Friday, August 22, 2014

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Valerie Bertinelli

This is later than usual because I, being the geek that I am, rewatched the episode multiple times trying to catch every piece of information from the various family trees that were shown.  I still missed some bits because they didn't discuss them on screen and the camera didn't stay on them long enough for me to see everything.  It was interesting to see what they skipped over (but more on that later).

I have to admit, I was happy to finally see an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? this season with a celebrity I recognized.  I didn't feel quite as old and out-of-date.  The opening teaser mentoned royalty (I was thinking we'd find another trail to Charlemagne) and another murder (reminding me of my earlier comment that maybe all the celebrities this season would have murders in their backgrounds).  And in the opening sequence I noticed that a sixth celebrity has been added:  Minnie Driver.  I don't understand why it took until the fourth episode to add her, since she was announced as a substitute for Lauren Graham back in July, before the new season actually started.  Unfortunately, since Minnie Driver was featured in an episode of the UK Who Do You Think You Are?, I'm sure TLC will just take that episode and edit it down to make room for commercials, as NBC did with the Kim Cattrall episode.  And of course we still don't know why Lauren Graham's episode won't air (at least this season), though it's likely that the research team wasn't able to find everything they wanted in time.  On the other hand, maybe the research results just weren't as exciting as anticipated?

The introduction to Valerie Bertinelli explained she hit the big time with One Day at a Time and has also published memoirs and a cookbook of Italian family recipes.  Currently she is one of the stars of Hot in Cleveland (which, although it does have Bertinelli along with Betty White and Jane Leeves, whom I think are great actresses, I also have not seen).  Bertinelli and her husband Tom live in Los Angeles, a few miles from her son Wolfie.

Bertinelli starts off by talking with Wolfie about her rolling pin, which used to belong to her Nonni (Italian for grandmother).  She remembers watching Nonni use it to make gnocchi, cappelletti, and other pasta.  (If she's the type of person to hold on to something like that, she really is a good candidate for a family history show.  Hooray!)  She was born in Wilmington, Delaware and grew up in Claymont, Delaware.  Her parents, Andrew Bertinelli and Nancy Carvin, married young and have been married more than 60 years.

Bertinelli knows more about her father's side of the family because she was around them.  Nonni was a baker and cook.  She died when Bertinelli was in her early 30's.  There are questions she didn't ask that now she wonders about, such as when and why Nonni left Italy and anything about Nonni's parents.  Bertinelli's mother embraced her father's side of the family, and consequently she doesn't know as much about her mother's side, so she wants to focus on it.  Apparently Nancy ran away when she was 16 years old (nothing else was said on that subject).  The family didn't talk much and some subjects were not brought up, such as where the family came from.  And Wolfie wants to know if there's a family crest (foreshadowing ...).

Bertinelli starts her research by meeting with her parents.  They show a photo of Nancy with her parents, Lester Carvin and Elizabeth Adams Chambers.  Nancy was only 8 years old when her mother passed away.  Nancy says her older sister told her their mother was English.

Andrew's parents were Nazzareno and Angelina Rosa Bertinelli.  There's a photo of Nonni's mother and several women standing by a "specialità gelato" cart.  Andrew doesn't know who the other women are.  Nonni's mother's name was Maria Mancia Crosa, but Crosa was her first husband's name.  He was Giorgio Crosa.  Maria came to the U.S. after he died and married Mancia; they lived in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.  Nancy says the name as "Man-chee-uh", a common mistake with Italian pronunciation.

Bertinelli says that she needs more help with her mother's side and has asked a genealogist in England to research the Chambers and Carvin families.  She figures she has enough information to start on her father's side herself and decides to look for the family in the 1920 census on  Bertinelli searches (with no capital letters!) for "mancha."  (When I heard the name proncounced, I mentally spelled it as I thought it would be in Italian, i.e., Mancia.  Mancha is how you spell it in English to get the same pronunciation.)  She finds Gregorio Mancha, "Mary", Angelina (as Angeline), and a son named George.  Andrew comments that Giorgio was called George in English.

They decide that the next step should be for Bertinelli to go to Lackawanna County to find more information on the family.  (Funny how the Internet gets boring so quickly.)  She goes to the Lackawanna Historical Society in Scranton, Pennsylvania, commenting that she never talked about her father's grandmother and where she was from in Italy.  At the historical society she meets Marcella Bencivenni, a historian who focuses on Italian immigration, who says she has found some information.  She has deed book 382, which she has Bertinelli open to a deed dated April 14, 1931, where Maria Mancha, a widow, sells land in Jefferson Township, Lackawanna County, to Nazzareno and Angelina Bertinelli for $1.  The land is the same farm on which the family was living in the 1920 census.  Bertinelli wonders what happened to Gregorio, and Bencivenni tells her Gregorio died on April 9, 1931; one week later Maria gave the land to her daughter and son-in-law.  Bertinelli wants to know why.  Bencivenni says, "If we are lucky, we can find something in about his death."  (With all the talent in Hollywood, this is the best scripting they can come up with?)  So Bertinelli searches for <gregorio mancha>, and they show an article from April 10 (actually the second hit; I did the same search) on the computer:  "Believing He Killed Wife, Cortez Man Takes Own Life; Wife Saves Self by Feigning Death."  And we cut to a commercial!  (In the article, his name is actually spelled Gorgia Mancia; maybe they've set up an "alternative" index entry so people can find it?)

Scranton Republican, April 10, 1931
On returning from the commercial, of course the article is the topic of discussion.  "Gorgia" Mancia was 47 years old.  Bertinelli wants to know why he shot Maria.  She looks honestly confused and is wiping away tears.  Bencivenni says that they may not be able to find the answer (translation:  the research team couldn't find the answer).  (A follow-up article, which was actually the first hit from the search, appeared in the same newspaper on April 11.  It stated that no reason was known to explain Gorgia Mancia's actions.  It also said that the only known relative in this country was Angelina.)   She has another document, however.  This is an obituary for Mary Mancia, from the Scranton Times of July 6, 1951.  It says she died in the hospital and that surviving relatives included her daughter, Angelina; son, George Crosa; and brother, Joseph Possio.  So now they have Maria's maiden name!

Bertinelli now wants to look for immigration information on Maria.  Bencivenni says she should look on  Bertinelli asks if she should look for Maria under her maiden name, and Bencivenni says yes, because she was a widow when she arrived here and more likely would have taken back her maiden name.  (What she should have explained, but maybe Ancestry and the program's producers didn't think was worth the time, is that in Italy a woman's "maiden" name is her legal name throughout her life.  Whether Maria was single, married, or widowed when she traveled to the U.S., her name would have been Possio.  It was only after living in the U.S. that she would have adopted the custom prevalent here, of using her husband's surname as her own.)

Bertinelli finds Maria Possio arriving on the Dante Alighieri on June 12, 1915 in New York.  She was born about 1879, from Lanzo, Torino, her race was "North" (as in Northern Italian), and her occupation was cook.  She was traveling with two children, Maddelena and Giorgio Crosa.  (Maddelena seems to be Angelina, but the difference in name is never brought up, much less explained.)  Bertinelli asks why Maria would leave Italy with two children in tow.  Bencivenni explains that World War I began in 1914, and on May 23, 1915 Italy entered the war, so Maria wanted to leave the war behind her.  Apparently Maria wasted no time, because her ship sailed on May 29.  (Could she really have gotten all of her paperwork, tickets, travel documents, money, everything in order in six days?  I don't think so.  She was obviously planning to emigrate well before Italy officially was in the war.  Other information gleaned from the ship manifest:  Maddelena/Angelina and Giorgio each applied for U.S. citizenship later, as evidenced by the handwritten numbers to the right of their names; Maria's contact in the U.S. was her brother; and someone must have met Maria and the children at the dock, because there is no note by their names indicating they were held as "likely public charges.")

Bertinelli asks how she can find out about Maria's life in Torino.  No surprise, Bencivenni tells her the only way is to fly to Italy and go to Lanzo.

And she goes to Lanzo, wanting to learn about Maria's first husband and hoping that maybe Maria had an easier life in Italy.  At the Lanzo library (Centro Biblioteche) Bertinelli meets Molly Tambor, an assistant professor of history at Long Island University.  Tambor has Maria's marriage record, which shows that Maria Francesca Possio married Francesco Crosa on June 30, 1910, when she was 31 years old.  Tambor first presents the record in Italian, then gives Bertinelli a translation; Bertinelli says she's going to have to learn Italian.  Maria and Francesco already had a daughter (Angelina), who was born April 27, 1908, and they declared her their legitimate daughter.  Bertinelli wonders how they could have had a child and then not married until two years later.  Tambor explains that a church wedding and a dowry, the latter of which would not have been uncommon at that time, were both expensive, so they were put off.  Giorgio was born after Maria and Francesco married.

So what happened to Francesco?  Tambor has a copy of his death certificate, with a translation.  He died on November 10, 1911 of myocarditis (not actually a heart attack, as Bertinelli says).  In 1912 Maria was working, explaining the photograph of her with the gelato cart.  Tambor comments that it was not common for a woman to work.  Bertinelli wonders if she might have been saving money to go to America (a good probability in my mind), and Tambor says that even if she hadn't been, the money she made would have funded the trip.  She adds that Lanzo is a small town, so she had asked if anyone knew about the Possio family and found someone to talk to.  She has already made arrangements for a meeting.  Bertinelli asks if maybe the person will recognize the people in the photograph, and Tambor tells her to bring it with her (I love these heavy-handed lead-ins).

Pietro's postcard
The next day, Bertinelli goes to the meeting that Tambor has set up.   The on-screen translation says that Pietro Possio is Bertinelli's third cousin; his grandfather was Maria's first cousin (which actually makes them third cousins once removed).  He speaks only in Italian, and Tambor appears to be the interpreter.  (I was proud of myself:  I was able to follow most of the Italian conversation!)  Possio has a postcard sent to his grandfather by Maria from Palermo, as she was leaving Italy for the United States (how cool!).  A translation has been prepared, of course.  She wrote the postcard at 10:00 in the morning and talked about how they were scheduled to leave at 9:00 in the evening and that everyone was fine.

They show Possio the photograph of Maria and the gelato cart.  He points out that the little girl on the left is Angelina (which is what Andrew had thought), and an older woman on the right is Maria's mother.  He then takes out a letter that his father, Francesco, sent to Angelina.  (But if the letter was mailed to Angelina, why does Pietro have a copy?)  Angelina was one year younger than Francesco.  He asked for Angelina's children to write and hoped their children would visit each other, and now that has been fulfilled (also very cool).

As she leaves, Bertinelli says that she has more answers now and that her father will be proud of his grandmother.  She's hoping that in London she'll find information on her mother's side of the family, so she can give Nancy the same type of gift.  And off she heads to England.

In London Bertinelli goes to the Society of Antiquaries, where she meets with Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists.  Bertinelli says that she had never really thought about her English ancestry before and hopes Churchill will find some information for Nancy.  Churchill says she has found quite a bit of information and has created a family tree.  She also mentions that the information came from censuses and land records.

The tree begins with Bertinelli and goes to her parents, then to her mother's parents, Lester V. Carvin (born 1907 in Newark, Ohio; died 1984) and Elizabeth Adams Chambers (born 1907 in New Jersey; died after 1945).  It goes back and forth between following male and female lines.  Lester Carvin's parents, Bertinelli's great-great-grandparents, were Joseph Carvin (born 1874 in New Jersey; died after 1943) and Ida P. Gooden (born 1877 in New Jersey; died 1909).  Ida's parents were Jacob G. Gooden (born 1842 in New Jersey; died between 1910–1920) and Mary Emma Bishop (born 1858 in Gloucester County, New Jersey; died 1924).  Mary's parents were Benjamin Bishop (born 1828 in Gloucester County, New Jersey; died 1895) and Mary Claypoole (born 1831 in Gloucester County; died 1862; no comment was made about how young she was or that she died only a few years after her daughter was born).  I was a little surprised at the gaps in the research, especially for the 20th century; I know from personal experience New Jersey is not a friendly state when it comes to getting records, but I would have thought that all the money behind htis research would have smoothed the way for the research team.  Maybe those missing pieces of information simply couldn't be resolved before the final edits for the episode but the team finished the research later?

At this point Churchill interrupts Bertinelli to comment on how when doing English genealogy one can come across a "gateway ancestor" — one from a well documented family that can link to already established family trees.  (As if only the English have gateway ancestors?)  She points out that Mary Claypoole is just such a gateway ancestor, because the Claypoole family is well known and documented.  We then go tripping merrily up the Claypoole family tree, talking only about the men.  We go from Mary, Bertinelli's 3x-great-grandmother, to her parents, John Claypoole (born 1795 in Cumberland County, New Jersey; died 1877) and Jane (not discussed on screen, but born 17XX in New Jersey; died 18XX).  John's parents were Wingfield (how's that for a given name?) Claypoole (born after 1755 in New Jersey; died about 1806) and Mary Poole (also not discussed; born about 17XX).  Wingfield's parents were John Claypoole (born 1714 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; died after 1770), who had no wife listed at all.  This John's parents were Joseph Claypoole (born 1677 in London, England; died 1744) and Rebecca Jennings (not discussed; born unknown; died 1713 [I think]).  And we stop at Joseph's parents, Bertinelli's 8th-great-grandfather, James Claypoole (born 1634 in England; died 1687) and his wife, Helena M—, also not discussed on screen (and difficult to read; I couldn't see the birth information, and death looked like 1688, but I'm not sure).

After hitting James, Churchill explains that the Claypooles are a well known line of Quakers in England.  Bertinelli asks how she can learn more about the family, and Churchill tells her the best place to go is the center for the history of Quakers in England, Friends House in London.

At Friends House Bertinelli meets Scott Stephenson, Ph.D., the director of collections at the Museum of the American Revolution (who apparently also specializes in Quaker research?).  She tells him that she has learned that her 8th-great-grandfather was James Claypoole, a Quaker.  He tells her a little about the history of the Quakers in England:  how they were persecuted and jailed for their beliefs because they went against the Church of England; in the 1680's more than 10,000 Quakers were in prison.  When Bertinelli wants to know if James was in trouble also, Stephenson pulls out James Claypoole's Letter Book, which utterly amazes Bertinelli.  A bookmark indicates a letter Claypoole wrote to William Penn — upon which Bertinelli asks, "The William Penn?" — dated the 1st of the 2nd month, 1683 (which I believe would have been April 1, because Great Britain did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752).

William Penn
The narrator gives us a short overview of William Penn and the Quakers.  The religion began in England in the 1650's.  It had many social aspects that diverged from commonly held beliefs of the time, including pacifism, gender equality, and that people could communicate with God without the need of a priest.  Quakers suffered persecution for these beliefs.  Penn petitioned King Charles II for the right to create a colony in North America, which Charles granted in 1681, giving Penn more than 45,000 square miles to create a safe haven for Quakers wishing to leave England.

Claypoole's letter to Penn said that Quakers were reduced to meeting in the streets because they had been locked out of their meeting houses.  Stephenson then shows Bertinelli a copy of the document that essentially founded Pennsylvania, which was written in 1682 in England.  It laid out governance for the province and was witnessed on the back by men who had purchased land.  One of the signatures is that of James Claypoole.  Bertinelli comments on his beautiful handwriting.

Bertinelli wants to know what happened to James and if he made it to Pennsylvania.  Stephenson directs her to another bookmark in the book.  This is not a letter from Claypoole but one about him.  He was elected to the council in 1687 in Pennsylvania, but unfortunately was not well.  The council was on recess during the summer, from May through August.  When it reconvened, Claypoole had died, on August 6.  His wife Helena died a year later, but she inherited several items after his death, including the "largest and least" of his silver tankards, the "larger with the Claypoole Coat of arms."  Boy, did that catch Bertinelli's attention!  After all, Wolfie wants to know if there's a family crest.  So she asks how she can find out more about the coat of arms, and Stephenson directs her to the College of Arms, which controls and records heraldry for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

As she leaves Friends House Bertinelli talks about how she sees parallels between Maria Possio and James Claypoole.  Both came to America for opportunity and made her world a better place because of the things that they did.  She says Claypoole particularly played a huge part in making America what it is (okay, maybe a little bit of an overstatement) and that she has "a lot to live up to."

At the College of Arms Peter O'Donoghue, the Herald of Arms, greets Bertinelli.  He has another family tree for her.  It begins with James Claypoole.  This is another time when they don't talk about all the people in the tree, and it was hard to see the names and dates because the camera didn't focus on them.  James' parents, not discussed, were John Claypoole (died 1660/6) and Mary Angell (born unknown).  The next name brought up after James was actually his grandfather, Adam Claypoole (born 1565; died March 2, 1632), who was married to Dorothy Wingfield (not discussed; born 1565; died November 1619).  Adam's parents were James Claypoole (born unknown; died about 1599) and "Jo" (that's all I could read, and I was guessing Joan; apparently she was Joan Henson).

O'Donoghue pauses at James Claypoole and says there's a document to look at.  He has Bertinelli open a book at a marked page, which describes the granting of arms to James Claypoole.  The page also shows the coat of arms.  O'Donoghue explains that James, who was from Norborow, Northampton, was not originally of the gentry but was a yeoman.  He made money and transformed the family's fortunes, then its social standing.  He came up enough in the world and had enough influence that he was made a gentleman.  Once he became a member of the gentry, his children could could marry the children of other gentlemen.  And that's what happened with James' son Adam.  Adam's wife, Dorothy Wingfield, was from a longer established, important family (he married up).

We then return to the family tree and follow Dorothy's line.  Her parents (Bertinelli's 11th-great-grandparents) were Robert Wingfield (born 1532; died March 31, 1580) and Elizabeth Cecil (not discussed, although she came from a very important family:  her brother was William, Lord Burghley, an important advisor to Queen Elizabeth I; she was born unknown, died 1611).  Robert Wingfield's parents are totally skipped, and next we see Sir Henry Wingfield (born before 1431) and then Sir Robert Wingfield (born 1403, died before November 21, 1454), neither of whose wives were shown.  Sir Robert Wingfield was Bertinelli's 14th-great-grandfather.  Above his name is a notation:  "Arundel 1.159."  When Bertinelli asks what it means, O'Donoghue directs her to a closed cabinet in the room and has her pull out another book.  Page 159 of that book has another family tree.  (Bertinelli is not asked to wear gloves while looking at either book.  She did handle the pages carefully.)

"Gal nations edward i" by
Unknown, Sedilia at
Westminster Abbey;
erected during reign of
Edward I (1272–1307).
Licensed under
public domain via
Wikimedia Commons.
The new family tree starts with Sir Robert Wingfield and his wife, Elizabeth (now she has a name!).  I had trouble reading her last name and thought it was Greskill, but it seems to be Goushill or something similar.  We hop over to Elizabeth's line at this point.  On screen they skip over her parents, who were Sir Robert Goushill and (Lady) Elizabeth (Fitzalan), and go straight to Lady Elizabeth's parents, William de Bohun, 1st Earl of Northampton, and Elizabeth (daughter of Bartholomew de Badlesmere).  William was the son of Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford, and Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward I! (This Elizabeth was also the relict [widow] of John, Count of Holland, though he wasn't discussed at all, because, after all, we just landed on a king!  She was the daughter of Eleanor of Castile, who was the daughter of another king, Ferdinand III of Castile.  And with all this royalty, I know it must go back to Charlemagne, but I can't find the path.  So I'll claim accuracy on that point.)

O'Donoghue proceeds to tell Bertinelli that Edward is a great king to be descended from.  He was the quintessential Medieval English king.  He lived a long life, dying at the age of 72 (though Wikipedia says he was 68).  He was about 6'2" and was known as Longshanks because of his height.  O'Donoghue mentions Edward fought in the Crusades but that it was a disaster and says, "Never mind."  And during his reign England began its first steps to what would eventually become Parliamentarian democracy.  (What O'Donoghue neglects to mention is that Edward I expelled all Jews from England in 1290, after having expelled Jews from Gascony in 1287.  "Great" might be in the eye of the beholder.)

Bertinelli is obviously excited at these revelations but appears to be very self-effacing.   She is glad she has filled in blanks on her mother's side of the family tree with so many names and stories.  Now she is heading back to Los Angeles to share the information with her parents.  She's been so in touch with her Italian side all of her life and feels a real connection with Maria (and she brings back the postcard Maria sent from Palermo to show her parents).  She's never had any inkling about her English background but now has to identify with that side of her family as well.  And of course she's thrilled with the "Claypoole coat of arms."  (What they never address in the program is that English heraldry doesn't award a coat of arms to a family but to a person.  Each person in the family entitled to a coat of arms must use a variation of the basic form.  So the Claypoole coat of arms would originally have been James Claypoole's.  His descendants would have differentiated theirs by various devices.  I guess Wolfie will have to come up with his own version.)

On a totally separate note, now that Who Do You Think You Are? is on TLC, I'm seeing commercials for lots of programs from that network.  I have to say, I had no idea so many incredibly tacky, tasteless shows existed.

Whew!  I'm glad I finially finished this one.  All that nobility was very confusing after a while.  Onward to Kelsey Grammer!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Another Round of Newspaper Links

I have the 1976 disco song "More, More, More" going through my head, because that's what is happening with newspaper archives:  More and more of them are being posted online, which is a great thing for genealogy researchers.  And we still always want more!  While I haven't been able to catch up to adding all of the links to the Wikipedia newspaper archive page, this is a list of the current additions, several of which are university student newspapers.  There is one new country represented:  Vietnam.  Oh, and all of the new links are free!

• Hungary:  An archive of newspapers from South Hungary covering 1910–1945 is now available.
• California:  The Contra Costa County Historical Society has an online index of obituaries from about 1855–1920, mostly from the Contra Costa Gazette.  The society also offers to mail you a copy of an obituary you find in the index.
• California:  Stanford University's Stanford Daily is available from 1892–2009.
• California:  The University of California at San Francisco's student newspaper, Synapse, is online from 1957–2013.
• Georgia:  Three historic Savannah newspapers — Savannah Georgian (1819–1856), Savannah Morning News (1868–1880), and Savannah Republican (1809–1868) — have been added to the Digital Library of Georgia database.
• Georgia:  The Southern School News (1954–1965), which reported on desegregation issues across the South, has also been added to the Digital Library of Georgia.
• Hawaii:  Another extensive collection of Hawaiian-language newspapers is online.
• Illinois:  The Bloomington (DuPage County) Public Library has an online obituary index that includes downloadable PDF's of many of the obituaries.
• Illinois:  The North Suburban Library, near Chicago, also has an online obituary index (index only, though) that covers roughly 1880's–1980's.
• Iowa:  The Iowa Old Press site, part of Iowa GenWeb, has transcribed articles from 19th- and 20th-century newspapers throughout the state.
• Iowa:  The cities of Mount Vernon and Lisbon (Linn County) have a searchable and browsable historical newspaper archive on the Cole Library Web site.
• Massachusetts:  The Boston College newspaper collection includes the BC student newspaper; the student newspaper published by Newton College of the Sacred Heart, a women's college; a Boston-area Catholic newspaper; and two additional Catholic-church-related publications.
• Missouri:  The St. Louis Globe-Democrat has an online name (for A–R) and subject index to their morgue of clippings.  The page lists the years covered as about 1930–1986, but a search for "smith" gave results from at least 1920–1998.  This is an ongoing project, with more entries being added to the database.
• New Jersey:  The New Brunswick Free Public Library has two newspapers available free, New Brunswick Daily Times and Daily Home News, that are also available on a paid site.
• New Jersey:  The Papers of Princeton collection includes the Daily Princetonian, Local Express, Princeton University Weekly Bulletin, and Town Topics, covering 1876–2013.
• New York:  The Columbia Spectator student newspaper from Columbia University is online from 1877–2012.
• New York:  Cornell University's student newspaper, The Cornell Daily Sun, can be read from 1880–1981.
• New York:  The Vassar College student newspaper collection includes seven publications and covers 1872–2013.
• Ohio:  Kent State University's student newspapers from 1939–1969 can be read online.
• Ohio:  Wright State University's student newspaper, The Guardian, is available online for the years 1965–1982 and 2012–2013, with more to come.
• Virginia:  The Library of Virginia has an extensive collection of newspapers, ranging from 1809–1999 and including more than 65 titles.
• Virginia:  The Collegian, the student newspaper of the University of Richmond, is online from 1914–2013.
• Multistate:  Japanese internment camp newspapers from World War II are available on Densho.
• United States:  The American Legion has an online archive of several of its publications, including American Legion Weekly, American Legion Monthly, American Legion Magazine, and The American Legion.  The latter is available for 2003–2011, while the first three are said to cover 1919–1949.
• Vietnam:  The National Library of Vietnam has a collection of digitized newspapers covering 1890–1955.  The site is in Vietnamese.

Some big news:  Two new states, Nevada and South Dakota, have been awarded federal grants to digitize their historic newspapers, which will then be added to the Library of Congress Chronicling America newspaper database.  Some South Dakota newspapers are already available on Chronicling America, and I look forward to seeing Nevada newspapers in the future.  Only thirteen states are not yet partners in the program.

Don't forget, if you find an online newspaper collection that isn't on the Wikipedia page, please add it, so it's easy for everyone to find!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - McAdams Sisters

The third episode from this season of TLC's Who Do You Think You Are? featured the McAdams sisters, Rachel and Kayleen.  Rachel is an actress originally known for her work in Mean Girls; her breakthrough role is considered to be The Notebook.  We're told that she is now a sought-after lead actress (I've still never heard of her).  Kayleen is a "talented and trusted" make-up artist.  (Was their mother a stage mom?)

The teaser said that Rachel and Kayleen will be following their mother's roots through England and Canada.  Some phrases made me think from the beginning that the family might have been Loyalists:  "relatives uprooted by the brutalities of war", "painful choice they had to make", and "harrowing circumstances behind their Canadian roots."

We learn that the McAdams girls grew up in Ontario, where Rachel still lives.  They meet in New York City, apparently where Kayleen lives, but that is not stated.  Rachel is the older sister, and they have a younger brother.  Rachel says that Kayleen is the detective (a good trait for a genealogist!), while Kayleen says that Rachel is a romantic.

Lance Frederick McAdams, their father, was born in Canada, one of ten children.  The girls are close to his side of the family and know a fair amount about them.  They don't know that much about their mother's side.  Sandra Kay Gale's parents both died in their early 30's, so apparently Rachel and Kayleen never knew them.  (I know from personal experience how much that can affect family knowledge.  Both my Sellers great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather died young, and many myths were attached to that family line until I spent several years uncovering the facts.)

Sandra's parents were Harold Gowan Gale and Eileen Bell.  The sisters know Gale was in the Air Force and had something to do with planes during World War II.  One thinks he was a pilot, and the other thinks he was a mechanic.  They want to research this part of their family so they can learn about their roots and how they ended up in Canada.  They also want to find the information to share with their mother.

We never see Mom on screen, but they call her on the phone and tell her they received the package she sent, saying they "can't wait to open it" (yeah, they put it aside and waited until they called her before they looked inside, even though that's the information that starts the research for the show; how dumb do they think the viewing audience is?).  So they "open" it on air, and inside is a family tree with a scant amount of information.  Their mother tells them that her father was a mechanic, not a pilot.  She says that a photo of an older couple is of her father's parents (the girls' great-grandparents), William and Maud Gale.  They were from Polpero, England, but originally from Plymouth.  William was in the Royal Navy.  Mom's father was born in Plymouth.  And that's all Mom knows.  The girls ask her where they should look for more information, and she suggests going to Plymouth, England.  (Now that's a huge leap!  How about trying to do even a minimal amount of research in Canadian census and vital records first?)

Rachel talks about how she feels incomplete because they can't go that far back on their family line (a lot of people can't relate four generations before they do some research, so she isn't particularly special).  She thinks it's empowering to learn information about her family and feels it's that much richer because she's doing it with her sister.  (Unfortunately, the scripting and the sisters' delivery remain this lame throughout the episode.)

So off they go to Plymouth.  In the Plymouth Central Library they meet professional genealogist Paul Blake, whom they have previously asked to research their family.  Now they ask him whether he has found anything about their great-grandfather's parents.  He tells them he has found a marriage for their great-grandparents.  William Gale married Beatrice Maude Sedgrove on November 16, 1910.  His occupation was listed as engine room artificer, which means he was a mechanic in the Royal Navy.  His father was William Henry Greber Gale (deceased), a captain in the Royal Navy.  Beatrice's father was Arthur Edward Sedgrove (and nothing more is said of him).

They ask if he has found anything else, and we leap straight to the January 2, 1850 birth certificate for William Henry Creber Gale.  His parents were William Gale and Elizabeth Creber.  The father's occupation is listed as servant.  One of the sisters asks what kind of servant.  (Almost all the questions the girls ask during the program sound forced and very scripted, this one being no exception.)  Blake suggests they look on Ancestry, and one of them responds, ""  (Gee, they must watch TV commercials.)  Blake directs them to search in the 1851 England census for William Gale with a keyword of "servant."  (It was nice to learn one can search that way.)  They find Gale working as a footman in Bovysand House in Wembury, a household with many servants.  Even though his son was born only a year earlier, his family is not living with him.  Blake tells them that the house still stands and that they can learn more by going there.

Bovisand (current spelling) House and all the servants make the sisters think of Downton Abbey and they actually have an idea of what a footman is.  (Yes, they do watch television.)  They're excited that the house is still standing and want to learn about their ancestor's life as a servant.  They wonder why his wife and child aren't with him, though.

At the entrance to Bovisand House (now part of a tourist experience as Bovisand Lodge Estate) they are met by Dr. Pamela Cox, a social historian at the University of Essex.  She explains that the footman would not only have answered the door but would have managed the front of the house.  The girls admire the view from the many windows.  Dr. Cox points out that on the census the footman is the top male servant and the next person listed after the governess, an indication of his status.  He would have been in charge of other servants and things such as the china, glassware, and silver.  He also would have been at the constant call of his employers.  The narrator mentions that the footman would have been the physical representative of the house, and therefore height and looks were important factors in who was chosen for the coveted position, which had good wages and was well respected.

The sisters ask where he lived.  Cox explains he lived in Bovisand House, upstairs in the servants' quarters.  The next question is where his wife was.  She wasn't listed in the census at the house with him, but that was normal for the time.  They search for Elizabeth and young William and find them living in a village about 25 miles away.  Gale would probably have seen his family about once a month maximum.  The village was a long way from the house, and Gale didn't have any days off on a regular basis.  He worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  He wasn't involved in his son's life, because his duty was to his employer, not his family.

Next the girls want to know how the couple met.  Cox shows them the 1841 census with William and Elizabeth, both 20 years old, working for the same Nowland family (but not yet at Bovisand House).  Elizabeth was also a servant.  So after spending every day together for several years while they were working, after they married, they had to live separately.  Kayleen asks about William in the 1861 census (how in the world could she have come up with that question on her own?), and Cox tells them William didn't live that long.  She shows them his death certificate, dated May 27, 1860; he was only 40 years old when he died.  The cause of death was delirium tremens.  Cox explains that was not an uncommon occurrence at the time, as alcohol was readily available to the servants.  The sisters ask what happened to Elizabeth, but Cox says that is all she can tell them.  (The researchers totally lost track of the woman after 1851??  I found her in 1861 and 1871 with almost no effort.)  They thank her and leave the house.

Now the sisters have more answers, but those answers have led to more questions.  They stroll on the grounds around the house and think about how William Gale might have walked on the same path, and that maybe William and Elizabeth walked there while they were courting.  They talk about how William had a tough life and made sacrifices for his family, but I think they were looking at his life from a very modern perspective; he probably wouldn't have considered living apart from his wife and baby to be a sacrifice, because it was the accepted thing to do at the time.  William had a short life but made his family proud and provided a better life for them.  But they still don't know how their family ended up in Canada.  So what's the next step?  Go to Ottawa!  (Even though they're from Ontario ....)

In Ottawa they say that they have more names but need stories to go with them.  They meet with Joseph Shumway (apparently's most flexible genealogist-for-hire) in an unidentified location that looks like a modernist office building.  (Rent-a-desk?)  He has a fancy printed family tree (no calligraphy this time) taking their family back six generations from them (following three women's lines, no less):  Eileen Maude Bell's parents were Andrew Bell and Ethel Josephine Foote; Ethel's parents were William Foote and Carmina Maude McDonald; Carmina's parents were Joseph Blackman McDonald and Emma Peters; and Joseph's parents were Alexander McDonald and Charlotte Gray (the sisters' 4th-great-grandparents).  (So we've totally abandoned the Gale family at this point.)  Shumway points out that the birthdates of the oldest generation are approximate to the period of the American Revolutionary War.

Up to that oldest generation, everyone was born in Ontario, but birthplaces aren't listed for Alexander McDonald and Charlotte Gray.  So the sisters want to know where they were from.  Instead of answering directly, Shumway says he has a document from 1824 and that the girls have to wear white gloves to handle it.  (Why in the world would they use an original document like that outside of an archive?!)  It is a petition for a land grant filed by Charlotte (Gray) McDonald in July 1824.  She filed the petition based on her status as the daughter of James Gray (whom the girls immediately note would be their 5th-great-grandfather) of the Johnstown District of UE Loyalists.  Shumway says that UE stands for United Empire and that the Loyalists were those colonists who sided with the crown during the Revolutionary War.  The girls ask what made someone a Loyalist, and Shumway explains that it was someone who fought for or provided service, shelter, or food to the crown during the war.

So after the war, Loyalists in Canada petitioned for land grants as compensation for their service.  Obviously, children of Loyalists were allowed to have land grants, as Charlotte filed a petition.  But what happened to James Gray?  Shumway tells the sisters to go to the City of Ottawa Archives, which has a large collection of Loyalist materials.

As they leave the odd little building, the sisters say how proud they are of their Loyalist connection.  Canada struggles with its identity and is sometimes viewed as the United States' little brother.  They have strong roots with the crown.  (But Kayleen lives in New York ....)

At the James Bartleman Centre of the City of Ottawa Archives, Rachel and Kayleen meet Dr. Alan Taylor, a historian of Colonial America from the University of Virginia.  The sisters tell Taylor that they know their ancestor James Gray was a Loyalist but don't know "how his life unfolded" (they really talk this way?).  Taylor tells them that the first appearance of Gray in a historical record is in a "List of Families Calling Themselves Loyalists", who were quartered at St. Jean in 1778.  St. Jean was a fort and refugee encampment.  The list is similar to an early census and shows the family consisted of one male adult, one female adult, and two children and that they came from Lake Champlain.  Taylor points out that Lake Champlain lies primarily in the U.S., on the New York–Vermont border.

The girls ask what life would have been like in the colonies for the Grays.  Taylor explains they were probably farmers and recent settlers, likely in a settlement less than ten years old.  They would have had the experience of turning a forest into farmland with only hand tools and maybe some oxen.  The war breaking out meant they had to decide which side to support.  That problem became more urgent when the British army lost to the colonists at Saratoga.  Loyalists feared they would become the targets of Patriot mobs, so many took their families to refugee camps in Canada.  Taylor produces a 1777 map of the British colonies in North America and shows how close Lake Champlain is to St. Jean and the Canadian border.  One of the sisters asks about the pressures Loyalists would be facing in their day-to-day lives, and Taylor shows another list, "Return of Loyalists Receiving Provisions" from 1779.  This shows Mrs. Gray and two boys, but not James Gray.  The second page says that James Gray had enlisted in Petter's Corps as a private, so we repeat the earlier theme of a family being separated.

Suddenly, Taylor says that they best thing for the girls to do is go to the site of one of the former refugee camps (total non sequitur).  Apparently there is still something in St. Jean, so that's where they'll go.  It was interesting to note that Rachel drove and Taylor sat in the back seat of the car.

At Ville de Saint-Jean sur Richelieu Taylor directs Rachel to turn left off the road, and they arrive at an empty field (it looks like an agricultural area).  One of the sisters asks if the whole area would have been the camp, and Taylor responds, "In this vicinity," meaning that the field where they're standing is actually meaningless.  Taylor goes on to explain that four refugee camps were in the valley with more than 1,000 people, more than 600 of whom were children.  Women were busy caring for the children and had a rough time of it.  Their shelters would have been rudimentary, consisting of tents, boards, and possibly dugouts.  Apparently the housing was next to latrines, but I think there was some poor editing, because what we ended up with was the comment, "And they're living right next to these latrines," with no lead-in.  But living next to latrines created an environment ripe for disease.

When asked how long the Gray family was at the camp, Taylor produces another document, "Return of Distressed, Unincorporated Loyalists" from March 24, 1783.  Mrs. Gray is still listed, but the two children with her are now a boy over 6 and a girl under 6.  Between 1779 and 1783 it appears that Mrs. Gray (I guess they never figured out her name?) had a baby girl but one of the boys died, possibly of disease.  Taylor points out that more people died in the camps than on the battlefields.  It's possible that the girl in the 1783 list was Charlotte.

At the time the list was created, the war was winding down, and a month later word reached Canada that a preliminary peace treaty had been signed, recognizing the indepedence of the United States of America.  This would have been demoralizing for Loyalists, who not only were on the losing side of the battle but had to give up any hope that they could return to their former homes.  One of the girls asks what happened to the Gray family next, because they obviously wouldn't want to stay in the refugee camp.  Taylor says the best answers will be at the Archives of Ontario, so that's where they should go.

As they leave the sisters talk about how previously they wouldn't have noticed the field but now know that there are a lot of stories there (but not really!).  They're glad to have learned the stories but know their family went through a lot of pain and hard times.  They say the Gray family was ostracized (eh, not really, at least based on what we saw on air) and were pioneers with strength and conviction.  They couldn't return to where they had lived so needed a new homestead somewhere.  As the car drives away, Taylor is not with them, so I guess he rode back with the production crew.

The next stop is Toronto, where the archives are located.  Going in, the sisters say they hope they find out what happened to James Gray and his family after the war.  They know that Charlotte applied for land in Ontario, and that's about it.  In the archives Jane Errington, a historian of British North America (and Dean of Arts) from the Royal Military College of Canada (not the University of Ontario, as the on-screen credit says), is waiting to meet them.  The girls tell her that they know Mrs. Gray and the two children were in the camp and that James Gray was a Loyalist Ranger, and they want to know what happened to James.  Errington says she has discovered some documents that will help answer that.

The first document is "Disbanded Troops & Loyalists" who were mustered out October 12, 1784, after the war had ended.  James Gray is near the top of the list as a Loyal Ranger.  One woman, one boy under 10, and one girl under 10 were included with him.  So he had reunited with his family, but then what happened to them?  Errington explains that Loyalists had earned a reward by remaining true to the British crown and quickly went to the government and asked it to pay up.

Before bringing out the next document, Errington says the sisters will have to put on purple gloves (these are vinyl; the gloves in the scene with Shumway were cotton).  She then brings out a large survey map of the district of Johnstown and Elizabethtown in Upper Canada (now southern Ontario).  The map lists land grants made to Loyalists in 1784 (before or after the mustering out?).  Errington has the girls hunt for Gray's name, which Kayleen (the detective!) finds first.  Gray received two grants of 200 acres each, so he finally had a place of his own (again).  And not only were his son (nameless, like Gray's wife) and Charlotte eligible to apply for grants of 200 acres, their children also could petition for land grants.  They would have land, but they also had pride, because they were the founding mothers and fathers of Upper Canada.

Kayleen says she had not expected to learn that their family had such deep roots in Canada.  Now they know that their ancestors were Loyalists and early settlers.  She appreciates their loyalty and pride.  Rachel comments on how William Gale and James Gray had to spend time away from their families and how it's important to remember the sacrifices they made.  Now the sisters want to keep the memories of their ancestors alive and share them with their mother.  They seem to be thinking ahead to the future, also, because Rachel says they have that much more to give to their own children.

Obviously, I was underwhelmed by the McAdams sisters in this episode.  I did find the stories interesting, but I was surprised at the large gaps that remained — losing track of Elizabeth Creber Gale so quickly; no first name for Mrs. James Gray.  Those are the types of things I wish they would address more directly in the show, to talk more about the research process.  But I have to keep telling myself that Who Do You Think You Are? is not really about genealogy, it's just entertainment, and as far as is concerned, one of its main purposes is to generate more subscriptions.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

2014 Sacramento Archives Crawl

one of this year's coasters
The Sacramento Archives Crawl is a free, one-day annual event held during California Archives Month, which takes place in October.  "Crawlers" visit four host archives in Sacramento, view display items from several repositories, talk to archivists, and have the opportunity to go on special behind-the-scenes tours.  If you are so inclined, you can also collect stamps in a "passport" to earn a commemorative set of four coasters depicting items from area archives.

California Archives Month is part of American Archives Month.  The purpose is to educate the public about the importance of historical records and the effort to preserve them for future generations.  Professionals and repositories in California and around the country will be showcasing their collections and the value in maintaining them.

The theme for this year's Sacramento Archives Crawl is "Having Fun in the Sacramento Region."  The host institutions will be the same as last year:  California State Archives, California State Library, Center for California History, and Sacramento Public Library (Sacramento Room in the central branch).  The Crawl will be on Saturday, October 11, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Last year I already had something scheduled when I learned about the Archives Crawl, but this year I saved the date!  I'm looking forward to going around Sacramento and learning what kinds of interesting resources are available in the participating archives.  Want to come out and "crawl" with me?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Jesse Tyler Ferguson

The second episode of this season of Who Do You Think You Are? focused on the family history of actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson.  Not only was this another person I had never heard of, it looks like TLC is working hard on marketing to the gay demographic by having the first two episodes feature celebrities in same-sex marriages.  I don't know if this is a political statement by the network, but it caught my eye.  (And everyone who knows me knows that I don't have a bigoted bone in my body, so don't bother sending hate messages.)

Right from the beginning we know we're on the trail of a con man.  The teaser says that Ferguson will be following his father's family history and an ancestor who was in trouble.

The introduction to Jesse Tyler Ferguson tells us he is an actor on stage and screen but is primarily known for his work on Modern Family (another show I've never watched), which has earned him four Emmy nominations.  He lives with his husband, Justin (Mikita), in the Hollywood hills.

Ferguson's parents are Robert (Bob) Ferguson and Ann Doyle.   They divorced when Ferguson was 18 years old.  Ferguson grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and both of his parents still live there.  He considers his family to be stable, mundane, boring, and with no drama whatsoever.  His parents are strong-willed, which he thinks they passed along to him, and he's a little stubborn.  He was very close to his paternal grandmother Jessie, for whom he was named, and he says she was a great lady and hilarious.  She died six years ago.  He is excited to be researching his father's side of the family.

Ferguson starts his research by visiting his father, who still lives in Albuquerque.  He tells Bob that he wants to find information on his side of the family and about Grandma Jessie.  They talk about how far back he might go.

Bob has some photos that the two of them look over.  There's a photo of Jesse as a baby with his parents, and one of Grandma Jessie looking very classy.  Then there's a photo of Jesse Wheat Uppercu, Grandma Jessie's father.  He's dressed in a nice suit, and Bob says he was a lawyer.  Ferguson says he looks like Bob.  Bob says his mother told him Uppercu was born in Maryland.  The next photograph of Uppercu looks like a studio seating and is dated Christmas 1923; a handwritten note on the back is addressed to Uppercu's wife Elizabeth, Bob's grandmother.  Uppercu wrote that the photo was a "token of affection" for his wife; it sounds very understated.  Bob says that's where his knowledge ends.

New York Times,
August 28, 1872, page 2
They wonder if they can find anything online and decide to use Google.  Ferguson starts by searching for <Jesse Uppercu law Maryland> but doesn't find anything.  Bob suggests he refine the search and mentions that the name was sometimes spelled Uppercue.  They find a New York Times article about a murder in Baltimore on August 27, 1872.  (What?  Ancestry allowed someone else's Web site on the program?  Heaven forfend!)  Mrs. Amelia Wheat was the victim.  Her nephew, Jesse Uppercue, was accused of the murder.  Ferguson asked his father, "Did you know about this?", and Bob says, "No,  I didn't," but Bob, not being an actor, had more trouble maintaining a straight face.  Uppercu was 22 years old.  Uppercu said his aunt called him because she was upset and he went to her room, then fell asleep.  He woke up to the sound of a pistol and a man ran out of the room.  Apparently the police didn't believe him.  Ferguson wonders whether Uppercu ended up in prison or not, and his father suggests he needs to talk to a historian and that he should go to Maryland to find out.

In the interlude Ferguson says if all of this had happened to a more distant relative it would be easier to deal with.  Since this was his beloved grandmother's father, it makes it more palpable and real.  The details about the murder aren't lining up for him.

Ferguson travels to the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis.  He says he's hoping to find some clarity about the "situation" (the only word he wants to use to describe it) with Uppercu.  Criminal justice historian David Wolcott meets him at the archives.  Wolcott says that he has asked the archivists to pull documents related to Uppercu.  (This sort of intro persists throughout the episode.  Ferguson says he has asked the researchers to find information, and/or the researchers tell Ferguson they've had documents prepared.  There's no question the information is being fed to Ferguson.)   Ferguson asks why Uppercu was arrested, and Wolcott tells him the police didn't believe him.  Uppercu had the means and opportunity to murder his aunt, so the focus of the investigation was on him.  Ferguson of course wants to know what happened, and Wolcott suggests they look in more newspapers.  They search through bound printed copies of the Baltimore Sun (so much for using someone else's online resources; the Sun is available through ProQuest, but I guess Ancestry and ProQuest couldn't work out an agreement?).

Since the first article was dated August 27, Wolcott suggests starting with August 28 for more coverage.  The August 31 issue has an article titled "Lombard Street Homicide" with a lot of very interesting information.  Apparently Mrs. Wheat had executed two wills on July 26, a mere month before the murder.  Uppercu had summoned Mrs. Wheat's lawyer on that day to draw up a will for her.  The original version of the will had left the bulk of her estate ($22,000, equivalent to approximately $400,000 in today's money) to Uppercu, with a few bequests of small amounts and some donations.  Uppercue had insisted on reading the will and didn't like the donations, so induced his aunt to rewrite the will, abandoning the small bequests and leaving everything to him.  Gee, I wonder why the police suspected him of the murder?  Along with the means and opportunity we already knew about, he now had a very strong motive.

Ferguson asks whether there are court documents, and Wolcott says they can look at the Baltimore court records the archivists have retrieved.  They start with the book for the September 1872 term, and Ferguson looks in the index; Uppercue appears on page 74.  In the case of State of Maryland v. Jesse W. Uppercue, dated October 4, 1872, Uppercu had pled "non culp", i.e., not guilty.  The book includes the lists of witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense, about an equal number for each side.  We were not shown the rest of the documentation, but Wolcott explains that though it was largely a circumstantial case, Uppercu did have means, opportunity, and motive.  He also mentions that Uppercu's character would be a deciding factor.  On December 16, it was noted that the jury could not agree and the case was discharged, essentially the equivalent of a hung jury.  But the prosecution decided to retry Uppercu!  The second case followed very quickly, in the January 1873 term.  Ferguson asks why they would bother to have a second trial.  Wolcott says that the prosecutors must have thought they had a good enough case.  The archivists bring out the next book, and on page 9 we learn that on March 6, 1873, the jury rendered a verdict of not guilty, and the judge acquitted Uppercu.  After that the matter was finished, and Uppercu could not be retried (though not stated, this was due to the principle of double jeopardy).  Ferguson wonders whether his great-grandfather ever received the inheritance, and Wolcott says he has not been able to find any documentation of it.  (That sounded odd to me.  Did Baltimore City have a burned courthouse after 1873?  Wouldn't the estate have gone through probate, especially after the trial?  Are books missing?)

Ferguson is a little uneasy about his great-grandfather (who can blame him?).  He next asks what happened to Uppercu after the court case.  Wolcott says to find out where he shows up they should find him in the next census, which is 1880.  And of course he says they should look on, but this is one instance where I agree.  It really is the best place to search the U.S. census.  They find Uppercu in Evanston, Illinois, aged 30, and married to L. I. Uppercue with three children in the household.  Uppercu was free at 23 and the oldest child is 6 years old, so he must have married very soon after the trial.  Ferguson is surprised to learn his great-grandfather had a family before his great-grandmother and wants to know how he can learn about this other life.  Wolcott tells him he'll need to go to Evanston.

Ferguson says it was terrifying to read the articles about his great-grandfather and that he has mixed emotions about the man.  He's afraid to find out what happened next and admits it's hard not to judge Uppercu.  He says things are gray and he's looking for clarity.  (Personally, they didn't seem very gray to me.  I am not the type to rush to judgment, but I have to admit I am leaning heavily toward thinking Uppercu probably was guilty.)

In Evanston, Illinois (the home of Northwestern University), Ferguson says he will be speaking to cultural historian Scott Sandage of Carnegie-Mellon University, whom he has asked to research Uppercu's life after his acquittal.  He meets Sandage at the Evanston Public Library.  Sandage says he has prepared a timeline of Uppercu's life based on information from city directoreis, censuses, and newspapers.  The first item we see is information reiterated from the 1880 census, where we learn that Uppercu's wife's name was Laura, no longer simply the initial "L."  The next item is dated February 20, 1884, when Uppercu is mentioned in the St. Paul Globe newspaper as being on trial in Fargo, North Dakota Territory, for embezzling the sum of $,1800, worth about $50,000–60,000 today, from the First National Bank.  (Hmm, going for money again ....)  Lots of money was around in this period, but good procedures to track it were lacking.

The narrator pops in and talks about the Gilded Age, the last decades of the 1800's.  The United States experienced huge economic growth accompanied by political corruption and worker exploitation.  While magnates such as John Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, and Leland Stanford amassed empires, ambitious men such as Jesse Uppercu tried to make their own fortunes.

So Uppercu said he had dropped the money and lost it.  Somehow he was acquitted again.  Apparently the public's sympathy lay with Uppercu, who presented himself well.  Ferguson and Sandage banter back and forth about how "dropping" the money was a good enough excuse and that it was possible he had actually lost it, but you could tell neither one of them was buying it.  (I didn't either.)

Our next timeline highlight is May through August 1886, when Uppercu was in St. Louis.  While there, he sued Laura for divorce and said that she "complains too much" about the dirty streets and water in St. Louis.  Nothing else was said about the divorce, kind of leaving me to wonder whether he had decided she was dead weight for some reason.

Still in St. Louis, Uppercu was arrested on September 29, 1886.  Ferguson is upset and says, "I need a moment!", then asks if there is more information.  (Of course.)  The Missouri Republican newspaper reported on the arrest of lawyer Uppercu on another charge of embezzlement.  He had been working as a "collecting attorney" (not a term with which I am familiar).  He "lost" another $200, but the charges were dropped when he came up with the money and reimbursed the firm.  They weren't able to prove intent, so there was no prosecution.

Apparently deciding St. Louis was just not working out for him, Uppercu was in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1893, where he married Sadie Canta, wife #2.  Obviously, this was another marriage Ferguson's family had not known about.  In 1897 Uppercu appears in a Philadelphia city directory listed as a lawyer, residing at 1009 Mt. Vernon.

Bridgeton Evening News,
February 17, 1898, page 2
Ferguson comments on how much Uppercu had moved around.  Sandage adds that exclamation points seemed to follow him everywere he went:  Murder!  Embezzlement!  Ferguson (justifiably) has to admit that he has drawn the conclusion that his great-grandfather was "a bit" of a con man.  He asks what happened after 1897 and whether Uppercu had stayed in Philadelphia.  Sandage says that's as far as they have taken the research (yeah, right) and "suggests" that Ferguson try looking on (owned by Ancestry) for the period 1897–1900 to see what Uppercu might have been doing.  Ferguson searches for <J. W. Uppercu> and finds an 1898 article, "Gold-Seekers Begin the Journey" in the Bridgeton (New Jersey) Evening News.  The article said that lawyer J. W. Uppercu of 504 Walnut Street was leading a group headed to the Alaskan gold rush.

Ferguson asks how in the world Uppercu would know to go to Alaska in the first place.  Sandage tells him he'll have to go there to find out (cue our next location!).  Where in Alaska?  Wrangell, which Ferguson says he has never heard of.  Sandage says while Ferguson is gone he will continue to research and if he finds anything he'll send it to him in Wrangell (yes, that was another cue you heard).

Ferguson says he wants to fill in the details about his great-grandfather.  Between the murder and the two embezzlements (I wonder if there were more the research team missed?) he has little faith in Uppercu and that he really wants him to have some roots.  Alaska just doesn't seem to be the way to do that.  He also comments that he himself is more of an "indoor" kid; he sounds a little suspicious about all that open country.

Driving through Wrangell, Ferguson is amazed at the gorgeous scenery and glassy, clear water.  He says he's allergic to how clean the air is (no snarky comments about Los Angeles, please!).  He arrives at the Irene Ingle Public Library and meets Terrence Cole, a history professor at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.  We get an overview of Wrangell as the entrance to the Klondike and a short synopsis of the 1896–1898 gold rush.  Cole explains that Uppercu was the "organizational genius" who put together the entire trip.  He was also the fundraiser and financial manager, who tracked money and resources for the group.  Ferguson latched onto that and wondered if history had repeated itself.  Cole goes on to say that Uppercu would have held onto the money, put it to good use, and even chosen the route.  The enterprise rested on the trust and faith the group had in him.

Ferguson starts to go beyond the money question and comments on the physical labor that would have been required.  Uppercu was about 48 years old at the time, and it would have been very wearing for him.  Ferguson then asks whether there's more about the journey that Cole can share.  Cole says that the secretary of the party had written a series of letters to his hometown newspaper, which apparently had been published as articles.  Several of the letters were collected and bound as a book, which Cole hands to Ferguson.

The first letter we are shown, written by B. (Benjamin) F. Parker to the Bridgeton (New Jersey) Evening News, was dated March 9, 1898 in the paper.  (Only the early part of 1998 is online at, which I'm sure is why they did this part in print; all the referenced articles are available at GenealogyBank, but I guess they didn't work out an agreement for this episode.  I don't understand why they showed the articles as plain text, though.)  The party had just started out with its equipment and machinery.  Cole talked about how Uppercu's expedition was unique in its size and complexity.  There were more than 60 people, a huge amount of machinery, a portable sawmill, a gold-digging machine which they hoped would be able to produce 100 tons per day, and more.  It was a very large-scale operation, far beyond what anyone else had tried.  Cole suddenly says they should follow the trail that Uppercu had gone on.

Even though a little earlier Ferguson had said he was an indoor kid and allergic to the fresh air, now he is excited to be going on the boat.  He starts to wonder whether his great-grandfather had had the skills needed to make the trip and says Uppercu must have been pompous (not exactly the word I would have used) to think he had the ability to lead the expedition.

Cole describes the route that the party had planned to take:  Departing from Fort Wrangell, they would have gone up the Stikine River to Telegraph Creek, then taken all the equipment overland to Lake Teslin.  From there they would have gone downstream to the Yukon River and followed it to the boom town of Dawson, Yukon Territory.  It would have taken several months to complete the 700-mile trek.

Bridgeton Evening News,
October 1, 1898, page 1
The two men head out to the harbor and board the boat (Breakaway Adventures' Ocean Pro; the cameramen worked hard at not showing the complete company name, so it must not have paid for placement).  We get some beautiful eye-candy shots of the boat traveling up the Stikine.  I wasn't sure if they actually went all the way to Telegraph Creek, which is supposed to be about 140 miles up the Stikine, but they stopped at a shore and offboarded.  Then Ferguson read more of Parker's letters from the book, starting with, "And now our troubles began."  Published on September 13, 1898, Parker's letter (written August 23) talked about men catching colds and one man dying.  The party had a lot of trouble making progress up the river.  The second letter Ferguson read from, published October 1, 1898, and written by Parker on September 12, talked about the party being "blocked out" because they were not able to use their sleds to travel.  It also mentioned the decision to give all men who wanted to leave permission to do so, and how the expedition required a strong leader but did not have one.  According to Parker's letter, Uppercu left August 6, resigning as manager before he did so.  (The letter published in October went on to say that Parker himself had also left the expedition.)

Ferguson's first reaction is to say that his great-grandfather must have have been upset to have had to leave the party and that his pride must have been wounded.  Cole tells him that those who stayed behind didn't end up finding any gold.  Uppercu might have left just to cut his lossess, as the expedition seemed to have bad luck.  On the other hand, Cole points out that only 30,000–40,000 of the hundreds of thousands who tried actually made it to the Klondike.  Of those, he says that only a few hundred made any money.  Uppercu's group making it as far as it did was still an accomplishment.

In the interlude before returning to his room, Ferguson says it must have been devastating for his great-grandfather to have failed and also spoke of the barriers that had existed for the attempt.  He admitted, however, that he wasn't surprised that Uppercu had quit, because the man generally had looked for easy, fast money, which the Alaska expedition decidedly was not.  Ferguson then repeated what he had said about his family at the beginning of the episode — that they were stable, secure, boring — and yet here was this history that was full of drama.  Definitely not what he had been expecting!  He's been told a package from Sandage is waiting for him at the hotel, and he hopes it has more information.  He's particularly curious when Uppercu married his great-grandmother Elizabeth.

In his room, Ferguson opens the envelope from Sandage and reads a letter on Carnegie-Mellon letterhead.  The research team had indeed found more information about Uppercu.  He had returned from Alaska in 1898.  In the 1900 census he was in New York with his wife, Sadie, and a daughter, Muriel.  Uppercu and Sadie divorced in September 1907.  As an aside, Ferguson remarks that makes two ex-wives and four children so far for Uppercu.  Also in 1900, Uppercu was a respected speaker for the Republican Party in New York City and was scheduled to speak at a parade to welcome Teddy Roosevelt.  Sandage wrote that Uppercu was a good speaker and charismatic, the best things they had discovered about him.

Finally, Elizabeth enters the picture.  She and Uppercu married in July 1914 in Suffern, Rockland County, New York.  Uppercu was 60 years old; Elizabeth Quigg was 26 and a widow.  (That could mean that Quigg was her married name, but the program didn't address that point.)  Uppercu adopted Elizabeth's children, Grace and Dorothy, from her first marriage, and Ferguson's great-grandmother Jessie was born after that.  But Uppercu and Elizabeth divorced in November 1925.  (Boy, does this man have a track record!)  Surprisingly, in the 1930 census Uppercu was found in Rockland County with all the children — Grace, 21; Dorothy, 18; Jessie, 14; and Elizabeth, 11.  No wife was present in the household.  Ferguson wonders where Elizabeth was but is happy that the girls were with their father.  It looks like the first time he stepped up to his responsibilities, and Ferguson is proud of him.  (Three interesting notes about the census:  First, Jesse is listed as widowed, not divorced.  The program did not discuss Elizabeth after the divorce, but two family trees on Ancestry say Elizabeth died in 1973; it's likely that Jesse simply didn't want to admit he was divorced, as it wasn't really socially acceptable at the time.  Second, Ferguson listed four daughters, but there are five in the household.  Why he didn't mention Irene, who was six years old, is mysterious to me.  And third, I noticed that the original transcription of the name was Uppecca [gotta love that Ancestry quality] and that Uppercu has been added an an "alternative" reading; I wonder how much trouble that mistranscription caused the researchers when they were looking for Jesse ....)

Uppercu family, 1930 census, Rockland County, New York
In the wrap-up, Ferguson says there are still unanswered questions about Uppercu.  He feels that Uppercu got away with a lot (I don't think there's much question about that!).  He talks about getting a blueprint of where you came from and how learning about his great-grandfather has filled in information for him.  He feels his drive, creativity, and strong will came from this side of his family, and maybe even his ability as an actor can be attributed to Uppercu.  Whether or not he was guilty, Uppercu became an honorable man at the end and apparently made roots for his family.

Ferguson then reminisces about his grandmother, one of the greatest people he has ever known.  He's glad that Uppercu raised her but wishes he had known this information while Jessie was alive.  He feels he knows her better now but wishes he could have shared the discoveries with her.

I got a bonus after this episode aired.  TLC purchased the rights to air ten of the NBC episodes of Who Do You Think You Are?, and they've been showing them before and after the new season episodes.  After Ferguson came the Rob Lowe episode from NBC season 3, one I missed due to my erratic schedule that year.  I really enjoyed the episode and was impressed by several of the intelligent questions Lowe asked.  I have to admit I guessed the big surprise ending almost immediately, though.

Something I noticed while watching the intro to both the Cynthia Nixon and Jesse Tyler Ferguson episodes was that only five celebrities are being shown:  Nixon, Ferguson, the McAdams sisters, Kelsey Grammer, and Valerie Bertinelli.  I knew I remembered the original publicity mentioned six episodes, so I hunted around and found this post on the blog, dated July 5.  What happened to Lauren Graham?

Wordless Wednesday