Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Lifespans of My Great-Great-Grandparents

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver sounds interesting:

1)  We each have 16 great-great-grandparents.  How did their birth and death years vary?  How long were their lifespans?  

2)  For this week, please list your 16 great-great-grandparents, their birth years, their death years, and their lifespans in years.  You can do it in plain text, in a table or spreadsheet, or in a graph of some sort.

3)  Share your information about your 16 great-great-grandparents with us in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, or on Facebook or Google+.  If you write your own blog post, please leave a link as a comment to this post.

Even before I started working on this, I was wondering how the statistics would look.  I suspected my great-great-grandfather who lived to be 90 might skew the average.  I also thought about how many of my great-great-grandparents I don't have birth and death information for.  So let's see how it played out:

Here are the 14 great-great-grandparents whose names I know, in alphabetical order (because that's how I keep my my family lines straight in my head):

• Beila ——, ??–before 1924
• Joel Armstrong, 1849–about 1921
• Mendel Hertz Brainin, about 1861–1930
• Frederick Cleworth Dunstan, 1840–1873
• James Gauntt, 1831–1889
• Amelia Gibson, 1831–1908
• Victor Gorodetsky/Gordon, about 1866–1925
• Ruchel Dwojre Jaffe, about 1868–1934
• Sarah Deacon Lippincott, 1860–1927
• Simcha Meckler, ??–before 1904
• Gershon Itzhak Nowicki, about 1858–1948
• Esther Leah Schneiderman, about 1874–1908
• Martha Winn, 1837–1884
• Dobe Yelsky, about 1858–1936

So I ran into problems.  First, I don't know the father of my paternal grandfather, so I definitely don't know his parents' names.  Second, I have no concrete information about my Meckler great-great-grandparents.  I decided to do my list with the 12 great-great-grandparents I have dates for, even if several of them are approximate:

• Joel Armstrong, 1849–about 1921, 82 years
• Mendel Hertz Brainin, about 1861–1930, 69 yeras
• Frederick Cleworth Dunstan, 1840–1873, 33 years
• James Gauntt, 1831–1889, 58 years
• Amelia Gibson, 1831–1908, 77 years
• Victor Gorodetsky/Gordon, about 1866–1925, 59 years
• Ruchel Dwojre Jaffe, about 1868–1934, 66 years
• Sarah Deacon Lippincott, 1860–about 1927, 67 years
• Gershon Itzhak Nowicki, about 1858–1948, 90 years
• Esther Leah Schneiderman, about 1874–1908, 34 years
• Martha Winn, 1837–1884, 47 years
• Dobe Yelsky, about 1858–1936, 78 years

The average birth year for these 12 ancestors is 1853, with a range from 1831 (two of them) to 1874.

The average death year is 1915, with a range from 1873 to 1948.

The average lifespan is 63 years, ranging from 33 to 90.  The average male lifespan is 65, and the average female lifespan is 62.

It looks like I was right about my 90-year-old 2x-great-grandfather skewing things, at least a little.  If it weren't for him being such an outlier, the average male and female lifespans would be even closer.

I hadn't realized that two of these ancestors had died quite so young, at 33 and 34 years.  I know that Esther Leah Schneiderman (Gorodetsky) died a month after the birth of her eighth surviving child and blood was mentioned in the cause of death.  I don't know what caused the death of Frederick Cleworth Dunstan.  He was a file grinder, but I don't know if that was a particularly hazardous job.

Of these ancestors, only two lived to be older than 80.  I believe several of my great-grandparents lived past 80, so my family members appeared to be living longer, at least for a while.

Monday, April 25, 2016

It's Preservation Week!

This week, April 24–30, is Preservation Week for 2016.  While the primary focus is for libraries, archives, and other formal repositories to think about the conditions and preservation needs of their collections, it is a good time for everyone to consider what they have that they would like to have last a long time.  For modern genealogists, this can easily encompass original documents, books, photographs and slides, recorded interviews, family movies, and digital media, whether converted from the previous formats or natively digital.  You might also have clothing and other physical heirlooms that can't really be digitized.

The American Library Association has a page full of resources for Preservation Week (and the whole year!).  You can find information on how to preserve your items and on disaster recovery (which I hope you never need to use).  Two free Webinars are offered this year, "Reformatting Audiotape" on April 26 and "Preserving Your Digital Life" on April 28  Also available are links to previous years' presentations, such as ""Preservation of Family Photographs", "Family Textiles", and "Disaster Preparedness", all free.

If you would like to host a Preservation Week event, there's a link to information for that.  There's even a link for preservation geared to military families!

Don't you feel motivated to go out and buy a bunch of archival boxes for your documents now?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The "Good Maharajah" Is Honored Again

A few years ago I wrote about Prince Jam Sri Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja, called the Good Maharajah, who generously offered to host Polish children, many of them orphans, who were suffering due to changing national alliances during World War II.  He brought the children to his summer palace, and they stayed there through the end of the war.  A school was even set up for them by delegates from the Polish government-in-exile.

In 2012, the Warsaw (Poland) City Council passed a resolution to name a city square after the Good Maharajah.  The square was dedicated in 2013.

An Indian journalist wrote about the Maharajah and the children, first in a Ph.D. dissertation in 2006, and then in a book published in 2013.

Now a new exhibition at the United Nations is honoring this man.  The exhibition, which began on April 22, was created by Robert Kostro, Polish historian and director of the Museum of Polish History, for India's Mission in New York.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Share Your Childhood Memories

Randy Seaver's challenge for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is interesting and not as easy as it might seem:

1)  Judy Russell asked six questions in her keynote address at RootsTech 2014 to determine if audience members knew certain family stories about their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.  She demonstrated very well that family stories are lost within three generations if they are not recorded and passed on to later generations.

2)  This week, I want you to answer Judy's six questions, but about YOUR own life story, not your ancestors'.  Here are the questions:

a)  What was your first illness as a child?

b)  What was the first funeral you attended?

c)  What was your favorite book as a child?

d)  What was your favorite class in elementary school?

e)  What was your favorite toy as a child?

f)  Did you learn how to swim, and where did you learn?

3)  Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.

As usual, I am impressed with Randy's recall of events in his youth, because I don't remember those events in my own life that well, and I'm 20 years younger than he is!  But here are my stories:

a.  I don't remember any illnesses.  My mother made sure her children had all the vaccinations available, and we didn't get measles, chicken pox, or any of those other childhood standards.  The first thing I can remember is a visit to the hospital because I had an intense abdominal pain, and they thought I had a gallstone or something.  I think I passed it while I was there.  I have no idea how old I was when that happened.  I can't even remember if it was in California or Australia.

b.  I was quite fortunate while I was growing up in that I had no close relatives die.  The first funeral I attended was while I was in college.  I was in the Naval Auxiliary (girlfriends and fiancées of midshipmen) to the Navy ROTC unit.  One of the midshipmen died unexpectedly during the school year.  I attended as a representative of the NavAux.  After the funeral, the CO thanked me for being there.

c.  My favorite book as a child was Last of the Mochicans by James Fenimore Cooper.  It was part of a "great classics of English literature" set my mother bought for the three of us kids to read.

d.  My favorite class in elementary school was the 5th grade sewing/embroidery class at Woollahra Demonstration School in Woollahra (Sydney suburb), New South Wales, Australia.  I don't remember the teacher's name, but I still have the items I embroidered.

e.  My favorite toy as a child was my Barbie dolls.  I probably got the first one when I was around 6 years old.  I used to dress them up in store-bought outfits, and later I learned to sew new clothes for them myself.

f.  I learned to swim, but damned if I can remember where or when.  I already knew how to swim when my family lived in Pomona, because we'd visit the Lameys across the street and swim in their pool.  So I learned by the time I was 7 or 8.

I think I'd better take the opportunity to ask my father these questions while I can.  My mother and all four of my grandparents have already passed away, so I'm a little late for them.

Friday, April 22, 2016

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Scott Foley

So far it looks as though I'll probably stay behind on my Who Do You Think You Are? posts.  I think I'll set a goal of posting about an episode before the second one after it airs.  Maybe I can stick to that.  This one took extra time because I worked hard at tracking down online links to some of the information presented in the episode.

The Scott Foley episode of Who Do You Think You Are? introduced me to another celebrity I hadn't heard of previously.  The teaser told us that Foley would discover his family had an impact on critical events in U.S. history and that a relative put his life on the line for one of America's founding fathers.  He would also learn about an ancestor who suffered unspeakably during one of America's darkest times.

Scott Foley is an actor whose first breakthrough role came on the Felicity series (never seen it).  According to the hyped-up intro, he has become one of television's most sought-after stars.  Other series on which he has appeared are Scrubs (I actually used to watch that in syndication), The Unit (nope), True Blood (nope), and Scandal (and nope).  Foley lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Marike Domińczyk, and their three children.  In one of the family shots, the Foleys' younger son takes his first steps, and Foley calls out to the cameraman, "Tell me you got that!"  The camerman confirms, "Got it!"  Nice to know that this program can serve a greater good.

Foley opens by telling us that the older he gets, the more important family is to him.  His wife is from Poland; they know and see her family regularly, and she speaks in Polish to the children.  He is proud of being American, but his wife knows her background and he doesn't.  It's important for him to learn what he brings to the relationship and where he comes from.

Foley says his father "was" Hugh Henry Foley (which made me think he had passed away, but he shows up later, so it was just a poor choice of wording) and his mother was Constance Jean Foley (whoops!  look at that disappearing maiden name).  Foley is the oldest of three brothers.  Hugh Foley worked in banking, and the family moved a lot.  They didn't really know any cousins, aunts, or uncles; life was just the immediate family.

When Foley was 15 his mother passed away from ovarian cancer, from which she had suffred for three to four years.  This of course affected the whole family.  They didn't talk much about family history.  Foley only knew one of his grandparents, his paternal grandfather, Earl Hugh Foley.  He knows his paternal grandmother was Evelyn Fogg, and his father has said that they can trace their family back to the American Revolution through her.  Foley himself, however, doesn't know anything.

To embark on this genealogical journey, Foley gets together with his father to talk, probably at Foley's home, because it looks as though his father is the one arriving.  He starts out asking about Evelyn Fogg and the story that her family could go back to the American Revolution.  His father confirms that and says maybe it could go further.  He was told that if he had any daughters, they would be eligible for DAR, the Daughters of the American Revolution (I guess no one was enthusiastic about having the sons join Sons of the American Revolution?; maybe they need better marketing).  Foley asks what DAR does, and his father says they trace families back to the Revolution (isn't that enough?).  Throughout this segment Hugh tends to mumble and keep his eyes looking down; he obviously was not comfortable with the camera around.

Then Hugh shows Foley a photo of his grandfather Harry Fogg — Evelyn's father and Foley's great-grandfather — and says it was through his wife that the Revolution lineage came.  He doesn't know her name, however.  (The back of the photo has "Harry Fogg Grandfather on mother's side @ 1910-1915" in pencil.)  He has a vague recollection that her maiden name might have been something like Wadworth.

Foley comes up with a brilliant idea:  Maybe DAR has a Web site they can search?  His father says he doesn't know anything about computers, so he can't help.  Foley quickly finds the site and searches for Wadworth, with no results.  He asks his father whether it could have been Wadsworth and searches for that.  Whoops, that gives 50 results, too many to figure out.  After commenting how little they know about their family, Foley decides that maybe he should go to DAR to start his research.  He looks on the site and learns that it's in Washington, D.C., so that's where he's headed.  (He's never heard of a research plan, has he?)  He tells his father, "I will do all the research I can" (which must be the opposite of the royal we).

With the 50 Wadsworths on the DAR site, Foley didn't know what to look for.  He's excited about learning his family's ties to history and thinks that maybe he'll find something.

In Washington Foley is being driven around (maybe even celebrities and big-budget television shows have trouble finding parking there).  At the DAR library he meets professional genealogist Kyle Betit (who posted recently in one of my Facebook groups), whom he has previously told everything he knows about his family (which couldn't have taken long).  And of course, Betit immediately points Foley to, where Betit has magically created a family tree.  When asked how he found the information, Betit says he primarily used vital records (which doesn't sound entirely plausible, considering the tree goes back to 1752).

The tree zooms by the three Foley brothers (one I can't read, Scott, and Sean; but didn't Scott say he was the oldest?; so why is he in the middle here?), the children of Hugh Henry Foley, Living, and Constance Kellerman (who regained her maiden name but lost her middle one).  Hugh is the son of Earl Hugh Foley, born 1907, and Evelyn Miskle Fogg, born 1902 (ooh, an older woman!).  Harrington (there's Harry!) B. Fogg, born 1866, was married to Mary Bliss Wardwell (I can easily see that mutating to Wadworth in people's memories over the years), born February 10, 1868 in Marblehead, Essex County, Massachusetts.  Foley comments that he has never heard the name Wardwell before, not even being introduced to someone at a party.  The camera pans quickly up the tree, but we catch a glimpse of Thomas G. Wardwell, born 1814, married to Mary Hannah Goodwin, born 1819; we appear to have skipped a generation, as they are more likely to be Mary Wardwell's grandparents.  Thomas' parents are Simon Wardwell, born 1783, and Margaret Barker, born 1794.  We stop at Foley's 5x-great-grandfather Simon Wardwell, born May 17, 1752 in Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts.  He was married to Ruth Church, born 1756.  (The Foley Family Tree, by the way, appears to be private.)

Betit points out that the Revolutionary War began in April 1775, and Foley says that Simon would have been 23 years old then, adding, "Look at that!  That's an actor who can do math, people."  He has a great sense of humor.  Foley searches on the DAR Web site for Simon, including his birth place and year from the Ancestry tree.  Of course he finds something:

He notices that Simon was a private.  Betit explains Simon is an approved patriot, meaning that his service during the war has been verified.  Foley then sees that Simon served from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and that there's a pension number.  He wonders if DAR has copies of the pension.  Conveniently (since I don't think these are housed at DAR), Betit has one page of Simon's pension, his deposition about his service.  The first thing Foley fixes on is the signature, which is large compared to the rest of the writing.  He then does a very credible job of reading the early 19th-century handwriting.  (This is available on, owned by Ancestry, so I was surprised it wasn't shown on the computer.  More pages from the file are also there.)  Only bits and pieces of this were shown on screen, and Foley did not read the entire text.  I've transcribed the top part, through Simon's signature.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

I, Simon Wardwell of the age of 65 years declare and say that I am a resident Citizen of the United States; that I now reside in & belong to the town of Andover in the County of Essex in the Middle Circuit, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; — That at the latter part of April 1775 I inlisted [sic] as a private soldier, for the term of 8 months, into the army of the Revolutionary War; & then entered the service accordingly in the Company under Capt. B. Farnham, in Col. James Frye's Regt of Massachusetts troops, & served therein accordingly till the 8 months was out: — Also the 1st of January 1776 I inlisted again, & entered the service in the Company under Capt. Joshua Reed, in Col. Jos James M. Varnum's Regt of the Rhode Island troops; & served in said company about two months, & was then transferred to General Washington's life guard under Capt. Caleb Gibbs, & continued in service in said life guard untill [sic] as late as November 1776 when I had a fit of sickness & on that account obtained a discharge signed by Col: Webb, Aid to General Washington, & so left the service.  That discharge is lost & not in my power or knowledge.  I also say that I am, by reason of my reduced circumstance in life, in need of assistance from my country for support; and I never had any Pension allowed me by the laws of the United States.
Simon Wardwell [signature]

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

The deposition was notarized on April 8, 1818, so Simon appears to have known his age pretty accurately.

Foley reads about Simon's two enlistment dates and then focuses on the statement that he was transferred to Washington's "life guard" about March or April of 1776, asking if that was like the Secret Service.  Betit says it was an elite unit whose mission was to protect Washington.  Foley is absolutely blown away and wants to know more, such as what kind of relationship Simon had with Washington.  Betit tells him that in March 1776 Washington was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, not far from where the two of them are at that moment (gee, only about 450 miles), and that he can set up an appointment with a Revlutionary War historian at the site of Washington's Cambridge headquarters.

Foley leaves the building and flags down a car.  He is amazed that his 5x-great-grandfather was in the Revolutionary War with Washington.  He's learned only a little and already thinks he's entered a world of wonder.  Now he wants to know more about Simon's service and what exactly he did.

In Cambridge Foley walks up to the Longfellow House—Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site.  Walking down from the house to meet him is R. Scott Stephenson, Ph.D., Director of Collections and Interpretation at the Museum of the American Revolution.  (We've seen him previously on the Valerie Bertinelli and Angie Harmon episodes.)  They introduce themselves and get some amusement out of the fact that they're both named Scott.  Foley says that his 5x-great-grandfather Simon Wardwell was a member of Washington's life guard, and Stephenson responds that there's a project to document all of the men who were in the life guard, so he knows Simon's name.

The life guard was partly a security detail to protect Washington himself, but it was also intended to proect Washington's papers, which had military secrets that the British would have liked to know.  The Longfellow House was Washington's headquarters from July 1775 to April 1776.  Simon probably stood guard in the area in front of the house where the two men are now standing.  Foley finds himself surprisingly emotional about that.

Inside the house, the Scotts are in a room used as Washington's reception room.  Foley comments that Washington was the general in charge of the Revolutionary Army, but Stephenson corrects him, pointing out that when it began, it was not a revolution.  At first Washington and the others were fighting to restore the rights they believed they were entitled to as British citizens.

Washington was appointed as the commander of the army in June 1775.  He knew at that point that fighting would go on for at least another year.  He decided to form the life guard.  Foley asks how Simon was chosen.  Was there a vetting process?  Some sort of boot camp?

Stephenson brings out a document he says is an extract from Washington's orderly book, which contained orders from Washington to be distributed to the entire army.  The top of the page is dated Cambridge, 10th March 1776, and we're led to believe it's all about the birth of the life guard.  The commanding officer of each regiment had to give four men.  There were twenty-seven regiments in the main army, so the first selection produced a little more than 100 men.  Washington chose a little less than half of them.

The date shown at the top of the document, 10th March 1776, does not appear to be the date of the orders for the creation of the life guard.  March 10 had a couple of other items.  The life guard seems to date from March 11, 1776, based on the wealth of transcriptions available online.  (The document itself does not appear to be digitized and online, however.)  I can't tell for sure if that is accurate, however, because all of the transcriptions differ slightly from the images shown on the program.  It's possible the exact wording varied between the different commanding officers.  What I have reconstructed below is based on my reading of what was shown (the best images I could capture are below), augmented by text in brackets from the earliest transcription I could find online, from 1836.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

The General being desirous of selecting a particular Number of men for a guard to himself & Baggage the Cols or Commanding Officers of each of the established Regts, the Artillery & Rifle men excepted, will furnish him with four.  That the number wanted may be chosen out of them:  His Excellency depends upon the Cols for good men such as they can recommend for their sobriety, honesty & good Behavior.  He wishes them to be from 5 foot 8 Inches to 5 foot 10 Inches high handsome & well made, & as there is nothing in his eyes more desirable than cleanliness in a Soldier [he desires that] particular Attention will be [had in the choice of] such as are spruce & neat.  They [are all to be] at headquarters tomorrow precisely at 12P [at] Noon when the Number will be [fixed upon.  The] Genl. neither wants men with [uniforms nor arms; nor] does he desire any men to be [sent to him who] are not perfectly willing to be [— of the Guard.]  They should be drill'd men.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Foley thinks that several of the requirements sound superficial, relying on looks, etc.  Stephenson explains that in the 18th century, physical characteristics were seen as reflecting someone's character.  The fact that this was to be an elite unit meant that the men would be seen as a reflection of their commander.  Foley also commented on the height requirements, which Stephenson did not address.  (As Washington was known to be at least 6' tall, I wonder if he wanted to ensure that no member of his detail was taller than he was.  Maybe it was an ego thing?)

As Foley also had asked what sort of relationship Simon would have had with Washington, Stephenson explains that Washington had a somewhat aloof command style, suggesting that he was not particularly close to his men.  The life guards' job was to protect Washington specifically, but Martha and the children were in Cambridge also, so keeping an eye on them was probably part of the responsibilities.  Each of the men had to have a real commitment to the position.  Overall, Simon is a great person to be descended from.

Foley decides he really likes Simon, who was a respectable man.  Then he wonders about the "drill'd men" requirement.  That probably meant that they had some experience, which Stephenson confirms.  Foley then asks whether Simon saw any action in the life guard.  Stephenson says, "You bet!"  The guard had a busy summer and fall in 1776.  An assassination attempt was made on Washington, and on July 9 the Declaration of Independence was read to the army for the first time.  This was when they learned what they were fighting for.  Prior to this the battle had been to restore their rights as Englishmen; now they were fighting for independence, and it had become a revolution.

On the personal side, in March 1777 Simon married Ruth Church.  They were married 42 years and had thirteen children.  Foley is amazed at the number but says that as a father, he respects Simon the most for that.  He's impressed and proud.

Ah, but now Foley wants more.  Simon was born in Massachusetts, which means his parents were here.  How far back can he go?  Stephenson tells him that he's near Boston, the home of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS).  (And this time it really is close, less than 5 miles!)  That's the place to go for answers about New England ancestors.

As he walks away from the Longfellow House, Foley is amazed that he didn't know anything about his family and now has learned this fantastic story about Simon.  That would be enough, but maybe he can go further back and learn even more.  He's a little overwhelmed.  His 5x-great-grandfather believed in the new nation and served with Washington, our country's first president.  He will be proud to share with his children that someone in their lineage helped found America.

The next day Foley is in Boston.  He's still giddy about the story that ended yesterday but is looking forward to learning a whole new story today.  He anticipates being excited, whatever comes his way.

At NEHGS Mary Beth Norton, a professor of American history at Cornell (and later credited on screen as the author of In the Devil's Snare), is waiting to greet Foley.  She has one of those lovely calligraphed family trees that leap gaily from one generation to the next without benefit of showing any documentation.  She tells him it was prepared for him "by genealogists" (which must mean everything is accurate, I guess).  When Foley asks how she did this (um, she didn't do it, sorry, dude, she's not a genealogist), she blithely answers, "With vital records."  (Sure, she did.)

This tree begins with Foley's father and then goes to his grandparents Earl Hugh Foley, born March 9, 1907 in Bon Homme County, South Dakota, and Evelyn Miskle Fogg, born December 13, 1902 in Holland, Michigan.  Next come Harrington Dingley (Dingley?!  I guess that wasn't a B after all) Fogg, born February 5, 1866 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Mary Bliss Wardwell, born in Marblehead.  The 2x-great-grandparents are Horace Ware Wardwell, born May 16, 1842 in Andover, and Sarah Jane Carmodie, born about 1847 in Salem, Massachusetts.  Horace's parents were Thomas Gage Wardwell, born October 13, 1814 in Andover, and Mary Hannah Goodwin, born November 3, 1819 in Saco, Maine.  Thomas' parents were Simon Wardwell, Jr., born August 24, 1788 in Andover, and Margaret Barker, born February 3, 1794 in Methuen, Massachusetts.  Simon's father was Simon Wardwell, Sr., born May 17, 1752 in Andover (we know a lot about him now), and his mother was Ruth Church, born September 1756 in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  Simon Sr.'s parents were Eliakim Wardwell, born January 22, 1723 in Andover, and Mary Peavey, born March 22, 1724 in Andover.  Next come William Wardwell, born November 9, 1679 in Andover, and Dorothy Wright, born July 23, 1688 in Andover.  William's parents were Samuel Wardwell, born May 16, 1643 in Exeter, Massachusetts, and Sarah Hooper, born December 7, 1650 in Reading, Massachusetts.  The final generation shown is Foley's 9x-great-grandparents Thomas Wardwell, born January 31, 1603 in Alford, England, and Elizabeth (no maiden name), born in England (without even an approximate year of birth).

Foley zeroes in on Thomas Wardwell, realizing that is his immigrant ancestor.  Norton confirms that and adds he was among the first settlers of Massachusetts.  She goes on to say that Wardwell is a name well known in New England.  In particular, Samuel Wardwell, Foley's 8x-great-grandfather, was very important.  Foley is surprised and asks if Norton has heard of him before.  Norton says he is well known and hands him a copy of a document.

Foley asks what it is and begans reading it.  I give him credit, he didn't do that bad of a job, but he stumbles over some of the words and asks Norton, "How do you read this?"  She admits 17th-century handwriting is difficult and offers Foley a transcription, which he gratefully accepts.  (You can read the transcription of this and other documents relating to Samuel's trial on the Salem Witch Trials site at the University of Virginia.)  Foley reads "in the snare of the devil" and exclaims, "What is happening here?  What is this?"  The document turns out to be Samuel's confession of witchcraft, dated September 10, 1692.  Foley's ancestor had been caught up in the infamous Salem witch trials.  Foley admits he doesn't know details about the trials.  Norton says that Samuel's confession came late in the trial period.

The narrator steps in to tell us that the Salem witch crisis (I'm used to the events being called the Salem witch trials; is this new phrase, which was used several times in the episode, some sort of redefining of history?) began in February 1692, seven months before Samuel's confession.  Everything started with two girls who made bizarre accusations of witchcraft against several people.  They went into contortions and had screaming fits.  A doctor said they were under the influence of evil, and events exploded into an atmosphere of fear and hysteria.  The Puritan community believed God was punishing them and attempted to reaffirm their religious beliefs by going after those they believed were in league with the devil.  They aggressively pursued anyone who was accused.

Foley asks Norton whether Samuel was on trial.  At the time of the document, he had only been accused, and he was confessing.  At first he had returned "negative answers" to the questioning, that is, he had denied being a witch.  He then admitted it, because up to that point, anyone who had confessed was not actually tried.  The men leading the proceedings wanted confessed witches to accuse more participants.  At some point after his confession, however, Samuel recanted and said he had been coerced.  Unfortunately, between his confession and trial two others who had confessed were indicted and tried, so maybe Samuel decided his original plan was no longer going to be effective.  He was actually tried.

Foley is surprised that not only women were considered witches.  Norton explains that anyone could be accused, and that one quarter of the accused were men.  Foley is then concerned about Samuel's family, which must have been in huge turmoil.  Samuel had seven children; how can Foley find out what happened to them?  Norton tells him that the Salem Witch House is only a few miles north of where they are at the moment, and that he should go there and find out.  He will be able to speak with Margo Burns, an expert on the Andover witch trials.

Walking away from NEHGS, Foley wonders what Samuel's fate was.  He hopes the family was able to stay together, for the sake of the chidren.  Was Samuel one of the victims, or did he make it through?

At the Witch House, Foley tells Margo Burns, credited as a historian of the Salem witch trials, the story of Samuel (which she obviously must have known already).  She hands him a copy of testimony made against Samuel.  (The two documents shown below are linked to Samuel's case on the University of Virginia site, where you can read the transcriptions.)  Foley again does a reasonable job of reading the 17th-century writing, with assistance from Burns on occasion.  On September 14, 1692, a 16-year-old girl named Martha Spriggs accused Samuel of pinching her, sticking pins into her, and striking her down.

Foley is stunned that Martha actually believed Samuel was a wizard.  He can't believe that she testified Samuel had struck her down and stuck her with pins.  Burns tells him that the young girls were very dramatic in their testimony, screeching and contorting themselves.  Amazingly, the court found their testimony credible, which Foley thinks is pretty scary.

Burns brings out another person's testimony.  This was from Ephraim Foster, a 34-year-old man.  He stated that Samuel had told his (Foster's) wife that she would have five girls before she had a son, and that the same had come to pass.  Samuel had told another woman's fortune.  He had a reputation for telling fortunes, reading palms, and predicting what children women would have.  Foster was a more credible witness than Martha Spriggs, and he lent credibility to the charges made against Samuel.  Burns explains that the people at this time believed in an invisible world around them.  Angels and demons were part of their worldview and were very real to them.

Foley asks if a person on trial had an attorney.  Burns tells him the accused could not have an attorney but could try to respond to the accusations made against him.  After seeing all the depositions, Foley then asks what happened to Samuel.  Instead of answering directly, Burns hands him a copy of a book.  More Wonders of the Invisible World was first published in 1700 by a critic of the witch trials.  It has many first-person accounts.  The edition Foley is looking at is a later reprint.  (This reprint is from 1823, quite a bit later.  I think this one is the original 1700 version.)  Foley reads short snippets from the book.

"September 17, nine more received sentence of death, viz. Margaret Scot, of Rowley ; goodwife Reed, of Marblehead ; Samuel Wardwell and Mary Parker, of Andover ; also Abigail Falkner, of Andover, who pleaded pregnancy ; Rebecca Ames, of Boxford, Mary Lacy and Ann Foster, of Andover, and Abigail Hobbs, of Toppsfield." (pages 217–218, 1823 edition)

Foley finds it "amazingly heavy" to learn that Samuel Wardwell was sentenced to death.  The convicted were scheduled to hang.  Burns says that it was the fourth hanging in the series of trials but doesn't specify whether that was in the entire proceedings or in Andover.

The narrator says that on September 22, 1692 seven woman and one man were to be hanged, and that Samuel Wardwell was the man.  They were taken to the outskirts of Salem.  Each was permitted to say some final words.  (The names of the seven women hung on September 22 are included in the short Wikipedia article about Samuel.)

A big crowd was watching as people were protesting their innocence, with the ropes around their necks.  The executioner was smoking:

"[W]hile [Wardwell] was speaking to the people, protesting his innocency, the executioner being at the same time smoking tobacco, the smoke coming in [Wardwell's] face interrupted his discourse ; those accusers said that the devil did hinder him with smoke." (page 218, 1823 edition)

Burns then goees into some detail about hanging.  It could take up to 20 minutes for an individual to die, and the body could still twitch after that.  The crowd would stay to see the death throes.  Everyone came to watch.  (This was public entertainment at the time.)

"After execution, mr. Noyes . . . said, What a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of hell hanging there!" (page 219, 1823 edition)

Burns tells Foley that a total of nineteen people were executed in Salem.  The hangings in September were the last ones.

Foley asks whether Samuel has any kind of tombstone.  Burns explains that those who were hung did not have graves; their bodies were discarded in a crevice or wherever was convenient.  She adds that Salem has a memorial to the people who were executed.  She recommends that he experience it.

Foley is still somewhat stunned as he leaves.  After all, you don't expect to discover that your ancestor was hanged as a witch.  (This episode is an interesting counterpoint to that with Sarah Jessica Parker, whose ancestor was convicted but did not die, because saner minds were beginning to prevail.)  He laughs and, realizing it must sound like an odd reaction, says he's laughing because what he has learned is so foreign to him.  His daughter had dressed up as a witch for Hallowe'en, and everyone thought it was cute.  Now he has a different perspective but maintains it was still cute, the distance from the actual event allowing for it.

Foley visits the Burying Point in Salem, which was established in 1637.  There's a regular cemetery, but there are also eight benches with the names of the eight people who were hung on September 22.  The first one we see him look at is Samuel Wardwell's.  He also looks at phrases incised in the stones on the ground:  I AM INNOCENT; I AM WRONGED; GOD KNOWS I AM INNOCENT; I CAN DENY IT TO MY DYING DAY; OH LORD HELP ME.  The words put a horror to the event for him; seeing the words etched in stone makes it so severe.

Eventually Foley sits on Samuel's bench:  "Just me and Sam on a bench."  He muses over the fact that in Salem the memorial is a tourist attraction.  People see the names, but they don't really mean anything unless you're related to them.  Five days ago he didn't know anything about Samuel or Simon, and now his mind is blown.  He had no idea he had such a connection to the history of our country.  He plans to take the story with him from now on:  "This is my story.  And it's a damned good story."

When I found the University of Virginia site about the witch trials, I discovered that Samuel's wife, Sarah, and his daughter Mercy also confessed to being witches, which makes Foley's comment about the family being in turmoil much more poignant.  This is one of those times when I wonder (more than usual) about what the celebrity is told that doesn't make it into the edited version of the episode.  He probably didn't know about Sarah and Mercy when he asked the question, but did Norton or Burns let him know about their confessions?  Sarah is even mentioned, though not by given name, in More Wonders of the Invisible World:

". . . the wife of Wardwell, who was one of the twenty executed, and it seems they had both confessed themselves guilty . . . .  It is supposed that this woman, fearing her husband's fate, was not so stiff in her denials of her former confession, such as it was." (page 279, 1823 edition)

I mentioned in my post about Aisha Tyler that the DNA commercials are better than the annoying one about the wrong draft registration card.  I think I've decided that one of the DNA spots is becoming that annoying.  It's the one with the woman who was so excited to find that she is one quarter American Indian and now wants to learn all about her heritage.  Since there's no specific tribal information, just the overall "Native American" label, I found myself wondering whether the Indian pots and other items that are used as set dressing are actually related to the tribe or tribes for which she has roots.  I also found it interesting that the "most shocking result" from her DNA test was the Indian ancestry, and not one comment about the 8% African.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Emma La Foret Orders the "San Francisco Examiner"

This is a 5 1/2" x 4" piece of whitish paper.  It may have been white at one time and colored with age.  It is a carbon copy of a newspaper subscription order from 1928, with the specifics of the order being handwritten.  The carbon of the handwriting, being blue, did not scan well, particularly in the middle.  As with previous documents that I have transcribed, I have underlined the handwritten parts.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --


San Francisco    July  17   19  28 

Deliver The San Francisco Examiner, Daily and Sunday

to        Mrs   La   Foret                                                    

No.      615      Indiana   St ,     Vallejo                           

Begin serving               at      once                                  

Leave paper                    on      Porch                            

Mrs.  E      La    Foret   
    Alf    Harrison                                                                             SIGNATURE OF SUBSCRIBER

Telephone  _________________
Carrier No.  ________________

Report of Carrier  ___________                                              Terms of Subscription to
                                                                                              The San Francisco Examiner
_________________________                                    Daily and Sunday _____ $1.15 per month
                                                                                             TRANSIENTS AND ROOMERS
                                                                                          REQUESTED TO PAY IN ADVANCE

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

In July of 1928 Emma decided to begin a subscription to the San Francisco Examiner.  Since the person who apparently signed her up was listed as a "canvasser", he might have been going door to door.  Maybe he was a good salesman.   Emma was still living at 615 Indiana Street in Vallejo.  This is the only time I've seen her signature with only an initial for her first name.  No phone number was listed; she might not have had one.

Considering the other documents which Emma saved, it was interesting but confusing to find a receipt for a newspaper subscription.  Why was this considered important enough to keep?  I can't think of a logical reason why this has survived all these years.  Whatever the reason, it is the last document of Emma's in the treasure chest I received.  Next week I'll begin examining the documents pertaining to Jean La Forêt!

As an amusing side note, most of the time, when people compare prices from yesteryear to those of today, current prices are much higher.  In this instance, it's the other way around.  After a lot of dramatic back and forth between the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle several years ago, the Examiner became a free newspaper you could pick up all over the city.  From the newspaper's Web site it appears there is still some sort of subscription option, but I couldn't find a price.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Write Your Names in Viking Runes

Nothing fancy this week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.  Randy Seaver found an online tool to instantly transcribe words into Viking runes, courtesy of PBS (specifically of WGBH in Boston, the station that gives us Antiques Roadshow):

1) My friend and CVGS colleague Karen Y. found this fun Web site -  Click on the "Launch Interactive" button, enter your name or some phrase of your choice, and see how it looks in runes.  

2)  I thought it would be ideal for a fun and fast SNGF project.  You can impress your friends and grandchildren with it, and maybe it will be a chart-storm on Facebook.

3)  Share your runic names or phrases with us in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this post, in a Facebook post or a Google+ post.  Please provide a link to your response if you can.

If you want to put a name or phrase into runes, this is the fastest tool I've seen.  So here's my name:

And because it's so easy, I did a mystery transcription also:

This actually relates to the runes, at least a little.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: One of the Transcriptions Wasn't Adequate

This document is a letter typed on a half-sheet of letterhead.  The paper is 8 1/2" x 5 1/2" watermarked ("Old Ta[illegible] Bond") bond paper, printed with the names of the office and two county clerks in blue ink.  The short note is typed and dated October 21, 1927.  It is signed, and if it weren't for the fact that the County Clerk's name is in the upper left corner, I would have no idea what the signature says.  Because the name is available, I can read the signature as G G Halliday.  The sheet was folded in half when I received it.

I found this week's document interesting in a couple of ways.  First, I was surprised that processing of the pension apparently required an additional certified copy of Emma and Emile Petit's divorce decree.  On May 17, 1927 Emma had sent a notarized transcription of the divorce decree to the Bureau of Pensions, along with other documentation required to support her pension application as Jean La Forêt's widow.  So what was wrong with that document?  I doubt seriously that the Bureau of Pensions would have known that there were three minor discrepancies in the transcription.  Maybe they just preferred to have a copy directly from the court, rather than via a notary.  I don't know how the certified copy that accompanied this note might have differed from the original or the transcription, because it was not in the goodie bag I received.  Perhaps that's something else I'll get to see when I order the complete pension file.

The second interesting thing about the note is that it's here in the first place.  This is a note that was sent to the Acting Service Officer at Mare Island in support of Emma's pension application.  Why did I find it in a collection of what appears to be Emma's personal family papers?  Shouldn't it be in the pension file?

Monday, April 11, 2016

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Aisha Tyler

So, Who Do You Think You Are? is back, and I'm already running behind!  Not a good way to start the season.  I barely finished scribbling my notes for the first episode (after rewatching it three times) a couple of hours before the second episode aired, and I couldn't write the post before that.  Ah, well, I have all week to try to catch up.

This season's celebrities for the most part are unknown to me.  I know who Molly Ringwald and Katey Sagal are, and that's it.  I guess I'll be learning about the others as their stories are aired.

The teaser for Aisha Tyler, the season opener, said that she would be learning about her mother's family history.  One ancestor had shocking beliefs, while another refused to be held down.  We would see an extraordinary story about celebrating victory and courage over adversity.

I now know that Aisha Tyler has had an accomplished, wide-ranging entertainment career as a comedian, actor, host, producer, author, and director.  She apparently first made a mark in Friends (a program I never saw while it was being aired in first run, and oh!, she was in a total of nine episodes) and who is also known for her work on The Talk (never seen it), Whose Line Is It Anyway? (only watched the original, British, better version; apparently she's hosting the third iteration), and Criminal Minds (used to watch it but stopped a few years ago, well before she joined the cast).  She also has a Podcast called Girl on Guy (never heard of it).  (Yes, I feel old, thank you.)  She lives and works in Los Angeles (at least I used to live there!).

Tyler begins by telling us that she is a workaholic.  She's curious about how she arrived at her outlook on life and figures it must be a legacy of the relatives who came before her.  I found it interesting that we did not see any of her family members in the episode.

Tyler was born in San Francisco, California.  Her parents are James Herman Tyler and Robin Adair Gregory, both of whom were dream-driven.  When Tyler was about 10 years old her parents divorced.  (She did not mention it in the episode, but her Wikipedia write-up says that she lived with her father after that.)  Her parents were very different:  Her father was a hard-driving, rugged, motorcycle-riding badass, while her mother was an elegant, artistic, intellectual painter who attended Howard.  (Yeah, that's pretty different.)

Tyler has heard a fair amount of family stories about her mother's side.  She realizes that some are probably true, while others are likely apocryphal.  Her mother suggested that she write to her great-aunt Sheila Gregory Thomas, her mother's father's sister, for information, as she is the family historian.  Tyler has apparently received a letter from her aunt in response, although the envelope she opens on camera has no writing or stamp on it.  (Maybe little elves delivered it.)  She reads portions of the letter, but I have transcribed it in its entirety here.  The letter was typed and unsigned.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Dear Aisha

     It's so exciting to know that you will be on a journey to uncover further information regarding our family history!  There is so much more I am curious about, so I hope you'll be able to find the answers.  Meanwhile, I believe the following information may be helpful to you.

     My father, Thomas Montgomery Gregory — your maternal great grand father — graduated from Harvard in 1910, at a time when, as you can imagine, there were very few Black students.

     He went on to teach English, drama, and debating at Howard University, and also founded and directed the Howard Players, a significant African American theater troupe.  His father, James Monroe Gregory — your maternal 2x great grandfather — was born free in Virginia in 1849, graduated from Howard in 1872, and went on to become an important advocate for Black education in America.  He was a protégé of Frederick Douglass.

     My mother, Hugh Ella Hancock Gregory, who of course was your maternal great grand mother, was born in 1896.  She was also well-educated — she attended Fisk University, which as you know, is a Historically Black College like Howard.

     Sadly, although our research on our family ancestry has produced a great amount of detail regarding the Gregory side, my mother's history is fuzzier.

     Her father, your 2x great grand father, Hugh Berry Hancock, attended school in Oberlin, Ohio in the 1860s and early 1870s.  After many years of marriage and raising a family, Hugh and hiw wife, Susie James, separated.

     When Hugh died, my mother was just a teenager and she had not seen him for some time.  These circumstances left a gap in our personal knowledge about him.  My theory is that Hugh became something of a rolling stone and wanted everyone to roll along with him, but that Susie wanted more stability for their family.  I have enclosed a photo of Hugh, the only one our family has left.

     There is a marvelous proverb, which I believe is African:  "When an old person dies, it is like a library burning down."  I wish I had asked my mother more about Hugh before she passed away.

     Happy hunting, Aisha!

     Aunt Sheila

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Tyler did not read the sections about James Monroe Gregory, the "fuzzier" comment about Sheila's mother's side of the family, Hugh possibly being a "rolling stone", or the paragraph about the proverb (which has been attributed to several origins, not only Africa) out loud.

Tyler notices that Hugh, who is clearly light-complected in the photo, looks a lot like her own mother.  She is excited and loves adventure, and is looking forward to learning about the people who came before her.  She "decides" (i.e., the producers told her) to go to Oberlin, Ohio, the only place she knows that Hugh lived, to start her research.  (Of course, she doesn't actually know that he lived there, only that her great-aunt said he was there.  But we'll take Aunt Sheila at her word, won't we?)

She goes to the Mudd Center at Oberlin College, probably to the library, and meets with Christi Smith, whose unusual on-screen credit reads "Author, Reparation and Reconciliation, Oberlin College."  (She was a visiting professor at Oberlin as of the writing of this post, but the book was published by the University of North Carolina Press.)  She tells Smith that she knows her great-great-grandfather Hugh Berry Hancock attended Oberlin (which she doesn't; again, she was merely told that by her aunt) and that she wants to learn more about his time there.  But we wouldn't be at Oberlin if Hancock hadn't been there himself at some time, right?  So Smith brings out a college catalog from 1872–1873.  An alphabetical list of names includes Hugh B. Hancock of Austin, Texas.

This is Tyler's first surprise:  She had no idea her ancestor was from Texas.  Smith then turns to the page for the department Hancock was in, which was the Preparatory Department.  She explains it prepared students for college, the ministry, and other areas.  The students were older than high school but not quite college-aged (my mental analogy was what junior colleges used to be like).

From this the two women go to the computer and (only eight minutes into the episode!) to learn more about Hancock.  Smith has Tyler go to the main census search page and search for Hugh Hancock in Oberlin, Ohio with exact match off.  They get seven results, the top two of which appear to be Tyler's Hugh Hancock.  (That's funny, because when I do that exact same search, I have 456,202 results.  Clicking on 1800's only brings the total down to 273,047, so I don't know how they got it down to seven.  At least when I restricted it to 1800's the two with Tyler's Hugh Hancock were at the top of my list also.)

Smith suggests that Tyler look at the earlier census first (not the right way to do research!).  The page shows a 5-year-old Hugh "Handcock" (actually transcribed by Ancestry as Handtock).  (Hey, that means he was only 17 years old when he was at Oberlin in 1872!  Hmm, that sounds like high-school age to me.)  Looking down the "race" column, Tyler discovers Hancock is listed as mulatto, which really surprises her.  She comments that it's a word not used much nowadays and that the politically correct term would be bi- or multiracial.  Smith points out that the main thing to keep in mind is that it means he had at least one white ancestor.

United States 1860 Census, Oberlin, Lorain County, Ohio
page 71 (handwritten)/218 (stemped), enumerated June 23, 1860

The next thing that Tyler fixes on is that Hancock was born in Texas, which means he was born into slavery, but that he is now living in Ohio, a free state.  He is in a household with several other people, including some Pattersons, but with no one else of the same surname.  Smith explains that the Pattersons were a black family who ran a boarding house.  They had students and others who lived there.

Tyler looks distressed and says it's clear from the "register" (census) that Hancock was not living with any parent or relative (which is not actually true; the 1860 census does not list relationships, so someone in the household could have been related and simply not had the same name, such as a remarried mother, a cousin, etc.).  She wants to know how he got to Oberlin from Texas.  Smith tells her that Oberlin was an important point on the Underground Railroad, and that in 1860 about 20% of the population was black.

From that Smith makes the leap to suggest that maybe someone had posted an ad about Hancock if he had run away.  (Um, a 5-year-old running away by himself?  Yeah, she's reaching.)  She tells Tyler to search on (yes, owned by Ancestry) to see what she can find.  She has Tyler search for hugh hancock and the word "mulatto" in Oberlin, Ohio.  (No, of course she doesn't know what Tyler will find!  How could you think such a thing?)  Amazingly enough (you're surprised, right?), the New Castle Index of New Castle, Pennsylvania, dated November 3, 1880, has a short note about Hancock and the possibilities being discussed about his parentage:

New Castle Index, November 3, 1880, page 4

The two men being bandied about as the possible father were General W. S. Hancock (the W. S. stood for Winfield Scott, a name I came across in my Emma Schafer research) and Old John Hancock.  The general was at the time a U.S. presidential candidate for the Republican Party.  Tyler says that the Republicans at that time were the socially progressive party, which Smith confirms, but then she says that the party was opposed to rights for blacks, which I could not understand in the context of what they were discussing.  About Old John Hancock, Smith says, "I've got nothing!"  At the time he was probably well known enough that no explanation was needed in the article, but that doesn't help now.

The article doesn't draw any conclusions about which man might actually be Hancock's father, so Tyler asks how she can find out which was her 3x-great-grandfather (without allowing for the possibility that it might have been neither).  Smith points out that the dateline for the article is Cleveland, Ohio and that the article says a reporter for the Leader, a Cleveland newspaper, was investigating the question.  She tells Tyler that she should go to the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland to see if maybe a longer article was published in the Leader.

As Tyler leaves Oberlin, she says she has questions about Hancock and which man, the general or "Old John", was his father.  She's hoping for the general, not Old John, whom she is sure was famous for holding up the corner of the bar.  She also figures that it will probably be the general because that would make for better television.  (Ah, I see I'm not the only person who understands "TV logic.")

We next see Tyler in Cleveland at the Western Reserve Historical Society, where she meets Daina Ramey Berry (we saw her in the Alfre Woodard episode).  Berry has a real, historic copy of the Cleveland Leader from October 29, 1880 for Tyler to look at.  (And I was happy to see they did not handle the newspaper with conservator's gloves.)  As Tyler pages through the issue looking for her great-great-grandfather's name, she finds it at the top of a page in large type.  (The article itself runs the entire length of the page and over to the next column.  It's available online at, but I guess Ancestry was only willing to allow them on screen, albeit uncredited, in one episode.)

Cleveland Leader, October 29, 1880, page 5

Tyler reads bits and pieces of the article.  The upshot is that after the Leader reporter researched the matter, Old John Hancock seems to be the father of Hugh, rather than the presidential candidate.  The article also has some information about Hugh Hancock's apparent mother and brother, with whom he was said to have come to Oberlin.  The brother died and the mother was not seen again; no one seemed to know whether she had died or left Oberlin.  And somehow Hugh Hancock ended up in the Patterson boarding house.

Tyler is struck by the tragedy that Hancock had already experienced by the time he was five, with his brother dying and his mother gone.  She also wonders how the family would have gotten to Oberlin.  Berry suggests that one way would have been via the Underground Railroad, but it's also possible that Hancock's father might have paid for them to leave.  Tyler had been hoping to learn the name of her 3x-great-grandmother also, but it is not given in the article.  Berry says she was probably a slave.  (Do any documents survive from Old John?  If so, did the family not feel inclined to work with the show's producers?  I'll revisit this point later.)

Tyler at this point was refreshingly direct.  Whereas previous celebrities, the first time they are confronted with some evidence of their ancestor's enslavement, have been very dramatic, she simply matter-of-factly said it was true and there's no whitewashing the fact.  The "cruel but intimate institution" of slavery meant that if the mother was a slave, her children were slaves.

Taking the article at its word, Berry tells Tyler that to learn more on Old John, she'll need to go to Texas.  The Texas State Library in Austin should have information about him, as he was a state congressman and socially prominent.  Tyler finds some solace in the fact that Austin has a "treasure trove of barbecue."

Tyler is happy that she has learned the name of her 3x-great-grandfather.  The last 48 hours have been exciting and overwhelming.  She's learned some good and bad:  Old John was a congressman, but she believes he was a slave owner.  She isn't devastated, she just wants to know more.

Something odd that caught my eye was when they showed a sign outside the historical society building.  It had the name, Western Reserve Historical Society, and the address, 10825 East Boulevard, and then what looked like two lines of text that were blurred out of focus.  It's a public sign; it probably has something like the hours and maybe the phone number of the society.  Why in the world would they need to obscure that?

Anyway, off to Texas we go!  As she heads toward the Texas State Library and Archives, Tyler says that Berry recommended she speak to Kim Kellison regarding her search for John Hancock.  Of course, Kellison (a "Historian of the South" at Baylor University) is inside waiting to greet her.  Tyler tells her she wants to know more about Old John, his life, and his relationship with Hugh.  Kellison has of course found something:  an article from the December 20, 1865 issue of the Galveston Weekly News, which they look at on microfilm.  I can't find that newspaper online at Chronicling America, GenealogyBank, Newspaper Archive,, or anywhere else, but here's a transcription of the article.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Judge Hancock's Speech

In compliance with the request of many of our citizens the Honorable John Hancock delivered an address to the people of San Antonio, last evening, suggesting many idea[s] for them to cogitate upon, now that they will soon be called upon to act for themselves in a very important capacity.  We have not time to more than briefly allude to several of the prominent subjects that he discussed, nor have we the space in order to give justice to the speaker.  The address was a masterly effort and we do not think that we go far amiss in saying that the sentiments entertained by Judge Hancock met a response in the breast of every man present who had a desire for his country's welfare.

He thought that so far as disagreements in regard to the war and what brought it on were concerned we should let the past bury the dead, seize the present, and calmly and dispassionately consider the future.  He was anxious to get rid of the military, saying that whenever it became necessary to rule this country by force of arms, from that day would date the downfall of the Republic.  He considered the Provisional government equally "damnable," and although approving the course of the administration of Andrew Johnson as far as it had been developed, yet he thought the people of Texas, who were the only ones that did not lay down their arms at the point of the bayonet, had been badly treated in not being allowed three months ago to assume their original position in the Union.

He illustrated his views on the "negro suffrage" question, when called upon to express them by saying that when he became in favor of letting a mule vote, that he would give the suffrage to the negro.  At the close he paid a glowing tribute to Lee, S--ney Jackson, Stonewall Jackson, Sherman and Grant.  There was never a time during war at which he would not have been willing to have referred the matters in dispute between the North and the South to the decisions of these true men.  As we have said, the subjects were too numerous to admit of mention at present–; we may recur to them again.—San Antonio Herald.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Tyler asks if this speech was made after Emancipation.  Kellison confirms that and explains that the war ended in May of 1865.  Judge Hancock is discussing how to move forward.  Blacks cannot yet vote.  In his speech Hancock made clear his opinion of blacks by comparing them to mules in terms of when they should be allowed to vote.  This sets Tyler off, who talks about the rampant hypocrisy among pro-slavery whites:  Blacks were good enough to take care of their homes and their children, feed their families, and be available for sex but shouldn't have freedom and be able to vote.  Judge Hancock had fathered children with a black woman, paid for his son's education, apparently bought him a ranch, and maybe even paid to move the family out of Texas, but still could compare blacks to mules. What it came down to was that the white Southerners wanted to hold on to the power they had had.

The narrator steps in with additional information for the only time this episode.  In 1870 black men gained the right to vote and made other steady gains in freedom.  This caused increased racial tension, which led to a backlash from white supremacists and to the rise of the KKK.  Intimidation and violence toward blacks rose, along with lynchings of black men.  By the early 1880's the rights that had been granted to blacks were being taken back.  The pushback created a dangerous environment in the South, which would have affected Hugh Hancock.

Tyler wonders why Hugh would have gone back to Texas.  It was a very dangerous time to be black in the South.  Kellison says that they might find more information in newspapers and that they should go upstairs.  They find a lone laptop sitting all by itself on a table, ready and waiting for them.  Tyler gets to visit for a second time, as Kellison says guilelessly that it has an "amazing array of newspapers from this time period."  She has Tyler use the advanced search and type in hugh hancock, and Austin, Texas for the location, then "suggests" that Tyler "pick a range maybe to look for" of 1875–1885 and "let's see what pops up."  (Aren't there scriptwriters anywhere in Hollywood who need work?  They have to be able to write better than this.)

So yes, surprise, surprise, something comes up that Kellison points Tyler to:  a short note in the Austin Weekly Statesman of June 19, 1884.  On the front page, in a section titled "Recorder's Court", is an item that says Hugh Hancock pled guilty to assault and battery and was fined $10 plus court costs.

Austin Weekly Statesman, June 19, 1884, page 1

There is no other information.  Tyler comments that if you were biracial in Texas at that time that you easily might encounter provocative situations.  Tyler doesn't ask, but Kellison says she thinks the next step should be for her to go to the Travis County Archives, which has many court records and other documents, to see if there's something about the case.

In this departure interlude, Tyler says it was jarring to find out that her 3x-great-grandfather was a white supremacist.  He was shameless, and she is disgusted by it.  Old John provided Hugh a ranch, but why go back to a place where he would be so unwelcome?  Even though Hugh was fined for the assault and battery, she doesn't think that's the entire story.  She figures that if you were a proud black man in Texas in the late 1880's, sometimes someone would need a box in the mouth.  I can't disagree with that!

As she drives to the Travis County Archives, Tyler says that she doesn't know yet who Hugh Berry Hancock is.  She has a lot of information, but she needs to learn more.  At the archives she meets Christine Sismondo, a social historian from York University, who says she has good news and bad news.  She has not been able to find any additional information about the assault and battery case because no court records from prior to 1890 have survived.  (That's definitely disappointing, but then why bother making such a big deal of the newspaper item?)  The good news is that she has found something else.  She gives Tyler a copy of a page from the 1885 Austin city directory, which includes listings for saloons.  Tyler has a lot of fun reading the names of the bars and giving running commentary.  She hits the Black Republican at 424 E. Pecan and thinks that sounds like a great name, then notices that the owner is Hugh Hancock.  (No comment is made about the "(c)" following his name, indicating he is "colored.")

Tyler seems to think it's pretty cool that her ancestor owned a saloon and wonders if Black Elephant could have been a reference to the Republican Party.  Sismondo says that the elephant was established as the symbol of the party in about 1875, so it's a good possibility.  She adds that a lot of politics happened in saloons:  talking about it, organizing, rallies, and sometimes being used as polling stations.  Tyler comments that Old John was against blacks being able to vote, so Hugh naming the saloon the Black Elephant could have been a grand act of defiance against his father.

Sismondo brings up the fact that saloons were important in the black community because blacks were not able to meet in a town hall.  Instead they got together at church and in saloons.  Tyler wonders if maybe Hugh had come back to Texas to help advance black rights.  Sismondo goes on to say that saloons like this became targets for white supremacists and were shut down repeatedly, because whites did not want blacks to move up to the middle class.

All of this led Tyler to question whether Hugh was active in politics.  Sismondo says she doesn't know about Texas politics but that she has a colleague who can help.  She adds that she has something else interesting about the Black Elephant but needs to know if Tyler has time for a field trip.  (C'mon, say no!)  They go to a building for which carefully chosen camera angles guarantee no identifying information is shown on screen.  It was the location of the Black Elephant saloon, it's the original building — and it's still a bar.  Tyler is thrilled and says, "It's just about the coolest thing I've ever seen."

(The bar is called Buckshot.  The address is the same, but the street was renamed East 6th.  Buckshot has a Facebook page but doesn't appear to have its own Web site.  It is listed with the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, though.)

Coming out of this segment, Tyler has still been thinking about why Hugh Hancock came back to Texas.  Now she wonders if one reason he did so because he felt it was his right to live freely and openly in the state he ws born in, to take his personal freedoms and control them himself.

The next segment had to be the following day, because Tyler talks about how yesterday she visited the bar.  Bars were places for people to gather and where they could talk about politics.  Maybe Hancock had helped organize politics.  Had he been involved in politics himself?  Or maybe been a conduit for others to organize?

Sismondo had said that she had a colleague who could help Tyler look into possible political aspects of Hancock's life.  That colleague turns out to be Tyina (somehow pronounced "too-WAN-na") Steptoe, a historian at the University of Arizona, who meets Tyler at the George Washington Carver Museum's Genealogy Center (not credited on screen, but I'm pretty good at reading tiny writing).  Tyler tells Steptoe she wants to know what kind of person Hancock was.  Was he involved in politics?  Was he a Republican?  Is that why he called his saloon the Black Elephant?

Steptoe hands Tyler a rolled-up piece of paper, which turns out to be an oversized copy of a newspaper page.  The New York Tribune of March 29, 1896 published an article about the Republican Party national convention in St. Louis, which included a list of the delegates from around the country.  And yes, Hugh B. Hancock is on that list (near the bottom of the image below).  The women note that Hancock is listed as colored but not that he voted for a losing candidate.  (This newspaper is actually on, but I guess they figured that the oversized copy was more dramatic.)

New York (Daily) Tribune, March 29, 1896, page 3

In 1896 Hancock was about 41 years old.  He probably had family, because Tyler's grandmother, Hugh Ella, was born about 1896.  (And if the research had included a full census survey of the family, they'd probably know more about that.)

Tyler asks how involved blacks were in Republican politics at this point.  Steptoe explains that by the 1890's the Republican Party had stepped back somewhat from its platform of rights for blacks.  She says it was rare to see blacks play a major part in party politics at this time and that many Southern states had been "disfranchising" (actually disenfranchising) black voters.  It is significant that Hancock was a delegate in 1896, which made him one of the last black men active in party politics for a while.

Tyler wants to know if there's anything after 1896, and Steptoe says she has one more document.  This is a copy of Hancock's obituary from the Pocatello (Idaho) Tribune.  The date is not shown, but Steptoe says it's from 1910.  (Unfortunately, Idaho didn't start recording deaths at the state level until July 1911.)  This is another paper I can't find anywhere online, so I've transcribed the text for everyone.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Funeral Tomorrow.—Mrs. H. B. Hancock and Miss B. M. Hancock, wife and daughter of H. B. Hancock, who died here recently at the Pocatello hospital, arrived in the Gate City to take charge of the remains.  Mrs. Hancock has charge of the department of domestic science in one of the state institutions of Texas.  The body will be buried here temporarily.  The funeral will take place at 2 p. m. Thursday, from Lindquist's chapel.  All friends are invited.  Mr. Hancock was a man who at one time was held in the highest esteem by the people of Austin, Tex.  He was born there in June, 1855, and graduated with honor at Oberlin, Ohio.  After leaving there he returned to Austin and taught school, finally embarking in business and in the zenith of his power, financial and political, he was elected a member of the board of aldermen, and chairman of the congressional district, a position which he filled with credit and distinction for ten years.  He married Miss Susie James, a reputable and estimable lady of Austin, November, 1879.  She survives him and four children, the issue of a happy marriage.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Tyler realizes Hancock was only 55 years old when he died.  She also notes that his wife and daughter came to get him and remembered the family information that he and Susie had separated after many years.  (Nothing is said about the reference to Hancock graduating with honors from Oberlin, which the previous research indicates is incorrect.  But almost everyone's life improves in an obituary.)  She says, "Every time I learn something I want to learn more," but Steptoe has no more documents for her.  What she does have is an address — 1717 West Avenue — which she says will be of interest to Tyler.

As she drives to West Avenue Tyler thinks about what she has learned regarding Hugh Hancock.  He was successful, enterprising, brave, and pioneering, qualities which may have trickled down to her.

At the address Steptoe gave her is a house, in front of which is a marker from the Texas Historical Commission.  It is the Hugh B. Hancock House!

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Texas Historical Commission
Official Historic Marker

Hugh B. Hancock House
Built in 1886, this house was originally located on 7th Street in the Robertson Hill area of East Austin.  It was constructed for Hugh B. Hancock, a successful black businessman of the city.  In 1904 it was sold to German native Charles Frederick Mann, a local railroad engineer, and it remained in his family until 1959.  Built in the Victorian style with classical ornamentation, the residence was moved to this location in 1979.
Record Texas Historic Landmark — 1981

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --

Tyler appears less excited about the house, which she calls a lovely discovery, than she was about the bar.  She says it's cool to be at his house and nice to know that Austin remembers him.  She looks at the house and walks around the outside a little, but that was it.

Tyler enjoyed finding out about Hancock, a man who refused to be held back.  She herself has lived a relatively unfettered life; if she has wanted to do something, she has gone out and done it.  It's nice to know she descends from someone with the same attitude.  She feels very lucky.

I was a little surprised that the program did not visit inside either Hancock's old bar or his former house, both of which would probably have been interesting for Tyler.  We've certainly seen people do something similar for previous episodes, such as with Angie Harmon and Melissa Etheridge.  I wonder if they were not pursued by the producers, or if the current owners didn't want to participate.  It could be that neither building's interior had anything left that was relevant to Hancock's history with it.  The celebrity and the historic person being black, and the location being Texas, however, I'm a little more inclined toward the owners not wanting to be involved.  That was also in my mind as far as identifying Hugh's mother was concerned.  Since Old John Hancock was such a prominent individual, and he apparently funded Hugh at different times in his life, I would expect that he probably kept good records of his financial transactions.  If the story about Hugh arriving in Oberlin with his supposed mother and brother were true, then a slave who suddenly disappeared from Old John's taxable lists in Texas at that time would be a good candidate for the mother, wouldn't she?  But maybe the family has that information and didn't want to share?  I remember feeling something like that was the case with the brick wall on Emmitt Smith's research the very first season of WDYTYA.

The political story the program chose to highlight was when Hugh was a delegate to the national convention, but nothing was shown about when he ran for an office himself.  In 1882 he ran for the position of hide inspector in Travis County, as reported in the Austin Statesman of November 9 and 16.  An article from September 14 said that the contest was between Hugh and the incumbent, Richard Warren, but they both lost to someone named Sheehan.

I was happy to see that Ancestry has retired its commercial showing the wrong draft registration, but now everything's pushing its DNA testing.  When will people learn that it's just not that reliable for a lot of information (or, as Judy Russell says, it's only "cocktail party conversation")?  On the other hand, TLC's other programming is just so awful, the Ancestry DNA commercials shine in comparison.

It's starting to look as though TLC has a formula of sorts for its mix of celebrities, although it isn't consistent.  The first two seasons everyone was white, but since then we've had one person of color each time (Julie Chen, Alfre Woodard, and Aisha Tyler).  The first three seasons had an LGBT celeb (Jim Parsons, Cynthia Nixon, and Melissa Etheridge) but none in season 4 or 5.  Every season except 2 has had at least one celebrity who has known Jewish ancestry (Chelsea Handler, Tony Goldwyn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Katey Sagal, and Lea Michele).  I realize a lot is dependent on what they find, whether a celebrity wants to follow through, etc., but it's interesting to see what kinds of bases the program is trying to cover.