Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Philanderer Dug Up Down Under

An Australian politician who helped give women the vote also enjoyed giving women something else.

Bone fragments and teeth from colonial-era premier Charles Cameron Kingston's body have been exhumed from an Adelaide cemetery at the request of a claimed descendant of one of his unacknowledged offspring.
Denise McCarthy Goward, a relative of Kingston's long-suffering wife, Lucy McCarthy, said his philandering was the talk of the town in Adelaide at the turn of the last century.

Ms McCarthy Goward is bemused by the latest twist in the colourful Kingston saga.

"Half the illegitimate kids in South Australia could have had Kingston on their birth certificates," Ms McCarthy Goward told The Australian. [Link]

Unclaimed, Though Not Unnamed

Megan has turned her talents to helping coroners track down the families of Unclaimed Persons.

What happens to people when they die with no next of kin to claim their bodies? RootsTelevision™ an online channel dedicated to all aspects of genealogy and family history, has launched a new show, Unclaimed Persons, to bring attention to this largely unknown epidemic. Coroners’ offices across the country are struggling to cope with thousands of unclaimed people whose identities are known, but for whom no family can be found.

"I knew about John and Jane Does," said genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, "but I had no idea about all these unclaimed people who are usually cremated and buried in unmarked graves, and that’s often after several months on a shelf in a morgue. We hear about abandoned pets, but you never hear about these abandoned bodies."

Accidentally stumbling across an article about one such case is what prompted Smolenyak Smolenyak to cold call a couple of coroners’ offices and offer her sleuthing skills for tracking down family members. [Link]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How to Trip a Witch and Scare a Pregnant Woman

Eric Claypoole is an expert on the Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign, or "hexafoos" (witch's foot).

A witch's foot design was painted beneath barn windows to make them appear larger. A witch flying into the barn, superstition holds, would misjudge the size of the window and trip on it, Claypoole explained.
Sandy Gehris Schoener, a retired Ohio librarian who grew up in Temple, said Claypoole's lecture rekindled childhood memories. Her grandmother, Mabel Gehris of Temple, was a fountain of Pennsylvania Dutch superstitions.

"When I was pregnant, I walked under a clothesline and my grandmother screamed at me," Schoener recalled. "When a pregnant woman walked under a clothesline, it was believed the umbilical cord would wrap around the baby's neck." [Link]

Monday, May 26, 2008

Care for Some Marsupial Soup?

Settlers in 19th-century Australia were not picky eaters.

In "The Antipodean Cookery Book", first published in 1895, Mrs. Lance Rawson has a stew recipe with listed ingredients including a dozen parrots "well-picked and cleaned."

Even less appetising is a recipe in Australia's first known cookbook, dating from 1864, for a dish called "slippery bob", consisting of kangaroo brains mixed with flour and water then fried in emu fat.

The book's author Edward Abbott described the delicacy as bush fare, admitting it required "a good appetite and excellent digestion" to stomach.

His book also contains recipes for bandicoot, a small marsupial, and black swan, in which he recommends baby cygnets as particularly tender. [Link, via Neatorama]
[Photo source: Brown eyes by Alan Wolf]

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Knight is Young

Three descendants of Kent Plantation House founder Pierre Baillio II were knighted over the weekend. Unofficially.

Helena Baillio knighted her two sons Adeus, 5, and Gage Baillio, 4, as well as her nephew Jody Walker, 16.

"It means a lot to our whole family," Helena Baillio said.

Adeus and Gage were dressed in red and black knight costumes and were presented with plastic shields, belts and helmets by their grandmother after Baillio read a knighting script that she had slightly modified for such young children. They also were given a copy of the Baillio family history.
The idea came about when Adeus began to ask his mother about his last name and its history. She explained that he was related to Pierre Baillio and, even further back, a king of France and England. Adeus asked how to become a king, and Baillio told him he had to be a knight first and then decided to make it happen. [Link]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

They're Gone, But Their Soles Remain

Workers at the Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, Mass., discovered six 18th-century shoes hidden inside a wall.

The shoes, known as concealment shoes, were discovered while the house was being refurbished and reconstructed. They were used to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. These shoes were hidden away in the historic house’s walls with a cartridge box, a child’s corset, a shoe buckle, and a letter dated 1768. [Link, via Boston 1775]
The Northampton (UK) Museum maintains an international index of concealment shoes.
About half the shoes registered in the concealment index are children's shoes. Women's shoes are more common than men's. Shoes are almost invariably well worn, perhaps because the donor didn't want to waste an expensive new shoe on the project, or perhaps because a well-worn shoe is more likely to retain the shape of the wearer's foot and hence his spirit. Though shoes are the common denominator, more than two hundred different personal possessions--coins, spoons, pots, goblets, food, knives, toys, gloves, pipes, even chicken and cat bones--have been found hidden with them. [Link]

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rachels Are Not Answering the Call

Through the website Calling All Rachels, British dairy company Rachel's Organic is trying to "gather together the world’s largest collection of people who share the name." Famous Rachels include actress Rachel Weisz, model Rachel Hunter, and English singer Rachel Stevens—none of whom want anything to do with the publicity stunt. Non-celebrity Rachels have had a similar reaction.

“Rachel is so popular a name I don’t think I’d bother getting involved with this,” said Rachel Williams, 28, a civil engineer from Ammanford. “I don’t feel a particular connection with other people called Rachel – it’s more a case of feeling common! – and I doubt it would lead to me buying the yoghurt, though I have done in the past.”

Marketing experts said the campaign was a risky but clever strategy. “We would never usually advise clients to base their campaign on such a negligible part of their target audience. You have to wonder what percentage of their target audience are actually called Rachel,” said Fiona Anderson, head of PR at Working Word PR. [Link]

Robert Zimmerman Revisited

I spent a couple of hours in a large room with Bob Dylan tonight, and was reminded that this challenge remains unanswered. Here's an additional clue. Anyone want to give it a shot?

Update: We have an answer.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

UK Bans Wedding Photos

Register offices in the UK are preventing newlyweds from posing for photographs while signing the register.

The new guidelines say photographs of couples signing the register could invade the privacy of others because their signatures may be visible on the same page. There are further fears that details taken from the wedding snaps could be used by fraudsters planning identity theft and that the photos could be in breach of Crown Copyright.

But critics of the move say it is absurd because the register is a public document and the information entered in it is readily available on the internet from the General Register Office.
A spokesman for the Home Office offered a few more ludicrous reasons for ending the tradition:
"It will divert the couple from making sure the information is accurate and from signing it in the right place.
"There is also a high risk of damage to the register with a fountain pen when the bride and groom are looking at the camera and not the pen." [Link]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Reef of Grief

Both Megan and Nancy Bovy sent me this one.

The Neptune Memorial Reef is located in open waters 3 1/4 miles off the coast of Key Biscayne, which means any certified diver can visit. The artificial reef's first phase allows for about 850 remains.

The ashes are mixed with cement designed for underwater use and fitted into a mold, which a diver then places and secures into the reef. A copper and bronze plaque is installed with the person's name, date of birth and death. There is also a line for a message. [Link]
This makes Long Cemetery #2 seem downright accessible.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Genealogue Challenge #127

Today is Bea Arthur's birthday.

What were the names of her maternal grandparents, and where are they buried?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Is Cherry Garcia Kosher?

One young Hispanic man left a booth at Denver's 2008 Cinco de Mayo Festival exclaiming, "No way! I'm Jewish?" He evidently had not attended Michael Gonzales' presentation.

On one side of the booth were poster boards that displayed articles and images designed to educate spectators about the Spanish Inquisition and the violence poured out on the Sephardic Jews. On the other side of the booth was a list of 5,220 Sephardic Jewish surnames. The list contains most of the common Spanish surnames like Garcia, Rodriguez and Martinez. "However," explained Gonzales, "if your name is on the list it doesn't necessarily mean that you are Jewish. If your name is not on the list it doesn't mean you are not. Come to the presentation to find out more." [Link]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Not Even the Regular Army Was Regular

Jennifer at Rainy Day Genealogy Readings asks How Did That Civil War Soldier Really Die? The most likely answer will not be found carved on his gravestone.

Friday, May 09, 2008

You Mean He Wasn't a Hunchbacked Woman?

More news on the search for Friedrich Schiller's earthly remains. Neither of the skulls thought to belong to the poet was his, and the two accompanying skeletons were found to "contain bones from at least six people."

Five members of the Schiller family were exhumed in the process to provide the DNA samples for comparison. They found no matching DNA among either of the poet's supposed bodies.

They determined that the skull found by von Froriep was far off the mark. Instead of Schiller, a large man, it actually belonged to a hunchbacked woman, who through analysis of the bones and historical records they later showed was a lady of the court whom Schiller was known to have disliked while alive. The jawbone belonged to another woman entirely.

The other skull was so similar to Schiller's death mask that it confounded even contemporary anthropologists, leading one to say that it belonged to Schiller's "Doppelgänger." The fact that this close match had seven strange teeth inserted post-mortem has led one of the experts who worked on the documentary to the conclusion that it was fixed to look like Schiller's skull and that the real one was stolen. [Link]

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Music of the Microfiche

Why view records of your ancestors on microfiche when you can listen to them instead?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Money Laundering in the Kitchen

Tracy Lowe was surprised to learn that her great-grandfather Alexander Menday was convicted of manslaughter, but not surprised that he had run-ins with the law.

She was ... familiar with the tale of how her grandmother had come home one day to find her kitchen decked out with improvised washing lines from which were hanging numerous soggy banknotes.

Menday, a Thames waterman at the time, had the job of recovering bodies from the river, and he and his son had relieved an unfortunate of the contents of his pockets before the authorities arrived - on the basis he didn't have any more use for them.

"We knew they were rogues, the sort of people you would cross the street to avoid," says Tracy. [Link]

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Single-Income Family

Here's an interesting household from the 1880 census:

This is no relation to me, but look at this...from the 1880 Flint, Michigan....notice the girl Jenny Abertheny who is listed as "no relation" to the head of the household. Her occupation? Prostitute.

Jenny's husband's occupation? "Miserable loafer." [Link]
The census says that Jennie was single and George was married, but they may indeed have been cuckold husband and wife.

Don't Lick Your Plate at Craig's House

Craig Pfunnkuche says we should be digging around in our ancestors' privies.

"Outhouses are wonderful, fantastic, fabulous places to find stuff out about families."

Pfunnkuche, a retired history teacher and amateur archeologist from Wonder Lake, collects the items found in digs, such as his favorite, a Meakin Tea Leaf china set.

Although he goes through rigors of disinfecting the dishes before use, they still grace his table when company comes over, he said with a chuckle. [Link]

Monday, May 05, 2008

Presumptuous Plot Picking

From a letter to Dear Abby:

My husband and I were told that a family headstone has been purchased, and our share is $2,000 - each. This was never discussed among the family members. The cemetery is located out of state.
We have been told we are no longer welcome to attend the family reunion this summer unless we fork over the $4,000 and agree to have our names placed on the headstone. [Link]

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Difference Between Brad Pitt and God

An Illinois artist wants to change his name to "In God We Trust."

Yes. First name, "In God." Last name, "We Trust."

School bus driver and amateur artist Steve Kreuscher of Zion will appear in a Lake County court June 13, hoping the judge will grant his request.

"I want this with all my heart," says the 57-year-old father of four.
Northbrook attorney Alan Pearlman, who has handled hundreds of name change cases, said he's not aware of any specific list of rules. But he said a judge can deny names that are racial slurs or considered obscene. If they violate trademarks, or duplicate the name of a celebrity, they would likely be rejected.

"I doubt a judge would let you change your name to Brad Pitt," he said. [Link]
[Thanks, Drew!]

Friday, May 02, 2008

A Family Full of Fischers

In one family, three generations of Fischers have married Fischers.

“It’s a common name,” explains George Fischer, “at least in Germany, it’s a common name.”

“And names run in our families,” adds Katie Fischer (née Fischer). “My mother’s name was Katherine, I’m Katherine and my niece is named Katherine. She’s the other Katherine Fischer who married a Fischer. Also, my father was Joe and so is our son.”
The couple's nephew and niece later married.
“It wasn’t easy convincing the priest,” recalls John Fischer. “Katherine and I had the same last name. George is my uncle and Katie is Katherine’s aunt. We were definitely related, but not by blood. It took some explaining.”

The third generation Fischer to marry a Fischer is Lydia Fischer (grand-daughter to George and Katie) who married Philip Fischer. “He was no relation,” Katie says. “They met when Philip came to the house to do some work.” [Link]

Man Finds Pirate in Bath

A new book claims that Blackbeard wasn't English, but North Carolinian.

Kevin P. Duffus said his review of archives and genealogical research indicates that Blackbeard was probably Edward Beard, son of a landowner in Bath in Beaufort County.
With the help of genealogists, Duffus has found a descendant of one of Blackbeard's known crew members, Edward Salter. Under prodding by Duffus, state officials are investigating whether a skeleton kept for years in a state archaeology lab in Raleigh is that of Salter, who lived out his life near Bath.

The bones were recovered in 1986 from a crypt near the Pamlico River. If DNA tests show that the bones are Salter's, the identification would establish that at least one of Blackbeard's men had family roots in Bath. [Link]

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Genealogue Challenge #126

This thread discusses Stephen and Emilie Preen, who lived in Newark, New Jersey, in 1900.

Who was their very famous step-grandchild?

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