28 February 2007


Mike Nifong is the name of the DA who started the Duke lacrosse case. I have a lot of questions about the whole affair, but I will stick to the one that's been bothering me for a while:

What kind of name is Nifong???

I poked around in some records and found that the Nifongs have been in North Carolina for a long time. George Nifong, the DA's 4th great-grandfather, is on the 1790 census in Rowan County. George's father Balthasar came to Pennsylvania from Germany in 1748 with the last name Neufang. The name was quickly corrupted to Nifong (North Carolina branch) or Knifong (Missouri branch).

So you can see that the DA's name has been around for quite some time and is not just recently trumped up.

22 February 2007


When Roger and I watch a movie, we always watch the credits at the end. All those names! We enjoy reading and wondering about the names as they scroll by. Not just the stars, but all those behind-the-scenes name that most folks don't see because they are filing out of the theater.

Sometimes we wonder where a name came from. Like, what kind of a name is Garant? It appears in the credits of Night at the Museum. (Pierre Garand, Rouen to Quebec 1665) What about the name Winick in Charlotte's Web? (Abraham Winnik, Russia to New York 1906)

Now and then we recognize a nicely corrupted Swiss name like Niswanger or Lookabill. Or we spot a probable cousin named Robidou or Dutcher.

Some of the names just have to be read aloud. Go ahead, nobody's listening:

Samrod Shenassa
Hazel Catmull
Sergio Mimica-Gezzan
B. Tennyson Sebastian III
Mark 'Guns' Navarette

Speaking of movies, you might want to rent Akeelah and the Bee. If you pay attention, you will see Roger and me sitting right behind Angela Bassett in the auditorium at USC. Besides being able to see us on the big screen, you will probably enjoy the movie.

Our names, however, do not appear in the credits.

18 February 2007

Death Spiral

I've been working with death records a lot lately but the rules various jurisdictions set up can be really frustrating and nonsensical. They are just not set up to deal with genealogists. I'm telling you, without Joe Beine's always up-to-date death indexes site, I could not even find half the places that issue death certificates.

Some places have rules based on how long its been since the person died. In Texas, if they've been less than 75 years, they're not dead enough. Why does it matter how long the guy's been dead? He's dead.

In New York, to get someone's death certificate you need to provide "an original, notarized letter signed by that person authorizing release of their certificate to you."

Utah, bless them, puts the actual certificates on line. Now that's a state that knows genealogy!

California has always allowed anyone to order a death record. But as part of recent "statewide efforts to reduce identity theft," they now stamp it as Non-certified. Can someone please explain to me how someone would use a death certificate to steal someone's identity???

23 January 2007

The Only Things About Me You Didn't Know

There is a rumor that there are some things about a person that cannot be found on the Internet. To rectify that, some bloggers have called on other bloggers to reveal facts about themselves. I've been tagged by eminent genblogger Randy, and yes, I'll come out to play:

1. I have an MS in psychology and was a psychotherapist for 10 years. That was after I was a systems analyst for 10 years and before I was a technical writer for 10 years. I have about 6 years left on my current career.

2. I hate cilantro, though if you have sat near me in a Mexican restaurant you already know that.

3. I met my husband on a BBS called The Hot Line.

4. I have a titanium rod in my right leg. No, it does not set off alarms in airports.

5. My TV debut was on Lloyd Thaxton's teenage dance show on KCOP.

Because of the chain-letter aspect of this tagging thing, I'll only tag Lloyd Thaxton even though I never read his blog and it is not about genealogy. The rest of you can just send your $5 to me and we'll call it a day.

18 January 2007

Person of the Year

Did you see me on the cover of Time a few weeks ago? Well, it was not really me; it was all you other bloggers, YouTubers, and Wikipedians, too.

Time's Person of the Year is usually some powerful person we've all heard of who has shaped our world in some way. I like that they've chosen Every Man this year - it reminds me of my family tree. None of my known ancestors were anything but bit players whose exits and entrances went largely unnoticed by the world, but who certainly shaped my world.

Time says that now, thanks to the Internet, "millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity" have been "backhauled into the global intellectual economy." In other words, we all get to appear on the world stage and we all get speaking parts!

Last summer, the Forward got people curious when they ran an article about the possible Jewish ancestry of then-Senator George Allen of Virginia. They noted that Wikipedia "takes Allen’s mother’s Judaism as a given, saying that 'Henrietta Lumbroso was a Jewish immigrant of Tunisian/Italian/French background.'” The Forward article led to a reporter's question and Allen's head-scratching response.

Could the genealogist who added Allen's connection to the august Sephardic Lumbroso family into Wikipedia have played a role in Allen's apparent implosion, his not getting re-elected, and the change of leadership of the Senate? That's what Time's choice for Person of the Year is all about. Anybody, even obscure genealogists, can now be heard and make a difference.

In that case, my face on the cover is not unwarranted.

To find the voices of genealogists on the Web, check out Chris Dunham's Genealogy Blog Finder with its neat-and-tidy, catogorized layout.

12 January 2007

Hello, My Name Is Sharon and I'm a Genealogist.

Yesterday morning while eating breakfast, I read that Yvonne De Carlo had died. Some folks wondered if De Carlo was really her mother's maiden name of if Yvonne really had Italian ancestry. I spent the rest of the morning searching for records on the Internet.

I looked at census, marriage, death, birth, and divorce records for California, British Columbia, and Canada as a whole. I found the death of Yvonne's mother Marie Middleton, which gave her maiden name (De Carlo) plus the maiden name of her mother (Purvis). I found marriages and deaths of people named De Carlo in Vancouver that could have been Marie De Carlo's siblings (John and Constance) and parents (Margaret and Michael). I found nothing in Canadian census records, which only go to 1911.

I also found nothing on Yvonne's father, a man named Middleton, at all. British Columbia marriage records did not have the marriage, but they may have married elsewhere and not all provinces (or states) are indexed, so I did not even know his first name.

Then I made the bed and ate lunch.

In the afternoon, I searched immigration records for American and Canadian ports. I found records for John Purves De Carlo, a merchant sailor based in Vancouver, who was the right age to be the brother of Marie De Carlo, Yvonne's mother, and his middle name matched her mother's maiden name. He said he was born in France.

I found a record of Margaret De Carlo entering the US in 1923 for a visit. She was born in Scotland and had arrived in Quebec in 1902 or 1912 on the Ionian.

I looked at census, marriage, and birth records for Scotland -- which I found little of -- and England, where I found a Margaret Purves the right age born in Scotland, but nothing to tie her to Yvonne.

I did a bit of grocery shopping, ran a couple errands, and made dinner.

After dinner, I returned to the passenger lists for Canada. They are not indexed, but are available to be read online. In just a few hours I found the family. Father Michael, mother Margaret, children Concetta, Mary, and John. All the right ages. The whole family was listed as Italian and Presbyterian and on their way to Vancouver.

A few anomolies, but I went to bed a tired and satisfied genealogist.

This morning, I walked to the library and checked out Yvonne, an Autobiography. In it, Yvonne De Carlo talks about her grandparents Michael and Margaret De Carlo. Michael, she says, was from Sicily. He had moved to France when he was young. There he met and married the Presbyterian Scotswoman, Margaret Purvis. Their children were born in France and they emigrated to Canada in 1912. She talks in the book about her merchant sailor uncle John, her aunt Connie, and her mother's marriage to William Middleton in Alberta.

Aren't books amazing! They're the latest and greatest technology and maybe someday they could replace the Internet.