Friday, March 30, 2012

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Helen Hunt

Well, my schedule has obviously gone haywire.  Here I am posting about Helen Hunt after Rita Wilson has aired.  But I'm working on catching up!  I knew even less about Helen Hunt before this episode of Who Do You Think You Are? than I had about Kim Cattrall (in fact, I get Helen Hunt and Linda Hunt's names confused).  The introduction was a short overview of her work, including the factoid that she is only the second woman to have won an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Golden Globe award in the same year.  She had heard about her mother's family, but didn't know very much about her father's side.  His mother had died young, when he was only 5.  Hunt wanted to find out about her father's European Jewish family for her daughter, so that she could know where she was from.

Hunt went to visit her father, Gordon Hunt, who showed her photos of his mother with his grandmother, Florence Roberts.  He knew that the family name had originally been Rothenberg but didn't know when it had been changed.  (My great-grandfather changed his name but our family also kept the memory of what the original name was.  Not everyone is so lucky.)  Gordon Hunt had never known his grandfather but knew that he immigrated from Germany to New York, that the family eventually moved to Pasadena, California, and that his grandmother used to live in the Green Hotel.  Hunt wondered where the money had come from that allowed her to live in a hotel.  She drove to Pasadena to start her research.

At the Hotel Green, Hunt met with Marc Dollinger, a professor of Jewish studies at California State University at San Francisco.  Hunt said that she had asked Dollinger to do the research.  This refreshing approach was maintained throughout the episode; Hunt did not pretend to have done any of the work herself.  She asked Dollinger how Helen Roberts could afford to live in a hotel.  Unrefreshingly, Dollinger said they should search in the 1900 census on  It was nice, however, to see him drill down specifically to the 1900 census database, as opposed to searching from the home page.  When you know what information you are looking for, it is far more effective to search in that specific database.

Florence Rothenberg was found with her husband Gustav, four children (including Gordon's mother, Helen, as a 1-year-old), and four servants.  They were living in New York City.  The servants obviously suggest that the family had money.  Though it was not shown on television, the census also indicates that Rothenberg owned his house free and clear.  In what is probably a coincidence, the last name of the family's next-door neighbors was Roberts.

Dollinger showed Hunt a copy of Gustav Rothenberg's death certificate.  He died December 15, 1900 in New York.  Dollinger then had Hunt search in the 1910 census for Florence.  That year she was living in Pasadena, California.  All four children were in the household, but there were no servants.  Dollinger said he didn't know why the family had moved to Pasadena but commented that between 1900-1950 the Jewish population in the Los Angeles area increaed 800%.

Dollinger next asked Hunt to search for Florence in Pasadena in the 1920 census (and mentioned again).  He had to restrict the search to Pasadena because eleven other Florence Rothenbergs are in other locations; no result was found for Pasadena.  Then he had Hunt look for Florence Roberts, and there she was.  For some reason they showed the search page twice while looking for her under Roberts.  Florence still had two children at home and had a servant again.

There was some discussion of why Florence would have changed her name.  Dollinger talked about how Jewish refugees coming to the United States were fleeing starvation, persecution, and other ills and how quotas were established in 1921 to stem the number of immigrants.  He said that Jews already in the U.S. suddenly began to face discrimination as an indirect result of the quotas and that it might have been good not to have a Jewish-sounding name.  That's all well and good, but Florence had already changed her name by 1920, so his short history lesson doesn't explain her motives.  What occurred to me is that she might have changed it due to anti-German sentiment during World War I, as many other people did.

After all the talk about Hotel Green, it was surprising that they did not show Florence in the 1930 census, because at that point she was actually living in the hotel.  Instead the next document was Florence's death certificate (she died September 1, 1949), which showed her father as William Scholle.  They didn't talk about her mother, giving us a strong clue that her father's line was going to be pursued next.

We were then shown a copy of an 1845 ship manifest for travel from Bavaria to New York City with Wolf Scholy on it.  Dollinger mentioned that Wolf is a common German name and glossed over the different name by saying that William is a more "American" name.  I've heard that some people were confused by this quick treatment of the subject and didn't understand how Wolf and William could be the same person.

Many immigrants to the U.S. had names that were traditional and even common in their native countries but that stood out when they arrived here.  Most people wanted to assimilate, find work, and create new lives.  If your name was something like Joyne Gorodetsky it might be hard to get a job, but rename yourself Joe Gordon and you could fit in better.  While there were (and are) no "rules" on what to change your name to, it was very common to see someone keep the same first initial.  Changing Wolf to William was also very commonly seen.  As usual, we weren't shown all of the research, but it is quite reasonable to believe that links were found to connect Wolf Scholy to William Scholle.

On the 1845 manifest Wolf was listed as a farmer.  Dollinger explained that an economic depression was going on in Europe at that time and that many people were moving to cities and overseas.  By 1853 William appeared to be in a clothing business with his brother Abraham.  A New York City business directory listed the two men in the same business, Abraham at 174 Broadway and William in San Francisco, California.  Dollinger elaborated that 1848-1850 was a fortuitous time because of the discovery of gold in California.  William had come out during the Gold Rush and found that his language and business skills were useful and profitable.

Hunt said she didn't know anything about the Gold Rush (she's almost 49 years old; didn't they teach that in schools back then?!).  She decided to drive to San Francisco to learn more.  They showed her heading out and driving a vehicle, but when they showed her going over the Bay Bridge she was a passenger, which was an odd non sequitur.  At the San Francisco Public Library (I think they were in the San Francisco History Center on the sixth floor) she met with Stephen Aron, a professor history of the American West at UCLA.  (Was anyone else amused by the fact that the San Francisco professor was filmed in Los Angeles, while the Los Angeles professor was in San Francisco?)  She told Aron flat out, "I know nothing about the Gold Rush."  Aron had found William "Schele" in the 1852 California census (which they had to show on paper, because Ancestry doesn't have the entire census available yet).  He talked about how the population in San Francisco had exploded after the discovery of gold and that merchants and businesses that supplied clothing and other items to the miners were the ones really making money.  He also mentioned that crime was rampant in San Francisco but didn't tie the comment to anything else.

Next we saw a clipping from an 1855 newspaper (which I didn't see the name of) with the title "Shipment of Treasures."  It listed the Scholle Bros. with a large amount that Aron said would be equivalent to about a quarter of a million dollars today.  Obviously the Scholle Brothers were doing well in business.  (I couldn't find the exact article used on the program, but the one to the left, from the Sacramento Daily Union of February 7, 1856, is similar.  I found it on the California Digital Newspaper Collection site, which I'm sure is where the program's researchers found it also.  It is not available on Ancestry.)  Aron then produced an 1858 city directory page showing Jacob and William Scholle as manufacturers and importers, with an address of 4 Custom House in Sacramento.

The next document was the 1870 census with William and Rosa Scholle.  Their daughter Florence was there, as were three "domestic servants."  Aron showed photos of William, Rosa, and Florence with an unnamed sister but did not say where the photos were from.  The last item he showed Hunt was an original San Francisco newspaper from November 28, 1874 with an article about "Solid Men" who were worth more than $1 million.  Among the men were Jacob and William Scholle.  In the 20+ years since they had immigrated to the U.S. they had gone from farmers to millionaires.

Hunt went from the library to the old San Francisco Mint to speak with Frances Dinkelspiel, author of the book Towers of Gold (the full title is Towers of Gold:  How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, which shows more than a little bias on the part of Dinkelspiel and doesn't give enough credit to the people who worked with him).  Dinkelspiel showed Hunt a New York Times article about when the Nevada Bank was to be sold.  It mentioned Levi Strauss, the Scholle brothers, and Isaias Hellman as investors.  Dinkelspiel revealed that Hellman was her great-great-grandfather, as Scholle was Hunt's great-great-grandfather, so the two women share a connection that dates back four generations.  Dinkelspiel showed a second Times article which discussed the merger of Wells Fargo and Nevada Bank, a transaction engineered by Hellman.  Investors included the Lehman brothers and again the Scholles.  These men and other Bavarian Jewish immigrants came to the United States, established themselves strongly in business, and prospered.  They truly were living the American dream.

That segment ended the research into Hunt's Jewish ancestry.  From San Francisco she traveled to Portland, Maine to learn about her great-great-grandfather George Hunt I, a businessman who traded in goods.  Hunt said she had asked Herb Adams, a local historian (and former Maine state representative), to do the research for her.  He found that George had imported sugar from the Caribbean and exported wood.  He incorporated his company in 1863.  Adams also found George's obituary, which stated that he left a widow and two sons.  The emphasis of the research results then quickly shifted from George to his widow, Augusta Barstow Hunt.

Augusta was an educated woman who was extremely active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).  (I learned that the temperance movement started in Portland.)  Adams explained that sugar was used to make rum and booze in general, but that George's business probably did not process sugar for making liquor.  He also talked about the Maine liquor law of 1851, which prohibited the manufacture and sale of liquor.  Hunt was a little uncomfortable with the antialcohol discussion and joked that it "makes me want to go have something warm with rum in it."  (Yum!)

Hunt went to the Neal Dow House (Neal Dow sponsored the 1851 liquor law), now the home of the Maine chapter of the WCTU, where she met with Carol Mattingly, listed as a temperance historian on screen but as an English professor at the University of Louisville Web site.  She talked about how the temperance movement was a reaction to rampant alcohol abuse.  Women rallied to the cause because of abuse.  Married women had few legal rights and little recourse, so they banded together for social change.  At the eleventh annual WCTU convention Augusta gave the opening address.  Mattingly showed Hunt a cabinet card photo of Augusta, along with photos of her children.  Hunt recalled that her grandmother had been killed by a drunk driver.  This was alluded to in the beginning of the episode and I admit that I missed the hint it gave of what was to come.  Hunt conceded that she had had a negative reaction to the topic of temperance but that it was an important social issue.  She wondered how long Augusta had lived and whether she would be able to find out about her death.

The final research segment took Hunt to the Maine Historical Society, where she spoke with Shannon M. Risk, an associate professor of history at Niagara University.  Again Hunt did not pretend to be doing the research but said "she would do research for me."  Risk had found a short biography of Augusta which stated that she was president of the WCTU chapter for fifteen years.  The WCTU had brought about daycare, kindergartens, women on school boards, and social activism.

The women's rights movement grew out of the temperance movement.  In 1917 Augusta and other women gathered signatures for a proposal for women's voting rights in Maine.  The proposal was voted down two to one.  Augusta did live long enough to see the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote throughout the country, pass in 1920.  Risk produced a 1920 voter register and suggested Hunt look through it for Augusta.  Then they tried to build some drama -- Hunt said, "I hope she's in here," and "I don't see her."  (Like with this lead-in there was any way she wasn't there?)  Risk told her which district to check, and Hunt finally found Augusta M. Hunt at 165 State Street.  Then Hunt wondered, "She registered, but did she actually cast a ballot?"  That meant we knew it was coming.  Risk showed Hunt a newspaper article published on the occasion of Augusta's 90th birthday.  It mentioned that hers was the first woman's ballot to be passed.  Augusta died ten days after the article was published.

Hunt went to the grave of George and Augusta and made a rubbing of the tombstone for her daughter.  There was no wrap with family members, which was surprising, but she became very emotional as she discussed the revelations that had been made in the episode.  I found it interesting that both sides of her family created considerable fortunes.

And I am still good on my predictions!  I said that Hunt's episode might deal with her Jewish grandmother, and it also tied her family to important times in American history, the temperance movement and women's voting rights.  What does that make me, six for six?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Free Showing of "Jubanos: The Jews of Cuba"

The Jewish Community Library of San Francisco will host a free screening and discussion of Jubanos: The Jews of Cuba on Tuesday, April 3, beginning at 7:00 p.m.  This is a short documentary about the Jewish community in Cuba.  I saw the film last summer at the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Washington, D.C. and found it very interesting.  A lot of people don't know that Cuba accepted Jews who were fleeing Europe before and during World War II.  This is a great opportunity to learn about a little-known chapter of Jewish history.

The screening will be in the BJE Jewish Community Library at 1835 Ellis Street, Second Floor, San Francisco 94115, between Scott and Pierce.  There is free garage parking; the entrance is on Pierce Street between Ellis and Eddy.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Finding Your Roots" Delayed in San Francisco Area

The new PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. premiered tonight on many PBS stations, but not in the San Francisco Bay area.  We have four PBS stations in the area -- three of them aren't broadcasting the series at all, and the fourth was doing pledge programming tonight.  So I have to wait until Tuesday to see the opening episodes.  I hope everyone enjoyed it, but please no spoilers until then!

For those in this area, KQED is the station that is broadcasting it.  They will show the first two episodes on Tuesday, March 27, on KQED 9 and again on Thursday, March 29, on KQED Life.  Next Sunday they will go to the regular schedule.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Different Channel for "Who Do You Think You Are?" in San Francisco Area This Week

I learned today that the NBC affiliate in the San Francisco Bay area will not broadcast Who Do You Think You Are? this coming Friday, March 23.  KNTV will instead air a spring training game between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.  We will, however, be able to see Helen Hunt on KICU, channel 36 (#6 on Oakland cable and I think on most other systems in the area).  (KICU will also air the new episode of Grimm following Who Do You Think You Are?; I love Grimm!).  This is an interesting arrangement, considering that KICU, an independent station that is owned by the same company that owns the local Fox station, will be broadcasting NBC programs.  But as long as they've worked it all out and I get to watch my shows, it sounds good to me.

My thanks to Judy Baston of the Jewish Community Library, who alerted me to this "change of venue."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Account Book for King William of Orange's Army Rediscovered

William of Orange brought an army of 35,000 men to Ireland in 1690 to fight King James II and VII (James II of England and Ireland and James VII of Scotland; he was the great-grandson of Mary, Queen of Scots).  William defeated James at the Battle of the Boyne and became King William III of England (he was Mary's great-great-grandson); his wife was Queen Mary II (James II's daughter), and the College of William and Mary was named for them.

A parchment account book recording payments made to William's 35,000-man army was found during renovations at Belfast City Hall.  The book includes a detailed record on each man in the army.  Apparently it was known that the book was there, but no one had realized the wealth of information in it.  The book has been given to the Orange Order, a Protestant fraternal organization.

A BBC article says that the book will eventually be on display at the Orange Order's headquarters in Belfast.  I hope someone will be permitted to create an index of the names in the book.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

North Carolina Korean War Veterans Sought

The North Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs (NCDVA) is leading a statewide effort to recognize North Carolina service members and their families on the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. The project is part of the U.S. Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee, which in June will launch “The Year of the Korean War Veteran.”

There is a link on the Web site to provide a Certificate of Appreciation signed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to all Korean War veterans and the family members who supported them.  No documentation is necessary and the form can be filled out and submitted online by the veteran, a family member, or a friend. Requests for certificates may also be downloaded and mailed to Korean War Veterans Certificate, N.C. Division of Veterans Affairs, 1315 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1315. More information is available on the North Carolina Department of Administration site.

In addition to the certificate of appreciation, the U.S. Department of Defense encourages any Korean War veteran who would like to share his story with the Korean War Commemoration Committee’s oral history project to visit or call (703) 545-0522.  This site is not specific to North Carolina but is the Department of Defense site for the war's commemoration.

Since the North Carolina project is part of a larger Department of Defense initiative, perhaps other states will create similar projects to recognize their veterans.

Smithsonian Paid Summer Internships

Not genealogy, but a great opportunity.  I wish I were eligible to apply.

The Smithsonian Institution Field Book Project in Washington, D.C. is accepting applications (deadline April 1, 2012) for two paid internships this summer.

Summer 2012 Internship
The Smithsonian Institution seeks two full-time summer interns for the Field Book Project, a joint initiative by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA).  Internships last 8 weeks and must take place between June 1 and August 31, 2012.  Each Intern will receive a $5,000 stipend.  Interns will catalog field notes, which are original source materials documenting field research in biodiversity.  The materials span two centuries of fieldwork.  Content documents the specimens in the museum’s collections through taxonomic identification, sketches, photographs, maps, correspondence, and other materials that support diverse research needs of scientists and historians.

  • Catalog field books using Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS), Natural Collections Description (NCD), and Encoded Archival Context (EAC).
  • Apply basic preservation treatment to items as needed.  Assess and flag items for treatment by the conservation team.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how internship work fits into the project as a whole and share through public forums such as the project blog, Flickr, or poster presentation.

  • Currently enrolled or enrolled within the last 6 months as a graduate student in Library, Information, or Museum Studies program.
  • Completion of coursework in metadata, cataloging, or archival description, and ability to demonstrate understanding of how metadata relate to objects.  Applicant may substitute work experience in cataloging or metadata for the coursework requirement by demonstrating knowledge, skills, and abilities relating to those subjects and their underlying concepts.
  • Ability to communicate effectively in writing.
  • Experience with cataloging and metadata for unpublished materials and experience with one or more of the following schemas is highly desirable:  AACR2, DACS, MODS, EAC, MARC, NCD.

Please send as PDF documents to Sonoe Nakasone at  two academic references, work and academic history, an unofficial transcript, and an essay explaining your reason for applying and how it relates to your program and future career.  Deadline to apply is April 1, 2012.

Official site:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Jerome Bettis

The celebrity for this week's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? was Jerome Bettis, the great running back who played for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The introduction talked about his family and his parents, Johnnie and Gladys Bettis.  Bettis was close to his parents, and they managed to attend every one of his games during his 13-year pro football career.  He had learned a lot about the Bettis side of the family from his father, who died in 2006, but did not know much about his mother's side.  He wanted to go back as far as possible and then share the information with her.  Then came our foreshadow comment:  Bettis mentioned slavery and said, "If we encounter dark moments, so be it."  So now that we knew where we were headed ....

Bettis began with the "logical first step" of talking with his mother, Gladys Bougard Bettis, and uncle, Abram "Butch" Bougard.  He traveled to Detroit, where they and most of his family are from.  Gladys and Butch's parents were Mary Christine and Abram Bougard.  Abram's parents were Ruby and Burnett Bougard.  Family stories said that Burnett had been a rabble rouser (which Bettis consistently seemed to pronounce as "rebel" rouser, confusing me for a while) and that he had disappeared and abandoned the family.

After this segment, a family tree was shown with the information Bettis had learned to that point.  For some reason, all the women whose maiden names were not known (and none of them were learned during this episode, either; guess those female lines just weren't important) were shown with the last name Bougard.  I know in previous episodes women whose maiden names were unknown were shown with just their given names, so I don't understand why the show changed it for this episode.  It runs counter to standard genealogical practice and could have confused some viewers.

Then Bettis said, "Let's go to and see what we can learn."  (I think what bothers me the most about these product placement moments is the equating of with research, instead of the fishing expeditions that these celebrities use it for.)  Somehow Bettis managed to find a record for a Burnell Beaugard who died in Paducah, Kentucky (and apparently no other records for him).  Paducah was the right place for the family, and "Burnell"'s father was listed as Abe, which fit with the next two generations naming sons Abram.  Bettis commented that the death certificate had some great clues, but it also raised some questions, such as why did the family story say that Burnett had disappeared if he hadn't gone anywhere?  Gladys and Butch added a little bit more information:  The family had had three children, their father and two girls.  Their father hadn't talked much about his father.  Then Bettis headed off to Kentucky.

At the McCracken County Courthouse (Paducah is in McCracken County), Bettis met with Gerald Smith, an associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky.  He had found a record showing that Ruby "Beaurgard" divorced Burnett "Beaugard" August 26, 1921.  A short discussion about the fluidity of spelling included a comment that census takers and other government officials often intentionally misspelled the names of blacks.  (I don't know how true that is, but I have not found it to be the case in my own research.  I think it imputes too much deliberate action on the part of civil servants who really just don't care, particularly at a time when very few people obsessed about consistent spelling.)  The divorce action stated that Ruby and Burnett had married about 1919 and included a deposition saying that the cause of their separation was that "the man just went off and left her and she could have the house."  Well, that was certainly clear then, wasn't it?

Bettis talked about how this was yet another story about Burnett that indicated he was a rebal or someone who got into trouble.  He asked Smith if there were any records from the criminal court or the police, to which Smith responded, "I haven't found anything," a tacit admission that the research had already been done before Bettis arrived.  He then suggested Bettis look in newspapers for more information about Burnett.

Bettis headed over to the McCracken County Public Library, where he spoke with Berry Craig, a Kentucky historian and professor of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College.  Craig said, "This library has an Internet connection to the Library of Congress," which was his way of saying that they could call up the Web site for Chronicling America, just like any other computer with an Internet connection can do.  (I don't know why they didn't credit the site, as it isn't a pay site in competition with Ancestry, but maybe they don't like the government allowing people to view newspapers online for free when Ancestry charges.)  Bettis found an article in the Paducah Daily Sun from April 6, 1897 with the name "Beauregard" (no explanation of why he searched for that spelling) and then, for no discernible reason, got off the computer and went to microfilm.  There was no reason for him to do that; the paper is digitized and available for free on the Chronicling America site.  As you can see, the name Beauregard is even highlighted!  The only thing I can think of is that they used Chronicling America as a finding aid because it's searchable and then went offline because it wasn't an Ancestry site.  Whatever the reason, it's a horrible example of how to use resources.

The short notice says that Burnett swore out a complaint against his boss for injuring him.  Craig explained that this was a dangerous move for Burnett because blacks were still not considered equals and lynchings were common in the area.  Two days later, on April 8, 1897, the same newspaper published a second notice saying that the claim had been dismissed because the "evidence showed that the darkey advanced in a threatening manner towards Mr. Little."  It was pretty impressive that Burnett could and was willing to swear a warrant against a white man, but he unfortunately couldn't beat the odds in the Jim Crow South.

Bettis commented that Burnett was a bit of a rebel and strong willed (talk about an understatement!) and that it was amazing what information he had been able to find.  Then he wanted to look for something about Burnett's father Abe.  This time the last name was spelled Bogard, but an item in the Paducah Sun of October 8, 1902 under the header of "Suits Filed" explained that Abe had filed against the Illinois Central in circuit court "for $2,000 damages for injuries received by being struck by" a train while walking along the track.  Craig said that would be about $48,000 today.  It would have taken a lot of guts for anyone to go up against a big company at that time, particularly a black man in Kentucky.  Bettis wanted to find out more.

He headed to Frankfort to the Kentucky State Archives to look at circuit court records with Jennifer Frazier, the Kentucky State Law Librarian.  Bettis wanted to know why Abe had been on the railroad track and whether he had been successful in his suit.  Frazier brought out original court documents and had Bettis put on white conservator's gloves.  One item was the petition from Abe for the suit, which was signed with an X and the notation "his mark", indicating he was illiterate.  Bettis was astonished and upset (which really wasn't entirely fair, because most people in this country in 1902, black, white, whatever, were illiterate).  Illinois Central was a large railroad with lots of money and lawyers.  Frazier explained that the lawyers who had taken Abe's case, Hendrick and Miller, were probably populists who had not charged for their services.  The trial would have been by an all-white jury.  The railroad claimed that Abe had been trespassing; Abe's response was that he had previously been an employee and had been invited to come talk about work.  At this point the program cut to a commercial, but I was pretty sure he had won the case (good old TV logic again), and when we returned I discovered I was right.  The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded Abe $375.  The award was equivalent to about a year's pay, but it would probably have been more if the victim had been white.

Bettis said he never would have thought something like this could happen and declared that Abe was a man of integrity.  (Nice sentiment, but nothing in the description of the circumstances leads to that conclusion.)  He asked if there was anything else about Abe, and Frazier said yes, but in Paducah.  So Bettis headed back there.

This time he met with John E. L. Robertson, listed as Professor Emeritus of University of Kentucky CCS, which apparently is another way of saying University of Kentucky Community College System, but it sure sounds better the first way, doesn't it?  Apparently Mr. Robinson is also a railroad historian, and in the course of some of his research he had talked with people who remembered Abe and his case against Illinois Central.  The fact that Abe had won had resonated with the other workers.  The two men walked outside to look at a steam locomotive of the type that hit Abe.  This whole segment was really nothing but a lot of fluff and filler.  It made me wonder if they hadn't been able to find enough information and had to pad to fill the episode.

Bettis talked about how he was still curious about Abe being illiterate and whether he had been born a slave.  Somehow that led him to go back to (I don't now why, as it is not known as a site with a lot of slave records).  I thought he typed in the name Abe Bogard, but he managed to find the death certificate for Abe Bougard from November 4, 1925.  The certificate has "don't know" for date of birth and age at death "about 72", which would make his birth around 1853, near the end of slavery.  His father was listed as Jerry and mother as Liza, both without last names.  Jerry caught Bettis' attention because it is a common nickname for Jerome, his given name.  He then said, "I've got some work to do."  During this segment it was very nice to see Bettis actually writing notes.

He now headed to Murray, Kentucky to meet John Hardin, a professor of history at Western Kentucky University.  Somehow the leap was made that the lack of last names for Abe's parents on the death certificate meant that they were slaves without entertaining any other possibility.  Then Hardin said that slaves would typically take the names of their slave owners, which current scholarship has begun to indicate is not true; I have read that probably more than half of former slaves did not use their former owners' names.  Accurate information notwithstanding, because Hardin had said this, we could be assured that in this instance it would be the case, and he suggested Bettis look for records of a Beauregard family.  He brought out a book of an index to slave owner wills (there's really such a specific index?).  An entry for Joseph Bogard indicated a will on page 484.  Going to that book, the will from Calloway County included a Negro boy Jerry and a girl Eliza.  This confirmed that Bettis' great-great-grandparents were slaves.  The will had been signed in May 1841.

Now it was time to look for Abe in documents.  Hardin explained about slave dower lists, which were reports of slaves women had inherited.  Every year owners had to report their list of slaves.  Mary Bogard, the widow of Joseph, reported owning a male named Jerry aged about 40, a female named Eliza aged about 35, and a boy named Abram aged about 4.  There were dollar signs next to Jerry and Eliza, indicating that they had some value.  The three appeared together in the lists until about 1860.  That was the year Mary died and her property was divided.  The estate was sold at public auction.  An H. A. Bogard bought Jerry and Eliza, and someone named F. A. Hand bought Abram, then listed as 10 years old (this would put his birth about 1850, by the way), for $1,563.

The details about his ancestors' slave history had been disturbing enough for Bettis, but he became much more upset at the family being split apart, thinking as a son and a parent.  He couldn't imagine what it would have been like to have been separated from his family when he was 10.  This would be a traumatic experience for anyone.

Hardin and Bettis went to visit the property in Calloway County where Abe had lived until he was 10.  Bettis said that he was standing on the same spot that his great-grandfather had stood, and that he understood what they had gone through, but there really wasn't anything there to see.  If it had been a farm, it didn't look like it.  It pretty much looked like an empty field.

Bettis wondered what had happened to Abe in 1865, when emancipation came, and whether he had been reunited with his parents.  Hardin came prepared to answer that question (no surprise there) and had a copy of a page from the 1870 census.  In Graves County, Kentucky he had found Jerry Beaugard with Mary, Abram, Frances, and Elizabeth.  (Abram was listed as 22 years old, which would put his birth at about 1848.)  It's impossible to tell from the census if Mary is a second wife or a daughter, but it does appear that Abram was reunited with his father.  Nothing was said about what might have happened to Eliza.  Bettis talked about how being sold at the age of 10 helped shape Abe's life.

From Calloway County Bettis returned to Detroit to share the information he had found with his mother and uncle.  He talked about how Abe and Burnett had been strong men and that he was proud to have them in his family.

I was again disappointed with the slave research.  Instead of using or even mentioning Freedmen's Bureau records, the show went to the old standard "slaves used their former owners' names."  I'm sure the researchers had an entertaining time with the multiple spellings of the name.  And no mention was made of looking in sales transactions to try to learn where Jerry and Eliza had been before they were owned by the Bogards.  Did they look in these places and not find any answers?

I didn't see any of the "you don't have to know what you're looking for" ads this time.  Maybe they've retired them?  The ad for next week's episode again didn't say who the celebrity would be, though by going to the Web site it was easy to learn it will be Helen Hunt.  I don't understand why they aren't announcing it anymore.  Maybe they're trying to drive traffic to the Web site?

I'm still golden on my predictions, and it's looking good for Helen Hunt.  The blurb on the WDYTYA Web site says Hunt "discovers ancestors instrumental in the growth of America", and I expected her research to look at how her ancestors were part of significant events in U.S. history.

Monday, March 12, 2012

February ZichronNote Sent to Members

The February issue of ZichronNote has been sent by postal and electronic mail to San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society members.  This issue includes an excellent article by Israel Pickholtz about one method of deciding when you have accumulated enough circumstantial evidence to make a decision about a family relationship.  Other articles are an update on the Ger Mandolin Orchestra, how to be an efficient 21st-century researcher, the opening of the new Magnes Museum in downtown Berkeley, and the premier of the new Society logo.

If you are a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, you have probably already received your issue.  If you are not, you can join by visiting the Society's Web site, and then you too can enjoy these articles and the ones to come during this year.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Two World War I Sites Looking for Relatives of Prisoners

Two Web sites dedicated to World War I camps are looking for relatives of people who were detained there.  Faces of Holzminden commemorates Holzminden Officers' Camp, which was in Kaserne Holzminden, Lower Saxony, Germany.  From September 1917 to December 1918, more than 550 Allied military personnel and merchant marines from locations in the British Empire were confied in the camp.   A researcher has compiled a list of more than 350 of the prisoners so far, but they want to have as complete a list as possible.  The current updated list of internees can be downloaded from the site.  A book and a movie are being planned related to the camp and events there.

The Ruhleben Story is dedicated to the civilians who were held at a prisoner of war camp at Ruhleben racecourse, near Berlin, Germany.  This camp existed from 1914-1918 and housed British civilians and merchant seaman, plus people of other nationalities who had British connections.  The known list of prisoner names is spread over twelve Web pages.  Christopher Paton, the creator of the site, welcomes more information about the camp and those who were imprisoned there.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Are you part Danish?

No, not Danish like a pastry, Danish as in Denmark.  Along the lines of the Great Swedish Adventure, O'Connor Casting of Chicago is now accepting applications for the Great Danish Adventure.  Any "fun, outgoing and adventurous" American 18 years or older with even a smidgen of Danish ancestry is eligible to apply.  Winners will participate in an unscripted television program and will compete for a cash prize of $50,000 and the chance to meet Danish relatives.  Shooting dates will be during June and July 2012.  The application requirements include submitting a video.  The deadline to apply is April 8, 2012.

Scandinavians must like unscripted television:  A clip from the Norwegian version of this show is available on YouTube.  And before anyone asks, no, Finns are not Scandinavian, whether they have a version of this show or not.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Reba McEntire

I am obviously way behind on my schedule this week!  Too many things to do prevented me from writing this sooner.  But I did see the episode of Who Do You Think You Are? with Reba McEntire.  I was looking forward to it, as I am a big country music fan and enjoy her songs very much.  But the program was disappointing in several ways.

The opening overview described McEntire as the queen of country and the best-selling country artist of all time.  Her husband is Narvel Blackstock, and she has a son named Shelby.  Her family background is Oklahoma cowboys, and she credits growing up in the man's world of ranching and rodeo for preparing her for running her own businesses.  When she wrote her autobiography she learned about her father's side of the family, but not her mother's.  McEntire said she wanted to go as far back as possible and learn about the first person who came to North America.  Then she said something that came out very oddly:  In some parts of Europe, such as Ireland and Scotland, she felt "at home", but in England she felt "on guard."  It sounded like really bad scripting, but I guess that could have been her honest sentiment.  Considering how WDYTYA drops hints like sledgehammers, this pretty much meant that she was going to go to England.

McEntire began her journey by going to visit her parents' ranch in Stringtown, Oklahoma.  Her father did not appear in the program and was not mentioned at all in the present tense.  This seemed odd, considering how much he seemed to have been a part of McEntire's life, but nothing was said about him having passed away or her parents being divorced.  McEntire spoke of her maternal grandmother, Reba Estelle Brassfield Smith, and how she was doing the research for her mother, who had moved to Nashville to support her desire to pursue a career in country music.

Jackie, McEntire's mother, showed some photos.  One was of McEntire's father, Clark, who was a work champion steer roper.  Another showed Reba Brassfield Smith holding Reba McEntire when she was a baby.  Then she showed a photo of her grandparents, B. W. and Susie Brassfield, with their children, including Reba.  Jackie mentioned that B. W. had died of tuberculosis.  She said the family had had a store because B. W. had not been able to do physical work.  I'd like to know who was doing all the lifting and stocking, because running a store was definitely physical!  Jackie also mentioned that they had been in Monroe County, Mississippi.

McEntire brought out a laptop computer and told her mother she was going to look online with a "little thing called", which sounded incredibly hokey.  She found Reba Brassfield in Monroe County in 1910 as a 6-year-old girl with her widowed mother, Susie.  Even though a year had not been stated for the photo of the Brassville family, McEntire said that B. W. had died not long after the photo had been taken.  She then tried looking for B. W. in the 1900 census (at least that was logical).  She didn't find him, but I found an index entry for the marriage of B. W. Brassfield and Susan Raper using her same search.  You'd think that would be worth mentioning?  Apparently not, because McEntire said, "He's not here," and her mother replied, "You'll just have to go down there and look."  McEntire said in a voice-over that she had hit a "bit of a dead end in our online search."  Say what?  You can't find something on your first attempt, so it's already a dead end?  Geez, it took me less than five minutes to find him in the 1900 census (the B apparently was for Barney).

So off McEntire went to the Evans Memorial Library in Aberdeen, Mississippi (which is in Monroe County, even though they didn't say so) to meet with a genealogist.  While she was waiting she paged through a book of early 1900's obituaries but didn't find B. W.  She said again she was at a dead end; that's right, one lack of results and it's a dead end again.  But I guess it is a dead end if you don't actually try.

Then the genealogist, Josh Taylor, walked up.  Last season, while he was still with the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, he researched Ashley Judd's family.  He was credited as D. Joshua Taylor and wore a suit for that segment; he was decidedly less formal-looking in this episode.  I don't know if this episode was filmed before Taylor started working for BrightSolid, a competitor with for commercial presentation of censuses online.  He told McEntire that it had taken a little work to find her relatives, and then laughed and said it had actually taken a lot of work.  Instead of showing or even discussing any of the that work, however, he merely unrolled a scroll (which was the same style as the one he had for Judd) which showed McEntire's family going back to her fourth great-grandfather George Brasfield.  Poof!  It's magic!  Ask for your family tree and it shall appear.  Documentation?  Don't be silly.

Taylor told McEntire that her great-grandfather B. W. Brasfield had died September 12, 1906, that he had been a farmer (but nothing was said of the fact that this disagreed with the family information about a store), and that he did not have an obituary.  There was a little bit of discussion on the different spelling of the family name, but it didn't address the fact that spelling consistently simply wasn't expected.  George was apparently born about 1765 in Wake County, North Carolina.  Passing mention was made of the fact that he was born before the American Revolution and would have grown up during the war, but nothing else was said about that.  McEntire asked if Taylor hadn't been able to pinpoint the town Brasfield was from.  Taylor said that interesting things had happened in Wake County and maybe she ought to visit.  Along with the poor scripting, the segment seemed very stilted and forced.

But off McEntire went to Raleigh, North Carolina, which is in Wake County.  She met with Phil Otterness, a North Carolina historian and a professor at Warren Wilson College.  He showed her a plan for the city of Raleigh with George Brasfield listed on lot #15.  Land records from 1846-1849 indicated George had died and dealt with the Brasfield old tavern lot.  Then, in property tax lists from 1781-1860, George Brasfield was listed in 1810 as owning more than 1,600 acress and 10 black slaves.  This startled McEntire, who wanted to know if Brasfield had treated his slaves well.  Otterness told her more records about slaves were available at the Granville County courthouse and she could find more information there.

On her way to the courthouse McEntire talked about how finding out that her ancestor had been a slave owner was giving her a different perspective on that time in history.  At the courthouse she met with another North Carolina historian, Harry Watson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  They looked on the computer (on, though the company name was not shown; don't want to advertise for competitors) and found a newspaper notice from 1820 about a runaway slave named Willie Trip (see the clipping on the left).  (They couldn't have found it by searching for George Brassfield, because his name is Geo. in the article.)  Brasfield tried to stop him from escaping.  Watson then told McEntire "it turns out we have some records" and showed bills of sale and deeds for several individuals, including a 20-year-old girl with her child, a 3-year-old, and a 14-month-old girl.  McEntire acknowledged that her ancestor had been a slave trader and that slavery was a part of many people's pasts.  She said she wanted a time machine so she could go back in time to talk with Brassfield, but then said she had found out all she could about him.  It seemed rather an abrupt cut-off, making me wonder if additional information had been even less pleasant.

Recently a friend and I were discussing what WDYTYA? would do when research discovered that a celebrity's ancestor had owned slaves.  I think the program dealt with it well.  There was no attempt to sugarcoat it, not even the fact that Brassfield had obviously bought and sold slaves.  It would have been very easy not to show those records, and the entire subject could have been bypassed.

McEntire again mused about finding her earliest ancestor who had come to North America.  She went to Tappahannock, Virginia to meet with Warren Hofstra, a Virginia historian at Shenandoah University, who had extended her family back another two generations.  Her sixth great-grandfather George Brassfield was a party in a land deed from May 16, 1721, in which he paid Richard Carver 1,500 pounds of tobacco for 300 acres of land.  McEntire wanted to know if the family had been wealthy, but Hofstra told her he had worked for it.  He then showed her a book of court orders of Essex County from 1695-1699 in which her ancestor appeared as an indentured servant at 9 years old, bound to Bernard Gaines.  Watson explained that the indenture was a contract to pay for the expenses of bringing young Brassfield to Virginia from England.  Indentured servitude is considered by some to be the first type of American slavery.  Indentured servants often worked with black slaves in the fields and were bound to their "employers" until the age of 21, when they could earn their freedom.  Gaines farmed tobacco, so Brassfield would have helped in the fields and it would have been hard work.  Hofstra said that less than half of indentured servants survived their contracts.

McEntire then wanted to know where Brassfield had come from.  A search in Google Books found a George "Brasfeild" in List of Emigrants to America from Liverpool, 1697-1707 (I wonder how long it took the research team to find that entry).  Brasfield arrived in 1698 and was listed as being "Eleaven" years old, so it looked as though his indenture might have shaved a year or so off his age to keep him a servant longer.  Several other children were on the ship with Brasfield, and McEntire wondered where their parents were.  No hometown was listed for Brasfield, but many of the other children were from Cheshire County, England, so Hofstra suggested looking there for him.

McEntire headed off to Chester, England.  She wondered if George Brassfield's origins explained why she felt so weird when she went to England.  She met at the Cheshire Archive with Brett Langston.  He showed her a computerized index of Cheshire parish records, in which they found Georgius Brasfield (and three additional Brasfields, whom they did not discuss!  what happened to whole family research?!).  Brasfield was baptized June 17, 1688; the birth date was not recorded but probably was within a couple of months before that.  His father was listed as Thomas Bracefield of Maccalsfield.  Thomas' marriage to Abigail (no maiden name!) was shown, and then Thomas' burial on June 30, 1720, many years after George's trip in 1698.  The last record produced showed that Thomas' wife Abigail had been buried in 1696.  McEntire wondered how Thomas could have sent his son so far away when he was so young and whether there had been no money to take care of him.

From Chester McEntire went to St. Michael's Church in Macclesfield, also in Cheshire.  (I noticed that although she had driven herself around to the various research spots in the U.S., she was a passenger in the vehicle going to Macclesfield.)  At the church she met James Horn of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a historian specializing in indentured servitude.  He explained that apprenticeships were expensive and that George would not have had many opportunities or much of a future at home in Macclesfield.  His father would have arranged the indentured servitude to give him a chance at a better fate.  George had done well; he would never have had a chance to own 300 acres of land in England.  Horn mentioned that as far as research had shown, all Brassfields in the U.S. were descended from George.

McEntire wanted to know where Thomas and Abigail were buried.  Horn walked with her to the courtyard, where large flagstones had many names on them.  These were rich people, and the flagstones were effectively their tombstones.  Poor people were buried in the grassy area in the center of the courtyard.  They might have had wood markers which had disintegrated over time, or perhaps no marker at all, and there was nothing to indicate their exact burial places, meaning there was no way to really know whether Thomas or Abigail was buried there.  McEntire suddenly had a change of heart and felt sympathy for Thomas Bracefield.  She did a complete turn-around and called him a "strong man" who had lost his wife but been brave enough to send his son away for a better opportunity.  (What about the other three children that appeared in the baptismal register?!)  She asked forgiveness for being mad at him and decided she had a good feeling now in England, that she felt loved and protected.

McEntire returned to the ranch in Oklahoma to tell her mother what she had learned about the family.  Jackie was very calm and had almost no reaction to anything McEntire said.  It looked as though she had already been told everything ahead of time, since I don't think she didn't care.  It was a pretty anticlimactic ending.

So my predictions are still at 100% percent!  Though McEntire did go to England, the episode discussed her family in context of several historical times in the U.S. -- indentured servitude, the Revolutionary War, and slavery.

Something odd at the end of the program was the teaser for next week's episode.  For some reason the celebrity was not named.  Maybe they're trying to decide who would be more timely?