Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy Labo(u)r Day Weekend

In Canada and the U.S., Labo(u)r Day is Monday, Sept 3rd.  For all celebrating, some music and poetry to get you into the mood:

Happy Labo(u)r Day!

Evan Greer - Never Walk Across a Picket Line

Fellow Citizens - Carl Sandburg (1912) 
I DRANK musty ale at the Illinois Athletic Club with
the millionaire manufacturer of Green River butter
one night
And his face had the shining light of an old-time Quaker,
he spoke of a beautiful daughter, and I knew he had
a peace and a happiness up his sleeve somewhere.
Then I heard Jim Kirch make a speech to the Advertising
Association on the trade resources of South America.
And the way he lighted a three-for-a-nickel stogie and
cocked it at an angle regardless of the manners of
our best people,
I knew he had a clutch on a real happiness even though
some of the reporters on his newspaper say he is
the living double of Jack London's Sea Wolf.
In the mayor's office the mayor himself told me he was
happy though it is a hard job to satisfy all the office-
seekers and eat all the dinners he is asked to eat.
Down in Gilpin Place, near Hull House, was a man with
his jaw wrapped for a bad toothache,
And he had it all over the butter millionaire, Jim Kirch
and the mayor when it came to happiness.
He is a maker of accordions and guitars and not only
makes them from start to finish, but plays them
after he makes them.
And he had a guitar of mahogany with a walnut bottom
he offered for seven dollars and a half if I wanted it,
And another just like it, only smaller, for six dollars,
though he never mentioned the price till I asked him,
And he stated the price in a sorry way, as though the
music and the make of an instrument count for a
million times more than the price in money.
I thought he had a real soul and knew a lot about God.
There was light in his eyes of one who has conquered
sorrow in so far as sorrow is conquerable or worth
Anyway he is the only Chicago citizen I was jealous of
that day.
He played a dance they play in some parts of Italy
when the harvest of grapes is over and the wine
presses are ready for work.
Billy Bragg - There is Power in a Union

A Pict Song - Rudyard Kipling (1917)

Rome never looks where she treads,
Always her heavy hooves fall,
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on—that is all,
And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
With only our tongues for our swords.

We are the Little Folk—we !
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you'll see
How we can drag down the Great!
We are the worm in the wood !
We are the rot at the root!
We are the germ in the blood !
We are the thorn in the foot !

Mistletoe killing an oak—
Rats gnawing cables in two—
Moths making holes in a cloak—
How they must love what they do!
Yes,—and we Little Folk too,
We are as busy as they—
Working our works out of view—
Watch, and you'll see it some day!

No indeed ! We are not strong,
But we know Peoples that are.
Yes, and we'll guide them along,
To smash and destroy you in War!
We shall be slaves just the same ?
Yes, we have always been slaves;
But you—you will die of the shame,
And then we shall dance on your graves.

We are the Little Folk, we ! etc.

Dropkick Murphys - Worker's Song

I Hear America Singing - Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deck-hand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The woodcutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morn-ing, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie - Union Maid

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is Hillary Duff the Closest US Celeb to the Queen?

Many media sources have recently printed the following fact:

Hillary Duff is the closest US celebrity relative to the Queen. They share Edward III, the Queen's 18th great grandfather, as a common relative.

AZCentral and USA Today are two examples.  Both cite a study by FindMyPast.

I have a serious problem with this, because I have a difficult time imagining that every single US celebrity's genealogy was traced. But for that claim to be legitimately made, that's what would have had to be done. There are thousands of celebrities.

It's a perfect example of the Black Swan Fallacy.

Out of all the celebrity genealogies studied, Hillary Duff was most closely related, therefore she is the closest celebrity related to the queen. That is the logic being used, even though it doesn't sound as newsworthy reported in that manner.

How many genealogies were studied? That is information I have not been able to find in any news source.  (FindMyPast doesn't appear to have this in their list of press releases on their website.) There is a list of 20 'royal' celebrities mentioned, which means at least 20 were studied. But it could be any number equal to or greater than 20.

I thought to myself: Wouldn't it be funny if I could find a black swan? 

Could I find a celebrity that the study missed?  I didn't know how easy it would be, because it seems the study missed an entire category of US Celebrities.  Political Celebrities.

Celebrity is only defined as a famous or well-known person, that's why there are so many of them. Presidents are definitely celebrities, and I have a copy of Ancestors of American Presidents, written by Gary Boyd Roberts (2009 edition). There is a living US President who traces his ancestry back to Edward III as well, making them equal cousins with the Queen and Hillary Duff. James Earl Carter. (Therefore, his daughter Amy descends from Edward III as well, and some might consider her a celebrity.)

Franklin D. Roosevelt traced his ancestry back to James II of Scotland (The Queen's 14th great grandfather) and Truman to Robert III of Scotland (The Queen's 16th great grandfather) - unfortunately, none of their living descendants quite approach the name recognition for celebrity status.  Truman's daughter Margaret probably came the closest, though she passed away in 2008.

[Note: I used the sample Royal database that came with my iFamily genealogy software to calculate the Queen's relationship with James II and Robert III.]

Monday, August 27, 2012

Melvin L. Newmark (Aug 27, 1912 - Jan 22, 1992)

Today my paternal grandfather, Melvin L Newmark, would have celebrated his 100th birthday.

1. 1915 - Age 3.
2. 1924 Confirmation Class, B'Nai El Temple, St. Louis. Age 12. First Row, second from right.
3. June 1930 - Age 18 - possibly a job as a valet
4. December 1944 - Age 32 - with his younger brother, Mandell, on the island of Biak, just NW of New Guinea.
5. Possibly 1962, age 50. He served as Municipal Court Judge from 1962-1967.
6. August 1971 - age 59
7. 1975 - age 63 - with his wife,  Sissie.
8. abt 1990 - age 78 - in Palm Springs, California

Amanuensis Monday: Louis C Gober at the Gratiot Street Prison

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

I began this project back on February 16, 2009.  Since I began, many others have joined in on the meme. I am thrilled that this meme I started has inspired so many to transcribe their family history documents. Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.

I learned on the Civil War St. Louis site, my wife's 3rd-great grandfather, Louis C. Gober (1830-1876), spent some time in the St. Louis Gratiot Street Prison "by order of the Provost Marshall General." I searched for his records at Fold3. (I have access to Fold3 through my local library card.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Amanuensis Monday: Sheriff Gober and a Stolen Horse

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

I began this project back on February 16, 2009.  Since I began, many others have joined in on the meme. I am thrilled that this meme I started has inspired so many to transcribe their family history documents. Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.

My wife's great grandfather, Louis Pleas Gober (1867-1948), was Sheriff of Scott County, Missouri in the early 1900s. ChroniclingAmerica has archives of several area newspapers from that time, and he appears often. A year ago I shared an article from the St. Louis Post Dispatch concerning a problem he had with some mules. Below is an article from the Jackson Herald -- January 31, 1907, page 1, above the fold.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Amanuensis Monday: Henry Vidaver on Abraham Lincoln

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

I began this project back on February 16, 2009.  Since I began, many others have joined in on the meme. I am thrilled that this meme I started has inspired so many to transcribe their family history documents. Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.

In the past I have departed a few times from purely genealogically-related documents, and transcribe something of historical interest which doesn't mention any relatives. This is another such case.

Recently I volunteered to join my congregation's Historical Society, which is researching its history in preparation of our 175th anniversary year. Established in 1837, it is the oldest Jewish congregation West of the Mississippi. (St. Louis happens to be home to many things that are the oldest West of the Mississippi. There might be a geographical/historical reason for this.)

At my first meeting a few weeks ago I learned about an early Rabbi - Dr. Henry Vidaver, who delivered a sermon upon Lincoln's assassination that was widely reprinted.  Sections of the sermon appeared in some recently published histories, but I went in search online for some contemporary accounts, or at least something that was public domain.

I found the below in The Reform Advocate - America's Jewish Journal - Volume 37, Issue 1 - February 20, 1909 - pages 22, 27. (I only transcribe the introduction, and Vidaver's words. Follow the link to read from the sermons of others.)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ancestry's New DNA test: A Jewish Perspective

This entry is not a religious perspective on the ethics of DNA testing.

This entry is a perspective on's new DNA test from someone of European Jewish descent. This may apply to similar tests from other companies, but not having taken those tests, I am unable to say.

I believe Jews of mostly European descent will find the test less useful for them than for others. I found the results mostly useful for my 25% non-Jewish ancestry.

This is the test that determines one's DNA ethnicity breakdown. This of course can differ significantly from the breakdown of ethnicity of your ancestors in your genealogy database.  Each child receives 50% of their DNA from each parent, but it's a roll of the dice which 50% is passed on.

Theoretically, someone could have none of the DNA from one of their four grandparents.  For example, the 50% from your father might be just the DNA your paternal grandfather passed to him.This is unlikely, but it is also probably unlikely that one has exactly 25% of their DNA from each of their four grandparents. And it's even more unlikely that one has exactly 12.5% of their DNA from each of their eight great grandparents. As one goes further back on their genealogy chart, it becomes more likely that significant portions of your ancestors aren't represented in your DNA.

With that in mind, here are the results I received after submitting my saliva sample recently

From the perspective of my genealogy database, I am 75% Eastern European Jewish and 25% a mixture of European descent (Mostly British, German, and Dutch) and possibly some Native American.  So learning that my DNA is 70% Eastern European/European Jewish isn't much of a surprise.  However, I wasn't aware that that was all the DNA test was going to reveal about 3/4 of my ancestry. It certainly does reinforce the notion of Judaism as a Tribe, though it appears there is enough genetic variance to distinguish between European and non-Euopean ancestry. Looking at the charts of some other people, it appears those of Middle Eastern (Mizrahi) descent aren't 'religiously' tagged.

There are no Scandinavians in my family tree, but that's probably because I haven't gone back far enough.  My mother's Mitochondrial DNA test categorized my matrilineal line as Clan Ursula - which certainly has Scandinavian roots.

Ancestry does note:
Your genetic ethnicity reveals where your ancestors lived hundreds—perhaps even thousands—of years ago. This may update over time as new genetic signatures are discovered.
The rise of the Viking culture spread Scandinavian ancestry far throughout Europe. Their earliest coastal voyages took them to Scotland, northeastern England and established the settlement of Dublin, Ireland. As their power continued to grow, the Vikings spread farther afield, down the Volga River in Russia, to the coast of France and Spain.
So 17% of my DNA comes from some Scandinavian ancestors who migrated to either Britain, the Netherlands, or Germany. The 11% uncertain might contain what little Native American DNA I have, and perhaps some of the Alien DNA some of my friends suspect.

In their FAQ Ancestry explains:
Some people may have a percentage with ‘uncertain’ in their genetic ethnicity results. This means that small traces of a specific genetic population have been found in your DNA, but the probability levels were too low to pinpoint it to a specific ethnicity. This is not uncommon, and as more genetic signatures are discovered with a higher confidence level, we may be able to update this ‘uncertain’ percentage of your ethnicity over time.
This may mean that the 11% is a combination of different ethnicities, none of which are large enough to identify with certainty.

So the breakdown for me wasn't very helpful.  Others have had significantly different results. Judy Russell of The Legal Genealogist was very pleased with the specificity of her results.

Cousin Matches

One of the key selling points of the AncestryDNA test is that they will connect you with others who are potential matches.  And Ancestry provides a LOT of matches for me...

Unfortunately, there is a high number of false positives for those of European Jewish descent.

Despite their encouragement, at least for now, with the number of likely false-positives, it doesn't make much sense to me to contact the dozens of potential cousin matches.  Unless there is a shared surname in their online trees, which so far there hasn't been. (I am contacting the Scandinavian matches. There are less of them.)

I also understand that it may be complicated and science-y (is that a word?) - but I'd like to see the complicated, scientific explanation. It might confuse me, but I consider myself intelligent. I'd like Ancestry to include the scientific explanation on their website. summary:
  • Those of mostly European Jewish descent may not find Ancestry's DNA test very useful due to the over-abundance of false-positive cousin matches, and the lack of specificity in ethnic origins. I am unsure if the results are similar on the tests provided by other companies. 
  • I did find my results interesting, and I am in the process of contacting some potential cousins.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Copyright and FindMyPast (and The National Archives)

In the comments to one of my recent posts concerning research at FindMyPast I was notified that, as reported at The Legal Genealogist - FindMyPast had some restrictive language in their Terms Of Use requiring permission to be sought for the usage of any images from the site.

So I emailed the site for permission. This morning - at 5:30 am locally (11:30 in London) They responded positively:
Thank you for your email. 
We are happy for you to use images of search functions/search results and transcriptions providing is acknowledged as the source in each caption. 
For images however it is often the case that the owner of copyright/database rights owner is not as most records are provided by external sources. For example the England and Wales census records. The underlying census records are Crown Copyright and so you would need permission from The National Archives to reproduce.
Many US citizens may get used to the tradition that government records are public domain - and not consider that our practices aren't the same in other countries.

So I visited The National Archives and read their Copyright terms
The material featured on this website is subject to Crown copyright protection and licensed for use under the Open Government Licence unless otherwise indicated.
The Open Government Licence is very similar to what Americans have come to expect with government documents.
  • worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive licence to:
    • copy, publish, distribute and transmit the Information;
    • adapt the Information;
    • exploit the Information commercially for example, by combining it with other Information, or by including it in your own product or application.
As long as you provide appropriate acknowledgment of the source. The appropriate acknowledgement procedure is rather detailed.

However - the Open Government Licence doesn't apply to the records downloaded from the National Archives site.  They 'indicate otherwise.' [And I suspected this was the same for the records on FindMyPast]

Digital Copies of Documents
The use of copies of records downloaded from our website using DocumentsOnline or Discovery is subject to the following conditions. Digital copies of documents may only be used for:
  • private study or research for a non-commercial purpose
  • education purposes; in the course of instruction or examination, or in preparation for instruction or examination (by either the giver or receiver of instruction). Copies may be used, and further copies of those copies may be made for this purpose.
Applications for permission for any other use should be addressed to the image library.
I fired off an email to the image library. My three posts this week are definitely at least partially of an educational purpose, but I will admit that isn't the sole purpose of those posts. They are also there to inform relatives of the information I have found. One might say I am educating my relatives, but that might be considered a stretch of that term. I figured I should request permission. I haven't yet heard back.

Time moves quickly on the Internet. At some point after responding to my email, The Legal Genealogist reported that FindMyPast changed their Terms today. Here's how the section on copyright now reads:
A large amount of time, money and effort has been expended to make these records and features available online. Many of these records and features have been obtained from other organizations and people. These people or organizations often own the intellectual property rights in the records (the copyright/database rights owner is displayed on most records) and website features. Accordingly, you may not use the records or features to create your own work (for example a database of records), copy or reproduce the records (either in whole or in part), or make available, share or publish them unless you have our permission (and/or that of the owner of the copyright/database rights in the work) in writing. You may however use screenshots of our website for blog postings, articles and presentations for informational and educational purposes. If you are a professional genealogist (as defined above) you may also use the records or features in preparing unpublished reports for clients. The website and services provided belong to brightsolid, and again, you must not copy or use them without our written permission. Therefore, you only have a limited license to access the website and to use the content for personal or professional family history research (including unpublished reports for clients if you are a professional genealogist).
It now allows the use of screenshots for informational or educational purposes, which would likely cover any of my typical blog posts. Still, I await The National Archives response to my request for permission this morning. Their permission might not be completely necessary anymore, but I will be happy to receive it.


Response from The National Archives:
Thank you for your email. 
Our policy is that the reproduction of direct images of documents from The National Archives on an open non-commercial website in perpetuity costs a one-off fee of £40.00. This fee covers up the use of up to twenty images. The charge reflects the fact that open website use constitutes worldwide publication. 
However, we do appreciate that in some cases, the images are provided simply to facilitate research, as is the case here, and therefore the fee can be waived. The images you have used are small sections only, and do not represent a likely target for commercial exploitation, so I confirm that you have permission to use these images without charge.
These can be credited: 'The National Archives, published by permission'. (But not (c)..., as copyright is waived for publication). 
Should you wish to use full Census pages, the fee will be payable. In all cases we ask that the images are protected from download at high resolution. You can do this by watermarking, or by keeping the resolution to a level whereby the document is legible for information and research, but is not of sufficient quality for commercial publication.

In brief:

If you want to include on your blog sections of records downloaded from FindMyPast that originate from The National Archives, you should clarify with The National Archives that it is a small enough section, but they are likely to waive their fee.

If you want to include entire records, there is a fee, but you can pay a one-time fee, and if you find 20 images first, it's only 2 pounds per.