Historically and Genetically Speaking, I Guess I’m Naturally Frank

Germanic KingdomsMy dad’s name is Frank.  I wonder from whom/where his name came?  Well, it might have been from some of our earliest ancestors who just happened to be a bunch of King and Queens who ruled “the territory of the Franks.”

The Sicambri, also known as the Sugambri or Sicambrians, were a Germanic people who during Roman times lived on the right bank of the Rhine river, in what is now Germany, near the border with the Netherlands. They were first reported by Julius Caesar.  Whether or not the Sicambri spoke a Germanic or Celtic language, or something else, is not certain, because they lived in the so-called Nordwestblock zone where these two language families came into contact and were both influential.

By the 3rd century that region became part of the territory of the Franks, which was a new name that possibly represented a new alliance of older tribes, possibly including the Sicambri.  This area became known as Gaul, and is today France and lower Germany from farther east.

Members of the Merovingian Dynasty

Merovinginian DynastyIf we were to believe the writings about the Merovingian Dynasty by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln in their controversial and international best seller, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail first publishing in 1982, (which became the basis for Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code)  ipso facto we would also believe that the Sicambrians are a remnant of the Benjamites, the Tribe of Benjamin, one of the lost tribes of Israel.

Below is the believed descent of the Sicambrian-Franks from Abraham to King Clovis I. And, highlighted in red you will find some of my paternal great grandfathers that date back into the first century.  For example, Clodius III is my 61st paternal great grandfather in my family tree.  This is not to say, however, that I have to buy into the Merovingian mythology.

Sicambrian-Franks Descent from Abraham to Clovis I

Abraham (Abram/(Ibrahim) = Sarah/Sarai daughter of Haran, Princess
Isaac son of  Abraham = Rebekah daughter of Bethuel
Jacob (Israel) son of isaac, King of Goshen = Leah daughter of Laban
Juda (Judas) son of Jacob = Tamur
Zarah (Zehrah, Zarah) ben Judah = Electra
Dara/Dardanus, King of Arcadia = Batea “Basia Asia” of Teucri
Erichthonius, King of Arcadia = Astyoche of Arcadia
Tros (Trois) of Arcadia, King of Troy = Callirhoe
Illus (Illyus), King of Troy = Eurydice (Eruidike) of Troy
Laomedan, King of Troy = Placia of Troy
Priam Podarces, High King of Troy = Hecuba (Hecabe) of Phrygia
Helenus of Troy, King of the Scythians
Genger of the Scythians
Franco of the Scythians
Esdron Trojan
Gelio (Gelso Zelis), Trojan
Bosabiliano, Basebelian I, Trojan
Plaserio, Plaserius I, Trojan
Eliacor, the Trojan
Gaberiano (Zaberian) the Trojan
Plaserius II, the Trojan
Antenor I, the Trojan
Priam II Trianus, the Trojan
Helenus II Trojan, King of Troy
Plesron II Trojan, King of Troy
Basebelian II Trojan, King of Troy
Alexandre Trojan, King of Troy
Priam III, King of the Cimmerians
Gentilanor of the Cimmerians
Almadius, King of the Cimmerians
Dilulius I, King of the Cimmerians
Helenus III, King of the Cimmerians
Plaserius III, King of the Cimmerians
Dilulius II (Dilugio), King of the Cimmerians
Marcomir, King of the Cimmerians
Priam IV, King of the Cimmerians
Helenus IV (V), King of the Cimmerians
Antenor I, Prince of the Cimmerians
Marcomir I, King of the Sicambri
Antenor II of the Sicambri, King of the Cimmerians = Cambra
Priamus, King of the Sicambri
Helenus V, King of the Sicambri
Diocles of the Sicambri
Bassanus Magnus, King of the Sicambri
Clodomir I , King of the Sicambri
Nicanor I, King of the Sicambri
Marcomir II, King of the Sicambri
Clodius I, King of the Sicambri
Antenor III, King of the Sicambri
Clodomir II, King of the Sicambri
Merodochus, King of the Sicambri
Cassander of the Sicambri
Anthanius, King of the Sicambri
Francus/Francios, King of the West Franks
Clodius II, King of the Franks
Marcomir III, King of the Franks
Clodomir III, King of the Franks
Antenor IV, King of the Franks
Ratherius, King of the Franks = Grotte, Queen of the Franks
Richemir I, King of the Franks = Ascyla of the Franks
Odomir, King of the Franks
Marcomir of Franks
Clodomir IV, King of the Franks = Athildis, Princess of the Camulod/Britains, daughter
of Coel I of Camulod (Colchester), Prince of Siluria, whose connection to Abraham is shown elsewhere in this Weblet.
Farabert/Pharibert/Faribert of the Franks
Sunno (Huano, Hunno), King of the Franks
Childeric (Hilderic), King of the Franks
Bartherus, King of the Franks
Clodius III, King of the East Franks
Walter/Gautier, King of the Franks
Dagobert I, King of the East Franks
Clodomir IV of the Franks
Richemir, King of the Franks = Nastila/Hestila
Theodomir, King of the Franks
Clodius V of the Franks
Dagobert of the Salic Franks
Genebald/Genobaud of the Salic Franks
Argotta of the Sicambri, Princess of the East = Pharamond, 1st King of all the Franks
Clodion “the Long-haired” of Tournai, King of the Salic Franks = Basina I of Thuringia
Merovee = Siegse
Merovee/Meroveus “The Young,” (436 CE – 481 CE), King of the Salian Franks = Meira?Childeric I, King of the Salian Franks = Basina II Andovera, Queen of Thuringia
Clovis I “the Great,” King of the Franks (abt 467 CE – 511 CE) = Clotilde, daughter of Chilperic II, King of Burgundy

I leave you with just a few bytes about King Clovis I.

More Than a Few Names or Mere Numbers

As an addendum to this week’s post What’s InTop 50 Family Surnames a Name?, I revised my Surname Report in Family Tree Maker™. This report shows that our family’s tree (including my spouse’s family) has 10,772 persons in it.  Of those persons (living and dead), 52 percent of them are male; making my database’s percentage of males three percentage points higher than the gender ratio in the 2010 U.S.Census of Population and Housing.  And, those 10,772 persons are related within the 2,170 surnames.

Largest Family Based Upon Surname

The largest number of families within the surname report originated within my maternal grandmother’s family.  The majority of  this family branch spelled their name as “Lathrop.”  Although, there were two other variations of this surname spelling (“Lothrop” and “Lathrope”) presented among the various data collections included in our tree of facts.  There were, in fact, 478 Lathrop families; 53 percent of these family members were male.  The Lathrop family name spans the years:  1450-1929 in our family’s history.

Similarly, the “Bowling” name, or the other 12 versions of its spelling dated from as early as 890 AD in France, where the family was known as the DeBoulogne’s.  Our most recent family members who spelled their name “DeBoulogne” date back to 1863.  This spelling spanned the years 891 AD – 1863:  972 years–just shy of a century!  The other spelling variations included among our tree of facts:   Baroling, Billung, Bolding, Boling, Boleine, Bollyng, Boulding, Bouldinge; Boulogne,  Bowlding, Deboulogne, and De Bolling.

Earliest and Newest People

The earliest entries of people in this report date back to 8 A.D. to Charlemagne (my 43rd great grandfather) and his son Louis the Pious of France (my 43rd great uncle).  The newest member of our family, Alaina Hazel, part of the Dickinson clan, blessed us with her appearance in April 2014–our third great grandchild.

Getting Past the Mere Numbers

Getting past the discussion of mere numbers, my somewhat random method for subject posts suddenly gets very logical. That is, my nearly 200 posts to date have focused on surnames that appear within the Top 50 Family Surnames in my word cloud, above.  [To create the word cloud I used wordle.net (advanced) with some simple word ratios (exported from my Family Tree Surname report into Excel).]

Estimated Ethnicity

Based upon my DNA testing, a map of today shown below, displays the countries from which my families migrated: Great Britain, Ireland, Europe West, and West Asia.

DNA Estimated Ethnicity

However, if we look back at a map of nearly 1,000 years ago to where many of my ancestors were before they migrated, we find ourselves near the end of the High Middle Ages (967 – 1050).   The world was divided into Kingdoms, Territories, Empires, and Dominions,Europe 1050 AD crusades abounded, and the Catholic Church in Europe was expanding its power base.  Here’s where the real stories first began.

For a detailed timeline that includes European history with interactive maps, I encourage you to visit worldology.com


What’s In a Name?

In Act II, Scene II  of Shakespeare’s 1597 play, Romeo and Juliet,  Juliet says in reference to Romeo’s surname, Montague, the following which would imply that his name means nothing and therefore they should be together…


O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.


[Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?


‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.


I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

Map: Six Decades of the Most Popular Names for Girls, State-by-State

I love infographics (graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly).  And today, I came upon the following map infographic at the site Jezebel.com.  What interested me most was the name Jennifer (my daughter’s name) which  first appeared in 1970 and remained the most popular name for 15 years before disappearing from the map altogether in 1984. Upon further research, I discovered that the name Jennifer was mostly used in Cornwall, England, before the 20th century (where most of my ancestors came from according to my DNA and my ancestry research). It became popular in all English-speaking countries, first in UK in the 1950s, and then in US as the top name for women born in 1970-1984.

Map: Six Decades of the Most Popular Names for Girls, State-by-State

Top Given Names Over the Last 100 Years

Likewise, in the Social Security Administration’s Annual Tally of Given Names, the name Jennifer was the third most popular given female name over the past one hundred years in the United States. Similarly, our eldest son is named Robert, and his name, too, was the third most popular given male name over the hundred year period.  And, looking for our youngest son’s name, Jeffrey, we find that his name also made the list at #29 over the hundred-year period.

My family today actually has more than our share of Brandon’s (#41 on the list).  We have one grandson, one great grandson, and one nephew all named Brandon and spanning three generations.  As I look over the lists of both males and females, though, I can find possibly only one name from each list that doesn’t seem within my family tree:  name #100 on both sides: Shawn and Crystal.  I guess that makes my family absolutely average, as far as naming conventions go.

So, below is the Social Security Administration’s table that shows the 100 most popular given names for male and female babies born 1914-2013. For each rank and sex, the table shows the name and the number of occurrences of that name. These time-tested popular names were taken from a universe that includes 169,233,019 male births and 165,941,917 female births.

Popular names for births in 1914-2013
Males Females
Rank Name Number Name Number
1 James 4,866,619 Mary 3,611,970
2 John 4,739,937 Patricia 1,566,673
3 Robert 4,663,044 Jennifer 1,461,186
4 Michael 4,274,035 Elizabeth 1,460,714
5 William 3,749,398 Linda 1,447,270
6 David 3,532,745 Barbara 1,419,954
7 Richard 2,514,061 Susan 1,107,871
8 Joseph 2,429,076 Margaret 1,075,828
9 Charles 2,202,425 Jessica 1,038,248
10 Thomas 2,189,914 Dorothy 1,009,728
11 Christopher 1,981,942 Sarah 996,176
12 Daniel 1,833,861 Karen 982,864
13 Matthew 1,535,504 Nancy 980,659
14 Donald 1,392,452 Betty 978,903
15 Anthony 1,374,826 Lisa 963,461
16 Paul 1,338,796 Sandra 871,935
17 Mark 1,337,781 Helen 839,049
18 George 1,279,176 Ashley 831,126
19 Steven 1,269,104 Donna 827,839
20 Kenneth 1,250,728 Kimberly 825,188
21 Andrew 1,220,464 Carol 813,104
22 Edward 1,183,885 Michelle 802,726
23 Joshua 1,162,595 Emily 776,588
24 Brian 1,155,378 Amanda 769,412
25 Kevin 1,147,194 Melissa 746,598
26 Ronald 1,073,055 Deborah 738,182
27 Timothy 1,055,093 Laura 737,287
28 Jason 1,008,367 Stephanie 732,475
29 Jeffrey 968,779 Rebecca 727,122
30 Gary 897,536 Sharon 720,198
31 Ryan 891,166 Cynthia 703,977
32 Nicholas 866,148 Kathleen 700,446
33 Eric 861,720 Ruth 690,702
34 Jacob 848,038 Anna 688,230
35 Stephen 842,384 Shirley 680,162
36 Jonathan 803,785 Amy 673,299
37 Larry 801,570 Angela 653,815
38 Frank 792,425 Virginia 605,681
39 Scott 766,917 Brenda 605,336
40 Justin 758,002 Pamela 593,379
41 Brandon 734,956 Catherine 589,636
42 Raymond 730,505 Katherine 584,301
43 Gregory 702,296 Nicole 577,390
44 Samuel 673,653 Christine 571,921
45 Benjamin 660,859 Janet 550,377
46 Patrick 654,333 Debra 550,114
47 Jack 624,651 Samantha 549,656
48 Dennis 611,088 Carolyn 547,182
49 Jerry 604,399 Rachel 543,294
50 Alexander 596,167 Heather 523,369
51 Tyler 564,635 Maria 520,013
52 Henry 552,764 Diane 517,239
53 Douglas 552,541 Frances 507,194
54 Peter 549,126 Joyce 503,943
55 Aaron 542,328 Julie 503,658
56 Walter 539,969 Emma 482,694
57 Jose 535,132 Evelyn 477,717
58 Adam 524,872 Martha 477,345
59 Zachary 513,121 Joan 477,063
60 Harold 510,935 Kelly 468,441
61 Nathan 503,723 Christina 468,006
62 Kyle 468,806 Lauren 456,337
63 Carl 467,691 Judith 449,584
64 Arthur 459,623 Alice 446,529
65 Gerald 440,160 Victoria 446,019
66 Roger 434,033 Doris 441,420
67 Lawrence 432,407 Ann 441,101
68 Keith 430,907 Jean 440,900
69 Albert 426,595 Cheryl 438,916
70 Jeremy 425,094 Marie 438,758
71 Terry 420,348 Megan 433,186
72 Joe 415,584 Kathryn 423,415
73 Sean 409,292 Andrea 420,518
74 Willie 401,244 Jacqueline 415,334
75 Jesse 387,718 Gloria 407,880
76 Austin 382,419 Teresa 406,116
77 Christian 381,911 Janice 403,901
78 Ralph 380,721 Sara 402,166
79 Billy 380,571 Rose 393,573
80 Bruce 376,305 Hannah 393,208
81 Bryan 369,632 Julia 392,864
82 Roy 366,779 Theresa 384,281
83 Eugene 357,110 Judy 380,857
84 Ethan 355,803 Grace 378,602
85 Louis 351,563 Beverly 375,754
86 Wayne 346,862 Denise 370,776
87 Jordan 345,140 Marilyn 367,206
88 Harry 342,952 Mildred 366,723
89 Russell 336,600 Amber 365,710
90 Alan 335,720 Danielle 362,010
91 Juan 328,239 Brittany 355,762
92 Philip 325,446 Olivia 352,263
93 Randy 325,386 Diana 351,810
94 Dylan 321,319 Jane 349,812
95 Howard 316,046 Lori 340,265
96 Vincent 315,590 Madison 336,143
97 Bobby 311,783 Tiffany 333,625
98 Johnny 305,004 Kathy 332,976
99 Phillip 300,279 Tammy 331,500
100 Shawn 298,043 Crystal 326,726
Source: 100% sample based on Social Security card application data as of the end of February 2014. See the limitations of this data source.

Least Popular Names Given 1880-1932

Then, I looked a little further for least popular names given and found this list on mental-floss.com.


Year Boy (Rank) Girl (Rank)
1880 Handy (970) Parthenia (914)
1881 Okey (972) Erie (1000)
1882 Ab (943) Dove (944)
1883 Commodore (925) Lovey (992)
1884 Spurgeon (958) Kathern (974)
1885 Fount (989) Icy (977)
1886 Squire (953) Texie (987)
1887 Bliss (946) Lockie (907)
1888 Boss (930) Indiana (989)
1889 Starling (962) Easter (967)
1890 Lawyer (999) Pinkey (918)
1891 Manley (962) Chestina (974)
1892 Little (914) Odell (1000)
1893 Orange (1000) Leafy (933)
1894 Flem (1000) Ova (986)
1895 Toy (969) Sister (974)
1896 Josephine (937)* Clifford (935)*
1897 Henery (1000) Florance (1000)
1898 Pleasant (973) Tiny (915)
1899 Fate (972) Cuba (884)
1900 Gorge (935) Electa (948)
1901 Joesph (999) Buelah (923)
1902 Rolla (917) Bama (942)
1903 Ples (992) Capitola (982)
1904 Council (989) Pearly (993)
1905 Son (912) Wava (967)
1906 Virgle (999) Carry (971)
1907 Geo (956) Arizona (949)
1908 Lillian (992) Lilyan (991)
1909 Murl (1000) Flonnie (1000)
1910 Lemon (964) Classie (994)
1911 Wash (978) Lavada (806)
1912 Christ (940) Almeta (940)
1913 Louise (982) Louis (974)
1914 Stephan (1000) Vella (1000)
1915 Mayo (990) Dimple (980)
1916 Green (929) Golden (908)
1917 Elza (968) Loyce (984)
1918 Curley (998) Ivory (979)
1919 Metro (982) Louvenia (993)
1920 Berry (941) Merry (934)
1921 Reno (969) Glendora (976)
1922 Author (950) Gaynell (981)
1923 Burley (994) Dorathy (995)
1924 Dorman (954) Mardell (982)
1925 Buddie (973) Bobbye (990)
1926 Wardell (929) Willodean (941)
1927 Estel (914) Gregoria (970)
1928 Gust (996) Hildred (998)
1929 Vester (984) Jettie (953)
1930 Otho (972) Charlsie (951)
1931 Early (1000) Ferne (1000)
1932 Dock (928) Jack (992)

But the most interesting piece of information I found was the following abstract of research by Jack Dikian, an Australian born Clinical Consultant whose interests include: developmental disability, mood disorders, cognitive neuropsychology and Quantum Psychology.

The Impact Of A Name On Personality by Jack Dikian, April 2010:

Looking at yourself in the mirror – seeing the person you know so well. Better than anyone – this person called Kate, Kelly, or David. Would you feel the same way about yourself if you had a different given name? Would you still see the person you know so well…

Many of us at some point in our lives have wondered what we would be like if we were given a different name. If we went through school with a different name, if our work mates knew met us with a different name. Some of us may even feel that we are more of a Jennifer instead of a Jenny, or a Sarah with a “h” rather than a Sara.

Not only do some of us have strong perceptions about first names and associate them with success, luck and attractiveness, many people walk around with stereotypes in their heads that can influence all sorts of decisions, yet don’t even realise it, however with very real consequences in everyday life.

This is particularly true in some cultures. For example, in the Jewish culture it is accepted that a name does indeed determine someone’s destiny and health in general. Not only does a Jewish person feel that the given name characterizes the person who possesses it, he feels that when he/she gives a newborn son or daughter their given name, that offspring’s basic personality and traits are being defined, and in a sense, his entire approach to life is mapped out for him in advance.

Having a rare name or a very common one must be a very different experience to live with. With a rare name, one may feel a little more special or even unique. With a common name, one is more likely to have friends (or foes) with the same name, which could only change our ego perception associated with our name.

More importantly, living with a name that we like or one that we dislike does have serious consequences on self-confidence, happiness or the way we relate to others in society. For example, what would it be like if you didn’t always get asked to special your name, or even explain your name when meeting people you don’t know.

According Dr Martin Skinner, a social psychologist at Warwick University-England, people by at large make the most of their given name. Dr Skinner says that efforts can overwhelm the impact of a name. The real consequence is not in the actual name itself, but in the intentions behind it,” says Dr Martin Skinner, a social psychologist at Warwick University.

“Names usually reflect parental aspirations, so someone who wants their child to be taken seriously will give them a name that has weight and is not frivolous – whatever class they are.”

A name certainly plays more of a part than we think, according to Dr Wiseman. While many factors influence how we view a name – from liking a successful actor to disliking your boss – these perception can have a very real impact.

Research has shown that such perceptions can become self-fulfilling prophesies, with teachers giving higher marks to children with attractive names and employers being more likely to promote those who sound successful, he says.

George Clooney regularly tops “gorgeous man” polls, yet his is the first name least associated with attractiveness, and luck in love according to studies, as is for Brian and Helen.

According to Wiseman, who, through his research asked more than 6,000 people about their perceptions of the most popular first names in the UK, observed some strong trends. Elizabeth and James are considered the most successful sounding first names, Lucy and Jack the luckiest and Sophie and Ryan the most attractive.

The author is particularly interested in the impact of given names in an ever-shrinking world. Names such as Elizabeth or a James that may be associated with success in the UK, might carry very different perceptions should Elizabeth or James decide to immigrate.


We Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up…Or, Did We?

FaceBook Post on Origins of Terms and Phrases

This morning my daughter shared a September 3, 2014, Facebook post created by Dan Steele (Dan Balam) of Norfolk, Virginia.  His post was an easy and fun read that got me to questioning whether the origins of the terms and phrases actually had been proven true or were myths that had been passed on over the years.

It turns out that in 1999, an anonymous essay titled “Life in the 1500s” appeared on the Internet and was widely circulated by e-mail. “Life in the 1500s” gave explanations for “chew the fat” and many other common phrases, such as “bring home the bacon” and “saved by the bell.” It credited these phrases to rural life in the 16th century.

Out of just plain curiosity, I first visited Dan’s Facebook page to learn more about him and to see what other kinds of posts he had written.  I also wanted to know about how old the writer was.  My best guess is that Dan is perhaps a 20’s or early 30’s something person. And, that many of Dan’s other Facebook posts are actually thought-provoking, well-written, and deserving of at least one blog post.  My findings follow:

Searching Credible Websites for Etymologies

Next I searched for credible sites that have the etymologies of words and phrases. Obviously, there was many more than one site, but I chose to go with the following:

All of these sites helped me confirm whether we made this stuff up, or not.  And, as you read the facts, please take the poll and answer true or false for each question. (I am using the honor system here, so please do not read ahead to the ANSWER first. )

An Adapted List of 15 “Facts about the 1500’s” from Dan Steele’s Facebook post–the question to ask yourself is “Did the origin of each of these words, terms, idioms, or phrases truly date back to the 1500’s and is the story true?”:

IDIOM:  Tanners used urine to tan animal skins, so poor families pWords Idioms and Phraseseed in a pot and once daily sold its contents to their local tannery…….If you had to do this to survive you were known “Piss Poor.” Also, this idiom “so poor he didn’t have a pot to piss in,” or sometimes in the fuller form …or a window to throw it out of.  True or False?

  • ANSWER:  The idiom appears first in Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, published in 1936, so the 1500’s list does predate this origin. In fact, the literal sense of extreme poverty for piss-poor didn’t come along until a couple of decades later, which also provides another reason, if one were needed, that the story quoted is nonsense.  FALSE.

IDIOM:   People used a big tub filled with hot water to bathe their whole family in. The man of the house bathed first, followed by other men and boys, then the womDont throw out the babyen, and finally the children. Babies were last in line to be bathed. By then the water in the tub was so dirty that you might actually lose one in it.–Hence the saying, “Don’t throw out the baby with the Bath water!”  True or False?

  •  ANSWER: This proverb did in fact originate in the 1500s. ‘Throw the baby out with the bath water’ is a German proverb and the earliest printed reference to it, in Thomas Murner’s satirical work “Narrenbeschwörung (Appeal to Fools),” dates from 1512.  It’s true meaning:  In getting rid of waste, don’t also discard what is worth keeping.  TRUE.

Bath TubIDIOM:  Most people bathed only yearly, in May.  Hence, most couples married in June while they still smelled pretty good.–However, because they were already starting to smell, Brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide their body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.  True or False?

  • ANSWER:   According to the Huffington Post, during the 15th century, people took their yearly baths in May and would generally get married in June. Just to be safe, brides carried bouquets to mask the smell of body odor.  You will find this reason repeatedly if you research the tradition behind the bride carrying a bouquet. Another old and popular custom for carrying a bouquet, was to ward of evil spirits. However, from About.com: …there were many opportunities for medieval people to cleanse their bodies. Thus, the prospect of going a full month without washing, and then appearing at her wedding with a bouquet of flowers to hide her stench, is not something a medieval bride was likely to consider any more than a modern bride would. And, from history-magazine.com:  There is no evidence that June was a popular month to get married until the last 100 years. FALSE.

IDIOM:  “It’s raining cats and dogs.”  A 1500’s origin?  True or False?Cats and Dogs

  • ANSWER:  Houses had thatched roofs (thick straw, piled high), with no wooden ceilings. Animals (dogs, cats, mice, bugs) climbed to the roofs to help keep warm.  When it rained the roofs became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off –Hence the saying.  TRUE.

IDIOM:  Canopy beds with big posts and sheets hanging over their tops were invented to protect occupants.  True or False?dirt floor thatched roof

  • ANSWER:  With only thatched roofs, nothing stopped things from falling into the house. In the bedrooms, bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed.  And, from history-magazine.com:  Canopy beds may have originated as a means of keeping out flying insects but if you think about it, people rich enough to afford a canopy bed — a huge investment in the 1500s — would also be living in homes with proper ceilings CTRUE.

IDIOM: Only the wealthy had something other than dirt floors. Hence the saying, “Dirt poor.”  True or False?dirt floor cottage

  • ANSWER:  Most peasant cottages did indeed have dirt floors. Some peasants lived in homes that sheltered animals as well as themselves. When livestock was enclosed in a peasant home, it was usually partitioned off in a separate room, sometimes at right angles to the family’s living space. Yet animals could still occasionally find their way into the house proper. For this reason, an earthen floor was a practical choice.However, there is no evidence that the term “dirt poor” was used in any context before the 20th century. One theory suggests that its origins lie in the Dust Bowl of 1930s Oklahoma, where drought and poverty combined to create some of the most horrific living conditions in American history; but direct evidence is lacking. And from history-magazine.com:  Probably correct — except that the expression is American — and from centuries later.In castles, the ground floor might be beaten earth, stone or plaster, but upper stories almost invariably had wooden floors, and the same pattern likely held true in town dwellings. Straw was not needed to keep people from slipping on wet slate, but it was used as a floor covering on all surfaces to provide a modicum of warmth and cushioning. Reeds or rushes were sometimes supplemented with aromatic herbs like lavender, and the entire floor would usually be swept clean and strewn with fresh straw and herbs on a regular basis. Old straw was not simply left down when fresh straw was added.  FALSE.

IDIOM:    The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, the thresh would start slipping outside. So, people placed a piece of wood across the entranceway. Hence: a “thresh hold.”  True or False?

  • ANSWER:   It might be logical to think of the little raised strip in a doorway as an item intended to “hold” in “thresh,” except for one significant detail.  However, There’s no such thing as “thresh.”The word “thresh” is a verb which, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means “to separate seed” or “to strike repeatedly.” It is not, and has never been, a noun used to designate floor rushes. The word “threshold,” like “thresh,” is Old English (OE) in origin and dates to before the twelfth century. Both OE words appear to relate to the movement of one’s feet; thresh (OE threscan) meaning to stamp or trample3 and threshold (OE therscwold) being a place to step.  FALSE.

Hanging kettle over fireIDIOM:    In those old days, women cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.  Every day they lit the fire and added more food to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day beginning with the leftovers that remained in the pot from the previous day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old” originated straight out of 16th century kitchens. True or False?

  • ANSWER:  Peasant cottages had no kitchens in which to cook. The poorest families had only one room where they cooked, ate, worked and slept. It is also possible that most of these extremely poor families owned only one kettle. Poor town-dwellers usually didn’t even have that, and obtained most of their meals ready-made from shops and street vendors in the Medieval version of “fast-food.”1Those who lived on the edge of starvation had to make use of every edible item they could find, and just about everything could go into the pot (often a footed kettle that rested in the fire rather than over it) for the evening meal.The resulting stew was called “pottage,” and it was the basic element of the peasant diet. And yes, sometimes the remains of one day’s cooking would be used in the next day’s fare. (This is true in some modern “peasant stew” recipes.) But it was not common for food to remain there for nine days — or for more than two or three days, for that matter. People living on the edge of starvation were not likely to leave food on their plates or in the pot. Contaminating the carefully-gathered ingredients of a night’s supper with rotting nine-day-old remains, thus risking illness, is even more unlikely.What is likely is that leftovers from the evening meal were incorporated into a breakfast that would sustain the hard-working peasant family for much of the day. According to history-magazine.com:  According to the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, this chant was not used before 1762.  FALSE.

IDIOM: When families could get pork, they felt quite special. So, when visitorsHanging bacon cameover, they hung up their bacon to show it off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, “bring home the bacon.”   True or False?


From Wisegeek.com:  One of the more common claimed origins for the expression dates back to the early years of the 12th century, and has to do with the gift of a side of bacon to a young couple who impressed a prominent local clergyperson with their deep devotion to one another. There is likely some truth to this legend, especially since this type of tradition is still alive and well in the area of Great Dunmow, Essex in the United Kingdom.

The use of the specific phrase “bring home the bacon” is somewhat more complicated, with the phrase appearing more commonly in 20th century publications, beginning with newspaper accounts connected with professional boxing matches. For this reason, there is some merit in seeing this particular idiomatic expression as being a product of the United States in the early years of that century, although there may be an underlying basis for older references to bacon that relate to money and livelihood. Within the context of the prevailing culture during the first half of the 20th century, the term was often used as one means of delineating the responsibilities of each partner in a marriage. Men were expected to be the breadwinners and bring home the bacon, while women had the duty of taking care of home and hearth, making prudent use of the income generated by the husband to create a comfortable and pleasant home for that husband.

As gender roles and the structure of households became more varied during the second half of the 20th century, it became more common for more than one individual in the household to generate income and bring home the bacon. For this reason, the task of financially funding a household is rarely seen as the responsibility of any one individual, but the combined effort of two or more residents of the home. This has also led to shifts in understanding who is chiefly responsible for tasks such as the upkeep of the home and how each parent is involved in the act of raising children.  TRUE.

IDIOM:  And, they would cut off a little bacon to share with their guests and they would all sit around and “chew the fat.”  True or False?chew the fat

ANSWER:  “Chew the fat” is an English expression meaning to indulge in casual conversation or gossip. It is related to the antiquated phrase “chew the rag.” Both phrases date to the 19th century and originally meant to gripe or complain. The origin of these terms is uncertain. Most sources agree, however, that they probably describe the mouth movements that are common to both chewing and talking.

The Oxford English Dictionary, a widely used reference for English words and phrases, records the earliest published appearance of such terms. It dates the phrase “chew the fat” to 1885, crediting it to a book about British soldiers stationed in India. Most colloquialisms, however, are used in conversation for years or even decades before they appear in print. “Chew the rag” appears in American sources as early as 1875. Although no definitive coining has been documented, both phrases seem to have originated no earlier than the middle of the 19th century.

The nature of the “fat” in “chew the fat” is equally uncertain. Some sources suggest it refers to salt pork, a staple of shipboard life in early naval history. Before the advent of refrigeration, food was often preserved by curing it with salt. This long-lasting source of protein was kept on ships for long voyages when other food supplies ran short. Salt pork could be tough and fatty, requiring thorough chewing before it was digestible.

“Chew the rag” is likewise accounted to sailors or soldiers who would be forced to chew on rags when chewing tobacco was not available. It is suggested that they complained about their deprivation, giving the phrase its original meaning; “chew the fat” has been given a similar explanation. There is no documentation to support these stories, however, and “chew the rag” may as likely derive from the phrase “to rag,” meaning to scold or complain. In any case, “chew the fat” took on the meanings “o make idle conversation or to gossip by the early 20th century. It retains these meanings in the present day, with its older meanings and variations usually forgotten.   From history-magazine.com:  We couldn’t find a convincing explanation for chew the fat. One was that it was of US Civil War origin, another that it was from Cockney Rhyming Slang meaning “have a chat” — and rhyming slang was not known until after WWI.  FALSE.

 IDIOM: The wealthy had dishes made of Pewter. Foods with high acid con

pewter dishestent caused some of the lead to leach into the food, causing death from lead poisoning. Most often it was the acid from tomatoes that caused the lead to leach into the foods, so for the next 400 or so years, tomatoes were considered poisonous.  True or False?

  •  ANSWER:  From the Smithsonian Magazine:In the late 1700s, a large percentage of Europeans feared the tomato.  A nickname for the fruit was the “poison apple” because it was thought that aristocrats got sick and died after eating them, but the truth of the matter was that wealthy Europeans used pewter plates, which were high in lead content. Because tomatoes are so high in acidity, when placed on this particular tableware, the fruit would leach lead from the plate, resulting in many deaths from lead poisoning. No one made this connection between plate and poison at the time; the tomato was picked as the culprit. …  From history-magazine.com:  It is true that tomatoes were thought to be poisonous until about 1830 — however tomatoes were extremely rare in Europe in the 1500s and in any case are not acidic enough to affect pewter.

IDIOM:  Ale and whisky were drank from lead cups. This combination sometimes knocked out imbibers for a couple of days. People walking along the road mistakenly would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. Deceased people were laid out on kitchen tables for viewing for a couple of days.  Families would gather around, eat and drink and wait to see if they might wake up. Hence the custom of–“Holding a Wake!” True or False?

  • ANSWER:  From ehow.com:  The idea of holding a vigil over a deceased body stems from ancient times and is linked to the practice of waiting near the dead person in case he/she returned to life. Although few people in the 21st century are going to believe this could happen, the tradition of friends and family accompanying the body before it’s buried survives intact. Wakes as vigils are more prominent among Roman Catholic communities in countries such as the United States and Ireland.A wake refers to what the visitors do, not what you expect the corpse to do! In this context a wake means a watch or a vigil. It originated from an all-night watch kept in church before certain holy days. It later became associated with fairs and revelries held at such times. Some towns in the north of England still observe local holidays called wakes. (Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable).

IDIOM:  People divided up loaves of bread according to your status within the family. Workers got the burnt bottoms of the loaves, the family got the middle, and colonial breadguests got the top, or the “upper crust.”  True or False?

  • ANSWER:  From Snopes.com Although an admonition to “Kutt the upper crust [of a loaf of bread] for your soverayne” can be found in a 1460 work, the term ‘upper crust’ didn’t come to be used figuratively to refer to persons of the higher classes until the 19th century. Many have speculated that, but there is no documentary evidence supporting this as the phrase’s actual origin.  FALSE.

IDIOM:    England is so old and small that local folk started running out of places to bury people. So they dug up coffins and would take the old bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave.


The Charnel House, which was built in the 13th century stores bones previously buried. It was completed in 1427, and was one of the largest parish churches in England. Mary Tudor, Queen of France and sister of Henry VIII, is buried within.

When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized their loved ones had been buried alive… So they would tie a string on the wrist of a corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. People would sit out in the graveyard all night to listen for the bell–Hence, the “graveyard shift.” Thus, a person could be “saved by the bell,” or considered a “dead ringer.”And that’s the truth….but are they?  True or False?

  • ANSWER:  From www.phrases.org/uk on its site debunked all three terms; i.e., “dead ringer,” “saved by the bell,” and “graveyard shift/watch.”The Graveyard Shift, or Graveyard Watch, was the name coined for the work shift of the early morning, typically midnight until 8am. The name originated in the USA at the latter end of the 1800s. There’s no evidence at all that it had anything directly to do with watching over graveyards, merely that the shifts took place in the middle of the night, when the ambience was quiet and lonely.The earliest example of the phrase in print that I have found is in the US newspaper The Salt Lake Tribune,June 1897:

The police changed shifts for the month yesterday. This month Sergeant Ware takes the morning relief. Sergeant Matt Rhodes the middle and Sergeant John Burbidge the graveyard shift.

The ‘graveyard watch’ version of the phrase was normally used by sailors on watch – hardly a group in a position to supervise buried coffins. The graveyard link was made explicit in this definition, offered by the American mariner Gershom Bradford, in A Glossary of Sea Terms, 1927:

“Graveyard watch, the middle watch or 12 to 4 a.m., because of the number of disasters that occur at this time.”

Well we’re at the end and debunked many of the original interesting declarations from the “Life in the 1500’s” 1999 email.  How’d you do on the quiz?  I sincerely hope you found this history-sharing exercise fun and informational.  Please let me know.

Genetically Speaking, Could We Be Cousins?

Genetic RelationshipsHard to believe, but we just might be near or distant cousins, or cousins once or more removed.  When I started my genealogy research about 35 years ago we may never have been able to answer my question about being cousins with any certainty in a single lifetime.

However, 11 years after (on August 6, 1991), my initial genealogical research, the launch of the internet, known as the world-wide-web, changed information management and information mining dramatically as never before when historical documents and information were first digitized, published, and made available to the public for free.

What is Genetic Genealogy?

DNA assignmentIn the past, genealogy for me has been simply the study of my ancestry via a family tree. To date, I have documented my paternal and maternal sides of my family, and traced documentation back to the first century even.  However, genetic genealogy uses DNA testing to determine the genetic relationship between individuals.  So now, I am starting a new approach to my genealogy by moving forward from this expansive family tree compilation (about 10,000 people), to explore my ancestry through genetic research. Genetic genealogy begins with first understanding deoxyribonucleic acid, aka DNA, and then using resources available to map it and learn even more about my family history.

You might ask yourself, why would I want to use DNA for my genealogy research?

Here’s a few of my reasons:

  • To learn more about my ancestry
  • To prove that my family tree reflects my actual ancestry
  • To prove or disprove relationships between two people
  • To prove or disprove theories about where people came from
  • To break down a brick wall in my genealogy research
  • To find relatives for those who were adopted or gave up a child for adoption
  • To learn from which ancestor(s) I inherited certain traits

DNA chromosonesTherefore, in future posts I plan to share with you some stories about my exploration and discoveries through my DNA testing and genetic research.  To launch this project I first purchased a set of 50 presentations on video made at the 2014 International Genetic Genealogical Research Conference that was held August 15-17, 2014, in Washington, DC.

To get us started, I included below Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D.’s 10 DNA Testing Myth Busters:

10 DNA Testing Myths Busted
Posted by Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D.
(c) 25 October 2007

1. Genetic genealogy is only for hardcore genealogists. Wrong! If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of your DNA, or about your direct paternal or maternal ancestral line, then genetic genealogy might be an interesting way to learn more. Although DNA testing of a single line, such as through an mtDNA test, will only examine one ancestor out of 1024 potential ancestors at 10 generations ago, this is a 100% improvement over 0 ancestors out of 1024. If you add your father’s Y-DNA, this is a 200% improvement. Now add your mother’s mtDNA, and so on. However, with this in mind, please note the next myth:

2. I’m going to send in my DNA sample and get back my entire family tree. Sorry. DNA alone cannot tell a person who their great-grandmother was, or what Italian village their great-great grandfather came from. Genetic genealogy can be an informative and exciting addition to traditional research, and can sometimes be used to answer specific genealogical mysteries.

3. I would like to try genetic genealogy, but I’m terrified of needles. Good news! Genetic genealogy firms don’t use blood samples to collect cells for DNA testing. Instead, these companies send swabs or other means to gently obtain cells from the cheek and saliva.

4. I would like to test my ancestor’s DNA, but they died years ago. You don’t always need your ancestor’s DNA to get useful information from a genetic genealogy test. If you are male, you contain the Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) that was given to you by your father, who received it from his father, and so on. Both males and females have mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which was passed on to them by their mother, who received it from her mother, and so on. Everyone of us contains DNA (Y-DNA and/or mtDNA) from our ancestors that can be studied by genetic genealogy.

5. I want to test my mother’s father’s Y-DNA, but since he didn’t pass on his Y-chromosome to my mother, I’m out of luck. Wrong! There is a very good chance that there is another source of that same Y-DNA. For instance, does your mother have a brother (your uncle) who inherited the Y-DNA from his father? Or does your mother’s father have a brother (your great-uncle) who would be willing to submit DNA for the test? Sometimes there might not be an obvious source of “lost” Y-DNA, or no one in the family is willing to take a DNA test. The secret to solving this problem is to do what every good genealogist does – use traditional genealogical research (paper records, census information, etc) to “trace the DNA”. Follow the line back while tracing descendants in order to find someone who is interested in learning more about their Y-DNA. This applies to finding a source of mtDNA as well.

6. Only men can submit DNA for genetic genealogy tests, since women do not have the Y-chromosome. Wrong! Most genetic genealogy testing companies also offer mtDNA testing. Both men and women have mtDNA in their cells and can submit that DNA for testing. In addition, women can test their father’s, brother’s, or some other male relative’s Y-DNA to learn more about their paternal ancestral line, even though they did not inherit the Y-chromosome.

7. My genetic genealogy test will also reveal my propensity for diseases associated with the Y-chromosome and mtDNA. Wrong, thank goodness. Most of the information obtained by genetic genealogy tests has no known medical relevancy, and these firms are not actively looking for medical information. It is important to note, however, that some medical information (such as infertility detected by DYS464 testing or other diseases detectable by a full mtDNA sequence) might inadvertently be revealed by a genetic genealogy test.

8. I don’t like the thought of a company having my DNA on file or my losing control over my DNA sample. This is, of course, an understandable concern. However, most testing firms give a client two options: the DNA is either immediately destroyed once the tests are run, or it is securely stored for future testing. If the DNA is stored, the firm will typically destroy the DNA upon request. If the long-term storage of DNA is a concern, be sure to research the company’s policy before sending in a sample.

9. If my test reveals Native American ancestry, I plan to join a particular Native American affiliation group. Although genetic genealogy can potentially reveal Native American ancestry (for instance, my mtDNA belongs to the Native American haplogroup A2), it is incredibly unlikely that this information will be sufficient to positively identify the specific source of the lineage (such as a tribe) or allow membership in a particular Native American affiliation.

10. My DNA is so boring that genetic genealogy would be a waste of time and money.Very wrong! A person’s DNA is a very special possession – although everyone has DNA, everyone’s DNA is different (okay, except identical twins – if your identical twin has been tested, you should think twice about buying the same test!). As humans settled the world, Y-DNA and mtDNA spread and mixed randomly. As a result, it is impossible to guess with 100% assurance that a person’s Y-DNA or mtDNA belongs to a particular haplogroup (a related family of DNA sequences) without DNA testing.

BONUS MYTH: My genetic genealogy test says that my mtDNA belongs to Haplogroup A2.Juanita the Ice Maiden, a frozen mummy discovered in the Andes Mountains in Peru also has Haplogroup A2 mtDNA. Therefore, she must be my ancestor!

Unfortunately, although genetic genealogy can reveal that a person is RELATED to an ancient DNA source, it cannot prove that a person is a DESCENDANT of an ancient DNA source. For instance, perhaps you are descended from Juanita’s sister, or her 5th cousin. Thus, although Juanita might be your great-great-great-great…great-grandmother, she might instead be your great-great-great-great…great-aunt. And since Juanita died when she was just 12 to 14, it is unlikely she has any descendants.

If you understand the risks associated with genetic genealogy (such as the detection ofnon-paternal events and other risks) and are ready and willing to embrace the results to learn more about your genetic ancestry, then genetic genealogy might be for you. I recommend that you read archived posts here at The Genetic Genealogist, and do some online research through one of the many companies that offer genetic genealogy testing.

French soldier’s room unchanged 96 years after his death in first world war

The story below touched my heart so much that I felt compelled to share it with my readers.  I can only imagine with great trepidation enduring the loss of a son and honoring him beyond my time on this planet…


First world war 100 years on

Parents kept room as it was the day he left, and stipulated when they moved that it should not be changed for 500 years

By:   in Paris
The Guardian, Tuesday 14 October 2014 08.15 EDT

Soldier's room

Hubert Rochereau’s room in a house in Bélâbre, France. Photograph: Bruno Mascle/Photoshot

The name of dragoons officer Hubert Rochereau is commemorated on a war memorial in Bélâbre, his native village in central France, along with those of other young men who lost their lives in the first world war.

But Rochereau also has a much more poignant and exceptional memorial: his room in a large family house in the village has been preserved with his belongings for almost 100 years since his death in Belgium.

A lace bedspread is still on the bed, adorned with photographs and Rochereau’s feathered helmet. His moth-eaten military jacket hangs limply on a hanger. His chair, tucked under his desk, faces the window in the room where he was born on 10 October 1896.

He died in an English field ambulance on 26 April 1918, a day after being wounded during fighting for control of the village of Loker, in Belgium. The village was in allied hands for much of the war but changed hands several times between 25 and 30 April, and was finally recaptured by French forces four days after Rochereau’s death.

The parents of the young officer kept his room exactly as it was the day he left for the battlefront. When they decided to move in 1935, they stipulated in the sale that Rochereau’s room should not be changed for 500 years.

“This clause had no legal basis,” said the current owner, retired local official Daniel Fabre, who showed the room to the Nouvelle République newspaper. But nevertheless he and his wife, who inherited the house from her grandparents, have respected the wishes of Rochereau’s parents and will continue to do so.

Soldier's room
The soldier’s desk. Photograph: Bruno Mascle/Photoshot

The room contains the spurs of the cavalry officer, his sword and a fencing helmet, and a collection of pistols. A flag is propped up beside the wall. His pipes are on his desk and the stale smell of English tobacco comes from a cigarette packet.

Rochereau, a second lieutenant with the 15th Dragoons Regiment based in Libourne, outside Bordeaux, received a posthumous croix de guerre, the French equivalent of being mentioned in dispatches, and the Legion of Honour for his extreme bravery on the battlefield.

As well as being commemorated at the local war memorial, his name is also on the monument to the fallen in Libourne. The regiment’s history recounts how Rochereau’s commander was killed by a bullet to the head after giving the “heroic” order to counterattack in Loker.

On Rochereau’s desk is a vial on which, in keeping with tradition, a label records that it contains “the soil of Flanders on which our dear child fell and which has kept his remains for four years”.

The battlefields of Flanders, which stretched from north-east France into Belgium, saw some of the fiercest fighting of the 1914-18 war. To commemorate the 580,000 soldiers who died on that part of the western front, a memorial by the architect Philippe Prost is due to be inaugurated by the French president, François Hollande, on 11 November.

The soldiers who died there came not only from the UK, France, Belgium and Germany but also from as far afield as Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and India. The memorial at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, France’s biggest national war cemetery, where the remains of 40,000 French soldiers are interred, is a giant ring of gilded metal bearing the names of the dead. Prost says he intended the Ring of Memory to symbolise unity and eternity.

The History and Demise of Cursive Writing

Massachusetts is one of several states that wants to keep penmanship lessons in the curriculum. Do you think we should keep cursive writing alive?

Our Unbounded Heritage: 12th Century & Beyond

Cursive, the Secret Language of Adults 

Cursive letter

Cursive Handwriting – A Centuries-Old Art1

“For centuries, cursive handwriting has been an art. To a growing number of young people, it is a mystery. The sinuous letters of the cursive alphabet, swirled on countless love letters, credit card slips and banners above elementary school chalk boards are going the way of the quill and inkwell. With computer keyboards and smartphones increasingly occupying young fingers, the gradual death of the fancier ABC’s is revealing some unforeseen challenges.”

Sandy Schefkind, a pediatric occupational therapist in Bethesda, Md., and pediatric coordinator for the American Occupational Therapy Association, said that learning cursive helped students hone their fine motor skills.

“It’s the dexterity, the fluidity, the right amount of pressure to put with pen and pencil on paper,” Ms. Schefkind said, adding that for some students cursive is easier to learn than printing.”


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