10 September 2016


Since my recent post about my senior citizen friend who had a well lived 90 plus years on this earth, word has reached me that a friend from the 1990's died a few months ago, though very little is being said as for the details, she left a son and husband.  A neighbor I posted about last year in my story about senior citizens, girlfriends, and good neighbors, has also died.

Walking the dog the other day, my senior citizen neighbor who had been in a nursing home recuperating when her roommate had a bad motorcycle accident and went into a coma last year, came over to me to tell me he had died.  She was rattled and I was shocked.  This man had really pushed himself to get well enough to go back to work and keep his job after being a coma for a month, and so swollen with edema that the physical therapy had to wait.  The macho type who liked to ride that motorcycle on the freeway between the cars, it had been difficult for him to accept taking a Paratransit van back and forth for a few months.
His motorcycle remained in front of the drive and a biker friend of his would come over on the weekends to help him get back on it.  His coworkers had donated their vacation time to him so that he could remain out of the office for a longer time than usually allowed, and over time, slowly, he had overcome much.  He had been through a lot of medical procedures and tests and was well enough to relax by going camping.  Now he had been found dead while out camping.  Likely his heart gave out, but since he was not at home or in the hospital, there will be the usual scientific probing called an autopsy.

DEATH RECORDS are public records.  Public does not mean that the details of a persons death are as easy to access as what used to be called a "police blotter," and is the report of crime and arrests in an area.  However, anyone can send away for a death record, usually to the county in which the person died and for a small fee.  Some states have you state or prove you are a close relation such as a child, sibling, parent, or spouse.  Some don't.  In some cases the death record a person can get only states that in fact the person has died, and that person would be named and a birth date and death date, no details.  In others you get a copy of the paperwork filed, usually with a doctor's signature, stating the cause of death.

For those of you who want to collect the DEATH RECORDS of your relatives not only because of genealogy interest, but for medical history, perhaps inclinations towards genetic issues in the family that DNA testing may or may not prove, here are some considerations.

1) Doctors are not and never were all equal, and the further you go back, the more likely it is that the doctor did not know what is known today by medical science.  Prior to X-rays and the sophisticated tests possible today, doctors did their best, but the full sum of their knowledge and education may have been lacking.  In other words, the diagnosis might be speculative.  (Remember that barbers - hair cutters - used to be surgeons - and that included pulling teeth!)

2) Poor people often did not call doctors, or called them only in emergencies.  This lead to more speculative diagnosis as well.  So consider the diagnosis.  For instance, if the record mentions broken bones or a pregnancy related death, it's probably correct.  However, cancer was not well understood, and might be called "tumor" or "long illness."  "Long illness could also be TB, or many other diseases.)

3) Currently, if you are a close family member and your loved one is being autopsied, before you give permission, be sure to state that you want a copy of the report.

4) FUNERAL HOME records and CEMETERY RECORDS tend to repeat the information on the DEATH RECORD.  You never know, however, when more details might be given.

5) Consider doing  some research about the state of the art in medicine, treatment of the disease at the time, and so on, in order to put the report into a historical perspective.

For instance, death by TB was considered so frightening that some health departments in the United States issued booklets to the citizens, advising them not only to cover their nose and mouth and wash their hands, but stated that the children on a mother with TB could not be raised by her.  (Many children were born with TB because their mothers were infected.)

DEATH and DEATH RECORDS always remind me of an old Italian proverb that goes like this, "After death, the King and the Pawn go back into the same box."

01 September 2016


I'm an unconventional genealogy researcher and writer. I'm working on a book about my adventures in this field, a book that's alternatively spiritual! I have at least two decades of experience as a genealogy researcher. I started with interviewing my own relatives years ago. I use books, maps, family artifacts and records, microfilms, and specialty databases, at private and governmental archives, museums, libraries and historical societies... And of course there is now the amazingly impactful Internet...

23 August 2016



Your cells could soon keep an accurate record of their entire biological history, including attacks from microbial invaders or exposure to harmful chemicals.
By tweaking DNA, US researchers have been able to store markers of biological events inside the cells themselves and read them at a later date, essentially turning cells into analogue recorders.
They believe that capturing the ‘memories’ of these biological events could help to shed light on disease and even unlock the secrets of how cells develop from an embryo to the billions of adult cells which make up the human body.

16 August 2016


About a decade ago, I made friends with a neighbor, I'll call George.
Well, first I made friends with the widow of his best friend, a poet who liked to take after dinner walks around my neighborhood.  I met her, liked her, she wanted to copyright her poetry and we started talking about that.  I began to visit her at the Assisted Living where she was living.  I'll call her Marge.

Marge had only one grandson to visit her, having lost her son, and having a daughter with a serious mental illness that prevented any real relationship.  Her grandson did his best but was working full time and not feeling so hot himself. 

Marge introduced me to George.  George and his wife, who had been childhood sweethearts, and Marge and her husband had been friends for years and when George's wife, who had been his childhood sweetheart died, he went into a deep depression. 

When they'd given up their houses for Assisted Living, they picked one of the swankier ones, and for some time they barely needed any of the Assistance.  It was more than no one felt like cooking or making the beds anymore.

When Marge finally explained her situation to me, I offered to pick up things from the store that she might need when her grandson couldn't.  She held back from taking me up on it.  She just needed company. I started making mini visits with her, usually on my way to or back from work.

I learned she liked mint hard-tac candy but when I offered to bring her some she said I should not and if I did, she would never speak to me again.  I worked till 7 and would call her every night when I got off to see how she was.  I knew she had been to the hospital a few times but it wasn't until another resident whispered to me that she actually had colon cancer and it had been decided that she not know, that I realized she wouldn't be on this earth for long.

One night I called her a little after 7, and she was whispering into the phone.  She said that she was in trouble and that no one at the front desk had been summoned when she rang.  "I'll be right there,"  I said.  And I must have flown on a broomstick because before you could say Boo, I was in the kitchen finding the desk attendant having a long personal conversation on the phone.  "Get off that phone this minute,"  I said,  "Do you not know that Marge is sick and has been waiting for someone to go up to her room?" 

The desk attendant did hang up at once (and I've since wondered about my sudden authority)  Then I said, "Has her doctor been called?"  The desk attendant said yes, but it was a lie, which I found out when I demanded that the doctor be called again, she called back, and I spoke with her.  An appointment was made for her in 2 days.

Then I went up to Marge's room for the first time.  Like most Assisted Living rooms this one had the basics, and her possessions had been pared down to a few family photos.  She was in bed.  The first thing she said to me is "Where is my mint hard-tac!"

"You said you would never speak to me again if I brought you some!

"Well I changed my mind."

In the bathroom, Marge had left her Depends. She told me that it had taken her about a half hour to crawl back across the floor and hoist herself into the bed.
I told her to get settled in.  Then I put on the television and searched for a good station.  There was a Pavaroti concert on.

"Oh I love Pavaroti!"  she said.  And she rested back to just listen, with a slight grin on her face.

I left the room, and downstairs another resident told me that Marge had let the staff know that I was like a daughter to her and that's why I was now allowed in her room.
The next day after work I made my usual call, and found out that Marge had died in the middle of the night.

I may have been the last person to talk to her.

Her grandson came and took her few possessions away.  If there were ever a memorial service, I never heard about it.

But three days later, as I was walking down the street, I saw her face with a huge smile in my mind's eye, and I knew that she had been ready, willing, and able to pass into the next life and that she had made it to heaven.

This left George more alone than ever.
When I would walk past the Assisted Living on my way somewhere, I would see him sitting outside, and I went and said hello to him.  I told him that Marge had really admired him.

One day he decided the heck with the swanky Assisted Living and moved not far away, to one smaller and more humble.  It cost less, the food wasn't so good, but he thought they took good care of him.  The real problem was that he was one of the few people in this place who not only had his wits but who also liked to be opinionated and debate a little, and that there was no one else to talk to.
Oh, he tried their little Bible study - that was enlightening - but he could skip bingo and soap operas on the TV. 

George fought his depression by participating in writing classes and theatre outings with other seniors, and his one child who lived not too far away got him a personal computer, an e-reader, and a few other gadgets, so that he was up on his technology and could read his favorite genre - detective novels - with less strain on his eyes.  He managed to read over 60 of them when he got bad news about his eyesight.  This tweaked the depression, and he started saying his next move was Oregon where suicide was legal!

My friendship with George was much different than the friendship I'd had with Marge.  We talked about writing, but he preferred politics.  An ardent Democrat, George died before he could vote for Hilary Clinton in the California Primaries, and no doubt has been lucky to miss the antics of Presidential Candidate Donald Trump.  George had made it through the Great Depression as a ditch digger, married his childhood sweetheart after his service in World War II, had worked in aerospace but had lived past his retirement savings, and was the esteemed patriarch of a small but loving family.

Sometimes months would go by and I wouldn't have contact with George, but then I'd call or go visit.  He continued to claim that he couldn't get around but could be hard to get because he was so often out!

One day I heard on the radio that there had been a violent crime at the store right next to this Assisted Living, and I knew that the more mobile residents went in there to get themselves snacks and drinks.  The whole town was shocked.  I decided to visit George on my way home and got there right before his dinner time.  Though George claimed to be bored with most of the other residents and opted out of so called activities, he had a few woman friends who loved to have their meals with him at the table - a man!  George looked white, the only time I had ever seen him looking sick, and told me that he had just returned from two months in the hospital.

"So that's why I wasn't able to get ahold of you.  Tell you what, I think I will call you or come by here again when you're up to it to talk to you.  How did they treat you at the hospital?"

"Terrible!" he growled.

I didn't believe that, but I knew he was in a terrible mood.

Two days later I called and was told that his daughter had come and moved him out. He had been put in a hospice.

I called her.

"When did you see him and talk to him?"

"Just two days ago!"

"We had just taken him out to dinner.  It was like you said.  He had clarity.  But now he doesn't know where he is and he can't recognize me."

Sam died two days after that."

I wasn't the last person who talked to him.  Just the last person who had talked with him where he had his wits.

He was 95 years old.

The other day I saw his face in my minds eye. 

Mom used to say, "Two things never change.  Death and Taxes."

C 2016  Ancestry Worship Genealogy BlogSpot  All Rights Reserved including Internet and International Rights

06 August 2016


Hitler's Forgotten Children
by Ingrid Von Oelhafen and Tim Tate  C 2016
A True Story of the Lebensborn Program and
One Woman's Search for Her Real Identity

Publisher is Caliber Rundon - Berkely Penguin House

What if knew in your gut that something was very wrong about your adoption?  Something so secret that you were not told that you were adopted until you were in adulthood and then given no clues.  Your mother was a cold, distant, and uncommunicative woman. You grew up without love.  As your curiosity gets to you, you do what you know how to do to find out the truth, and because you were raised a German,  you start out figuring that your birth parents must have been German too.

All of these things could have been true if you were born during Hitler's Lebensborn program, during a time and a place when being accepted into the SS and your rank had much to do with your genealogy chart.  A common soldier had to prove his Aryan or Nordic heritage back to 1800, officers to the mid 1700's.  To be considered fit  you had to prove that  you had no Jewish, Slavic, or other heritage that might label you a Mongrel.  A man had to also be over 5'6 tall and prove his physical superiority.  Then he, and such German women, were encouraged to reproduce. SS men were expected to marry and have families, but suddenly the government was promising that children born illegitimate with the proper background would not suffer for it financially.  Four German grandparents was good proof and so you would receive an "Aryan Certificate" or a "Greater Aryan Certificate."  By 1939 it was considered sacred to copulate to conceive children with the right physical and mental characteristics such as blue eyes and light hair.  Hitler wrote that if they could just get rid of 700,000 to 800,000 of the weakest people and have one million children a year, Germany would be a strong nation.  Forced sterilization and euthanasia were popular methods to get rid of the weakest.  At least 320,000 people had been sterilized by the beginning of World War II.

Ingrid Von Oelhafen learned the details of the Lebensborn program as she searched for her heritage. She had a terrible time accepting that she could be part of such a breeding program.  As it turned out she was part of the program, but a different part.  It took much of her adult life, off and on, to find some documented evidence of who she was, to figure out the puzzle. Unmoved and conspiratorial bureaucrats, silent relatives with fuzzy memories, the International Red Cross, support group members, and finally DNA figure in her story.

Maria Dolezalova's story was an example.  In Maria's case about 200 women from her village were transported to Rovensbruck concentration camp where 184 of their children were snatched to be examined by RuSHA.  103 children failed, 74 were handed over for immediate extermination by gas on a rigged truck, and only 7 including Maria were transferred to be raised as German by Germans. 

Now there is a point in this book where I was incredibly frustrated for and with Ingrid and all the other people involved in this search.  As soon as she learned that she was born Erica Matko on November 11, 1941 in Saint Sauerbrunn, genealogy myopia set in, no one used maps or other information akin to a village finder or index of old and new names for towns and villages, and so this all became a block that could have been more easily broken.  Her birth surname isn't German and the town wasn't in Germany and she needed to think about looking in countries were a Slavic surname was more common.

She had suffered and had to stop searching at times, but eventually she had the PARISH RECORDS for OLD YOGOSLAVIA including the birthdates of her parents and the name of the Village they lived in, Rogtaska Slatina.  But woops!  There was another living Erica Matko, so maybe this was wrong.  DNA testing gave her the answers she needed.  Indeed, she was the Erica Matko born of this couple and snatched from them.  She found she had a living brother in 2000.  Success finally!

C 2016  Book Review/Report Ancestry Worship Genealogy BlogSpot.  All Rights Reserved including International and Internet Rights.

27 July 2016



by Donald Harman Akenson  C 2007
Published by McGill-Queen's University Press - Montreal and Kingston

Pages13-14  Excerpt

"Where historical geneticist and Mormon genealogists completely lose touch with each other is in their notion of who are First Parents were and how we find them.  IN this regard, historical geneticists are humble, in the sense that they were aware that they are making a set of approximations and that they will never have a final answer. ... In contrast, the Mormons are confident to the point of arrogance (quiet arrogance, but never the less cocksure).  They know that humanity came into existence as described in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew scriptures.  This was in the year 4004BCE, or thereabouts, according to the now-classical chronology of Archbiship James Ussher, the seventeenth century Church of Ireland archbishop of Armagh...

Page 88

...The conflicting forces are th4e Mormons, genealogists in general, historical geneticists, historical demographers, and anthropologists.  (I am lumping together anthropologists, ethnographers, and ethnologists, while being fully aware that over the generations they have fought with each other over the job specifications for each category.)  All the various forces are produced by individuals who are good-faith practitioners of their own discipline or sub-field within their discipline.  but if they cannot agree on something so basic as what to call the human adult  pair bond- then we are in trouble let alone when they begin developing their own terms for various family members and for generational interconnections.

...the Mormon use of "pedigree" to refer to human genealogical lines is to be voided.  The demographers, geneticists, and anthropologists are here correct: thoroughbred horses and show dogs have pedigrees,  but humans are not the product of controlled breeding programs.  In human society we have "lines: or "lineages,"  never pedigrees.

A set of words that also is to be avoided, except under very narrow circumstances, is "patriarchal" and "matriarchal".  These are perfectly good words, but not here.  They carry connotations of power relationships that can be confusing...

Page 110

If you enter any aspect of the Mormon genealogical system - from blank genealogy forms to computer-generated lineages - you will discover that it runs on the Standard Double system.  Is this ethnocentric imperialism?  Probably, but there is a potential intellectual justif8ication for the practice.  This is the very clear argument that all human beings have biological mother and a biological father and that, therefore, humans should be traced in the same way traces the breed roots of Secretariat or Red Rum.  .... one cannot retroactively impose the Standard Double system on cultures that did not employ it.

16 July 2016



by Donald Harman Akenson  C 2007
Published by McGill-Queen's University Press - Montreal and Kingston

A fascinating book which asks the question, is the Latter Day Saint's religious view of family that so inspires their genealogical research and world effort to collect data on humans who once lived.

As a genealogist, I've become aware that some of the records one find have been previously submitted by Latter Day Saints have not been proofed, that there are errors. However, as I understand it, most people only go back to their great grandparents, and frankly, for most people going back much further can be extremely taxing if not impossible, depending on exactly where those people were living.  (For instance if your heritage is from Jewish London you may be able to go much further back.  If your ancestry is English or German you may also be able to go much further back.)

So here are some excerpts from this boom that I found quite telling.

page 7-8) On the dimensions of the collective project LDS members are working on (For which they have already collected 2 billion names.)

"The world records for fecundity are the more than 1,400 progeny sired by Moulay Ismail, an eighteenth-century emperor of Morocco, and on the female side, the 69 children of Fedora Vassilyex, an eighteenth century Russian woman.)  This if the Mormons are going to make a world pedigree, it would seem they have their work cut out for them....What saves their task from being completely inconceivable is the simple fact that human beings interbreed quite promiscuously.  Not just third cousins, or second, but first cousins, uncles and nieces, brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, nephews and aunts, wives and brothers in law, and on and on.  Most of the closest inbreeding are covered up by social convention and by skilled lying.  Unless your parents come from totally separate populations (say from Africa and from China), you would not have to go back many generations to find some of your mother's people procreating with your father's - would not, that is, if the records were compete and accurate, which they are not.... Whether or not one likes this basic fact of frequent human inbreeding, it provides a valuable set of advantages for genealogists and geneticists.  It means, first, that nay individual will have a lot fewer distinct genealogical lines to trace than if there had been no inbreeding.... the limited original population from which we all stem means that we are all interrelated;  and, if there were a full genealogy of every human being, we would discover that not only are we all related, but that our ancestors intersected with each other several times in a great genetic tangle.

More excerpts coming...

By the way,  I think most genealogists know this.  After all this is what is behind all the web sites you see in which some celebrity is connected through some line (could be one of 64 or more) to a royal personage.

12 July 2016


Interested in learning a bit more about American History this summer?  I just learned a lot I didn't know about Buffalo Bill and his Wild West shows.

First this PBS HOME VIDEO:

Actual moving pictures of Buffalo Bill's show - in Europe!

I had no idea that the show went on for decades or that the troop toured Europe, with American's cowboys and Indians (i.e. Native Americans, not just people acting as) there to do dramatic renditions of American History, such as Custors Last Stand, or how well regarded William F. Cody was.

To Europeans America was considered quite strange.  Though in the shows the White man usually won over the Native Americans, the Indian Horse Riders and others who toured with Buffalo Bill liked him. 

After being entertained, ticket holders could go visit them in their show-side encampments, which brought them a little closer to understanding Native Americans as people.

Bill's personal life was in shambles but in the end he retired with the original wife he had married in his youth, a woman who still loved him though she'd threatened divorce since he had been so rarely at home.  In his later years Bill wasn't much interested in show business but his years of being Buffalo Bill was so much part of his life and fame and reputation, he could never really separate himself.

PBS : BUFFALO BILL - WILLIAM F. CODY Read more about him.

AUTRY MUSEUM of THE AMERICAN WEST  A great place to learn more about our American Western Heritage, Native Americans, and showman like Bill. (Artifacts from his shows in a gallery.)