Sunday, September 30, 2007

Family History Month

According to the 24/7 Family History Circle it's Family History Month, and they're going to post 5 questions each week on a weekly topic. They'll provide 5 default questions, but one can make up their own. There's also a good article on how to get beyond the fear of the blank page.

The five questions for the first week are on the topic: "School Memories" and since my 20th high school reunion was this past weekend, they seem very appropriate. I thought I'd post my answers.
  • What was your favorite subject in school?
There's no question my favorite subject was English. (Well, second to Lunch) Ever since my first grade teacher challenged the class to read as many books as we possibly could in one year. She insisted we weren't competing against anyone but ourselves, but somehow I learned that a girl who lived across the street had set the 'all time record' a few years before. She no longer had it at the end of the year, and I haven't stopped reading. (Though my pace has slowed down a little.) The school was closed, and the teacher retired, four years later, so my record will stand forever on a technicality.
  • In what extra-curricular activities did you participate? Sports? Drama? Music? Academics?
CrossX Debate, Original Oratory, Student Newspaper, and the Student Teacher Organization to Prevent (STOP) Nuclear War.
  • Did you go on field trips, and if so, what was your most memorable field trip?
In Junior High School there was a field trip to Nauvoo, IL, which is a 3 hour drive from St. Louis. I went to a public school, so this wasn't meant as religious instruction. However, we did learn about the history of Nauvoo, and Joseph Smith. A tourguide at Nauvoo gave everyone a copy of the Book of Mormon to take home, but I don't believe I ever read it. I think if the school did this today, there'd probably be complaints, but I didn't feel at all preached to. It was presented as a field trip where we could learn the history of a nearby town.
  • What teacher influenced you the most?
I'd have to say my first grade teacher, Mrs. Jones, - with that reading challenge.
  • Did you buy a lunch at school, or bring one from home? What kind of lunchbox? What was your favorite lunch?
I almost always bought a lunch at school. I always looked forward to pizza.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Five

There's a message hidden in the five names below from various census.
The message reveals what my plans for this weekend include.

Twenty Orton - 1900 census - Iron, UT - age 5
Year Smith - 1881 census - Middlesex, England - age 4
High Fields - 1860 census - Russell, AL - age 18
School Boy - 1930 census - El Paso, TX - age 28
Reunion Jones - 1930 census - Wetzel, WV - age 7

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

August 31, 1902

On August 31, 1902, my great great grandparents, Samuel and Rose, along with their children Barney, Nellie, Bella, Max, Katie and Cissie, were gathered in the Great Synagogue in London to watch their son and brother, Sol, get married to Sarah Nathan.

There is some speculation there, in that I assume the whole family was in attendance. The youngest child at that time, Cissie, would have been six years old. This was almost 3 years after the Dreyfus protests I mentioned in an earlier post, which I also suspect several of them were at, though perhaps not the younger children. However, they lived 4.5 miles from the synagogue, so they couldn't have walked. They were close to the Oxford Circus Railway Station, though, which opened in July of 1900.

Above is a picture of the Great Synagogue in 1809. [source] It had been built in 1790, and from what I have read, it was basically the same structure in 1902. It no longer stands today, as in May of 1941, it would be completely destroyed by the German bombing.

Trying to find out as much as I could about the wedding, I looked up the names of the individuals who signed as witnesses on the Marriage record (see top of post). One of them, IL Defries, appears a few times in the Birth, Marriage, Death notices of the London Jewish Chronicle from 1890-1895, but beyond that, I know nothing about him. Two of them -- Marcus Hast and Samuel Gordon -- are mentioned in the final chapter of The History of the Great Synagogue by Cecil Roth (see link preceding the picture of the ruins).

Marcus Hast was the Hazzan (Cantor) at the Great Synagogue from 1872-1911.
“Apart from his great vocal qualities and deep piety, he deserved well of his community by reason of his monumental work, Avodath haKodesh, in which the musical traditions of the Great Synagogue were set down for all time. In 1888 Abraham Elijah Gordon (father of Samuel Gordon the novelist, who was at one time Secretary of the Congregation) joined him on the Almemor as Second Reader--an office which he continued to occupy with success until his retirement in 1919.”
Some people might wonder, "Why didn't the Rabbi sign it?" The Rabbi might not have been there. Traditionally the role of the Rabbi is as a teacher and judge/arbitrator for disputes in the community. The individual who normally led the worship services, and performed the marriages, was known as "Reader", and it was a role the Hazzan often filled. This began to change in the 19th century, but it appears the Great Synagogue still followed the traditional roles.

The scores of Hast's compositions are available for download, and there is a section devoted to wedding music, so the music that was likely played at the ceremony could be duplicated. Hast was born in Praga and was Hazzan in Warsaw before coming to England. The Newmarks also came from Warsaw, though Hast left about 20 years before they did. Still, it is possible Sol's parents, Samuel and Rose, heard Hast in Poland when they were children.

As I mentioned back in June, despite Sol not being my direct ancestor, this wedding originally piqued my interest because of Sol's wife, Sarah. The clerk who entered their marriage made an error in the name of the father of the bride. It says "Nathan Nathan." The clerk must have assumed that the father would have the same surname as the bride, and failed to ask. But Sarah was following the old tradition of using her father's given name as her surname. While that was my original interest, the more I researched, the more I discovered.

[this is an entry for the 33rd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy]

Friday, September 21, 2007

Null set

Family lore had my great-great-grandmother's maiden name as Rose Garten. I always cringed and shook my head, wondering if that could be true. Everyone knows there are real Rose Gartens out there, and other silly names, but still, I didn't want my ancestor to have to have suffered through that.

When I discovered her death certificate, and with her son, my great-grandfather, as informant, learned her name had been Sundberg, I smiled in relief.

Another son's birth certificate just arrived from London, and as she was the informant in this case. that narrows down any variances to clerical error, which is usually limited to spelling. Turns our her maiden name was Sandgart. A nice compromise between Sundberg and Garten.

Unfortunately, there are no records on Ancestry or FamilySearch of anyone ever having that surname. Anywhere. Anywhen. I plugged the word into Google, and it was a 1-word Googlewhack.

Sure, if I spell it Sandgaard, or Sundgart, I come up with some peeps from Denmark or Sweden, but somehow she had to meet her husband in Warsaw. I ask myself...Did the Danes ever invade Poland? Turns out, not to my knowledge, but there was a series of wars between Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Russia . Hmmmmm.

(JewishGen suggests Cantkert, which is still a null set on both Ancestry and Familysearch, but there are a handful in the Polish database. Since a Polish 'C' is pronounced 'Ts', that's actually pretty close.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More videos

Back in August I posted some YouTube videos related to genealogy. Here's some more:

Godzilla's Genealogy - courtesy of MST3K

Thomas Timberwolf - Family Tree

Olo Chubb-Baggins of Pincup's family tree

I wasn't satisfied that the On Notice board I created was sufficient fun in response to the challenge issued on CowHampshire.

So I went to the Hobbit Name generator, and entered in my own name, and the names of all my ancestors up to 4 generations, and then of course I created a new database on iFamily and typed in those names.

I fear I may need to apologize to my Mom most for the results. If anyone is interested in the gedcom, just ask. I entered nothing except names, though I could have created some descriptions a the detailed character generator.

I do notice in the final generation that there is evidence of possible pedigree collapse if I carry the diagram much further. And why did Drogo Foxburr of Fairdowns change his name to Hardbottle upon coming to America? You'd have to ask him.

You're On Notice!

Janice at CowHampshire wants genealogy bloggers to show we can be funny.

So I decided to come up with a list of people and things to put On Notice.

If you're a Colbert fan, the URL to go to for this generator is on the image.

Yom Kippur 1899

Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, begins Friday night at sunset. But for this post, I’m taking you back 108 years to 1899:

“Jews Celebrate Atonement Day by Holding Demonstrations”
“Chief Rabbi Adler Speaks”
“Says Last Saturday’s Verdict was a Disaster to France”

London – Sept 14 English indignation against France was strengthened today on account of the observance by all Jews of the Day of Atonement.

The day was celebrated here, especially in the East End, with Dreyfus demonstrations…The Great Synagogue in London presented a striking spectacle. It was crowded from 6 o’clock in the morning until 6 at night and thousands were unable to enter.

The above comes from the Sept 15, 1899 New York Times. (read the full article) They used to charge a fee to read their archives, but this week they opened up most of it for free. Everything prior to 1922, and thus in the public domain, is freely downloadable as PDFs. Anything after 1987, out of NYTimes generosity, is also free. There’s still a large amount they charge for, but they decreased the price as well. (It used to be $4.95 per article, and the ones I've found in my searches so far have been $3.95)

Several of my Newmark ancestors were likely at the Great Synagogue that day. They were in London from 1893 to 1909. They were definitely at the Synagogue a couple years later, on August 31, 1902, but that’s a different post I will write soon.

Dreyfus had been convicted in 1895, but this protest followed rumors of an army cover-up and his possible innocence. Pertaining to that, here’s another interesting quote from the above article:

“Let the majesty of the law be vindicated,” [Chief Rabbi Adler] concluded, “and let them not seek a pardon, which should be rejected with scorn, for where no crime was committed, how can a pardon be granted?”

Dreyfus was pardoned on September 19th. And while a pardon, as the article points out, is usually all one can expect in most countries after a conviction, in 1906 he was exonerated by a military commission. (source)

Speaking of which...Are there black sheep in your family tree that you would like pardoned/exonerated? Craig Manson of Geneablogie has created a new service called the Historical Appellate Review Project
HARP, the Historical Appellate Review Project, is dedicated to setting the record straight. Using state-of-the-art genealogical and legal research procedures, HARP will investigate your family's alleged black sheep and let you know if their names might be cleared! In certain cases, we even may be able to go to court and get the official record changed!
That sounds like a great idea! I haven't found any ancestors yet that have been convicted of any serious crimes, but if I do, and think it may have been an unfair conviction, I now have a place to go!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


1) Were any of my ancestors pirates?
2) Did any of my ancestors own parrots?
3) Did any of my ancestors like to drink rum?
4) Do I have any distant cousins who have played baseball in Pittsburgh?

Realizing I am unable to say 'yes' in certainty to any of these questions, I am a little glum on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

I know I have lime-burners, mule drivers, and tailors represented. If OneWorldTree is correct, I also have a 1930s bootlegger/massmurderer nicknamed "The Alligator Man" as a distant cousin. He may come the closest. OWT also claims that John Ledyard, who sailed with Captain Cook, is a cousin. Though, while they sailed off the Barbary Coast, and Cook rhymes with Hook, like so many in my family tree, they fought for the 'other side.'

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Personal Ancestry Writer II

I found a free Mac download that will export a Register-format report from a Gedcom file. It's caled Personal Ancestry Writer II.

From the official description:
It combines most of the features of the LDS Personal Ancestral File program (PAF) for the Macintosh (for which all development stopped a few years ago after release 2.3.1), with additional features that generate web pages (in HTML), word processing files (in RTF for, e.g., AppleWorks) and desktop publishing files (in MML for FrameMaker). The generated report files include genealogical dictionaries, registers, ahnentafels and lineages—such as appear on this site—as well as some interesting text files and pedigree charts.
It tries to do a lot of things, and could be used possibly as one's primary software, though its interface looks like it was created in the dark ages of System 7 and never updated. Still, it is free.
PAWriter is not meant to have the bells and whistles that are in the current crop of genealogical programs. The emphasis is on maintaining a genealogical database from which the user can write books and/or post web pages about a family.
Users of MacFamilyTree or iFamily who feel they must have a Register report can use it easily for that purpose.

More about iFamily

I like iFamily. (Officially 'iFamily for Tiger' as the name gets changed each time the Mac OS is upgraded. On the website forums it is clear they are working on an 'iFamily for Leopard'. However, the software has no relationship to Apple Corp that I can see, beyond that it is designed to run on their systems.) And if I choose to buy it after the 10day demo period, it will only cost $30.

The website says that it is designed for screens at least 17inches. However, I have a laptop with a 14 inch screen, and it looks fine.

Here is the default view for one individual from the Royal Family database (over 3000 entries) that came included with the demo:

I like that I can see several generations on my screen at once, and to move to a new person, I just need to double click on their name. You'll notice if you enlarge the image above that at the top of the screen in the right is a switch for 'Levels' set to 3. That's the number of ancestor generations. It can be increased, but on my screen it get rather tiny with anything higher than the default '3'. (So, yeah, a 17 inch screen might be nice. But 3 generations is great.) You may also notice the colors and fonts for the interface are easily adjustable from the default view. If you click on the tabs you see at the bottom of the screen, you get different information in the bottom half of the screen.

It is extremely intuitive and easy to navigate.

Also, I really appreciate that the database is either updated as you enter the data, or it is saved when you close the window (instead of quitting from the file menu as one really should always do, but sometimes you get in bad habits.) When you close the window by clicking on the red circle, a dialog pops up asking if you want to close the window, close and quit the application, or cancel. MacFamilyTree just closes the window automatically, and all unsaved data is lost.

Finally - there's a cool "On this Day" feature that tells me that King Louis XVIII, Mary Stuart, and Charles V the Wise all died on September 16th. I can also get a list of births, deaths and marriages for a given month, which with my own family database, could be useful to remember when I should go out and buy gifts. (I'm not likely to buy gifts for anyone in the Royal family.)


Gedcom import is limited to Ascii Gedcoms. I had difficulty importing my MacFamilyTree Gedcom. I thought it was because it was in unicode, because when I exported it in Ascii, iFamily recognized it fine. In the comments I've been assured that iFamily recognizes unicode, as well as several other versions, so I haven't figured out yet what the issue was. (Turns out MacFamilyTree invented a filetype extension for their unicode files (.uged). The file only needed to be renamed. The next update of iFamily will recognize the weird extension.)

You also can't save a report in "Register" format. You can't do this with MacFamilyTree either. (I've read you can do it with Reunion, but that's three times as expensive as iFamily, and more than double MacFamilyTree) I find Register confusing, but still, it is supposedly the standard.

I like iFamily's reports. Their descendant report covers each branch of the tree separately. So in the Royal Family example, if you started with the Queen, it would list Queen Elizabeth, then her son Charles, then his children William and Henry, and then if eiher of the Princes had children, their children, then it would go back up to Charles' sister Anne, then her children Peter and Zara, then back up to Charles' brother Andrew, etc. It's certainly easy enough to read and follow the report.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I thought I would download the iFamily demo to try out a different genealogy software package. The website says it integrates well with iPhoto which is intriguing. It's a ten-day trial, and I will look at it some more tomorrow, but one of the first things I noticed was that they included an interesting sample GEDCOM with the package. The Royal family.

And I didn't know it was Prince Henry Charles Albert's 23rd birthday today. (Well, there's about 15 minutes left of it where I am, but if I were in England, I'd have missed it.)

Being familiar with Shakespeare and all, I did suspect Harry's first name was Henry, but there may be a character limit issue with the software, as the prince should have four names "Henry Charles Albert David," and his record only includes the first three.

I was a little disturbed that while it does mention that the Queen Mother passed away in 2002, it has Diana Spencer as living.

I also noticed that while the Romanovs are included in the name index, Vlad's family isn't, even though it has been recently claimed that Charles is descended from a brother of Dracula.

I guess asking for completeness in the sample GEDCOM is being a little too nitpicky.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What's in the public domain?

Note: I live in the US, and so this post is US-centered. Different laws apply in different countries.

The recent discussions on copyright, due to their origin, have mostly focused on "fair use" and technology's impact on copyright law. But if a work is in the public domain, it is free to be used in any way anyone likes, without the need to get anyone's permission.

In genealogy we read source material of various age, and the issue of public domain can arise. There is some confusion though about what is in the public domain, due partially to recent court decisions revising the code, and partially due to different laws being in effect depending upon when a work was written, and where.

I don't work somewhere that understanding copyright law is part of the job description, but a colleague a couple days ago told me he was certain that it no longer mattered when the author died, it was a flat 95 years after creation. This is wrong, but it is understandable why they might think this. There has been a lot of media about corporate copyright, and work-for-hire now lasts for 95 years. Another colleague in the discussion claimed that Disney is actually trying to argue that some of their characters were created by Walt Disney, and not by the company, so that the clock starts when Disney died in 1966. I haven't verified this, but it sounds like a smart business move, for if they are successful, Mickey Mouse won't be public domain until after 2036 (1966+70), instead of 2022 (1928+95). Yielding an extra 14 years of profit.

The Intellectual Property Officer at Cornell University creates an annual chart detailing what is in the public domain as of January 1st of the current year. It depends on factors such as whether the work was published, or unpublished, with notice or without, where, and when. But the chart does a great job in my opinion of simplifying it as much as it can be simplified, and still cover all contingencies.

Note: all my comments regarding length of copyright terms in this post come after reviewing the chart linked above. It's been 12 years since I had any formalized training on copyright law, and that was only one college course, though I do try to follow news stories about related issues.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I didn't think to write a post on 9/11 here this morning since I don't think about the day in relationship to genealogy, and I have another blog where I post my thoughts on all other topics.

But after reading Randy, Miriam and Jasia,

I decided to write a few thoughts.

First, I refuse to listen to Alan Jackson's song despite Miriam's suggestion. I didn't hear it played today, but I've heard it so much, I don't need to listen to it, and it has always bugged me. I like country music generally, and Alan Jackson has some good songs, but I can't stand the idea of bragging about not knowing the difference between Iraq and Iran. You can tell me the narrator of the song isn't bragging, but he's setting himself up as the 'common man' because he is ignorant of world geography and events, but somehow the fact that he is 'common' and ignorant is supposed to make his opinions more 'real' or 'valid' and that seems like bragging to me about his ignorance. The recent American phenomenon of actually turning knowledge and learning into something 'bad' and ignorance into something 'good' is very disturbing to me. I would much rather elect a politician - for any office - who spoke with intelligence than one who I felt I could sit down and have a beer with. End of Soapbox.

I won't bother anyone with any more of my political thoughts about the past six years.

9/11: I remember where I was. I was at work. And being at an investment brokerage there was a television playing the Financial News Network in the hallway all day. And every hour or so I'd get up and spend 10 minutes in the hallway with a group of others and see if any more news had come in.

Here's a poem I wrote shortly after 9/11, which I think is appropriate to post here:

Two Photographs

Looking at a photo
on my office cubicle shelf
taken 25 years ago
of my mother, brother, sister and I
standing at the Statue of Liberty,
my sister wearing a bicentennial tshirt,
and the New York skyline in the background
with the World Trade Center
three years old to my seven

I recollect another photo
from my grandfather’s collection
of him sitting on a horse
in front of a partially completed
Mount Rushmore.

© 2001 John Newmark

(Note: I had assumed the date of the photograph from my sister's tshirt, but after writing the poem, I showed it to my parents who told me that the picture was actually taken in 1977. My sister just liked the shirt enough to wear it a year later. I didn't change the ages in the poem, as I preferred the sound of the ages I had. The details in a poem don't always have to be 100% true.)

Wait for it...

(ZombieNews Central) St. Louis - Mugged by his long dead great-great-great grandfather, who was recently reanimated, local man, Charles Whitley started to chase him. His ancestor was quicker than zombies have been rumored to be and a chase began. Passing a policeman, Charles shouted, “My ancestor stole my life savings. So I’m taking after my ancestor!”

Monday, September 10, 2007

Found this in a fortune cookie...

Confucius say: You may be my descendant

(There's probably something offensive about the way I phrased that, but I eat at Chinese restaurants a lot)

Apparently there is a large database of every descendant of Confucius. The last time it was updated was in the 1930s.

I think it's good news that they decided to include everyone in the database, including female descendants, this time around.

On some other blog recently I was reading that some people claim everyone is descended from Charlemagne. I found that doubtful. Charlemagne died in 814. Confucius died in 479 BCE. If Confucius only has 3 million descendants, Charlemagne must have less. Right?

Privacy in Texas

Several discussions on legal and ethical issues lately. As a newcomer to the genealogical community, I don't know how common this is. I have come upon another one that's troubling me.

Last night, doing some research on a surname in Texas I came across the Ancestry databases of their birth, death and marriage indexes. Several states have their death indexes online. This can be useful. Missouri even has their death certificates online - up until 1956. But they stop with certificates less than 50 years. They have no index for recent deaths either. The St. Louis Public Library has an index for Post Disptach obituaries that isn't complete, but when it is, will be up-to-present. This doesn't trouble me much, since all the people in the index are deceased.

But indexes of births and marriages for people who are still living? The Texas birth index at Ancestry is for 1903-1997. The marriage index is for 1814-1909 and 1966-2002. If I had been born in Texas, I'd be on it, as would my parents, and grandparents. The birth index gives names of both parents, with maiden name for the mother. Combined with the marriage index, this provides an easy reference to track the generations. There is a large gap in the marriage index, but still, while the census stops at 1930, if the family remains in Texas, you can pretty much keep on going until the current generation of parents. And then at several phonebook websites (Or on Google if you figure out the city they live in) you can probably find the phone number of the living generations. And give them a call and say, Hi, I'm a cousin.

It certainly might not be advisable to start out the conversation that way. And you might do better trying to find their address and writing a "blind inquiry" letter to them. (Uncle Hiram has some good advice on that.) It's way too easy to hang up a phone. But Texas certainly makes it easy. I'm not sure how many other states do this. Randy at GeneaMusings back in February suggested California was the only other one. Chicago (Cook County) recently announced it is putting a lot of their vitals online - with an estimated date of arrival in January, but I don't know if this will include recent vitals.

He also asks for input on the privacy issue. I didn't see his post back then (see first paragraph) but I'm giving it now, I guess. I don't like it.

Well, that is, looking at it from the perspective of somebody tracking me down - online - within a couple hours of fairly easy research - if I don't want to be tracked down that easily. I don't have to worry about that, I don't live in Texas.

But I do have some Texas relatives. I now know their names. I won't mention the surname. And while I'm not about to pick up the phone, I think I'd be silly not to write a couple letters. Gives them the option of not replying. I might even play 'dumb' and say that I think 'we may' be related. Don't want to scare them by telling them that I *know* we are. Of course, I'd be surprised if this hasn't been discussed in Texas newspapers, and they know full well how easy it is. So they might see right through my facade.

Genealogy Challenges and Puzzles

I've been having fun with Genealogue's challenges, but I often see them after the answers are revealed in the comments, or while I am at work without much time to solve them. I did submit one to him, and it was fun to see people solve it.

A local puzzler named Nobody published a puzzle late last night early this morning, and today it has a genealogy-related slant. I found it not too challenging, but still somewhat fun, since it involved some well-known names, and thought others might like to try their hand.

Nobody's site used to be much more active than it is now, but it's good to see they're not completely gone.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

In the attic

I was over at my parents' house today going through some old boxes in the attic. Discovered photo albums both of my grandmothers put together when they were young. 1920s and 1930s. Both contain high school graduation photos. And I think my favorite pictures are those of my grandfathers young and hamming it up for the camera. Though there are also some pictures of great-grandparents and great-great grandparents in the collections.

(I'm going to have to reread the posts on The Practical Archivist on rescuing glued photos, and find myself a microspatula.)

The most surprising find though wasn't a photograph. It was my maternal grandfather's resume. He updated it after he retired, in 1968, and saved it. Who does that? (My grandfather, I guess. He's the same grandfather who gave me his Hungarian birth certificate to put into a grade school report.) So I have a one page summary of his career that I couldn't have found anywhere else. I knew the highlights: brief stint as a lawyer, most of his career as a Postal Inspector, a few years in the army, but now my knowledge is more complete. He also had kept in a folder a lot of business correspondence.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Friday Five

It's Friday, so five more names from various census.
It should be obvious what is on my mind this morning.

1900 – Cub Beers – Manhattan, NY – 22
1910 – Cardinal Butter – New Orleans, LA – 12
1920 – Astro Archie – Limestone, TX – 17
1930 – Met Pitt – Marshall, KY – 15
1880 – Pirate King – Richmond, MO - 45

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Genealogy Jenny

Not too many people know what a Jenny is. A Jenny is a form of poetry I created last year. (Link is to my other blog). Like haiku, the word is both singular and plural.

It's a real simple form to learn. There is a specified number of lines, with a specified number of syllables for each line. Jenny have 7 lines, and a total of 38 syllables. The first line has 8 syllables. The second line has 6 syllables. The third line has 7 syllables. Can you guess the rest? Does this help: 8-6-7...

Here's an example:

Honor thy Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather

We all have eight great grandparents.
Half of us don’t know them.
I treasure all my surnames:
Newmark and Cruvant,
Feinstein, Blatt,

Deutsch, Lichtman, Van Every, Denyer.

That of course was more factual than poetic. The following is slightly better:

Advice Not Taken

In the hot summer heat I found
myself reading gravestones
looking for my ancestors.
All of the websites
said: Autumn.

I could not wait that long to find them.

© John Newmark

Genealogy Haiku/Senryu

I find it a lot easier to think in syllables of 5-7-5. Maybe I'm part Japanese; from a past life?


A British study
reveals half can't name one great
grandparent. Lost roots.



I can't walk past graves
without stopping to read them.
Dead men do tell tales.

© John Newmark

Genealogy Limericks

Randy at Genea-Musings put out a request for some Genealogy Limericks

Since I consider myself something of a poet, and since my great Grandfather Barney claimed to be Irish even though the wasn't, I had to see what I could come up with...

I will note that I tried to stick to a 3-3-2-2-3 pattern with regard to metrical feet, though I know there are a few rough spots. I was more flexible with rhyme.

There once was a guy from Missouri
Knew nought ‘bout his granddad named Morrie
He searched at Ancestry;
Got help at the library
Now he knows where his granddad is buried.

There once was a lady named Maude
Who loved to explore a graveyard
With blue jeans and bug spray
She would spend the whole day
Rubbing graves and chatting with G-d.

I intentionally avoided the word 'genealogist'. I didn't see an easy way to fit that into the metrical scheme without totally ignoring it. Then it came to me...

Way back when ol' Beowulf was young
A kid searched for his dad and his mom
"Genealogist" they
might now call him today
But back then he was known as young Tom

© John Newmark

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day

Since it's Labor Day in the United States, and I believe in Canada too, as opposed to all the other countries that still observe it on its original May day, I've been thinking about the work my ancestors did.

In the early 1900s they were tailors, launderers, undertakers, salesmen. The next generation had several lawyers and doctors. Most people see that as a jump, because we focus on the money, and the years of required education. But every one of my ancestors in the first list were self-employed businessmen, dealing with clients in much the same fashion.

I've found an online interview of a distant relative who left the city and started a medical practice in a small rural town in the 1930s because they had no other doctor. For years he charged his patients $1, and never sent out bills, because he knew they would pay if they could. Something which he, and his children, and his children's children should rightly be proud of.

In the interview he states one of his reasons for becoming a doctor was because his mother didn't want him to become a tailor like everyone else in the family. I cringe at the joke, even though it receives the expected laughter from the interviewer. Mostly because I know the interviewee's father, and his father's father were tailors, and I know his mother's father was a bootmaker.

It's not exactly what he said that bothers me, but how he said it. The parents of all his cousins probably had similar (mostly fulfilled) desires for their children. I like to think, though, that instead of looking down on the profession, they saw the hard work that went into it, and the years of poverty, and wanted an easier life for their children. That's probably how he looked at it too, and I'm just reading too much into a one-liner in an interview.

I was certainly thrilled to find a recording of his voice. The interview is about 30 minutes long.