Who Was Colonel Griffith J. Griffith?

OK, here is your history trivia question of the day: who was Colonel Griffith Jenkins Griffith?

I can tell you that this man with identical first and last names was once an impoverished 14-year-old Welsh immigrant who made good in his adopted country. He was born in Bettws, Glamorganshire, Wales. When he arrived in New York City, he had no money, no family, and no education. Years later, as a multi-millionaire when a dollar was still worth a dollar, he donated 3,015 acres of prime real estate to the City of Los Angeles. He also spent several years in jail and probably was one of the wealthiest inmates of the time, if not THE wealthiest. His prison sentence was for attempted murder of his wife. Colonel Griffith J. Griffith believed that she was in league with the Pope to poison him and steal his money.

Oh yes, there is no record of his ever being promoted to the rank of colonel, even though he always used the title.

Griffith Park, the location of the famous Hollywood Sign

“Colonel” Griffith J. Griffith’s name is almost unknown today although the land he donated to Los Angeles still bears his name: Griffith Park. He previously had established an ostrich farm on the property when ostrich feathers were popular in ladies’ hats. Griffith Park now contains the world-famous Hollywood sign. He also donated money for the park’s Greek Theater and for the Griffith Observatory. Why would such a wealthy benefactor be ignored by history?

Eli Rabinowitz elected to International Jewish Genealogy Board

Eli Rabinowitz

Perth, Australia-based Eli Rabinowitz has been elected to the Board of Directors of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) at its International Jewish Genealogy Conference.

The conference drew more than 2300 registrants from 28 countries.

Eli has researched his family’s genealogy and associated Jewish cultural history for over 30 years. A South African-born Australian, Eli has travelled extensively, writing about Jewish life, travel and education on his website, Tangential Travel and Jewish Life.

Pat Rand 2020 Hartzog Award Winner

It is great to see someone recognized for his or her outstanding service contributing information for the benefit of others. Here is a recent announcement from the National Park Service, a service of the U.S. Department of the interior:

Palo Alto Battlefield NHP is pleased to announce that park volunteer Pat Rand was awarded the Regional Hartzog Enduring Service Award for 2020

The Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service recognizes the exemplary contributions of these very important people. Former NPS director George Hartzog, Jr. and his wife Helen created a fund to support awards that honor the efforts of volunteers who go beyond the normal call of duty.

The Hartzog Enduring Service Award recognizes an individual who made a significant difference through specific volunteer work that has a sustained, positive impact and advances the NPS mission.

Preserving Stories

Kamala Harris Family Tree

It’s often said among genealogists that the best way to get your family tree researched for free is to run for office. Indeed, that seems to be true. For instance, take the case of Kamala Harris.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that Sen. Kamala Harris would be his vice-presidential running mate. Even before the official announcement of her candidacy for Vice-President of the United States, her ancestry had been posted in a video on YouTube.

The 55-year-old former California attorney general will be the first Black woman to be nominated by either major party for vice president. While Harris lists her own ancestry as Black and she does live in the U.S., it is interesting to note that she apparently has no known ancestors who who were enslaved. The video at details Harris’ Tamil (a region in southern India) and Jamaican ancestry.

Elise C. Cole Joins the Ontario Genealogical Society to Ensure the Society Is Informed and Compliant With Copyright Law and Best Practices

The following announcement was written by the Ontario Genealogical Society:

Elise C Cole

Ontario Ancestors – The Ontario Genealogical Society is pleased to announce that Elise C. Cole will be joining our team to ensure that the Society is informed and compliant with copyright law and copyright best practices. We have worked closely with Elise before, most recently in her role as Program Co-Chair for the 2020 Conference Advisory Committee.

We are thrilled that she has decided to take on this challenging, but rewarding, role with our organization. Having someone with her experience and expertise, will assist the Society in making sure that we are always employing best practices when it comes to copyright, as this is one of our top priorities.

Delia Bourne, R.I.P.

The genealogy community lost a good friend and research assistant last week: Delia Cothrun Bourne died on July 9, 2020 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Delia moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana with her then-new husband in 1977 where she became a reference librarian for the Allen County Public Library. In 1983, she became a genealogist for the second-largest genealogical collection in the country at the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) where she remained until her death.

Myra Vanderpool Gormley, R.I.P.

Myra Vanderpool Gormley (1940 – 2020), a well-known and very active genealogist as well as a prolific writer, passed away from cancer on June 26, 2020.

Myra was a certified genealogist, and a frequent lecturer at genealogy conferences. She wrote many books, including: Cherokee Connections, (and a follow-on book: Cherokee Connections: An Introduction to Genealogical Sources Pertaining to Cherokee Ancestors), The Official Guide to (written by Myra and Tana Pederson Lord), Prima’s Official Companion to Family Tree Maker (updated when Family Tree Maker released new versions), and Kansas Gunsmoke: A History of the Garden City Police Department. As a syndicated columnist and feature writer for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Myra also wrote a weekly genealogy column, Shaking Your Family Tree. She also wrote hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines,

Quoting her bio at

Robinn Magid appointed Assistant Director of JRI-Poland

The following announcement was written by Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (JRI-Poland):

The board of JRI-Poland has unanimously elected Robinn Magid to assume the new position of Assistant Director and member of the JRI-Poland executive committee.

Robinn has been a mainstay of JRI-Poland from the earliest days of our organization, taking on countless roles along the way. Becoming Assistant Director is a natural evolution of her growing responsibilities over the years.

Robinn is thoroughly familiar with the history, policies, and traditions of JRI-Poland and the core mission to provide the research community with access to all the records of importance to those tracing their Jewish roots in Poland. She has traveled to Poland on many occasions and has worked closely with our team on the ground there as well as the professionals carrying out records-extraction of the 1868-1915 Russian language records.

Hibbert’s Gore, Population: One

Many of our ancestors lived in small towns. In some cases, the towns and villages where they lived were very small. However, one place in Maine has the smallest population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, it would be impossible to have a smaller population.

The U.S. census for the Year 2010 lists Hibbert’s Gore, Maine, with the following information:

Total population: 1. Number of blacks: 0. Number of Asians: 0. Number of whites: 1. Population under 18: 0.

Documenting this place’s population must have been an easy task for one census taker!

Shirley J. Riemer, R.I.P.

The genealogy community has lost another dedicated and productive researcher and author. Shirley J. Riemer of Mesa, Arizona passed away recently. Quoting from her obituary:

“Shirley made over 50 trips to Germany in her lifetime and shared her obsessions through 24 years of editing Der Blumenbaum, and 15 years writing the Mitteilungen publication for the Sacramento Turn Verein. Books she has authored or co-authored include The German Research Companion, and Researching in Germany. Her dedication to the German genealogy community was commemorated with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International German Genealogy Partnership in 2017. One of her most recent topics of interest was “Writing to be Read”, which perfectly captures her commitment to unearthing hidden gems in her research in order to make her articles and stories come alive to her readers.”

You can read Shirley J. Riemer’s complete obituary at

Lagerfeld’s Fortune: Seven ‘Heirs’ Left in Limbo, an Accountant Who’s Gone Missing, a Suspicious Tax Tangle… And a Cat That May Get Millions

Oh, the life of the rich people. However, when they pass away, the legal problems of probating the will can be very complex.

According to an article by Alison Boshoff in The Daily Mail website:

Karl Lagerfeld in 2014

Karl Lagerfeld — the titan of Chanel and Fendi — loved nothing more than to create a sensation in life. And, following his death in February 2019, a final scandal has been brewing which once again is captivating the fashion world. At stake is the ‘Kaiser’s’ fortune which is said to stand at £178 million ($224 million US), but may in fact be closer to £400 million (more than $500 million US).

His heirs are now bickering among themselves over who Lagerfeld loved best, and who will therefore be getting the largest slice of the loot. Lagerfeld’s beloved cat, Choupette, may become a very rich kitty as well.

This article has it all: money, a Rolls-Royce, a house in Vermont, another in Biarritz, a £25 million ($31 million US) apartment at the top of a block in Monaco with 360-degree views, traveling only by a private jet, and sex. The article really belongs in a Hollywood gossip magazine but I suspect genealogists will enjoy reading about sorting out the heirs. After all, we are used to reading old (and usually simpler) wills. This one is different!

Meet the 18-year-old Genealogy Wiz Uniting Long-Lost Relatives all over The U.S.

It’s estimated more than 26 million people around the world have dug into their family histories with the help of at-home DNA kits. But finding your ancestors often requires much more than just submitting your DNA. In this growing field of ancestry amateurs, the “CBS This Morning” television program discovered an unlikely pro and he’s only 18. Michelle Miller reports at or in the video player below:

Chris Darrington, R.I.P.

It is with a heavy heart that I pass on the news of Chris Darrington’s unexpected death this week. He was employed as MyHeritage’s Conference Event Manager, based at the company’s office in Lehi, Utah.

Hundreds, probably thousands, of genealogists met Chris at the many genealogy conferences he attended every year the United States. He not only was in charge of the MyHeritage display booth at every conference, he also helped customers most all day while he was in the booth. Many of the conference attendees probably will not remember his name but undoubtedly will recall his face and his always friendly mannerisms. While in the office, Chris also managed subscription services and accounts for over 270 libraries nationwide.

Australian Genealogist Keith Johnson Elected a Fellow of The IGRS

The following announcement was written by the Irish Genealogical Research Society:

Keith A. Johnson

It is with pleasure that we announce that high profile Australian genealogist Keith A. Johnson, AM, FSG, FSAG, FRAHS, has been elected a Fellow of the Irish Genealogical Research Society.  The formal, public announcement of his election would have occurred at the IGRS Annual General Meeting in London on Saturday, 9th May, but due to the Covid-19 health crisis that event has been postponed.

In announcing this award IGRS Chairman Steven Smyrl said “Keith has had a long and distinguished career in genealogy and he has been to the forefront of developments in the field in Australia for decades. He is the 92nd person to have been honoured with the Fellowship of the IGRS in its 84-year history.  He is the sixth Australasian (and fifth Australian) to be so elected, following Andrew Clifford (New Zealand, 1995), Rosemary Coleby (2005), Nick Reddan (2006), Lindsay Bellhouse (2009) and Terry Eakin (2012).”

Virginia Beach Man Finds a Receipt for the Sale of Four Slaves in 1858. He Now Wants to Find Their Descendants.

About 15 or 20 years ago, Andy Ott, as typical, bought a couple of volumes from an antique store. As typical, a folded piece of paper remained stuck in its pages. One side of the light blue paper contained a perfunctory notation: “Bill of Sale from Daniel Fisher. $1300”

The other side contained a passage that still haunts Ott.

Zvi Bernhardt, R.I.P.

Zvi Bernhardt of Yad Vashem died suddenly Thursday night. He was Deputy Director of the Hall of Names and the Deputy Director of Reference and Information Services at Yad Vashem (Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust) and had spoken at several International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conferences. He was 57 or 58 years old.

A tribute to the life of Zvi Bernhard may be found on the web site of the Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA) at:

101-Year Old Cancer Survivor Has Now Survived Two Pandemics in Her Lifetime

Angelina Friedman survived cancer, miscarriages, internal bleeding, sepsis and now not one, but two pandemics. More than 100 years after living through the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the 101-year-old woman recently was infected by the coronavirus but now has recovered.

Details may be found in an article by Mallory Hughes in CNN at:

Bill Wyman: Amateur Historian and Would-Be Archivist

This article is not genealogy-related but it does deal with history. I also found it interesting.

Bill Wyman in 1975 while a member of the Rolling Stones

83-year-old Bill Wyman is an amateur historian and a metal detector enthusiast. Treasure detecting adventures in the British Isles are detailed in Wyman’s 2005 illustrated book Treasure Islands, co-written with Richard Havers.

“I’ve found 200 old coins, Roman brooches and an axe from 1700 BC. I’ve discovered Roman sites, all manner of 15th-century artifacts, all of which are verified by the British Museum.”

Wyman says that he should have been an archivist. However, he missed his calling and did not follow that career path. Instead, he spent the past 60 years as a singer and guitarist.

Bill Wyman’s best-known career was when he was a member of the Rolling Stones from 1962 until 1993.

In a related note, a member of the Rolling Stones is now 83 years old! (gasp)

Since 1997, Bill Wyman has recorded and toured with his own band, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. I have several of the Rhythm Kings’ albums and listen to them often.

A more recent photo of Bill Wyman

OK, so they are not really record albums. I own them as MP3 audio files. I’m not THAT old-fashioned, even if I am an aging Stones fan and have been to several of their concerts over the years (and Mick Jagger doesn’t look so young these days either)!

Last Survivor of the U.S. Transatlantic Slave Trade Discovered

There may be people alive today who remember this woman! Matilda McCrear lived until 1940 – the last survivor of the transatlantic slave trade. Matilda died in Selma, Alabama, in January 1940, at the age 83 – and her rebellious life story was the last living link with slaves abducted from Africa.

Matilda had been captured by slave traders in West Africa at the age of two, arriving in Alabama in 1860 on board one of the last transatlantic slave ships. With her mother Grace, and sister Sallie, Matilda had been bought by a wealthy plantation owner called Memorable Creagh.

You can read the full story in an article by Sean Coughlan in the BBC News web site at:

Bob McLaren, R.I.P.

It is with sadness that I learned of the death of Bob McLaren, a friend for many years and a genealogy expert. Bob was a fixture at many of the national genealogy conferences, always dressed in a kilt and usually talking about Scottish history. If you ever attended one of the Saturday evening dinners that I sponsored after a conference, you probably met Bob McLaren. I believe he attended almost all of them.

Roberta Estes wrote a nice tribute at that describes his activities and his personality perfectly. You can find Roberta’s tribute at: