Norman Rockwell’s “Family Tree”

Nor­man Rock­well, “Fam­ily Tree”

For me, the story is the first thing and the last thing.”

– Nor­man Rockwell

Today, I had the oppor­tu­nity to visit the North Car­olina Museum of Art to view the exhibit they had put together of Nor­man Rockwell’s work. Today was the last day of the exhibit, so it was “now or never.”

What an amaz­ing col­lec­tion! From the early Boys Life pieces to the Sat­ur­day Evening Post cov­ers, to the later pieces on civil rights, you can eas­ily see the tra­jec­tory of the artist’s work, his increas­ing facil­ity, and his grow­ing brav­ery in deal­ing with the world as it is, not in sim­ply the ide­al­ized way we think of when we think of Nor­man Rockwell.

As a geneal­o­gist, I could not help but notice the work “Fam­ily Tree.” Rock­well shows descent from a pirate and his para­mour, through Con­fed­er­ate and Union sol­diers and through Native Amer­i­cans and prospec­tors. When asked about start­ing the tree with a pirate, Rock­well is reported to have said that every­one has “a horse thief or two in the fam­ily.” This is a whim­si­cal dia­gram of the proper and the pro­fane in all of our backgrounds.

The exhibit begins and ends with a quo­ta­tion from Nor­man Rock­well: “For me, the story is the first thing and the last thing.” This is what geneal­o­gists are engaged in — not merely the cat­a­logu­ing of dates of birth, mar­riage, and death — but teas­ing out the first and last things that can be dis­cov­ered in our fam­ily his­to­ries, what I like to call “his­tory at ground level.”

Addi­tional resources:

Unintended Submersion Test

I don’t rec­om­mend doing this, but I left an SD card in the breast pocket of a dress shirt and then put it into the wash. It went through warm water (but not the dryer; we don’t even have one of those, which is another story for an envi­ron­men­tal blog).

After the Tran­scend 4 GB High-Capacity Secure Dig­i­tal card went through the wash, I retrieved it and put it in my Mac. Lo and behold, it’s work­ing fine. I remain amazed, and expect to buy more of these, but at higher stor­age capacities.

Season 2: WDYTYA? and’s Sweepstakes

Sea­son Two of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? pre­miers Fri­day Feb­ru­ary 4th, 8/7 Central.

(The episodes of the first sea­son are avail­able for free stream­ing from NBC’s web­site until Feb­ru­ary 5th at:

In honor of the forth­com­ing sea­son, is run­ning a sweepstakes:

The site says the Grand Prize is $20,000 in travel money, plus:

  • Up to 8 hours of con­sul­ta­tion time with an expert genealogist
  • Help from up to 5 experts in fields rel­e­vant to your fam­ily history
  • A year­long World Deluxe mem­ber­ship for you and 5 fam­ily members

They are also giv­ing away 20 World Deluxe annual memberships.

You can enter the con­test daily through April 8, 2011. (They also encour­age you to pro­vide five e-mail addresses of sales/contest leads. If you do this, they allow you another entry that day.

Good luck!

The Site of the Battle of the Wilderness, Preserved

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has ended its plans to build a super­store on part of the site of the Civil War Bat­tle of the Wilder­ness (May 5–7, 1864) near Orange, Virginia.

In 2009, Wal-Mart received local approval to build the store, but a legal bat­tle ensued, and Wal-Mart announced today that it would build its store else­where. This is a major vic­tory for the Civil War Trust (until recently known as the Civil War Preser­va­tion Trust), a noted non-profit orga­ni­za­tion that has fought to pre­serve our dis­ap­pear­ing Civil War bat­tle site heritage.

This is an excel­lent sesqui­cen­ten­nial gift to all of us, and pre­serves a loca­tion where many geneal­o­gists and his­to­ri­ans can under­stand the turn­ing point of the Civil War. The site has intrin­sic, his­toric, and envi­ron­men­tal value far exceed­ing the eco­nomic value of yet another replace­able big box store. 180,000 men fought in the bat­tle, and there were over 30,000 casu­al­ties. This loca­tion must be treated with respect for the sac­ri­fices made.

The Civil War Trust posts the fol­low­ing com­ment:

We are pleased with Walmart’s deci­sion to aban­don plans to build a super­center on the Wilder­ness bat­tle­field,” remarked James Lighthizer, pres­i­dent of the Civil War Trust. “We have long believed that Wal­mart would ulti­mately rec­og­nize that it is in the best inter­ests of all con­cerned to move their intended store away from the bat­tle­field. We applaud Wal­mart offi­cials for putting the inter­ests of his­toric preser­va­tion first. Sam Wal­ton would be proud of this decision.”

They also note in their full account that:

A wide range of promi­nent indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions pub­licly opposed the store’s loca­tion, includ­ing more than 250 Amer­i­can his­to­ri­ans led by Pulitzer Prize-winners James McPher­son and David McCul­lough. One month after the deci­sion, a group of con­cerned cit­i­zens and the local Friends of Wilder­ness Bat­tle­field filed a legal chal­lenge to over­turn the decision.

We should all cel­e­brate this victory!

Oprah’s Family History Secret

Oprah Win­frey announced on her show today that she has a long-lost half sister.

Her mother left this daugh­ter at the hos­pi­tal when she was born, in 1963. The daugh­ter grew up in fos­ter homes, and even­tu­ally won­dered about her birth fam­ily. After two attempts to con­tact her birth mother, Oprah’s newly revealed half-sister found out who this woman was, and got in touch with Oprah. When Oprah con­fronted her mother, she at first denied it, and then she said, accord­ing to Oprah, “Yes, I think it’s true.” The rela­tion­ship has since been proved by DNA testing.

While I am glad for Oprah and her new sis­ter, to have the gift of finally being able to get to know one another, I am amazed at the choices Oprah’s mother made. First, it must have been painful to give up a child, and she must have felt deep shame to keep this a secret through all these years of Oprah’s suc­cess. And finally, to have this child know her fam­ily despite all the attempts to deny her exis­tence and their relationship.

For geneal­o­gists, these kinds of denials have always pre­sented a prob­lem, espe­cially in areas such as adop­tion, where con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous doc­u­men­ta­tion may be dif­fi­cult to come by. DNA match­ing can help fill in gaps where doc­u­men­ta­tion or denial sow doubt or out­right obfuscation.

Catalog of Misfortune: Railway Accident

1910 US Cen­sus, Lawrence Co., OH, Charles W. Clark Household

Freight Con­duc­tor Killed.

At 3:20 o’clock this morn­ing, Chesa­peake and Ohio Freight Con­duc­tor J. B. Lutz stopped his train near Sewell and on the bridge cross­ing the New River. While stand­ing there a fol­low­ing train ran into the caboose, instantly kil­lling Con­duc­tor Lutz and caus­ing seri­ous injury to Rear Brake­man Hugh Rat­cliffe. The approach­ing train was seen by Lutz and Rad­cliffe, [sic] and the lat­ter jumped and landed in the river, fifty feet below.

Freight Con­duc­tor Killed,” The Wash­ing­ton Post, March 13, 1907, p. 12.

This was my great great grand­fa­ther, John Bal­lard Lutz. When he died in this acci­dent in 1907, he left a wife (Flora Belle née Fox) and eight chil­dren between 19 years and one month of age.

Three years later, we find Flora Belle mar­ried to Charles W. Clark in Hunt­ing­ton, West Vir­ginia.1 On 3 or 4 May, the house­hold is in Lawrence County, Ohio, where they turn up in the US Cen­sus enu­mer­a­tion for that county.2 Along with the mar­ried cou­ple are his two chil­dren (Laura M. and William A.) as well as her chil­dren (Lola, Harry, Alta, John, Mar­garet, and Madeline).

This cen­sus record presents one ques­tion: Where was Con­nie Marie Lutz? She would have been a 12 year old, between Harry and Alta in the peck­ing order.… Per­haps the cen­sus taker missed her in the wel­ter of the eight chil­dren he was able to record.

In a flash of the col­li­sion of that train, the lives of this fam­ily were inex­tri­ca­bly and sud­denly changed. Flora Belle, who had been a house­wife, rely­ing on her husband’s rail­road income, sud­denly had to find an income while rais­ing her chil­dren. By the time of the 1920 cen­sus, Flora Belle is liv­ing in Hunt­ing­ton, West Vir­ginia again, and listed as a widow.3 She later took in board­ers and ran a room­ing house. It was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent life than it would have been because of that wreck on the Sewall Bridge.

1 Reg­is­ter of Mar­riage, Cabell County, West Vir­ginia, 13 Feb 1910, mar­riage record of Charles W. Clark and Mrs. Flora B. Lutz, West Vir­ginia Divi­sion of His­tory and Cul­ture, West Vir­ginia Archives and His­tory, dig­i­tal image: : accessed 22 Jan­u­ary 2011.

2 1910 U.S. Cen­sus, Lawrence County, Ohio, pop­u­la­tion sched­ule, Union Town­ship, ED 94, p. 10A, dwelling 197, fam­ily 198, Charles W. Clark house­hold; dig­i­tal image, ( ” accessed 22 Jan­u­ary 2011); cit­ing NARA micro­film pub­li­ca­tion T624, roll 1202.

3 1920 U.S. Cen­sus, Cabell County, West Vir­ginia, pop­u­la­tion sched­ule, Hunt­ing­ton, Ward 3, ED 22, p. 4A, dwelling 56, fam­ily 79, Flora Lutz house­hold; dig­i­tal image, ( ” accessed 22 Jan­u­ary 2011); cit­ing NARA micro­film pub­li­ca­tion T625, roll 1950.

Follow Friday: Randy Seaver

Randy Seaver is one of the best known geneal­ogy blog­gers. He’s con­sis­tent, ded­i­cated, and a gen­uine journalist.

Randy’s reviews of new fea­tures on and Fam­il­y­Search, cut­ting through mar­ket­ing spins to point out where fea­tures are actu­ally improve­ments, or bring more ques­tions than answers. He does this with­out ani­mos­ity or rancor.

If you don’t know Randy’s work, you should amble over to

Recent posts include:

  • a sum­mary of plans for the fam­ily tree por­tion of FamilySearch
  • a Google Map that directs one to kayak from Seat­tle to Hawaii, and from Hawaii to Tokyo as part of a trip from the San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia area to Tokyo
  • a review of GEDCOM export and import of sources, and a dis­cus­sion of attempts to build a bet­ter GEDCOM

Wordless Wednesday: Barn Burning

On July 14th 1908, my great grand­fa­ther Nels Johnson’s barn burned to the ground.

The story goes that his son Wal­lace had a pony in the barn and that the first ani­mal that Nels saved was Wallace’s pony. My own curios­ity is piqued by the fact that they actu­ally had time to take these pictures.

[slickr-flickr search=“sets” set=“72157625739184401” items=“3” type=“galleria”]

Woman Uses 1930 US Census to Find Long Lost Brother

Sib­lings Albert Taber and Flo­rence Hand reunited in 2010 after 85 years

CNN reports about a woman named Flo­rence Hand, who had an inkling that she had been sep­a­rated from a sib­ling, 85 years ago.

Using the 1930 US Cen­sus, she found this brother liv­ing with her grand­fa­ther. She used this infor­ma­tion to find him, and they have been reunited.

The CNN piece is brief but makes a cou­ple of points that are impor­tant for begin­ning Amer­i­can geneal­o­gists to remem­ber, here they are in a more elab­o­rated form:

Spelling. Con­sider alter­nate spellings. Suc­cess will come to those who think, “I won­der if they could have spelled it this way?”

The US Cen­sus is a pow­er­ful tool. It is easy to access online, and it can help place your ances­tors in par­tic­u­lar places at par­tic­u­lar times. Per­son­ally iden­ti­fi­able cen­sus data is released 72 years after it is taken, for the pri­vacy of indi­vid­u­als. So the most recent cen­sus avail­able is the 1930 cen­sus. (I will add that this also means that the 1940 cen­sus is becom­ing avail­able on April 2, 2012 in a dig­i­tal for­mat from the National Archives at their facil­i­ties and over the Inter­net. For more infor­ma­tion, see the National Archives page about the 1940 Cen­sus.

Amanuensis Monday: Jane Graham Murder Case

Below are some tran­scrip­tions of news­pa­per arti­cles relat­ing to the likely mur­der of my 3rd great grand­mother, Jane Gra­ham, in 1854 in what was then Mon­roe County, Vir­ginia, and is now Sum­mers County, West Virginia.

[ Joseph Graham’s Barn ]

Joseph Graham’s barn, on Green­brier river, Mon­roe county, was burned to the ground on the night of the 27th ult.

    From The Daily Dis­patch, Vol. IV, No. 241, Rich­mond, VA, Fri­day, August 14, 1854, p. 1, col. 5. “Vir­ginia.” micro­film, Rich­mond, VA Dis­patch, July through Decem­ber 1854, Ball State Uni­ver­sity Library, Peri­od­i­cal Ser­vice, Muncie, IN.

[ The Green­brier Era ]

The Green­brier Era has a long account of the mur­der of Miss Jane Gra­ham, in Mon­roe county. She was on bad terms with her broth­ers, and accord­ing to the account in the Era, they are sus­pected of hav­ing had some­thing to do with her mur­der. In fact, she once had an ille­git­i­mate daugh­ter, and to this, per­haps, may be attrib­uted the enmity. The barn of Joseph Gra­ham, her father, was burnt on the night of the 27th ult., sub­se­quent to which Jane Gra­ham was not seen until she was found mur­dered in the bushes, some dis­tance from home. The ver­dict of the jury of inquest is con­sid­ered extra­or­di­nary. We copy the Era’s remarks on the subject:

After hear­ing all the evi­dence, the jury came to the con­clu­sion that Miss Jane Gra­ham fired the barn — that in so doing she roused the fierce dog belong­ing to the fam­ily — that the dog fol­lowed her, and that some of the fam­ily pur­sued in the same direc­tion — that some of them came up with her where the first indi­ca­tion of a scuf­fle occurred — that she then escaped but was over­taken where the indi­ca­tions of a sec­ond scuf­fle were found, and there mur­dered. The jury, we under­stand, were unan­i­mously of a con­vic­tion that this was the man­ner of her death; yet (will it be believed in the land of chivalry and in the 19th cen­tury?) they brought in a ver­dict, on paper,  that she “came to her death by some unknown means!” One of the jury­men, whom a friend of ours con­versed with, said they dared do noth­ing more — the Gra­hams were such a des­per­ate set that the whole neigh­bor­hood feared them!

    From The Daily Dis­patch, Vol. IV, No. 243, Rich­mond, VA, Wednes­day, August 16, 1854, p. 1, col. 4. “Vir­ginia.” micro­film, Rich­mond, VA Dis­patch, July through Decem­ber 1854, Ball State Uni­ver­sity Library, Peri­od­i­cal Ser­vice, Muncie, IN.

Arrest of the Gra­ham Family.

A state­ment rel­a­tive to the mur­der of Miss Jane Gra­ham, of Mon­roe county, which we copied a few days ago from the Green­brier Era, will be remem­bered by our read­ers. It was there inti­mated that sus­pi­cion rested on Joseph Gra­ham and his four sons (father and broth­ers of the deceased) of hav­ing com­mit­ted the deed. A friend writes to us from Lewis­burg that they have all been arrested. He also requests us to state that the ver­dict of the coroner’s jury was “death by some unknown per­son or per­sons,” not “by some unknown means,” as reported heretofore.

    From The Daily Dis­patch, Vol. IV, No. 245, Rich­mond, VA, Fri­day, August 18, 1854, p. 3, col. 1. “Lat­est Mail News.” micro­film, Rich­mond, VA Dis­patch, July through Decem­ber 1854, Ball State Uni­ver­sity Library, Peri­od­i­cal Ser­vice, Muncie, IN.

Mon­roe County Court.

The County Court of Mon­roe met Mon­day morn­ing, 21st instant, when, after the trans­ac­tion of some minor busi­ness, the case of the two negroes charged with the mur­der of Miss Jane Gra­ham was taken up. The pris­on­ers were brought in, but at the insis­tance of the Commonwealth’s Attor­ney, it is stated, the trial was post­poned to the next ses­sion of the Court.

Miss Gra­ham, the party mur­dered, is stated to have been pos­sessed of prop­erty to the amount of some $3000, and was soon to have been mar­ried to a respectable mid­dle aged mechanic of Rocky Point. This state­ment is made upon good author­ity. The sur­viv­ing party appears greatly affected at her death. – Green­brier Era.

    From The Daily Dis­patch, Vol. IV, No. 253, Rich­mond, VA, Mon­day, August 28, 1854, p. 3, col. 2. “Lat­est Mail News: Mon­roe County Court.” micro­film, Rich­mond Dis­patch (VA) July thru Decem­ber 1854, Main Film #20, Library of Vir­ginia, Rich­mond, VA, researched August 7, 1999 by Jor­dan Jones.

The Gra­hams.

The Lewis­burg Chron­i­cle, allud­ing to the con­flict­ing rumors in ref­er­ence to the mur­der of Miss. Gra­ham, says:

We can only say this much, how­ever, that the Gra­hams are not under arrest, as the Rich­mond Dis­patch would have the pub­lic believe.”

It appears to us that there is some ill-nature dis­played in that sen­tence. The Dis­patch “would have the pub­lic believe” noth­ing but the truth, and has only pub­lished brief state­ments in regard to the Gra­ham affair, as fur­nished by cor­re­spon­dents and by news­pa­pers. The arrest and sub­se­quent dis­charge of the Gra­hams was announced sev­eral days ago, on what we pre­sume to be good author­ity, and we have never seen a con­tra­dic­tion of it.

    From The Daily Dis­patch, Vol. IV, No. 257, Rich­mond, VA, Fri­day, Sep­tem­ber 1, 1854, p. 4, col. 1. “Vir­ginia.” micro­film, Rich­mond, VA Dis­patch, July through Decem­ber 1854, Ball State Uni­ver­sity Library, Peri­od­i­cal Ser­vice, Muncie, IN.