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Monday, March 30, 2009

Another Bad Genealogy Source

To this list of 5 Bad Genealogy Sources, let's add a sixth: books.

Books are a good source of unreliable information simply because anyone who can type, print, and use a stapler can make a book. And since the credentials of most authors are questionable especially when it comes to history (I have no evidence to back this up, but my conclusion requires that it be true), books will provide no help in your genealogy research. If you believe that a book has helped you in your genealogy research, this is only because you have not been published in various UK genealogy magazines or presented at various conferences.

So when looking for a historical account, stay away from books. Stick to Billy Joel songs. Because not everyone can write a Billy Joel song.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dead Tired or Just Dead?

Is she dead? Make your best guess, and then read footnoteMaven's opinion.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Census and the Centenarian

A genealogist from Oklahoma was able to tell an old woman in Michigan exactly how old a woman she is.

Mattie Caldwell turned 108 earlier this month. But she didn't know it at the time.

Caldwell celebrated her March 5 birthday with friends and family at her home in Genesee County's Flint Township, about 55 miles northwest of Detroit.

But she told The Flint Journal she had forgotten what year, exactly, she was born.
Patricia Funchess scoured historical records and found Mattie recorded as a 9-year-old in the 1910 census, making the 1901 date the correct one. [Link]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cocks in Decline

Via Geniaus, an article from The Australian titled "Name shame causes Cock shrinkage but Wang is on the rise." The Times of London chose a less shameful headline.

Cock, Daft, Death, Smellie, not to mention Gotobed, Shufflebottom and Jelly: they are all surnames that would have caused their owners considerable embarrassment over the years. A new analysis of British surnames reveals how names with rude overtones have seen the sharpest decline over the past 120 years as their owners have changed them to something more innocuous. [Link]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ashes to Ashes, Meat to Barbecue

The will of PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk is not for the squeamish.

2. While the final decision as to the use of my body remains with PETA, I make the following suggested directions:

a. That the “meat” of my body, or a portion thereof, be used for a human barbecue, to remind the world that the meat of a corpse is all flesh, regardless of whether it comes from a human being or another animal, and that flesh foods are not needed;

Monday, March 23, 2009

Scrolls Are the Perfect Baby Gift

The 50,000th Rivlin has been born in Israel.

The newest family addition, Michael Ben-Shimhon, who was born in Jerusalem on February 16, joins some 35,000 of his ancestors residing (currently or previously) in Israel. The baby will be formally initiated into the Rivlin clan by Reuven Rivlin this afternoon at Airport City's Kenes International. Michael and his parents will be presented with a scroll documenting his historic birth. The family will also officially activate its application to the Guinness World Records, hoping to set the record for the world's largest tribe. [Link]

Top Ten Worst Genealogy Tweets

My latest Top Ten List is a Twitter exclusive.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ephemeral Evidence of a Sense of Humor

Just spotted this interesting item on eBay—a "comic corner card" mailed by Frank S. Finn of Greenwood, Maine, to G. H. Donham of Island Falls, Maine.

Frank S. Finn was an itinerant dime novelist and "puzzler" who boarded with my great-great-grandfather Lemuel Dunham in Greenwood in the 1880s. The recipient was Lemuel's second cousin. I'd like to think that this envelope was from Lemuel's private stash.

Follow Me, I'm a Twit

For those who would prefer reading me in smaller doses, I started Twittering this weekend. It should be easy limiting my posts to 140 charac

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Unsafe Sex

Matthew Ward has been convicted of killing a man for having sex in the graveyard where Ward's grandfather is buried.

Prosecutor Nicholas Dean said: "James and Michelle took advantage of the relative privacy of the churchyard to have sex. As Ward and Avison passed the churchyard Avison glimpsed a couple engaged in sexual activity. He mentioned it to Ward."

Ward said: "Are you joking? Are you serious? My grandad is buried there and they are being disrespectful."

Ward went home and told his girlfriend there was someone being disrespectful in the graveyard. He picked up a metal bar he called "the kosh" and, returned to the graveyard and hit 30-year-old Mr Wood on the head three or four times. [Link]
Yeah, nothing's more disrespectful than having sex in a cemetery. Except maybe bludgeoning a guy to death in a cemetery.

Inmate Indexing

If your genealogy addiction leads to a life of crime, be sure to get locked up in Utah State Prison.

There are four family-history centers in the prison, with about 600 inmates doing work on their own genealogies or performing extractions — the indexing of names of long-dead individuals from land records, census forms, birth, death and marriage certificates for a database run by the LDS Church's Family History Library.

Prison-wide, the inmates extract about 500,000 to 1 million names per year for genealogists worldwide to use.
Because they are in a prison, the family-history centers here are not like those on the outside run by the LDS Church. Internet access is very limited, and names for extraction work are those of people who have been dead for decades, to guard against identity theft.

"It does hamper the work a bit," Jepsen said. "It's hard for the men to do some of the research, but it's better than nothing. We work with what we've got." [Link]

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Dead Can't Stand Up for Themselves

David Shannon made the mistake of photographing headstones at Old Union Christian Church Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky, and publishing them online.

In February, the church's governing board sent Shannon a letter telling him "to cease publishing pictures of stones ... not part of your family because it is sharing family information without their consent."

Old Union's minister, the Rev. Scott Winkler, said the church's position is that Shannon's actions are an invasion of privacy. "If you're going to publish other people's private information you need to get their permission," he said. "Any cemetery has to protect rights of people buried there."
Kudos to the governing board for standing up for the rights of dead people. Dead people are stripped of their property by greedy heirs, who burn and bury their bodies to hide their misdeeds. Dead people are denied the right to vote (except in Florida), and have been refused entry to certain shopping malls. The government compels families to report their dead relatives in a manner reminiscent of fascism.

So thank you, Old Union Christian Church governing board, for supporting the right of dead people to have the information on their tombstones kept private. I am confident that your position is based on sound moral principles and not on any pecuniary and proprietary grounds.
The church sells a $10 book with all the tombstone information in it, but no pictures, compiled for an Eagle Scout project several years ago with the help of church historian Leslie Nash Huber, Winkler said. [Link]
Oh.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The (Somewhat) African Queen

According to one historian, Queen Victoria's grandmother Charlotte had African ancestry.

If you google Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, you'll quickly come across a historian called Mario de Valdes y Cocom. He argues that her features, as seen in royal portraits, were conspicuously African, and contends that they were noted by numerous contemporaries. He claims that the queen, though German, was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family, related to Margarita de Castro e Souza, a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman nine generations removed, whose ancestry she traces from the 13th-century ruler Alfonso III and his lover Madragana, whom Valdes takes to have been a Moor and thus a black African. [Link]

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Words in Lincoln's Watch

Jonathan Dillon was employed at a jewelry shop near the White House in 1861. According to family legend, he was working on President Lincoln's pocket watch at the moment he heard that Fort Sumter had been attacked.

Dillon told his family (and, four decades later, a reporter for the New York Times) that he opened the watch's inner workings, etched his name, the date and a message for the ages: "The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a President who at least will try."

He then closed it up and sent it back to the White House.
Yesterday at the Smithsonian Institution, the watch was finally pried open.
The audience, watching on a monitor, gasped.

Split into three different sections to get around the tiny gears was this razor-thin etching: "Jonathan Dillon April 13-1861. Fort Sumpter [sic] was attacked by the rebels on the above date thank God we have a government." He added "Washington" and his name again. [Link]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Out of Sight, Out of Mine

A coal company misplaced Walter Young's great-grandmother.

"It always looked like a safe, good place nobody would bother," the 63-year-old retiree said of the cemetery along Pigeon Creek where his relative, Martha Curry, was buried. "It was up on a hill."

But that hill was in West Virginia's southern coalfields, and over the years, it changed hands. The land around and under the cemetery passed from one coal company to another as mines grew up around it. Now, no one is sure where Young's great-grandmother was ultimately laid to rest. [Link]

Monday, March 09, 2009

His Mother Was Not Well Armed

Betty Duke thinks that her great-great-grandfather James L. Courtney was actually the outlaw Jesse James.

The first thing that made Betty believe that maybe these old tales were true was an old family photo she found of her great-grandfather Courtney’s mother. The woman in the photo was missing her right arm; James’s mother was also known to have lost her right arm during a dynamite explosion in her home.
If that weren’t enough, other evidence kept piling up. For instance, Betty found that her great-grandfather “accidentally” signed his diary “J. James” on several occasions. [Link]
This seems like pretty weak evidence to me. After all, seven out ten women in 19th-century America lost their right arms to dynamite explosions. (True fact. Look it up.) And I have been known to "accidentally" sign my diary "Mr. Angelina Jolie," but that doesn't make me Brad Pitt.

Haley's Highland Roots

DNA testing shows that the paternal ancestors of Chris Haley (and of his famous uncle Alex) came from Africa by way of Scotland.

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