Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: "The Other You"

I knew this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver sounded familiar.  I looked back through my blog and found he posted this theme last year on May 14.  But it's good to revisit these themes and see how things might have changed.

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I challenge you to:

* Tell us about your "other" hobbies or interests outside of genealogy and family history research, writing, speaking, etc.  Be mindful of your family's privacy, though!

* Write a blog post of your own, respond with a comment to this post, or write a Facebook status post or a Google+ Stream post.

Well, I still don't have much of a life outside genealogy.  It's what I do for work and volunteer activities; it keeps me up in the middle of the night when I'm on the hunt for answers.  But I do a few other things, at least occasionally.

I was on disability for three years, which recently ended.  During that time I didn't have much of a budget for doing anything.  Something I have done more of during the past year is cooking, though.  I took that as an indication that I was finally starting to feel better.  I again didn't host a seder this year, but I did a lot more cooking meals for myself.  It has felt really good to cook.  Now I need to get back to cooking for other people.  In other food activities, I attended two academic talks on food history, which were really interesting.  I also volunteered with a food justice organization.

I still enjoy historical costuming and reenactment events.  I participated in a couple of events this past year.  Not a lot, but enough to keep my toes in the water.  One of the events was a Victorian house tour, where I dressed in period clothing to be a docent.

After not having done anything musically in several years, I participated in two drum circle events.  I love percussion.  The events were pretty low-key, but it was fun to play a drum again.  In a related area, I volunteered at three local opera events so I could attend the operas for free.

I have continued to do editing for a culinary/lifestyle magazine.  It's nominally a "job", even though I've never been paid.  But I get to attend local food events, I'm taken to lunch every two to three months, and I stay involved with editing on some level (outside of genealogy, that is, since I edt three genealogy journals), so it works out ok.  The bad thing about being an editor is that I don't read for pleasure anymore, though.

I still love to travel, and I was able to do a pretty good amount during the past year.  I attended something like six genealogy conferences and found relatives to visit in most of those areas.  I saw my grandchildren over the Christmas holidays, and that's always a good thing.  And I have four genealogy conferences coming up this summer!  I didn't take any "vacation" vacations, but I can live with that.

I don't have much of a social life where I just hang out with friends, but it does happen occasionally.  I go out to lunch every now and then.  A few months ago I won free tickets to an opera and invited a friend.

I almost forgot — I've been taking American Sign Language classes for a little over a year.  I'll never be fluent, but I'm getting better.

So not much has changed since last year.  Almost my entire life revolves around genealogy.  But I'm working on it!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Missouri 1899 Statutes

This document is on one 8 1/2" x 13" sheet of paper.  It's a yellowish off-white.  It is a nice quality 20# bond with a watermark of BERKSHIRE / SOUVENIR BOND / U.S.A.  The sheet is in good condition.  It has three horizontal fold lines; it was folded into quarters when I received it, and I've flattened it.  Everything on it is typed; it has no handwriting.  There are several typos, only some of which were corrected.

The page starts out at the top with "The Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri, 1899", which conveniently are available online.  The version I found first was published in 1899 in Jefferson City, Missouri by Tribune Printing Company, "State Printers and Binders."  I don't think this version is exactly the same as the one quoted from here, as the very first item listed — Dower, Section 2933 — is said to be on page 744, while the edition I found shows Section 2933 on page 745.  So it's close, but not exact.

The next section quoted, 2944, regarding the widow's option to take a child's share, is on page 747.  Section 2945, "Election; how made", is on page 748.  Section 2961, "Admeasurement of dower", is on page 751.  This is a very short section, so it's interesting that there's a comment to "read this carefully."

Under "Chattels—Property", Section 105 actually is on page 152 in the edition I found.  The items listed on the page also appear in the online version, but wheels was incorrectly typed as "weels" here.

Section 107, "Additional property allowed Widow", is still on page 152, as is Section 108, "Deducted from dower."  Section 41, "Effect of marriage of femme sole Executrix", does appear on page 140.

Surprisingly, even though Article Four, Section 68 appears on page 146, in the version I found this section doesn't say anything about taking inventory in the presence of witnesses.  Rather, it instructs that the administrator needs to take the estate under his control.  That's a significant difference.

The next section quoted, 69 — Inventory; what it shall contain — is on the same page and matches what's in the digitized book.  Section 74, on page 147, does include language about wrongfully withholding anything back from the inventory.

Article 10, "Annual and Final Settlement", appears on page 170, as quoted here.  Section 223, "Compensation allowed Administrator", and Section 225, "Administrator to account for interest", are on page 172.  Section 232, "Final Settlement", is on page 173.

Article 11, "Distribution of the Estate", begins on page 175, with the first section being 238.  Section 243, "[P]arties interested, how notified", which has a notation to read it, is on page 176.

Overall, the book I found online seems to match almost exactly the one used as a source for this reference sheet.  I'm confused about how different Section 68 is.  If the book used was actually the Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri, 1899, one would think they should be the same, even if it were a later printing.

Overall, the sections quoted here focus primarily on the widow's rights, inventory, and final settlement.  It's possible that this was compiled to use as ammunition for the court case that Jean and Emma La Forêt had considered filing against Emma's siblings regarding the disposition of their mother's estate.  I don't know how much this would have helped, however, because the provisions for the widow's share might have been superceded when Elizabeth (Walz) Schafer remarried, with all of her property at that time coming under the control of her second husband, Louid Curdt.  In fact, one of the quoted sections, 41, specifically addresses this.  The inventory sections would seem to be more relevant to the situation the La Forêts found themselves in after Elizabeth's death.

I think the most surprising thing about this sheet is that it has no handwritten notes, nothing to identify its purpose among the other documents.  I've gotten used to seeing those, and they've helped guide me in understanding several of the items.  Without those hints, I can't really tell where this fits in.  I don't even really know who typed it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Homes in Which I've Lived

For tonight's edition of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver has borrowed another meme from Linda Stufflebean, and it's a fun one.  Also surprisingly relevant for me at this moment in time.

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I challenge you:

(1)  Read Linda Stufflebean's blog post, "Homes in Which I've Lived", on her Empty Branches on the Family Tree blog.  

(2)  This week, please list the homes in which you have resided (not just visited) from your birth until the present.

(3)  Share your list in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or on Facebook or Google+.  Please provide a link to your list as a comment to this post.

I actually have this list — somewhere in my house.  I don't know where.  It was packed away before my aborted move in 2008.  But it's an actual list of all the places my family lived, with addresses, at least from the time my brother was born (and possibly from when I was born, a year earlier) through to about 1980 or so.  Without it, there's no way I can come up with most of the addresses.  But I have some specifics and lots of vague information.  And it's a much longer list than Randy's.

• When I was born in 1962, my parents lived at 106 Rose Lane, Montebello, California.

• When my brother was born in 1963, I believe we still lived in Montebello, because that's the city he was born in, but it might have been at a different address.

• My sister was born in 1964 in La Puente, California, and I believe that's where we lived.  I do know we lived in La Puente at some point, because that's where we were when my father's first wife and my half-sister lived with us.  It probably was not the same address, but I don't know.

• In 1971, and probably a year or two before that, my family lived at 434 Randy Street, Pomona, California.  That's the last place we lived in the United States before we moved to Australia for two years.  We left in March 1971.

434 Randy Street in 2011

• In Australia we lived in three different places that I can remember:  an apartment in Sydney, a place in Maroubra Junction (don't remember if it was an apartment or a house), and a house at 309 Bunnerong Road, Pagewood.  All of these are in New South Wales.

• When we returned to the United States about March 1973, we stayed for a short while in the Fort Lauderdale area with relatives.

• From south Florida we went up to the Panhandle, where we lived with my grandfather and his wife at 637 Bayshore Drive, Niceville, but not for long.

• After my grandfather's house, we moved to a trailer park in Niceville.  I am pretty sure that was also in 1973.  We lived at two different locations in the park, in two different trailers, so that's two separate residences.

• We left Niceville and Okaloosa County to go to Villa Tasso, a tiny unincorporated place just over the county line in Walton County.  I think that was about 1974.  I know we were living in Villa Tasso in 1975, because that's when Hurricane Eloise hit.  We actually stayed in the same place through to my high school graduation in 1979, which at the time seemed to me to be a minor miracle.

• After graduation, I lived with my grandparents in Las Vegas for two or three months before I started college.  I don't remember the address, but we were behind the Imperial Palace, which apparently was renamed the Quad Casino in 2012 and the Linq in 2014.  And until now I didn't know it was owned by Caesar's.

• Oh, college!  So many places, so few specifics.  I lived in three different dorm rooms during the four years I was an undergraduate.  During each summer I rented a room at a fraternity; in 1980 and 1981 it was the same frat (Phi Kappa Psi, I think, at 642 West 28th Street), and in 1982 it was the Delta Sig house (which doesn't seem to be there anymore; apparently the chapter is inactive).  Altogether college gave me seven different residential addresses.

• In the summer of 1982 I went on a student exchange trip to Bordeaux, France, which had (still has?) a sister city relationship with Los Angeles.  Through a series of misadventures with the student with whom I was paired, I ended up in Paris three weeks earlier than I was supposed to be, needing some way to make money and a place to stay.  I had my own little efficiency apartment three blocks from the Sorbonne.

• My first move after graduating college in 1983 was to a three-story Victorian house at 459 East Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles, next to an AME church (now the Walker Temple, but I don't remember if it had that name then).  (And by the time I was 21, I had lived in at least 21 different places.)  The house was great and even had the original carriage house at the rear of the property.  I lived there four years, with four prior-enlisted Navy ROTC housemates.  I had the third-floor attic as my room.  The house was owned by the uncle of one of the ROTCs, who lived there with his partner.  I moved when the uncle and his partner became irrationally negative about women in the house.  Shortly after that, the uncle was unfortunately murdered by his daughter's boyfriend.

• In 1987, after the aforesaid irrationality, I moved to a small second-floor apartment a mile or so away.  I don't remember the address.  I do remember it was an old building, and my apartment still had an original icebox, from when the iceman delivered blocks of ice.

• Soon after moving into the apartment, I decided I didn't like living in an apartment, so I found a four-bedroom bottom-floor half of a duplex on South Catalina Street.  I think the address was 2210 South Catalina, but don't hold me to that.  I lived there until September 1989, after I lost all three housemates in less than a month.

• Next was a big move, 400 miles north, to 1620 Alcatraz Avenue, Berkeley, where I was an unpaid housekeeper/cook/nanny.  I arrived a mere three weeks before the Loma Prieta earthquake.  For various reasons the arrangements did not work out, and I was on the road again.

• In June 1990 I didn't move very far — just down the street, to (I think) 1632B Alcatraz Avenue, where I lived in a cute little mother-in-law unit at the back of the property.  I actually stayed there almost three years, the third longest I had lived anywhere in my life to that point, after Villa Tasso and the Victorian on Adams Boulevard.

• In February 1993 I moved to my present location, 1066 28th Street, Oakland, the first place I owned.  I am still amazed when I realize that I've lived in the same place for more than 24 years.

So, to date I have lived in 27 residences, but another one will be coming soon.  I am in the process of selling my house and moving to the Portland, Oregon area.  Soon my list will have 28 locations.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ever Wanted to Run an Italian Castle?

The 103 historic properties available
This may be your chance.  Italy is making more than 100 historic castles, farmhouses, and monasteries available to entrepreneurs in an effort to revitalize the unused buildings.  (Maybe one of the sites has a connection to your family?)  The program, called Cammini e Percorsi (I'm thinking of it as "Highways and Byways", although that's not entirely accurate), is being handled by Italy's Agenzia del Demanio ("Agency for State Property") and is backed by the Ministry of Tourism.  The 103 properties are located along eight historic transportation routes throughout the mainland and in Sicily and Sardinia.  The goal is to have the buildings transformed into facilities that will be used by tourists, hikers, bikers, and pilgrims.  (Hey, what about genealogists?)

If you want to take a shot, you will need to submit a proposal outlining how you will transform your desired location into a tourist destination.  Preference is being given to individuals under 40 years of age, although those of us over 40 are not excluded from applying.

You don't actually get title to the building, sorry.  You will have the right to run it for nine years, with an option for an additional nine years.

The deadline to submit your proposal is June 26, 2017.  It is expected that work will begin next summer.

For more information (all in Italian, although the top of the page proclaims "English Version...Coming Soon"), visit  And let me know if you win one of the contracts!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Another Copy of Emile Petit's "Interrogation"

This document is two sheets of paper attached to each other in the upper left corner by some sort of paste or glue, a technique we have seen several times.  The first page is 8 1/2" x 10 15/16"; the second is 8 1/2" x 11 1/16".  The third image is the reverse of the second page.  The first page is about 20# in weight but not high-quality paper; it has no watermark.  The second page is of better quality and has a watermark:  "BERKSHIRE SOUVENIR BOND USA."  Almost everything on these pages is typed, with the exceptions of the dates on the top of the first page, a handwritten "s" at the bottom of the first page, and the words "Questions to Petit" on the back of the second page.

In case this sounds familiar, it should.  This is another copy of Jean La Forêt's questions posed to Emile Petit, which I posted on March 16.  Those copies were in an envelope, while this one was separate.  The sizes of the pages are different, but the types of paper are the same.

Now that I have all the copies together in one place, it's clear that the one above is the original typed version of the second set in the March post.  The letter impressions on the page are crisper, and the indentations in the paper are deeper than in the March copy.  Shame on me for not noticing in March that the pages I had in hand had the fuzzy look of a carbon copy.

As these pages are the original typed copies of the set from March, they unfortunately add no new information to our ongoing narrative.  They do, however, reinforce that Jean La Forêt wanted to make sure he had plenty of copies of documents.  Maybe he was worried that one of Emma's siblings would try to destroy papers and derail his investigation.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Northwest Genealogy Conference: Another Busy Time Coming Up

I already feel tired.  In addition to having five presentations accepted for this July's IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, I have now learned that four of my submissions were accepted for the Northwest Genealogy Conference, which will be held in August in lovely Arlington, Washington.  I am thrilled to be going to NWGC again.

The conference runs over four days:  Wednesday–Saturday, August 16–19.  The first day is free classes in two tracks, beginning genealogy and society management.  Then each day has a featured speaker:  Diahan Southard on August 17; Daniel Earl on August 18; and Kenyatta Berry on August 18 and as the banquet speaker on August 17.

This conference is only half as long as IAJGS, so I don't have the luxury of only one talk per day.  Instead, I have two each on Friday and Saturday:

Friday, August 18, 2017
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization, Parts 1 and 2

Saturday, August 19, 2017
Online Resources for Jewish Genealogy
Using Online Historical Jewish Newspapers for Genealogical Research

It'll be nice to have two sessions for my immigration and naturalization class.  I cover so much material in that, and it's impossible to cram it all into one normal session time.  But I'm very disappointed that my talks on Saturday are at the same times as two by Janice Lovelace, and I won't be able to hear either one.  At least I can go to her Thursday presentation.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

My Mother and Cars

Maybe a car my mother drove?
Don't confuse the title of this post with "My Mother the Car", which was an entertaining television series starring Jerry Van Dyke (notwithstanding what later critics had to say about it).  For Mother's Day, I wanted to share the saga of my mother's love-hate relationship with cars.  Maybe it was because she grew up in major urban centers where it was not common for everyone to have a car, but my mother and cars didn't always seem to get along.

The reason my parents met is because she was in a car that broke down.  I don't know if it was my mother's car or her best friend's.  The story is that they were going to a party and the car broke down.  My mother was fretting that they'd miss the party, but her friend said, "Don't worry, I'll call my uncle.  He can fix it."  It turns out my mother's best friend was my father's niece (so she's my first cousin).  I never heard if he fixed the car, but my parents married soon after.

When I was very young, my family lived in Southern California, where cars were a necessity.  While it was possible to get around without one, it took forever to do so.  I can't imagine my mother trying to go by bus with three small children; she didn't have the patience.  She had a horrible sense of direction, however, and got lost all the time.  The amazing thing is that my brother, who was not quite 8 years old when we left California, was often the one who gave her directions to get home again.  (And just to prove that it wasn't something about driving in Los Angeles that caused her to lose her sense of direction, she even managed to get lost in Niceville, Florida, which is about as small as it sounds.)

Another memorable car breakdown my mother experienced was on the Grapevine, the twisty, turny highway that goes through the Tehachapi Mountains and is the connection between the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles area.  Apparently she and a friend (not my cousin) were driving from Los Angeles to Modesto to a party (yup, another one).  The car broke down on the Grapevine.  Rather than miss their party, my mother and her friend left the car where it was, headed to Modesto some other way, and left it to my father to retrieve the car.

Through all of this my mother had been driving automatics.  When my family moved to Australia, however, my father told her that she was going to have to learn to drive a stick, because there just weren't that many automatics in Australia, and they were extremely expensive.  So it was drive a stick, rely on public transportation, or stay at home.  That was enough to motivate my mother, but she was never great with a stick.  She definitely believed in the phrase, "If you can't find 'em, grind 'em."  (Unfortunately, I think she taught my brother to drive, and for several years he ground gears with the best of them.)

To some degree my mother recognized her limitations, and sometimes she chose not to push it.  When we were living in Florida, she had taken my siblings and me to a theme park (sorry, don't remember which one), and on the way home we experienced one of those lovely heavy Florida thunderstorms, where it's almost white-out conditions.  Rather than try to drive through the storm, my mom pulled over to the side of the highway, and we waited it out.

Perhaps the most eye-catching thing my mother did with a car was the time she hit a deer.  I don't know how common it is, but she rolled the car.  Luckily, she was fine.  My stepfather told me he drove past the rolled car on the other side of the highway and didn't realize my mother was in it.

At least she wasn't hit by lightning in a car.  That happened to her twice while she was on the phone.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: A Tribute to Your Mother

Well, it is the day before Mother's Day, so I should not have been surprised to see that Randy Seaver chose mothers as the theme for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I challenge you:

(1)  This is Mother's Day weekend, and I have been thinking about my mother — the family times, the hard times, the wonderful times.  

(2)  For SNGF this week, write a tribute to your mother.  It can be any length.  What do you remember about her, and what did you learn from her?

(3)  Share your tribute or memories in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook or other social media.  Please leave a comment on this post if you post something elsewhere.

I learned many valuable lessons from my mother.  I learned tolerance and openmindedness, because my parents had friends of many different backgrounds — black, Hispanic, Indian, Vietnamese, gay — in a time when that was not common.  I learned forgiveness and love, because my mother welcomed my father's first wife and my half-sister into our home, and they lived with us.  I learned intellectual curiosity, because my mother always encouraged her children to read, study, and expand their minds.  I learned to appreciate language, because she played games with it and made it fun.  I learned fearlessness, because she always told me I could do and be anything I wanted.  I learned to be adventurous, because she emphasized that we should be willing to try almost anything once.  And I learned so much about my family, because she and her mother talked about relatives and let me know who they were.

There is no tombstone for my mother with numbers on either side of a dash, because she chose to be cremated.  But I don't need a tombstone to remember her.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Revisiting Louis Curdt's Legal Waiver

In March, I posted three transcriptions of Louis Curdt's 1885 waiver of dower of Elizabeth (Walz) Curdt.  At the time I came up with a couple of ideas for where the original might be.  It turns out that I have one and didn't know it. Apparently when I sorted through all the documents, I didn't notice that I had two different sets of these waivers.  Well, now I know!

This sheet of paper is 7 1/2" x 12 1/2".  It's about 20# weight.  It has an embossed logo of some sort in the upper left, but I can't read it.  (I'm going to scan it at 600 DPI and see if that helps.  If not, I'll go for 1200.)  The embossing was so strong that it cut through the paper in one place.  The sheet has been folded multiple times, in different places.  On the main text side, the only ones that seem to be visible in the scan are the two horizontal lines that divide the page into approximate thirds.  On the reverse side, which has only "Waiver of Dower rights" in blue pencil, the folds framing the text and one that bisects that section can be seen clearly.

These are copies of two of the three transcriptions I posted in March.  The upper one is the original typed version of the third transcription from March (which now that I have this one in hand I've looked at again, and it is a carbon copy).  This sheet also has a "DEPOSIT BOND" watermark and is the same size and color as the March item.  The page has two more folds than the carbon copy does.  The only difference between the two transcriptions is that the name "Louis" in the signature line is slightly lower in the carbon copy.  The name was typed directly with the typewriter.  It looks as though the carbon copy name was erased first, but I'm not totally sure.  One other difference is that this page has "Waiver of Right of Dower" in blue pencil on the reverse side.

The lower image is a carbon copy of the second transcription posted in March.  This sheet is the same size, 8 1/2" x 12 1/2", appears to be the same weight and color, and has folds in the same places.  The differences between these two documents are the handwritten word "Sections" in blue pencil on the original typed page (the March copy) and slightly different placement of the words "all my" in the next to last line of the long paragraph.  Now that I have the two pages next to each other, I can see that the original typed version had something else typed there that was removed and then "all my" typed in.  On the carbon copy, it appears that whatever was typed with the carbon paper was erased and "all my" typed in its place.

So altogether I have an original handwritten copy of the waiver from Louis Curdt, three typed transcriptions (all differing slightly in wording), and carbon copies of two of the transcriptions.  Someone in this family (I'm still guessing Jean) was just a little obsessive about having extra copies.  Of course, now that I have a handwritten copy, I just have to transcribe it and compare it to Jean's work.

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

This witnesseth that I have received for a valuable consideration a warranty deed of of Louis Emile Petit and Emma his wife to me the undersigned Louis Curdt to lots 9 & 10 of a Subdivision of John Smith's Estate in Seys[?] No 1901 & 1902, T 46 R 6 East in StLouis [sic] County State of Missouri U. S. of America.  The deed, though, convoying [sic] by its face an absolute title and unincumbered [sic], is conveying only the title subject to the dower of Elizabeth Curdt, late widow of John Schaefer  Now for good causes & considerations I hereby for myself and for my ligal [sic] representatives do hereby waive all my claims against said Petit & wife on account of said dower interest

Signed and sealed this 19th day September 1885 at StLouis [sic] Mo

[signed] Louis Curdt [seal]

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

Even though this might be Louis Curdt's original signature (it does seem to be different handwriting from that on the rest of the page, although I don't know if it's "German" script or writing, as Jean typed in his transcriptions), this does not appear to be the original document.  The word "seal" surrounded in curlicues suggests that this is a handwritten copy of an original that had a seal on it.  Unfortunately, this copy is not dated, so there's no way to tell if it was made around the time of the 1885 waiver or when Elizabeth Curdt died in 1919.

At least now we know why Jean had "Seys" in one of his transcriptions — that is certainly what it looks like to me in this original.  At first I thought that the "y" didn't look like other "y"s in the document, but then I found a couple that looked at least similar.  And if it isn't a y, I have no idea what it could be.  Maybe there is yet another "original", which might be more legible.

Overall Jean's transcriptions are all very close to the handwritten copy, although he did correct the spelling of "legal" every time.  Certainly no significant deviation was made, and the meaning is the same across all three.  The only major difference is still Seys versus Sections versus Surveys.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: I Write Like . . . .

Randy Seaver has found another very . . . interesting challenge for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.  I'm not really sure what I think of this one and the outcome.

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is to:

(1) Find something that you have written that you are really proud of - the best of your work. Do an Edit > Copy of it.

(2) Go to the web site and Paste your text into the waiting box.

(3) Tell us which famous author you write like. Write it up in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog, or post it on Facebook.  Insert the "badge of honor" in your blog if you can.

I'm not sure what I expected as results, but it wasn't this.  I chose two posts that I'm fairly happy with:

I'm Apparently a Sellers via Informal Adoption


"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Noah Wyle

and I got the same result for both:

Here's the description of Clarke that's included:

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS, Sri Lankabhimanya (16 December 1917–19 March 2008), was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Clarke were known as the "Big Three" of science fiction.

Clarke served in the Royal Air Force as a radar instructor and technician from 1941–1946.  He proposed a satellite communication system in 1945 which won him the Franklin Institute Stuart Ballantine Gold Medal in 1963.  He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947–1950 and again in 1953.

Clarke immigrated to Sri Lanka in 1956, largely to pursue his interest in scuba diving; that year, he discovered the underwater ruins of the ancient Koneswaram temple in Trincomalee.  He lived in Sri Lanka until his death.  He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 and was awarded Sri Lanka's highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya, in 2005.

I could certainly have done worse!  Although I don't think I'll be coming out with the next great riff on 2001 anytime soon.

I read the "About" page on the site and found that it works with a list of 50 authors.  It doesn't appear to be random chance that got me the same result, but who knows for sure?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Estate of John Schafer and Elizabeth Walz

This piece of paper is 8" x 9 7/8", a size we've seen previously.  It is off-white and has visible lines in both directions but no watermark.  It was folded in thirds, though the fold lines did not carry through to the scanned image.

This is the second page and the reverse of that page.  The sheet of paper is the same size as the first page and is of the same paper stock.  The two pages are attached by some sort of glue or paste in the upper left corner.  Both pages are typed, and they appear to be originals.  There is texture to the text on both sides of the page.

The first two pages here appear to be carbon copies of the the first two original pages shown above.  They feel as though they have gone through a typewriter, but the impressions are not quite as deep, and the ink seems to be that of carbon paper.  The paper stock is the same as the originals.  Instead of a copy of the third page, however, the reverse of the second page has "History of the Case" written in blue pencil.  I don't know whose handwriting this is.  These two pages are attached in the same way as the originals, with paste or glue in the upper left corner.

This envelope is 9 1/2" by 4 1/8".  It's made of a fairly heavy stock and is a medium tan in color (notwithstanding the orange look in the scan).  The writing is in blue pencil and looks like that of Jean La Forêt to me.  The pages above were in this envelope when I received them.

Looking at the two sets of papers, it is clear that the second set is a carbon copy of the first, because everything matches almost exactly as far as the typing is concerned.  The carbon copy has some corrections in pencil and pen, where words have been struck out and some additions made.  Both the original and the carbon have the word "transfer" typed in the lower right corner.  On the original, it appears that someone tried to type it and it didn't fit, so apparently the decision was made to type it separately on each page later.

I believe the person who put this information together was Jean La Forêt.  He was the person who often typed up and collated information.  The word "ennemi", which means enemy (second line of the second page) pretty much convinces me this is Jean's work.  "Informations" (second page, sixth paaragraph, second line, and third page, first line) seals it for me.  These are both French words.  So is "nefaste", which I have finally learned means harmful (second page, sixth paragraph, fourth line).

As for the content — now we're getting into some interesting material.  This is the first I remember reading that John Schafer's death was an accident, and definitely the first time I've seen it compared to Emma's mother's accidental death.  That puts a new spin on John Schafer's death, which until this document had not been cast as suspicious.

The document brings into one narrative several pieces of information we've read about previously:

• the marriage of John Schafer and Elizabeth Walz (which no one seems to have a copy of), which produced one child, Emma Schafer

Elizabeth (Walz) Schafer's marriage to Louis Curdt, which produced three children, L[o]uisa, Alvina, and August

• John Schafer's purchase of lots 9 and 10 in St. Louis County

Emma's marriage to Emile Petit

Emile Petit's sale of Emma's interest in her father's property to Louis Curdt

Emma's divorce from Emile Petit (although it was filed in 1907 and granted in 1908)

Emma's move to Missouri after her divorce from Emile Petit and before her marriage to Jean La Forêt

Emma's marriage to Jean La Forêt and her life with him until their return to the United States

Elizabeth's divorce from Louis Curdt

the amount of property conveyed by Elizabeth to her Curdt children

the timing of Elizabeth's death, on the day she was going to talk to Emma about family matters

It's nice to see how much of that I have supporting documentation for!  These pages also add quite a bit more to the story, however:

• details about John Schafer's purchase of lots 9 and 10, including the apparent explanation of the name John Smith, enough such that I should be able to obtain copies

• details about the sale of Emma's interest in her father's estate, again enough so that I should be able to order copies

• the language problems that accompanied the accomplishment of that sale

• Jean expected to rejoin the Consular Service after the end of the war

• the belief that there were documents left by Elizabeth (Walz) Curdt that Emma was unable to view

This really is becoming a lurid soap opera, isn't it?  I particularly like the line "Strange things happen indeed in this family."

But oh!, I have so many more documents now that I'll need to order!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Noah Wyle

One minor advantage to the end of this season of Who Do You Think You Are? is that I know no new episodes are coming up, so I'm no longer aiming at a moving target.  I finally had some time to sit down and rewatch the Noah Wyle episode for details, so the slow process of catching up continues. The teaser for this episode said that Wyle would hunt for the answers to mysterious family rumors and unearth (like dig up?) a beloved relative who fell from prosperity to poverty, whose desperate measures and tragic downfall would shake Wyle to the core.

The introduction is shot in Hollywood.  Noah Wyle tells us that he is a third-generation Angeleno who grew up in Hollywood, which had a profound influence on him.  He started acting in his sophomore year of high school.  Everyone in his family had gone to college, and he was the first one in generations not to do so.  He likes the freedom of acting and told his family members it is like an ongoing education because of all the things he learns, which somewhat appeased their anxiety.  So he continues to learn and he makes money, not a bad combination.  We get the obligatory run-down of Wyle's career highlights with stills — A Few Good Men, ER (1994–2009), Falling Skies (2011–2015), The Librarian — although his commentary seems a little more perfunctory than most.  He says that after about 20 years of acting, he now also writes and directs, which he likes a lot, and that he's been very lucky.  (Why does everyone want to direct?  I've done it, and I like acting a lot more.)

Wyle was born at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Hollywood on June 4, 1971.  (The old Cedars of Lebanon Hospital building is now the Church of Scientology, by the way.)  His parents are Marjorie Ann Speer and Frank Stephen Wyle (who goes by Stephen).  His paternal grandparents, Frank and Edith Wyle, were movers and shakers in Los Angeles.  They were close by, so he saw them a lot growing up.  His mother is from Kentucky, and they regularly took extended visits to see her family there, and vice versa.  Speer's parents were Alexander Burns Speer and Marjorie Mills (wow, he knows his grandmother's maiden name?).

Education was important to Wyle's family in general, but he excelled in history.  He saw the inherent drama in studying it.  His first interest in history was the American Civil War.  Because his mother's family is from the South, he was always curious about what they might have done in the war.  His Uncle Sandy, who was the family genealogist on his mother's side and who passed away at a very young age, had told him it was commonplace for people of means to pay someone else to serve in their place and that their family had taken advantage of that.  Wyle had felt disappointed to learn that his family members had skated on an obligation like that.

Now that he's 45 years old, Wyle is looking at the second half of his life and decided it's appropriate to understand his family history better.  He realizes that people are complicated, and that a noble act doesn't make someone a noble person any more than an egregious act makes him a terrible person.  He doesn't want his ancestors to be just "two-dimensional people and fourth-generation anecdotes."  He wants to come to an objective understanding of them.  (Obviously, he is preparing himself for people who fought on the "wrong side" of the war.)  He's curious about his mother's family, and now there are few people to tell him stories, but he wants to understand his history so he can tell his own children.

Wyle begins his journey by visiting his mother, Marty, in Hollywood.  She has found a photograph that Uncle Sandy gave her of her mother's family; Wyle has never seen it before.  It shows her mother, Marjorie, who was born in 1916, as a baby, so the photo probably dates from around 1917.  Marty points out Wyle's great-grandparents, George Pemberton Mills and Margaret Mills.  Also in the photo are Wyle's great-great-grandparents, George W. Mills and Marie Pemberton.  Marty never knew her great-grandparents, but she knows that the father of George W. (what an unfortuante name) was John Henry Mills, who was born about 1843 in New York.  She also knows that he married Mary Emily Brown in 1863 in Summit, Mississippi.  We see a floating family tree that follows the direct line to John Henry Mills and adds no information beyond what Marty describes.

Wyle is curious whether John served in the Civil War and which side it might have been for.  He mentions that he had asked Uncle Sandy about this and was told about paying someone else to take one's place.  Marty never heard that story but says they should look it up:  "Let's look on Ancestry and see what we can find."  (The entire exchange had sounded very scripted anyway, and that line just cemented it for me.)

So they go online to Ancestry.  Even though they had just been discussing whether John served in the war, Marty suggests looking in the federal census for 1860 (boy, she knows all the right words, doesn't she?).  Wyle types in John Mills as exact, and birth year of 1843 and birth place of New York with exact turned off.  They immediately focus on the John H. Mills living in Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana and comment that it must be him because of the middle initial — even though his estimated birth year is shown as 1842 and four results above him is a John H. Mills, estimated birth year of 1843, living in Warren County, New York; and three results below the guy in Louisiana is another John H. Mills in New York, this one with an estimated birth year of 1844.  Gee, do you think they knew ahead of time what they were looking for?

1860 census search results using the same parameters as Noah Wyle

That said, they click on the John Mills in Louisiana.  He is the only person in the household, so there is no logical way for them to know he is the correct person, but they are excited nonetheless.  His occupation is clerk.

United States 1860 Federal Population Census, Baton Rouge Post Office, City of Baton Rouge,
East B[aton] Rouge [Parish], Louisiana, June 9, 1860, page 17/463, line 33 (edited image)

Now Wyle wonders if John did serve in the Civil War, was it in a Louisiana regiment?  And where should he go from here?  Since the last place they know John Mills lived was in Baton Rouge, Marty says, "Maybe you should go and try to see what you can find out there."  (Well, of course!  Why didn't I think of that?)

And so Wyle goes off, hoping that this journey can answer his question.  Will he find a Civil War veteran?  If he did fight, was it for the Confederacy?  (There were Unionists in Louisiana, but that doesn't fit the theme of this episode.)  Wyle has no misgivings, because everyone took a side then.  It was regionally specific, so whether they did it to maintain slavery or for states' rights (I couldn't believe he trotted out that canard), it will be interesting to see what he learns.  (And the apologies begin early.)

In Baton Rouge, Wyle heads to the Louisiana State Archive, which we are shown in a close-up is at 3851 Essen Lane (in case you want to go also).  He hopes they have enrollment records for John's military service (good thing he's an actor, but I'm sure he wished he had better material to work with).  He is very polite and thanks Dr. Lesley Gordon, credited as a Civil War historian at the University of Alabama, for taking the time to answer a few questios for him (don't worry, I'm sure she was paid well).  Gordon takes him to a microfilm reader and explains they will be looking at compiled service records, which were created by the government to track veterans.  The opening slide on the microfilm has "Microcopy No. 320 / Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana / Roll 384 / Crescent Regiment L–Q" and was published by the National Archives.  Wyle fast forwards a couple of times and manages to land on J. H. Mills, a private in Company H of the Crescent Regiment, Louisiana Infantry, Confederate States of America.  (Again, of course this is the right guy.)  They show the jacket cover for the compiled service record, along with one muster card.  (These are available on Fold3, by the way.  I'm surprised Ancestry didn't take the opportunity to show off its military history site.  Maybe the WDYTYA producers didn't allow it.)

The only muster card shown details that on March 5, 1862, John enlisted in Captain John Knight's Company (Crescent Blues), the Crescent Regiment of the Louisiana Militia, for a 90-day stint.  Gordon says that the militia was the home guard.  This unit was made up of the elite of New Orleans and was called the "kid glove unit."  As a clerk, John was white collar and educated, which surprises Wyle.  Gordon explains that in the 1860's, a clerk was indeed in the educated class.  And even though John enlisted in New Orleans, there was no discussion of why or when he went there from Baton Rouge.

Not really unexpected for a unit of a city's elite, Knight's Company had no experience.  Wyle asks if they experienced combat, and Gordon tells him that one month after John's enlistment, the unit was in the Battle of Shiloh, one of the largest, bloodiest conflcts during the war.

The narrator steps in to inform us that in 1862, the Confederate and Union forces clashed at Shiloh, Tennessee.  More than 40,000 Confederate soldiers, including John Henry Mills, launched a surprise attack on the Union army to try to stop their advance on a railroad junction that granted access to New Orleans, Mobile (Alabama), Memphis, and the Gulf of Mexico.  After two days of combat the Union won.  There were more than 23,000 casualties, making Shiloh one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

So John definitely was in the middle of the fighting.  The men in the Crescent Regiment were amateurs, and it would have been a frightening experience for all of them.  Wyle asks whether this was a voluntary enlistment or if John was forced to sign up.  Gordon tells him there was no draft, so he couldn't have been forced.  They don't know what motivated him to enlist.

Next Wyle asks why John, who was born in New York, was in Louisiana at all.  Gordon admits she doesn't know how long he was there.  (Doesn't Baton Rouge have any surviving city directories, tax lists, or newspapers to help pin that down?  I know New Orleans does.)  She points out that New Orleans was the center of the slave trade, so there's a good chance that John's work was in some way tied to that.  Many men joined up to support the economy that provided their jobs.  And after his 90-day enlistment, John was finished with the army.  (Except that if you look at the third muster card in John's packet, which is the fourth image above, it says that John was "Transferred from the Crescent [Regiment] to the 18th for war", presumably meaning the duration of the war, and the top of the card shows that John was in Company F of the 18th Regiment.  The asterisked footnotes on the second and third muster cards explain a little about the relationship between the Crescent Regiment and the 18th Regiment.  Perhaps Gordon discussed this with Wyle in footage that did not make it on air, but I looked through the records of the Louisiana 18th and those of the Reconsolidated Crescent available on Fold3 and did not find John H. Mills.  The only records I found for him were the ones I've included above.  So I don't know if there are no records of John's service in the 18th/Reconsolidated Crescent, there are records but they aren't on Fold3, he didn't actually serve after August 1862 [which was already about 90 days past his original 90-day enlistment], or some other scenario.  And this question will come up again near the end of the episode.)  Wyle still thinks it's cool to find out that John enlisted and fought at Shiloh, which is the opposite of what his family (to be specific, Uncle Sandy) had said, that he had paid someone to fight in his place.

Wyle asks Gordon if she has any more for him, but she says that's it for Louisiana and asks if Wyle knows where John ended up.  Wyle replies that John was married in 1863 in Summit, Mississippi.  Gordon tells him that's where he should go next.  (Just keep in mind, this is not how real research works.)

As he leaves the archive, Wyle comments on how enlighteniing this has been, even though his head has been spun around by the misconceptions he had.  It appears that there is now a cold trail for John's military history.  He doesn't know much about John beyond broad strokes and a few facts, but he wants to know who John really was.

Even though Gordon told Wyle that Summit, Mississippi is where he should go, somehow Wyle takes a wrong turn and ends up in Jackson (about 77 miles away), so one of the show's producers must have redirected him along the way.  Wyle muses that he would love to find a photograph of John or a letter from him, something to give him a three-dimensional, tactile connection.  He has called his children to update them on what he has learned, and they are following him on his journey.  They think it's pretty cool (but do they really understand the implications of John having fought for the Confederacy?).  Wyle continues to rationalize John's enlistment:  Who knows what motivated him?  It could have been his buddies, politics, economic interests, wife-to-be.  He's finding it fun to try to fill in the blanks.  Maybe he'll find something to steer things in a specific direction.

Wyle's next stop is at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, in the William F. Winter Archives and History Building.  There he meets Sharon Ann Murphy, a business historian from Providence College.  The first thing she does is give Wyle a small manila envelope, in which he finds a photograph of John Henry Mills.  (Well, we did get the foreshadowing, right?)

After overcoming his initial surprise, Wyle comments that John doesn't look anything as he expected him to and jokes that he could play bass for ZZ Top, which even makes Murphy laugh.  Murphy apologizes that the photograph is undated and that she doesn't know when it was taken, but Wyle doesn't seem particularly disappointed.  He finds John's high forehead similar to his grandfather's and can kind of see his face in the photo.

Hoping for more, Wyle asks Murphy is there is anything else, and Murphy obligingly takes out an extremely large, oversized copy of a newspaper page.  She says it's the local paper, the Summit Sentinel, of January 19, 1899.  (The newspaper, by the way, does not appear to be online anywhere.)


Capt. J. H. Mills, after twenty-four years occupancy of the city treasuryship, was again unanimously elected by the city council at its last meeting.  This action of the mayor and council in again honoring this faithful and impartial officer meets the approval of every citizen of our town.  Twenty-four years is a long time and that anyone could so continuously retain the high regard and esteem in which our treasurer is held, speaks more than words can convey of his high character and popularity.  His long continuance as treasurer, undoubtedly exceeds that of any other officer occupying a similar position in the state.

Wyle is happy to read this glowing description of his ancestor, who was obviously well respected and an upstanding member of society.  He subtracts the years and figures out that John must have begun his tenure as treasurer in 1875.  He notices that John retained the rank of captain, but Murphy says it was probably an honorary title and that there was no evidence John was promoted from private.

As city treasurer, John must have been fiscally responsible, and Wyle wonders what level of society that would have equated to.  Was it high-end civil service, or maybe the town elite?  Murphy says it would have been town elite within the local community.  John was a prominent, important citizen of Summit.

Murphy then hands Wyle another oversized newspaper copy, this one from 1904, although I did not see a date.  Wyle has a shocked look on his face right before the program cut to a commercial, and I had suspected that John had died.  When we returned from the commercial, we learned that John indeed had died, but specifically, according to the headline, "He Took His Own Life."  (He apparently died on June 18.)  (Not all of the article was shown on screen.  I have filled in some missing information from an article published in the Jackson Weekly Clarion Ledger on June 23 [available on], apparently within a day or two of the Sentinel article, and which had almost verbatim text for the most part.  Where there are gaps, I'm not entirely sure I have the latter pieces of the article in the correct order.  I'm also note sure that all of the text shown on air was from only one article.)

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



Capt. John H. Mills, Blew Out His Brains Because He Could Not Pay Premium

Because he had a premium on a large life insurance policy falling due Monday, and could not raise the funds to pay it, and being otherwise financially embarrassed Capt. John H. Mills, and [sic] old and prominent citizen of Summit, Pike county, committed suicide at the Larence House in Jackson shortly before midnight Saturday night.  The body was found a few hours later by a police captain from New Orleans with the head laying on a bloodsoaked pillow and a 38-calibre revolver still clasped in his right hand.

It seems Capt. Mills went to Jackson for the purpose of killing himself, and it is evident that he had been contemplating the deed for several days, but did not desire to commit it at home.  Preparations were made with the utmost coolness and deliberation.  He went to his room shortly before nine o'clock carrying with him a supply of writing paper and envelopes.  Five letters were written and addressed, three of them being sealed and [directed to friends and relatives at his hold (sic) home.  The other two explained the cause of the deed.


It is evident that Mr. Mills expected to have his deed discovered immediately, for he left the door of his room open and the gas jet burning.  The body was not discovered, however, until several hours later, when Capt. Fitzgerald, of the New Orleans police force, who was in the city to attend a Knights of Columbus meeting, was passing by the door and remarked to a friend that the man in bed looked like he was dead.  The friend ridiculed the idea, but Capt. Fitzgerald was struck by the unusual pallor of the man's face, insisted on making an investigation that confirmed his suspicions.

Mr. McQuaid, one of the proprietors, was immediately notified.  He stated at the coroner's inquest Sunday morning that he had heard a pistol shot a few minutes after 11 o'clock, but that it] sounded like it was two or three blocks away, and paid no attention to it.


The following letter written by the dead man, and dated at 9:30 o'clock was found on the table:

"With a premium coming due on a large life insurance policy in the Equitable tomorrow which I cannot meet, and being financially embarrassed beyond hope of immediate retrieve, I resolved to take my own life in order to protect my family and personal friends who have endorsed my paper.  I am sure that my family will see that my personal friends and endorsers are not made to assume my obligations.  I left home to end my life because I could not bear the thought of committing the deed under my dear loved ones' eyes.

"May God, who rules the universe, forgive as far as possible, my act.



The letter was written in a bold, firm hand, and the preparations for the rash act were evidently not fraught with nervousness.  Side by side with this letter was the following addressed to [Messrs. McQuaide and Ewing, proprietors of the Lawrence House.

"Will you kindly carry out the following request after my death:

"Wire Dr. W. W. Moore, Summit, Miss., to break the news to my dear] wife and daughter.  Ask Mr. John Patton or Judge R. H. Thompson to have the undertaker embalm my body and ship to Summit.

"God knows I hope you will not think too hard of me for what I have committed in your house.


The other letters were addressed to Mrs. M. E. Mills, Summit, his wife; Mr. E. H. Mills, Summit, his son; Dr. W. W. Moore, Summit, the family physi[cian.  The missives were not opened but probably contained farewell messages and directions concerning the disposal of his personal affairs.

The dead man had carefully covered his body with a sheet after laying down on the bed, and the pillow had been so arranged as to muffle the report of the revolver.]  The bullet entered the right temple and death was probably instantaneous.  The weapon used was a 38-calibre pearl-handle top break Smith and Wesson revolver.  Capt. Mills was formerly one of the wealthiest citizens in the southern part of the state, owning a large property interests, and being identified with several financial enterprises, but business reverses had swept away his entire fortune.  He was about sixty-five years of age, of patriarchal appearance, wearing a long reddish gray beard.  He had always been known as a man of unusually cheerful disposition and had several [intimate friends in this city.]

[gap of unknown size]

[beginning of paragraph not shown] believed his financial troubles were more imaginary than real, for had he made known his troubles to his warm and life-long friends they would gladly have extended the necessary aid.

Capt. Mills was a brave, fearless and faithful Confederate soldier, having entered the ranks in New Orleans the first of the war, and serving till its close, when he settled in Summit, and resided here continuously until his deplorable end.  At the time of his death he was adjutant of Stockdale Camp, 324, U. O. V., of Pike county, and had issued a call for the Camp to meet at Magnolia to-morrow, but never again on earth will he answer to the roll call of his comrades-in-arms.  He was also an esteemed and beloved member [—]nit[?] Lodge, No. 93, I. O. O. F.; DeLeon Lodge, No. 40, K. of P.; Woodmen of the World and Knights of Honor, in all of which he stood deservedly high.

He leaves his heart-broken wife and daughter, Miss Carrie, four sons, George W. Mills, of Lexington, Ky.; Harry H Mills, of Brookhaven; Hollis Mills, of Gulfport. and E. H. Mills, of Summit — all grown — also a sister, Mrs. C. E. Bradshaw, of Summit, and a brother, George W. Mills, of Brookhaven, all of whom were present at the funeral,

Capt. Mills was a whole-souled generous and charitable man, never allowing his lips to utter a word detrimental to any one, no matter what injury had been done him.  Never was there a man more devoted to his family.  Their happiness and comfort was his first consideration, and his love for them was as beautiful as it was great.  On the other hand, wife and children almost idolized him, and looked upon any sacrifice as small that would conduce to his peace and comfort.  As a neighbor he was considerate and kind, always rendering some gentle deed that endeared him the stronger to those who knew him the best.  As a citizen, he was enterprising and public-spirited, [end of paragraph not shown]

[gap of unknown size]

The funeral was one of the largest and most inspiring that had occurred here in a long while.  [missing text not shown] [fu]neral cortege extending over three blocks.  Many prominent visitors from Brookhaven, McComb, Magnolia and other places were present, besides hundreds of his sorrowing townsmen, to pay the last tribute of respect to his revered memory.  All the stores in town were closed in honor of the deceased, and the town bell was tolled.  The grave in Woodlawn Cemetery was literally covered with rare floral tributes of beautiful designs, several of the largest coming from the Odd-Fellows at Jackson.  The active pall-bearers were:  T. L. Cotten, H. Perlinsky, J. M. Willoughby [rest of paragraph not shown]

[gap of unknown size]

[beginning of paragraph not shown] to his many friends here, but every where he was known, all of whom deplore his death beyond words to express, and regret that he labored under the hallucination that it was necessary his life should pay the forfeit of his financial obligations.  In his death a good man has gone, and one the whole town will sadly miss.

During this time when deepest woe and darkest sorrow pervade the household once made so bright, cheerful and loving by his presence, it does not seem meet and proper to offer words of sympathy and [rest of paragraph not shown]

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

Wyle's reaction to all of this?  "Holy moley!"  This was definitely not what he had expected.  Even though the obituary/article said John was "about sixty-five years of age", Wyle figures he was about 61, based on his birth year of 1843.  Wyle notes the comment about "formerly wealthy" and asks about the business reverses that were mentioned; Murphy says she is not sure but that Summit had been in decline since the 1880's.  John had probably invested in several opportunities, with each failing, a scenario not uncommon in the South.

(I have a couple of my own comments on the obituary.  First, it is amazing to find such a long piece about someone who committed suicide.  It went on for two columns!  To me, that more than anything else demonstrates the esteem in which John was held.  I also noticed that the obit said that John had served throughout the war and then settled in Summit.  I commented earlier about the confusion between John's compiled service record and Dr. Gordon's comments, and that it isn't clear how long he served based on what we, the public, saw.  We can also add to that the fact that John was consistently said to have married in Summit in 1863 after his service but nothing about then returning to fight.  I wish the editors had made the information presented on air a little more consistent, or at least explained it better, since we only see parts of the story.  One last thing that struck me was that two of John's siblings were also living in Mississippi by 1904.  That makes me wonder whether the entire family was living in the South before the war.)

Wyle wants to know what happened to John's family.  With his suicide, it sounds as though there would no inheritance.  Murphy explains that the life insurance policy John had mentioned in his letters was probably a deferred dividend policy.  Companies would bring groups of people together for 15 to 20 years; if an individual lapsed in his payments, he received only a small value, but the survivors at the end of the investment period split all the premiums and dividends.  Wyle thinks it sounds "very pyramidy", and Murphy agrees.  If someone was unable to pay a premium, he lost everything he had invested.  On the positive side, if the policy had been held for at least one year, it was not contested for any reason, paying out even in the event of a suicide.  So the policy would have brought money to John's family, and they would have been able to pay some debts and perhaps have something for the widow's share.  Wyle is awed to think about how horrible it would have been for John to keep up appearances while he made all these plans, to maintain a veneer of normalcy.

Until now, Wyle has always thought of suicide as a cowardly act.  He is trying to reconcile his previous opinion with what looks like a selfless act on the part of John.  John's friends and family would certainly have said it was an unnecessary act.  Murphy says that a year after John's death, Congress began to investigate these insurance policies, and eventually they were banned.

What happened to John's wife?  Murphy found Mary on the Confederate pension rolls in 1913 as a widow.  To qualify for one of these pensions, you had to prove you were truly poor.  The listing is by county, and Mary E. Mills appears under Pike County.  Wyle notes that this was nine years after John's death and asks how much money she received.  The summary Murphy has shows that she was getting $40.30 for the year, well below poverty level.  Mary was destitute.  Murphy says that this was the only public aid available, however.  Mary had had some property and had been selling it to pay debts, some of which were from John.

Wyle realizes that John and Mary's children were adults by this time and wonders why they didn't take care of Mary or support her (even though the quick glance at the papers Murphy had indicated that Mary was living with her daughter, Carrie).  Murphy brings up the question of what their circumstances might have been.  They could have been helping to pay off their father's debts.  Wyle notes the irony in the situation and compares it to an O. Henry ending, where the opposite of what was planned happens.  John had committed suicide to make sure his family received the insurance money, but the family was in debt anyway.

The pension rolls are not available online, but some of the pension applications are (at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, in fact, the very place Wyle and Murphy are sitting).  I was able to find Mary's applications from 1913, 1924, and 1926.  Mary is pretty consistent in the information she gives — John enlistedi n 1861 (it was actually 1862); she and John were married in 1863 (one application has the full date); John served through the end of the war, with accurate information about his unit.  I find it odd that she signed the applications in 1913 and 1926, but the one for 1924 has "her mark."  I wonder who really filled out each of the applications.

Murphy brings out a copy of the 1927 pension roll, the last year she was able to find Mary.  The list came from the Chancery Court in Harrison County (but Mary used to live in Pike County . . .).  Murphy asks Wyle what he thinks happened.  He comes up with the logical scenarios, died or remarried, and also considers Mary's children.  Murphy says she has no idea what happened.  Mary could have remarried, could have died, could even have moved out of state.  Since the last pension roll showed Mary as living in Harrison County, down on the Gulf Coast, Murphy recommends that Wyle go there.  When Wyle asks if they'll have records, she simply says it's probably his best bet.  (Can't they come up with better scripting for these shows??!!)

As Wyle leaves the archive, he talks about his great-great-great-grandfather's suicide and tragic end.  The obituary really affected him emotionally.  The public outpouring of emotion, the tolling of the church bells, showed that John was really beloved.  Now Wyle wants to find out what happened to Mary, who lived many years longer and who moved from Pike County to Harrison County.

Wyle goes next to Biloxi, Mississippi.  He tells us that he is going to the Jefferson Davis Memorial Library, but the Beauvoir historic marker doesn't actually include those words, so it was a little confusing.  The marker says that the home "has been" "a Confederate Veterans' home since 1903."  The Wikipedia pages for Beauvoir (the house) and the library make clear that the house became the library after the last Confederate veteran living in Mississippi died, which was in 1953.  You'd think someone might have updated the sign by now.

Inside, presumably in the library, Wyle meets Dr. Susannah Ural, a military historian from the University of Southern Mississippi.  She hands him a file and tells him that it has copies of what she has found.

The first item shown is minutes from a September meeting during which an application for emergency care for Mary Mills was approved, in a handwritten note added to the typed minutes.

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The finance committee of the Board of Directors met at the Home on Sept. 14th with Mr. J. H. Mc Gehee and Mrs. Josie C. Rankin present.  The accounts for August were audited and allowed.

The following applications were approved:  Mrs. M. A. Jackson, McComb, Pike Co.; Mr. and Mrs. Horace Walker; Biloxi, Harrison Co.; W. C. Green, Louin, Jasper Co.; Wm. T. Waldrup, Batesville, Panola Co.

[handwritten note] Mrs. Mary Emily Mills, of Gulfport, Harrison Co., application was approved during vacation on Sept. 10th by Mr. J. H. McGehee, same being an emergency case.

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So what was the emergency?  Ural doesn't know, but it could have been medical care, as the home had a hospital on site.  Before coming to the home, Mary was living with her daughter, Carrie.  Maybe Carrie was no longer able to take care of her mother.  Ural says that these applications usually came when the family needed help, either temporary or permanent, in caring for their relatives.  Wyle compares Beauvoir to a home for the aged, and Ural agrees, but adds that the residents were impoverished.

Next Ural brings out a photograph for Wyle and adds that it's a rare find.  She almost never sees photos of the home's former residents.  The photo is of an old woman — Mary — with three young children, whom Ural says were Mary's grandchildren.  (There was handwriting at the bottom of the photograph, but it was light and the camera angles did not focus on it, so I was unable to read any of it.  And that photograph is not online, but a different photo of Mary is on her FindAGrave page.)  Wyle thinks she looks tough and strong, and he sees a resemblance to other family members.  (I wonder if he's suggestible or just polite.)

Now Wyle takes the initiative.  He tells Ural that the previous day he had seen Mary listed in pension rolls from 1913 to the "mid '20's" and asks if Ural knows what happened after that.  Ural says, "Take a look," and hands him another copy.  It is from the Biloxi Daily Herald of September 29, 1928 and is an obituary for Mary.  (Again, this newspaper is not online, but the first half of the obituary has been scanned and posted to Mary's FindAGrave page.)

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Mrs. M. E. Mills died last night at 9 o'clock, at Beauvoir Soldiers Home at the age of 84 years.  Mrs. Mills is the widow of the late J. H. Mills, a Confederate veteran who preceded her to the grave a number of years ago.  She was a Miss Brown born in Fort Gaines, Ga., but has resided in Mississippi for many years, living in Summit when the famiy was one of the best known in that section.  She moved to Gulfport from Summit 14 years ago with her daughter, Miss Carrie Mills.  Mrs. Mills was a gentlewoman of the old school and in her younger years her home was rendezvous of the intellectual and social group of her neighborhood.  She was of a noble Christian character, a communicant of the Episcopal church.  She is survived by one daughter, Miss Carrie Mills, of Gulfport, and three sons, E. H. Wills [sic] of Shreveport, who will arrive in Gulfport this afternoon, G. W. Mills of Lexington, Ky., and H. C. Mills of Brookhaven.  The remains are at the Riemann Funeral Home on 25th avenue and will be shipped tomorrow morning to Summit, Miss., for burial.

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Wyle notices the misspelling of the first son's surname, which Ural confirms was a typo by the newspaper.  He latches onto the description of Mary as intellectual and social and comments that she was educated and progressive for the era.  Ural corrects him, explaining that Mary was educated to be conversational, not professional, and that she did appear to enjoy that.  She was represntative of wealthy women of that time.  Wyle is still happy and finds the obituary informative.  Mary has nowtaken on some tangible qualities for him.

Wyle sits in a chair on the porch of one of the buildings on the property and thinks about what he has learned.  He thinks about how his great-great-great-grandmother Emily lived out her last few years in one of the barracks buildings, probably living with others in similar circumstances.  She survived her husband's suicide and the family's fall from econoimc grace, and showed strong character.  He knew beforehand that he had proud Southern roots, but he hadn't realized they ran this deep (not really that deep, dude; John came from New York, remember?).  He thought he didn't have any Civil War ancestors, but he found out about John fighting at Shiloh and Mary living at Jefferson Davis' former home.  He's not really surprised there wasn't a great social safety net, but it's good there was some help for veterans; it's unlikely any help would have come from the North. Wyle admits that it's hard to reconcile the South's preservation of a romantic depiction of the antebellum period with the fact that the economic engine was forced human labor, but his choice of terminology makes it clear that he's still dancing around the edges of the topic.  (It makes me wonder what else he learned that was not shown on air, though it does not appear to be the same kind of whitewashing that Gates indulged in with Affleck.)

Marty comes out to Mississippi to see Wyle and share in the discoveries.  He tells her that he was happy to learn that their ancestor did serve in the Civil War, right or wrong.  He shows her the photograph of John and talks about how he is reconsidering his opinion of suicide, and also shares the photo of Mary.  He closes by saying that it's been quite a week and that you can find whatever you're looking for — good or bad, hero or villain.  The complexity of the past is wonderful.