Thursday, April 30, 2009

Top Ten Things You Don't Know About the 2010 Census

10. To be taken in 2010 ... maybe 2011. By 2019 at the latest.

9. Adam Sandler fans each to be counted as three-fifths of a person.

8. Census takers required to knock before breaking down a door.

7. Each census form to include coupon for a free tune-up at your local GM dealership.

6. Every American to be tagged and tracked by satellite.

5. Completed forms may be mailed to Washington or handed directly to Barack Obama's mother-in-law.

4. Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to fill out forms or else be subjected to Rush Limbaugh broadcasts.

3. Homeless people allowed to claim cardboard box as their place of residence so long as it has a cable hookup.

2. Answer to every multiple-choice question is "C".

1. Following tradition of 1890 census, most records to be destroyed before they can fall into the hands of genealogists.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

They're Positive There's a Negative

Kim Marshall (who blogs here) seems to have inherited a photograph of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith, Jr. Only one photographic image of Smith is known to exist—the original being a daguerreotype dating from the early 1840s.

Marshall believes her photo is from the same glass negative used to create the Library of Congress print. But, unlike the one owned by the Library of Congress, hers was never retouched.
Photo-historian Al Thelin established that Marshall's print was produced from "a negative of substantial quality," which has yet to be found.
The age of the photo, and the negative, confirmed what Marshall believed, but while solving some mysteries, Thelin added one. The photograph was printed on Kodak paper from the late 1940’s or early 50’s. [Link]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Confidential Connubiality

Rosemary E. Bachelor has a post up called "California's Confidential Marriages: Secret Unions a Genealogist’s Nightmare."

Confidential marriage means very secret. For nearly a century, the State of California did not keep records of these marriages. It is impossible to determine if they took place, unless, perhaps, the couple later—for personal reasons—filled out an affidavit and swore to it under oath. County recorders keep a list of such marriages, but they are not permitted to divulge them. Technically, a clergyman is not supposed to reveal them either. In a few very rare cases, such information has been found among private records of deceased clergy.

The Child She Bears to Bear Name "Bear"

Ashley Swendsen was hit by a car on Thursday while running from a bear. She believes that the bear meant neither her nor her unborn child harm, and was sorry that it was euthanized.

Swendsen said she was sad to hear about the bear's death.

"Yeah, because the bear spared me, and then it had to die," she said.

Swendsen, who is about five months pregnant, said she doesn't know the sex of her baby but will give it the middle name "Bear" whether it's a boy or a girl. [Link]

Friday, April 24, 2009

No Regrets

A woman on GenForum wonders why her birth certificate says that she was vaccinated against "Regrets."

The last time I used it was to get my driver's license and the folks at the DMV were kidding me about being vaccinated against REGRETS. One asked me if I ever had any regrets and when I said no, she said "see? it worked!" [Link]

Also Effective at Warding Off Mice

Workers pulled a 400-year-old mummified cat from a cottage wall in the UK. It had been placed there to ward off witches.

Richard Parson, a funeral director, who owns the house in Ugborough, near Plymouth, said: "The builders were stripping one of the bathrooms upstairs and this little fellow came to light.

"It is quite scary looking and is a lot bigger than a normal domestic cat.

"I cannot throw it away so we plan to put it back on completion of the building work. But my wife is not all that keen on it, as she says she will have bad dreams." [Link, via GeneaNet]

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Deals to Die For

Chuck P. Dimmick died last weekend, but still wants to put you in a new vehicle.

Ghosts Grist for the Rumor Mill

Melissa Duer owns the oldest extant grist mill in Ohio, and is a descendant of mill's builder Eli Staley. She sued a website for claiming that the mill is haunted, and was awarded a default judgment of $125,000.

Duer claimed stories published about the mill, the Staley family and their history dating to the 1820s have attracted countless ghost hunters and the curious.

That activity forced her and her husband to spend thousands of dollars on security measures at the mill including $35,000 for an estate dog, Duer testified at a March hearing. [Link]
They had to spend $35,000 for a specially trained dog that would not be spooked by all the ghosts haunting the mill bite intruders.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What Were Her Parents Smoking? Oh, Right

Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer (née Jackson) has "never once smoked the stuff and prefers orange soda."

Sawyer's mother, Maggie Johnson, picked her name. Her father objected but lost the argument. To this day, a lot of family members and best buds call her Pepsi.

"She said that she knew when I was born that you could take this name and go around the world with it. At the time as a child, I'm thinking yeah, right. You named my older sister Kimberly. You named my younger sister Robin," Sawyer said. [Link]

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Hapless Habsburg

King Charles II suffered from rickets, impotence, and "a large head relative to his body size." And, according to Spanish researchers, it was all because of inbreeding.

The study, published in the journal Public Library of Science One, examined an extended pedigree including more than 3,000 members of the Spanish Habsburg family, over 16 generations. Of the eleven marriages made by six Spanish kings over this period, all but two were consanguineous and several involved very close relatives.

So inbred were the Habsburgs, that Charles II’s risk of inheriting a genetic disease was comparable with that of a child born to a brother and sister or father and daughter. [Link]

Son of a Son of a Paper Son

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has a family secret: his Chinese immigrant grandfather lied to get into the country.

“I’m not really sure, but I think my grandfather claimed he was born here but the birth records were destroyed,” Locke said.

For more than half a century, in an act of overt institutional racism, the Chinese were barred from legally entering the United States, with only a few exceptions. The Chinese Exclusion Act lasted until 1943. Those who managed to get in were often called “paper sons,” using elaborate ruses about lost documentation to enter the country. [Link]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

They Should Have Asked Him First

John Hunt was baptized at the age of five months, but later became an atheist. He recently requested that parish records be "amended to note he did not consent to the baptism in 1953."

He was told that his baptism cannot be deleted because it is a matter of historical record.

He then secured a "de-baptism" certificate produced by the National Secular Society (NSS), rejecting "superstitions" or the idea of original sin.
This week the church backed down and said the entry would be "corrected". [Link]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Idiot's Obit

From a FamilyTreeMag Twitter tip:

A fugitive defendant in a fatal drunken-driving case planted a fake obituary in an attempt to escape trial, according to attorneys, court records and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
[His attorney Sandy Barnhart y Chavez] said errors in the obituary made her suspicious.

“I sent off to vital records a request to get an official death certificate,” the defense attorney said. “But right about then was when we found out he was in jail in Lincoln County.” [Link]
His fake death notice in the Albuquerque Journal read:
Byron Shane Carpenter, Jan. 15, 1979 - March 2, 2009. Byron passed away last Monday in a car accident. He was a loving father and husband. May he rest in peace. Anthony-Bethany Funeral Home.
Despite a thorough investigation by the district attorney's office, no evidence was found that Carpenter had ever been a loving father and husband.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

And Could You Not Talk With That Funny Accent?

Texas state Rep. Betty Brown has a great suggestion for Asian Americans who have trouble being identified for voting purposes.

Brown suggested that Asian-Americans should find a way to make their names more accessible.

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

Brown later told Ko: “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?” [Link]

She's Welsh as a Male-Voice Choir

There's a rumor going around that Catherine Zeta-Jones is not Welsh but Saudi.

According to a khaligee newspaper, Khalaf Ben Mousaed El Atri, a Saudi citizen, proclaims that he is the elder brother of international actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. He said her real name is Sita and they lived together in London back then when he was studying there.
Things got more complicated lately when the DNA test done on Catherine's blood in the United States proved that they are really siblings! [Link]
Journalist Rym Ghazal is skeptical.
“Now every other Saudi person is going to claim to be related to her,” said one of my Saudi friends who is always on the lookout for a new conspiracy theory. His latest is that because Catherine’s husband, Michael Douglas, is Jewish, the whole story will “disappear”.

Of course, it could “disappear” because it’s nonsense. Catherine is widely known for being as Welsh as a male-voice choir, with no Arab roots. [Link]
[Photo credit: John Harrison]

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Rest Were Caught in Traffic

Of the millions of living descendants of Confucius, only 300 showed up for his memorial service.

The descendants, all of whom bear Confucius' family name "Kong", followed their masters of ceremony to kowtow and serve offerings and incense sticks to his tomb.

"Kowtou is the traditional way to commemorate and to pay our respects to our ancestors," said Kong Zhong, vice chairman of the World Federation of Confucius' Descendants. [Link]

Dolly's Wet Nurse

Dolly Parton shared a "famous" family story on Sunday's 60 Minutes. Some family stories should never leave the family.

Longest Roll Call Ever?

In observance of Memorial Day, roll will be called for the 150,000 people buried at America's busiest national cemetery in Riverside, California.

At least 330 volunteers are needed to each read names for an hour, starting May 16 and around the clock until the list is finished.
National cemeteries have done roll calls of those interred within a year, but none has ever attempted a recitation of the entire list of buried veterans. [Link]

Sunday, April 05, 2009

He Enjoyed His First Funeral More Than His Second

A story told by Beth Birkholz's grandfather has been made into a movie starring Bill Murray, Robert Duval and Sissy Spacek. It's about a man named Felix "Bush" Berazeale, who in 1938 "requested his own funeral while he was still alive to experience it."

Birkholz's grandfather owned the funeral home in nearby Lowden, Tenn., and had the funeral for Bush. More than 7,000 people from seven states came to witness the event, and it was featured in "Ripley's Believe It or Not."

And in case you're wondering if perhaps the whole thing can be chalked up to a bit of grandpa's hyperbole, Birkholz said the often-heard family story came complete with newspaper clippings backing up the whole yarn – and the postscript that when Bush finally did die, only five people, the funeral home's staff, attended his real ceremony. [Link]

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Genealogists in Glass Houses

After reading 5 Bad Genealogy Sources, reading the author's defense of himself here, and offering my own take here, I wondered—why hadn't I listed the Genealogy and Family History blog in my Blog Finder? Surely a blog that incites such debate should have a place in the directory.

After a little investigating, I discovered the answer: I had blacklisted the blog because of suspected duplicate content. Take this post, "Genealogy Software: Tips on Finding the Right One," posted November 30, 2008. The advice is pretty generic, which immediately makes me suspect that it came from an article mill. Googling the first sentence brings up 170 results. Here it is posted on a different blog a year earlier.

This must be a fluke, right? Well, how about this post, " The Best Website to Learn About Your Genealogy," published October 30, 2008. 307 Google results. This post appears to have come from here, and this post from here. But given the lack of proper attribution, it's impossible to tell who wrote what when.

[Update: Please note that use of content from article mills on a website is not illegal and does not constitute "stealing," though it may in some cases be unethical, unseemly, or contribute to making the website seem worthless and laughable.]

To be fair, the proprietor of Genealogy and Family History seems to have cleaned up his act a bit in the past month or so. But maybe not. He wrote this just four days ago:

I recalled that I had written an article last year about Genealogists using Twitter as a means of connecting with others who were researching their Family History. So as it’s obviously a topic of interest to folks I searched the blog and here’s a link to the article which originally appeared back in October 2008:

Genealogists and Twitter
The linked article is remarkably similar to a tutorial at, submitted by a user named Moomettesgram a month earlier.

I have no interest in embarrassing anyone, or attacking anyone else's business model. But I won't stand by while my fellow bloggers are maligned by someone claiming to speak from a position of authority, but who may be guilty of something far worse than omitting a footnote.

Attractive Ancestors

A family in China always knew there was something special lurking under their house.

The family, who live in Malipo town, had long wondered why magnets were so strongly attracted to an area under their hallway, reports the Chuncheng Evening Post. Wang Hexiong said his father first discovered the phenomenon and declared the area holy as he believed the family’s ancestors lay beneath. [Link]
It turned out not to be ancestors, but rather three dozen rusty bombs dating back to World War II.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

10 Genealogy Blogs Worth Reading

I was asked yesterday to compile a top ten list of genealogy blogs for I created the Blog Finder so I wouldn't have to play favorites in my blog roll, so instead of a "top ten" I decided to offer an unranked list of 10 Genealogy Blogs Worth Reading. I tried to include active, well-written blogs on a range of topics, mostly for a general audience, mostly from an amateur's perspective. These are obviously not the only genealogy blogs worth reading, nor are they the only genealogy blogs I read. But I think the list offers a good sampling for the uninitiated, and a reminder of how rich our community has become.

A Blogospheric Cloud

I created this word cloud by extracting every word out of every post published in the RSS feeds of blogs listed in the Genealogy Blog Finder in the past week. I then ran those 128,000+ words through a script that winnowed out the less popular terms, and submitted the results to Wordle.

It will surprise no one to learn that the genealogy blogging community is more excited these days about the new version of RootsMagic (mentioned 112 times) than about sex (mentioned once).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

He Wore Overalls Under His Robe

Don't why I haven't posted this before. It's a newspaper clipping about my great-grandfather Coolidge.

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