Saturday, August 31, 2013

Good Time to Do Genealogy?--NARA's Virtual Genealogy Fair, Sep 3 & 4--My Great Grandfather's Undertaking Bill

Good Time to Do Genealogy?

I found the following article from GeneaNet Newsletter very interesting, particularly the last part of it that suggests we might be returning to the same habits as our great, great, great and earlier grandparents.  Barbara Renick and others often speak about doing genealogy in their "jammeys" and "bunny slippers" and I have talked to several people who mention doing genealogy in the middle of the night when they can't sleep, so maybe "two sleep" nights weren't limited just to our ancestors.

Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like You

Author: |

Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
Ok, maybe your grandparents probably slept like you. And your great, great-grandparents. But once you go back before the 1800s, sleep starts to look a lot different. Your ancestors slept in a way that modern sleepers would find bizarre – they slept twice. And so can you.

The History

The existence of our sleeping twice per night was first uncovered by Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech.
His research found that we didn’t always sleep in one eight hour chunk. We used to sleep in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.
References are scattered throughout literature, court documents, personal papers, and the ephemera of the past. What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common. Two-piece sleeping was the standard, accepted way to sleep.
“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch says.
An English doctor wrote, for example, that the ideal time for study and contemplation was between “first sleep” and “second sleep.” Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And, explaining the reason why working class conceived more children, a doctor from the 1500s reported that they typically had sex after their first sleep.
Ekirch’s book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past is replete with such examples.
But just what did people do with these extra twilight hours? Pretty much what you might expect.
Most stayed in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray. Religious manuals included special prayers to be said in the mid-sleep hours.
Others might smoke, talk with co-sleepers, or have sex. Some were more active and would leave to visit with neighbours.
As we know, this practice eventually died out. Ekirch attributes the change to the advent of street lighting and eventually electric indoor light, as well as the popularity of coffee houses. Author Craig Koslofsky offers a further theory in his book Evening’s Empire. With the rise of more street lighting, night stopped being the domain of criminals and sub-classes and became a time for work or socializing. Two sleeps were eventually considered a wasteful way to spend these hours.
No matter why the change happened, shortly after the turn of the 20th century the concept of two sleeps had vanished from common knowledge.
Until about 1990.

The Science

Two sleeps per night may have been the method of antiquity, but tendencies towards it still linger in modern man. There could be an innate biological preference for two sleeps, given the right circumstances.
In the early ‘90s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr of National Institutes of Mental Health conducted a study on photoperiodicity (exposure to light), and its effect on sleep patterns.
In his study, fifteen men spent four weeks with their daylight artificially restricted. Rather than staying up and active the usual sixteen hours per day, they would stay up only ten. The other fourteen hours they would be in a closed, dark room, where they would rest or sleep as much as possible. This mimics the days in mid-winter, with short daylight and long nights.
At first, the participants would sleep huge stretches of time, likely making up for sleep debt that’s common among modern people. Once they had caught up on their sleep though, a strange thing started to happen.
They began to have two sleeps.
Over a twelve hour period, the participants would typically sleep for about four or five hours initially, then wake for several hours, then sleep again until morning. They slept not more than eight hours total.
The middle hours of the night, between two sleeps, was characterized by unusual calmness, likened to meditation. This was not the middle-of-the-night toss-and-turn that many of us experienced. The individuals did not stress about falling back asleep, but used the time to relax.
Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford, points out that even with standard sleep patterns, this night waking isn’t always cause for concern. “Many people wake up at night and panic,” he says. “I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.”
Outside of a scientific setting, this kind of sleep pattern is still attainable, but it does require changing our modern, electric lifestyle. Very cool person J. D. Moyer did just that. He and his family intentionally went an entire month with no electric light.
In the winter months, this meant a lot of darkness and a lot of sleep. Moyer writes “…I would go to bed really early, like 8:30, and then get up around 2:30am.  This was alarming at first, but then I remembered that this sleep pattern was quite common in pre-electric light days.  When this happened I would end up reading or writing by candlelight for an hour or two, then going back to bed.”
Moyer didn’t set out to reproduce our ancestors sleep pattern, it just happened as a byproduct of a lot of dark hours.

Should We Revive Two Sleeps?

Although history shows that two sleeping was common, and science indicates that it is (in some conditions) natural, there is no indication that it is better. Two sleeps may leave you feeling more rested, but this could simply be because you are intentionally giving yourself more time to rest, relax, and sleep. Giving the same respect to the single, eight-hour sleep should be just as effective.
Note too that two sleeping needs a lot of darkness – darkness that is only possible naturally during the winter months. The greater levels of daylight during summer and other seasons would make two sleeping difficult, or even impossible.
Perhaps two sleeping is merely a coping mechanism to get through the long, cold, boring nights of the winter. Today, we don’t need to cope. So long as we give our sleep the time and respect it needs, getting the “standard” eight hours of sleep should be fine.
But next time you wake up at 2 AM and can’t sleep, just remember your great, great, great, great, great grandfather. He did the same thing every night."

I would love to hear from some of you as to whether your sleeping patterns resemble today's typical "one sleep" or your g3grandparents "two sleep" night.  Do you use the time between "sleeps" for doing genealogy?
National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair 
September 3 & 4, 2013

I mentioned the upcoming Virtual Genealogy Fair by the National Archives in my 24 August blog.  I did not, however, provide all the details about logging on, the schedule, and handouts.  The Southern California Genealogical Society's August 30 Update did a good job of covering all those details, so I decided to pass along their article rather than trying to recreate the details myself.  Following are the details: 

WHAT: National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair. For the first time ever, the National Archives will host a virtual Genealogy Fair with live lectures and chat via a call-in genealogy help line and the website UStream ( 
§ Lectures: This two-day program will showcase tips and techniques for using Federal records at the National Archives for genealogy research. Lectures are designed for experienced genealogy professionals and novices alike. 
§ Genealogy Help Line: Call with your genealogy questions during the fair. National Archives staff in Washington, DC, will be available from 1 to 4 p.m. eastern daylight time (EDT) on September 3 and 4 on our special hotline at 202-357-5420. (Toll free at 1-855-309-8404) You may also email us at, or call our Washington, DC, Customer Service Center telephone during regular business hours at 1-866-325-7208. 
WHEN: September 3 & 4, 2013 (see schedule at

WHO: Speakers include genealogy experts from the National Archives and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.

HOW: The National Archives will host the virtual Genealogy Fair via webcast using the website UStream and a call-in genealogy help line. Recorded sessions will be available online after the event. Closed captioning and American sign language interpreters are part of the broadcast.
§ View live broadcast on September 3 & 4 [

WHERE: The National Archives will host the live lectures via webcast on UStream.

SCHEDULE: times listed in Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) Genealogy Help Line Schedule: Call in during the fair, from 1 to 4 p.m. (EDT) at 202-357-5420.

For more information about the fair, e-mail

Join the Genealogy Fair conversation on Twitter using #genfair2013.


An Interesting Document--My Great Grandfather's Undertaking Bill!

While going through some of my files yesterday preparing for an upcoming presentation, I ran across a document that I had looked at before; but never very closely.  It is the type of document I doubt many people have in their record files--the bill from the undertaker.

Wesley Ritchhart's Undertaker's Bill
I thought it was interesting that one of the expenses was for a Suit--$35.  Note that they threw in the shave for free.  It was marked x.xx.  It is interesting to speculate whether he didn't own a suit and needed one for the funeral or the family wanted him to be buried in a new suit.  I have a photo of him in a suit and he was a Veterinarian, so I am guessing he owned a suit; but the family wanted him to have a new one.    Wesley died on 23 March 1921 and the bill is dated 25 March 1921, the day he was buried. 

Wesley Ritchhart

I noticed the names of the Knell family, who owned the Undertaking Company.  They are E. Knell (Photo), and across the top of the bill: Miss Emma R. Knell, Frank W. Knell, Lucy Knell Buckwell, Mrs E. Knell and Fred E. Knell.  I thought it might be interesting to see what information I could find about the Knell Undertaking Company. 

I googled and came up with several pieces of information--one being that they are still in business!   The opening sentence states that "In 1882 Ed Knell started a funeral home on the south side of the Carthage square. . . . ".  Thus, the business had been in existence almost 40 years when Wesley passed away and has now been in business for 131 years.

Knell Mortuary Web Site

I also found the below information on the Find a Grave site for Fred Knell.  Interestingly, Fred died on Feb 11, 1921, just a month prior to Wesley and his father, Edward, had died 10 years earlier.  Note that Edward's photo is still on the billing form, even though he had passed away 10 years earlier.  Also mentioned in the write up are Edward, his sisters Emma and Lucy Knell Buckwell, and brother Fred, all of whom are listed across the top of the bill.   

"His grandparents Fred Knell and Bernolli came to Canada and then returned to Switzerland. His father, Edward Knell, started the family business of Knell Undertaking in Carthage, MO. Fred Knell, eldest son of Edward Knell, was named after his grandfather Mr. Fred Knell of Stein am Rhein, Switzerland. He followed in his father's footsteps along with his sister, Emma Knell and Lucy Knell Buckwell and their brother Frank Knell.

His grandfather had the honor of founding Zurich, a town in Canada on Lake Huron. He owned a big tract of land there and in the early fifties [1850's] he established a trading post and operated the town grist mill, grocery store and blacksmith shop."

While the bill appeared quite straight forward when I first viewed it; upon closer examination, it is fascinating to see that it really is a story unto itself.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Defining Cousins and MyHeritage offers free access to Census Records

Defining Cousins

I found the following article in the German Genealogy Group's September Newsletter.  Then when it listed the source that took me to RootsWeb.  I think I will print up some copies to carry with me.  I am frequently approached by a friend or acquaintance who will say "You are into genealogy, please explain to me about 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins and what "once or twice removed means".  Of course, I should be thankful as those repeated questions forced me to learn the answer; which I took great pride in being able to answer the first few times.  Now, I think I would rather give them a short answer and hand them the article!

Defining Cousins
Your uncle is the brother of your father or mother.

Your aunt is the sister of your father or mother.

Your great uncle (or grand uncle) is the brother of your grandfather or grandmother.

Your great aunt is the sister of your grandfather or grandmother.

Your great-great uncle is the brother of your great-grandfather or great- grandmother.

Your great-great aunt is the sister of your great-grandfather or great- grandmother.

Your first cousin is the child of your aunt or uncle.

Your second cousin is the grandchild of your great aunt or great uncle. (If two people are first cousins, the children of each of the people will be second cousins.)

Your third cousin is the great-grandchild of your great-great uncle or great-great aunt. (Children of 2nd cousins, are 3rd cousins to each other.)

Your first cousin, once removed, is the child of your first cousin or is the child of your great uncle or great aunt. (See also REMOVED COUSINS)

If someone is your first cousin, then his or her child is your first cousin once removed. (Once removed means one generation level different from you.) All your regular cousins (first, second, etc.) are at the same generation level as yourself. Those at different levels are "removed." If someone is YOUR first cousin once removed, then you are HIS or HER first cousin once removed also. Your second cousin once removed is the child of your second cousin. Your first cousin twice removed is the child of your first cousin once removed (i.e. the grandchild of your first cousin). Your second cousin twice removed is the child of your second cousin once removed (i.e. the grandchild of your second cousin).

REMOVED COUSINS: If two people are some type of cousins, but they are at different generation levels, then here is the way to compute their relationship.

  1. Count how many generation levels they are apart. This is the number they are "removed."
  2. Start with the one at the highest generation level (the older level) and count how many generations up you must go to find the brothers or sisters that are the ancestors of these cousins. This is the "FIRST" or "SECOND" or "THIRD" part of the cousin relationship.
The hint that has always helped me with 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. cousins is the following.       
   --1st Cousins share a common grandparent
   --2nd Cousins share a common great grandparent        (but not grandparent)
   --3rd Cousins share a common great great               grandparent (but not grandparent or great grandparent); etc.

Search MyHeritage Census Records Free

MyHeritage announced that US census records can be searched free on their web site from August 31 through September 2.


Discover more about the lives of your American ancestors as MyHeritage celebrates Labor Day with FREE access to all 713 million US census records from 1790 to 1940. Where were they born? Where did they live and with whom? What was their occupation? How much did they earn? What education did they have? Get answers for free this weekend, from August 31 through September 2!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Origin of Sports Tournament Brackets--Family Tree Pedigree Charts?--Cindy Crawford on WDYTYA.

The Origin of Sports Tournament Brackets--Family Tree Pedigree Charts?

Back in March 2012 a friend who knew I was an enthusiastic genealogist, gave me an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal.  I was sorting through some stacks of paper on my desk yesterday and ran across the article.  I am sure I am not the only person with stacks of papers and files on their desk that date back a year or two (or more)!  The article, dated March 15, 2012, was written by Rachel Bachman.  

It was a three quarter page article entitled "Where Was the Bracket Born?" and discussed various theories about the origin of Sports Tournament Brackets.  One of those theories was put forth by the President and CEO of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Brenton Simons. "It's not hard to imagine that those charts and lineage tables were the inspiration for the sports brackets", Simons said, "because they really mirror the shapes being used in family history where you have to convey succession.  In sports it's succession of winners, in family history it's succession of generations." 

The article pointed out that "Nobody knows for sure where the idea came from".  It is interesting to think, however, that family history charts might have been the inspiration for them.  However, it should be noted that Pedigree Charts start with one person and grow by a factor of two each generation to multiple ancestors (eight after four generations); whereas, sports brackets start with multiple teams and gradually decrease by the same factor (two) down to one winner--essentially they are a mirror image of each other. 

Now you have a bit of trivia you can discuss when you next see your friends who are sports enthusiasts!
Cindy Crawford on WDYTYA

Tuesday night's edition of WDYTYA featured Cindy Crawford, the famous fashion model.  Most of the show focused on tracing her ancestry back to Thomas Trowbridge, Cindy's 10th great grandfather.  She traced him back to the 1640s in Taunton, England, where he was a Captain in the Parliamentary Army fighting to depose King Charles.  He had come to America in the early 1630; but his wife apparently died and he left his children there and returned to England. 
Cindy Crawford 
However, roughly the final one third of the program shifted gears to tracing Cindy's lineage back to Charlemagne.  The Family Tree Blog related that about 1000 hours went into producing the one hour program.  This was evident from the various charts that were revealed tracing her back an additional 30 generations from Thomas Trowbridge to Charlemagne.  I particularly enjoyed learning, along with Cindy, about Charlemagne as a person.  

As pointed out in The Genealogy Insider "When you
go back 40 generations, and you have roughly a trillion ancestors—more than the number of people who existed at the time Charlemagne lived. (Virtually all family trees have consanguineous marriages, so the same person will appear in multiple places in a tree.)"
My research indicates that two to the 40th power (Charlemagne was supposedly Cindy's 40th great grandfather) is 1,099,511,627,776 (roughly a trillion) which is about 2300 times the size of the population in the year 800 (480 million people).  Thus, if we could be lucky enough to be able to trace our lineage back that far; most of us could claim to be descendants of Charlemagne!  It also helps that he had 20 children.

From other research I have done, it appears that the key to being able to trace your ancestors a long way back in European history; is to discover royalty in your family line.  Once you find a link with European Royalty, excellent records seem to have been kept over many hundreds of years documenting their ancestry.  However, for most of us, finding that link with Royalty can be very elusive.  I am certainly not there--yet!

I enjoyed the program and enjoyed gaining some insight into Cindy Crawford's personality.  She seemed to be a very likable person (for more reasons than her physical attributes).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Top Ten Ways to Overcome The Brick Wall In Your Research

Top Ten Ways to Overcome The Brick Wall In Your Research

The recently released 2013 Third Quarter edition of Irish Roots contained an interesting article in which family historian Chris Paton offers ten tips to help break through your Irish brick walls.  Many of the tips appear quite logical; but I find that we sometimes miss the obvious in doing our research.  It helps to be reminded now and then to make sure we are exploring all possible research avenues--especially when it comes to Brick Walls.

In summary here are Chris's Tips.
Check Everything Again--Take the time to re-look at all the data you have gathered to make sure you haven't missed something.

Examine Primary Sources--If you have been working from indexes or transcripts of records, perhaps you should look at the originals, if possible, to make sure there aren't any omissions or transcription errors.

Look for Siblings--Have you tried tracing relatives of your brick wall individual.  It might help to research parallel lines in the extended family.

Overseas Records--Don't assume that your family members stayed in one place, them might have moved to Britain or other overseas locations.

Keep Returning--Most genealogy databases are constantly updating, if you have checked RootsIreland, Ancestry, FindmyPast  or other sources and found nothing, check again periodically to make sure something hasn't been added since your last search.

Visit Archives--Remember, everything isn't on line.  You need to visit local archives, family history societies, libraries and other relevant repositories.  

Land Records--"Revaluation or cancellation books following Griffith's Valuation, showing changes in ownership, are online at PRONI, for the 1860s to 1930 for Northern Ireland, whilst the Republic's are accessible at the Valuation Office in Dublin"   

Think Laterally--You must explore the obvious and most likely; but if that fails, start thinking laterally.  Explore the "what ifs".  If you can't find the death record in Ireland, "what if" he died somewhere else?

Become A Better Genie--We can never get enough knowledge, so constantly be reading genealogy magazines, books and exploring new research resources.  I would add attending genealogy presentations at your local societies and on line Webinars. 

Fresh Perspectives--"Two heads are better than one."  Discuss the problem with fellow genealogists in the many different forums than are available to you. You might also consider hiring a reputable professional genealogist.  

I think this last tip is particularly important.  We often get so immersed in trying to break through our Brick Walls that we need to step back and take a more detached view.  Discussing the problem with other genealogists is a good way to do that.

"Genealogist Chris Paton is the author of several books, including Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet.  A member of PRONI's User Forum and a tutor for the University of Strathclyde postgraduate programme in Genealogical Studies, he also regularly blogs genealogy news at"

Sunday, August 25, 2013

MyHeritage launches "Treasure Family Photos" and Family Tree Maker Announces September Release of Upgrade

Launch of MyHeritage's "Treasure Family Photos"

MyHeritage released the following announcement on August 6, 2013 and I am sure you have seen this, or similar announcements, regarding their new initiative:

"I wanted to let you about a a global initiative MyHeritage is launching today called - Treasure Family Photos - to encourage people to learn more about their family's history from their old photos and to preserve these precious artifacts online for future generations.

This initiative is endorsed by the New England Historic Genealogical Society and we're also thrilled to be working with Maureen Taylor, the world renowned "Photo Detective", who'll be sharing tips for understanding photos through a videoa webinar, and appearances on US national television as we speak.

We've launched a special website detailing ways to get involved. It's full of tips and tricks for helping people understand the clues in their old family photos and explains the importance of family photos for family history research. We give suggestions for preserving photos and creative ideas for getting the younger generations involved.

We've also announced today that we have the world's largest international collection of old family photos online. MyHeritage users from around the world have contributed and shared family photos on the site and those that were shared publicly are searchable by name, date, location and keywords via SuperSearch.

Lastly, we've doubled our free photo storage allocation to enable users to upload and share more photos on their private family sites at no cost."

More information about "Treasure Family Photos" can be found at

I took the opportunity recently to conduct a search of the data base of photos provided by "Treasure Family Photos".  I entered just the surname "Ritchhart" and conducted a search.  It came up with 6,033 photographs with names ordered by similarity to the entered surname.  I think that the first 75 names were reasonably similar enough to "Ritchhart"  that I would  entertain the possibility that they might be related.  The next big batch of names (143) were Ricciardi/Ricciardo from Italy, but I have no evidence of any Italian connection in my Ritchhart family line. That was followed with another 70 or so with the surnames Richart/Reichard, who could be related.

I then checked my O'Malley heritage and found over 27,000 entries my Deans produced over 37,000 entries.  I am sure some of them might be related; but not sure how to sort them all out.   Likewise with my Bush line, which had around 7,400 photos.

In summary, it is a sizable data base and I think most of the photos were embedded in the family trees that people have uploaded onto MyHeritage's Family Tree Builder Family Tree.  Just in scanning through the photos and accompanying data, it appears that they have a very good representation from the International (mostly European) community.  This is in line with MyHeritage's strong European membership.

Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with MyHeritage, nor have I received any form of compensation from them.  They did, however, send me the above press release and ask me to consider posting it in my blog.  (Surprised they knew about my blog!)
New Edition of Family Tree Maker Coming

The following announcement from Family Tree Maker (FTM) indicates that a new version of FTM will be released in September.  They are offering a 40% discount if you pre-order now.  The three advertised new features are a New Family View, New and Improved Charts and Reports, and Improved TreeSync.  The release will be a PC version only--the MAC version is listed as "coming soon".

Save 40% on the new Family Tree Maker.
Hurry — this offer ends September 9th.

The new Family Tree Maker® is almost here and now is your chance to experience its powerful, easy-to-use tools and new, time saving features — all for our biggest discount yet. Pre-order today to upgrade to the latest version and save.
Save 40% for a limited time
Available for Windows only. Mac version coming soon.
You spoke. We listened. Here are just some of the
recent updates that make the new Family Tree Maker
even easier to use.
New Family View™ gives you a broader view of your tree
New and improved charts & reports offer more organizing and print options
Improved TreeSync™ is more robust than ever, and includes more of your tree information.
*Order today for September delivery. You will be notified when the
new Family Tree Maker is available to download.

When I clicked to explore signing up for the offer the following additional information about the new features was provided.  The discounted price for the upgrade is advertised as $23.99 vice the regular price of $39.99. 

What’s new in Family Tree Maker?

  • New Family View — see your family tree in a new way. This additional view makes navigating easier, especially when you want to see extended family members.
  • Improved TreeSync — lets you easily synchronize your tree in Family Tree Maker with an online tree.
    • A more robust TreeSync™ lets you sync even more of your family tree info.
    • Easily share your tree with your family and work on it together. Family and friends can view the online version of your tree without software or a subscription.
    • Collaborate with the largest, most active family history community in the world. Keep your online tree private or make it public so that others researching your family can find you. You may connect with others who have insight on your ancestors, discover rare family photos, or even find relatives you didn’t know you had.
  • More organizational tools — stay organized with new tools that let you sort children automatically by birth order and view people by location, grouping them by country, state, county, and city.
  • New and improved charts and reports — more options and views let you display an individual’s ancestors, spouses, and children together. Also, the Index of Individuals Report has been expanded with options for anniversary, birthday, and contact lists, and more.
  • New tree branch export — a new export option makes it much simpler to export a single branch of your tree.
  • More editing options — save time with the ability to copy and paste facts including related source citations, media items, and notes.
Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with Family Tree Maker nor do I receive any type of compensation from them.  The opinions are strictly my own.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair; Combined FGS and RootsTech Conference in 2015.


The following announcement appeared in Dick Eastman's newsletter.  This is an interesting concept.  I am not sure I could spend all of two days watching on a webcast; but I plan to check it out for a couple hours.

NARA to Host a Virtual Genealogy Fair on September 3 and 4

Poster-lFor the first time ever, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration will host a virtual Genealogy Fair with live lectures and chat via the web and a call-in genealogy help line.

This two-day program will showcase tips and techniques for using Federal records at the National Archives for genealogy research. Lectures are designed for experienced genealogy professionals and novices alike. Lecture topics include Native American and African American history, immigration, Civil War...

You can learn more at

Certificate of Registration

I received an interesting document in the mail yesterday.  It was from The United States Copyright Office. I wrote a family history book, "Breathing Life Into Family Ancestors", and it was published in August 2011.  I used a publisher and, included in the self publishing contract, was obtaining an International Standard Number (ISBN), a Library of Congress number and copyright.  

It is interesting that even though the document was published in August 2011, I am just now receiving the copyright documentation.  The effective date is March 12, 2013--19 months after publication.  

I recall attending a genealogy presentation a couple years back in which the speaker mentioned copyright and patent records as a source to pursue in researching ancestors.  Perhaps years in the future one of my ancestors might find my name by researching copyright records!  Realistically, I think my name would be discovered as being the author of the family history book before finding it as a copyright record. 
RootsTech and FGS Conferences to Join in 2015

You might want to mark February 12-14, 2015 on your calendar now as these two big conferences will join forces in Salt Lake City. The following announcement appeared in "The Genealogy Insider" blog yesterday:

RootsTech and FGS to Join up in 2015

Two national genealogy events are joining forces in 2015.  Feb. 12-14, 2015, the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ annual conference will take place in conjunction with FamilySearch’s RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City. Attendees of one event will be able to participate in the other for an additional fee.
From the announcement: “Conducting both conferences at the same time in the same facility will give interested attendees the option to benefit from both conference programs for a nominal additional cost.”

Friday, August 23, 2013

An Erroneous Birth Certificate--Why Was it Never Changed?--My Dad's Detroit Lions NFL Contract

An Erroneous Birth Certificate--Why Was it Never Changed?

A couple years back I realized that I did not have a copy of my father's birth certificate.  There were none in family papers, so I sent off to the state of Missouri to obtain a copy. 

I was going through the mail a few weeks later and opened an envelope, glanced at the document and set it aside, not recognizing what it was.  After finishing opening all the mail, I went back through to throw out the junk mail and take action on the remainder.  Only then did I take a closer look and recognize this was the response from Missouri on my birth certificate request.  My dad's name is Delbert Bush Ritchhart,  the name on the birth certificate was Delmar Bush Ritchhart.  I have never once in my life seen or heard my dad referred to as Delmar!  

What really seems strange is that my grandparents never had the certificate corrected.  Could that have been the name they gave him and then they decided to change it?  Doesn't seem likely because Delmar is a very unusual name.  My dad must have had to use his birth certificate as identification several times in his life.  How did he explain the difference?  I tried to visualize how the name might have been spelled out and there was a copying error; but with both a "b" and "t" in Delbert, how could both have been missed?  People make mistakes with Ritchhart all the time, so I might have understood an error on the surname.

Delmar Bush Ritchhart Birth Certificate
Having wrestled with those thought for a few minutes, I then realized why I had set the document aside after glancing at it.  I didn't recognize it was my dad's birth certificate because I didn't recognize the name.

Unfortunately, my father had already passed away when I discovered this "error", as I would have loved to have heard his explanation.  

We all know to expect some errors in documents; but this should really reinforce that knowledge.  If they can foul up the baby's name on a birth certificate--they can make errors on almost any official document!

More About My Dad--His Detroit Lions Contract

While I am on the subject of my father, I thought I might show another document pertaining to him--his 1936 Detroit Lions contract.

NFL--Detroit Lions Contract
Unfortunately, the document is not very clear; mostly due to an oversight on my part.  I have the original  nicely matted and 
framed with his photo.  It wasn't until after my wife had this done professionally (photo below) that I realized I hadn't made a copy of the document!  Uggh--dumb!  So this is a copy that I scanned through the glass.  However, you can see the most amazing thing about this document--IT IS ONLY ONE PAGE!

Can you imagine the number of pages a current contract would have?  A couple other interesting facts contained in the contract.  
1.  The Club will pay the Player a salary for his skilled services during the playing season of 1936, at the rate of One Hundred and no/100 dollars for each regularly scheduled League game played.  For all other games the Player shall be paid such salary as shall be agreed upon between the Player and the Club.  As to games scheduled but not played, the player shall receive no compensation from the Club other than actual expenses.  
6.  This contract may be terminated at any time by the club giving notice in writing to the player within forty-eight (48) hours after the day of the last game in which he is to participate with the club .  

Additionally, in the accompanying letter, the following details were provided:
--During the playing season, while the player is in Detroit, he pays his own expenses . . . When the team is away from home, the Club pays all expenses.  The Club furnishes all playing equipment with the exception of inside pads.  Players are required to furnish their own practice equipment. . . . .Every player is required to pay his own expenses to Detroit at the start of the season, and from Detroit at the conclusion of the season.

It was a very different world in those days for athletes than today!  He played both offense and defense--center on offense and linebacker on defense.  $100 was a lot of money in those days; but he and most of the players had to have a second job during the off season.  In today's money that $100 would be the equivalent of about $1680; so he would have been making about $13,445 in today's money for 8 games.  There is absolutely no comparison to the millions and hundreds of millions today's athletes make.  

Delbert B. Ritchhart

In one of the newspaper clipping I have, it recounts the Lions beating the N.Y. Giants 38-0 and my dad intercepting a pass and running it back 98 yards for a touchdown.  In January 2010, I contacted the Lions and asked them how that compared to their all-time records.  They didn't have the information about that game and asked me to send them the article.  They later confirmed it as a 92 yard run back and told me it was the number 7th longest interception run back in their history.  Apparently, some of the newspaper articles did have the yardage as 98; but it was officially 92 yards.

One of the other amazing facts is that my dad weighed about 210 pounds--which was probably very average for his position in those days.  Today's centers would be a minimum of 280 in the pros and probably around 230-240 for High School.   

Just some of the changes we have seen in the last 75 years!