Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dead Man Dealt the Loser Card

Missoula Cemetery in Montana received an odd letter from France a month ago—addressed to graveyard resident Hakon Kristian Hauge.

It came with a "loser card," a 3-inch piece of cardboard that said, in both Norwegian and English, "I give you the loser card back." And on the other side: "You Lost Loser Too Bad."
Sexton Mary Ellen Stubb succeeded in identifying the sender and solving the mystery.
The letter, it turns out, was an exercise in "psychogenealogy," a field developed over the past 15 years and based on research by another French professor, Anne Ancelin-Schutzenberger. It centers on the belief that each of us is genetically connected to an ancestor. Our lives can run parallel courses to that ancestor, and Levillain told Stubb she'd always felt a connection to her great-grandfather.

To break free from a destructive or negative course, psychogenealogists say, we can disassociate ourselves from that ancestor. Thus the loser card letter, which Levillain told Stubb should properly be burned on Hauge's grave. [Link]

Genealogy at 17,000 Feet

To finish his book Mad Dogs and Englishmen: An Expedition Round My Family, explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes enlisted the help of yaks.

Documents unearthed in the dusty attics at Broughton Castle, near Banbury, were packed into containers and trekked by yak to Everest Base Camp so that he could finish his family history.

“The papers came boxed up in 45 containers and were transported by yak to the base camp. I was able to complete the book by writing in between acclimatisation exercises on the mountain. [Link]

Friday, November 27, 2009

Disturbed Scientist a Potential Serial Killer, Collects 'DNA Samples'

Neuroscientist Jim Fallon—a descendant of Thomas Cornell and a distant cousin of Lizzie Borden—discovered that he may have something in common with his notorious relatives.

Three years ago, as part of a personal project to assess his family's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, Dr. Fallon collected brain scans and DNA samples from himself and seven relatives.
Dr. Fallon looked at about 20 genetic markers linked directly or indirectly to aggression, including compulsive behavior and mood. One marker, which has become a big target for research, is MAOA, or the "warrior gene."
To his surprise, Dr. Fallon found that the analysis of his own brain showed he had inherited certain high-risk forms of MAOA and other various aggression-and violence-related genes.

"I'm the one who looks most like a serial killer," he says. "It's disturbing." [Link, via Genealogy Reviews Online]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Welcome to the Family

When Matthew Roberts set out to find his biological father, he never expected to find Charles Manson.

Matthew, 41 - who bears a haunting resemblance to his father - sank into depression after discovering his identity.

He has since been in contact with his dad in a series of letters to his California prison and Manson has replied - each time chillingly signing off with a swastika. [Link]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Also, Is My Cousin's Cousin Famous?

Google's autocomplete feature tells us what people are searching for: relatives who are famous, celebrated, and/or genocidal.

Those who Googled "am I related to this person" were, of course, holding up pictures of Hitler.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Left This Stone Unturned

This may seem like a normal gravestone, but look carefully at the very bottom of the photograph.

A little digging revealed that an age ("62 y'rs & 10 mo.") was carved on the stone upside down. This wasn't Fanny's age at death, but it was the age at death of her husband's first wife.

Here's my theory: the first wife dies in 1837 and a stone is erected. The husband remarries, dies in 1849 and a new stone is made for the first wife to complement his own. The second wife dies in 1871, and her evil or indigent step-children recycle their mother's old stone to mark her grave.

Only chilly fingers and fear of prosecution prevented me from pulling this stone completely out of the ground to prove my theory.

Monday, November 02, 2009

New Way to Find Dead People on the Highway

A funeral home in Des Moines is displaying obituaries on billboards around the city.

The digital announcements, which have appeared on five billboards around Des Moines for a few months, last about 8 seconds. Announcements can flash the person's name, picture and service details as well as the funeral home's Web site.

The announcement rotates with other ads and there is no additional cost to the family.

Koth acknowledged concerns that the billboards could be a distraction, particularly if someone spots the name of a friend or acquaintance without knowing about it beforehand. [Link, via Passing It On]

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