Monday, October 15, 2007


Fraktur is a form of calligraphy and painted decoration. "These illustrated manuscripts, which are drawn with pen and ink and embellished with vivid colors, are not just nice to look at—they can provide a wealth of genealogical information to researchers," writes Myra Vanderpool Gormley. "Important historical details often documented in frakturs include family names, relationships, dates, and locations." (more)

Monday, August 27, 2007

"I'm My Own Grandpa" – Song Started as Urban Legend

Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe’s novelty song, "I’m My Own Grandpa," tells the tale of a man, who through a series of complicated marriages, became his own step-grandfather. Long before it became a famous song, "I’m My Own Grandpa" had popularity as an oft-repeated story. For at least seventy-five years, newspapers across the US published stories about men who claimed to be their own grandfather. Though different names, locales and years are given, all have the same sequence of events: A young man marries a woman with a daughter, who then marries the man’s father, and the two men have sons by their new wives. This tale began by at least 1848. (more)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Morgan Fairchild's Roots

The original actress to play "Jenna Wade" in the television series Dallas, Morgan Fairchild had an interesting parallel to that character. She is a Dallas native and her grandfather was in the oil business. Ms. Fairchild comes from a family of educators – her mother and grandmother taught school, and her grandfather and a grand-uncle were school superintendents. Surnames in her ancestry include McClenny, Hartt, McGlamery, Harnesberger, Biggs, and Carter. See "The Family Tree of Morgan Fairchild."

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Magistrates Who Moved Away or Passed Away

A List of Former Justices of the Peace in Amelia County, Virginia, 1793 identifies those who "removed out of the county" or "have departed this life." The list also includes names of magistrates seldom acting or refusing to serve.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The DocuPen: A Review

The DocuPen RC800, touted as the "world’s only color, truly mobile, full-page portable scanner," is a pen-sized, two-ounce device. With an 8 MD on-board flash memory, the DocuPen is capable of scanning full-page documents as 24-bit color, 12-bit color, grayscale or monochrome. See our review of this light-weight, hand-held scanner.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Principal Rumor Without Principle

"I was born January 3rd 1950 . . . My name is my real name; my age is my real age," actress Victoria Principal said in an interview for "Someone on the internet, years ago, printed a different age than I am and I’m in the process legally of clearing that up," she adds. Online sources frequently give the actress’s birth year as 1946, and the topic of her true age is hashed on message boards. Some folks are adamant Ms. Principal was born in 1946, but a ship’s passenger list dated March, 1950 shows the future actress as a two-month old when she arrived in the US with her mother from her birthplace, Japan. There’s even some suspicion about the names of her parents, Victor Principal and Ree Veal. Does genealogical research reveal Ree Veal is real, as is Victor Principal? Yes, those are the names of her parents. Victoria Principal is Victoria Principal, and the manifest of the USNS Fred C. Ainsworth (Entry no. 3, List of In-Bound Passengers, no. 7, Seattle Passenger and Crew Lists, 29 March 1950) at the National Archives supports the 1950 birth date. See "Victoria Principal's Roots in the Peachtree State".

Friday, July 13, 2007

Jefferson's Roots

An Ahnentafel of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States, shows his descent from the rich and powerful Randolph family of Virginia. Jefferson’s English grandmother was Jane Rogers, "a stern strict lady of the old school, much feared and little loved by her children."
Other surnames in his lineage include: Addie, Blaikston, Borlase, Branch, Brett, Butler, Field, Fuller, Hechstetter, Hicks, Humphrey, Huntley, Isham, Lane, Lilburne, Nicholson, Ryland, Soane, Sparkes, Vincent, and Worger.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Ancestors Keeping a Low Profile

"If you hit a brick wall trying to trace one ancestor," advises Winston De Ville, "forget about that one for a while and concentrate on another lineage." He adds:

But let’s face facts. Some ancestors will prove to be so elusive they may never be found. If records exist, a good genealogist should be able to find them, no matter the obstacles, but even the best researcher cannot find what is no longer there or perhaps never existed. The genealogist’s mission is to exhaust all sources.

See De Ville’s "Some Lineages Can’t Be Traced."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Three Generations Exceeded 100

From the Carthage Democrat (Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois), Tues., 16 July 1907:

Death Takes a Centenarian.

Francis Bimon died at his home in Vernon, aged 107 years. His father lived to the age of 106 years and his grandmother was 110 years old. He was an ardent Democrat and voted for every Democratic presidential nominee from Andrew Jackson down to Parker. He was a carpenter, and in the early days made most of the coffins in which now lie the pioneer settlers of Fayette county. He was the father of nine children and has living thirty-three great-grandchildren.

See "Longevity: Stretching the Truth."

Friday, June 29, 2007

Heraldry in New England: Did Your Ancestor Swipe a Coat of Arms?

Quotes from Joseph L. Chester’s letter to William H. Whitmore, dated London, 4 March 1864, as published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. LX (1906):

Of course I do not mean to say that no early New England families were entitled to bear arms, for we all know better, but I do mean to assert that the proportion was very small. I rather take pride in my position that the greatest majority of the early settlers were of the hardy yeomanry of England, rather than from a socially higher class . . . The use of arms is the very weakest of all evidence. I find them now on the old tombstone where it is certain that the individual had not the slightest claim to them. The very tombstones themselves are questionable evidence.

See: "My So-Called Family Coat of Arms: A Case Study"

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Henry VIII's Secret Children?

While working at Chicago’s Newberry Library, Anthony Hoskins researched the court of Henry VIII, especially during the period 1514-1540, using that library’s incomparable collection of English historical materials. In so doing – and building on the work of Retha Warnicke (author of The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn) – he determined that almost certainly Mary Boleyn, the acknowledged mistress of Henry VIII previous to his marriage to Mary’s sister, Anne Boleyn, had had two children by the king. Tudor historians over the centuries had known of the affair, and of the births of Mary’s children ostensibly by her legal husband, William Carey, but the chronology and surrounding details had not been thoroughly investigated. Hoskins’s article established (1) the chronology of Mary Boleyn’s affair with the king [from about 1522-1526] and (2) the births of both of her children [Catherine Carey in about 1524, and Henry Carey in 1526] in the midst of that period. Hoskins’s article, “Mary Boleyn’s Carey Children – Offspring of King Henry VIII,” is enthusiastically embraced by several of the world’s major Tudor historians.

“Rather than his issue becoming extinct with the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, King Henry VIII has instead a numerous posterity in both England and America,” Hoskins writes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Original Spelling of Spelling

Actress Tori Spelling (Beverly Hills, 90210) is the daughter of producer Aaron Spelling. As told in Aaron Spelling’s autobiography, his mother, Pearl Wald, had fallen in love with a Polish Jew named David Spurling, whom her grandfather had forbidden her to marry. Soon after, she came with her family to America, arriving at Ellis Island, and from there they migrated to Texas. Here, she married a professional boxer and had two children. Her husband, Sam Seltzer, was stabbed to death by a stranger in Dallas in 1911. Concerned for the welfare of their widowed daughter and her two children, the Wald family is said to have written David Spurling, asking him to come to America. He did, and with a new name — Dave Spelling — immediately married their widowed daughter. See “A Look at Tori Spelling’s Family Tree.”

Monday, June 18, 2007

1900 Census Rejected Marriage for Three-Year-Olds

From the Palo Pinto County Star, Palo Pinto, Tex., Fri., 8 June 1900.

When the first returns from the census enumerators are in the great work of counting will begin. It will interest most to know that the work of counting will be done by machinery so far as possible. A machine will count as many as 900,000 names a day. Briefly, the system is to punch holes opposite to the various questions, the position of the hole determining the fact of the person named on the card being black or white, married or single. The machine does the counting by the perforated hole permitting the card to slip into its right place in the mechanism. The machine will even correct errors. For instance, if a married person is set down on the card as being 3 years of age, the machine refuses to pass any such absurd statement, and will call attention to the fact of something being amiss. – Pecan Valley News.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Preacher Was Dying to Marry Them

From The Carthage Republican (Carthage, Hancock County, Ill.), Thurs., 8 April 1869:

Clear Grit. —Would Marry ‘Em. A minister named Anthony, who was performing a marriage ceremony in Andersonville, Georgia, on Thursday last, while in the middle of the ceremony, was interrupted by the step-father of the lady, who ordered him to desist. He remonstrated with the intruder, telling him it was too late, and that he ought not to be guilty of such unseemly conduct. The man’s response was the raising and firing at almost point range, of a double-barreled shot gun loaded with buck-shot, the entire load taking effect in the lower part of his victim’s stomach. The brave old man fell to the floor, but by a tremendous effort, raised himself up and saying, ‘I will finish the job,’ proceeded with the ceremony and pronounced the couple man and wife. He then fell over and expired.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Family Association Disbands

When Gene Edson accepted the responsibility of president of the Edson Genealogical Association in 1993 (and editorship of its newsletter), he more or less "inherited" 11 boxes of material — family group sheets, correspondence, books, microfilm, memorabilia, etc. "Now we still have those 11 boxes plus at least 11 more," he says. But after 59 volumes of The Edsonian, the periodical is ceasing publication and its sponsor, the Edson Genealogical Association, is disbanding. "It is with mixed emotions that the Board has made the decision to dissolve Edson Genealogical Association at the end of 2007," states Gene Edson. He cites "being unable to enlist a younger person to take on the task" and an awareness of the genealogical data now on the Internet. The Board feels that the "EGA has reached a time in history that its purpose can be fulfilled by individual research online and through e-mail to other family searchers."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dragging the Bastard Name Through the Mud

Our article, "Weaselhead, Devil and Drunkard: Surnames Originating As Insults," tells about the origin of unflattering surnames. Included is a statement from English etymologist Charles W. E. Bardsley, who wrote: "As time worn on, and the nation became more refined, there was an attempt made, successful in many instances, to throw off the more objectionable of these names.” The Bastard family, though, kept their surname and gained prominence in English society. But in 1894, the revered name was tainted with a touch of scandal. That was the year London newspapers published stories of the scandalous Bastard vs. Bastard, a divorce suit filed by John Algernon Bastard against Olivia Gertrude Louise Stopford (Claremont) Bastard. The petition revealed that the wife of Spencer Brunton had filed for divorce three years earlier, claiming that her husband had been carrying on with Mrs. Bastard since 1888, and that news appeared in The Times (London), 16 April 1894. News accounts give no indication that the alleged affair produced any children, who, not being Bastards might have been called bastards.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Shott Not Shot By Nott

From the Weekly Nevada State Journal, published at Reno, Sat., 7 January 1882:

A duel was recently fought in Texas between Alexander Shott and John Nott. It was rumored that Nott was shot and Shott was not. (If so it was better to be Shott than Nott.) But it was afterward proved that the shot Shott shot at Nott shot Shott by accident, and the shot Nott shot at Shott shot past, and so shot him not. Thus the affair resolved itself into its original elements, and Shott was shot and Nott was not.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Taylor-Made Tree

An Ahnentafel for Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the United States, depicts his descent from Mayflower passengers Isaac Allerton and William Brewster. Through Col. Richard Lee, President Taylor shared kinship to Gen. Robert E. Lee. Other surnames in his family tree include: Barker, Bayly, Brewster, Constable, Dabney, Hancock, Harte, Jeffreys, Savage, Strother, Thompson, Thornton, and Willoughby. Another descendant of William Brewster is Sydney Biddle Barrows, the scandalous “Mayflower Madam.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

An Elusive English Epitaph

From Rev. Beaver H. Blacker’s Gloucestershire Notes and Queries, Vol. II (London, 1884), is an essay about a curious tombstone inscription in Moreton-in-Marsh churchyard.

“Can it be the case that, as I have lately read in Curiosities of Bristol and its Neighborhood (1854), p. 52, the following epitaph is, or ever was, in the above-named churchyard?

Here lie the bones of Richard Lawton,
Whose death, alas, was strangely brought on:
Trying one day his corns to mow off,
The razor slipped and cut his toe off;
His toe, or rather what it grew to,
An inflammation quickly flew to,
Which took, alas, to mortifying,
And was the cause of Richard’s dying.

“If the foregoing be not ‘a story,’” the writer added, “what, I shall be glad to know, was the date of poor Richard’s death?”

Monday, June 4, 2007

Keeping Up With the Joneses

If it’s on the ‘net, it must be true, right?

We’ve recently revised our online article, “The Addams Family’s Carolyn Jones: A Descendant of Geronimo?” to reflect this statement: “Several websites, including the Internet Movie Database, incorrectly state her birth name was ‘Carolyn Sue Baker.’" This comes after receiving a question about the actress’s birth name:

I've read everywhere that Carolyn was born Carolyn Sue Baker . . . I always thought that she had changed Baker to Jones . . . Why does the internet says that her real last name was Baker?
We suspect that most of these online biographies are quoting from each other – not from an original source. Morticia Addams’s original portrayer was born Carolyn Sue Jones in Amarillo, Texas, on 28 April 1930, as shown on the birth certificate above. Her mother’s maiden name was Jeanette (Southern) Jones, though The Handbook of Texas incorrectly says “Jeanette (Baker) Jones.” Instead, Baker was the last name of Jeanette Southern’s stepfather.

The "G" Word

“Now that you’re graduating, what line of work are you going to pursue?” my friend’s father asked.

“Genealogy,” I answered.

He laughed. “That’s a broad field! Plants, animals or people?”

“People,” I told him, not bothering to explain that genealogists are neither botanists nor zoologists.

Genealogy – its pronunciation is stumbled over and it’s misspelled. And, yes, its meaning is confused with other terms.

The LDS Church addressed this problem several years ago by simply renaming its Genealogical Library – the largest such research center in the world – to the Family History Library. Apparently, the writers of the 1960s gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows, also thought it wise to avoid the “g” word. The character of Dr. Julia Hoffman was introduced as a “family historian.”

Sometimes genealogists themselves add to the confusion, albeit unintentionally.

A librarian handed me a flyer for the local genealogical society she helps sponsor, and my eye quickly caught a misprint. I smiled and showed the error to the librarian. Her jaw dropped, disbelieving that she had overlooked the gaffe. “Parker County Genealogical Society” is what it was supposed to read. The close-up above shows what it really said – with my apologies to the society for publicizing this error!