29 July 2008

Reaching Olympic Heights

Gymnast twins Paul and Morgan Hamm are almost 5’6”. Taylor Phinney, who will be competing in cycling in Beijing, is 6’4”. They are descended from Wisconsin brothers Elbert and Russell Carpenter and are 3rd cousins, once removed.

As found on ancestry.com, the 1917 WWI draft registration for Elbert Carpenter, the Hamm ancestor, says he is of “medium” height. His brother Russell’s registration card says his height is “tall.”

Who says height isn’t inherited?

20 July 2008

George Carlin Goes Upstairs

George Carlin died last month. He is the comedian with the “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.”

For those of you who don’t know what the words are, they are: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #7. (Not only can’t you say them on television, you can’t write them in a blog your mother reads.)

Another well-known George Carlin quote is, “My grandfather would say: 'I'm going upstairs to #3 your grandmother.' He was an honest man, and he wasn't going to bull-#1 a four-year-old.”

I don’t believe he heard his grandfather say any such thing! Here’s why:

George’s parents, Patrick Carlin and Mary Bearey, married in Manhattan on Nov 26, 1930. Mary’s parents were Dennis and Mary Bearey. Grandpa Bearey died when George Carlin was 2 months old. Grandma Bearey had died a couple years before George was born.

Mary left her husband when George was a wee lad so I doubt if they hung around with the paternal grandparents. Besides, the father of the man I think is George’s father was born in 1850. When George was 4, this man would have been 91. While I am sure as an Irish father of 10 he could still #3 his wife, climbing the stairs might have been too difficult.

12 July 2008

History Detectives

History Detectives is a good term to describe genealogists but it’s also the name of a show on PBS. It’s kind of like Antiques Roadshow in that they take an item and tell its history. Much more in depth than the Roadshow; they solve three cases per show. I like how they show that small things can be part of a bigger theme.

They never solve a case in a direct way, however. I think it’s part of their educational aim, telling us the history of the Wild West or a timeline of board-game development to get to the answer. Although they may want me to learn something about history – which I often do – it’s their methodology that I watch it for.

Often times the processes used in genealogy apply to a case. A recent episode I saw showed them solving all three cases by using the Internet to search for records. They didn’t make it obvious but to someone who spends hours a day there, I easily recognized Ancestry.com. I thought perhaps Ancestry.com had sponsored the show, but saw no evidence of it in the credits. I guess it just happens. Kind of like my blogging about PBS shows.

If you like these type of hunts, check out Megan Smolenyak’s latest quest. She is a pro at solving history mysteries and her solutions are always direct and elegant.

08 July 2008

Fiddling Around at the Roadshow

A recent Antiques Roadshow segment featured an evaluation of a violin by M. Nebel, dated 1921. The appraiser, Clare Givens, stated that “… the books say he didn't come to the United States till 1927, but this violin is a clear indication that the book was wrong.”

You can see the segment at the Antiques Roadshow website on PBS.org.

(I don’t understand how other people can watch a piece like that and not scream at the TV, “Well, CHECK IT OUT, you dodos!” It’s like this compulsion that takes over. I can hardly sit and watch the rest of the show without dashing off to the computer. Anyone else have this affliction?)

Here is what I find when I finally check it out. In the 1930 census, where Martin lived in Philadelphia in the same household as his brother Hans, he said he first came to this country in 1923.

The April 27, 1923 passenger list of the SS Hannover includes Martin Nebel, violin maker aged 26, born in Mittenwald, joining his uncle Martin Nebel in New Jersey. He states that he has never been in the US before.

He appears to have traveled back to Germany in 1927, 1929, and 1932. Each time he returned he was asked if he had been in the US before. Each time he said he had first arrived in 1923.

Clare Givens was pleased when she heard about the records. She told me she had thought the label said 1924 but the producers (dodos!) convinced her it said 1921.

I love Antiques Roadshow, the historical insights I gain from it, and the curiosity it triggers. It does make my husband nervous to watch it with me, though, because of my occasional outbursts. But no such outbursts when he appeared with his Disneyland ticket book:

06 July 2008

Jesse Helms – A Fatal Case of Pedigree Collapse?

Jesse Helms died recently of “natural causes” and I’m thinking maybe it was because his pedigree finally collapsed completely. A Helms through and through, he had a family tree that was more like a family shrub.

Pedigree collapse is what happens when cousins marry. Their kids get less ancestors because the cousins share the same grandparents. If the parents were not related, the kids would have 4 sets of great-grandparents. But if the parents are first cousins, one couple takes up two slots and the kids have just 3 sets of g-grandparents.

Same thing happens when 3rd cousins marry. They share the same g-g-grandparents, so those branches on the high end of their kids’ family tree get pruned. The kids get 15 pairs of g-g-g-grandparents instead of 16. No big deal, happens to all of us sooner or later. Demographers say that the family tree of a typical English child born in 1947 would have 5% of the ancestor slots filled by duplicates in the generation living in 1492.

In the case of Jesse Helms, his paternal grandfather Joseph Helms had just 12 sets of g-g-g-grandparents instead of 16. Five of Joseph’s 8 great-grandparents were grandchildren of John Isaac Helms and Ann Tilghman who were born in the 1690s.

To make it less abstract, imagine that your parents were first cousins who married each other and had you and your brother. Your brother married a woman from out of town but you married a child of one of your parents’ other first cousins. Your son and your brother’s daughter married and had a child. This describes Jesse Helms’ Grandpa Joseph.

But wait, there’s more. Grandpa Joseph married a cousin who had one quarter of her g-g-grandparents slots filled by grandchildren of John Isaac Helms and his wife Ann. Grandpa Joseph and his wife were the parents of “Big Jesse” Helms, the father of the recently departed Jesse Helms.

Oh, and by the way, the late senator's mother was Ethel Helms, another descendant of John Isaac Helms and his wife Ann.

Jesse Helms’ peculiar ancestry was explored by John Anderson Brayton in the December 1991 NEHGS NEXUS. You can read more on the fascinating topic of pedigree collapse [ overview ] [ in-depth] or analyze Jesse Helms’ pedigree yourself.

04 July 2008

BackTrack Back

I recently attended the SCGS Jamboree and had a blast. One of the highlights was the blogger summit where I got to meet a bunch of great bloggers. I had met none of them in person before but I had read and enjoyed all their blogs. The summit made me nostalgic for my own blog and got me thinking I might see if I could revive it.

So why did I stop? One was technical. Some kind of confusion about my account and identity that I just got tired of trying to figure out. I'm still not sure it's cleared up but I seem to be able to post this. Another reason was that I got busy. One of the motives for this blog's existence was to give me an outlet for my genealogy addiction. Some time before my last post on this blog, I found another way to channel my obsession. No predictions on how I'll deal with this in the future, but I’m here for now.

Back at the SCGS conference, I had a brief encounter that made me smile. While waiting for the start of the blogger summit, I went over to Randy Seaver’s wife (easily identified in her "Geneaholic's Widow" T-shirt) to introduce myself and make small-talk. Randy is, of course, the geneaholic behind Genea-Musings and he was one of the panelists we were there to hear. Linda and I chatted a bit about our families and then she asked me, "So how do you know Randy?" Made me think she might not fully appreciate the impact of blogging and why all those people were in the room.