Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Lost Wedding Ring

by Gray

This is my wedding ring.  When Marie and I became engaged, we wanted a unique, custom design of our own.  When set out to find someone to make them, we first asked an artist couple from our church.  The husband once ran a highly-regarded studio, and suggested one of his former students to us.

A Ring Maker and a Teller of True Stories
His name was Howard DuFour.  We went to visit him in New Carlisle, Ohio.  New Carlisle is a charming old town, where its history is carefully guarded.  Howard’s home was a distinctive 19th century white wood frame house.  Howard himself was a delight, an older gentleman, a keen mind, and full of engaging stories. 

True story 1:  As we stood in front, he pointed to his house – “after it was built, there was never a four-letter word uttered in it by the first residents.  Now take a good look at the house.  What do you see?”  He was being playful with us, inviting us to think, and had given us a couple clues... Then he motioned to the pointed windows on the second storey, and gave us the answer: “See the churchy-looking windows?  (The windows come together to a point at the top.) The house served a small country church across the street.  It was originally a Parsonage.” 

He then invited us inside to see his work area.  We entered the living room, and walked upstairs, through his and his wife’s bedroom to a small attached sunroom.  He had a worktable pressed against the wall, looking out the window.  This was his shop. 

True story 2: He led into another story about a different goldsmith with his own tiny shop. The old goldsmith retired after many years, and moved out.  Wisely, the new owners tore up the carpet and wooden flooring and burned it all.  Then he quizzed us: So why was it wise?  He smiled and answered “Tiny gold flecks and shavings had fallen into the rug fibers and wood crevices over those years.  They recovered it and sold the gold for over a million dollars.”

A keen mind indeed. We were easily enamored of Howard, and looked forward to his workmanship.

The Rings Get Put to Use
A few weeks later, the rings arrived.  Beautiful!

On August 12, 1978, Marie and I were wed, we exchanged those rings, each of us committed to wear them for the rest of our lives.  

Marie and Gray exchanging rings.  August 12, 1978

Except for a problem...They were a little loose.

This was not a good fit to everyday life.  If I shook my hand a certain way, the ring would fly off.  Increasingly, I would decide to remove the ring.  When working on the car, or cutting the grass, I would hang them on a cup hook behind the mirror-case in the bathroom.  I’d often leave the sliding panel a little open. Marie would see that ring hanging on a hook instead of on my finger.  When I showered, the ring would hang on it – if dropped, the tub drain in our old place was large enough to swallow it. If I would go out camping or backpacking, the ring would stay home because I wouldn’t want to drop it somewhere in the deep woods. 

Whatever my reasons for doing this, it was our first year of marriage, and this ring business evolved into a touchy issue.  Finally, one week-end at home, my wife looked at my naked hands and confronted me with: “Why aren’t you wearing your wedding ring?”  Then I was reminded by my wife on an important perspective.  The ring was meant to be worn all the time.  She was right.

In response, I wrapped some white medical bandaging tape onto the ring to make the opening narrower.  That did the trick. I stopped removing the ring, and it wasn't much of an issue anymore.

Then Came Wonderful News
In May, 1979, on Mother’s Day, Marie first suspected she was pregnant. It was true! We thought through a number of names and had settled on two: 

If a boy, his name will be Micah.

If a girl, her name will be Sarita. 

Bad News – Ring goes missing
Then one Summer day, Marie was unhappy and upset.  “Gray, I’ve lost my ring!”  She had looked at her hand, and realized it was gone.  She had no idea how it was lost. We scoured the house in all the usual places: among the seat cushions, the trash cans, behind furniture, in dishes and kitchen utensils – anyplace one would imagine a loose ring might somehow fly or fall from a person’s hand. We found nothing.

So what do we do now? Get another ring?  Marie did not want to do that.  A prayer to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost items?  Many in Marie’s family did exactly that. 

Weeks passed, then months.  Still no ring.

We ask the Psychic
My sales job required me to drive a lot of distance, so the car radio would be on a lot.   I stumbled onto a regular call-in program on WLW radio that featured a psychic known as David Hoy.  He really seemed to be on to something.  One had called in about a missing item.  The excited responses from the live callers were riveting.  At the end of the program, radio listeners were invited to send in questions for a small fee, and he would do individual psychic readings. 

I told Marie.  We really weren’t into psychics, and doubtful.  But we’ve tried so many things, and it had been months since we lost the ring.  It would be so good if she could be wearing it while the baby is born.

So this was no small decision for us: The Hoy organization mailed to us the sign-up info on David Hoy, then we sent in $25 for an answer to a simple question:  Where do we look for the wedding ring? 

The reply arrived in a couple weeks.

Dear Gray and Marie,

I have concentrated on your question and have gotten this image.  I believe that Marie lost her ring somehow while she was undressing, and that it had fallen into a boot or a shoe.  I feel very strongly about this, and would appreciate it if you let me know if you had found the ring upon receiving this letter.” 

ESPecially yours,

Dr. David Hoy

This was great!  Marie had dress boots, including some that she might not have worn over the summer.  We dug through each pair.   And …weeks later, we were still looking through the boots and shoes, and shoeboxes and anything that might be near them. 

On August 12, 1979, Marie and I celebrated our first anniversary.  We went to Joe's Fish house for dinner, and later visited with Marie's parents to enjoy the top layer of our wedding cake.

On our first anniversary, Marie was five months pregnant, and no wedding ring

The baby is coming and we stop looking 
Winter came, then January.  Marie’s due date approached, and we had shifted the focus to the important topic of her pregnancy.  Many an evening was spent on the couch, with Marie or me reading literature about a baby stuff: pregnancy, birthing, prenatal care, infant care, and more: there are plenty of questions from first time parents.

One evening, January 31, 1980 to be exact, as I sat next to her, Marie said, “I don’t feel like reading tonight.  I am going to catch up with some knitting.”  She dumped out the contents of a white paper bag of yarn, knitting needles and a pattern – and something else.  It glistened.  She said excitedly, "Could it be? It is! My ring!"

We hugged. Sort of. Marie was practically dancing.   

The next evening, she went into labor.

The following morning, February 2, 1980, our first child was born.

The baby’s name is Sarita.

As seen in the delivery room: Mom, newborn baby girl Sarita and wedding ring.



1.      The Goldsmith who worked on the Manhattan Project
A few weeks later, we paid a visit to Howard.  He seemed embarassed by our story, and quickly agreed to resize the rings.  He called it an easy job and, of course, no charge.  If you look closely in the first image, you can see the join mark.

January, 2011.  I did a internet search on his name to make sure of the spelling, and found this biography of this amazing man.  In our short visits, we only heard two true stories; it turned out that he had many more.

News Death Notice
DUFOUR, Howard R. 94, of New Carlisle, Ohio passed away Sunday December 13, 2009. He was born January 10, 1915 in Connersville, Indiana the son of the late Lawrence & Fern (Bush) DuFour. He worked on the Manhattan Project in Chicago and was instrumental in developing the Atomic Bomb. He also authored a book with Peter Unit on Charles E. Taylor the (Wright Brothers Mechanician). Building the 1903 Wright Flyer for Wright State University was a lifelong dream fulfilled for Howard. In the years following the building of the flyer, Howard continued to amaze everyone with his energy, ability with tools, and love of life. He and his dedicated group of volunteers built three Wright gliders after the 1903 flyer. He also found time to travel around the country teaching people about Charlie Taylor, a man who possessed qualities that he loved best and had himself: curiosity, ingenuity, and an inventive spirit. Howard DuFour never met a stranger. He greeted everyone with a hug and became their friend after the first hello. He was a member and High Priest at the Church of Latter Day Saints, Huber Heights, OH. He was a retired master machinist from Monsanto and created the DuFour Machine Shop at Wright State University. He is survived by a son, Larry (Karen) DuFour of North Carolina; daughter, Jenny (Chuck) Clevell of New Carlisle; grandchildren, Lorrie DuFour, Kevin & Jason Dufour, Kurt Hodge & Ami Holbrook; six great grandchildren; and great great grandchildren; and many friends. In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by his wives, Opal Marie & Ruth Elizabeth. Howard's wish was for a graveside service only which will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday December 17, 2009 at New Carlisle Cemetery. Arrangements by the TROSTEL, CHAPMAN, DUNBAR & FRALEY FUNERAL HOME, New Carlisle, Ohio, 11545 Musselman Rd.. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the Wright State University Archives. Expressions of sympathy may be sent to

2.      The Psychic
In our case, David Hoy’s response seems off-the-mark. Or was it? His reply DID give us hope, and diverted us from a decision to get a replacement ring.

From MagicPedia:
"Dr. Faust / David Hoy (1930- April 2, 1981) Hoy was an ordained minister who started out using magic to illustrate concepts in the bible. After leaving the ministry he moved on to performing mentalism as Dr. Faust. He invented many clever and original mental effects, many using very bold tactics (like tossing a force deck out to the audience to peek at a card). Later in life, he represented himself as a genuine psychic, relying on institutions and perceptions. He claimed to use extrasensory perceptions helped him locate everything from lost rings to runaway children. He also made predictions for a weekly column that appeared in 340 newspapers."

The Saint

St. Anthony of Padua is venerated all over the world as the Patron Saint for lost articles, and is credited with many miracles involving lost people, lost things and even lost spiritual goods.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Learn these so you don't do the same 
by Gray 

If you are an experienced genealogist, then you have graduated way-y-y-y past these mistakes. As for me, the mistakes below are mine.  I own them. 

Uh-oh. Not safe to assume that other people's family trees are correct.
At the start, you should assume their research contains errors, and their work is not "the answer," so much as it is "useful." Think like a detective: Unless you can prove this information on your own, you are wise to keep your doubts.  Vet every bit of data you get rigorously.  

File:CousinTree kinship.svg

Errors I have made and have seen would make for a long list.  Some biggies include 
1) placing absolute trust in impeccable sources, 
2) conflating people together, 
3) attributing family stories to the wrong branch, and 
4) processing information (like old European political geography) through the lens of our own modern times.  

Consider that Great Story
Keep in mind that a story is just a "story."  It's a great start.  Still, you are searching for the Truth, which is often different, surprising, increasingly fascinating, and sometimes really delightful!  

Some Stories are Tall Tales.  Truth can reside more in the fun if not the facts.
As an adult, I have come to the bemused conclusion that, despite his claims, my great great father (he was called Grosspop) was not really a part of the Kaiser's personal guard.  On the other hand, the fact that he told that story to his little grandchildren does make him something of a character.  His name was George Anton Geisel.

Another Grosspop GEISEL story: his told the grandkids that he carried a bullet on his leg from the Franco-Prussian War. Then he would take a bullet out of his pants pocket and show it to them.   

Silly and engaging humor like that continues through the generations of my family.  His grandson (my Dad, Charlie) glued a dime onto a hatpin, and wore it, and called it his "dime-on-pin."

Uh, which Dorothea Koeberlein do you mean?  Our 2nd Great Grandma?  Her niece?  Her sister-in-law? 
Misidentifications happen, even among the most rigorous and sophisticated researchers.  Similar names in similar times can lead to confusion.  Expect it.

Here's an example: this is one of my misidentification. Hope you don't mind me saying, it was rigorously researched with the best information we had at the time.

The "Family Story" of Philomena Henn (with a MORAL at the end). - included information as we were told by our parents, aunts and uncles...

·         born: Philomena SUTTER (Husband to Joseph HENN),
·         Daughter of Margaretha-Philipina SUTTER,
·         Family came from "Alsace-Lorraine"
·         died: Dayton in 1941
·         Birthdate of 19 Jun 1859 - the funeral card stated she was born 10 years later, but that was a typo. She was age 91, not age 81 as stated on memorial card"

From the above family clues, we find this match from the LDS website
·         born: Philomena SUTTER
·         Born 19 Jun 1849
·         Town of Kogenheim, Alsace
Ta da!  A perfect fit!  

um...too bad it was wrong!

Subsequent research changed the picture, as we repeatedly encountered conflicting data as we solidified  the documentation  (you know, the usual: census, death certificates, marriage data, etc.) .

·         born: Philomena KLEIN
·         Daughter of the late John KLEIN and Margaretha-Philipina SUTTER (nee HUSSONG, married KLEIN, and re-married SUTTER)
·         Born 19 Jun 1859
·         Town of Bierbach, Saarland
·         The mother is of the family HUSSONG; which migrated to Germany from Lorraine
Ta da!  After lengthy, pains-taking research.  A much better fit!  Perfect? At least for now, I consider this correct!

Moral of the Story: 
The research can fit together perfectly, and be wrong.

My Escaped Beast: A dumb thing I did took a life of its own
Do you remember the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode where a new, independent life-form escapes from the hologram chamber?  Well, in a way, I did that.  

In a quick and frantic e-mail exchange, I relented and gave my GEDCOM file to my cousin's young daughter after her computer crashed and she lost her work.  Bad decision. Wha' ya think would happen next?:  She posted an open and free download access to it on the internet - errors and all, including the mis-ID on Philomena. Consequently, that error (and a slew of others) has escaped to cyber-space.

It is still out there with all its falsehoods, roaming wild, and making connections of its own.  I now refer to that file as  

"My Wild Beast GEDCOM."
Fiction-spreading Beasts are lurking in cyber-space!

Now let's talk about the "Geography of Europe"  We'll also stop discussing morals.

What town is your family from? In what country?
Hate to tell you this, but town name and country is not enough to go on. Google maps (great tool) is not enough to go on. Via Michelin (another great tool) is also not enough to go on.  I like Via Michelin a little better, as it will give you multiple choices and a drill-down when you enter a town name.

Example #1 My GGGM is from Mimbach, Bavaria, Germany.  Where exactly is that? Here are some choices:

1) Mimbach, Saarland  (CORRECT ANSWER - YES, it is) 49° 13' 60 N , 7° 16' 0 E
2) Mimbach, Bavaria/Bayern 49° 31' 0" N, 11° 52' 0" E (this was deceptively incorrect, as the above Mimbach, Saarland was part of Bavaria at the time of my GGGM, and showed up as "Bavaria" in legal documents. In other words, it was indeed Mimbach, Bavaria at the time, the town by that name is still there today, but a map of today's Bavaria no longer includes this region.)
3) Mimbach, Rheinland-Pfalz  near Wattweiler 49°14'0"N / 7°19'0"E

Example #2 My GGGF is from Pfannenstiel, Germany.  Where is that?
here's a pic

 Here are some choices:
1) Pfannenstiel, Bavaria/Bayern;
2) Pfannenstiel, but not found in Google Maps nor Via Michelin and now actually called Fachsenfeld.  (CORRECT ANSWER - it's not on the map, but the locals will sometimes use the old Pfannenstiel name for this present-day neighborhood in the larger city of Aalen, Baden-Wuerttemmberg,)

The town name in the family bible, death certificate or military draft document, etc. is helpful.  It's a start, but modern maps may well confuse rather than clarify. It's up to you to figure out where it is.

Now, give me that again:  How exactly do you spell your name?
Name changes happen all the time. It's easy and so common that personal records over time can look like different people. In my recordkeeping, names change from given to middle, sometimes the spelling will change, nicknames come in, and obvious misspellings.  Like baseball cards, I collect them all.  These are the  "AKAs" in my genealogy software package.

Zooming in to the front: the Morphing of Given Names 
Here are examples of  altered given names from my Tree.
  •  MINNIE from Minneapolis, Wilhelmenia, Philomena, Phillipina
  • PHILOMENA from Minnie from Phillipina (same person)
  • WALTER from Valentine, Valtin
  • JOHN from Johann, Johannes
  • JOSEPH from Johann-Josef (Josef as middle name).

Zooming in to the rear: the Morphing of Surnames
Here are examples of altered surnames from my Tree.  Some of them are quite cringe-worthy!

2.      HUSSON (French) into HUSSONG (German)
6.      FRANZ into FRANTZ, FRANY
9.      GEISEL into GEASEL

Reasons for Surname name changes include
  • Spelling convention from German to English   (WAIZMANN into WAITZMAN) 
  • Spelling convention from French to German (HUSSON into HUSSONG)
  •  Translation from French to German(MEUNIER into GOELTZER 
    • in English, this means: miller, or "grinder of grain")
  •  Conscious decision to differentiate legally from other family member (HENN into HENNE) 
    • in this case, two brothers lived at the same address; their wives had the identical and unusual given names, leading to confusion to outsiders (like bill collectors).
  •   Typed transcriptions of difficult handwriting (FRANZ into FRANY; HUSSONG into HURFONG; HAUENSTEIN into HANENSTEIN) - this is so common
  •  Mispronunced and then spelled wrong (GEISEL into GEASEL) 

 Strange but true: Two diffferent Surnames with identical spelling
  • WAITZMAN - a unique Old North Dayton name that is a morph of German WAIZMANN
  • WAITZMAN - a Jewish Eastern European name associated with Ukraine, Russia, Poland

The Personalities of Genealogists.  With this, you have been warned.
People rightly take a strong sense of ownership in their work, so not every researcher will be glad to be informed of your corrections or even your questions. The reality of life is that there are all sorts of personalities in this world.  In your pursuit of genealogy, you will find one of each.  We are all really nice people most of the time.
Yikes! Agglomerators: The Borg of Cyber-Space.  
You might prefer to steer clear of the on-line "agglomerators". These are people who do not actually research their data.  Nor do they vet the sources.  Instead, they are focused on amassing a really, really huge interconnected genfile.  They hungrily link into family trees regardless of the blood-relationship to themselves.  An in-law of an in-law is fair game, as they help connect different trees together.  "Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated." 

Recently, a dreaded "Agglomerator "sent me information from my "Wild Beast GEDCOM," and then asked me to add to it.

There is no substitute to gum-shoeing.  You are more than just a compiler of work that others have done.  So you will go to courthouses, cemeteries, churches and visit old distant living cousins.  You will do primary research that no one else will do. Why? Because you are a detective, and that is what detectives do. This is honorable.

Web Research Spots that I like 
The Genealogy Blog sites - these folks are writing, not just compiling.  Much of it as at a level of sophistication that causes me to look in awe. Will I ever be worthy? 
·         LDS Family Search - free/  LDS Pilot Project - free.  I love the Mormons.
·         Southwest German Emigration site (for Baden-Wuerttemberg) - free (a good fit for me!)
· (French / German) free (another good fit for me)

·         That really large genealogy company that is gobbling up every small genealogy web service in sight.  I have very mixed feelings.  (Sorry).   On the downside, this can be a risky place to look for information because 
  1. it is highly populated with beastly, error-laden trees that been put together by beginners, (they DO make it so easy for you to get started) 
  2. they will try to charge you for information that can be found elsewhere for free. 
  3. they have tried to sell me info that I (me! mysef!) had compiled and posted on their sites.  Arrrrgh!

On the BIG upside, it's a great place to connect with other researchers.  My cousin from the Arizona-Mexico border visited with us in Dayton recently with her family.  Our wonderful friendship blossomed from meeting at a website like this.

Well, there it is:  Wisdom or rant? You be the judge.
Happy Researching!   

All errors contained above are mine!

Monday, January 17, 2011

When the Writers Block is Broken

On the way: 1) Revealed: the true origin of the term "panhandler" 2)  Discoveries in an old canal house 3) A young girl remembers the Wright Brothers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What If Your Name Is Mud?

by Gray

Part I: So the story goes...

This is an old story about a troubled family name and the assassination of the President.  This surname is in the family of Abraham Lincoln as well as the family of my wife. 

Image by D. Van Nostrand, 1865. Courtesy of The General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

The year was 1865. 
The Civil War ended only months before.  President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated by a stage actor named John Wilkes Booth. The killer and cohorts were captured after a massive search. 

In their grief, the American public learned of Dr. Samuel Mudd. Although he denied any bad intentions towards the President, he could not deny that he had met with Booth months earlier. Nor could he deny that, hours after the assassination, they had met again in his Maryland home, not far from Washington, D.C.  Dr. Mudd had treated and set the broken leg of Lincoln’s assassin, allowed him and his accomplice, David Herold, to spend the night, and then sent them on their way.  

Dr. Samuel A. Mudd.  source: Wikimedia commons. Library of Congress Photograph

Dr. Mudd was tried and convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of the President. He received a life sentence at hard labor, and was transported by ship to a federal prison called Fort Jefferson.  This prison is located within a group of remote islands known as the Dry Tortugas, located 70 miles west of Key West, Florida.  The islands and the prison facilites remain today, as part of the Dry Tortugas National Park.

 Fort Jefferson Federal Prison.

Imprisoned for life on a small island miles from nowhere, with no hope of escape, Dr. Samuel Mudd was gone.

He was certainly not forgotten. Mudd’s name continued in conversations among the American people in a special way. A despised, discredited or unpopular person could be described with these words: 

“His name is Mud.” 

That expression continues to this day, or so the story goes. 

But there is much more to this story.

Part II. Mud and Mudd before and after 1865

English cows in English mud. 
Kine at the fodder by Waulkmill, Torphins 2007 source:

1)       It was already an old expression. “His name is mud” was already an expression before Samuel Mudd was born.  In an 1823 English publication, it carried the meaning of “he is a stupid, twaddling fellow.”   The events of 1865 had injected new meaning and intensity into the phrase, from “stupid” to “despicable.” Source: (from John Badcock's (aka 'J. Bee’) Slang - A dictionary of the turf etc., 1823)

2)   Mudd’s guilt is disputed. As my wife's family can tell you, the debate continues to this day on Mudd’s personal guilt in Lincoln’s death. Some of his neighbors thought of him as Unionist, but there was no doubt of his slave ownership. 

3)   Mudd received a Presidential pardon. In 1867, a yellow fever epidemic broke out in the prison colony on Fort Jefferson. Dr. Mudd was credited for saving lives of prisoners and staff, at great risk to his own. In 1869, during his last days in office, President Andrew Johnson issued a pardon for Mudd, and he was released. 

Lincoln's own close connection to the Mudd family. 
There is a sad irony in the linking of the surname Mudd to the murder of Abraham Lincoln.  If Samuel Mudd and Lincoln could have met under the right circumstances, Abe might have happily brought up his close friendship in Illinois with Henry Luke Mudd, a distant cousin to Dr. Mudd.  

Lincoln’s uncle was married to Henry’s aunt.  Abe Lincoln and Henry Mudd were thus cousins by marriage. President Lincoln had offered his friend Henry Mudd a job in Washington DC, but he declined, preferring to remain in Illinois.   source:   

My wife's connection to the Mudd family. 
I know the Mudd family as gentle, hard-working, sweet-natured, deeply religious, salt-of-the-earth type people.  My wife, Marie, is a Mudd. Her grandmother was born Rose Mudd of Kansas. Her son had moved to Dayton, Ohio to work for the Mudd furniture store. The locally owned Dayton business has been gone for years; some Mudd Furniture Showrooms are found now in Kentucky. 

Post Scripts:

1. Historic Fort Jefferson is the largest masonary structure in the Western Hemisphere, and the second largest in the world (after the Great Wall of China). It is composed of over 16 million bricks and contains over two-thousand masonary arches.  Because of their remote location, Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas rank among the least-visited of the U.S. National Parks.

2. The 1993 music video “My name is mud” was released by alternative rock band Primus from their album Pork Soda.  Like the soda, this music is not everyone’s taste; the imagery is disturbing, but it starts with some pretty good licks on bass. In 2010, Primus re-cut this song in Spanish.

3. A Witness to the Assassination participated in a gameshow in the 1950s.  This link takes you to the video