FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

The Maids of Honor


1656 painting by Diego Velazquez

25 February 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Swing Shift in the Space Station


Unfortunately, the work day isn’t counted by sun up and sun down in space.

22 February 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dirck and Frans Hals – Dutch Master Artists

My 10th great grandfather, Dirck Hals and his more famous brother, Frans were Dutch Master artists. Born in Haarlem, Netherlands in the late 1500’s, both gained fame for their work although Frans was the more commercially successful and best remembered of the two brothers.

Dirck Hals was probably a student of his older brother, the famous artist, Frans.  Other painters who influenced Dirck were Esaias van de Velde and Willem Buytewech.

Apart from a few portraits, he devoted himself exclusively to the painting of conversation pieces of the cheerful domestic life of prosperous burghers in their houses or gardens.

Less famous than this brother Frans, Dirck was not interested in the serious side of life. His work depicted people in conversation, while flirting, making music, dancing, eating and drinking.

His interiors are often not fully worked out, but rather have an emphasis on fashionable dress and colorful representations.

Dirck’s art succeeded in putting across people’s high spirits through facial expression, costly dress, posture and loose grouping.

A sample of Dirck’s paintings are shown in the photo group below:

Frans and Dirck were the sons of the Franchoijs Hals, from Malinas, and Adriaentgen van Geertenrijck, originally of Amberes, Netherlands.  Also included in the family was their younger brother, Joost.  All of the brothers were born in Haarlem, Netherlands and all were artists. Joost’s work was never as popular as his brothers and it is rarely found today.

After the census of 1585, their parents do not appear in further census records in Amberes. They probably emigrated, along with many other citizens, when Spanish troops occupied the city on 17th of August. The group of emigrants were undoubtedly looking for refuge from religious persecutions by the Spanish and fled to Haarlem, Netherlands.

Much of Dirck’s art is still found today, however, a larger number of paintings by Frans has survived the ages. The Frans Hals Museum is located in Haarlem and is a big attraction to artists worldwide.  A statue of Frans in found one of the city parks of that city.

Samples of Frans work are shown in the photo group below:


Dirck Hals – Master Painter

Dirck Hals – Art

Dirck Hals – Paintings

The Dirck Hals Project

Works by Dirck Hals

Frans Hals – Web Museum

Frans Hals Museum – Haarlem

Frans Hals – Web Gallery of Art

21 February 2010 Posted by | Genealogy | , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Go Down The Stairs

Both of my grandmothers died within a couple of months of each other when I was five.  I don’t have extensive memories of them.

I know that my interest in ancestry is associated with their passing.  They were there and they were gone.  Is that what happens to grandmas?

We were eating breakfast when the call came about my mom’s mother.  We were just going to have dinner when the call came about my dad’s mother.

After the second death, I remember asking my mother if her grandparents had disappeared the same way.  Her answer involved stories of her grandparents and stories that my father had told her about his ancestry.  The hook was set.  I had to know more about them.

I knew that my first grandmother was gone because I’d seen her lying in her casket and she wasn’t talking or moving.  Not understanding all of the ramifications of death, I remember sitting through her funeral thinking “That’s interesting.”

When my second grandmother died, I had experience with this death and funeral thing.  My parents didn’t have to sit me down and explain how death works.

Grandma lay in her casket, family member greeted visitors who queued in line to express their sympathy and pay respect to grandma.  I was told to sit quietly, “Over there.”  Now, in my opinion, there wasn’t a need for a little shaver to sit quietly on a chair in the corner for hours, so I didn’t.

It didn’t take much skill to quietly move in the ‘shadow’ of the large lady who was exiting the room.  Everyone was talking and the folks in line were looking toward the family greeting line, secretly wishing the line would move faster and thinking about the exact wording they’d express when it was finally their turn to greet and shake hands.  No one saw my exit.

Free of the boredom of quietly sitting still, I continued to be quiet and strolled through the darkened offices of the mortuary.  There wasn’t anything in them of much interest.  I remembered a wide stairway that when down to some double oak doors.  I had asked mom what was down there when we’d entered the building and she told me to “Don’t go down there.”  “That’s not a place for kids.”

She may as well have told me that Santa was at the bottom giving away Red Ryder BB-guns and five pound sacks of candy.

Checking the scene for adult eyes watching me, I ducked under the red velvet ropes and quickly made my way down the cranberry colored carpeted on the stairs.

The doors on the bottom landing had rows of vertical beveled glass windows in them that were just high enough that I could only see through them if I stood on my toes and hung on to the brass door handles for balance.

White semi-sheer drapes blocked the view into the lighted room beyond.  Frustration.

And then … I spotted a place where the drapes didn’t quite meet.  Squirming, stretching, I got eye level barely higher than the bottom mullion.  I could see in.

A white haired woman was lying on a table.  She was covered by a white sheet and her face was slightly tipped toward me.

It was a dead lady!  Oh man!

I focused on her face for a minute wondering whose grandma she was …. when her left eyelid started to open.  “Nah.  It was just my imagination” I thought, and then her left arm fell down and out from under the sheet.

Newton’s laws of gravity were defeated that evening.  I really don’t think I touched any of the stairs on the way up.

I know I went between the suit-clad legs of a man standing in line, but my passage was so quick he probably didn’t realize what had just happened.

The memorial room wasn’t as boring this time.  The chair in the corner was inviting, even comfortable.  I didn’t tell my parents of my adventure.

You know the rest of the story….  That’s how I learned to not go down the stairs in mortuaries.

17 February 2010 Posted by | Family History, Genealogy | , , | Leave a comment

Pantomimes Lumineuses


Theater in France

16 February 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Queen Bess – The Triple Perfume


14 February 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Snowed In – Keep That Car Parked


The kids won’t be driving their car very far today.

10 February 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Separated At Birth


They weren’t Siamese Twins. They just dressed like it.

9 February 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Home Sweet Home


A visit to the ancestral home town is always enjoyable.

6 February 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Cemetery Soft Shoe

Some of my earliest memories of visiting extended family members involves adhoc meetings by ancestors graves on Decoration Day.

Yes, I’m old enough to know ‘Memorial Day’ as ‘Decoration Day’.

My mother always made sure that we visited all of the graves of her ancestors and my fathers ancestors that were buried within a 30 mile radius on that day in May.

I’d sit in the back seat and hold all of the cans, bottles and containers of flowers upright from grave to grave, cemetery to cemetery so the water didn’t spill and the gathered flowers weren’t abused and contused.

The fragrances were so intense they often left me a bit high.  I never smoked, drank or took drugs.  I’m a flower head.

The Iris and Peonies faired well in these excursions.  The Baby’s Breath and Snowballs tried to be good, but I’d still have to spend a few minutes at each stop retrieving errant pedals that littered the seat and floor.

Mom would talk to her siblings, aunts, uncles and friends at each stop who were also there decorating the graves of our family and ancestors.  They were mini-reunions that often functioned much like a progressive party with people joining, visiting and dropping off as the procession moved from grave to grave in the cemeteries.

During these daylong excursions, I’d carefully look at the names and dates on the stones and try to imagine what the folks buried there looked like in life.   I’d seen most of them in photos but relatively few of them in life.

At each grave I’d look for landmarks that wouldn’t move or change over time and memorize them so I could find the graves again on my own when I was ‘grown up’ and visiting alone or with my own wife and kids.

Always trying to recede into the background during these meet and greets to avoid being stepped on and possibly bored by adult conversation, I’d walk to the side of the tombstones and quietly talk to my ancestors who were buried there.

“Hi.  I’m your grandson.  Things are going pretty good.  I’m in ‘x’ grade now and have learned to read / write / multiply / sing / dance.”

Kids_dancingSing and Dance?  Come on, who’d tell their grandparents that they could sing and dance?  Well, I did.  A dancing instructor came to the little school I attended once a week.  He made us hold hands and touch the girls in the class and parade around doing the jitterbug, quickstep and the dreaded waltz.

Like the other boys in the class, I’d verbally exclaim my disgust with this activity but privately, I was amazed that I eventually learned to not step on my partners feet and toes more than five or ten times a dance.  I’d risen to the state of an accomplished dancer in my opinion, so why not tell my ancestors about something I was so proud of doing?

Thus it was that if any adult had been sharp eyed during the Decoration Day gabfests, they’d have seen a young redheaded kid dancing on his ancestors graves.  I was just showing them what I could do.  Every grandkid shows their grandparents what they have learned.  Don’t they?

The tradition has survived the decades although I don’t think even my wife and kids know about it.   When we visit the same graves plus those of my parents, siblings, nephews, etc., –  even my own future burial spot one day, I always hang back just a step or two behind the rest as we are leaving.  A soft shuffle ensues.

“Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, see what I can do?”  — and to myself – “Here are few steps for the day when you can’t do them yourself in body.  Enjoy the memory.”

5 February 2010 Posted by | Cemetery | , , | Leave a comment