Friday, April 27, 2018

Mommy, what were "men"?

One more conundrum for future genealogists. Family trees will take on different shapes as men become increasingly superfluous to successful human reproduction, as they are in some other species. John Launer explains over at Three Quarks Daily (originally in Literary Hub), with additional references for the curious.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Fannie Fern Crandall and Her Three-Timing Darling "Husband"

My mother-in-law's grandmother's sister Fannie Fern Crandall was not someone we heard much about, and we never thought to ask. The newly arrived (on line) March 2018 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly includes the results of my research that makes her almost as well-documented as her sister, who married a Seventh-Day Baptist minister. (It's available free to NGS members.)

Fannie's father Charles Welcome Crandall suffered an injury early in his Civil War service and later drew a pension. He was caught claiming more disability than he really had, and in his struggle to regain the pension he met up with a charismatic attorney in Chicago -- Frank Ira Darling -- where they were neighbors.

It turns out that Frank's work as an attorney brought him together with many a Civil War veteran, and many a daughter. He had six children with three of his clients' daughters, including the one to whom he was legally married.

Frank died unexpectedly in his 40s, and the story of two of the three came out in a blaze of sensational publicity in January 1898. Fannie was the third and she kept quiet, but evidence starting with Charles's pension file leaves no doubt that Frank was the father of her child, a daughter who grew up and married and left no descendants. (Those who follow NGSQ may recall the tale told by co-editor Thomas W. Jones about George Wellington Edison, an even more swashbuckling and disreputable character in Illinois, in 2012.)

What we will probably never know -- unless old correspondence surfaces -- is what Fannie knew and when she knew it, and what she thought about it all. After a few years in the early 1900s when she went by the surname "Brown" for no known reason, she used the Darling surname throughout the rest of her life. She earned a living and brought up her daughter by clerking and stenography in Washington, D.C., including in the patent office. In later years she had an artistic career in southern California, but she also had to have been a resilient and determined person.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Potentially bad news for history and genealogy

Tara Calishain, indefatigable creator and maintainer of ResearchBuzz, reports:

BetaNews: Google loses big ‘right to be forgotten’ case — and it could set an important precedent. “A businessman with an historic criminal conviction has won his case against Google in a ‘right to be forgotten’ lawsuit seeking to remove information about his conviction from search results. The case, heard today in London, could set a precedent and lead to a series of similar cases from other people with spent convictions. The anonymous businessman — known only as NT2 — has a conviction for conspiracy to intercept communications from more than a decade ago and spent six months in prison for the crime.”

I totally recommend that you subscribe, even if (like me) you don't have time to read it all. It's free.

Last year in a luncheon talk I speculated on what genealogy might be like in 2117. It was mostly not a very pretty picture, and so far -- just one year in! -- the following piece of that talk seems to be on target. I suggested that . . .



Profit-driven corporations will fight the good fight against those who claim a “right to be forgotten.” Perhaps the decisive court case will involve Googlecestry vs. the North American Union, when those who advocate such a right to be forgotten will sue to have their role in that fight itself forgotten.

If that case is resolved wrongly, then genealogy could even become an illegal conspiracy. The use of cursive writing could become a code furthering said conspiracy. Somewhere deep in the suburban slums, history books would be furtively traded for images of the “forgotten” presidents. I’m still just enough of a 20th-century person to think that this might not happen.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

You want a desecrated cemetery? I'll show you a desecrated cemetery!

Thanks to Dick Eastman for picking up the ongoing saga of the casual burial and unburial of deceased paupers and mental patients on the northwest side of Chicago in the Dunning neighborhood.

Those looking for more details (and indications that Chicago's standards may have declined over the last 30 years) can find my lengthy article, "Grave Mistake," in the archives of the Chicago Reader, 21 September 1989.  At that time it was a housing development; now it's a school. A lot has happened since then, but you get the idea.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Two New 2018 Publications



Not everyone gets to be named Alissomon. She was the sister of my wife's 3-great grandfather Henry Mozley; their families emigrated together from Nottinghamshire, England, to Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1833. The Mozleys eventually spread out from Erie in many directions; Alissomon married shoemaker Joseph Harrison and their offspring stayed closer to the Great Lakes. 

My article follows them downstream in the current OGS quarterly. Ohio will have its annual conference later this week in Columbus -- it's not too late!

Working downstream in time has its benefits. Because I was also researching the more populous Mozley side, I discovered a letter from a Mozley relative briefly describing her visit to three Harrison cousins in Cleveland around 1910.

New York and Ohio members can read the new issues of their respective quarterlies on line, and not have to wait for the mail.

(Soon to come: revealing the life of a practiced deceiver.)


“Alissomon Mozley Harrison and Her Descendants in Erie and Cleveland,” Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly 58(1), 2018:49-61.

Review of  American Settlements and Migrations: A Primer for Genealogists and Family Historians by Lloyd Bockstruck, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 14(2), April 2018: 156-57.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

"The Republic for Which It Stands"

All four of my grandparents were born in the "Gilded Age," between 1874 and 1887, and genealogy sometimes makes me more at home in the 19th century than the 21st. Now that I am almost one-quarter through Richard White's The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896, I can say it has enhanced my understanding of that time period more than any other single book.

Yes, this same guy also produced The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. IMO, any normal person would happily rest on the laurels of either work.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

History as Quicksilver

From the fictional 98-year-old narrator of a novel:

"Wars  make history seem deceptively simple. They provide clear turning points, easy distinctions: before and after, winner and loser, right and wrong. True history, the past, is not like that. It isn't flat or linear. It has no outline It is slippery, like liquid; infinite and unknowable, like space. And it is changeable: just when you think you see a pattern, perspective shifts, an alternative version is proffered, a long-forgotten memory resurfaces."

Kate Morton, The House at Riverton (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006)