Monday, March 31, 2008

Reggae With Bagpipes?

Historian James Cant is exploring whether the fair-skinned residents of Treasure Beach, Jamaica, descend from Scottish sailors whose ship sank offshore in the 1830s.

Cant, piecing together what might have happened from oral history, speculates: "The Scottish sailors - perhaps understandably - decided that settling in this area and marrying beautiful Jamaican women was preferable ... . So they stayed, they settled and they married - thus giving so many of the people of Treasure Beach their distinctive features."
"Dialect, in particular, will be fascinating to look at and I expect that much of the dialect in Treasure Beach will be linked back to the kind of Lowland Scots' dialect that was spoken in Scotland two hundred years ago." [Link]

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Evidence is Equally Thin

Could this have happened both in Yorkshire and in Tasmania?

The headmistress of a school in Yorkshire had asked for the inscription “She was Thine”. Unfortunately the e was omitted from Thine, so the inscription read “She was Thin”. The stonemason’s apprentice was blamed for this error. He was told to go and put the missing “E” on the gravestone. This he did, and being a Yorkshireman he put the “E” at the beginning of the inscription with the result that the stone epitaph then read; “E, She was Thin”. [Link]
But wait, maybe it happened in America:
A small headstone in the western part of Pennsylvania is pointed out to visitors as one of the sights of the neighborhood. It was placed over the grave by a widower who, while not lacking in love for the departed one, was penurious to a degree. He ordered a small stone because it was cheap, and told the mason to engrave on it this inscription:

"Sarah Hackett. Aged ninety years. Lord, she was Thine."

The stonecutter said there was too much inscription for so small a surface, but was told to go ahead and "squeeze it on somehow." Here is the inscription as squeezed:

"Sarah Hackett. Aged 90. Lord, she was Thin." [Link]
Here's one more version in which the phrase appears on a floral arrangement at a funeral.

Sean From the Shtetl

Schelly at Tracing the Tribe writes today about the old "They changed our name at Ellis Island" myth. The linked article tells the apocryphal story of a Jewish immigrant who ending up with the name "Sean Fergusson."

“It’s like this,” the second Jew said. “My name was Moshke Rabinowitz. The first time I arrived at Ellis Island, I failed the eye test, so the doctors sent me back to Europe. There my eyes were treated and cured, and I decided to try again. But what would happen, I thought, if I turned up a second time as the same Moshke Rabinowitz? They’d already know me and send me back again. And so I decided to call myself Yankl Katzenstein. Still, what if someone recognized me? And so there I was, standing in line at Ellis Island and getting more and more nervous all the time, and when it’s finally my turn I’m so flustered that I can’t remember my new name. The immigration official asks me what it is, and I can’t think of it; it’s simply escaped me. ‘Oy, kh’hob shoyn fargesn!’ I say. ‘Sean Fergusson?’ the official repeats, and writes it down on the form.”

In Yiddish, of course, kh’hob shoyn fargesn means “I’ve forgotten.” [Link]

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Beer Is In His Blood

Seventeen-year-old Adolphus August Busch V—scion of the Anheuser-Busch family— was arrested Wednesday for drinking one of his family's beverages.

The report said the underage group was drinking Natural Light beer when police arrived.

Busch is a grandson of the late August A. "Gussie" Busch Jr., but his parents do not work for the brewery. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #123

I just learned over at Genealogy Reviews Online that the inventor of the Egg McMuffin has died.

When did his maternal grandparents marry, and who were his maternal grandmother's parents?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

They Like You, They Really Like You!

Congrats to for winning four Telly Awards. That's four more than Susan Lucci has ever won., an online channel dedicated to all aspects of genealogy and family history, has been recognized in the 29th Annual Telly Awards for four of its original productions. Selected from more than 14,000 shows were “DNA Stories: A Tale of Two Fathers” (documentary), “Heir Jordan: Extreme Genealogy” (entertainment), “Roots Books: Psychic Roots” (talk show), and “Flat Stanley’s Family Tree” (children’s audience).

“We’re delighted,” said co-founder, Marcy Brown. “To receive this kind of recognition during our first year of existence is remarkable, and winning in four different categories is even more astonishing. We take this as an indication that our decision to pioneer online programming for the substantial but neglected niche of millions of genealogists was a risk worth taking.”

I'd Rather Find My Future Partner

This headline on the WorldVitalRecords blog caught my attention:

But no, they are not offering to track down my former girlfriends.

Crazy George Married His Half-Sister

George Wass and his wife Alice recently won the lottery. Oh, and they came from the same womb.

[T]he £5.3million lottery winners' tangled love life was unravelled when the Mirror yesterday confronted them with records that showed they shared the same mum, Margaret Wass.

Alice, 61, who lives in a caravan on a rubbish tip with George said: "This is all coming out now. What am I supposed to do?"

"If I'm getting you right, we've got the same mother but different fathers. You have learnt a lot more than I have." George, 63, walked out on his wife Mabel and their three children after he met widowed Alice.

Mabel said last night: "He was always nicknamed Crazy George so it was no real surprise when he did something like this." [Link]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Genealogue Challenge #122

Today was the 80th birthday of Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell.

What were the names and birth dates of his paternal grandparents?

That Date Doesn't Make Census

The ABC15 Investigators of Phoenix, Arizona, did a hard-hitting exposé on genealogy "rip-offs and scams," and offered this piece of advice:

Smith recommends starting with the U.S. Census to find your roots, which keeps records after 1906. [Link]
I think they confused the United States with Canada's Northwest Provinces. A common mistake.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Rip Wasn't Ready to Rest in Peace

Wim Hasman found a World War II mess tin in Germany's Huertgen Forest with the name "Emmit S. Collins" carved into it.

“Under the name — the letters RIP — I thought he was dead,” Hasman said of the information his efforts revealed.

Later, though, a very confused Hasman found mention online of Collins’ death not in 1940s Germany, but in 1999, a world away in Arkansas.

Pearl [Collins], who began communicating with Hasman early last week, was able to explain the engraving.

“That was his nickname when he was in the Army,” she told to a Courier editor when contacted by telephone last Monday. [Link]

Genealogue Challenge #121

I was surprised to read that Jack Elam was named director of the Kosciusko County Historical Society’s Old Jail Museum, because I thought he was dead.

What was the middle name of wild-eyed actor Jack Elam's older sister?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Candidate's Canard

John McCain claimed in his memoir Faith of My Fathers to be descended from Scottish king Robert the Bruce.

Asked by the Guardian to investigate McCain's family history, genealogists and medieval historians described the link to Robert the Bruce as "wonderful fiction" and "baloney".
Claims of Scottish medieval ancestry, [Dr. Katie Stevenson] said, are virtually impossible to prove unless traced through rare documentation. "There are no records of that nature. Any historian will tell you that it's virtually impossible to prove ancestry through the middle ages."
A spokesman for McCain said last night: "The ancestry claim is based upon a genealogical study the McCain family had in their possession, which traced the McCain family roots back to Robert the Bruce." [Link]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Accidental Self-Portraits

Here's a Flickr pool for anyone whose dad (like mine) made his kids pose for snapshots squinting into the sun. Vintage Photographer's Shadow will accept "Any old photograph (25 years or more) where the photographer's shadow has accidentally fallen across the scene."

Life Imitates a 1960s Sitcom

Tampa, Florida, issued a promissory note to storekeeper Thomas Pugh Kennedy on June 21, 1861, in the amount of $299.58.

Kennedy's great-granddaughter says the city never made good on its loan. Now, Joan Kennedy Biddle and her family are suing to collect the payment plus 8 percent annual interest.

The total bill: $22.7-million.
Biddle wouldn't give specifics on why she decided to sue now, using as evidence a piece of paper that has been handed down as an heirloom for generations.

"This thing has been in the family since the date on the note, and it has never been repaid," said Biddle, 77. "My daddy told me, and I certainly believe him." [Link]
The relevant case law comes from an episode of The Andy Griffith Show.
Andy is forced to evict Frank Myers from his home only to later discover that he holds a century-old bond that is originally believed to be worth $349,119.27. Since the Mayberry treasury holds just over $10,000, the mayor and town council scramble to keep Frank happy by renovating his run-down home. Later, the bond is discovered to be worthless because it was paid for with Confederate currency.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Her Family Tree Has Three Leaves

Mary Lane's family has a 250-year-old shamrock plant.

Lane’s ancestors brought the original over from Ireland in 1751 “to have a piece of Ireland,” and the family has shared bulbs from the line since then.

“It’s the best inheritance you can have,” she said last week at her home. “It’s an heirloom that can be passed down through the generations, and everyone can get some.” [Link]

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Clever Way to Avoid ATM Fees

Mike Harden's uncle found a way to make ends meet during the Great Depression.

Growing up, I knew only that my namesake Uncle Mike did "something in banks."

At 32, I learned that the "something" involved relieving them of their cash assets. He robbed banks from Hunterstown, Ind., to Washington, Pa. The job in Washington cost him a brother when police interrupted their 1930 escapade. Ed went down as the two tried to shoot their way out of town. Mike lived to rob again and to show up occasionally during the Depression to buy clothes and shoes for my mother and her 12 siblings. [Link]

Taking Heed of the Headless

The question sounds so much better in French: "Avez-vous eu un ancêtre décapité pendant la Révolution?"

Les Guillotinés offers the most complete online list yet established of the French Revolution’s victims and invites users to discover the answer to a terrible question: “Do you have an ancestor who was decapitated?” Hundreds of thousands of people have consulted the death base, created by Raymond Combes, a computer programmer and amateur genealogist.

Many more are likely to follow suit. According to one estimate, up to five million French people are descended from victims of La Révolution. [Link]

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Genealogue Challenge #120

Victoria Moloney sent me this item from the Tucson (Ariz.) Daily Citizen of May 3, 1906.

CHICAGO, May 3—Mrs. Helen Moloney, the beautiful wife of James Moloney, the Chicago manufacturer, obtained a divorce solely to get a $500,000 estate left her by her mother on condition that she separate from him.

They are to be remarried this summer, just as soon as Mrs. Moloney perfects the title to the estate.

This was the statement made today by Mr. Moloney, who declares groundless the charges that his wife flirted with W. J. White, the "chewing gum king," of Cleveland. He declares that Mrs. Moloney is still true to him.

"Mrs. Moloney's mother, who is an English woman of title, took a strong dislike to me. She inserted in her will a bequest of nearly $500,000 to Mrs. Moloney, with the proviso that she divorce me. So we agreed to be divorced and remarry."

"What is the name of the titled English family to which Mrs. Moloney belongs?" was asked.

"I do not care to say. I do not wish to draw them into this affair," said Mr. Moloney. "We will be remarried before September 1."
Victoria asks, is the "divorce story true or a bunch of hooey?"

Can you find any proof that the story is true and the couple remarried?

The Sauces of South Carolina

Dana Huff sent me a link to this Strange Maps post about one state's condiment preferences.

The map shows the state of South Carolina divided into four regions, according to the preferred style of condiment used on barbecued food.
  • The vinegar and pepper region covers the eastern quarter of the state. This is “a southward extension of eastern North Carolina-style sauce,” states Mr Reed.
  • “The tomato region ditto for North Carolina’s Piedmont- or Lexington-style sauce, which is basically the eastern sauce with a little tomato added, still thin and vinegar-flavored.”
  • The ketchup region is influenced by what they serve in Georgia “and most of the trans-Appalachian South – or for that matter in grocery stores – a thick, sweet, ketchupy sauce.”
  • Unique to South Carolina, though, is “the mustard sauce of central South Carolina, (which) is unique to that state, and (which) gives it more distinct barbecue regions than any other.”
The prevalence of this last sauce John Shelton Reed attributes to "the great 18th century wave of German immigrants to the Southern uplands."

There Are Joe Blows Wherever You Go

Every time I come across the name "John Doe" in the census, I wonder if the guy was hiding from the government. Here's a list of "Informal names for unknown or unspecified persons in various countries/regions."

[via Neatorama]

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bare Naked Genealogy

Leland Meitzler spotted this ad for the Australian version of Who Do You Think You Are? Whether it's safe for work may depend on your boss's eyesight.

Marriage Can Be Liberating

No proof has been found, but Conservative MP Boris Johnson insists that his ancestor bought himself a wife.

Mr Johnson says his great-great-grandmother, a Circassian slave from a region in southern Russia, was sold to his great-great-grandfather after she fled from war to Turkey in around 1862.

She was set free only when the couple later married.
Yesterday, Mr Johnson insisted he was the "proud offspring of Turkish immigrants", saying: "This is not in any way casting aspersions on my great-great-grandfather.

"He wasn't a slave owner, he was a slave marrier." [Link]

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

They Might Live to Regret Dying

With no room left in its overcrowded cemetery, a village in France is insisting that its residents keep breathing.

In an ordinance posted in the council offices, Mayor Gerard Lalanne told the 260 residents of the village of Sarpourenx that "all persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish."

It added: "Offenders will be severely punished." [Link]
The mayor says that "It may be a laughing matter for some, but not for me."
[Thanks, John!]

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Have a Hugh Jass in Your Family?

The authors of the new book Bad Baby Names relied mostly on U.S. census records.

  • Long before Bart Simpson made prank calls to Moe's Tavern, children were burdened with names such as "Mike Rotch," "Hugh Jass," "Ivana Tinkle" and "Maya Buttreeks."
  • Think the "Boy named Sue" had to be tough? How about Cinderella Liverotti, whom the authors note was "sadly, a man, and a coal miner at that."
  • Babies named after food include "Lettuce Crum," "Hoagie Hoagland," "Onion Critzer," "Mustard M. Mustard" and "Tomato Billips."
  • Among the simply comical Dickensian monikers are "Leech Goodpaster," "Smock Bufner," "Knob Simmons," "Hose Belt," "Glove Butts" and "Hornby Toot." [Link]

Monday, March 03, 2008

Recognize the Writing, Dad?

Finally an answer to that postcard mystery in Stratford, Connecticut. East Sumner, Me., native James Merrill was intrigued by the story, and sent a copy to his daughter, Harvard librarian Jan Merrill-Oldham.

"It was the unmistakable handwriting of my mother Alice (Merrill), and I just stared at it and couldn't believe the story was saying it was written by someone else," she said. "I called my father and teased him and said, 'Dad, don't you even know your own wife's handwriting?"'

He took a closer look and realized his wife of 64 years, Alice Merrill, had, in fact, written the postcard.

"I felt pretty foolish when I realized it," James Merrill said. [Link]
93-year-old Alice doesn't remember sending the card.
[Thanks, Nancy!]

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Genealogy Can Be Rewarding

Mad Genealogist Brian Nichols is offering a reward for info on one his ancestors.

First of all the $500 is for absolute proof of the parentage of my Henry Nichols. I will be make a concerted effort at the same time to solve this before you. I will post all info I have now and will receive in the future on this blog. I will answer any questions posted honestly. Once a person has found the proof they have a choice of $500 paid by paypal, check or money order or if you are a professional genealogist I will post a ad on the top of all my main websites stating how good you are and a link to your services instead of $500 if you want. All my sites get about 10,000 visitors per day.
I was going to start offering $500 for answers to my Genealogue Challenges, but then I remembered that I need that money to buy food.

It All Started With a Pickled Bandit Head

This review of the novel L.A. Outlaws has piqued my interest:

Legend has it that infamous bandit Joaquin Murrieta terrorized California until he was shot and beheaded in 1853. Afterward, some say, his head was pickled and put on display until it disappeared in the San Francisco earthquake.

The story of Murrieta captured the imagination of T. Jefferson Parker, who found himself wondering what would have happened if Murrieta had a descendant who was alive today and in possession of the outlaw's head. [Link]

Innocent Until Proven German

Old FBI files reveal the shocking truth about nefarious individuals like WWI-era farmer Albert Deitz.

Deitz, a German, had claimed to be from Pennsylvania when he purchased his farm. But he aroused suspicion by paying for the land in $100 bills from a Los Angeles bank. According to [FBI Agent Roy] McHenry's investigation, Dietz didn't fraternize with his neighbors and "discourages their attempts to be neighborly."

Furthermore, his neighbors believed his behavior indicated he wasn't really a farmer. He mowed only a small portion of his hay crop and didn't market his dairy products.

When McHenry went to the Dietz farm, he noted the "plowing was not the work of a good farmer." He described Deitz as probably about 55 years old, 5-foot-10, quite bald, weighing 150 pounds and having a strong German accent. His wife, about 44, was "not at all comely with a very sour expression." [Link]
This investigation occurred several years before the Patriot Act was passed, so Deitz could not be arrested for being a lousy farmer with a suspicious accent and an ugly wife.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Journalists Write the Darndest Things

Kathryn Larcher sent along this excerpt from last weekend's World Wide Words newsletter. Thanks, Kathryn!

Department of post-mortem indecision: A cemetery manager was quoted in the Guardian Weekend last Saturday (16 February). He explained they sometimes had to exhume bodies: "Some people have an aversion to burial and decide they would rather have a cremation after all."

While we're on such matters, Peter G Neumann reported in the Risks Digest newsletter that the Web site of WSMV, Nashville, Tennessee, had a story on 15 February under the headline "Woman Says Being Declared Dead Ruins Life".

Department of clerical fecundity: Noted by Noel Donaghey on the Web site of The Adelaide Advertiser for 15 February: "An effort to lift South Australia's population to two million well before its target of 2050 will be led by Monsignor David Cappo."

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