Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Poetry

Below are several poems for the holiday

Gratitude - by Edgar A. Guest (©1917)

Be grateful for the kindly friends that walk along your way;
Be grateful for the skies of blue that smile from day to day;
Be grateful for the health you own, the work you find to do,
For round about you there are men less fortunate than you.

Be grateful for the growing trees, the roses soon to bloom,
The tenderness of kindly hearts that shared your days of gloom;
Be grateful for the morning dew, the grass beneath your feet,
The soft caresses of your babes and all their laughter sweet.

Acquire the grateful habit, learn to see how blest you are,
How much there is to gladden life, how little life to mar!
And what if rain shall fall to-day and you with grief are sad;
Be grateful that you can recall the joys that you have had.

Thanksgiving - by Edgar A. Guest (©1917)

Gettin' together to smile an' rejoice,
An' eatin' an' laughin' with folks of your choice;
An' kissin' the girls an' declarin' that they
Are growin' more beautiful day after day;
Chattin' an' braggin' a bit with the men,
Buildin' the old family circle again;
Livin' the wholesome an' old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother's a little bit grayer, that's all.
Father's a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an' to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin' our stories as women an' men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we're grateful an' glad to be there.
Home from the east land an' home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an' best.
Out of the sham of the cities afar
We've come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an' be frank,
Forgettin' position an' station an' rank.

Give me the end of the year an' its fun
When most of the plannin' an' toilin' is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin' with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An' I'll put soul in my Thanksgivin' prayers.

Looking Back - by Edgar Guest (©1921)

I might have been rich if I'd wanted the gold instead of the friendships I've made.
I might have had fame if I'd sought for renown in the hours when I purposely played.
Now I'm standing to-day on the far edge of life, and I'm just looking backward to see
What I've done with the years and the days that were mine, and all that has happened to me.

I haven't built much of a fortune to leave to those who shall carry my name,
And nothing I've done shall entitle me now to a place on the tablets of fame.
But I've loved the great sky and its spaces of blue; I've lived with the birds and the trees;
I've turned from the splendor of silver and gold to share in such pleasures as these.

I've given my time to the children who came; together we've romped and we've played,
And I wouldn't exchange the glad hours spent with them for the money that I might have made.
I chose to be known and be loved by the few, and was deaf to the plaudits of men;
And I'd make the same choice should the chance come to me to live my life over again.

I've lived with my friends and I've shared in their joys, known sorrow with all of its tears;
I have harvested much from my acres of life, though some say I've squandered my years.
For much that is fine has been mine to enjoy, and I think I have lived to my best,
And I have no regret, as I'm nearing the end, for the gold that I might have possessed.

A Song of Thanks - by Edward Smyth Jones (©1922)

FOR the sun that shone at the dawn of spring,
For the flowers which bloom and the birds that sing,
For the verdant robe of the gray old earth,
For her coffers filled with their countless worth,
For the flocks which feed on a thousand hills,
For the rippling streams which turn the mills,
For the lowing herds in the lovely vale,
For the songs of gladness on the gale,—
From the Gulf and the Lakes to the Oceans’ banks,—
Lord God of Hosts, we give Thee thanks!

For the farmer reaping his whitened fields,
For the bounty which the rich soil yields,
For the cooling dews and refreshing rains,
For the sun which ripens the golden grains,
For the bearded wheat and the fattened swine,
For the stalled ox and the fruitful vine,
For the tubers large and cotton white,
For the kid and the lambkin frisk and blithe,
For the swan which floats near the river-banks,—
Lord God of Hosts, we give Thee thanks

For the pumpkin sweet and the yellow yam,
For the corn and beans and the sugared ham,
For the plum and the peach and the apple red,
For the dear old press where the wine is tread,
For the cock which crows at the breaking dawn,
And the proud old “turk” of the farmer’s barn,
For the fish which swim in the babbling brooks,
For the game which hide in the shady nooks,—
From the Gulf and the Lakes to the Oceans’ banks—
Lord God of Hosts, we give Thee thanks!

For the sturdy oaks and the stately pines,
For the lead and the coal from the deep,
dark mines, For the silver ores of a thousand fold,
For the diamond bright and the yellow gold,
For the river boat and the flying train,
For the fleecy sail of the rolling main,
For the velvet sponge and the glossy pearl,
For the flag of peace which we now unfurl,—
From the Gulf and the Lakes to the Oceans’ banks,—
Lord God of Hosts, we give Thee thanks!

For the lowly cot and the mansion fair,
For the peace and plenty together share,
For the Hand which guides us from above,
For Thy tender mercies, abiding love,
For the blessed home with its children gay,
For returnings of Thanksgiving Day,
For the bearing toils and the sharing cares,
We lift up our hearts in our songs and our prayers,—
From the Gulf and the Lakes to the Oceans’ banks,—
Lord God of Hosts, we give Thee thanks!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Two DNA Circles or a Venn Diagram?

Ancestry updated their DNA interface by eliminating a large number of false positive matches, and adding a new feature called DNA Circles.

You can read more here and here on Ancestry’s Blog

With some initial reviews at
What are DNA circles? According to Ancestry:

Ancestry told me that I am part of two DNA Circles
One has 8 descendants of Israel Swayze, Jr
One has 5 descendants of Abigail (Coleman) Swayze

Ancestry calculates the likelihood of the members in the circle sharing the same shared ancestor: Strong, Good, Some, Emerging or Weak. In all of my cases, they're 'Emerging.' This suggests to me that we're all in these circles based mostly on our Family Trees, and less on our DNA, or else it would probably be stronger. However, their description of DNA circles above states all members must share some DNA with at least one other member of the circle. 

Israel and Abigail were husband and wife, and I am unaware of any other spouse for either of them.
All five matches in Abigail's circle are in Israel's circle.
According to our Online Trees, my most recent common ancestor for the three in Israel's Circle that aren't in Abigail's is actually Israel and Abigail's daughter, Johanna Swayze.

I have no clue why these two circles aren't identical - or how Ancestry would be able to distinguish whether particular DNA for anyone in these two circles was from Israel or Abigail, since we all, if the research that went into our online trees is accurate for all of us, are descendants of both of them -- unless Ancestry had information about DNA circles involving other Swayzes or Colemans. If this is the case, I would like to know this information.

Another conundrum is that a known second cousin, a descendant of Melvin Elijah Van Every through a different daughter, isn't in either of these circles, even though her tree is public. I wonder if this implies she doesn't share any of the Swayze-Coleman DNA. Perhaps she does have DNA from Israel and Abigail, but it's not the same DNA that the eight in these circles inherited.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Poetry Friday: Careers

Robert Graves is well-known for his poetry, close to 50 collections were published during his lifetime, and his novels, including, I Claudius and Claudius the God. 

The below poem appeared in his second collection of poetry, Fairies and Fusiliers. It's clear he had already realized it was okay to go into a career his father was good at. However, the poem illustrates quite well the desire in some families to excel at different pursuits.

Careers - Robert Graves
(from Fairies and Fusiliers, 1918.)

FATHER is quite the greatest poet
   That ever lived anywhere.
You say you’re going to write great music—
   I chose that first: it’s unfair.
Besides, now I can’t be the greatest painter and
      do Christ and angels, or lovely pears
      and apples and grapes on a green dish,
      or storms at sea, or anything lovely,
Because that’s been taken by Claire.

It’s stupid to be an engine-driver,
   And soldiers are horrible men.
I won’t be a tailor, I won’t be a sailor,
   And gardener’s taken by Ben.
It’s unfair if you say that you’ll write great
      music, you horrid, you unkind (I sim-
      ply loathe you, though you are my
      sister), you beast, cad, coward, cheat,
      bully, liar!
Well? Say what’s left for me then!

But we won’t go to your ugly music.
   (Listen!) Ben will garden and dig,
And Claire will finish her wondrous pictures
   All flaming and splendid and big.
And I’ll be a perfectly marvellous carpenter,
      and I’ll make cupboards and benches
      and tables and … and baths, and
      nice wooden boxes for studs and
And you’ll be jealous, you pig!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Finding Your Roots: Jewish DNA

In Ashkenazi Jewish DNA and the Potential to Piece Together Shattered Family Branches Cece Moore, the Genetic Genealogy consultant for the television series, Finding Your Roots, discusses the DNA results they left out of the episode on Dershowitz, King and Kushner.
The episode that aired last week with Carole King, Alan Dershowitz and Tony Kushner did not include any DNA research, but that doesn’t mean that I hesitated to delve into their genetic genealogy. In fact, a short segment featuring Alan is included in the special DNA-themed last episode scheduled to air on November 25.
The article shares the results for all three, and further discusses the difficulties in using Jewish DNA to find cousins. However, Moore indicates she was able to use the results to find cousins for at least two of the three. She also shares a heartwarming story of a family reunification.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Finding Your Roots: Sting, Deepak Chopra and Sally Fields

Last night I watched the latest episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. "The British Invasion."

Once again, several of the stories had similarities to my own family. Some of my British Denyer cousins migrated to Australia. I don't know their motivations. I have Loyalists in my tree who settled in Ontario, and while I don't believe any of my ancestors were on the Mayflower in 1620, I do have several who immigrated prior to 1650. (Betts, Chamberlain, Horton, Langton, Hallock, Swayze, Kinge, and possibly Van Every.) Unfortunately, I didn't find the Native American ancestry in my DNA that I expected to be there.

I was disappointed in Sally Field's lack of recognition when she heard her ancestor's name. It's been long enough since American History class for me, that I couldn't have provided too many details, but I instantly recognized the name, and the portrait shown was also familiar. I was worried for much of the episode that they wouldn't be able to provide Deepak Chopra with any ancestors he didn't know already. (Of course, if that were true, he wouldn't have been selected for an episode.) I was very impressed by Sting throughout his portions of the episode.

View the episode below. You can read the transcript here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day, 2014

Caption for photo to left: Human Statue of Liberty. 18,000 Officers and Men at Camp Dodge, Des Moines, Iowa. Colonel William Newman, Commanding. Colonel Rush S. Wells, Directing. Mole & Thomas, 09/1918. (source)

November 11 is Veterans Day in the US, and Remembrance Day in the UK, Canada, Australia, France and Belgium. In Poland it is celebrated as National Independence Day.

Below are the names of ancestors, and their siblings, who I know served their nation's military, either in a time of war, or in a time of peace. I am including my Loyalist ancestors; their nation was Great Britain. Canada became their country after the war. I am including my Confederate ancestors too, despite their desire to form a separate nation.

Fifth Great Grandfathers
McGregory Van Every (1723-1786) Loyalist/Butler's Rangers
Michael Showers (1733-1796) Loyalist/Butler's Rangers

Fourth Great Grandfather
David Van Every (1757-1820) Loyalist/Butler's Rangers (served briefly as a Patriot in the NY militia)

Fifth Great Uncle
Benjamin Van Every (1759-1795) Loyalist/Butler's Rangers (served briefly as a Patriot in the NY militia)
William Van Every (1765-1832) Loyalist/Butler's Rangers
Peter Van Every (1771-bef 1816) Loyalist/Fifth Lincoln and Second York regiments (War of 1812)

Fourth Great Uncles
David Van Every Jr. (1782-1847) Loyalist/Second York regiment (War of 1812)
Michael Van Every (1790-?) Loyalist/Fifth Lincoln and Second York regiments (War of 1812)

Second Great Grandfather
Ebenezer Denyer (1828-1872) (Mexican-American War) (Confederate Army)

Third Great Uncles
Samuel Jennings Denyer (1822-1861) (Gonzales County Minute Men - Republic of Texas -1841)
Samuel T Hartley (1830-1920) (Confederate Army)

Great Grandfather
Samuel Deutsch (1861-1938) (Franz Josef's Austro-Hungarian Army)

Melvin L Newmark (1912-1992), WWII
Martin J Deutsch (1907-1991), WWII

Great Uncles
Jerry Deutsch (1909-1950), WWII
Allen Deutsch (1914-1988), WWII
Harold Newmark (1915-2003), WWII
Mandell Newmark (1923-1945), WWII (DOI)
Bernard Feinstin (1913-1968), WWII
Seymour Feinstein (1917-1999), WWII

Stevan J Newmark (1942-1997) Army Reserves

Photographs of those who served in World War II

My grandfathers Melvin Newmark (1912-1992) and Martin Deutsch (1907-1991)

Allen Deutsch (1914-1988) and Maurice "Jerry" Deutsch (1909-1950).

Harold Newmark (1915-2003) and Mandell Newmark (1923-1945).

Bernard "Benny" Feinstein (1913-1968) and Seymour "Babe" Feinstein (1917-1999)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Amanuensis Monday: An Automobile Accident - 1922

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 and share their family history documents.Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.

This week I transcribe a newspaper article describing a 1922 automobile accident involving a distant cousin.

The Evening World (Thurs, Aug 10, 1922) page 3
Five Girls Hurt When Wild Auto Runs Into Them
Machine Had Sidewiped Another and Leaped to Newark Sidewalk

Five girls were hurt, one of them seriously, when two automobiles sideswiped, one of them crashing into a group of girls on their way to work at Monmouth Street and Waverly Avenue, Newark, to-day.

Miss Frieda Rasnick, sixteen, of No. 80 Monmouth Street, is in the Newark City Hospital suffering from cuts, shock and internal injuries. Two others are in the Beth Israel Hospital suffering from shock and body bruises. They are Miss Eva Fige, eighteen, of No. 32 Avon Place, and Miss Cecilia Cruvant, seventeen, of No. 28 Avon Place.

The girls were pinned against the brick wall of a factory building by the car of Dr. Harry Simon of No. 119 Spruce Street, when Simon lost control of the machine and drove onto the sidewalk. The other car was owned and operated by Abraham Karetnick of No. 17 Quitman Street, Newark.

The two other girls injured by Simon's car ran off and their names were not learned by the police.

Karetnick told police he was driving west on Waverly Avenue and Dr. Simon was going north on Monmouth Street when they sideswiped. Both men are being held pending the outcome of the Rasnick girl's injuries.

Miss Celia Eisenberger, seventeen, of 22 Hillside Place, Newark, walked into the Fourth Precinct Station House, cut and bruised and wearing a dress torn almost to shreds. She told the police she was one of the two girls who ran from the scene of the accident after she had been pineed against the wall by Dr. Simon's car.

Dr. Simon, under arrest at the station, dressed a number of cuts and bruises which the girl sustained in the accident. She said she had gone home, but had later decided to go to the police to report the accident. She returned home after her wounds were dressed.

The following day, the story appeared in the German-language New Yorker Volkszeitung Aug 11, 1922 edition, page 2.


1. I share the German language newspaper image without transcription, but it's clear they identify Cecelia Cruvant as age 14. While that seems young to be on her way to work, who's correct? According to her 1994 entry in the SSDI, Celia Kruvant Feld was born in 1905, so in 1922 she would have been 17. She was the second cousin of my paternal grandfather. It was my belief that her branch of the family consistently spelled their surname with an initial-K, but perhaps it wasn't so consistent. Or the newspaper got the spelling incorrect, which wasn't uncommon.

2. I like how the newspaper notes that the doctor involved in the accident helped dress the cuts and bruises of one of the girls at the police station. It should be noted that there were two drivers involved, and the newspaper account is careful not to place blame.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

SNGF: Ancestors with Facial Hair

Randy Seaver at Genea-musings suggested for last night's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun to share photographs of ancestors with facial hair.

(All photographs below can be clicked on to view larger.)

I'll start off with my own photograph. I'm not my own ancestor, but facial hair isn't a relic of the past in my family. I'm wearing a hat that was bought for our 20 month-old twins, so it's a little small.
My grandfather, Melvin Newmark (1912-1992) was well-known for his well-groomed mustache. This photograph was taken in 1971.
My great grandfather, Samuel Deutsch (1861-1938)  I believe this photograph was taken in Hungary prior to immigration in 1914.

My great grandfather, Melvin Van Every (1863-1929). This photograph was taken in 1900.
My great great grandfather, Moshe Leyb Cruvant (1857-1911). This photograph was likely taken within the last few years of his life.
My great great grandfather, Morris Blatt (1862-1926). I am unsure when the photograph was taken. Perhaps at one of his children's weddings, which would place it in 1912, or early 1920s.
An unknown Lichtmann or Deutsch relative, likely taken in Hungary.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Surnames Including Collateral Branches - Updated

Back in 2009 I exported a list of surnames from my database, and calculated the frequency of each using this Word Frequency Counter.

Here's an updated list of surnames with counts greater than 10

217 (C/K)R(U/OO/I)V(A/O)N(T/D) This surname has as many variant spellings as one can imagine phonetically. KRUVAND, KRUVANT, and CRUVANT are the three most common.

I've also started researching a second database since then. Here are the surnames from that database with counts greater than 5.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Poetry Friday: Heredity by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

It's been over a year since I decided to share a genealogically-related poem on a Friday.
Here's one by New Englander, Thomas Bailey Aldrich.

By Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907)

A SOLDIER of the Cromwell stamp,
With sword and psalm-book by his side,
At home alike in church and camp:
Austere he lived, and smileless died.

But she, a creature soft and fine—
From Spain, some say, some say from France;
Within her veins leapt blood like wine—
She led her Roundhead lord a dance!

In Grantham church they lie asleep;
Just where, the verger may not know.
Strange that two hundred years should keep
The old ancestral fires aglow!

In me these two have met again;
To each my nature owes a part:
To one, the cool and reasoning brain;
To one, the quick, unreasoning heart.

Author Image

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Responsibility: The Buck Stops Here

I am a professional writer. When I'm not researching family history, I write grant proposals for a local not-for-profit. There is a meme that has circulated around the internet for awhile. Perhaps you’ve heard it.
I am responsible for what I say. 
I am not responsible for what you understand.
That’s not a statement most professional writers would make. We are responsible for your understanding. If we are unable to convey our intent to you, we have failed in our job. Readers don’t want to pick up a book they can’t understand. And if you are employed as a writer of corporate press releases, software documentation, or grant proposals – being understood is extremely important. If you are writing your family history down, it is also important that those who read that history understand it.

Let’s look at an example with which many will be familiar, The Beatles’ song, “Let it Be.”

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

I suspect if you ask most listeners for the source the song is citing, the identity of “Mother Mary,” they would say, “Mary, the mother of Jesus.”

However, Paul McCartney claims the lyrics refer to his mother, Mary (Mohin) McCartney, who died when he was 14. Allegedly he dreamt of her while working on The White Album, which inspired the lyrics to this song.

Was he successful in conveying his intent? I’d suggest not.

(However, I’d also suggest his true intent with the song, as with most of his songs, was to record something his fans would enjoy. So while he might have been inspired to write the lyrics by a dream he had of his mother, he knew full well that his fans would interpret the song differently.)

Which of course is completely fine. The interpretation of a reader or listener to music, poetry, or fiction doesn’t have to match that of the author.

For authors of fiction or poetry, it isn’t mandatory that readers “get” the exact same meaning or intent. But it is still the author's responsibility that they are emotionally moved in some manner. It is their responsibility that their words have an impact. For fiction and poetry, there are no wrong interpretations.

For authors of press releases, software documentation, family histories, genealogy blogs, grant proposals, newspaper articles, or other works of non-fiction, it is our responsibility that readers interpret what we say the way we intended. For non-fiction, there are wrong interpretations.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Finding Your Roots: Kushner, King, and Dershowitz

My wife and I sat down last night to watch Tuesday night’s episode of Finding Your Roots. I prefer the series to Who Do You Think You Are?
  1. I like how there is no pretending that the celebrity is conducting the research. The show is presented realistically, telling the viewer that a staff of genealogists has conducted research, and the information is presented to the guest stars in a “This Is Your Ancestry” format.
  2. There is a greater diversity of guests.
  3. The show appears to be less of an advertisement for
In last night’s episode, we even got to see a database hosted by JewishGen appear on the screen. The website wasn’t mentioned on the show, but the database JRI-Poland was clearly visible, and anyone interested could easily find it online.

Last night’s episode was especially moving for me. The stories of Carole King, Alan Dershowitz, and Tony Kushner felt very familiar. Not because I’m related to them, or because I knew about their genealogies. I’m not, and I didn’t. But their stories are very similar to the stories of my ancestors. During the Holocaust, instead of deaths to firing squads, many of my Lithuanian cousins faced townspeople with axes. Most of my 19th century immigrant ancestors crossed the ocean in the steerage section, and originally settled in depressed slums. My maternal second great grandfather would have likely been sent back to Transylvania if he hadn’t had cousins sign affidavits. And just as Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was able to surprise one of the guests by tracing one branch of their family to the late 1790s, a cousin of mine has been able to research one of our branches (the Cruvants) back to the late 1790s. Many of the European records have been destroyed, but not all of them.

Some may have noticed one aspect of most episodes was missing. Professor Gates didn't discuss DNA testing results with any of the three guests. My guess is that the tests were done, but for all three of them, the results were the same: 100% (or close) Ashkenazic Jewish. The primary reason genealogists do DNA testing is to find cousins to help them in their research. The primary interest for most of the guests on these shows is their ethnic breakdown. For many of Jewish descent, the ethnicity results yield no new information.

You can view the full episode here or watch it below.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sixth Annual Genealogy Poetry Challenge - Scotland

Bill West of West In New England is hosting The Sixth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge
1. Find a poem by a local poet, famous or obscure, from the region one of your ancestors lived in. It can be about an historical event, a legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river)or a local animal. It can even be a poem you or one of your ancestors have written! Or if you prefer, post the lyrics of a song or a link to a video of someone performing the song. 

2. Post the poem or song to your blog (remembering to cite the source where you found it.). If you wish to enter an older post, you may as long as long as it has not appeared here in an earlier Poetry Challenge. 

3.Tell us how the subject of the poem or song relates to your ancestor's home or life, or the area of the country where they lived.

To celebrate my wife’s Wallace roots, I thought I would share some poetry from Scotland. I traveled to the Scottish Poetry Library.

A Red, Red Rose – Robert Burns (1759-1796)

O my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair are thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my Dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve!
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

And here’s The Rowan Tree, by Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne (1766-1845) - sung by Kenneth McKellar (1927-2010)

Entries from past years:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Amanuensis Monday: Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Cousin

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 and share their family history documents.Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.


This week I transcribe a few paragraphs from a collection of essays written by well-known author, Tom Wolfe. In his first published collection of essays, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965), he mentions a cousin directly. The essay, "Las Vegas (What?) Las Vegas (Can't hear you! Too noisy) Las Vegas!!!" was originally published in Esquire Magazine.

The wheeps, beeps, freeps, electronic lulus, Boomerang Modern and Flash Gordon sunbursts soar on through the night over the billowing hernia-hernia sounds and the old babes at the slots—until it is 7:30 A.M. and I am watching five men at a green-topped card table playing poker. They are sliding their Beebrand cards into their hands and squinting at the pips with a set to the lips like Conrad Veidt in a tunic collar studying a code message from S.S. headquarters. Big Sid Wyman, the old Big-Time gambler from St. Louis, is there, with his eyes looking like two poached eggs engraved with a road map of West Virginia after all night at the poker table… As everyone there knows, or believes, these fabulous men are playing for table stakes of fifteen or twenty thousand dollars. One hundred dollars rides on a chip. Mandibles gape at the progress of the battle. And now Sid Wyman, who is also a vice-president of the Dunes, is at a small escritoire just inside the golden fence signing a stack of vouchers for such sums as $4500, all printed in the heavy Mondrianesque digits of a Burroughs business check-making machine. It is as if America’s guys-and-dolls gamblers have somehow been tapped upon the shoulders, knighted, initiated into a new aristocracy.

-- The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, Tom Wolfe, 1965, pp 14-15.


1) Sid Wyman (1910-1978) was the first cousin of my paternal grandmother, Belle Feinstein. Several years ago I transcribed a newspaper article about him that I later took down for copyright concerns. However, these short quotes from Tom Wolfe's essay surely fall completely within fair use guidelines.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Comparing Ethnic Percentages for Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I transferred my raw DNA from Ancestry to FamilyTreeDNA.

I activated my account last Sunday - a process which took two business days. I didn't have access to any functions additional to what I received from the free transfer until Tuesday. This bothered me a little, since I felt I should at least be able to instantly email the 20 free matches they had provided me.

Anyway, once the account was activated, I was able to view FamilyTreeDNA's MyOrigins page, and see how their ethnic breakdown of my DNA compared to Ancestry's. Overall, they're very similar. Which is good to see. Though there are some differences.

FamilyTreeDNA's chart is on the left, Ancestry's is on the right.

FamilyTreeDNA tags a slightly smaller percentage of my European DNA as Jewish. However, when I add Jewish Diaspora + Eastern Europe + Eastern Middle East, I get exactly 75%, corresponding well to what I know of my three Jewish grandparents. On Ancestry, adding European Jewish + Europe East + Caucasus, I got 74%. [Ancestry's definition of 'Caucasus' includes Romania in addition to the Middle East as a possible source of the DNA. FamilyTreeDNA doesn't mention this, but I suspect my Transylvanian ancestry may be responsible, though ultimately, most of my Jewish ancestry should track back to the Middle East.]

The biggest difference might be FamilyTreeDNA says I have 10% Southern Europe DNA - while Ancestry suggested only 2% for Italy/Greece, and less than 1% for the Iberian Peninsula. I haven't traced any of my ancestry back yet to Southern Europe.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A "True Certification of Facts"

A "True Certification of Facts" may not always be certifying what you think.

This is a current Missouri Birth Certification form, with all identifying information removed.
(And in gray scale to prevent it from being used for illegitimate purposes.)

This is actually an amended certificate, but there is no way to tell that, is there?

[I have removed nothing except the names, dates, ages, gender, locations and state file number.]

The individual was born in the spring of 2013. The amending took place in October of 2014. The Date Filed still reflects the original filing date of the original certificate. The date at the bottom of the form is just the date the certified document was requested at the local Vital Records office.

The state registrar signed that this is a "true certification of name and birth facts as recorded...." However, the name of the child, the name and age of the mother, and the name and age of the father are all different from the original certificate.

Legally, I agree with the statement. The Mother and Father on the form are now (as of October 2nd, the date their adoption was legally finalized) the mother and father. The words 'Natural' or 'Birth' are not used to describe "Mother" and "Father" on the form.

Decades from now, if a genealogy researcher obtained this certificate, without any other knowledge, they would likely make that assumption, wouldn't they? They'd be wrong.

In this case, the individual (and his brother) are going to grow up knowing that they are adopted. But if the parents chose not to tell them, the birth certificate would in no way give it away.

Keep this in mind when looking at documents.
Know the difference between what is stated, and what you only assume is stated.