Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Curse of a Common Name: Steven V.R. James

Steven Van Rensselaer James (b.1817 NY - d.1902 IA)

A common surname makes it very difficult to confirm the identity of a person in genealogical records. When you have a surname that is also an extremely common first name, the degree of difficulty for conducting genealogical searches is exponentially higher. Such is the case with the research on a man named Steven Van Rensselaer James who lived from 1817 to 1902.

SVR James was born on February 3, 1817, in New York. He married Elizabeth King about 1841 in New York and they had two children together, Mary and Mark. Elizabeth King was the daughter of Josiah King and Abigail Dickinson. Elizabeth King and the son named Mark James died in New York probably around 1842. Steven moved to Walworth County, Wisconsin before 1846. He married Dorcas Ann Kenyon in 1847 and they had two children in Walworth County.

Before 1853, SVR James moved his family to Warren County, Iowa. He and Dorcas had seven more children in Warren County. He died on July 7, 1902, in Palmyra, Warren County, Iowa, having lived 85 years, and was buried there. 

Our goal has been to identify the localities were vital events occurred in New York in the hopes of identifying the parents of SVR James. So far we have been unable to locate a death certificate, an obituary or a biography. All of the records located for his children indicate only that he was born in New York.  We have been unable to locate any record that localizes his birthplace or names his parents.  There are definitely more records to be explored but it helps to approach genealogical research with a meticulous analysis of all of the facts.

Before trying to solve any genealogical research problem, it is useful to make a summary of the known facts.  Here is what we know about Steven Van Rensselaer James: 

1817- BIRTH: The gravestone of SVR James gives his date of birth as 3 Feb 1817.  All of the census records for SVR James give his birthplace as New York. The census records from 1880 forward state that the birthplace of his parents was Rhode Island.  Almost nothing is known about his early life.

1841 -MARRIAGE: SVR James married Elizabeth King in New York about 1841 when he was 24 years old. One family tree states that the marriage occurred on June 13, 1841 in Byron, Genessee County, New York but they have no source for that marriage. Determining the location of the first marriage of SVR James has proven to be quite illusive.  The timing of New York vital record keeping laws also increases the degree of difficulty.  County and town clerks were not required to record marriages until well after SVR James had left the state. 

Even without a source for the marriage, Byron, Genessee County, New York records should be explored for members of the James family that show up there from 1810 to 1900 for possible connections to SVR James.

Mary Elizabeth Provolt nee James (b. 1842 NY - d. 1906 OK)

1842 BIRTH OF CHILD: SVR James and Elizabeth King had a daughter, Mary Elizabeth James that was born on April 14, 1842, in New York. She married Sanford William Provolt on May 26, 1867, in Palmyra, Iowa. They had six children in 12 years. She died on July 20, 1906, in Stroud, Oklahoma, at the age of 64, and was buried there. Her obituary only states that she was born in New York without providing a city or a county. Perhaps her descendants have a more precise record of her birthplace in their family records.  Her husband was a Union veteran and received a pension. The fact that Mary died first in 1906 and Sanford died in 1909, makes it less likely that the pension file would contain useful facts about Mary. However, the pension file should be obtained and reviewed.

1842 BIRTH OF CHILD: Some trees state that SVR James and Elizabeth King had a son Mark E. James that was born in 1842 in New York and passed away that same year. 

1842- DEATH OF WIFE: One family tree states that Elizabeth King died in September 3, 1840, in Utica, New York, at the age of 22. Another family tree states that she passed away in 1842 in Utica, Oneida, New York, at the age of 24. When I asked the tree owner for her source, she replied:

It's probably a mistake. Between transferring and renewing and updating all my trees....somehow a lot of people seem to be living and dying in Utica NY. I'm sure it is wrong. I will erase it from my tree. I'm sorry to get your hopes up. I hate brick walls.

Indeed it is a brick wall.

1842-1846-MIGRATION NY to WI: It appears that SVR James relocated from New York to Wisconsin between 1842 and 1846. There is no record of his owning land in Walworth County, Wisconsin.  The biography of his son, Dr. Clarence E. James states that In 1843 [SVR James] took up his abode in Warren county, [Iowa].  Records below show that this is an incorrect date for migration to Iowa but this may be the correct date for migration from New York to Wisconsin.

1846-1848- RELIGION: One intriguing fact about SVR James is that he was a devout Baptist.  His name appears in the Minutes of the Walworth County Baptist Association as a delegate representing the Sugar Creek Baptist Church in 1846, 1847 and 1848. He does not appear in any of the minutes after those dates for Sugar Creek or for Delavan where he is known to have been residing in 1850. It is presumed based on his membership in this church that he was living in Sugar Creek Township of Walworth County, Wisconsin from 1846-1848.  The other delegates from Sugar Creek become subjects for further research to see if perhaps they were associates in New York.
"The Delegates of the Walworth Association met at Whitewater, on the 21st of June, 1846; and after listening to a sermon by Eld. J. H. Dudley, from Matthew 23, 18:20; proceeded to organize in Convention, by choosing J. H. Dudley, Moderator; and Spencer Carr, Clerk.
The names of Delegates were then enrolled as follows: ...Sugar Creek-M Pickett, J Loomer, S Loomer, J Fields, S V R James, Samuel Loomer..." The Loomer family were associated with Sugar Creek for many years before and after the short tenure of SVR James. Leonard Loomer arrived in Sugar Creek Township in June 1837 and Jonathan Loomer arrived in March 1838. [HWCW-1882, page 939]  The Loomer family was from Nova Scotia so it is unlikely that SVR James was associated with them prior to his arrival in Wisconsin. [HWCW-1912, page 1330]
In 1847, S.V.R. James is again listed amongst the Delegates from the Sugar Creek Church along with the pastor Elder M. Rowley and fellow delegates S. Loomer, and H.B. Kinne. The 1882 History of Walworth County shows on page 940 that Horace B. Kinne was amongst the early settlers of Sugar Creek Township as follows:
Early Settlers of 1842: J.R. Kinne, Horace B. Kinne, Herman Jenkins, James and John Strong (Section 23). J.R. Kinne, was amongst the early settlers that were still living in Sugar Creek Township in 1882. The 1842 date of settlement is about the right time for SVR James to have either traveled with them or to have followed them to also settle in Wisconsin.
Augustus and Jesse Kinne were both born in Chenango County, New York in 1808 and 1803 respectively. Jesse R. Kinne had three children born "in the East"--Charles, Lavina and George.
The 1882 History of Walworth County has biographies of Augustus C. Kinne and Jesse R. Kinne on page 947. The parents of Augustus Kinne are not named in the biography. Jesse R. Kinne was born in Norwich, Chenango County, New York on 26 Nov 1803 and is the son of Elias and Lydia (Rundell) Kinne. The father of Lydia Rundell Kinne was Jesse Rundell.
The History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York, 1880 states that Jesse Rundell was “killed in October, 1802, by falling from the rafters of the Baptist meeting-house, in North Norwich, the construction of which he was superintending.”
However, the only family with the surname James that is found in Chenango County in the early census records is Oliver James with a family of eight persons in 1820 in Plymouth Township. Oliver James is not mentioned in the history of Chenango.
In Walworth Baptist Minutes of 1847, "the Prudential Committee reported in full and report accepted and adopted as a whole as follows:
1st Believing that Slavery is a flagrant violation of every principle of moral rectitude relating to God and man, an exhaustive source of corruption to society, an incubus to the Church of our Redeemer, and consequently a curse to the world. Therefore,
     Resolved, That we deem it decidedly wrong for Christians, on any considerations, to give it approbation or fellowship, either express or implied.
[Similar resolutions include 2) disapproval of Secret Societies, 3) raising fund for mission purposes and...]
4th Whereas we believe the use of traffic in all intoxicating drinks as a beverage, to be a great moral evil--Therefore.
     Resolved, That we recommend to all the Churches of this Association to use all Gospel means to discountenance their use and especially within the pale of the Church..."
"6th. Resolved, That the present war with Mexico is a grief to us as citizens and Christians, and we pledge ourselves to use our influence to bring it to a speedy termination...The yeas and nays were demanded [SVR James is among the yeas.]
It is difficult to draw a precise line to the place of origin of SVR James from his fellow Baptists.  These resolutions by the Walworth Baptist Association give a clear picture of his spiritual and political convictions.

1847-MARRIAGE: Steven Van Rensselaer James married Dorcas Ann Kenyon in Walworth County, Wisconsin, on June 3, 1847, when he was 30 years old. The marriage record is referenced at in Volume 1; Page 288 of Walworth County, Wisconsin Marriage Records. The parents for Dorcas Kenyon are Gardiner Kenyon and Frances “Fanny” James who both died in Richmond, Washington County, Rhode Island in 1832 and 1837.  Therefore it is possible that Dorcas Ann Kenyon was residing with her maternal grandparents, Thomas James and Dorcas Perry in Richmond Township, Walworth County, Wisconsin immediately prior to her marriage to SVR James.

1848-1853 ASSOCIATES- The census records for SVR James from 1880 forward state that the birthplace of his parents was Rhode Island.  There are several persons with the surname James that came from Richmond, Washington, County, Rhode Island to Walworth County, Wisconsin. Richmond Township actually derives its name from the settlers from Richmond, Rhode Island. In fact, SVR James second wife is a descendant of these James families from Rhode Island that settled in a new Richmond Township in Walworth County, Wisconsin.

Among the first-comers to the town were Thomas and T. Perry James and Robert Sherman, from Richmond, Washington county, Rhode Island, and their influence, just then, was sufficient to place another Richmond in the field of American geography. [HWCW, Vol. 1-1912, page 384]

1848- BIRTH OF CHILD: His daughter Elvira F. was born on September 5, 1848, in Delavan, Walworth, Wisconsin, USA.

Elvira F. James (b. 1848 WI - d. 1929 KS) and her husband, Clement Ritchie (b. 1836 PA - d. 1909 IA)

1850- CENSUS: The U.S. Census confirms that SVR James had moved into Delavan, the county seat of Walworth County and was working as a clerk. He owned no property.
§  Reviewed the 1850 census for SVR James in Delavan, Walworth, Wisconsin.  The next page was scanned to find a merchant and another clerk. It is possible that the merchant employer was a friend from New York that induced him to move from Sugar Creek Township based on the promise of a job. He is enumerated on page 3 of 26 as a clerk. There are merchants enumerated as follows:
o   T.L. Parmelee; age 28; Merchant; $1200 Real Estate; born New York; also in his household is:
o   Steven McHugh; age 17; Clerk; born New York.
There is another clerk on page 4, dwelling 410:
o   Emmett Griffin; age 21; Clerk; born New York
On page 5; dwelling 415 there is another merchant:
o   James Filley [sp?]; age 35; merchant; $300 Real estate; born Ohio

1850- BIRTH OF CHILD: His daughter Emma Elizabeth was born on May 8, 1850, in Delavan, Walworth, Wisconsin, USA.

1850-1851: MIGRATION FROM WI TO IA: Based on the birthplaces of the child above and the child below, we can surmise when SVR James arrived in Iowa with his family.

1851- BIRTH OF CHILD: His son Dr. Clarence E. James was born on December 5, 1851, in Palmyra, Warren, Iowa.  The biography of C.E. James makes no mention of the birthplace of his father:

His birth occurred in Warren county, Iowa, on the 5th of December, 1851, his parents being S. V. R. and Dorcas Anne (Kenyon) James. In 1843 the former took up his abode in Warren county, this state, and both he and his wife now lie buried in Palmyra, that county. To them were born eight children, four sons and four daughters. [HMCI-1915, page 72]

Dr. Clarence E. James (b. 1851 IA - d. 1916 IA)

1852- CENSUS: Steven Van Rensselaer James lived in Richland, Polk, Iowa, USA according to the Iowa State Census.

1853- BIRTH OF CHILD: His daughter Georgeana was born on March 24, 1853, in Warren County, Iowa. Her records have not yet been analyzed for information about her father.

1853- RELIGION: SVR James was a charter member of the Hartford Baptist Church which was organized in April 1853.  [HWCI-1908, page 340.]

1854- BIRTH OF CHILD: His daughter Emma Elizabeth passed away on May 27, 1854, at the age of 4.

1854- BIRTH OF CHILD: His daughter Fanny was born on December 27, 1854.

1856- DEATH OF CHILD: His daughter Fanny passed away on April 11, 1856, when she was 1 year old.

1858- BIRTH OF CHILD: His son William Thomas James was born on March 28, 1858, in Warren, Iowa. Only a few of his records have been analyzed for information about his father.

1860- BIRTH OF CHILD: His son Asa Lincoln James was born on September 9, 1860.

1862- BIRTH OF CHILD: His son Arthur John was born on July 11, 1862, in Iowa.  His records have not yet been analyzed for information about his father.

Arthur John James (b. 1862 IA - d. 1937 CO)

1865-BIRTH OF CHILD: His daughter Bertha E. James was born on June 23, 1865, in Palmyra, Iowa.

Bertha E. Bartholomew nee James (b. 1865 IA - d. 1946 TX)

1867- MARRIAGE OF CHILD: Mary E. James married Sanford W. Provolt in Palmyra, Warren County, Iowa on 26 May 1867.

Name:  Mary E. James
Gender:               Female
Birth Date:          1843
Marriage Date:  26 May 1867
Marriage Place: Palmyra, Warren, Iowa
Marriage Age:   24
Spouse:                Sanford W. Provolt
FHL Film Number:            1011011
Reference ID:    #56, pg. 15
Images from the Marriage Register showing the license and the certificate are below:

Neither of these images contain any information on the birthplace of Mary Elizabeth James.

1870- CENSUS: Steven Van Rensselaer James lived in Palmyra, Warren County, Iowa, per the 1870 census.

1879- RESIDENCE: The Directory of Warren County in the 1879 county history lists S.V.R. James as a farmer on Section 30, Palmyra Township; Post Office: Palmyra; on the line above H.R. James AKA Henry Reynolds James is in the same section so it would appear that Steven is working Henry’s land. [HWCI-1879, page 710.]

1880- CENSUS: Steven Van Rensselaer James lived in Palmyra, Iowa, on July 10, 1880.

1885- DEATH OF WIFE: His wife Dorcas Ann Kenyon passed away on January 11, 1885, in Palmyra, Iowa, at the age of 55. They had been married 37 years.

1888- MARRIAGE OF CHILD: Steven’s daughter, Elvira F. James married Clement Ritchie 7 Mar 1888. The Warren County, Iowa marriage register gives Steven’s name but not his birthplace.

1898- DEATH OF CHILD: His son Asa Lincoln James passed away on December 25, 1898, at the age of 38.

1900- CENSUS: Steven Van Rensselaer James lived in Palmyra, Iowa, in 1900 with the family of his daughter. Age: 83; Marital Status: Widowed; Relation to Head of House: Father in Law.

1902- DEATH: Steven Van Rensselaer James died on July 7, 1902, in Palmyra, Iowa, when he was 85 years old. Death records for Warren County begin in 1904. The source for the death date is his gravestone.

1910- On 15 Jan 1910 Elvira F. Ritchie nee Elvira F. James filed from the state of Kansas for a Widows pension for the Civil War service of her husband Clement Ritchie.  It is unlikely that she would have stated where her father was born in any affidavits filed in the pension file but no stone should be left unturned.

1925- The State of Iowa conducted a census that is very valuable to genealogists because it gives the names and birth places of parents. For example William T. James, son of SVR James is enumerated in this census.  He states that his father was born in New York.  Usually the state of birth is the only information given as it was in this case.  The 1925 Iowa Census also gives the state where the parents were married.  We already knew about the 1847 marriage in Walworth County, Wisconsin.  This was not new information but it is an additional source which substantiates the marriage place.


Beckwith, Albert Clayton, History of Walworth County, Wisconsin ... B.F. Bowen and Co., 1912 –Indianapolis, Indiana; Two volumes. [HWCW-1912]

Annual Minutes of the Walworth Baptist Association, Walworth Baptist Association (Wis.), 1846-1869;  [WBA-1846-1848]

Atlas of Warren County, Iowa, published by Harrison & Warner, Marshalltown, Iowa, 1872 found in U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

Everts, Baskin, and Stewart, Combination atlas map of Walworth County Wisconsin, (1873), Map of Sugar Creek township, pp. 43-46;

History of Walworth County, Wisconsin..., Western Historical Company, 1882 - Chicago - 967 pages  [HWCW-1882]
History of Warren County, Iowa: Containing a History of the County, Its Cities, Towns, &c, Volume 1. Higginson Book Company. 1879. [HWCI-1879];

Martin, W.C., History of Warren County, Iowa: From Its Earliest Settlement to 1908... ; with Biographical Sketches of Some Prominent Citizens of the County; S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1908 - Warren County (Iowa) - 1065 pages [HWCI-1908]

U.S. Census Bureau Frequently Occurring Surnames in the 2010 Census: Top 1,000 Surnames [Spreadsheet document on-line]

U.S. Census Bureau Frequently Occurring Surnames in the 2010 Census [PDF document on-line]

Wright, John W., ed; Young, William A., History of Marion County, Iowa, and its people, Vol. 2
S. J. Clarke publishing company. 1915; Biography of C.E. James, page 72; 

Photo Credits 

All of these credits reference usernames on

Steven Van Rensselaer James- rwegner2 [Bob Wegner] originally shared this on 05 Apr 2014

Mary Elizabeth James Provolt-Holly Knudsen originally shared this on 21 Oct 2015

Elvira and Clement Ritchie- cjcrum originally shared this on 11 Sep 2011

Dr. Clarence James, Location: Knoxville, Iowa- rwegner2 originally shared this on 05 Apr 2014

Uncle Will James- PaMayhew originally shared this on 19 May 2015

Uncle Arther James- Grandmother Mary Ritchie Johnson only saw him once she said in 1909; PaMayhew originally shared this on 19 May 2015

Bertha James Bartholomew- Mareva Orr originally shared this on 25 Mar 2014

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Lady Bird- Accurate Picture of Sacto Beauty and Anxiety

Like most Sacramentans, I love Lady Bird and will be rooting for this movie on Sunday night.

Homecoming Queen: This portrait of Greta Gerwig appeared in the December-January 2018 issue of Sactown Magazine.

Lady Bird was written and directed by Sacramento native Greta Gerwig. In her directorial debut, her film has landed nominations in several prestigious categories including best picture, best director, best original screenplay, best actress (for Saoirse Ronan), and best supporting actress (for Laurie Metcalf).

Lady Bird is set in my hometown of Sacramento in 2002, the same year that Gerwig graduated from St. Francis High School. Gerwig's alter-ego is Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, a senior student at a Sacramento Catholic high school. She dreams of escaping the "midwest of California" to attend an East Coast college. Her family is on the edge of economic ruin, and her mother repeatedly informs her daughter that she is an ungrateful brat with no appreciation for the sacrifices of her parents to provide a home and an expensive private school education. Mom's advice is to attend City College, go to jail and go back to city college when she gets out. It sounds rather bleak when you summarize it but I found this movie to be an intensely personal reflection of my feelings about the place that I call home.

Here are are a few of my favorite reviews that rang true for me:
Homecoming Queen- Greta Gerwig proves that you can indeed go home again with her stunning directorial debut "Lady Bird," a semi-autobiographical story about the Sacramento native’s senior year in high school. In her “love letter” to the River City, she fills the screen with nostalgia-soaked scenes of local landmarks and neighborhoods, revisiting her youth with the thoughtful perspective that only time can bring. And if growing Oscar buzz for the film is any indication, this is just the beginning for the first-time auteur and newly crowned Hollywood royalty. Long may she reign...
 “It took time to realize that Sacramento gave me what home should give you, which is roots and wings,” says Gerwig.
The irony is that Gerwig's love letter to Sacramento will only increase the demand and reduce the supply of what once was an affordable, family-friendly lifestyle. This next review points to issues of economic anxiety that I felt as a child and have never been able to shake:
Lady Bird Is the Rare Coming-of-Age Movie About the Strain of Growing Up Poor
...what struck me as most remarkable about the film is its nuanced, deft handling of social class—a reality teen movies usually address with hyperbole or avoid altogether by making their characters white and comfortably upper middle class by default.
Lady Bird is coming of age in a time when social mobility is an increasingly rare phenomenon; where kids who are born poor tend to stay that way their whole lives and pass that inheritance along to their children. The movie also takes place between 2002 to 2003, a moment where everything around you felt precarious: 9/11 is still at the forefront of the nation’s hearts and minds, the country has invaded Iraq for reasons that wouldn’t become more clear until 15 years later, and the financial crash is just around the corner—all underscoring the listlessness Lady Bird acutely feels in her own life but doesn’t yet have the vocabulary to extrapolate to the world beyond herself.
Sacramento has always had an inferiority complex that has been foisted upon us by our neighbors from the Bay Area. The ultimate indignity to Sacramento is to say that you are from San Francisco. Having worked in the "The City," for twelve years, I at least have a legitimate claim.
During a disastrous inaugural night as a college student in New York, a drunken Lady Bird tells a fellow freshman that she’s from San Francisco and is immediately rueful for selling out her hometown.
The funny part is that I have never claimed to hate Sacramento but I definitely could relate to angst expressed by Lady Bird.
We want to hate it and we go to great lengths to prove we hate it. We pay so much attention to it that we write about it with tremendous affection...

The film is introduced by a quote from a 1979 interview with Joan Didion, also a native of our hometown: “Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.”

I felt duty bound to consult the Sacramento Bee for its opinions on the matter.
I agree with the writer featured in the above article that "Lady Bird" is such an accurate portrait of our hometown that it feels like a documentary but certain realities were omitted.

One of my favorite lines in the movie is voiced by her friend, Danny: "Lady Bird always says that she lives on the wrong side of the tracks, but I always thought that that was like a metaphor, but there are actual train tracks."

I graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 1971, located in the Greenhaven neighborhood.  My house near 24th and Meadowview was definitely on the "wrong side of the tracks" from Greenhaven. The words sung by Janis Joplin always resonated with me: "Oh Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz. My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends..."  I never did get that Mercedes but a few of my high school friends did drive Porsches and BMWs.  We would break the speed limit on I-80 and Highway 50 so we could wait in the long lines to get into the parking lot at the ski areas.

Hanging out with friends from the other side of the tracks helped me to blur my senses to the socio-economic realities in my white flight neighborhood.  Those realities became crystal clear in 1968 when Kennedy High School had riots on the quad.  The "tough kids" both white and black battled it out with the stakes that were yanked from the saplings in our immature campus landscaping. I watched powerless but safe from my perch in the third floor geometry classroom. Our student body president, Cornell West, led the reconciliation efforts and he now describes himself as  a "prominent and provocative democratic intellectual." His critics have branded him as a "socialist." I wonder what he would think of Lady Bird.

My escape from Sacramento did not take me too far away at first. I have always felt fortunate that I was able to attend UC Davis. I had to laugh at Lady Bird when she disdains her acceptance to UC Davis because it has earned its reputation as an agricultural school.  This review was written by a  much younger UC Davis student, who manages to capture my feelings:
Lady Bird: A Review - The Aggie
Dec 10, 2017 -For UC Davis students in particular, “Lady Bird” speaks volumes. Sweeping shots of  Sacramento highways, the Tower Bridge and rural skylines evoke some sense of pride for the surrounding area of our favorite college town. While Lady Bird resents the fact that she was accepted into UC Davis — for its close proximity to her home and its fame as an agricultural school — she still deeply appreciates her hometown, although she may not see it quite yet herself.
So do yourself a favor and go see “Lady Bird.” See it with your mom. Remind her that you love her and that you do miss home more than you care to let on. See it for the hilarious references to our beloved UC Davis. Remember the feelings that you felt when you were in Lady Bird’s exact place as a high school senior. Immerse yourself in all that Gerwig has to offer to the audiences of “Lady Bird.” Remind yourself that you are [or were] young, naive and probably a bit selfish, but that sometimes, that’s okay.
I have chosen not to contribute to the Alumni Association but I will proudly close with the Aggie Yell: Bossy Cow-Cow Honey Bee-Bee Oleo Margarine Oleo Butterine Alfalfa Hay!!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

R U Heir to a Fortune...

...or is it Fake News? Newspaper research can reveal some of the most fascinating stories about our ancestors and their descendants. And so it is with one of my wife's ancestors, Mathias Brandenburg.

The legend of Mathias Brandenburg has become larger than life thanks to a lot of publicity that appears to have begun in 1888 and continued into the 20th century.

Some of that legend has been interwoven with facts to give authenticity to a bit of "Fake News."

The following story has been published on and it shows how facts and fiction have been woven together to create legend which is propagated by well meaning genealogists. Here is the first paragraph of the story:

by Gwendolyn Brandenburg Proffer
at Clark County KYGenWeb
Matthias Brandenburgh was born in the Palace in Berlin, Brandenburg, Prussia about 1738. His brother Solomon witnessed his birth. Matthias (Tice) and his brothers were members of the Hohenzollerns, the ruling family of Prussia and Germany, his grandfather Alfred being a half first cousin to Friedrich the Great of Prussia (1712-1786). Matthias’ great grandfather was "The Great Elector", Friedrich William of Brandenburg (1620-1688). 
The source for this article was referenced as but that website appears to have been part of the Rootsweb site that has taken down indefinitely.  This story of royal origins was probably based on a number of newspaper articles which were published in 1888 which claimed that the Brandenburgs were heirs to a fabulous estate. The first article that we have found is dated August 11, 1888 and was published on the front page of the Indianapolis Journal:

This article says that Matthias Brandenburg:

"told his family of the estate in Germany, and the first confirmation of his words was the appearance of an advertisement in American and German papers in 1862, inquiring the whereabouts of the heirs of Solomon Brandenburg, King William having several years previous passed a bill through the Reichstag restoring the estate." 

Mr. C.D. Bell claims to have traced the relationship and immediately set about looking up the heirs. 

"The castle on the estate is said to be one of the handsomest in Europe and is at present tenanted by Herbert Von Bismarck."
Curiously, none of the 1862 newspaper advertisements have been found nor has the bill that supposedly passed the Reichstag been found. But that did not stop dozens of newspapers across the United States from publishing these spurious accounts of an estate with one of the finest castles in Germany.  C.D. Bell appears to have been a master of publicity.

Finally one of these newspaper editors starts to be suspicious that perhaps a fraud is being perpetrated. But that did not stop many other editors from publishing more delusions.

The article above may even have some genealogical value as it lists a number of heirs that are laying claim to the "enormous estate"

Finally another skeptic but more articles appear in 1889.

The story seems to have been resurrected in 1902 as Mrs. A.A. Hurst of Florence, Colorado claims to be an heiress in the following story:

31 August 1902, Paper: Denver Post Page: 3

The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) · Sat, Dec 6, 1902 · Page 9

The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Sat, Mar 28, 1903 · Page 1

The above article made me smile when Mr. J.W. Brandenburg acknowledges that "he is not anticipating smoking very many 25 cent cigars purchased by his part of the proceeds."

The story that was published on about Mathias Brandenburg does go on in great detail but you have to question all of their source material given how easily they were seduced by the scam. Here is the rest of the story:
In 1752, Matthias sailed with his brothers Wilhelm Heinrich and probably Solomon for America aboard the vessel "Two Brothers", settling at first in Middlesex, New Jersey and then moving near Hagerstown, Frederick County, Maryland. Matthias Brandenburgh’s brothers, Solomon and Wilhelm Henrich, settled in the Middletown Valley, Frederick County, Maryland (Ref: W.J. Moore of Richmond, Kentucky - Mr. Moore died April 1980). Fourteen years later their brother Jacob and probably Johannes (John Martin) sailed aboard the vessel "Sally" in 1766, landing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jacob settled on a farm in the New Market district called "Chance" in the wilderness of Frederick county, Maryland. Johannes John Martin settled on Oaklands Plantation in Orangeburg Co, SC. All the brothers were well educated (Witness: They all signed the Oath of Allegiance and various Deeds.)
Matthias Brandenburgh probably first met his future bride, Hester Walgamot (whose family lived near Hagerstown, Maryland Colony, Frederick County [might have been Prince George’s County at that time]) about 1756 when the people who lived in her area were evacuated to the newly erected fort at Frederick, during the French and Indian War (1755-1763). Matthias Brandenburgh and Hester Walgamot were married about 1764 and settled in Frederick County, Maryland. Here their first five children, Henry, Joseph, Elizabeth, David and Nancy, were born. In 1767, two to three years after they married, Matthias leased a ½ acre lot in Middletown, Frederick County, Maryland, located between Hagerstown and Frederick; the lease was sold 5-1/2 years later. 
A trickle of German and Scotch-Irish settlers had been defying government regulations and braving Indian attacks for nearly fifty years to settle the fertile Appalachian Ridge and Valley Region in the back country of Virginia Colony. The region had been a joint hunting ground for several groups of Indians, none of whom actually lived there, (the same was said of the region now known as Kentucky). When these Indians signed treaties in 1768 "giving up" their rights to the land, settlers rushed in to take possession. Two years (1774) after selling the lease on the Middletown lot Matthias leased 210-1/2 acres of previously leased land in Patterson’s Creek Manor in Virginia Colony, Hampshire County (now West Virginia, Mineral County) about 50 miles southwest and across the Potomac River from Hagerstown. Matthias and Hester’s son Samuel was born after their move to the land in Patterson’s Creek Manor (1774). The remainder of their children, Jonathan, Solomon, John, Sarah, Catherine, Absolom, Hester and Ruth, were all born in Hampshire County, Virginia. 
The land had probably already been cleared of native trees such as pine, white oak, walnut and elm. Matthias’ lease required that he build a house at least 20’X16’ with a stone or brick fireplace and plant and raise 100 apple trees, at least 30’ apart.
At the same time Matthias, Hester and their six children were starting the orchard in Hampshire County there were Brandenburghs in the first permanent settlements of the part of Virginia that was to become the state of Kentucky. (Note: Christopher Stoffel Brandenburgh lived at Quicks Run, Lewis Co, Kentucky and died there in 1802. His daughter Catherine married Charles Shepherd and Susanna married William Carr, both marrying in 1802 in Mason County, Kentucky. A deed was made to Catherine Brandenburgh in 1832. (Note: B. A. Deatrick stated in his research "There is a painting in the Washington University Gallery of Art in St. Louis, Missouri, painted in 1851-1852 (76 years after the fact) by Caleb Bingham. It shows Daniel Boone and his wife, the first white woman to settle in Kentucky, his daughter and several other people on the Warrior's Path (which became the Wilderness Road) as they were passing through the Cumberland Gap in 1775. To Boone's left (or right when the picture is printed in reverse) is David Brandenburgh- - I failed to document where I got that last information ! Daniel Boone doesn't look much like contemporary drawings of him and David Brandenburgh may or may not have been painted from first hand descriptions." . . .It has been said that this was Matthias' son and that Absalom, another son of Matthias, was also one of Boone's scouts. Matthias' son David was about four years old in 1775 and Absalom hadn't been born.
"Matthias never served any military service during the Revolutionary War, but he did make leather saddles for the Continental Army forces, which could be considered a service to his country", per 1970 correspondences from a Ms. Agnes Beasley of Versailles, KY. to Mr. Earl Bowman (descendants of David>Solomon>Hannah Elizabeth who married Strother Bowman) {Mr. Bowman's daughter wanted to make a DAR application}. During the Revolutionary War, Matthias contributed to the cause of Liberty. No doubt there were many more contributions than the simple one found in the records of Hampshire, Virginia:
"At the Court held for Hampshire County, Virginia the 12th day of August, 1783, Matthias Brandenburgh for 1 Blanket - 4.1 pound payment." 
This Service was marked for Contructal [Continental] soldiers. It looks as though Matthias contributed his blanket (nicer than the others) to the militia rather than to the United States Continental Army. This blanket was one of many contributions made to the militia in September, 1778. (B. A. Deatrick wrote in his research notes: "That blanket has been sufficient for several Brandenburg women to join the Daughters of the American Revolution and at least one man to join the Sons of the American Revolution.) On this record Matthias Brandenburgh was made a DAR Patriot. ....Brandenburgh data from research by F. Nelson. The reference for this is given as "Deed 4, pg. 141 Hampshire Co. Va." and "Virginia State Library claims for services."
"Matthias, on October 16, 1787, was the lessor of 48-1/2 acres on Patterson Creek in Hampshire Co, VA. It is also noted that on November 24 1789, Matthias Brandenburgh (wife Hester) of Hampshire County authorized Issac Good with the Power of Attorney of collect in lawful manner anything due the said Brandenburgh. It appears that Matthias stayed there through the 1780's. Matthias’ oldest son Henry was taxed for years 1784 thru 1787, but did not appear on the 1788 Tax List and it is believed that Henry Brandenburgh was exploring the land to the west, Kentucky and the Boonesborough area in particular. Henry may have sent word for his family to join him or he may have returned to guide them and help in the move. Matthias’ home in Hampshire Co, Virginia was about six miles from Cumberland, Maryland; and Matthias’ family and Henry no doubt followed the trail that later became the Cumberland Road, America’s first National Turnpike. (The Cumberland Gap was between Virginia and Tennessee.) "The route through western Pennsylvania was long and tedious requiring up to three months." The Maryland State Road ran from Baltimore, through Frederick and Hagerstown to Cumberland, from there a trail ran south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and on to the Ohio River where people with their wagons, belongings and animals could be rafted or carried on flatboats to Kentucky. (Steamboats were introduced to the Ohio river about 1810 and flatboats continued to be used. "In 1846 more than 2,000 flatboats sailed down the river to New Orleans. But by the 1860 they had all but disappeared.") The Cumberland Road followed the trail in the early 1800s and was macadamized all the way to the Ohio River by 1811. From there it continued across Indiana into Illinois where it was finished about 1850. It is now U.S. Highway 40."
"It has been said that the Brandenburghs first went to Mason County, Kentucky and that probably was where they landed to begin the journey inland, but the records indicate that they went directly to Fayette/Clark County. Although Matthias had been in Fayette County, Kentucky since 1790-91, it wasn’t until the autumn of 1798 that Matthias bought 150 acres on DeWitt’s/Jouett’s Creek. The creek empties into the Kentucky River and is located southeast of Winchester, Kentucky. (Mr. Bell, in his bid for the Brandenburgh estate, said Matthias lived in Winchester, Virginia. This caused some researchers to look at present-day Winchester, Virginia instead of present-day Winchester, Kentucky. Per B. A. Deatrick)."
"The land was purchased from John Holder, who had a boat yard not far away on the Amsta Grove Road ("Land of Our Fathers"). Holder had been captain of a company of soldiers that had defended the fort at Boonesborough from Indian attacks. He attested to the 1796 marriage of Matthias’ son Joseph to Delilah Vesser; she and her mother had once taken refuge in the fort." 
"Matthias was about 59 years old when he bought the land, which started "above the Saw Mill dam". Hester was from a sawmill family and several of Hester and Matthias’ children later owned or ran mills. Matthias’ land was never taxed for more than $530.00, which doesn’t suggest much in the way of improvements, but the mill may have been on their land." (B.A. Deatrick) 
Matthias and Hester moved and settled at the mouth of Duets Creek below Ford Station on the Kentucky River in Clark County, Kentucky about 1790. There were 150 acres in his home place, and the records indicate that this family were later to become large land owners. Some members of the family settled at Heidelberg, now in Lee County. Others migrated farther west, locating in Meade County, where the County Seat of Brandenburg received its name from the original settlers, mainly Solomon Brandenburgh, Matthias' son, who owned and operated the ferry. 
Matthias is missing from the Clark County records for two or three years, beginning in 1798 or 1799 and it is likely that he and Hester were in Hardin County with his children; his son Jonathan and his daughter, Sarah Brandenburgh Vertrees, was there as well. In 1804 Matthias transferred by deed the farm in Clark County to his son Samuel; then in 1805 he moved to Crab Orchard, in Lincoln Co, Kentucky. 
Matthias Brandenburgh and all his children spelled their names using the "burgh" ending. This continued until after the 1850s.
Some time before his death, Matthias revealed to his family that he was a member of the Royal Family of Brandenburg, Prussia (The House of Hohenzollern). He told them that he and his brothers had left a vast estate in Prussia, the reason being, "a Catholic procession was passing through the streets of the city of Berlin, this procession headed by a distinguished Loyalist who stood in high favor with the reigning Prince of Brandenburg, who was himself a Catholic. (During the reign of Frederick I (1701-1740) and his son, Frederick II The Great (1740-1763)). It was expected and commanded that every man whom this procession passed should take off his hat in token of honor to the great personage, who in glittering regalia rode at the head of the procession. Two of his brothers (one being Solomon) stood watching the procession. Even though the brothers were near relatives of the reigning Prince Catholic Elector of Brandenburg (Frederick the Great) they were Protestants and they not only refused to take off their hats to a Catholic dignitary, but they even spoke contemptuously of him. this was reported to their relatives. The King and Elector of Brandenburg (Prussia) was angered by their action and sent forth an edict confiscating their estate. This act was followed by persecution and fear of loosing their heads, and the brothers fled to Holland and then sailed to America, never regaining their possessions or estate in the Province of Brandenburg. 
In November of 1807 Matthias was visiting his son David who lived on Stoner Creek in Hardin Co, KY. and he was murdered by William Hardin. In Haycraft's History of Elizabethtown, the statement is made that one William Hardin was sentenced to the penitentiary for killing Matthias Brandenburgh. (Some say it was over a card game, but family stories say it was over the theft of wolf pelts.) [Ref: Samuel Haycraft's History of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, page 162.] Although diligent research of court records has failed to find a record of the trial, I am inclined to believe this. (B. A. Deatrick) Family tradition states that on November 20, 1807 he was thrown from a horse and killed in Crab Orchard, Lincoln Co. KY. Matthias is buried in Crab Orchard, Lincoln Co. KY. (per research of E. C. Brandenburg, Calvin Earl Brandenburg, (1940-1950-1960) & Benjamin Franklin Brandenburg III (1950s & 1960s). [Thelma, Inez {White} Mumaw's daughter, told me that one of our original Brandenburg ancestors was murdered by his partner over a dispute about wolf pelts. There was probably a bounty on wolves at the time and the pelts were worth money. (by Unknown Researcher)]
Matthias' will was probated 21 March 1807, book 2, pg. 240, Brandenburg, Meade County, Kentucky. David Brandenburg, Matthias’ son, was named Administrator of the Estate. In 1822 "Power of Attorney" was given to David by the Brandenburghs living in Hardin County for him to sell Matthias’ land to Thomas C. Green, husband of Matthias’ daughter, Catherine. 
Descendants of Matthias Brandenburgh can be found throughout Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, with a particularly dense concentration in the Kentucky counties of Clark, Estell, Lee, Owsley, Clay, Madison and Meade. A large number of his descendants migrated to Ohio, where many settled in the counties of Warren and Butler. 
In reviewing this incomplete history of the Brandenburgh Family, it is revealed that they must have had a genuine admiration for Nature. They were all primarily farmers, with the possible exception of the latest generations. Court records show that they were land owners, and the number of transactions which they made in land indicate they were not adverse to investing in natural resources. They exhibited the restless spirit of the pioneer, migrating across the Alleghency Mountains and coming west by way of the Ohio River, and then settling along the tributaries of the Miami and Kentucky Rivers. Descendants of these early pioneers have since located throughout the entire country, with a dense concentration in the Middle West. It is also indicated that these early pioneers must have been students of the Bible, with a deep respect for their ancestors and solemn reverence for the Divinity. It is noted that most of them had Biblical given names, and that these names were perpetuated in the family by frequently giving children the same names as their parents and grandparents. (E.C. Brandenburg).
-- Samuel Haycraft's History of Kentucky p. 162.
-- Mathias' will in the Clark Co. KY records.
-- The Corydon, Indiana "Democrat" and "The Republican" 1959 series called "Our Ancestors" compiled by B. A. Deatrick, 15 Park Row New York, NY
-- Clark County, KY. Deed Records
--Brandenburg Family Folder, Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, KY.
--Who Was Who in Hardin County, KY. by the Hardin County Historical Society, Nov. 1944.
--Evelyn Parsons and Mary Quillen of Heidelberg, KY. descendants of Matthias Brandenburgh, supplied much valuable material without which much of the information pertaining to Matthias could not have been included. (Benjamin Franklin Brandenburg).
Their children were:
Henry married Sarah Preston
Joseph married Delilah Vesser
Elizabeth married Elijah Fitzgerald
David married Agnes Morton
Nancy married John Warren
Samuel married Sarah Henson
Jonathan married Amy Jenkins
Solomon married Elizabeth Swan Kennedy
John married Miss Patterson
Sarah married William Vertrees
Catherine married Thomas Green
Absalom married Hester Frakes
Hester married David LaForce
Rutha never married
John Frederick Brandenburg's book says Matthias is listed in the D.A.R. First shows up in America in Hampshire County, West Virginia in 1782; but prior records to that are in Frederick County, Maryland where Matthias first met Hester Walgamot and then married Hester in Frederick Co, MD. 
An unknown descendant stated "Sam Sargent, brother of the famous midwestern artist Paul Turner Sargent, gathered much of our ancestry on the Brandenburg side when I was only 15 years old. My uncle, Dwight Childress, and I were wiring country houses for electricity shortly after World War II. Sam and his English bride's house was one of those houses we wired. Sam did this as a hobby and he very generously did this for me. Take this for whatever it's worth. He writes, " The Brandenburg family in the United States originally came from Germany, being a branch of the famous and prominent House of Brandenburg of the Province of Brandenburg of Germany. 
Matthias Brandenburg was named "ELECTOR OF ESTATES" on June 12, 1758.
LDS microfilm, Batch F6010556, Disk # 09317, Sheets 74 thru 80, File
Name: COLEMA01.GED. Submitted by Barry Ellis Coleman, 2515 E. Olive 4C, Arlington Hts, IL. 60004 (708) 870-8088.
Ref: "The Brandenburg Family" by E. Craig Brandenburg (C) 1980
Ref: "The Brandenburg Family" by John Frederick Brandenburg, 1989

The truth about Mathias Brandenburg is that his descendants have been duped into thinking that they are heirs to a royal fortune. Do not let the fact that someone cites their sources fool you into believing everything that is said.  There may be several facts interspersed with the lies. As genealogists, we need to do a better job of sorting fact from fiction.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

DNA Adventures- What a Week!

Is it "Time to Spit or Get Off the Pot" for you too?  This is one of the chapter headings in the book Swabbed and Found by Frank Billingsley, Chief Meterologist for KPRC Channel 2 in Houston.  We had a huge turnout for Frank's presentation to the Bay Area Genealogical Society last Saturday.  We got to meet Frank in person and hear his tale of "An Adopted Man's DNA Journey to Discover His Family Tree.

Frank explained how he wanted to use the double helix and the family tree as a metaphorical image of his process of discovery.  He showed his original hand drawn concept image in his slide show.  The cover art shows that the double helix is a ladder that enables you to climb your family tree.

I have been climbing the DNA ladder to my family tree too.  My Italian DNA matches have been especially intriguing.  Italian-Americans are becoming increasingly involved with DNA testing because of the high degree of difficulty in conducting genealogical research in Italian records. And it is not just Italian-Americans that are fueling the DNA rage. Frank Billingsley cited the fact that 1.5 million DNA kits were sold by in advance of Christmas this year.  

Here is one of my favorite quotes from a December Wired magazine article about this DNA buying frenzy:

Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, leading personal genomics company AncestryDNA sold about 1.5 million testing kits designed to provide insights into your ethnicity and familial connections. That’s like 2,000 gallons of saliva—enough to fill a modest above-ground swimming pool with the genetic history of every person in the city of Philadelphia.

I was part of that DNA gift giving as I purchased several kits to distribute to key members on our family tree.  I had to contact this week because one of my relatives was having trouble producing saliva to fill the tube.  They offered the following tips on how to facilitate the process of obtaining the saliva sample:

  1. Find a food that is appealing or tempting and have the person look at it or smell it while attempting to salivate; 
  2. The appearance or smell of a lemon often works for others who have had this problem
  3. Place a small amount of white sugar on the tongue. 

DNA testing is only valuable when it is combined with conventional genealogical research.  You cannot fully evaluate the meaning of a DNA match without a family tree to compare to your own. I have been busy contacting my Italian DNA matches. I have been copying their information into my tree so I can figure out our connection.  I am especially interested in other family trees which appear to have precise birth dates for their Italian ancestors.  This is indicative of someone that has a useful source of information.  For example, I found a family tree which contained useful information on the Roccaforte family that was posted by a woman from Florida.  Here was her response when I contacted her:

Subject: Roccaforte Family
From: Louise 
Jan 20, 2018
Hello Nick,
I was surprised to receive your message. Yours is the first I've received through Ancestry.
My grandfather (my mother's father) was Francesco DiGiorgio and his mother, my great, great grandmother, was Salvatora Roccaforte who married Angelo DiGiorgio. Together they had 9 children.
It looks like Salvatora Roccaforte's father was Rosario Roccaforte and his wife is Alfia Grasso. So that would be my 3rd Great Grandparents and we may be related if this is your family. How are you related to Rosario & Alfia?
In my notes I show that Rosario & Alfia had 4 children. Salvatora female, Cirino male, Vincenza female and Giuseppa female.
I have more information with some birth dates and marriages. Its been a long time since I worked on my Ancestry, so I'm a bit rusty. One of my first cousins paid someone to work on the DiGiorgio lineage so I have a booklet that includes the information I wrote above. If you feel that this would be helpful, I could either make hard copies or scan and send to you.
You are welcome to respond to me directly at my personal email. Take care.

She emailed me copies of the research that was done and I was able to find birth, marriage and death records which substantiated what she told me.  I was also able to reveal the names of the parents of her ancestor and get one generation closer to discovering our common ancestors. But the thing that really struck me about her response was that I was the first person to contact her on Ancestry.

My correspondence with Louise has been very rewarding.  She shared her experience of growing up in Omaha and gave me details of her trip to Lentini and Carlentini a few years back.  I was able to use her information to create a virtual Roccaforte family reunion.  So the bottom line is make those contacts through  There is always more to the story and it will only be revealed if you make the contact.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ancestor #1 of 52- W.T. Newman

Have you heard about the 52 Ancestors Challenge?  Read this article by Amy Johnson Crow:

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

The basic idea is to write about one ancestor per week for 52 weeks.  If you use social media then use the hashtag: #52Ancestors

Did you know that you have 30 ancestors on a five generation pedigree chart?  Here are the stats: 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents and 16 second great-grandparents. That surely will give you a good start in identifying which ancestor to write about. 

While pondering my 5 generation pedigree chart, I was reminded that my fab find of the week was an obituary for my second great-grandfather, William Thomas Newman.

The maiden name of his wife was actually Louisa Joyce Fowler, daughter of John Fowler
and Catherine Nelson. Frank Mayher was the stepfather of Louisa J. Fowler.
I lost touch with Ella Mae Newman of Boulder City, Nevada and only have these two
photocopy images of William Thomas Newman and his wife, Louisa Joyce Fowler.
Here is the clipping from the newspaper that I found online:

Here is the transcript:

William Newman, aged 75, died at the home of his son-in-law, Joseph McCrory, in Jordan township, Wednesday morning May 6th. He went suddenly, having suffered a stroke of apoplexy. He was an old resident of Monona county and had a wide acquaintanceship. He was a brother of John Newman, and an uncle of C.O. Newman, a Ticonic merchant. The funeral was held at Ticonic today and the body laid to rest in the family cemetery lot at Smithland.  SOURCE: Onawa Weekly Democrat, May 14, 1914, Page 7, online paper at Onawa Public Library website.

Have you found obituaries and pictures for everyone on your five generation pedigree chart?  I have most of mine but I am still searching for a few.  Check the websites of the public libraries in the vicinity of where your ancestor died.  Read the website and contact them to see what their policy is for providing obituaries. I have found most public libraries to be very helpful in providing obituaries and most do it for free! Perhaps you will get lucky and find that they have put their newspapers online like they did in Onawa, Iowa!

Now I have to make a pilgrimage to the Smithland Cemetery and pay my respects to my second great-grandfather, William Thomas Newman.

William Thomas Newman Gravemarker (1838-1914); Smithland, Woodbury County, Iowa; user Mary Kay Bothwell, [username: tbothwell1] originally shared this on 20 Jun 2011

Happy Hunting for  #52Ancestors

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book: "Swabbed and Found" Fuels my Damn Nasty Addiction (DNA)

If you need inspiration or encouragement on your DNA journey, you should read Swabbed and Found by Houston TV Weatherman, Frank Billingsley. I read the book in anticipation of his upcoming visit to the Bay Area Genealogical Society.  The book and the presentation will provide us with many insights on the true meaning of family.

We set up a special meeting on Saturday, January 27 to accommodate Frank's broadcast schedule. He is busy at our normal Friday night meeting time performing his duties as Houston’s KPRC 2 Chief Meteorologist.  He will make a presentation, have books available and will autograph them at our special meeting on Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 2 pm at University Baptist Church, 16106 Middlebrook Drive, Houston, TX 77059 (Clear Lake City).  Check out the BAGS website or you can contact me for more details.

Frank always wondered if he got his personality, his bright blue eyes, or his love of people from his mother or his father. But he was adopted, so he never knew. Swabbed and Found is a fascinating story of how he combined cutting-edge DNA tests and genealogical programs in combination with his investigative skills to put the pieces of his Ancestor Puzzle together. You do not have to be adopted to appreciate this story of a lost and found identity.

As a teaser to get you to attend the presentation on January 27 and to encourage you to buy a copy of the book, here are some the passages that I found enlightening or amusing:

Page 24- A deck of playing cards is used to give a DNA lesson.

Page 55- " have to be a Hensley." This was intriguing as my wife has a Hensley ancestor.

Page 82- "Dogs are all adopted, and they don't wonder about their biological parents. Maybe I should take the hint."

Page 91  NPE is defined as a Non-paternal event. Later on in the book NPE is defined as "Hoosier Daddy."

Page 107 Frank wrote to the State of Arkansas to obtain a Non-Identifying Information Letter about his adoption.  I was amazed at both the useful facts and the confusing fictions contained in the letter.

Page 151 Frank asks himself this existential question: "How many parents can one man handle?"

Page 180 The acronym DNA actually stands for a "Damn Nasty Addiction."  🌝

I hope to see you on January 27 and please read the book either way.

Frank Billingley, KPRC 2 Chief Meteorologist