Friday, August 31, 2007

St. Louis Genealogy Search

I read Genealogue's recent post with interest. His "New Genealogy Message Searcher" is certainly useful. And it occurred to me that Google's Coop service could be utilized to group any number of databases together. I know I use a handful of databases locally that would be great to be able to search all together.

Even though all the sites I added had to be such that all the information was on real pages that a searchbot could crawl and index, I still came up with several. Including the St. Louis Genealogical Society, St. Clair County (IL) Genealogical Society, St. Louis Public Library resources (including a great indexing of obituaries), St. Louis specific message boards at Ancestry, Rootsweb and Genforum, and an AccessGenealogy website.

If you have any ancestors who stopped in St. Louis, you might find it useful. The St. Louis Genealogy Search. And after you're done there, don't forget to drop by the office of the Secretary of State, they have some great databases that can't be added to this.

Setting these searches is extremely easy, and there's a link on the search-page that will lead you through the process. Since the search is through Google's cached pages, it doesn't increase the load on the pages that are actually searched. It only, theoretically, increases the load on Google. They can handle it. (If they couldn't, they wouldn't have set this service up.)

Peeps goes to the library

A humorous introduction to genealogy video from Birmingham Alabama found on YouTube:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Deciding to purchase some genealogy software to be organized, and owning a Mac, in early July I walked into a local Mac Store and purchased MacFamilyTree. The only significant complaints I had seen online were some oddities in the GUI. Functionally it was rated highly.

[I know that the leading software packages are Legacy and Family Tree Maker, but both of these appear to be PC only, and while I could buy software that would allow me to run PC programs on my Mac, that would be an additional cost, and would in my opinion be wasteful if all I wanted it for was one software program.]

So far I have had few issues. Of course, I have nothing to compare it to. They've just announced an upcoming major overhaul, though, and the 'cutoff' for a free update when the release comes is an August 14th purchase. Grumble grumble. I do understand, though, the cutoff has to be somewhere.

Ancestry backs down

Ancestry has removed their collection of web caches. The announcement is carefully written in neutral language as one would expect from a corporate PR office, but they explain their initial intent ("an effort to preserve history – if a Web page featuring important family history information were taken down in the future, a cached version would still be available"), acknowledge they have heard the concerns raised (not listing those concerns, but PR rarely focuses on the negative unless they feel they have to), and announce they are removing the information 'for the time being.'

The announcement is pretty fresh, and already a few bloggers have picked up on those words. They're the most colloquial-sounding words in the release, but taking them at their word in the rest of the text, they still would like to provide the information, but they want to review the concerns that have been addressed by the community and come up with a way to do it that will be less objectionable. Which is commendable.

I'm a newcomer to this community, but considering the time frame this has all occurred in, their response is impressive. Companies are best judged not by the mistakes they make, because mistakes will be made, but in how they respond to criticism of those mistakes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Caching, Ancestry, Archive, and Google

I have a personal blog where I talk about everything that comes to my mind. This is what it looks like now.

This is what it looked like in March 2005, July 2004, December 2003, and a full five years ago in August of 2002. All the links are courtesy of the WayBack Machine. has been archiving the internet for several years now. Here's what another website I maintain looked like in October of 2000

There has been some talk about Ancestry’s caching of genealogical websites – such as USGenNet and genealogy blogs. Such as at Genea-Musings,’s Guide to Genealogy , and Genealogue.

When I blog I know what I blog may appear elsewhere. I consider myself a poet, and have included some poetry in some of my blog posts. I’ve had some of this poetry appear on other sites without credit. (In these instances I emailed the owners and asked them to include a byline…which they did.) I’ve also had poetry I’ve written appear on websites, credited, but without people asking, which legally they are required to do…but I’m not wealthy enough to take them to court, and I don’t really mind, usually. I now have a Creative Commons copyright notice on the blog which allows people to distribute the content as long as they don’t make any money off of it, and as long as they give me credit. I don't have that notice on this blog. It's probably not going to appear here.

Of course, USGenNet doesn’t have a Creative Commons copyright notice on their site. And if you search for their archives at you will be able to access their archived homepage, but when you try to follow a link, you will receive the error msg: "We're sorry, access to [url] has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt." Basically, robots.txt files are files webmasters put on their sites to tell searchbots that they shouldn’t archive their pages. I could put these on my site, but I don’t. USGenNet does. Understandably, too. Bots are still physically able to ignore the requests and archive the pages…- it's just respectable archival search engines (such as Google and don’t ignore the requests. Partially probably due to fear of legal retribution. Ancestry, apparently (key word - I'm still stating an opinion here) is ignoring these electronic requests. Note: I've been assured they didn't ignore robots.txt files.

As others have stated, I state as well, what this means legally is beyond me. I’m not a lawyer. I took a media law course in college over ten years ago, and have some clues, and this looks suspicious, but I am certainly not an expert. It should be interesting to watch if Ancestry does insist what they appear to be doing is legitimate, as there are a whole bunch of companies – completely outside of the genealogy industry – who might justifiably be worried about the results of a court case in Ancestry's favor. If a court decides Ancestry can cache pages on sites with robots.txt files specifically requesting pages not be cached … will Google and decide to still be nice? I suspect every newspaper in the country has a stake in the answer to that question.

And while it certainly feels more reprehensible for Ancestry to charge for viewing their cached files, I suspect that newspapers or any other website which wishes to protect their content hope that's not the deciding factor, as archival websites making their content available for free likely isn't an acceptable solution from their perspective.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Music and Genealogy

Warning: all four videos below, together, will absorb 20 minutes of your time. But they won't be wasted.

YouTube video of Ray Stevens song describing a classic genealogical nightmare...complete with an alternate surname spelling in the credits at the end. (sigh. note to YouTubers...please, if you're going to violate copyright, at least spell the musician's name correctly.) For those interested in the animation, it was created using Sims software.

If Ray Stevens' humor isn't your cup of tea, but you prefer Julie Andrews and Gene they explain why genealogy can be fun

Part I

Part II

And finally, more recently, another song on Family Trees from the group, Venice

How much do I trust the research of others

This is a question I am facing. For example: My family can trace their roots back to a person named Ebenezer Denyer in Texas. We know he was a Confederate Soldier as we have a letter from his granddaughter, to the government asking for confirmation from their records, and their positive response.

According to a record at Family Search, Ebenezer's parents are William Denyer and Elizabeth Sliver. Which is as far as FamilySearch goes. However on Rootsweb there's a long descendency from Henry Rosenberger of Franconia. A Mennonite born in Germany around 1685. One line of the descendency ends at William and Elizabeth. Apparently all the information in this descendency comes from a book published in 1906 by an AJ Fretz. But I don't know AJ Fretz. I don't have the book. How much do I trust it?

I don't know the individual who entered the data at FamilySearch either so I don't know that Ebenezer's parents are William and Elizabeth. However, the county in Texas where Ebenezer got married does have the certificate, which might possibly contain some confirmation on that score; We'll see.

But it doesn't really answer my question. I downloaded the gedcom, and the Register, and told my mother she probably has a Mennonite minister as a direct ancestor. But I felt the need to insert the 'probably.'

Saturday, August 25, 2007

French twist on surnames

A recently married woman in Quebec wants to change her surname to her new husband's name. However, she isn't allowed to by Quebec law.
In provinces where common law prevails, a woman can simply begin using her husband's surname after marriage. Armed with a copy of their provincially issued marriage certificate, a woman can easily acquire new identification for other documents such as a driver's licence.

But in Quebec, since a 1981 reform of the civil law, women are not permitted to adopt their husband's name at marriage, not even if they apply for an official name change.


The rationale given is 'gender equality.'
Procedures for any formal name change are very strict in Quebec, and the decision is up [to] the director of civil status. It requires a serious reason, such as difficulty of use due to spelling or pronunciation, or bearing a name that is mocked or that has been made infamous.
Reading this I think to myself, "this certainly makes things easier for genealogists," but then I find a letter to the editor a few days later. Apparently hyphenated surnames for children are a common solution, resulting in the following:

Their children will have to take her surname, his surname, or both. When their child marries the offspring of another couple married in Quebec, let's say a Sophie Gray-Bertrand, their grandchildren could be called Parent-Lamirande, Gray-Bertrand, Parent-Gray, Lamirande-Bertrand or any combination of these composed names - but only keeping two surnames.

When Caroline and Karl's grandchildren have children, the family surnames get further diluted, especially if these grandchildren also marry someone with a composed name, as they can only keep two surnames.

Imagine the convoluted family histories if all of their descendants opt for different combinations of these composed names.

Oy! Let's see. The sixteen surnames of my great-great-grandparents, assuming no name changes would be allowed: Newmark, Sundberg, Blatt, Wyman, Cruvant, Mojsabovski, Dudelsack, Perlik, Deutsch, Weiss, Lichtman, Adler, Van Every, Stuart, Heartley, Denyer. Which two would I choose? I wonder which two my siblings would choose. My cousins would have different choices.

Actually, we'd only have four surnames to choose from, depending upon what surnames our parents had chosen, and their parents. But everyone in my generation could have a different last name.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Family Myths: More on the Dudelsacks

The upcoming Carnival topic is: Confirm or Debunk: Family Myths, Legends, and Lore. For this topic I'm returning to my funny family surname which I discussed a few Carnivals ago. Dudelsack.


Selig Dudelsack had several siblings. One brother, named Yidel, and one sister, named Toba, immigrated to the US, as did Selig. All three changed their surname at Ellis Island to something different. Selig chose Feinstein, Yidel chose Odelson, and Toba chose Oberman (or maybe married an Oberman…)

This myth comes from Selig’s youngest daughter, who was born in the US. I think she told the stories in the 1970s. None of her parents or siblings born in Poland/Russia were still alive.


First, it wasn’t at Ellis Island. At least not Selig, and most likely not Yidel and Toba. It was Castle Garden. But that is a common mistake made with ancestors who immigrated pre-Ellis Island.

Second, the pervasive myth of name-changing at Ellis Island or Castle Garden is as unlikely with them as it was with anyone else. The myth is based on the idea that when an immigration official asked the immigrant their name, they either didn’t know what the question was, or decided to give them a different answer. This assumes that there were no translators available, and/or the only information the immigrant needed to provide to enter the US was a verbal declaration of who they were. It’s amazing that this myth is so ingrained in our collective minds that we don’t think about it rationally. I know I didn’t until recently. Of course they had translators. Of course they required documentation. Any name changes most likely occurred before or after, not during. Sure: changes in spelling are possible. But not entirely new names.


A ship manifest for a Selig Dudersack has been located for 1890 which is the year that appears on the census reports for their immigration. No ship manifest for a Selig Feinstein has been found. But the argument that “I have never seen a black swan, so black swans don’t exist” is so common a logical fallacy it is taught in introductory logic courses and has its own name: The Black Swan Fallacy. One must be careful not to fall for it. There are black swans. (They're native to Australia.)

Selig Dudersack, for all appearances, traveled alone. But it's not unusual for a family member, especially the head of the family, to make the voyage first, and in 1891 there is a ship manifest that contains all the given names for mother, wife, and children. Can you guess the surname? Correct: Feinstein. The ages for the children are correct. The age for the wife is pretty close. The age for the mother is way off, by decades. Clerical error? No Selig though. It’s certainly still possible that one of two things happened. 1) After Selig immigrated, he changed his name to Feinstein, and sent communication overseas to his family who he knew would want to know. So they changed their names before immigration. 2) They made the decision to change their name before Selig left, but not in time for him to change his documents, so he traveled under Dudelsack, but the rest of the family had time to change their documents.
The only evidence that may exist for this is birth records and marriage records in Poland/Russia. Unfortunately, we don’t know what town they lived in. Selig’s wife, Anna, had a brother named Jacob. Jacob’s naturalization petition gave a town in Russia named Szdobirtzen. The certificate says Szdobeitzen, Poland. Either way, no one can find this town on a map. He immigrated several years after Anna and Selig so the town he came from, while likely the town Anna came from, isn’t necessarily. If we could find it though, it would be a starting place.


Selig’s youngest daughter said that Yidel “Odelson” never had any descendants. So no one looked. I found a Judal Dudelsuck at Castle Garden, though. The Y/J spelling variance is common as there is no letter ‘J’ in Hebrew. Joseph is pronounced Yosef. Jacob is pronounced Yakob (or Yakov). I found a Julius and Jennie Odelsohn in St. Louis. Lots of Hebrew names were Americanized, and Julius isn’t too much of a stretch for Judal. What’s really interesting is that in 1910, Julius and Jennie are living next door to Selig’s oldest son, Harry. Julius and Jennie’s oldest child, Pearl, is married and living next door to a Aron and Tillie Oberman. (Remember Toba?) Relatives living next door to each other was common. Of course, non-relatives living next door to each other was even more common.

Pearl and Morris Feldman had six children. Julius and Jennie’s son Louis had a daughter named Bernice. That’s as far as I’ve gotten, though I have only been researching this thread since July. I’d like to find some descendants and see if they have family stories that match ours.

Update: August 30: I have found Tillie Oberman's death certificate. Not only do the given names for both parents on her death certificate match the parents of Selig, the informant gives her father's surname as "Duderzock." Not only is this what I am going to consider proof of all my assumptions, but a completely new spelling! (I guess someone could argue I don't have proof that Julius is Yidel. But I'd say the odds are high.)

Friday not-so-random Five

Haven't done this for a few weeks, but here's a list of five names from various census - all found at, and all on a particular theme which is likely obvious:

Phantom Williams – Rowan NC – 1920 – 13 years old
Hair Martel – Quebec – 1911 – 9 years old
Oklahoma Redwine – Bear Creek AR - 1910 – 21 years old
Fiddler Franklin - Cherokee, SC – 1900 – 1 year old
Singing in Water – Fremont WY – 1900 – no age given

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How many of our ancestors are men?

NYTimes piece asks the question: What percentage of your ancestors are male?

Their answer isn't 50%. The article talks about how men die without reproducing significantly more than women, meaning we're descended from more women than men. And it goes into familiar areas on how men and women act differently based on biological needs. Some people believe this. Some people believe this is junk. Others, like me, don't really care.

I'm not sure I completely understand the math. I have one mother, and one father. Two grandmothers, and two grandfathers, etc. (Sure, there are ancestors with multiple spouses, but I'm only descended from one of them.) Less men may reproduce than women, but that just means men have to end up with more spouses than women. And even without the help of polygamous societies, I think there's evidence that that is true. Liz Taylor tried to even out the statistics, but she was unsuccessful. But each specific individual should have an equal number of male and female direct ancestors. And if we're talking collateral ancestors, it doesn't matter when they die.

Further, I can tell you that, while overall they may be right about today's society being descended from more women, in *my* family, there are more males. At least in recent generations. To the point that when my parents had their first child, and were told it was a girl, my father told the doctor, 'check again!' My father was one of three sons. My grandfather was one of three sons. In my generation there are 2 women and 6 men descended from my grandfather. My grandfather's brother also had two sons. So you're going to have a difficult time convincing me more of my ancestors are female.

update The NYTimes blogger updated and explained how one individual can have a different number of men/women in their ancestry. Incest. I'm sure if one goes back far enough in any line it's findable. The explanation he links to in the comments is better. If you go back enough generations you're likely to find duplicated individuals. Not due to incest, or at least not what society considers incest, since we're likely talking 3rd, 4th, or 25th cousins.

Monday, August 20, 2007


I found an interesting genealogy website: - Like many sites, it's free to search, but to actually view any of the records requires a subscription -- and they only offer it at an annual price. Inexpensive for an annual price - $29.95.

However, while there are lots of great small databases, and some people might find several documents, a search on my surnames yielded one record, for my great grandfather, who appears in a 1928 list of masons. I knew he was a mason. He states this in a 1926 bio for the Who's Who in North St. Louis. I was a little curious what other information appeared on the record, but not $30 curious, though.

However, it did spur me to do something I had thought about before, but hadn't yet done. I went to the Missouri Grand Lodge website, and on their 'contact' page, there's a form, which contains 'I have a genealogy related question' as an option. I sent a request for any information they had on my great grandfather.

They sent me his 'initiation' date, the date he 'passed'. and the date he was 'raised.' I don't know what these terms really mean, but that's ok. So I now know he was a member from 1919-1956. They also told me he was never an officer, though if he had been, I suspect they would have told me the dates there too.

From a simple google search, I learned that Cardinals ballplayer Rogers Hornsby was also a member of the same lodge at the same time. (At least he was playing baseball in St. Louis from 1915-1926 and 1933-1937, so I assume his membership in the lodge overlapped my great-grandfather's.)

Update: This page has more information on what to expect to find from Masonic genealogical queries. Apparently individual local lodges may have slightly more information than the regional Grand Lodges, but still not a lot of biographical information is retained.

I sent my query to the grand lodge since their website contact page had a specific option for genealogical queries; that looked promising. And their response was fairly quick. (3 business days I believe.) But still, even if I were able to get a copy of my great-grandfather's petition to join, the only pertinent information it's likely to contain is birth date and address at the time of petition, and I know both pieces of information.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Carnival of Genealogy #30: Conferences

Carninval of Genealogy #30 has been posted, with several entries on conferences and seminars. All interesting reading.

I'm looking forward to the next carnival as it is on "Confirm or Debunk: Family myths, legends and lore," and my issue this month won't be if I have something to write about...but which of several options to choose.

Usenet - Google Groups

When I attended the local genealogical society presentation on Google resources, there were basically two items I thought could have been covered, but weren't. As it was, the presentation was already full with explaining advanced searching techniques on the basic search engine, the image search, the patent search, the product search, Google Books, Google Maps, and Google Earth. All in 90 minutes.

However, if they didn't cover these two items I knew about, it was possible they didn't know, and possible others might not either. Google has a lot of different services and search engines, and they don't make it possible to search them all at once, so some of them can remain hidden to users.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Google's News Archives can yield interesting finds, and now I am going to talk about what used to be called Usenet and which is now Google Groups.

Usenet began in the 1980s as a collection of discussion groups, mostly for college students and staff on any topic the users decided they wanted to talk about. Anything without limitations. Whenever a quorum decided a new topic was needed, it was added.

A company called DejaNews began organizing the Usenet archives in the late 1990s, and Google bought them in 2001 and formed Google Groups. Google Groups serves as both an archive going back to 1981 and a continuation of all the discussion groups. (This has frightened many former college students who began to ask, "Everything I posted there is now available for potential employers - or my kids! - to read? Forever?" It is possible to remove one's old posts, though if anyone quoted what you said, only they can remove that post.

A few of the groups that might be of of obvious interest to genealogists and family historians: Alt.Obituaries, and two dozen groups or so under the heading Soc.Genealogy.

Of course you can search all groups at once on the main page. Just be forewarned. In the search results, before clicking on something, take a look at what the title of the discussion-group is. This will likely give you a clue as to what posts you are likely to find in that group. This could change your mind on whether or not to read the post.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Google News Archive

For those unaware, Google News has an archives section that goes back to prior to 1920. You've got to pay for the complete articles, but they give you snippets. And once you know the newspaper and date, its possible you know people in the localities who have access to the newspaper archives through local libraries and such, so you might not need to pay, though its inexpensive.

As an example, I searched for the surname Cruvant. There are 53 results. A lot are articles written by a Dr. Bernard Cruvant, who was my grandfather's first cousin. I'm somewhat curious what he had to say about spanking children in 1949, but I was more pleased to discover the obituary in the Baton Rouge Advocate for Bernard's brother-in-law, Sammie Brown. Even the short free snippet contained his exact time of death, and the fact he competed on the LSU track team. Not a direct ancestor, but still interesting information to add to their files.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Made my first trip to the genealogy section of the local library today. Had two items to look up on microfilm. An obituary and a naturalization record. I figured it wouldn't take me long, I could figure out the process, and come back on a weekend when I had more time, and look up other records.

Kind of embarrassing since I talked in my last post about how technology has an inverse-age curve, and I needed assistance from someone I recognized from Tuesday night with the microfilm device both times. Of course, while skilled with a computer, I am very mechanically disinclined. If I could thread the film somehow with a keyboard or a mouse, it would have been simple.

I was taught how to use a microfilm reader back in grade school, and while they have changed a little, the basic process is the same. But my 20th high school reunion is coming up, and my recollection was fuzzy.

I brought my digital camera with me hoping I could take a picture off the screen and not have to spend 25 cents a copy. It didn't work. The picture was all white. There might be a special setting I need to set it on, so I'll probably spend some time with the users manual before going back. I did bring money with me as a backup, though, so I ended up spending 50c.

St. Louis Genealogical Society

Tuesday night I attended my first meeting of the St. Louis Genealogical Society. I've read other genea-blogger discussions on genealogical societies, such as Creative Gene and Genea-Musings so I had some idea of what to expect.

I wasn't surprised that I was the youngest person in the room. I kind of hoped there might be one or two others in my age bracket, but I didn't see any. The presentation topic was on how to use Google, and I didn't expect to learn much, but I did expect to get an idea of the quality of the presentations. Often in any group that solicits guest speakers from within its own membership - regardless of the group - you're going to get questionable expertise. And since technology topics still have an inverse age-curve, I figured the topic would be a good test for me. If the information presented was full of holes, or worse, incorrect, I would have doubts about the information presented in topics I was less familiar with.

I was happy with the presentation. There were additional features they could have mentioned, but in the 90 minute presentation they covered a lot of ground. I'm not sure if everyone in the audience followed well enough to be able to use the information on their return home, but it was still accurate and useful information. And one suggestion was made that I hadn't considered. (Searching the Patent database. I've searched it before at its main site, but not for family surnames.)

I'm on the fence on whether to join the society or not. Most of their online databases are open acess on their website. They do have a local marriage database members-only, but it stops in the 1890s, and my earliest St. Louis ancestors arrived in 1885, so I know it won't be very helpful. (I have ancestors who were in the US in the 1700s, but not St. Louis) They have some useful CDs for sale containing data and maps and such, but non-members can purchase them for only a slight surcharge. Monthly presentations at their meetings are open to the public. I may purchase one year membership though in order to take a multi-session Beginning Genealogy course, which appears to be open only to members and is free with membership. Though at the moment I don't see why I would renew the membership afterwards. (That said, I might still volunteer for data-entry/proofreading. If they offered a VolunteerHour/$ exchange rate so people can volunteer instead of pay dues, I would definitely consider it. Of course, I didn't ask, but I might make the suggestion to someone at the next meeting I attend.)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What If...

It’s time for the Aug 15th Carnival of Genealogy. I was sure I wouldn’t be contributing to this one. The topic is Genealogy conferences and seminars, and I’ve never been to one. If I’m going to blog about something, it should be something with which I’m familiar. So I was content that I was going to sit this one out, and see what others had to say.

Then Janice at CowHampshire, admitting she had never attended a conference, posted her “Genealogy seminars I’d like to see” The list was humorous, I was listed as a host of one of the seminars, and I realized I could come up with a humorous list, too, but now it would be redundant, or worse, copying, unless I came up with my own unique twist.

Then Jasia, at Creative Gene, posted her suggestions for conferences from the perspective of one who had attended…and I realized there were some vague familiarities, and I had my topic.

What to expect when your favorite genealogical conference merges with a local SF convention.

1) Possible panel/seminar topics:
a. Homer Simpson’s Family Tree
b. Genealogy references in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: from Nature's Nobility to graveyard visits.
c. Did your great grandparents read science fiction? An introduction to First Fandom for Young Adults.
d. Did your ancestors get eaten by Grendel? Where would they be buried if they were?
e. Making whoopee in the 17th century, were there any differences? (midnight panel)
f. Podcasting for the Genea-blogger.
g. Heraldry – What your local branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism has to offer your local genealogy society – and vice versa.
h. The 1891 and 1901 England Census are online? Is HG Wells listed? (Yes -, image)

2) Genealogy Guest of Honor: (live via time machine) Alex Haley. Huge line for autographs, but a smaller subset of attendees will turn their nose up, claim the writer was a hack, and refuse to get in line, even if they’ve read all his books.

3) There will be a masquerade. A chance to dress up like your ancestors – or your future descendents! Prizes will be awarded.

4) Art Show will have new categories for Coats of Arms and family photographs.

5) Free alcohol in the room parties after hours will lead to genealogists logging on to OneWorldTree and adding entries to prove they are descended from Isaac Newton or Beowulf.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Deciphering an old family joke

My great-grandmother, Bertha, died in 1978. Her father died in 1911. I posted a picture of his tombstone , engraved almost entirely in Hebrew, a month ago.

I was 9 when she passed away, and I remember her vaguely, but only in her later years confined to a wheelchair at a retirement home. My father and uncle tell stories about her, and one they've told often is how she always referred to her father, and insisted everyone else do the same. Whenever you invoked his Hebrew name, Moshe Leyb, you were always supposed to follow it with, "the King". She never explained why. (Outside the family, he used the Americanized name, Morris.)

One might guess that it had something to do with family politics. Though it wasn't clear whether it was completely out of respect for someone who was the 'head' of the family, or whether there was a little poking fun at someone who wasn't always. We left it as a quirky inside joke we would probably never understand completely.

And then I found his tombstone, and discovered the answer was written on it. While my generation and my parent's generation know Hebrew characters enough to follow along in the prayer book during services, and we have a small vocabulary, we don't think in Hebrew. And his surname was Cruvant, which begins with a C, so in English it's not readily apparent.

If you know Hebrew well, you probably already realize what I finally realized, but since most of you probably don't, I'll spell it out. My great-great grandfather's initials in Hebrew were: מ ל ק (MLK), which is Hebrew for King.

The exact family politics behind the joke is still obscure, but it's clear how the epithet arose.


I found CowHampshire's reference to my blog today humorous, but all things considered, I am probably not related to Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), or his father Dracul. It's more probable (but still unlikely) that one of my ancestors was one of 'the impaled'.

But I did just discover there are some who claim that the British Royal Family are direct descendents. (Site claims Charles is Dracul's 16th Great Grandson...through Dracula's brother Vlad (the Monk).

Not too surprising since the royal lines of Europe are known to have intermingled. But perhaps reason for the British to be a little worried.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Proper Storage of Historical Documents

Alamasu, Romania
County: Salaj
Hungarian alternate names: Varalmas; Nagyalmas
Jewish population 1900: 51
Jewish population 1910: 35
Jewish population 1930: 30
Most of the decline in those twenty years may be attributable to one 8 member family. However, there may have been more than three births, and additional departures.
Jewish population after 1944 transport to Auschwitz: 0 (source)

For personal reasons, I’m glad that family made it out. The year was 1912. My grandfather was 4. He remembered little, but an older brother, Ted, had obtained a sixth grade education before leaving. At least, that’s what he claimed in a note to the government that provided a translation of my grandfather’s birth certificate which they had obtained from Nagyalmas, and which revealed the information my grandfather had previoulsy given as his birth date was incorrect.

I recently discovered a school report I did in fifth grade on my grandfather’s immigration. I opened it without thinking I’d find much of interest. My sister had done a similar school report for the same teacher, and I knew we had been allowed to ‘make things up’. The purpose wasn’t to find out information about our family, but to show we had an understanding of the ‘immigrant experience.’

But, unlike my sister’s which was a pseudo-diary of my great-grandmother, and even the ‘real information’ would have been entirely secondhand from my grandfather, mine was ‘written’ by my grandfather, so I had the direct source, and mine also included photos and documents which he must have provided. In it there was a copy of the birth certificate, and the translation.

At least, that was my thought at first glance, and then I did a doubletake. The birth certificate wasn’t on white paper like the rest of the report. It was more yellowed than the rest of the pages. I talked to my mom, and she didn’t remember the birth certificate. I’ve decided it’s not a copy. Well, a copy of the original, but the copy that the Nagyalmas government sent, and I put it directly in my school report, to be discovered 27 years later. Brilliant.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


About 6-8 weeks ago I ordered the SS-5 for an ancestor of mine. The SS-5 is the Social Security Application form. It finally arrived this weekend. (Link describes what the SS-5 is, and how to order one.)

The SS-5 has a lot of useful information, including where the individual was employed, their address, and names of boh parents, but I ordered it primarily because it is supposed to contain as detailed a place of birth as the applicant knew. I am trying to figure out the town in Russia he was born in. Every other document just says ‘Russia’. He’s one of my Dudelsack ancestors, though he would have had his name changed at age 4.

Unfortunately, by 1936 when Social Security began and he applied, both of his parents were dead, and it turns out he didn’t know the town, so I am still in the dark.