen or Glenda—the making of which was depicted in the movie Ed Wood.
There are still details needing confirmation. Faith was living with her 28-year-old "sister" Charm Bacon in New York City in 1930. The 1910 census is difficult to read, but seems to show her father, Frank P. Bacon, with a 10-year-old bride, Charmaine. Was "Charm" Faith's mother? If so, what became of her? And where were they living in 1920?

House Turns Into a Money Pit

Contractor Bob Kitts found $182,000 in Depression-era cash behind the walls of a Cleveland house he was rehabbing for a friend. Now he and the homeowner, Amanda Reece, are heading to court to find out who gets the money.

They traced the home's Depression-era ownership to a businessman named Peter Dunne, Kitts said. The money bundles had "P. Dunne" written on them, but no sign of its origin. Dunne apparently died unmarried and childless, leaving behind a mystery -- a fortune that would be worth an inflation-adjusted $2.7 million in today's money.

But the joy, friendship and contractual bonds of the former classmates dissolved like melting snow amid the heat of all that money. Now Kitts and Reece speak to each other only through their lawyers. [Link]
[Thanks, Nancy!]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #104

This one has me stumped. Faith Bacon was a burlesque dancer who is said to have invented the fan dance. She threw herself from a window in Chicago in 1956. I found her in the 1930 census, but the trail quickly runs cold.

What can you find out about Faith Bacon's origins?

Kilt Him a Bar When He Was Only Five

Five-year-old Tre Merritt bagged a 445-pound black bear while hunting with his grandfather.

"His 10th great-grandfather was Davy Crockett," Mike Merritt said. "And Davy supposedly killed him a bear when he was three. And Tre is five and really killed a bear. I really doubt if Davy killed one when he was three." [Link]

Threads of the Dead

If you're having trouble finding a corset that fits at Wal-Mart, check out this MetaFilter post. Follow the links to find all the period attire you'll need to participate in next year's Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day.

2) The Past - This one is more for beginners. Basically dress in period clothing (preferably Victorian era) and stagger around amazed at everything. Since the culture's set in place already, you have more of a template to work off of. Some pointers:

- Airplanes are terrifying. Also, carry on conversations with televisions for a while.

- Discover and become obsessed with one trivial aspect of technology, like automatic grocery doors. Stay there for hours playing with it.

- Be generally terrified of people who are dressed immodestly compared to your era. Tattoos and shorts on women are especially scary.

Family Histories Protected by Panda

The Washington Post had an interesting article Monday about Ashish Sharma Pawan—a priest who keeps the records of some 2,500 Indian families stretching back 144 years.

The pages are filled with script in Arabic, Sanskrit used generations ago and dialects of Persian mixed with tribal languages. These days, Hindi is northern India's predominant language. The foreign letters in the book represent the past, says Pawan, 28. There are hundreds of priests, or pandas, like Pawan in this city, and each works for a set of families.

"It's so lovely that we still feel so emotionally connected to seeing the books," coos Parthi Krishnan, a hotel manager marveling at the record book's faded pages. There were remarks written by relatives through the years: "A good listener," one entry said. "Hard worker," another said.

"You see, a computer has no feeling," Pawan explained. "There is an intimacy in seeing the handwritten notes of a family." [Link]

Monday, December 10, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #103

James Watson reportedly has the genetic makeup "you would expect in someone who had a great-grandparent who was African."

Can you name his eight great-grandparents?

(For the sake of this challenge, let's assume that none of his recent ancestors was the product of a back-door romance.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Surprise in Jim's Genes

James Watson—who helped discover the structure of DNA, and suggested recently that black people are genetically inferior to whites—has had his own genome sequenced.

An analysis of his genome shows that 16% of his genes are likely to have come from a black ancestor of African descent. By contrast, most people of European descent would have no more than 1%.

The study was made possible when he allowed his genome - the map of all his genes - to be published on the internet in the interests of science.

“This level is what you would expect in someone who had a great-grandparent who was African,” said Kari Stefansson of deCODE Genetics, whose company carried out the analysis. “It was very surprising to get this result for Jim.” [Link]
Based on Watson's own arguments, this means that he is 16 times more likely to say stupid things about race and intelligence than the average person of European descent.

Postcard Samaritan Strikes Again

Doris Alman of Mason City, Iowa, was sent a postcard mailed by her parents to her grandmother back in 1968.

Alman turned her attention to the envelope the card was mailed in, wondering who sent it to her.

The No. 10 envelope has a one-line return address: Lost Postcard Rescue Dept.

The envelope has a 41-cent Gerald Ford postage stamp and the postmark shows it was mailed from Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 21, 2007.

That’s where the mystery rests for Alman.

“I have no idea who it came from,” she said. “You would almost have to think it was someone who does genealogy because our last names are different.” [Link]
Sound familiar? I blogged last January about a similar case in South Carolina.
The envelope the card came in was postmarked in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Dec. 9. The return address is an e-mail account held by someone using the moniker "lost.postcards." [Ned] Hethington has e-mailed the account several times but has yet to receive a reply.

Genealogue Challenge #102

Debbie Atchley has come through with another Memphis challenge.

I like reading those articles in the local newspaper with things that happened 25, 50, 100 and 125 years ago. Makes you wonder "whatever happened to...."

In the 29 September 2007 issue of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the "Memories" column mentioned an Oscar Norfleet from 100 years ago:

This should be a fairly quick one - so you can get back to your Holiday shopping/wrapping/cooking...:
  1. When did Oscar Norfleet die?
  2. What was his full name?
  3. Where did he die?
For the third question, be as specific as possible.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Why the Hellsterns Hated Christmas

A delightful holiday story from The New York Times of Dec. 27, 1914:

XMAS FATAL TO HELLSTERNS

Widow Fourth of Her Family to Die Suddenly on That Day.

Mrs. Caroline Hellstern, 63 years old, of 28-a First Street, Wechawken, widow of a restaurant proprietor of Union Hill, was stricken with paralysis while attending a family reunion at the home of her son, Dr. Ephraim C. Hellstern, at Palisades Plaza, Hudson Heights, on Christmas Day, and died early yesterday morning in the Hudson Heights Hospital. She was the fourth member of the Hellstern family to die suddenly at Christmas time. Her son, Gustave, died suddenly from heart trouble a year ago, in his drug store at Ridgefield, N. J.; another son, Frederick, died suddenly three years ago, and Mrs. Hellstern, wife of Dr. Hellstern, died four years ago. [Link]

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #101

Who is (supposedly) pictured here, and in what city did her husband die?

A Taste I Don't Wish to Acquire

Before she could open presents on Christmas Eve, Ken Nelson's mother had to eat some lutefisk—a tradition my own Nordic ancestors had the good sense not to pick up and pass down.

The origins of lutefisk are a subject of debate. Some accounts mention a fish accidentally dropped in a washing bowl containing lye, and because of family poverty, the fish had to be eaten.
Personally, I like the story about when the Vikings were pillaging Ireland, and St. Patrick sent men to pour lye on the stores of dried fish on the longships, with the hope of poisoning the Vikings. However, rather than dying of poisoning, the Vikings declared the lye-soaked fish a delicacy and named it lutefisk. [Link]
Thus the saying, "That which does not kill us makes us hunger."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Deconstructing the Bible

I have mixed feelings about this story. Jack Bacon, the pastor of an Oregon church, got a rare 1599 Geneva Bible as a Father's Day gift from his son, who had picked it up at a yard sale for a buck. Now he's selling the Bible off, page by page, to raise money for repairs to his church.

"I opened the binding and found some hair. Wouldn't that be something if that was Pilgrim hair?" he asks.

There are also burn marks, souvenirs of fireside readers, and mistakes from early printing presses, Bacon says.

"Some of the lines slant down and then come back up," he says. Inside the distressed tome are messages in faded handwritten script that details births, deaths, marriages and other important milestones. He recently discovered a note from an early owner of the bible, Helen Crombie.

"My daughter Jean Stephen was born June 26th one thousand seventeen hundred and twenty eight. Likewise my son William Stephen was borne July the eighth one thousand seven hundred and thirty years."

If he can find Crombie's "great, great, great, great grandchildren," he'd like to send them a few pages of their ancestor's Bible, Bacon says. [Link]
The pastor's intentions are noble, but I can't help be reminded of the horrible practice of slicing up atlases and selling off the maps. Even a heavily damaged 1599 Geneva Bible is worth more than the sum of its parts. Though perhaps not enough cash to fix a church roof.

Genealogue Challenge #100

The 100th Challenge comes courtesy of Megan. All you have to do is watch this video and answer these questions:

In the Genealogical Cruising video, which well known genealogist:
  • Is seen riding a Segway?

  • Is seen wearing bunny ears and playing guitar?

  • Touts karaoke lounges as an ideal venue for computer talks?

  • Describes genealogical cruising as “tasty, painless” and “not prison”?

  • Suggests that all genealogical conferences should be done on cruise ships?

Thar's Gold in Them Thar Hills

An Arkansas man is searching for Confederate gold buried to finance a second Civil War that never happened. The Freemasons, John Wilkes Booth, and Jesse James were all involved.

Bob Brewer was 10 when his great-uncle, W.D. "Grandpa" Ashcraft, pointed it out on a logging trip 57 years ago.

"He said, 'Boy, you see that tree? That's a treasure tree,'" Brewer recalled on a recent visit to the site. "'You see that writing? If you can figure out what that is, you'll find some gold.'"

The old man didn't elaborate, but his words stuck with Brewer through childhood and two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Navy helicopter crewman. So did memories of Grandpa's frequent, unexplained horseback rides into the nearby Ouachita Mountains. [Link]

Woman Mistakes Herself for Christian

Is it important to find out the religious affiliation of your ancestors? It is if you live in Egypt.

An Egyptian court has sentenced a woman to three years in prison because her father converted to Islam briefly 45 years ago. Under Egyptian law, religion is passed to children from the father.

Shadia Nagui Ibrahim, 47, a Christian, was charged with fraud for putting Christianity as her religion on her marriage certificate, even though she was unaware that her father's conversion in 1962 had made her officially Muslim. [Link]

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Comment on Comments

Once, when I was a naive lad of 37, I allowed anyone to comment on this blog. After a particularly heinous spam attack, I began restricting comments to registered Blogger members. This always bugged me, because not everyone has a Blogger account. I know that some of my regular visitors have registered for the sole purpose of leaving comments on this and other Blogger blogs. So I am very happy that Blogger is testing OpenID-based commenting.

When leaving a comment on this site, you can still sign in using your Blogger/Google account, but now you can also use your AOL, LiveJournal, TypeKey, or WordPress account.

If you have a blog or website that doesn't support OpenID, it's pretty easy to set it up. Once it's configured, you can just type in your website's address to sign in to any site that uses OpenId for authentication.

Dublin Your Pleasure, Dublin Your Fun

The 1911 Census of Dublin, Ireland, went online today. It may be searched or browsed by place.

On Sunday, April 2nd, 1911, a 28-year-old maths professor called "Edward de Valera" filled out his census form at home at Morehampton Terrace in Dublin. Across town, Oliver St John Gogarty did the same. In the marital status column he wrote "single", then crossed it out and replaced it with "married", apparently remembering Martha, his wife of five years.
Some entries are missing, of course. They include those for the suffragettes Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, Anna Haslam and Louie Bennett, all members of the Irish Women's Franchise League, who decided to boycott the census in protest at not having the vote.

When a policeman interrupted one of their meetings on the night before census day to remind them that it was illegal not to fill out the form, the women told him they had arranged for airplanes and submarines to remove them from the soil of Ireland for the night of April 2nd. [Link]

Monday, December 03, 2007

Farm Livin' Is the Life for Me

I've blogged before about the longevity studies of Drs. Leonid and Natalia Gavrilova. Their latest conclusions were drawn from World War I Draft Registration Cards.

In their study, Gavrilov and Gavrilova first used Social Security data to locate 240 men born in 1887 who lived to be at least 100.

In 171 of those cases, the men's physical and social attributes at age 30 were recorded on their WW I draft cards -- giving the researchers a snapshot of their lives at the time.

The Chicago team then compared that data against draft card information for a randomly selected group of American men who were also born in 1887 but who did not reach 100. [Link]
They concluded that trim farmers with more than three children were more likely to live to see 100 than overweight city boys without kids. In fact, living on a farm "more than doubled a man's odds of living into the triple digits."

A Khan Conversation

About 8% of men in Central Asia inherited their Y-chromosome from Genghis Khan, which means that roughly a gazillion people have the Mongol ruler in their family trees. Michael Stusser—author of The Dead Guy Interviews—snagged a sit-down with the prolific potentate.



Sunday, December 02, 2007

You Won't Find Tooties Under the Floor

Scottish postmaster Jonathan Creed tore down a partition at his office and found a creepy message written behind.

Imitating an inscription more commonly found on a gravestone it read: "In loving memory of John Tooties Q.C. who died on the 12th Day of March. Foul Play Suspected. 1958. 4ft below he lies."

Jonathan found himself faced with the horrifying prospect that a murder had been committed, possibly on his premises, with the victim buried deep beneath his floorboards.
An investigation turned up the "victim": 70-year-old John "Tooties" Sutherland, who worked on a construction crew as a young man.
[O]ne of their favourite pastimes was to scrawl messages on plaster or walls which were going to be covered by wallpaper or partitions.

"We came across it all the time ourselves. We'd pull a wall away and shout: 'Hey! Look at this – so and so was working here in 1858' or some such date. We always found it very interesting and I suppose we learned from that," he says. [Link]

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Dwopps Had a Dwy Sense of Humor

Here's a book for the genealogist who has everything but this book: Larry Ashmead's Bertha Venation and Hundreds of Other Funny Names of Real People.

William Shakespeare was moved to ask, "What's in a name?" Well, in the case of Lavender Hanky, Hedda Lettuce and Stan Dupp the answer is a hearty chuckle.

Not to mention poor old Dwayne, the son of Mr and Mrs Dwopp, who must be rather tired of hearing "Dwayne Dwopps keep falling on my head" every time he enters a room.
Sometimes names only seem funny when put in context, such as Dr De'ath the surgeon, Archbishop Cardinal Sin and Mr Fatty, head of the Freedom from Hunger campaign. [Link]
Another from the book: Nancy Ann Cianci (her last name pronounced See-Ann-See). She's a real person (the ex-wife of former Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci), but Dwayne Dwopp? I'm skeptical.

An Unconventional Naming Convention

It has been established that Marilyn vos Savant is not a genealogist. But I think she has an interesting idea here:

I believe both men and women should keep their premarital surnames throughout life. When they get married and have children, sons would take their father’s surname, and daughters would take their mother’s surname. The benefit to girls and women would be enormous while costing boys and men nothing—except the fun of claiming ownership of the opposite sex! [Link]
I don't know anything about "claiming ownership of the opposite sex" (I only rent). But I wouldn't mind trying genealogy in a society where surnames were traditionally, consistently inherited in this way.

If the practice were longstanding, there presumably would be some surnames exclusively male, and others exclusively female. You would have patronyms (Johnson) and matronyms (Janesdaughter). Depending on how their ancestors divided their labor, surnames derived from occupations might differ: Smith and Nurse might be male and female respectively. A woman who bore a son after a one-night stand might have to decide whether to give the boy her own, female surname. "What was your mother's maiden name?" would be a lousy security question for women. One-name studies would split families apart.

Census records could get convoluted if a husband and wife had children by multiple spouses (sons of former husbands, daughters of former wives, each carrying the surname of an absent parent); but convolution can be good if it offers evidence of prior relationships. I don't think the naming convention vos Savant advocates would cause more problems for genealogists, just different ones. At least there would be far fewer women in my database with the last name "______."

Some Family Reviewed

Donald Harman Akenson's new book—Some Family: The Mormons and How Humanity Keeps Track of Itself—gets reviewed in today's Globe and Mail. It's going on my Christmas wish list.

"The Saints," [Joseph] Smith wrote in 1840, "have the privilege of being baptized for those of their relatives who are dead, whom they believe would have embraced the Gospel, if they had been privileged with hearing it." This sent the faithful back to their family Bibles for the names and dates of their ancestors. The great genealogical treasure hunt had begun.

In 1918, the Mormons expanded their mission, trawling for names among non- Mormons and baptizing them once their exact place in the tree of life had been determined. The practice continues to this day, spurred on by the wish to save as many souls as possible.
Though the Mormons have instituted an admirable double-blind system for vetting new names, slipups are inevitable, and Akenson gives a few that are absolute howlers. The most laughable by far are the attempts to find a genealogy for the Norse gods Odin and Frigg, reported as having lived in "Asgard, Asia, or Eastern Europe." [Link]

Soldier Bagged Two Girlfriends

Egyptian tour guide Kahled Makram found a bag in the Sahara dropped by Alec Ross when he was serving there in World War II. Ross died a few years ago, but Makram is sending the bag to his sister, Irene Porter.

She has been able to read the letters - sent by her parents, herself and her brother's two girlfriends - from photographs put onto disc by Mr Makram.

Mrs Porter, 75, of Burnley, said: "I was stunned when I found out about this and it is just incredible the way the bag has come to light.
"I just wish the bag had been found a few years earlier so that Alec could have been reunited with its contents.

"He would have been thrilled, if a little embarrassed about having had two girlfriends on the go." [Link, via Neatorama]

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