10 October 2015


The Benjamin Franklin connection is exploited for the title of this PBS video that is part of the Secrets of the Dead series.  His 18th century residence in London, which was the home of a family at 36 Craven Street was also the home of Dr. Huston, a doctor who was probably more or totally responsible for the burial of human bones in the basement.  Though Ben Franklin's experimental and scientific nature is well known, there is no way to prove he ever had anything to do with them. 

This film is about the state of the art of medical science in that era. It is about the "body snatchers,"  people who would sell dead bodies to doctors (science) so that autopsies and dissections could be performed.  Check your gag reflexes because this is a time honored practice to learn about the human body and expected in medical schools.  The "body snatchers" were not always the most moral and ethical people, however, and so by modern day standards they may be thought of as criminals.

But what else did those who wanted to understand and some day cure diseases that killed people like typhus and cholera have to work with if not the bodies of the dead?  Methods then were primitive compared to now, as were the tools to saw a skull in half.  In this society there was no concept of virus or germs and people were dying of kidney stones and gall stones, which we well understand today, as well as broken bones.  Today many people donate part or all of their bodies for organ transplants and skin grafts and there is huge debate over the ownership of sperm and eggs that are frozen for later use once the people who donated them don't want to or can't pay for them to be kept.

In the 18th century, men who were sentenced to death wrote begging letters to their families to claim their bodies before they were sold or given away, fearing the desecration even though they'd be dead.

So though Benjamin Franklin is one of my favorite most fascinating historical personages, perhaps what was more interesting was that when he returned to America, this "Second Family" he had lived with in London was brought here to live and their family tree is full of doctors, including a woman who will show you some of the family documents that link Ben Franklin and their family.

03 October 2015


Anthropology is one subject I love.  I love learning how the human developed culture, how cultures spread, and DNA is enhancing our understanding of human migration, ethnicity, and race.. 

I love knowing this life I lead is so much of the times.  Can I even really imagine the world of my great grandparents?  The ancient Greeks?  The life of a tribe in the Amazon?  Well, could they in their lives imagining air travel or rock and roll?

With anthropology we can try on what it was to live in another time and place, since we cannot yet actually TIME TRAVEL for a look-see.  But besides living there is dying.

Along with Anthropology, there is Archeology (digging evidence up and applying scientific methods and analysis to it), the two often going hand in hand.  One of the things that the Anthropologists and Archeologists look at is BURIALS.

Burials tell us so much about the person, the people.  The posture they are buried in, if they have a shroud, if there are tools or jewelry buried with them, or perhaps their pet cat...  if they were laid into the earth, had stones put on top of them, had a carved wood casket, were embalmed, had ordinary clothing on or were naked, and what direction they - and others in that graveyard - were facing; all of this telling.

One time I asked an Archeology professor, if so many millions of people had died on this earth in the past, why were there not MORE burials, more evidence of their lives.  He said most people were not buried.  They were cremated, or left out for the vultures,  or otherwise exposed.  Also many burials are now deep under the earth or the graves were robbed.  So when a burial is found and explored it can be a wealth of information.

Some of the more exciting burials I've learned about are in museums.  I saw an exhibit at the Getty in Malibu, California that had the painted cases that some ancient Greeks had been buried in, though living in Egypt.  Each had a painting of the person's face, as to be remembered in life. This was a time and place burial, influenced by both Greek and Egyptian notions.

Then there are the burials found in Hungary in which the people inside beautifully painted caskets, many who had died of TB, were found to be naturally preserved mummies.  Scientists of medicine are studying TB through these mummies.

Take a look at the stack of beautiful coffins at this link VAC HUNGARY - NATURAL MUMMIES - NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

Reading around these Hungarian mummies, I've learned that they are known people, for whom there are records, and descendants alive.

I don't know about you, but I personally do not think I would want to see any of my dead relatives  dug up so I could see what they look like, but did you know that a son of the Big Bopper,  the 1950's rock and roller who died in a plane crash, did just that, before having him cremated?

Can you tell that it's that time of year... that Halloween and All Souls Day are not so far away?

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22 September 2015


Recently I started going through boxes of research that had been in a storage unit, had been brought to my residence, had made it through a flooding so so, and that I had not entirely forgotten about.  Things had gotten scattered so I also didn't know what I still had, where it was, and if it was still valuable to my research.

Most of the research was handwritten and old photocopies.  Because of the time spent and the detail, I know I have to read each and every piece of paper and evaluate it for the value it has to my present personal genealogy.

The condition of the paper varies, making me wish that I had never ever used any sort of typical lined, punch holed, paper.  But not everything can go on archival paper.

A friend suggested THE CLOUD for storage.

No not even if said friend PAYS for me to have a CLOUD!

Having had computer disks thrown away and memory sticks stolen, having purchased a couple lap tops only to see them become defunct rather quickly, any suggestion of THE CLOUD as optimal storage, any suggestion that I SCAN all these papers, and I react negatively.

I do not want to give up my paper copies, no matter what electronics could be applied.  I don't want to worry about equipment, monthly fees, or being hacked.

As I looked through these papers, besides seeing that various brands of the lined, punch holed paper had discolored and had folded in different ways, the cheaper papers no deal, I also noticed that no doubt PHOTOCOPIES showed less aging and held up better, and ANY PAPER KEPT IN PLASTIC did very well.

THE PLASTIC HOLDERS are heavier.  So your binders can be difficult to carry, but I think that binders and plastic holders with paper inside is the way to go, so long as you also remember to cover them on the shelf to prevent dust from settling in.

Because sure enough old plastic binders do show dust and dirt and age.

Through all of this I have a cardboard mailing tube that contains some of my oldest, handwritten, and hand drawn charts.  Much of what I wrote on these charts was there proven, some of it was speculation or calculation (birth and marriage and death dates.) 

But when I think of the person(s) who will inherit my research, I think:

1) The hand written and hand drawn charts will probably feel more personal and valuable.

2) It's going to cost a whole lot to ship all this research to them.

3) But do they only want the end results, the book, or do they want to follow along with my research, realize just the high price of those end results, and will they be inspired to continue, documenting my life when I'm probably dead perhaps, or to travel to the places that their gggparents left?  Will they even take care of all my research, such as taking care to pass it along to the person in the family who they deem the most interested and worthy?

4) I've concluded that I will provide some simple electronic resources, such as family pictures and some scans on CD.

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14 September 2015



I sent away for the marriage records (civil) of my aunts, uncles, and parents and grandparents. I wanted the marriage dates and places as well as the mother's maiden names.  Eventually everything came in.  My shock was learning that my parent's did apply for a marriage license but there is no record of them actually having got married.  I got a note back stating that an extensive search had been made.

I'm sure they did marry.  But now I'm not sure they married the same year they got the license.  This is because there's a story about how they got married and then went back to work on Monday, no honeymoon, and that they got married on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.  The year on the license and the date I recall they celebrated their marriage doesn't line up with the Friday, Saturday, or Sunday or the story that they met and married in a year.  I remember celebrating their Silver Anniversary but I can't remember what year we did!

What can I do to prove they married?

Ruth - Pittsburgh PA


Hi Ruth,

I checked FAMILYSEARCH which does have SOME records of marriages for Allegheny County - Pittsburgh area - Pennsylvania, just in case, and nothing came up.  Sending away was the right thing to do.

I suspect that your parents got married in a local church and the priest didn't send the paperwork in that he should have to the Allegheny County people to make a CIVIL RECORD of it.  But as usual it could simply be a missing, burned up, or otherwise document.

But there are a few things I want you to do.

First, check the date you remember as their anniversary for several years after that license to see if the dates work for the story.  It might give you a date, it might not.

Second, call and ask Allegheny County this question, "Once a couple applied for a marriage license, was there a time limit that they could use it, say a few months or a year or two, before they would have to apply again?  (This could vary by location, so anyone else reading this, call the location)

Three, check city directories and or census or possibly Social Security APPLICATION, to try and figure out about where they were living.  Then check to see what churches might have been in the area.  Additionally, if the area is right next to another county, then maybe they married in another county.  So you also want to ask, "In PA, if a couple got a marriage license in Allegheny County, could they use it in Washington County?"

Four, If they likely married Catholic, call the CATHOLIC DIOCESE ARCHIVES and ask them if they have records of marriages.  Explain that the CIVIL RECORD does not include evidence that the marriage actually occurred.  Possibly the actual PARISH still has records, but with so many churches closing, I'll bet on the archives first, especially if you cannot be sure of the church.

LINK! http://diopitt.org/department-chancellor/office-archives-and-record-center

I hope this helps!


10 September 2015


1940 ... 

So many of us longed for the 1940 census to be released, and by now many of us have outlived the effort to get the entire census online in various databases including the one from NARA, the one from Ancestry, and the one from FAMILYSEARCH.  Just as when the ELLIS ISLAND site came up years ago, there was a huge impact on these sites as so very many people went to them at all hours to get in - temporary but frustrating crashes - missing pages - missing towns - and most of it has been resolved and is now as good as it's going to get.

I myself am back to reading neighborhoods page by page as information I seek is NOT coming up via text searches for surnames.  I would be happier rolling microfilm as I think my forefinger is going to need a joint replacement for all the stress of clicking.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is when you find your family and SUSPECT or KNOW the information on it is in error, especially because the census taker took that information given BY A NEIGHBOR OR LANDLORD.  (There is usually a notation on the side of the form stating this.)  But if the information was not given by the head of the household or a family member, I would not take it for granted to be correct, even if that person was well intentioned.

I can tell you right now that contemporary neighbors and landlords have said things so incorrect about me that some of it is misunderstanding and some of it is slander.  (And I've noticed that when I put it into writing that I know about it and that it is wrong information and that I don't appreciate it, when some people then see me, they blush, get big eyed with shock of seeing me, and even run out of the room.  Oh the things people can or will say when they think you'll never know.) 

So, taking that experience in real life, and that anger, back to 1940, I have to wonder.  If someone's landlord didn't like them, if the family wasn't home much or hadn't paid their rent on time, or whatever,  WHY WOULD A POTENTIAL GOSSIP BE CONSIDERED AN AUTHORITY ON THE FAMILY?  What it means when you see that the information did not come from a family member is YOU CANNOT COUNT ON IT.

It means that you have to find other collaborating evidence.

You have to check CITY DIRECTORIES, your CHURCH records, your Social Security Applications, and so on, to verify it.  Do find out whatever you can on an employer if listed, just in case the employee information is now part of some collection somewhere and to understand if they were small or large businesses.  This may be especially interesting if they lived in a company town.

Some of the information on the 1940 census given by neighbors that I've found to be incorrect:

The spelling of the family surname.  (It is incorrect in handwriting, and so transcribed in text the same.)

The age of some or all of the family members.  (Thus one woman who had five children out of the home and who was in her 50's was listed as 40, based on the younger children at home.)

The language they spoke.  (I noticed "German" listed for people who spoke German as one of their languages, but whose native language was Slovak or Hungarian.  The census taker had a German surname.  My guess is that she spoke German and so did the information giver.)

People who were working, perhaps part time or in their own small business due to the economy, listed as not working at all.  In some cases this was the parent, so children's income was assumed to be supporting the family.  While in Hard Times, and in days before SSI or SSDI, some old before their time husbands were too old or ill to work and the children did support the parents or contribute income to the family,  I'd research around it.  WHY?  Because misinformation means a false family story.  (You want to understand that family in their place in time and history, as well as their ethnic, religious, and FAMILY CULTURE.  You want to ask, "Did this family value education?" "Was this family sexist? Did the males or the females or both quit school to support the family?  And so on.)

In reading this or any other census, record the DATE the census taker wrote the information.  Missing family members can be on no census at all because they MOVED in the weeks between one census taker visit and the next census taker visit in another part of the town or country.

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29 August 2015


DID YOUR GRANDFATHER or another MALE RELATIVE JOIN THE CCC's as a teenager in the 1930's (GREAT DEPRESSION ERA leading into World War II era) in order to learn skills and most importantly SEND MONEY HOME? 

Not just anyone could sign up.  This was a RELIEF PROGRAM (which I sure wish was still going on today) that existed from 1933 to 1942 in the US.  It was part of President Roosevelt's "New Deal" and a man had to be 18-23 years old (eventually they took men 17-28 years old) who were unmarried an unemployed.

image from PBS





CCC LEGAGY. ORG - RESEARCH  includes links to forms to send away to the right National Archives (Saint Louis) and information on CAMP LISTS.

So OK, the difficult has been (hopefully in the past) that men who joined the CCC's were sent to various camps, not necessarily close to home.  The goal was to SEND MONEY HOME and LEARN SKILLS.  The 1940 census might be of help to some of you, but don't count on it.  I've personally been unable to use a database to search that census for CCC members I'm looking for.  One of the reasons is that a typical participant stayed in the program for 6 months and could reenlist a total of 4 times for a 2 year stint.  This wasn't a branch of the military, but there was a sort of boot camp at first to see if a person was physically fit before they started doing a lot of hard physical labor, like building walls or planting trees to reforest a burned out area.  A person could be transferred around to where there were work projects.  Many men from poor families dropped out of high school to join or first did the CCC's and then enlisted in the military.  There were separate camps for veterans and Native Americans.

Today when you go to many parks, you will find stone walls and stairways that are still in use that CCC workers built.  (Such is the case in some of the Santa Monica Mountains here in Southern California.)

24 August 2015


The Princesses in this book are not all from Europe and they include the schemers, the insane, the plain unlucky.  It's enough to make you stop trying to prove a royal connection in your family history.

Really, you may count yourself lucky to have come from less inbred people!

Here's a link to Linda Rodriquez McRobbie's own review of her book! HUFF POST - 11 of the BADLY BEHAVING PRINCESSES - with Pics!

Small Quote!  "I took a look at the not-so-Disney lives of 30 princesses, and found a whole world of women whom history had mostly forgotten, vilified, or written off. These are women who took the crown and ran with it--though not always to particularly nice places. They lied, murdered, used sex, or dressed like a man to hold on to power, and weren't afraid to get a little blood on their hands. They're also women who were imprisoned, victims of circumstances entirely beyond their control, or who were forced to make difficult decisions that history still punishes them for. Some were mean, petty, and vain; some drank too much, or gave their affection rather more freely than their contemporaries thought appropriate. Some just wanted to have a good time, no matter how much that unsettled everyone else. And others, of course, were just bizarre and possibly mentally ill- a limited gene pool can be just as corrupting as absolute power. But at the end of the day, they're all real--and isn't that somehow more satisfying than the glittery, pink-and-purple fantasy princess?..."

at this site you can read a bit about Njinga, the Murderous Warrior Princess, Charlotte of Prussia, the Sex Party Princess, Princess Louise of Belgium, the “Insane” Princess, and Märtha Louise, the Princess Who Talks to Angels.


I picked this book up at the library because there are chapters devoted to Elizabeth Bathory (discussed on a recent post below) as well as one of my favorites, Princess TNT (Thun und Taxis), also known as the Punk Princess turned astute business woman.

OK, I confess that I read around European royalty a lot, have a fascination with tiny Monaco and the next generation there, and have no current claims to be related to any Kings or Queens, maybe just German and Hungarian, petty nobles... and as a citizen of the United States of America, my ancestors gave up on all that long ago.

I so enjoyed this book that it's one for my bookshelf meaning I'm going to buy it!

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All Rights Reserved including Internet and International Rights

05 August 2015


Have you ever had the experience of looking at a photograph and suddenly feeling a shiver go up your spine?  I have.  That shiver feels like a confirmation of truth somehow, and it certainly makes you pay attention to the photography.  What is it about a scene from another country or time and place that you recognize deeply?

I was researching one of my personal ancestral lines which, according to the marriage record I was looking at, went back to a German town in what was Hungary but is now Romania.  This was one of the towns which, while over hundreds of years was no doubt Hungarian, but the residents kept to German customs too, speaking both languages, building houses, wearing clothes, and keeping to customs that were more German.

So I wanted to see some pictures of this town and towns like it.

I went to a famous research institute, the Getty, and before I got there I ordered many books to be bought upstairs for me prior to my arrival.  Not known for genealogy, but for art, the Getty Research Institute still houses MANY books that can be very useful to researchers of family history and genealogy researchers as well as those learning about other cultures and societies for which the expression of creativity is one factor.  In this pile I found two books that were especially informative and interesting and that applied to my personal research.  These books were not available through my large city library or anywhere else I checked.

In one of them there were black and white pictures of this German town. I turned the page to  a simple street scene, and got the shiver up the spine.  None of the other pictures in the book did that to me.  I looked again.  There was something about that curve in the road.

It made me wonder if I was having a moment of ANCESTRAL MEMORY.

The theory of Ancestral Memory is that in our DNA/genes we have memories of things our ancestors have experienced.  In this case we are talking about a GGG.

This is different that Reincarnation Theories that suggest that we might incarnate in the same family, as a descendent of someone we were on earth years prior. 

With Ancestral Memory, all you have is GENETICS, your own body carrying information.  The theory has nothing to do with any spiritual belief.

Let's say that you were born and raised in the United States and identify as All American and really believe in justice and equality for everyone but you still find yourself fearing a certain ethnic group.  (I realize that admitting to such a thing may even be considered not politically correct, yet I hear people say they have such fears!)

My friend Marilyn, who only recently realized that she has German heritage in her ancestry on one side of the family, has since hearing of Germans in childhood, has always felt a little sick to her stomach at the mention of them.  She has never self identified as German and has self identified herself as Polish.  She had of course heard about World War II and the Holocaust, but she had no reason to believe that her own family heritage was any part of that.  Marilyn hated it when she learned she was genetically partly German, but she also felt there was no logic to it.  After some in depth research and interviewing family members and then reading around the history of the places they came from,  Marilyn learned that one of her ancestors had been taken from his house by German soldiers and had never been heard from again.  He was not Jewish.  This happened before World War II. When she got some photos of the town where this happened, she began to have a strong sense of having been there, of recognition.  Marilyn does not believe in reincarnation but she now believes that her fear is the fear of this ancestor.

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Ancestry Worship - Genealogy

21 July 2015


Access Newspaper Database and Newspaper Archive Academic , which are related, have me quite frustrated.  A researcher at a distance provided me some notes via text of two death/funeral/burial/obituary announcements and since I've used this database in the past to locate copies of originals, I thought I would try.

Since my experience has been that in many small town newspapers that were typeset there re a lot of misspellings of proper names, as if they had run out of one vowel and used another, I decided that the best tactic would be to go the exact newspaper and date and page that the other researcher had provided me.

I would have preferred to have rolled microfilm and read page by page.

I wasted over an hour trying to make the database simply get me to the paper on the date specified, if not the exact page, WITHOUT ALSO PUTTING IN THE NAME, first and last.

Finding the WRONG date, I read the language the paper used.  Maybe it was my terminology?

I tried obituary. I tried funeral.  I tried died.   Certainly something should come up!

Once again I returned the search choices, this time with a librarian at my side to double check my moves.

I think Access should make it easy to get to the newspaper, by date, for those of us who would prefer to read it page for page, rather than only focusing on what comes up in a search.

15 July 2015


I got to talking to a sweet lady the other day, while I was out walking my dog, who looks a lot like her dog.  The conversation went from dogs and fleas and itchy dog skin, to dog breeds, dog hair and dog shampoos, to human DNA, Blood Types, and genealogy. 

It turns out that this sweet lady has spend the last 6 months doing research on the Internet, kind of like a lot of people do when they first find the subject fascinating and want to know more about their families.  She has been looking at postings in genealogy groups, hoping to link up with relatives who know more than she does, who have maybe done years of research and are giving it away for free. 

With experience,  I feel I can say that this research is of the type that I find is usually a lot of time wasting speculations, and usually includes posts that possibly endanger the privacy of others in their attempt to be "helpful" because some people thoughtlessly post about people who, if asked, would say no to the post and even be infuriated that they or their family is being discussed or entered into databases without their knowledge and permission. 

It's not that I've never been there or not wasted time.

So after she gave me some free shampoo to try on my itchy dog, I gave her some strong advice on genealogical research.  I told her to start her own research, to document everything, to not take leaps without documentation because, one does not know that the information they find in groups is even correct;  I even met someone who did that and ended up spending TEN YEARS researching the wrong family.  Rarely are you going to find the actual documents posted to support the gossip. 

I told her about some records she can get for FREE without having to have a subscription to a genealogy database and where the local genealogical society has a club house.  I told her that if she ever intended to submit her research for inclusion in certain societies, someone else would be going over it looking for each item to be proofed so she may as well try for those professional standards even if she was just starting out.  And she listened.

But when she told me that she has B- (B Negative Blood) and had been reading on the net about how this blood type came from a breeding program begun by alien visitors to our planet, I knew this sweet lady had encountered some of the same groups and posts that anyone who begins reading around DNA and Blood Type does.

There is just a lot of hooey attached to B- negative blood on the Internet and other media.
Some of these include :

The "fact" that because human fetus have "tails" that proves we humans are "reptilian" and that the B- blood people have extra vertebrae and small tails on them.  (The truth is that many animal species that never develop tails look to have tails when they are only fetus and that this is simply a stage of development of the spine.  A tiny percentage of humans do have a more prominent tail bone or an extra vertebrae.)

The "fact" that people with B- blood are more often abducted by aliens, that aliens prefer them.  (Yummy!  Though I'm open to the idea that there is life on other planets that we would consider to be alien, and am even open to the idea that some people have had close encounters of the 3rd kind with alien beings,  I would love to know who took the abductee poll and how and when!)

The "fact" that people with B- blood are more psychic than other people with other blood types.  (I think all people have some capacity for having the 6th sense and that it might be innate like a talent or developed as a skill but there is simply no proof that type B- people, due to their blood type, are more psychic.)

"The "fact" that people with B- blood are EVIL and that the origins of this blood type come out of a place called the "Draconian" Caves.  (...as in Dracula - who by the way WAS A FICTIONAL CHARACTER...)

There are plenty of maps and charts showing the distribution of type B+ and B- blood all over the world which do, with changes in population, vary from year to year.  Granted some places such as Northern India - have higher rates, but overall B blood is rare and AB blood is even rarer.

The "fact" that people with B- blood also have higher IQ's that everyone else.  (Again, who, when, where, and how did someone take that poll? I know some people who would like to boast about it!)

The "fact" that humans in general were bred by aliens who ruled the earth, gods, or God, to be slave labor, in particular to mine gold, or that the female primates who were on earth at the time were inseminated for this purpose or the purpose of making man in the image and likeness of God...

(And if that is the case, so what?)

HERE ARE SOME FACTS CIRCA 2015 about B- blood that you can count on:

B blood is RARE blood.  B- blood is RARER than B+ blood.  In the United States, depending on which chart or map you look at, and because of who has and is immigrating here, the rate for B- is about 2-3% of the population but it might be higher or lower in your particular city or state.  Therefore most Blood Banks are always looking for B blood/plasma donors.

Scientists do not yet know how it is that blood types developed or mutated but they feel that a variation in blood types probably happened due to mutations and they sure do want to know so they are working on it.  The most prevalent blood type on earth is O as in Original Blood type and it is extremely prevalent.  DNA studies of migration may prove useful to figuring it all out.

It is possible that at one time the B blood type was far more prevalent but due to some disease that effects B blood type people more than other blood types more of those people could have died off.   It's true that some diseases seem to be more prevalent in certain blood types.

Type AB blood is even rarer and seems to have developed or mutated only a few thousand years ago. 

Science is clear that DNA mutates and that blood type is in our DNA.

B blood is sometimes called "The Asian blood type" but B- blood seems also be a Middle Eastern or Central Europe blood type.  B- blood is prevalent in Northern India while B+ blood is associated with some of China.

If you are looking to prove paternity in court, DNA tests today are far more accurate than previous Blood Type proof.

So to all you evil, psychic, genius UFO abductees with tails out there... sorry!

Negative blood is associated with "the Rhesus factor" as in the Rhesus monkey, another primate, but that doesn't mean that people with negative blood come from a long lineage of monkeys (and certainly not reptiles). 

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