I sit here with Mark, barely able to breath between laughs as we watch an episode of “Drunk History.”
“Drunk History” relates the story of Nellie Bly, who portrayed a ‘crazy’ woman and was committed to an insane asylum to write an exposé.
At this moment, we are watching two grown men sitting in a tub (supposedly in their bathing suits, but we can’t see the bathing suits to confirm this), discussing early feminist Nellie Bly, and ending the scene with a stumbling, bumbling, sheepish attempt at a kiss – laughing all the time.
The majority of my time is spent researching history as it relates to my own family’s genealogy. I’m never shocked any more by what I discover, as there is usually another surprise waiting around the corner.
This show, however, is a wonderfully whimsical, comical surprise – a fun, endearing and ‘yes’, informative show.
I’m most impressed with the actors, who lip sync and act out the dialogue created by “uber-drunk” narrators, so drunk they can barely speak. The dialogue spoken for and by the characters Sybil Ludington and Nellie Bly pulls no punches and is used exactly as spoken, including the swearing, grunting, laughing, growling and other sounds being made by the inebriated narrators.
In this episode, Nellie Bly, the trailblazing reporter who paved the way for women in journalism, is played by Laura Dern, and she is amazing!… ‘ly funny!
What a talented actress, to take the dialogue and sounds handed to her and create an entertaining and seemingly authentic scene, despite how bizarre and incomprehensible the dialogue may be.
Maybe this isn’t such a guilty pleasure after all. Upon thinking about it, I realize watching “Drunk History” could open up the love of and curiosity about history to a whole new group of people.
Spoilers: Other than the bathtub scene, there really are no spoilers in this article. It’s one of those things that is impossible to describe in writing – you really MUST see it for yourself.
For my recommended Christmas gifts for genealogists list for 2013, I thought I’d concentrate on more obscure, lower cost gifts. Some could even be used as stocking stuffers. Last year’s list was for higher end, higher priced, technically focused gifts for genealogists. So, for this year, I’ve come up with a list of lower priced gifts suitable for anyone interested in genealogy in any way, even if they’re tentative amateurs or are just exploring the possibilities without wanting to make a large financial investment in the beginning.
First of all, when in doubt, inject a little humor in your gift giving. It’s well appreciated, especially by those of us who chase dead people, frequent graveyards, and dig through musty libraries and archives. One example is the Mug Full of Nuts on the cafepress.com website.
The book of Bad Baby Names would be a wonderfully funny, almost unbelievable gift for the genealogist. The authors have scoured old records, censuses, etc. to find the most unusual, unfortunate and just plain funny names given in the past.
An ideal gift for those of us who are fascinated with graveyards, this Stone Rubbing Kit would be a wonderful and fascinating gift. There are certain important gravestones that I would love to get rubbings of.
This MagniMark 7-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ magnifier and bookmark is ideal because of its portability, ease of use, and the ability to use it as a bookmark within the pages of the old books or documents one might need it for.
I am always searching historical books and publications on the Google eBooks site. Where the books are free, I download them and use them as I need to. For paid titles, however, I do think twice and a gift card to invest toward the books in my online library would be a welcome gift. It’s important to note, however, that the gift card is a new venture for Google eBooks and may not be available at all outlets yet.
Although my entire collection of genealogy research is digital and available within my genealogy software, there are occasions when I like to put something to pen, paper, scissors and glue – such as scrapbooking. Two years ago I created a scrapbook for my in-laws about their ancestors for the previous five generations and the scrapbooking supplies were handy. A gift card for scrapbooking supplies from any store would be welcomed.
Magazine Gift Subscriptions
The one thing I always look forward to is my Canada’s History magazine subscription. I’ve been a subscriber since it’s original title was ‘The Beaver’ (Canada’s national animal). I was saddened when I learned that certain racy connotations of the word beaver were influencing and negatively impacting its performance on search engines and a name change was in order. A gift subscription to a history or genealogy magazine would make a great stocking stuffer.
I can certainly speak for myself and I’m sure most other genealogists would agree with me that once we start working on our genealogy, our focus is all to the past. “The Book of Myself, A Do-It-Yourself Autobiography in 201 Questions,” by Carl Marshall and David Marshall would be a great exercise in exploring one’s own personal history and documenting it. After all, our present will soon become the past.
The “Our Family Tree Tapestry Afghan” would be a wonderful way of honoring history and genealogy through textile and thread. This is one gift that would one day become a family heirloom.
Gifts that Only Take a Little Imagination and Effort
Heritage Recipes – Either purchase or create a cookbook featuring the recipes of childhood and cultural history. In my case, Acadian and French Canadian recipes would matter the most.
Historical Treasure Chest – Create a treasure chest containing copies of everything you can and would like to include that would help the recipient with their genealogy research, including photos, documents, newspaper clippings, publications, etc.
This joke is the best illustration I’ve ever seen of the negative effects of working from copied documents instead of originals. This should be on display in every library, archive and genealogy center as a reminder of the perils awaiting.
This is something I think about every time I do a transcription, and this type of consequence is why I use wildcard symbols in place of characters I can’t quite make out or understand in the original or copy I’m working from. It ensures the reader knows there is doubt and if it’s important to them and their research, they’ll look for and consult the original.
The Old Monk
A new monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to help the other monks in copying the old texts by hand.
He notices, however, that they are copying copies, not the original books. So, the new monk goes to the head monk to ask him about this. He points out that if there were an error in the first copy, that error would be continued in all of the other copies.
The head monk says “We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son.” So, he goes down into the cellar with one of the copies to check it against the original.
Hours later, nobody has seen him. So, one of the monks goes downstairs to look for him. He hears a sobbing coming from the back of the cellar, and finds the old monk leaning over one of the original books crying. He asks what’s wrong.
I was amazed to read on the “nature” blog that a genome hacker has discovered what is believed to be the largest family tree of 13 million linked individuals.
This family tree was constructed with data from online genealogy sites, and the researchers plan to analyse genetic traits and how they pass from generation to generation. These traits include longevity and facial features.
This work will be presented by Yaniv Erlich, a computational biologist at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics. The data has been stripped of identifying information to protect privacy and has been made available to other researchers.
Nancy Cox, a human geneticist at the University of Chicago states, “We’ve really only begun to scratch the surface of what these kinds of pedigrees can tell us.”
The ability to measure the change in frequency of traits over generations may help to understand to what extent traits are dictated by genetics.
There is concern by some about using self-reported genealogical data, as pedigrees stretching to royalty and beyond a certain date are not believed to be valid. There is also the problem of quality of sources and simple errors in the entering of data.
Although it is unclear just how useful and accurate these huge pedigrees will be, some enthusiasm and eagerness is being expressed by scientists and they are working to create a specific experiment that could produce useful results.
In recognition of October being “Ancestry Month”, I have gathered and transcribed several items of prose, poetry and humor that have touched me in some way. The ones I have selected and printed below are my favorites of the hundreds that can be found – and the ones that hit home the most.
I hope you enjoy them too.
Your tombstone stands among the rest;
Neglected and alone
The name and date are chiseled out
On polished, marbled stone.
It reaches out to all who care
It is too late to mourn.
You did not know that I exist
You died and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you
In flesh, in blood, in bone.
Our blood contracts and beats a pulse
Entirely not our own.
Dear Ancestor, the place you filled
So many years ago
Spreads out among the ones you left
Who would have loved you so.
I wonder if you lived and loved,
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot,
And come to visit you.
Genealogy – where you confuse the dead and irritate the living.
Murphy’s Law for Genealogists
The public ceremony in which your distinguished ancestor participated and at which the platform collapsed under him turned out to be a hanging.
When at last after much hard work you have solved the mystery you have been working on for two years, your aunt says, “I could have told you that.”
You grandmother’s maiden name that you have searched for four years was on a letter in a box in the attic all the time.
You never asked your father about his family when he was alive because you weren’t interested in genealogy then.
The will you need is in the safe on board the Titanic.
Copies of old newspapers have holes occurring only on the surnames.
John, son of Thomas, the immigrant whom your relatives claim as the family progenitor, died on board ship at age 10.
Your gr. grandfather’s newspaper obituary states that he died leaving no issue of record.
The keeper of the vital records you need has just been insulted by an another genealogist.
The relative who had all the family photographs gave them all to her daughter who has no interest in genealogy and no inclination to share.
The only record you find for your gr. grandfather is that his property was sold at a sheriff’s sale for insolvency.
The one document that would supply the missing link in your dead-end line has been lost due to fire, flood or war.
The town clerk to whom you wrote for the information sends you a long handwritten letter which is totally illegible.
The spelling for your European ancestor’s name bears no relationship to its current spelling or pronunciation.
None of the pictures in your recently deceased grandmother’s photo album have names written on them.
No one in your family tree ever did anything noteworthy, owned property, was sued or was named in wills.
You learn that your great aunt’s executor just sold her life’s collection of family genealogical materials to a flea market dealer “somewhere in New York City.”
Ink fades and paper deteriorates at a rate inversely proportional to the value of the data recorded.
The 37 volume, sixteen thousand page history of your county of origin isn’t indexed.
You finally find your gr. grandparent’s wedding records and discover that the brides’ father was named John Smith.
Whoever said “Seek and ye shall find” was not a genealogist.
Strangers in the Box
Come, look with me inside this drawer,
In this box I’ve often seen,
At the pictures, black and white,
Faces proud, still, and serene.
I wish I knew the people,
These strangers in the box,
Their names and all their memories,
Are lost among my socks.
I wonder what their lives were like,
How did they spend their days?
What about their special times?
I’ll never know their ways.
If only someone had taken time,
To tell, who, what, where, and when,
These faces of my heritage,
Would come to life again.
Could this become the fate,
Of the pictures we take today?
The faces and the memories,
Someday to be passed away?
Take time to save your stories,
Seize the opportunity when it knocks,
Or someday you and yours,
Could be strangers in the box.
To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.
Very contagious to mature adults. No known cure.
Mumbles to self. Makes secret calls at night. Hides phone bill from spouse. Has strange far away look in eyes. Has strong compulsions to write letters. Always includes a check in these letters. Swears at mailman when he leaves no mail. Continual complaints for names, dates, and places. Patient has blank expression, sometimesdeaf to spouse and children. Has no taste for work of any kind, exceptfeverishly looking through records at libraries and courthouses. Has compulsions to frequently visit strange places, suchas cemeteries, ruins, and remote desolate country areas.
Medication is useless. Disease is not fatal, but gets progressively worse. Patient should be given a quiet corner of the housewhere he or she can be left alone. Patient should subscribe to as many societies,newsgroups, surname lists, andgenealogical magazines as possible.
The unusual nature of this disease is… The sicker one gets, the more he or she enjoys it.
Cooking? Cleaning? I’d Rather do Genealogy!
They think that I should cook and clean, and be a model wife.
I tell them it’s more interesting to study Grandpa’s life.
They simply do not understand why I hate to go to bed . . .
I’d rather do two hundred years of research work instead.
Why waste the time we have on earth just snoring and asleep?
When we can learn of ancestors that sailed upon the deep?
We have priests, Rabbis, lawmen, soldiers, more than just a few.
And yes, there’s many scoundrels, and a bootlegger or two.
How can a person find this life an awful drudge or bore?
When we can live the lives of all those folks who came before?
A hundred years from now of course, no one will ever know
Whether I did laundry, but they’ll see our Tree and glow . . .
‘Cause their dear old granny left for them, for all posterity,
not clean hankies and the like, but a finished family tree.
My home may be untidy, ’cause I’ve better things to do . . .
I’m checking all the records to provide us with a clue.
Old great granny’s pulling roots and branches out with glee,
Her clothes ain’t hanging out to dry, she’s hung up on the Tree.
By Mel Oshins
Our children are living messages we send to a time and place we will never see.
Though it can strike at any age, this dread disease rarely affects children or young adults, and rarely becomes serious until after middle age.
The cause and manner of transmission of the Pox are poorly understood. It is generally only mildly contagious, requiring relatively prolonged exposure to one afflicted with it. However, some victims contract the disease after one brief exposure, while others seem to have a natural immunity, and can withstand years of close contact without ever succumbing to it.
Insatiable craving for names, dates and places; patient often has a blank expression and seems deaf to spouse and children; has no taste for productive work of any kind, but will spend long hours feverishly looking through books at libraries and courthouses; may become addicted to the use of microfilm and microfiche readers; may become a compulsive letter- writer or phone-caller; may tend to lie in wait for the mailman, cursing him soundly if he only leaves bills or circulars; frequents strange places such as cemeteries, attics and any place where dusty old books and photographs can be found.
These have always been the classic symptoms. But recently the virus causing this Pox seems to have mutated. The newest symptom is spending hours in front of a computer screen, sending e-mail messages and looking for more and more genealogy websites on the Internet. This can lead to dire consequences, as the victim often forgets to eat or sleep and can become emaciated, disoriented and clinically speaking, totally nuts!
There is no known cure, and fighting the disease only makes the victim withdraw from contact with those trying to help him. Humoring him, or joining in his obsessive activities seem to be the best ways for loved ones to deal with it. It is progressive, but has never been known to be fatal. The patient should attend genealogy workshops, subscribe to genealogy magazines, and be given a quiet place where he can be alone. If the patient is inattentive to those closest to him, his attention can be gotten, at least for short periods of time, by promising him a new website address, or a new and more powerful computer. But perhaps the surest, and certainly the least expensive way of getting his attention, is to ask a question – ANY question – about his great grandmother!
Remarks / Observations
The most unusual aspect of this disease has always been that, the sicker the patient gets, the more he enjoys it!
People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.
Edmund Burke (1719-1797)
Prayer For Genealogists
Lord, help me dig into the past,
And sift the sands of time,
That I might find the roots that made
This family tree mine.
Lord, help me trace the ancient roads,
On which my fathers trod,
And led them through so many lands,
To find our present sod.
Lord, help me find an ancient book,
Or dusty manuscript,
That’s safely hidden now away,
In some forgotten crypt,
Lord, let it bridge the gap that haunts
My soul, when I can’t find
The missing link between some name
That ends the same as mine.
Humor only genealogists can appreciate.
1. My family coat of arms ties at the back….is that normal? 2. My family tree is a few branches short! Help appreciated. 3. My ancestors must be in a witness protection program! 4. Shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall! 5. My hobby is genealogy, and I raise dust bunnies as pets. 6. How can one ancestor cause so much TROUBLE?? 7. I looked into my family tree and found out I was a sap. 8. I’m not stuck, I’m ancestrally challenged. 9. I’m searching for myself. Have you seen me? 10. If only people came with pull-down menus and on-line help. 11. Isn’t genealogy fun? The answer to one problems, leads to two more! 12. It’s 1999. Do you know where your Great-Great Grandparents are? 13. A family reunion is an effective form of birth control. 14. A family tree can wither if nobody tends it’s roots. 15. A new cousin a day keeps the boredom away. 16. After 30 days, unclaimed ancestors will be adopted. 17. Am I the only person up my tree-seems like it. 18. Any family tree produces some lemons, nuts & a few bad apples. 19. Ever find an ancestor HANGING from the family tree? 20. FLOOR: The place for storing your priceless genealogy records. 21. Gene-Allergy-It’s a contagious disease, but I love it. 22. Genealogists are time unravelers. 23. Genealogy is like Hide & Seek: They Hide & I Seek! 24. Genealogy: Tracing yourself back to better people. 25. “Crazy” is a relative term in my family. 26. A miser is hard to live with, but makes a fine ancestor. 27. I want to find ALL of them! So far I only have a few thousand. 28. I Should have asked them BEFORE they died! 29. I think my ancestors had several “Bad heir” days. 30. I’m always late. My ancestors arrived on the JUNEflower. 31. Only a Genealogist regards a step backwards, as progress. 32. Share your knowledge, it is a way to achieve immortality. 33. Heredity:Everyone believes in it until their children act like fools! 34. It’s a poor family that hath neither a Lady of the evening or a thief. 35. Many a family tree needs trimming. 36. Shh! Be very, very quiet…. I’m hunting forebears. 37. Snobs talk as if they had begotten their own ancestors! 38. That’s strange: half my ancestors are WOMEN! 39. I’m not sick, I’ve just got fading genes. 40. Genealogists live in the past lane. 41. Genealogists do it generation after generation…. 42. Cousins marrying cousins: Very tangled roots! 43. Cousins marrying cousins: A non-branching family tree. 44. Alright! Everybody out of the gene pool! 45. Do I hear the rattle of Chains? 46. Always willing to share my ignorance…. 47. Documentation…The hardest part of genealogy. 48. For a reply, send a self-abused, stomped elephant to… 49. Genealogy: Chasing your own tale! 50. Genealogy-will I ever find time to mow the lawn again? 51. That’s the problem with the gene pool: NO Lifeguards. 52. I looked up my family tree…there were two dogs using it. 53. I researched my family tree……apparently I don’t exist! 54. SO MANY ANCESTORS……………………SO LITTLE TIME!
A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots.
When speaking of our ancestry, my mother’s eyes would shine
And proudly she would tell us all, “You’re of the Tudor line.”
But father with a smile would say, “while bearing that in mind
You keep your eyes on goals ahead; not those that lie behind.”
You have a noble ancestry, but all are dead and gone
‘Tis you who have to prove your worth, not those who’ve journeyed on.
And back along that Tudor line, ’tis sorry truth I state
There may be some you can’t approve, and even some you’d hate.
The way to prove your ancestry is what you are yourself
Not by the charted family tree in a book upon the shelf.
So try to be an ancestor within the time allowed,
Of whom your children’s children in the future can be proud.”
Top Ten Reasons Genealogy is Better than Sex
10. No shame in doing it alone or with a group.
9. The magazines have better articles.
8. Not creepy to think of your grandparents doing it.
7. Madonna will never write a book about it.
6. Can do it online without sending the kids to bed.
5. Doing it Register style won’t throw your back out.
4. Only protection required is a backup disk.
3. Can hire a professional without risking arrest.
2. People don’t stare when you do it at the library.
1. Disrobing is optional.
Only a Genealogist regards a step backward as progress.
The way I walk I see my mother walking,
The feet secure and firm upon the ground.
The way I talk I hear my daughter talking
And hear my mother’s echo in the sound.
The way she thought I find myself now thinking,
The generations linking
In a firm continuum of mind.
The bridge of immortality I’m walking,
The voice before me echoing behind.
by Dorothy Hilliard Moffatt
“You give your children two things: you give them roots and you give them wings.”
~ Anna Tochter ~
Interesting details discovered during the process of indexing the British 1881 Census.
(Found in the Ensign magazine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, March 1996, p. 58.)
The wife, mother, and daughter of James Christmas were all named Mary Christmas.
Frank Guest was listed as a visitor.
Harriet Goodhand was listed as a domestic servant.
The families of William Lovegrove, Henry Dearlove, and William Darling all lived on the same block in Oxfordshire.
A woman named Rose married Robert Garden.
Emma Boatwright married a seaman.
Mr. Thorn lived in Rose Cottage.
Robert Speed, a bus driver and post runner.
Robert Robb, a detective officer.
Phoebe Brain, a scholar.
One woman’s birthplace was listed as “in stage coach between Nottingham and Derby.”
John Pounder, a blacksmith.
William Scales, a piano maker.
Herman Hamberger, born in Greece.
Curious occupations: dirt refiner, hoveller, moleskin saver, piano puncher, sparable cutter, spittle maker, tingle maker, and whim driver.
Twin four-year-olds named Peter the Great and William the Conqueror.
Brothers named Seaman and Landsman.
The occupation of three daughters was entered as “They toil not, neither do they spin.”
The Genealogist’s Psalm
Genealogy is my pastime, I shall not stray.
It maketh me to lie down and examine half-buried tombstones.
It leadeth me into still courthouses; It restoreth my ancestral knowledge.
It leadeth me in paths of census records and ship’s passenger lists for my surname’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the shadows of research libraries & microfilm readers, I shall fear no discouragement.
For a strong urge is within me; the curiosity and motivation they comforteth me.
It demandeth preparation of storage space for the acquisition of countless documents.
It annointeth my head with burning mid-night oil, my family group sheets runneth over.
Surely birth, marriage, and death dates shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of a family history seeker forever.
By Wildamae Brestal
I started out calmly, tracing my tree, To see i I could find the making of me. And all that I had was Great-Grandfather’s name, Not knowing his wife or from whence he came.
I chased him across a long line of states, And came up with pages and pages of dates. When all put together, it makes me forlorn, Poor old Great-Grandpa had never been born.
One day I was sure the truth I had found, Determined to turn this whole thing upside down. I looked up the record of one Uncle John, But then found the old man to be younger than his son.
Then when my hopes were fast growing dim, I came across records that must have been him. The facts I collected made me quite sad, Dear Old Great-Grandfather was never a Dad.
It seems that someone is pulling my leg, I’m not at all sure I wasn’t hatched from an egg. After hundreds of dollars I’ve spent on my tree, I can’t help but wonder if I’m really me!
If you could see your ancestors all standing in a row,
Would you be proud of them? Or don’t you really know?
Strange discoveries are often made, in climbing the family tree.
Sometimes one is found in line who shocks the progeny.
If you could see your ancestors all standing in a row.
Perhaps there might be one or two you wouldn’t care to know.
Now turn the question right about and take another view.
When you shall met your ancestors, will they be proud of you?