17 March 2006

Waiting for the Phone to Ring

Madonna was fascinated to find that she is related to both Celine Dion and the former Camilla Parker-Bowles. She was so delighted that she gave the Duchess a call to let her in on the secret. Madonna's genealogist believes that Madonna, Celine, and Camilla are related because of their "unusual French-Canadian ancestry."

Madonna is, in fact, related to a bazillion people, including Robert Goulet, Jack Kerouac, all five of the Dionne Quintuplets, and -- me!

Let's look at the numbers. Zacharie Cloutier and Jean Guyon, through whom Madonna claims relationship to Camilla and Celine, are two of her 9th great-grandfathers. By 1800, Zacharie Cloutier had 10,850 married descendants; Jean Guyon had 9,674.

Play those numbers out over another 200 years and that means Madonna has a ton of relatives -- just from those two ancestors! Now add into the equation the fact that half of Madonna's lineage is French-Canadian. She would have had 512 French or French-Canadian 9th great-grandfathers! Even accounting for pedigree collapse, that would make her related to virtually everyone with early French-Canadian ancestry.

As another cousin, Dick Eastman, says, "I have never met a French-Canadian that I wasn't related to!"

Jean-Fran├žois Loiseau has great trees showing dozens of the French ancestors of Madonna, Celine, and Camilla.

(Thanks to genealogyblog for tip.)

14 March 2006

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

Maureen Stapleton died yesterday at age 80. In the 1930 census (line 27) she was a 4-year-old living in Troy, NY. Her father was a merchant in a candy store -- every child's dream, no doubt. But look where her mother worked. Who wouldn't want samples from there!!

11 March 2006

Wall Street Journal Not Your Best Source for Genealogy

Today's edition of the Wall Street Journal had an article on Wrigley gum and how the founder of the company ran away from home at age 11 to live on the streets of New York and pull himself up by his own bootstraps. Not true, of course. Here is William Wrigley, Jr. living at home at age 18 and working as a salesman. According to the company, Wrigley is selling his father's soap.

I wonder if the WSJ fails to check out its other stories. Maybe just not those of people who (seemingly) overcome great odds to fulfill the American dream.

Last year there was a great multi-part series in the Journal on upward mobility in the U.S. and the lack thereof in recent times. It gave the example of a James Roberts who went from being the son of a day laborer in western New York in 1850 to being a bookkeeper in New York City 30 years later. Never letting an opportunity to check it out go by, I found that the bookkeeper was in fact the son of a wealthy landowner in Westchester County, NY. (To be fair, the professor who supplied the example has compiled excellent data on 19th century mobility. Yes, Dr. Ferrie, I checked out your data.)

06 March 2006

Prosper and Live Long

They say that Oscar winners live longer than losers. Doesn't seem like winning an Oscar would give much of an evolutionary edge, especially considering the bazillions of actors who don't even get nominated. But that's what the numbers say.

Is this longevity edge evident in other fields as well? I had to check it out, of course.

Here is what the numbers say for winning a Nobel Prize:

There were 235 Americans nominated for the Nobel prize in medicine between 1901 and 1949. Twenty-five won. The average age at death for the winners was 81. Average age at death for the losers was 77.

Now I know what you're thinking. These were old geezers when they got nominated and they probably didn't live long enough to get an award. After all, the average time between being nominated and being awarded a prize was 11 years. So I took off the loser list those who died within 11 years of being nominated. The average age for the losers then came to 79.

For the Nobel Peace Prize, there were 68 American nominees from 1901 to 1951. A dozen won. Those winners died at an average age of 80. The losers died at 76. Removing those who died within 5 years of being nominated (mean interval for peace prize) the average age at death for the losers was 62.

What do these results mean? Is this a statistically valid study? Is this true across all disciplines? I have no idea: I am a genealogist, not a statistician. But for my next project, I will examine the longevity of prize-winning quilters at the Ohio State Fair.