Friday, November 28, 2008

David's Daughter Not Fair Dinkum

An Aboriginal man is demanding $30 million from Australia's central bank for using his uncle's image on the $50 bank note.

Allan "Chirpy" Campbell claims the bank gained permission to use the image of celebrated indigenous author and inventor David Unaipon from a woman who was posing as his daughter, and did not obtain authorisation from a genuine family member.

"They jacked this woman up and proclaimed that she is the daughter of my uncle, and when we found out they blocked us and they chucked all the barricades there," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). [Link]

It's Good to Be an Obama

People who share Barack's surname are safe at any speed.

Nicanor Obama began to realize he might be on to a good thing when he didn't get a speeding ticket not long ago. After stopping the 28-year-old for a little lead-footing near the Verizon Center, a District police officer looked at his driver's license and put the citation book away.

"He said, 'Well, I'm going to let you go because you have the Obama name'" is how the Arlington County resident recalled the encounter. [Link]

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Few Bambinos Named Benito

An Italian right-wing party is paying parents to name their kids after Benito Mussolini and his wife.

The MSI-Fiamma Tricolore party, the descendant of Mussolini's fascist party, said the initiative in the poor, southern region of Basilicata was meant to keep alive names "at risk of extinction" and pay tribute to the movement's roots.

"Benito and Rachele are nice names and I hope our original initiative will get people going," party official Vincenzo Mancusi told Reuters. [Link]

British Greased Their Pole Before Withdrawing

Tuesday was Evacuation Day in New York City—the 225th anniversary of the day the British left the city.

Departing British troops nailed their flag to a pole downtown and greased it. Every November, a descendant would re-enact the legendary feat of John Van Arsdale, a sailor, who donned cleats and shimmied up the flagpole to replace the British colors with the Stars and Stripes. [Link]
Upon further investigation, I was disappointed to learn that descendants were asked to hoist the American flag each year, not to shimmy up a greased flagpole.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Howard Has Nzeman DNA

Howard Robertson of Memphis met a distant African relative last weekend.

He recently discovered through DNA testing that he shares the same blood as a chief from the West African country of Ghana. That makes him an heir to the throne of the Nzema tribe, according to those at a Stafford County ceremony Saturday.

Robertson shares a common female ancestor with Chief Nana Ndama Kundumuah IV of Princes Town, a sister city to Fredericksburg.

Their connection may go back 28 generations before families were separated by the slave trade, said Paula Royster, a genealogist who organized the reunion. [Link]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hitler Only Had One Ball

New evidence has come to light that the old WWII ditty was correct.

The disclosure is made in a document noting a conversation in the 1960s between German war doctor Johan Jambor and his priest, Franciszek Pawlar, according to The Sun. The priest's document has come to light 23 years after Jambor's death.

Although it was known Hitler suffered a groin injury in the Somme, evidence that he was 'monorchic' - the medical word for the condition - has evaded historians. [Link]

Jesus Joins the Family

Don't you hate in when someone shows up uninvited in your family photos?

I got this photo from my grandma, and it must be from the early 1900s. Just take a look at it! There's a mum and a dad with their child on his knee. The child died short after the photo was taken. You can see a face in profile and an angel's face in the hair of Jesus. It's really a fantastic photo, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Flummoxed By Flourishes

Give Hartford Probate Court Assistant Clerk Julie Borofsky a break. If you must request a record from her, make sure your ancestor had good penmanship.

"Know all men by these presents, that I, Elizabeth H. Colt, of the City and County of Hartford and State of Connecticut, widow of Samuel Colt, late of said Hartford, deceased, being of sound and disposing mind and memory but deeply conscious of the uncertainty of human life, do make, publish and declare the following to be my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me made..." begins the neatly typewritten document on Borofsky's screen.

The will itself was hand-written by Elizabeth but the probate court at the time had her wishes typed out, a great improvement over the 17th century wills written in flourishes of quill pen that Borofsky sometimes finds herself puzzling over at the request of genealogists.

"I hate when I get those letters," she says of the missives from genealogy buffs. [Link]

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ancestor Audition

An actor in Britain auditioned for and won the role of a relative.

When actor Tom Goodman-Hill auditioned for Channel 4’s lavish new Civil War drama The Devil’s Whore, he kept one vital fact from the producers: he is a direct descendant of the historical figure he was hoping to portray.

Luckily he landed the role of firebrand activist ‘Freeborn’ John Lilburne, and will now be able to tell his ancestor’s story to millions of viewers.

‘I would have felt silly if I hadn’t got the job,’ says the 40-year-old. [Link]

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Genealogue Challenge #140

Estelle Reiner—wife of Carl, mother of Rob, and the real star of When Harry Met Sally—died this week.

On what date did her parents marry?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Timeline Twins

Jason Kottke writes that "comparing my distorted recall of childhood favorites to the oldies of the time jogs my memory in unpleasant ways."

For example:

Listening to Michael Jackson's Thriller today is equivalent to listening to Elvis Presley's first album (1956) at the time of Thriller's release in 1982.
When I was a kid, my mother's record collection (Paul Anka, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Vee) seemed horribly dated, but it was no less contemporary than, say, Nirvana is today. The effect is exaggerated in my case, because my musical tastes have always been a little out-of-date. I've been introducing one of my nieces to the works of Bob Dylan. His first album was released in 1962, 28 years before her birth. That's the equivalent of someone introducing me to Glenn Miller's "Chattanooga Choo Choo" back in 1987.

Let's apply Kottke's notion of "timeline twins" to genealogy. On 7 July 1997, I was exactly as old as my father was when I was born. Another way of looking at it is, on that date I was exactly half my father's age. I will always be closer in age to my father than to any child born since that date.

Here's a little widget that will calculate when a child reaches the age his/her parent was when he/she was born:

Inherited Hearsay

A 250-year-old murder case is under review in Scotland.

The murdered man was Colin Campbell of Glenure, the Red Fox, a government agent who was on his way to evict local tenants, Stewarts of Appin, and replace them with his own relatives. The murder was central to the plot for one of Scotland's most celebrated novels, Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped.
Despite a lack of evidence and strong alibi, James of the Glens was convicted of the crime. Now someone has come forward to divulge a long-held family secret, clearing James of the charges.
Anda Penman, 89, a descendant of the Stewarts of Appin, identified Donald, the son of Stewart of Ballachulish as the real killer, having kept a secret that was passed on by word of mouth through her family for more than two centuries. [Link]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Funeral Was Standing Room Only

The funeral of Maggie Ward, grandmother of 172, drew a crowd.

Although they have never all been together in one place before, every single one made sure they were at the ceremony to give the 87-year-old a good send-off.
In life, staunch Irish Catholic Mrs Ward and her husband Charles created one of Britain's largest families with 15 children of their own.

All 12 surviving children - Joan, Patrick, Martin, Margaret, Mary, Catherine, Charlie, Bernard, Bridget, Helen, Anne and Lawrence - were at her funeral yesterday.

The vast clan also includes 36 great grandchildren and 18 great-great grandchildren. [Link]

What's Left of Darwin's Beard

A descendant has discovered strands of Charles Darwin's beard hair.

It is believed the hair was taken from Darwin's desk in 1882 by female relatives, who were unable to collect a lock of his hair before he was buried.

His great-great grandson Randal Keynes said he found them in a box marked "remaining hair" whilst going through his Shropshire ancestor's possessions. [Link]

Family Secret Unshelved

If you want to hide a prior divorce from your children, don't leave a published account of it in your library.

Looking through Jeannette Edwards Rattray’s “East Hampton History and Genealogies” years ago at her mother’s house in Connecticut, Carol Rideout learned that her mom, Beryl Huntting Stanley, who was born and raised in East Hampton, had been divorced before she married Ms. Rideout’s father. Soon after she confronted her mother with the discovery, the genealogy book disappeared from the shelf. [Link]

German Soldier Infiltrates Ad


To honour the memory of the Canadian soldiers who died in the First World War, was offering, until the end of the month, a free Web search of military databases that contained the records of this country's soldiers.

A half-page ad that ran in a Toronto newspaper on Sunday, adorned with a large red poppy, was titled "My Grandfather. My Hero," with details of how to do the search.

But the colour ad featured a photograph of a German, not an Allied soldier, a blunder that angered some veterans and historians. [Link]

The Lincoln Bedroom Is Going to Be Crowded

A Bedouin sheikh in Israel thinks he and other members of his tribe are related to Barack Obama.

It was his 95-year-old mother who first spotted the connection, he says. Seeing the charismatic senator on television, she noted a striking resemblance to one of the African migrant workers who used to be employed by rich sheikhs in the fertile north of British Mandate Palestine in the 1930s.

The Africans would sometimes marry local Beduin girls and start families, though, like many migrant workers, would just as frequently return home after several years.

One of those men was a relative of Barack Obama’s Kenyan grandmother, Sheikh Abdullah maintains.

He estimates that his tribe extends to as many as 8,000 members, all of them loosely connected to the African-American senator for Illinois. [Link]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nobody Wants a Tricky Dick in Diapers

Another article about people naming their babies "Barack":

There have been other presidential naming trends in the past century, according to Social Security Administration data. Franklin jumped to No. 33 in 1933, up from No. 147 in 1931. Dwight surged in the 1950s and Lyndon in the 1960s. Theodore hit its peak in the first decade of the 20th century.

“Honoring new presidents with baby namesakes used to be an American tradition,” said Laura Wattenberg, author of “The Baby Name Wizard.” But she pointed out that the custom faded around the time of Watergate, in part because people became more cynical about the presidency. [Link]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Honeymoon to Die For

From Futility Closet:

Married: Moses Alexander, aged 93, to Mrs. Frances Tompkins, aged 105. They were married in Bath, Steuben county, N. Y., June 11, 1831. They were both taken out of bed dead the following morning.
—The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, 1938

Monday, November 10, 2008

Top Ten Worst Family Heirlooms

10. Open jar of mayonnaise.

9. Great-grandparents' bondage gear.

8. Toenail clippings.

7. Predisposition to public flatulence.

6. Grandpa's place on the couch.

5. Credit card debt.

4. Live hand grenade with missing pin.

3. Vintage roadkill collection.

2. Grandma's secret crystal meth recipe.

1. Autopsy photo album.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Genealogue Challenge #139

A 90-year-old woman was found living in Evanston, Illinois, with her three dead siblings.

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

Captain's Name Needs Commas

George Garratt picked a new name "for a bit of a laugh."

A British student has changed his name and claims it is the world's longest — Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined — at 81 letters.
His name beats the Guinness Book of Records' longest personal name registered on a birth certificate by 24 letters. The current record holder is named Rhoshandiatellyneshiaunneveshenk Koyaanisquatsiuth Williams, with 57 letters. [Link]

End of Construction

Billy Graham visited his late wife's grave back in April.

At the end of a cross-shaped walkway, he gazed on Ruth's gravesite for the first time since her burial.

Three times, he asked his staffers to read the message she chose for her headstone: “End of Construction – Thank you for your patience.” [Link]

The First and Last to Die

John Parr and George Edwin Ellison are buried just seven yards apart in Saint Symphorien cemetery in Belgium.

Private Parr, 16, a bicycle scout, and Pte George Ellison, 40, of the Royal Irish Lancers, were, respectively, the first and the last British soldiers to die in combat in the First World War. Pte Parr was killed on 21 August, 1914, the day before the first rearguard action fought by the British Expeditionary Force near Mons on the Belgian-French border.

Pte Ellison was killed on the morning of 11 November, 1918, 90 minutes before the armistice which brought the industrial-strength slaughter of the first modern war to a close, 90 years ago next Tuesday. Both died within a couple of miles of the spot where they are buried. Their memorial stones face each other across a narrow strip of grass in a cemetery which contains more than 500 British, Irish, Canadian and German graves. [Link]

Friday, November 07, 2008

Private Pray's Potatoes

Andersonville Prison was the site of inhumane treatment, inexcusable cruelty, and ... potato juggling.

During the Civil War, 12,913 inmates died from the extreme conditions in the Confederate prison in Andersonville, Ga. One Union soldier who didn't was Pvt. George H. Pray, a clever Mainer whose stage act perhaps saved his life.

"How he survived Andersonville was that he juggled potatoes," said Jeffrey Bolduc, Pray's great-great-grandson, recently. "After he juggled them, he kept them and ate them." [Link]

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Get Your Mitts Off Our Obits!

The Scranton Times-Tribune is suing the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader for plagiarizing obituaries.

Starting on Oct. 27, The Times Leader "simply copied obituaries from The Times-Tribune, The Sunday Times and/or The Scranton Times' Web site" and published them in the Wilkes-Barre paper's Scranton edition, the suit claims.

Attached to the lawsuit are examples of 50 obituaries that ran in The Times-Tribune through Oct. 31 and the same obituaries -- down to punctuation, structure and style -- that ran in The Times Leader a day or more later. [Link]

Another Obama Relative Dug Up

Barack Obama's aunt was found living in Boston. His great-great-great-grandmother was found dead in Everett, Washington.

Rachel Wolfley's grave marker at the Evergreen Cemetery in Everett hadn't seen the light of day in decades.

It had literally faded into the landscape, covered long ago by a thick rug of grass and forgotten over nearly a century since she died.

There is no date of birth or death or family tribute on the gray concrete block, just her name -- and the last name is misspelled.

Wolfley's marker would no doubt still be buried beneath the cemetery sod were it not for her famous great-great-great grandson, who on Nov. 4 could be elected the next president of the United States. [Link]
[Thanks, Suzie!]

Baby Baracks

Lots of parents in Kenya are naming their babies after the President-elect and First-Lady-to-be.

Out of 15 babies born in the New Nyanza Provincial Hospital in the western city of Kisumu on Wednesday, five boys were named Barack Obama and three girls were called Michelle. [Link]
This sort of thing is nothing new.
My first job in Africa was running a follow-up survey in western Kenya--chasing down 8,000 primary school students 5 years after they'd received a randomized health intervention. More than a third had moved away, and we searched high and low around the country for more than a year.

The name list was a Who's Who of the globe's political class. There were Bill Clinton Ojiambos and Bin Ladin Odongos. There were George Bush Jumas and Hillary Clinton Awinos.

My favorite moment: in 2003, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exasperated enumerator came to me, "I've been looking all day," she said, "and I just can't find this Saddam Hussein." [Link, via Ezra Klein]

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

More Geological Than Genealogical

Staten Island's Moravian Cemetery opened in the 1860s, but some remains interred there are considerably older.

The monument, a marker for the burial plot of Civil War Brig. Gen. Stephen H. Weed, recently was found to contain fossils that are between 248 and 540 million years old.

The discovery was made by College of Staten Island geology professor Dr. Alan I. Benimoff during a recent walking tour of the cemetery.
"It's very unusual to find this rock as a headstone," said Dr. Benimoff. "On Staten Island, it would be very hard to see this kind of thing up close. It's extraordinary that they chose this rock for a headstone. It just adds to the culture of Staten Island." [Link]

Minnie Meets the Kids

Minnie Detwiler witnessed the births of her first two great-great-grandchildren, born on the same day to different mothers with similar spelling styles.

The 85-year-old Detwiler, who turns 86 Tuesday, watched as her first great-great-grandchild, Abbygale Gisclair, arrived at 3:30 a.m. Oct. 10.

Sixteen hours and 11 minutes later, at 7:41 p.m. Oct. 10, Detwiler saw her second great-great-grandchild, Domanik Cole, enter the world. [Link]

Monday, November 03, 2008

They Were Big Shoes to Fill

Somebody stole Bobo the Clown's shoes.

Not only were the 2ft long black and white tipped shoes part of his performance, but they he says they are also a family heirloom passed down from his grandfather, who was also a clown.

Bobo, who will be performing his act at the circus at the Norfolk Showground in Costessey until Sunday, said: “I'm actually really upset about it all. I've been clowning since I was five and when I reached 16 my grandfather decided it was time I inherited his shoes.” [Link]

A Marriage Proposal

John Cleese recently went through a bitter divorce, which may help explain his views on marriage:

He said: "I think a marriage should be like a dog license. You should have to renew marriage licenses every five years, unless you have children. And before you have children you should have to go and pass various tests and get a license to have a child. Because it's the most transformative and difficult thing of your life." [Link]

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Thumb Pointed Fingers

A century ago on the Michigan peninsula called the "Thumb," J.W. Sparling and three of his four sons died under mysterious circumstances. Relative Jacki Sparling Howard has written a book, The Thumb Pointed Fingers, about the unsolved cases.

The men in her family who died, Howard explained, didn't just drift away in their sleep. All four consecutively died protracted, agonizing deaths and within three years of each other. The community didn't grow suspicious until the grown sons began dying after their father, J.W. Sparling, tragically expired in London, Ontario in 1908.
"Mom heard her relatives offering their different theories as to what happened and why," [daughter and editor Jenny Howard] said. "My grandmother thought it was poison in the orange juice. My grandpa always told her, 'Aunt Violet took the secret to her grave.' My mom never knew exactly what he meant by that, and by the time she had developed her real interest in the case, Aunt Violet was dead." [Link]
A good argument for interrogating your elderly aunts about suspicious deaths in the family before it's too late.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Manga Marriages

A man in Japan is seeking permission to marry a cartoon character.

Taichi Takashita launched an online petition aiming for one million signatures to present to the government to establish a law on marriages with cartoon characters.

Within a week he has gathered more than 1,000 signatures through the Internet.

"I am no longer interested in three dimensions. I would even like to become a resident of the two-dimensional world," he wrote. [Link]

Don't Mess With My Great-Grandpa

I was surprised to read in one of my local papers on Thursday a letter to the editor written by my great-grandfather, Elton Dunham. Surprised because he died in 1953. It was reprinted in a column called "Not-So-Good Old Days" to illustrate that "In years gone by, information about individuals that most newspapers today would decorously omit or, often, not have access to, was not only given, but even bluntly expressed."

R. L. Cummings, in his article, "Taxes, Who Shall Pay Them" in the Feb. 3rd issue of your paper gave the selectmen of the town [Greenwood] a hard slam. Mr. Cummings is an artist. No one who has passed on that road can fail to recognize the picture. If this man spent one fourth of the money on his house that he has wasted on old automobiles, his windows would have glass in them and the picture would be different.
He goes on to enumerate the ways Cummings had misrepresented his dealings with town officials ("If this man had a disposition to try and pay his taxes, we would make it as easy for him as possible, but he has not.").
Now, Mr. Editor, we are not setting ourselves up as little tin Gods and if Mr. Cummings had written the truth about us, we would have grinned and taken our medicine, but we object to—well, let's call a spade a spade, and say lie[s].
—E. L. Dunham, Chairman, Selectmen of Greenwood.

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