Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Douglas Fevens of Halifax, Nova Scotia, discovered that his book—Fevens, a family history—had been scanned at the University of Wisconsin and uploaded to Google Books without his consent. In a letter to the editor, he noted the similarities between the unauthorized digitization of printed matter and Dick Cheney's weekend hobby.

I am sure the American agents who performed waterboarding torture techniques on human beings thought their work "appropriate," but it was torture and it was wrong. UW's digitization of my work, "Fevens: A family history," in partnership with Google Inc., without my consent was copyright infringement and it was wrong.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Marked for Life

Here's a great blog of Forgotten Bookmarksphotographs, death notices and anniversary telegrams that outlived their secondary purpose.

My eldest nieces were voracious readers when they were young, and would use anything handy as a bookmark. My favorites included a banana, a sister's unfinished book, and a sleeping cat's tail.

What, Another Social Network?

I've added a Ning network to my Maine Genealogy site—not because I wanted to create a community for my fellow genealogists, but because I wanted a place where I could act like a petty tyrant and stifle dissent. Your Genealogy Wise password will get you in the door, but after that you're on your own.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Genealogue Challenge #145

Billie Joe Armstrong sings in the Green Day song "Before the Lobotomy," "Dreaming, I am only dreaming of another place and time where my family's from."

What were the names of Billie Joe's father's grandparents, and where were their families from?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Grandson Also Revises

A new edition of Ernest Hemingway's posthumously published A Moveable Feast features revisions by a non-impartial editor.

This new edition [...] has been extensively reworked by a grandson who doesn’t like what the original said about his grandmother, Hemingway’s second wife.

The grandson has removed several sections of the book’s final chapter and replaced them with other writing of Hemingway’s that the grandson feels paints his grandma in a more sympathetic light. Ten other chapters that roused the grandson’s displeasure have been relegated to an appendix, thereby, according to the grandson, creating “a truer representation of the book my grandfather intended to publish.” [Link]
Future editions of Hemingway's earlier works will be stripped of all references to alcohol consumption, clinical depression, and self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Too Boring for the Beeb

Ruth spotted this item, reporting that Sir Michael Parkinson's ancestors were deemed too boring to appear on "Who Do You Think You Are"?

Writing in the Radio Times, the 74-year-old said he was a huge fan of the show. "When Who Do You Think You Are? called and asked if I was interested, I said I would be delighted, but warned that my own research had unearthed nothing of note," he wrote.

"'Oh, they all say that. But we always find something,' they said.

"Six weeks later they phoned to apologise. My story was so boring they had to cancel the entire project. I was gutted." [Link]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Orphaned by the Census Bureau

Judy Mitchell shared with me an unusual notation she noticed in the 1860 census of Greene County, Tennessee.

Evidently the rest of little Diantha Lowry's family was misplaced, leaving her an "orphan" and prompting some census bureaucrat to comment, "What in the Hell."

I find Judy's first attempt to explain the comment appealing, even if incorrect.
I saw this page was enumerated by a Lowry (not a kin) and the first person, a one year old, was also a Lowry. Then I read the notation and at first thought... Mr. Lowry must have found an unknown grandchild... or, maybe it was "surprise, you're a father!"

Sunday, July 19, 2009

They're Dating Themselves

Kelly Hildebrandt met Kelly Hildebrandt on Facebook, and in October will marry. But they had to check first to make sure they aren't related.

The couple began poring over their respective family trees – after going back 250 years and finding no common ancestors, knew they were good to go toward a trip down the aisle.

To be sure, sharing the exact same names makes it a little crazy come mail delivery time, and the Hildebrandts have already caused head-scratching for at least one business.

“Kelly (boy) booked us a cruise, and they almost deleted one of our tickets because they thought there was a typo, that they had put in two of one person,” Kelly girl told Wolfe. “Kelly had to call to explain that there were two people with the same name.” [Link, via Megan's Twitter feed]

Great-Grandma Had Some Issues

Frances Osborne has written a biography about one of her ancestors, Idina Sackville, whom she first heard about at age 13.

As she and her younger sister pored over a newspaper serialization of an account of a notorious murder in Kenya, her father glanced at her mother and said, "You have to tell her."

Idina, it turned out, was Osborne's disgraced great-grandmother, five times married and five times divorced, and the ringleader of a wife-swapping, morphine-addicted English expatriate colony in east Africa in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. [Link]

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hippie Health Care

There were rumored to have been babies born at Woodstock on Aug. 15-17, 1969, but town clerk for Bethel, N.Y., insists that no birth certificates were issued. With the 40th anniversary of the festival approaching, the AP has put out a call for any Woodstock babies to come forward. Elliot Tiber, the man who brought the festival to Bethel, says that he helped deliver a baby that weekend.

Tiber, who has a reputation for being a raconteur, said the woman gave birth at his parent's hotel near the site, which, like the entire area that weekend, was mobbed. The woman wore a leather jacket, came in on a motorcycle and just flopped down.

"I see she's starting to give birth," Tiber recalled. "It was like the quote from `Gone With the Wind': `I don't know nothing about birthing no babies, Miss Scarlet' ... I was screaming, just screaming. Everybody was standing around stoned saying, `Yeah, groovy!' They thought it was cool." [Link]

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rest in Peace, Walter Mr. Cronkite

Someone at the Chicago Tribune went crazy with the search-and-replace while writing Walter Cronkite's obituary—replacing every instance of "Cronkite" with "Mr. Cronkite."

His last regularly scheduled assignment with CBS News was a 90-second radio segment called "Walter Mr. Cronkite's 20th Century."

Johnson reportedly turned to an aide and said, "If I've lost Mr. Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

The son and grandson of dentists, he was born Walter Leland Mr. Cronkite Jr. on Nov. 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Mo.

At home, he was "gregarious," relishing "spinning a one-line joke out into an elaborate shaggy dog story," daughter Kathy Mr. Cronkite once recalled.

Mr. Cronkite's survivors include his son, Walter Mr. Cronkite III, who is known as Chip; and daughters Kathy and Nancy. [Link, via Language Log]

Like He Needed Another Hole in the Head

A daguerreotype has turned up of the unfortunate Phineas Gage holding the iron rod that was driven through his head by an 1848 explosion.

The daguerreotype has been in the possession of Jack and Beverly Wilgus for 30 years, although they do not know its origin. They thought it was an image of a whaler holding his harpoon, but whaling experts viewing it online told them it was not. Then an anonymous tipster suggested it was Gage. [Link]

Beatle Not a Blitz Baby?

Legend has it that John Lennon was born during an air raid on Liverpool.

New research suggests that no German attacks took place in Liverpool on the night of October 9, 1940.

However, the official Beatles biographer Hunter Davies says: ‘That’s what John himself told me, ditto his Aunt Mimi and his father Fred.

'It was the family legend, still going strong in 1968. I’m not changing it now.’ [Link]

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Genealogue Challenge #144

This challenge may be extremely difficult, because one of the key clues I found a few months ago—an obituary posted 2 Oct. 2001—has vanished from the web. On the other hand, you guys usually find sources I've missed. Educated guesses are welcome.

Harry Rockafellow Wilkinson was the maternal grandfather of a very famous actress. In fact, this actress might have been (indirectly) named for Harry's wife.

Who is the actress?

Italian Was Not His First, Second, or Third Language

Scottish caricaturist Emilio Coia was not well acquainted with his father's native land.

Despite his antecedents - his father, who had emigrated from Italy, was the owner of ice-cream shops and cafes in Glasgow - he spoke little or no Italian and had visited the land of his forebears but rarely.
Like me, Coia had a rudimentary grasp of Italian. The one Italian word he could spell correctly, he said, was 'ciao', because it was anagram of his surname. [Link]
Well, that's one more word than I can spell correctly in Finnish.

More Proof That I Need to Get a Life

I've published five more posts over at Genealogy Wise, each intended to increase the world's wealth of useless knowledge about a famous person:

Linda Ronstadt: Heiress to a Flexible Ice-Cube Tray Fortune

Mr. McConaughey's Marriage Problem

In Search of a Man Selling Krug

Dead Myth Walking

Before They Were Belushis (or Blues Brothers)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

And There Was a Second Iceberg on the Grassy Knoll

It wasn't the Titanic that sank on the night of April 14, 1912—it was its identical twin, the Olympic.

While Olympic was being patched up after her encounter with Hawke the solution to the owners' and builder's problems would have became obvious. Even as they cannibalised parts from the second, almost complete and practically identical, sister ship the idea of a complete switch must have occurred. After all, It wouldn't be the first or last time that the identities of ships had been transferred one to another. To this day the most common major maritime fraud is to switch the names of ships. If the ships were switched then the damaged Olympic, masquerading as her sister Titanic, could be lost at sea and an insurance claim made. [Link, via Metafilter]

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

Marilyn Grace is certain that William Henry Long, who died in Utah in 1936, was actually the famous outlaw Harry Alonzo Longabaugh.

"We found the real Sundance Kid,” said Grace, a documentary filmmaker in St. George, Utah.

Grace said a DNA sample from an apparent relative of Longabaugh will be compared to DNA from Long’s remains, which had been exhumed for the purpose.
She said the "definitive” evidence so far consists of photographic comparisons by John McCullough, University of Utah anthropologist, who concluded there was a 99 percent chance the photos of Longabaugh and Long were of the same person. If the DNA is not a match, Grace said, it might be because the living donor is not really a Longabaugh descendant, Grace said. If it’s positive, it proves Long was the Kid.

"Either way, we win,” she said. [Link]

Monday, July 13, 2009

Another Desilu Production?

Cassandria Carlson is seeking DNA to prove that her mother was the child of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball.

With help from Stamford private detective Vito Colucci Jr. and Greenwich lawyer Cynthia Hartwell, Carlson is out to prove that her late mother Madeline Jane Dee was the secret first child of Ball and Cuban band leader Desi Arnaz, who eloped at the Byram River Beagle Club in Greenwich in 1940.

Carlson, 38, a married mother of three from Schaumburg, Ill., claims that her mother was put up for adoption shortly after she was born in 1947 because her very existence would have interfered with Ball's career, which took off with the 1951 debut of "I Love Lucy."

Now, she is asking the famous couple's family members, two of whom live in the area, to submit to a DNA test. [Link, via @familybuilder]

Just Say N.O.

Genealogue reader Kathi Mayor sends news that Mayor Ray Nagin has instructed Hurricane Katrina victims who plan someday to return to New Orleans to record the city as their place of residence in the 2010 census.

The unusual appeal flies in the face of a federal policy dating back more than two centuries that requires people to be counted, with few exceptions, at the address where they are "living or staying" on the official census day, which falls next year on April 1.

"The residency rule is what it's been since 1790," said Gabriel Sanchez, director of the Census Bureau's regional office in Dallas, which oversees Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. "We need to count people where they live, not where they plan to live or where they want to live." [Link]
More good advice from Mayor Nagin: When the bungee-jump operator asks how much you weigh, tell him how much you plan to weigh when you finally get around to dieting.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"McDreamy" Could Have Been a Schlossnagle

Tonight's Genealogy Wise post is about Patrick Dempsey, who grew up a couple towns away from me. If I'd had his talent and good looks, I would be kissing Amy Adams onscreen and he would be sitting here writing lame blog posts.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Perfect Place to 'Play Possum'

A small bit of good news out of the sordid disinterment scandal in Illinois: the body of civil rights martyr Emmett Till was left undisturbed. His former casket was not so lucky.

His body was exhumed in 2005 for forensics tests and then, as is customary, interred in another coffin.
[T]he original casket that was supposed to be placed on display at a memorial was found inside a garage, surrounded by discarded headstones and other debris, on cemetery property. When it was opened by police, a family of possums scurried out. [Link]

Is Wil Wheaton Jewish?

Tonight at Genealogy Wise I ask, "Is Wil Wheaton Jewish?" Tomorrow I will attempt to answer the question, "Is Corey Haim Still Alive?"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Gwyneth Paltrow and the Naughty Rabbi

My latest post at Genealogy Wise reveals the criminal exploits of Gwyneth Paltrow's great-great-grandfather, Simon "The Rabbi" Paltrovitch.

Let's See Him Part the English Channel

British Conservative Party leader David Cameron has some big ancestral shoes to fill.

[...] Yaakov Wise, a research fellow at the University of Manchester Centre for Jewish Studies, has traced the politician’s ancestry back to Elijah Levita, an eminent 16th-century Jewish scholar. Dr Wise’s study of archival material also suggests that Mr Cameron, who has described himself as an “enthusiastic friend of the Jewish people”, could be a direct descendant of Moses. [Link]

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Home Movie Reconstructions 1974 / 2004

This is all kinds of awesome. Elliott Malkin reconstructed his family's home movies using the same locations and people 30 years later. I'd have to dig up my dead great-grandfather on Christmas and have him sit drunk and dour in an armchair to do this.

Maybe They Just Needed Some Space

GenealogyWise.com is having a bit of an identity crisis. Looking at Randy's first screenshot from Tuesday, the site identified itself as "GenealogyWise."

But now it says "Genealogy Wise."

Emails from the site said "GenealogyWise" until about 1am EDT, but by about 2am were saying "Genealogy Wise."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Borderline Insanity

Barbara is looking for a town in Maine near the Canadian border.

I think Lenny said that they also may have been near the Vermont border, if that helps at all.
No, Barbara, that doesn't help at all.

GenealogyWise and Wherefores

I've started publishing content at GenealogyWise.com—the social network just quietly launched by FamilyLink.com (and loudly announced by Randy). I'm doing this for two reasons: One, (full disclosure) they're paying me a few bucks to do so; and two, it's something I would have done anyway. I haven't jumped on the Facebook genealogy bandwagon, because I prefer to keep my offline private life and online genealogy life separate. If GenealogyWise takes off, I'll be able to socialize with fellow genealogists and be antisocial at the same time. Perfect!

I'll be blogging at GenealogyWise about stuff I don't generally blog about here, including original research about nearly dead celebrities. Feel free to add me as a "friend," because I'm pretty indiscriminate in whom I hang around with online.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Tombstone Too Titillating

The proposed gravestone of Germany's "most famous prostitute" has been deemed "too slutty" by the powers that be.

The 77-year-old artist Tomi Ungerer’s parting gift to his friend Domenica Niehoff was to be a gravestone featuring two ample pink marble boulders in homage to her famously top-heavy figure. But those responsible for the Garden of Women cemetery, resting place of Hamburg’s most famous women, turned his design down, the paper reported. [Link, via]

Monday, July 06, 2009

Social In-Security

The Social Security Death Master File (SSDI to you and me) can't be directly used to steal a Social Security number, because the numbers in the index belong to people known to be dead. But researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found that the Death Master File can be used to predict a living person's SSN—if that person's state and date of birth are known.

CMU researchers Acquisti and Ph.D student Ralph Gross theorized that they could use the Death Master File along with publicly available birth information to predict narrow ranges of values wherein individual SSNs were likely to fall. The two tested their hunch using the Death Master File of people who died between 1972 and 2003, and found that on the first try they could correctly guess the first five digits of the SSN for 44 percent of deceased people who were born after 1988, and for 7 percent of those born between 1973 and 1988.

Acquisti and Gross found that it was far easier to predict SSNs for people born after 1988, when the Social Security Administration began an effort to ensure that U.S. newborns obtained their SSNs shortly after birth.

They were able to identify all nine digits for 8.5 percent of people born after 1988 in fewer than 1,000 attempts. For people born recently in smaller states, researchers sometimes needed just 10 or fewer attempts to predict all nine digits. [Link, via Metafilter]

The State of the Genealogy Blogosphere

A little over a year ago, I published some statistics gleaned from the Genealogy Blog Finder database. In the past year, I've tinkered with the search engine to make it a bit more efficient and reliable, and added a map showing Who's Blogging Where. A few new categories were added—the most recent being French-Canadian & Acadian Genealogy Blogs. The site has had about 165,000 page views in the past year, bringing the total pages viewed since October 2006 to about 415,000.

The number of blogs in the directory has risen to 1384 since the last report, a net gain of 420 (a 44% increase over last year's total).

Here are some statistics, as of about an hour ago:

  • 142 blogs (10%) were updated in the last two days
  • 329 blogs (24%) were updated in the last week
  • 547 blogs (40%) were updated in the last month
  • 926 blogs (67%) were updated in the last six months
  • 1096 blogs (79%) were updated in the last year
  • 861 blogs (62%) are published on the (free) "blogspot.com" domain
  • 131 blogs (9%) are published on the (free) "wordpress.com" domain
  • 70% of blogs abandoned before 2008 were published on the "blogspot.com" domain
  • 7% of blogs abandoned before 2008 were published on the "wordpress.com" domain
  • 1% of blogs either don't syndicate their content or have an unusable feed
  • 928 blogs (67%) have a geographical location assigned
  • 444 blogs (32%) have the word "Genealogy" in the title
  • 2 blogs have the word "Genealogue" in the title
The most interesting change I see is the increased use of WordPress, which has increased (as a percentage of new blogs added) almost tenfold since last year. Blogger remains the dominant free blogging platform, though, playing host to about two-thirds of the blogs added since June 2008.*

*These numbers don't include WordPress and Blogger blogs hosted on domains other than wordpress.com and blogspot.com.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Dec. 19, 2006 July 6, 2009 — MyFamily.com, Inc. The Generations Network, the leading online network for connecting families across distance and time, today announced that it is changing its name to The Generations Network, Inc., Ancestry.com effective immediately. The company will continue to serve families online through its portfolio of leading brands and websites. [Link]

Friday, July 03, 2009

No Stimulus for Stone-Straightening Industry

If you're wondering why the stones at your local veterans' cemetery are crooked, ask Joe Biden.

[Members of Biden's stimulus watchdog group] have spent a lot of time trying to kill projects that sound like red alerts on Fox News: a plan for military-cemetery headstone-straightening was scrapped, as was a request for a $10,000 refrigerator to house fish sperm in South Dakota. [Link]

Top Ten Reasons Our Ancestors Came to America

10. Took wrong turn at Bering land bridge.

9. Slavers seemed pretty insistent.

8. Sought religious freedom and the right to disembowel Quakers.

7. Nothing good to watch on BBC.

6. Took their orders from Neil Diamond.

5. Potato famine put big dent in profits from Irish fish-and-chip franchises.

4. To oppose anyone else being allowed to immigrate to America.

3. Sick of having unpronounceable names.

2. Wanted the right to vote on behalf of their wives.

1. Hoped to one day be listed on Ellis Island website.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Man With Head Wound Thinks He's Abe Lincoln

John "Abe" Lincoln has much in common with his famous cousin.

John will tell you his nose and ears make him look something like Honest Abe, especially from the right side.

But what really links him to the late President: both men were shot in the head. John Wilkes Booth, of course, shot President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in April 1865. John Lincoln was shot in Southwest Philadelphia in 1971 while working for SEPTA.

"When everybody heard about me getting shot in the head, that's what they started calling me, [Abe]," he said. "People call me John, and I don't respond to it. People call me Abe, I respond to it." [Link]
Only in 2077, when a third distant Lincoln relative is shot in the head, will police recognize this as a conspiracy.

Congresswoman Takes Leave of Her Census

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann says she's not going to fill out her 2010 census form. So Will Caskey filled one out for her.

He said that on a recent slow Friday at his Democratic opposition research firm, he drafted his own census form based on earlier questionnaires and scoured Google and public records for answers — on Bachmann.

He filled in the form [pdf] with her address, phone number, salary and home value, among other peeks into the congresswoman’s life in Minnesota. According to Caskey’s report, she lives on a 2.75-acre property in Stillwater, Minn., in a house that has between eight and 11 bedrooms.

“She can and should expect that people look at the public aspect of her life,” Caskey said. “For her to say that the questions are very personal, it’s a little silly.” [Link]
Caskey couldn't figure out from public records "whether she is selling agricultural products in her home, the state of her mental health, how much she is spending on fuel, or her ancestry." I, too, am not sure about her mental health, but her ancestry is Norwegian.

Island Romance Unlikely

Could Sandi Schneider's mother have been conceived on Ellis Island?

No, cohabitation was not permitted at Ellis Island. Detained male and female immigrants were sent to separate quarters. Children stayed with their mothers in the women’s dormitories.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Genealogue Challenge #143

Actor Karl Malden has died.

By whom were his parents married?

Extra credit: What were the names of Karl's maternal grandparents?

The Out-of-Wedlock Come Out of Hiding

The next edition of Burke's Peerage and Gentry will include more bastards than usual.

The guide, which lists the genealogy of every royal and aristocratic family in the Europe and the U.S., is to include illegitimate children for the first time.
Mr Bortrick said today many people from titled families did not marry, referring to the decision to list illegitimate children.

'It is just common sense to list their children. Although we would probably not list them if there was a scandal or anything.' [Link]
The guide will also begin listing children in order of birth, rather than males first, thus taking "a step into the 21st century." I find it rather impressive that they've stepped from the 19th century directly into the 21st.

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