Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mr. Tudball, I mean Tidball

I have no idea how the writers for the Carol Burnett Show (1967-78) came up with the name Tudball for the character played so hilariously by Tim Conway. Mr. Tudball was a small businessman trying to run an efficient office with the help of his clueless secretary, Mrs. Wiggins (Carol Burnett).

In about the middle of the run of this classic comedy TV show, I married Ms. Tidball -- not Tudball, but close. The hilarious Mr. Tudball skits were aired sometime between 1975 and 1978. We watched the show every week, so you would think that the similarity of the two names would have struck me or her. As best as we can remember, we never thought anything of it. But, you see, this was nearly 15 years before I knew genealogy even existed.

We (my wife and I) knew the Tidball family came from England in the 1880s, but not much more. Back in those days (a distant past known as the 1990s), one of the best sources for genealogy research was the International Genealogical Index -- on microfiche. There, in the IGI, was the name Tidball, predominately in Somerset in Southwest England. As I followed these leads, I soon discovered the Tudball name in some of the same parishes. Fairly obviously, Tidball and Tudball are variants of the  same name. A modern topographic map shows Tudball’s Splats, a set of enclosed fields about 2 miles southwest of Withypool in what is now Exmoor National Park. No one knows how long this place has carried the Tudball name, but the Tudball spelling probably dates from the 1500s or 1600s.

My father-in-law's family history notes suggested the family came from Wales and vaguely suggested that the name Tidball referred to the keeper of something called the tide ball. Such a thing does, or did, exist. It was a ball that was raised to tell ship captains when the tide was high enough for a ship to safely enter a harbor. Presumably, harbors did have tide ball-keepers. The Somerset Tidballs lived within 25 miles of the sea, and at least one Tidball family settled on the Welsh coast, but no evidence has been found to suggest the family name has anything to do with tide balls.

As future posts will explain, my wife's Tidball family traces back to a Thomas Tidboald -- another variation of the name. Other names, including Tidbald, Tedball, Tudbold, and Tudboll are likely also variants of the same name. Several surname dictionaries state that these names derived from the Germanic name Theobald, possibly arriving from northeastern France after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.One source says the name Tidball is of early medieval French origin, commonly occurring as Tebald or Tibalt (old French Teoband and Tibaut), all deriving from Theobald – derived from Germanic roots -- “theudo” meaning “people,” and “bald,” meaning bold or brave.

According to a Wikipedia article, Tim Conway's Mr. Tudball character was widely thought to be Swedish, but Conway said he used his mother's Romanian accent. Obviously, the comedy writers thought the name might be good for a few laughs, and they might even have thought they had come up with a nonsense name that could not possibly offend anyone. Now, we can set the record straight: Tudball (and the variant Tidball) is a perfectly good English name -- and, I doubt anyone was seriously offended.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Don't Know Much about Philosophy

Don't know much about philosophy. Wow... now, I have the tune from Sam Cooke's 1960 "Wonderful World" song (You can look it up) stuck in my head.

But, today I am risking thinking about philosophy because, on my flight home from SCGS Jamboree, I read Stephen Hatton's article about philosophy and genealogy in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly ("Thinking Philosophically About Genealogy," NGSQ, March 2016, 5-18).

Hatton argues that philosophy can do five things for genealogy:

  • Deepen understanding of genealogy and its key concepts and presuppositions,
  • Support genealogy's theoretical grounding,
  • Produce a more firm foundation for the Genealogical Proof Standard GPS),
  • Increase appreciation of research challenges and common errors, and
  • Improve relations with other disciplines, which might improve genealogy's standing in academia.
 Like I said, I don't know much about philosophy, but it does seems pretty important to me. Wikipedia tells me that classic philosophical questions include those of whether it is possible to know anything, or to prove its existence. As a genealogist, that sounds like a pretty core question to me. In fact, I often open genealogy lectures with a slide simply asking HDYKWYTYK? -- How do you know what you think you know?

Hatton's article explores the ontology of genealogy. "Ontology" is not I word I feel very comfortable with, but I understand it to mean something about the study of the nature of things that exist -- and therefore can be talked about and studied. Hatton suggests three ontological views of the human subjects (mostly dead) that genealogists study. They can be a "substance" with properties, a "lived being" with passions, or an entity (person) shaped by events. What I get out of the ensuing discussion is that people can be thought of as objects that have qualities, stand in relationship to each other, and both affect and are affected by events. This is a very generalized summary that very possibly does not do justice to Hatton's discussion. You need to read the article for yourself.

Hatton states that practitioners of genealogy and philosophy have yet to interact. That is probably mostly true, especially in the higher altitudes of academe. Yet, I would argue that genealogists who have contributed to the GPS and accompanying standards have done a good deal of philosophical thinking. In fact, I have known many genealogists who seem capable of thinking philosophically about genealogy without being in the same room with a philosopher. Hatton also contends that genealogy "has not sufficiently provided its own theoretical grounding," adding that "Ground refers to what is fundamental, from which other things derive and are understood, explained, and built" (p. 8). Again, I am certain genealogy can do better, but I do think we have made significant progress.

When Craig Scott and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy issued a call for colloquium papers that would "advance the theory of genealogy," I stuck my neck and and submitted a paper that discussed genealogical education, evidence-based genealogy, and genealogy's place in the "knowledge world." I suggested that an important step toward making genealogy a credible discipline was to define core concepts. I suggested six: maternity and paternity, lineage, ancestry, kinship, heritage, and biography.
I don't think I said much that others hadn't already thought, but if you are interested in these kinds of ideas and the kinds of question that Hatton raises, you might want to check out my article ---"The GPS and Beyond: Challenges for a Genealogy Profession," Crossroads, Spring 2015, 18-25).

I am certain that other genealogists around the world are having lively discussions about the philosophy of genealogy, but I don't hear a lot about those discussions from where I sit. I hope those discussions continue and grow.

I don't think I have a lot more to say about this topic, so I might not return to it in this blog any time soon. Rather, I am thinking I will start in on the Tidball family saga -- which puts me in mind of Tim Conway's Mr. Tudball character on the Carol Burnett show! O.K., that should get "Wonderful World" out of my head.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Katharyn was Buried THERE?

By 1900, the George Fawkner family had made it across half a continent from Indiana to California. Fairie Fawkner had married the son of the Minnesota State Auditor, Herbert Braden, who went west to be an "orchardist" in Ontario, California. Fairie's father, George, had died in San Francisco in 1897, and his body was shipped to Ontario for burial. After George's death, his widow and Fairie's sister, Katharyn, went west to be near the Bradens. Herbert died in 1903; Fairie died in 1910. Katharyn and her mother went east to Chicago for a few years (evidence: 1910 census and 1913 death certificate of Fairie's daughter, Genevieve).

Sometime after 1913, Mary and Katharyn returned to Southern California, but they left a faint trail until Katharyn died in 1954. Her death certificate offered a surprise. Burial was to be at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City. Why THERE? Apart from her birth in Indiana, Katharyn had never lived east of Chicago.

The cemetery record was revealing. Katharyn Fawkner and Mary C. Fawkner (died 1931 in Los Angeles) had been interred in lot 16198 in the Clover plot in Section 153 -- alongside Aurie Dell Black. The lot owner was Herbert S. Carpenter, Arthur J. Singer, and the Farmer Loan and Trust Company, executors of the estate of Aurie Dell Black. The cemetery record indicates that bequest no. 1,623 of Aurie's will limited burials in the plot to the three women.

Who in the world was Aurie Dell Black, and why did her will provide for the burial of Katharyn and her mother? There are shorter ways to the answer, but my route started with Aurie's name. I'm not sure why, but I felt like I had seen the name before. Actually, I had not, but my memory took me back to the 1880 census enumeration of Katharyn and her parents in St. Paul, Minnesota. There, with the family of George S. Fawkner, was a niece, "A. D. Walker," 19, born in Indiana.

I knew the Fawkner family inside out, so was pretty certain Ms. Walker was a niece on Katharyn's mother's side of the family. George Fawkner had married Mary Burks in Hendricks County, Indiana, in 1866.  It was easy to find that Mary had a sister Rhoda, who had married William Walker in 1856. In 1870, "Orsa" Walker, 9, was living with the A.P. Burk family in Tuscola, Illinois -- the same town where the George Fawkner family lived. I don't know what, but something had apparently happened to place Orsa, or Aurie, with her grandparents in 1870, and with her Aunt Mary in 1880.

Aurie Dell Walker married John Austin Black in 1895 back in Indianapolis. Black became a wealthy stock broker in New York City. Aurie's September 1922 passport application indicated the couple had divorced. I don't know the details, but after the divorce, Aurie had the means to live at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, where shed died in 1926. She also apparently maintained control of the Woodlawn Cemetery lot, allowing her to reserve space for her aunt and cousin.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Jamboree Withdrawal

If you've ever attended a lively genealogy conference, you'll understand how the post-conference effect. After two or three days of info-packed and provocative (in a good way) presentations, the genealogy center in your brain feels fully caffeinated. You have more ideas for research (and analysis) than you can handle -- or at least enough to last you until the next conference. You also have come home with new friends and enriched old friendships. And, if you spent a half-day in Hollywood, you also might suffer a bit from culture shock when you get home.

That pretty much describes how I feel after being home less than 12 hours from the Southern California Genealogical Society's 2016 Jamboree.  "Jamboree" is a good word for this event -- it has a sort of festival feeling to it. My three presentations went well (I hate to think of them as lectures), and I enjoyed good company.

My presentations were infused with many Fawkner family stories, including the mystery of why Katharyn Fawkner, who lived most of her adult life in the Los Angeles area and never lived east of Indianapolis, was buried in New York City. This new "Why THERE?" presentation is already one of my favorites. This week's regular Thursday Blogsday blog will tell Katharyn's story. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Marriages of Jennie and Fairie Fawkner

Five years after Jennie Fawkner's young suitor, Albert Drake, shot himself on a St. Paul street in 1882 (May 19 post), Jennie said yes to a more promising proposal. She married Thomas Parker Pease in a "quiet wedding" in the Fawkner home in September 1887, officiated by G. L. Brokaw of the Christian church.

MN Historical Society microfilm
Tragedy paid another visit only 15 months later when Jennie died in December 1888. The three-sentence news report stated, "Mrs. Pease was well known in social circles. She was but twenty-two years of age, having been married little more than a year." (St. Paul Daily Globe, 10 December 1888, p. 2). She undoubtedly died of child birth complications, because the Ramsey County death registration reported the death of "Baby Pease" the same day. Jennie died of eclamplesia, a complication of high blood pressure that can cause seizures or coma in pregnant women.

Jennie's sisters, Fairibelle and Katharyn, were 19 and 11, respectively, when Jennie died. Though surely deeply touched by their sister's death, they enjoyed promising teen years. Scattered newspaper reports give some hint of the Fawkner's rise in status during this time. In June 1887, Fairie attended the season opening event at the Hotel Lafayette on Lake Minnetonka (a fashionable resort west of Minneapolis) for Minneapolis and St. Paul "belles and beaux" (Daily Globe 26 June 1887, p. 5).  In the fall of 1891, Miss "Faery" Fawkner gave "a charming little tea party"for three guests. Eligible young men were invited for the evening -- the young people "danced and talked and enjoyed themselves in the simplest and most delightful fashion imaginable." Among they young men were Capt. Braden, and Tom and Will Pease -- possibly Jennie's widowed husband and his brother.

In January 1892, Fairy performed in a benefit performance "Fantasma of Flowers" for the Christian chapel (Daily Globe, 10 January 1892). Katharyn, still a teenager, enrolled in a course in painting at St. Joseph's Academy, making an "enviable reputation as an artist in the school" (Daily Globe, 9 April 1893).

George Fawkner apparently made some political connections -- possibly through his wife's family or the GAR -- because he was appointed a special agent of surveys for the General Land Office in June 1889 (under the Harrison administration). Her father's political connections might have helped Fairie take a step up in status. She married Herbert C. Braden 26 October 1892. Herbert's father, William, was Minnesota State Auditor from 1882 to 1890.

At least three accounts in the St. Paul Daily Globe gave slightly different accounts of the Wednesday "high noon" wedding in the Fawkner home.

  • The Daily Globe (23 October 1892) reported that "a wedding that will of of much interest to St. Paul people" would take place at 12 o'clock noon Wednesday, 26 October, at the Christian chapel at the corner of Nelson and Farrington Avenues. A wedding trip to Duluth and West Superior was planned. After 10 days back in St. Paul, Herbert and Fairie would make their home in Osburn, Idaho.
  • A longer story after the wedding said the couple would live in Montana. The groom was described as "Capt. Braden's handsome son." The chapel was "prettily trimmed with palms," and even though no cards were sent out, "the room was crowded to the doors" as the wedding march was "swiftly played" (Daily Globe, 27 October 1892).
  •  The 30 October Sunday edition stated that  bride was the daughter of a "prominent army officer" -- not true to this blogger's knowledge.
MN Historical Society microfilm
The bride's gown was "a traveling costume of sage green wool crepe, trimmed with wool of a lighter shade." Her hat was "a delightlful creation of shaded green ribbons and plumes and velvet." She carried a bouquet of American Beauty roses. Fairie's sister, Kate, carried La France roses and wore gray wool and a gray felt hat.

Herbert Braden's father, as State Auditor, was closely involved with the timber industry in northern Minnesota -- possibly an explanation for Herbert's plans to go west to Osburn, Idaho. He and Fairie did not stay there long. By the time of the 1897 death of Fairie's father in San Francisco, the Bradens were in Ontario, California -- east of Los Angeles. The 1900 census identified him as an "orchardist." Herbert died there 20 June 1903. Though he had been in California since at least 1897, hid death warranted an obituary in the St. Paul Globe.

"Bert" Braden, as he was familarily [sic] called by his friends here, was a son of Former State Auditor W. W. Braden and was, during his residence here, quite prominent in the national guard. He was captain of Company C. in the First regiment, and later a major in the Third Regiment. H was a member of the Sons of Veterans and prominent in the Loyal Legion. (St. Paul Globe, 21 June 1903, p. 16, col. 1).

Fairie died in Chicago in 1910, but was buried alongside Herbert in Bellevue Memorial Park in Ontario. The 1910 census enumerated Fairie's daughter Genevieve with Mary, 69, and "Katherine" Fawkner, 28, in Chicago. Genevieve died from "tuberculosis of hip joint" in Chicago in 1913. Mary Fawkner died in Los Angeles in 1931. Katharyn also returned to California, where she died in 1954.

This is not quite the end of the story. In one of my presentations at the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree in Burbank this weekend, I will be sharing the story of why Katharyn was buried across the continent in New York City. My plans are to re-tell the story in next week's blog.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What Next? SCGS Jamboree!

Several recent posts have featured the family of George S. Fawkner, who was born in Indiana, fought in the Civil War, married and took his family to Illinois and Minnesota, traveled the West as a government land inspector, and died alone in San Francisco in 1897.

George had three daughters.

  • Jennie escaped possible murder as a teenager (May 19 post), married Thomas Parker Pease in 1887, and died from childbirth complications in 1888. The baby also died.
  • Fariebelle married Herbert Braden in 1892 in St. Paul. He died in California in 1903, leaving Farie with a young child -- who, in turn, died unmarried at age 19 in Chicago.
  • Katharyn never married and, to the best of anyone's knowledge, had no children. She died in Los Angeles in 1954 at age 76 -- even though her death certificate said she was only 70.
That's right, George S. Fawkner has no descendants. But, he had nephews and nieces and cousins, which makes him a part of many people's family history.

This week's post, scheduled for June 2, will tell more of the story of Jennie, Fariebelle, and Katharyn. This weekend, one of my presentations at the Southern California Genealogical Societies Jamboree 2016 ( will feature the story of how Katharyn, who had never lived east  of Indianapolis, came to be buried in New York City after her death in California.

See you in Burbank!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

"A Pernicious Habit"

St. Paul Globe, 14 May 1882, p. 10; Chronicling America image
If you read last week's post, you know the tragic ending of the teenage romance of Jennie Fawkner and Albert Drake. More than 130 years later, a reader of the article in the St. Paul Daily Globe can not know how faithfully the facts were reported, but the essential fact is clear -- a 16 year-old boy died on the streets of St. Paul as result of a romance gone sour.

The boy was far too young to die. Both families must have been devastated. This is real family history that can never be totally swept under the carpet.

The incident occurred on a downtown street, in broad public view. The front page coverage surely made the incident the talk of the town. A gun was involved. This was not the wild west; this was St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota, nearly 25 years after statehood. In the next issue of the Globe (14 May 1882, p. 10), a stirring letter to the editor spoke to an issue that is with us yet today.

 Apropos to the untimely end of young Drake by suicide... is it not about time for the proper authorities to initiate more stringent measures to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapon[?] It is true that the law forbidding it exists, but it is equally true that it is, with rare exception, a dead letter upon our statutes... or city laws.

The anonymous letter writer asserted that as many as two-thirds of all boys 14 and older carried weapons, and urged the police to make "sudden and unannounced" searches for the weapons.

St. Paul Globe, 14 May 1882, p. 10; Chronicling America image

He (or she) added:

There seems to be a morbid desire in our youth to be the owner of such an implement of death; he seems to attach a certain greatness to it; it makes him feel like a man! Ah, there's the rub! Men set the example and youth is bound to imitate. The question naturally arises, "Why do so many men carry concealed weapons?"

 The writer acknowledged that "the law-abiding and orderly class of citizens" feel the need to carry guns for self-defense, but went on to lambast lawyers for using the law to protect criminals.

The story and the letter are eerily similar to stories and commentaries we read today -- although today drugs or gang grievances might be involved. This is a nonpolitical blog -- or nearly so. Opinions varied then and opinions vary now. I draw two lessons from the newspaper story and the letter to the editor. First, newspapers are a wonderful source for getting a feel for the places and times our ancestors lived. Second, today is not as different from the past as we like to think.