05 April 2014


I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who comes from Costa Rica, and is of a heritage that would be considered "Mixed" ; Spanish, German, Chinese, Native American.  We were talking about Hola Magazine, which I look through when I'm at certain libraries that subscribe to it, and which seems to me to be very focused on Spanish Royalty and Aristocrats.  Of course this makes perfect sense since it is a magazine that covers the Spanish world, the country and culture that brought Europeans to the New World of Central and South America.  This is also THE CATHOLIC WORLD.

American History and genealogy tends to be very oriented towards England - Great Britain - and the Protestant.  It's almost as if the French and Spanish were never here, as if they had no influence, though of course they did.  You have to live in California to learn about the Spanish in these parts, and even tour guides at some of the Missions have an anti-Catholic bias.

My friend holds the snobby people of Costa Rica who claim to only be "Spanish" in contempt.  He thinks in reality everyone is "Mixed."  (I think DNA is proving that!)

I was telling him that sales of products with family crests are strong in the United States, even though WHEN A PERSON BECOMES AN AMERICAN CITIZEN THEY GIVE UP ALL RIGHTS TO TITLES, CRESTS, and all that.   But does it hurt to wear your tartan for fun?  Of course not!

The European systems of inheriting titles and regalia was generally very focused on these going between father and first son.  Daughters had to marry someone else with a title to have one and in some countries if a daughter married a commoner she lost her birth status.  Second sons almost fled to the Virginia Colony to have a chance.  Second and subsequent sons, looking for an opportunity they wouldn't inherit, had to become self made.  Many of them joined armies.  Some of them became Knights through military or other service to the Crown and thus earned their own titles to use and pass on.

In Germany, it was the youngest son who stayed with the parents and eventually earned the family farm.   In Hungary only men of the upper classes could vote, though higher class didn't necessarily mean the family was also rich.

This emphasis and preference for sons and first sons seems sexist to (most of) us now in the West but is still the way in so many countries, India, China, the Middle East.  Women even get ultrasounds to detect female fetus and have them aborted to begin their families with a male.

So family history research is always also HISTORICAL and CULTURAL research!

02 April 2014



EXCERPT: This week, Don Walker, an osteologist with the Museum of London, outlined the biography of one man whose ancient bones were found by construction workers under London's Charterhouse Square: He was breast-fed as a baby, moved to London from another part of England, had bad tooth decay in childhood, grew up to work as a laborer, and died in early adulthood from the bubonic plague that ravaged Europe in the 14th century.

The poor man's life was nasty, brutish and short, but his afterlife is long and illuminating.
THE BLACK DEATH is interesting to me because if you're European, there's a good chance you're a descendent of a survivor of the Black Death.
EXCERPT: To test their theory, scientists took one tooth from each of 12 skeletons, then extracted DNA from the teeth. They announced Sunday that tests had found the presence of the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, in several of the teeth, meaning the individuals had been exposed to — and likely died from — the Black Death.