25 October 2014


I just LOVE when scientists and artists use skeletal remains and an understanding of musculature or the latest computer technology to actually sculpt or virtually sculpt a face of a person who was in a bog for thousands of years!

If you've heard of bog men before you know that some DNA analysis is being done and that there are living people today who are related to bog men...  But well, this film is more about trying to figure out why, culturally, certain people are in the bog.  Some of them appear to have been murdered on purpose, even the victims of over-kill, having been killed three different ways.  Will we ever know how it is they were chosen?  Were they abducted and protesting or doped up and willing?

Why the violence?  Were they human sacrifices by Druids?  Can we assume that these horrific deaths are part of Celtic culture just because they are found in bogs around Ireland?

Today the scientists and artists can tell us that a certain victim was young, rich - because he used imported hair pomade to put his hair on end to possibly compensate for being short - and healthy because of the diet remains in his stomach. 


16 October 2014




A provocative analysis now suggests that the Habsburg royal family might have evolved under natural selection over three centuries to blunt the worst effects of inbreeding. Evolutionary theory predicts such a 'purging' process, and researchers have documented the effect in animals and plants. But evidence among humans is scant — in part because of the dearth of data on inbred families spanning many generations.

Royal families such as the Habsburgs are an ideal place to look, says Francisco Ceballos, a geneticist at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, who led the research. He and colleague Gonzalo Álvarez used written records to track the marriages, births and deaths of 4,000 individuals across more than 20 generations. “The royal dynasties of Europe are a lab of inbreeding for human populations,” says Ceballos..."

13 October 2014


Browsing through dozens of articles about Princess Charlene of Monaco, who has just announced that she is carrying twins, I saw there was a lot of confusion about which one would become Prince of Monaco, taking over after Albert steps down or dies.  (Of course this could happen in an untimely fashion, in which case it's possible that his sister Caroline would step in.)

I found the definitive article!


If the twins are both boys, the first child born becomes the heir to the throne, with his twin brother as heir presumptive.

If the twins are a boy and a girl, the boy becomes heir, regardless of if he is born first or second. His sister is heir presumptive unless her parents have another child who is a boy in the future.

If the twins are both girls, the first child born becomes the heir to the throne, with his twin sister as heir presumptive – unless or until another boy comes along. Then the younger boy becomes the heir to the throne.

11 October 2014


Once upon a time I took Journalism classes in college and I'm miffed.  Why are so many publications simply refusing to call the former Catherine "Kate" Middleton, her proper name which is, since her marriage, Catherine Windsor, or Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge?  

Since she is now expecting another child, there is so much press coverage of Catherine and her husband, William Windsor, Duke of Cambridge, and reading around it for a couple hours the other night I discovered that there is a controversy circulating that Catherine is Jewish, or some small part Jewish.  One website I looked at said "She is not Jewish but she has Jewish ancestry."

Apparently this is a big issue because there is also speculation that Diana, Princess of Wales, the mother of William Windsor, Duke of Cambridge, was also Jewish, through her mother, and if the speculation is to be believed, Diana's genetic father may have been a Jewish man that her mother might have been having an affair with, making her the half sibling of Jemima Khan and the Goldsmiths.  One site declares that someday both the King and Queen of England will be Jews.

I find this all interesting, and I suppose the main importance of it would be that someday if William becomes King, it will be up to him to uphold and be the head of the Church of England.

On the side of "is Jewish" is that the surname Goldsmith, which is the maiden name of Catherine's mother, is supposed to be a "Jewish only" name from the days when only Jewish people were to be involved in precious metals and the making of jewelry.  One sit ehad a chart of the women in her mother's line, first names, surnames, and dates.  Back in the 18th century there was a Rebecca, for instance.  Well, I know Christian Rebecca's. 

Then there is the long held Jewish notion that the child is Jewish if the mother is.  That's by Jewish standards. But this doesn't take into account that people may have been practicing another religion for generations or be uninterested in religion.  Here, after many generations, we have the ONE DROP philosophy, which is that if a person has one ancestor who is Jewish, or Black, then they ARE, as if all those other ancestors should be discounted.  Having met people who wished to self identify with this rather flimsy evidence I back off and say "as you will." 

How someone looks has something to do with it, no doubt.  How society and culture in a time and place looks at a person, also has something to do with it.  DNA may also throw such controversies to the curb; I know one Black woman who just found out that her first American ancestor was a white Irish woman in early America in indentured servitude and who married a Free Black man.  She feels this has thrown her self identity.

Historically there have been a lot of people forced into conversion.  But there are also people who openly and willingly change religions.  Dare I say there are a lot of people who don't care all that much and just go along with the program?  For instance, in Europe people changed religion by command of whomever owned the land they lived on.

Clearly, when it comes to belief, both William and Catherine are members of the Church of England, which is Protestant Christian.  They are not Jewish.  They are not Catholic.  They were married in the Church of England.  Their children will be raised in the Church of England.  To me, no matter what their DNA, or the history of their families, they are what they are in the here and now.

C  2014 Ancestry Worship Genealogy  All Rights Reserved including International and Internet Rights

08 October 2014


Genealogy myopia - a term used to mean that a researcher has become too close to their assumptions about their research subjects to break through block or attack the research another way - can be dealt with by teaming up with another researcher as a partner.

But not just any person!  First you must like and respect the other person enough to commit to sharing work, talking to each other easily and being able to respectfully deal with someone else's personal information.

Here are some tips for choosing a genealogy research partner.

1)  Believe it or not, the best partner is usually someone who is NOT working on the same research as you are, meaning not a family member, not even someone who is working on the same place and time.   When you choose someone who is working on an entirely different family and place and time, you will both bring uneducated and unformed but fresh ideas into the research, based on what you have learned on your own and your own research.

2) Trade copies of your research.  You and your partner will "check" each other's research and write any ideas or questions that come up as you're doing so.   (One friend of mine found a simple math error that had been much depended on.  Once the proper year of birth was found, all else fell in place.)

3) Work a little on the other person's research in terms of time and place.  When someone is experiencing being stuck they may also be discouraged or bored and they may not have done enough Internet research to understand that time and place.  As an exercise, take one ancestor and put them into their historical moments.   (Maybe you can help them come up with a good list of questions to ask when interviewing relatives.)

4) When you look at someone else's research ask yourself "If this was my project and this line is blocked, what else could I be doing?  Is there another line that hasn't been worked on enough?  Is there new information available on a database or in an archive or historical museum that would add to this family's story?

02 October 2014


A New History of Jewish Life in Eastern Europe
by Yohanan Petrovsky- Shtern
Princeton University Press C 2014 and is the Publisher


Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern did a great job of bringing the long gone Eastern European shtetl to vibrant life in this new and popular book.  It's valuable to genealogy researchers in that knowing what sort of life your ancestors lived realistically may move you to the right places to look for information or go on tour.  You may also consider things like that they traveled for work from town to town or along trade routes, may have been the result of a mixed marriage or conversion to another religion, or that they became more liberal about such things as they moved to a larger town.

80% of the Jews of Eastern Europe in the 1790-1840 period that is this book's focus, lived in the three provinces covered.  (That area does not include Austrian run Galicia, but it's likely the lifestyle revealed also occurred in predominately Jewish small towns there too.)  The term shtetl is Yiddish for such a town, but as Jews moved to larger cities, the term sometimes was used with condensation.  This book reveals that when Russia took over the government, the area had a kind of Russian-Polish-Jewish, or make that Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Jewish, atmosphere in which much had to be negotiated.  Over time Russia began to see patriotism as membership in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and both Catholics and Jews were expected to convert or were considered suspicious.

At the same time this area was known for the magnate owned town, the magnate being a Polish aristocrat who owned the town long before Russians took over, as if it were a business but who also ran it as nobility might, with an eye to patronage.  This was a kind of town unknown to Western Europe (I know such towns existed in Slovakia and Hungary) and Russia tried to buy them out or outright take the towns from their owners.  (After the 1830 rebellion, the Russian government confiscated the Potocki estate including the whole town and 44,000 gallons of vodka.)

There is a huge portion of this book devoted to the issue of trade in this political era, when Jews were considered to be rightfully employed in trade, and that included Jewish women, and the way that a Jewish house in a shtetl often became also a place of trade, smuggling when taxations occurred, the popularity of the Tavern as a place where people from all religious backgrounds - male people - could actually unwind, the vital and lively markets that drew both sellers and buyers, and the diverse number of goods available including things like Chinese Pekoe tea, tobacco and pipes, silk, apricots, and tons of other produce.

Perhaps more interesting to me, especially as a woman and feminist, was the issue of family life and the harmonious and conflicting relationships between Jews and Catholics in these towns.  The author is Jewish and his goal was to bust through mythologies about shtetl life that have been promoted by the literary fiction called Fiddler's Roof. He emphasized how important the preservation of family was for the individual as well as the community, the emphasis on preserving family, even if that meant not reporting rape and sexual harassment or getting justice. How did the rabbi handle it when a woman who traveled for business came home pregnant?  He states that an accusation of sexual offense was enough to destroy a competitor.  And yet, he also states that (and this is where I thought "wrong, now you're peddling the Jewish version of the situation) that Jews didn't think sex was sinful and wrong LIKE THE CATHOLICS.

This is where the author lost me.  He presents all these things a Jewish woman had to do, like be "ritually pure", to have sex with her husband, and for sex to be spiritual.  She had to go soak in a mikvah bath after her period.  She actually had to go ask a Rabbi if she wasn't sure, like if she had cramps but no bleeding.  Her privates and private life were open to inspection by these authorities. (By my standards, all of this is cringeworthy!)

First I heard that for Catholics sex in marriage was considered sinful and wrong.  (It's funny I think to hear some people tell it, though not this author, that Catholics are supposed to be overpopulating the word and yet married sex is sinful and wrong!) What about the dangers of childbirth that these women faced, not having access to modern, western, standards of medical care we take for granted today? Here he says the Jewish women had more children than Catholics, less death from childbirth, and so on, taking the hygiene rather than genetic or economic factors into consideration.

He also presents a scenario where a poor Catholic servant girl is involved in lying against someone for pay, and to do that she goes by the ritual bath and claims she is pregnant by a Jewish man.  In the end she tells the truth.  The author says that this is "no surprise" and that even the girl's mother would think that two cows would be good compensation for an illegitimate birth.  Maybe that mother, but this is NOT representing Catholic values correctly.
Not then.  Not now.

Some day I will trip upon my notes from years ago so that I can say where I read this, but there came a time when the Catholic Church's influence in parts of what was Poland but now taken over by Austria or Russia was such that no Catholic girl who went to be a servant in a Jewish home could stay there more than a year.  The reason for this was that so many servant girls were turning up at the church unmarried and pregnant by their employers and there were no social services to help them.  Of course the year's time is arbitrary.

Perhaps I should just back off and state that the author chose a few real life scenarios to present things that did happen but mention that news is the exceptional not the common.
I took lots of notes before returning this book to the library, and hope to read it again in the future.