Saturday, April 07, 2007

Odd bits

One thing about having an interest in genealogy is that so many oddball newspaper stories catch the eye. I find myself clipping articles, making notes, and following up all sorts of tangentially-related news items.

For instance, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat had a front page story on April 2 about DNA testing, headed: "Going out on a limb to extend the family tree." In it, New York Times reporter Amy Harmon related some of the more extreme measures genealogy enthusiasts have used to prove (or disprove) family connections. She writes about one woman who staked out a McDonald's in order to get a DNA sample from a subject's throw-away paper cup. Another actually plucked some hairs from her grandmother's head at the funeral home. (I don't know enough about DNA testing yet to understand why she needed the DNA of a known relative)

"Medical clues to infamously irritable clan" was the headline in an April 6 story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Marilynn Marchione, of Associated Press, wrote about the discovery that the Hatfield-McCoy feud of song and story may have its roots in a rare inherited disorder. Van Hippel-Lindau disease, which apparently affects many family members, can cause tumors of the adrenal gland, and these in turn produce too much of a specific substance. This substance can be blamed for really bad tempers, among other things. As part of the research being done at Vanderbilt University, the doctors are seeking additional McCoy relatives to warn them of the risk, which includes not just personality changes, but death.


The Sonoma County Genealogical Society is sponsoring a seminar Saturday, April 28, featuring John P. Colletta. The author of "They Came in Ships : a Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record" (now in its third edition), he has also written "Finding Italian Roots : The Complete Guide for Americans." His topics at the all-day event in Santa Rosa will include: Breaking through brick walls, Using original and derivative sources, Snares of yesteryear's English, and Using newspapers for family history research.

Charge for the seminar is $20 for members, and $25 for non-members. Admission at the door will be $30. The Society's website, at, has a printable registration form.

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