Digging History Blog
Tombstone Tuesday: John Elam Whitehead, a case study for finding elusive ancestors (On a Wing and a Hunch)It’s been awhile since I posted an article. I’ve been busy with other projects — writing and research. From my latest ancestry research project I’d like to share a case study for finding elusive ancestors. If you’re searching for some of those, perhaps it will encourage you to keep digging. When I begin a research project I never know what I’ll find (don’t we all know that!) My client had begun her search awhile back and recently received her Ancestry DNA results, yet still didn’t know a whole lot about her family history. In her possession are two books representing significant research published several years ago on two lines: Belshe and Minear. Those types of books can certainly be helpful, but if you don’t understand how to interpret the research what good are they. Still, once I found the names of the ancestors I knew were part of her line, it rolled out quickly. That was great to get a line or two started and begin exploring more in-depth research (and verification), but there were still many mysteries to be solved. One in particular was my client’s great grandfather John Elam Whitehead, a Methodist Episcopal minister. John Elam Whitehead: Who Were His Parents? I like to start out with census records, particularly for anyone born in 1835 and after because they usually begin to show up with their parents in the 1850 census. I had an approximate date for John’s birth (around 1852) and soon found his grave stone at Find-A-Grave. The inscription only contained birth year and death year (1852-1937). Of course, I first began searching, not only... read more
Book Review Thursday: Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain’s Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy TourSo much has been written about Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain. One might assume there couldn’t possibly be one more book written about one of America’s most beloved characters. Author Richard Zacks, however, has managed to do just that in his latest book. Zacks brought the story to life through Twain’s never published notebooks and correspondence, bringing a unique perspective to a somewhat “dark period” in the author’s life. Mark Twain was a highly successful humorist and author, but as a businessman he failed in 1894 after investing in an ill-conceived invention which never quite lived up to its potential. As a result his publishing company went under; buried in debt, he declared bankruptcy. His wife Olivia (Livy), a coal heiress, was heartsick at the possibility of their good name being sullied. Twain promised Livy he would pay back every penny despite the fact there was no legal responsibility to do so once he filed for bankruptcy. But, how to do that? Twain, at this point in his life, really hated the idea of performing, yet it seemed the only way to make headway against the mountains of debt. He was fifty-nine years of age but set out to make good on his word by embarking on an around-the-world comedy tour. After traveling throughout the American West he and Livy and daughter Clara set sail for places like Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa where he entertained sold-out audiences. The book tells the story of their travels and adventures (and let’s face it with Mark Twain, some misadventures), including a wild ride down a Himalayan mountain, while interspersing... read more
Book Review Thursday: The Secrets of the Notebook: A Woman’s Quest to Uncover Her Royal Family SecretEven after the author’s family fled Nazi Germany to take refuge in London, they still faced danger as Hitler’s blitzkrieg pounded England. On the day Eve Haas (nee Jaretzki) turned sixteen her father showed her a piece of family history, a notebook, which contained secrets about her family’s history. Years later after both of her parents had passed away Eve finally came into possession of the notebook. Although her family had warned against researching the secrets lodged in the notebook, Eve decided to pursue it nonetheless. The notebook’s opening inscription alone was intriguing enough to propel her forward, ignoring her family’s warnings. By this time she had a family of her own, having been raised as a non-orthodox, secular Jew. Her grandmother had been left behind and more than likely suffered death at the hands of the brutal Nazi regime. The details which began to unfold revealed one startling revelation after another, but in order to get the complete story Eve and her husband had to find a way to access records which at this time were stored in Communist East Germany. The process of discovering her family’s secret history took years of patience and research and Ms. Haas gives a thorough account of both triumphs and disappointments. At the heart of what she discovered was a touching love story and the identities of her great-great grandparents, one of which was Prussian royalty (and a distant relative of England’s Queen Victoria). Due to the treachery of his own family and attempts on his young wife Emilie’s life, Prince August was forced to take extraordinary measures to protect their only... read more
- Alpine Avalanche, 02 Jan 2014.
- The Columbus Weekly Advocate, 24 Feb 1887, p. 4.
- Burlington Republican, 12 Jun 1896, p. 5.
- The Girard Press, 10 May 1894, p. 3.
- The Pittsburg Daily Headlight, 10 Apr 1895, p. 3.
- US Patent No. 567,057