Roy Stockdill, R.I.P.

The world of genealogy lost a good friend last week when Roy Stockdill passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. He was a professional genealogist, writer, researcher, and lecturer in England. He ran a one-name study of the surname STOCKDALE, STOCKDILL and other variants. Before his retirement, Roy was a journalist at a number of Fleet Street newspapers and elsewhere, including: the TODAY NEWSPAPER, News of the World, the Sunday Citizen, the West Herts Post, the Coventry Evening Telegraph, the Leicestershire Live, and at the Halifax Courier.

Roy also was well-known for his many humorous articles, many of which dealt with genealogy. Here is one example that he allowed me to publish in this newsletter some years ago. I can no longer ask him for permission to publish it one more time, but I don’t think he would mind.

First, my introduction to the article, written in August, 2000:

A person who apparently is a newcomer to genealogy research posted a message this week on a British mailing list challenging why anyone would spend time looking for genealogy information in books and in dusty old records offices. Roy Stockdill responded with what I think will become a classic answer. Roy kindly has given permission for it to be republished here:

Roy’s article:

Find All Your Ancestors Online!

Dear All

Welcome to my super-fast instant ancestry programme! I am proud to announce the launch of an exciting new service for wannabe family historians who find research the old-fashioned way rather boring. You, too, can have a family tree back to Adam and Eve ENTIRELY from the Internet!!! Here is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be repeated offer…..

SEND me 10,000 dollars, your date of birth, your chest and inside leg measurements, the location of the pub where your granny met your granddad and the name of that milkman with the hairy nose that your Auntie Maude had the wild affair with – and I guarantee I will have your family tree at least back to Nebuchadnezzar the Daft of Outer Mongolia in the 3rd century BC before you can say “IGI” !!!

Follow-Up: How the Irish Man Hilariously Pranked His Family at His Own Funeral

This is a do-it-yourself article. You could do this yourself when the day comes. Well, you do have to have assistance from someone else at the funeral…

If you haven’t already read it, first read my earlier article, Irish Man Hilariously Pranks His Family at His Own Funeral, at Now Andrea, the daughter of the dearly departed Irishman, has revealed how her late father came up with the idea more than a year earlier.

(When the video starts playing, click on the speaker icon near the lower right corner to enable the sound.)

Irish Man Hilariously Pranks His Family at His Own Funeral

I have been collecting humorous obituaries for a while. This story isn’t about an obituary but about something related, as created by a man with a similar sense of humor.

As described by Ellie Houghtaling in the Mashable web site:

Shay Bradley of Kilnamanagh in the south of Dublin, Ireland, passed October 8, but that didn’t mean he was ready to give up his life’s passion of pranking his family. When his coffin was lowered and the bag pipes began playing, something unusual happened – an audio recording of his voice began playing.

(When the video starts playing, click on the speaker icon near the lower right corner to enable the sound.)

Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter and Gene By Gene Join Forces to Shape the Future of Investigative Genetic Genealogy

The following announcement was written by Gene By Gene, the parent company of FamilyTreeDNA:

Barbara Rae-Venter, PhD

HOUSTON, Sept. 27, 2019 — Genetic genealogist Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter, recognized for her groundbreaking work in the Golden State Killer case, named one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2019, and Nature’s 10 people who mattered in science in 2018, has been named Director of Gene By Gene’s newly formed Investigative Genetic Genealogy Unit.

Gene By Gene, known in the direct-to-consumer business as FamilyTreeDNA, was the first company to market direct-to-consumer DNA testing, and first to provide familial matching through a person’s DNA signature. “Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter pioneered law enforcement’s most revolutionary crime-solving tool since the fingerprint,” says president and founder, Bennett Greenspan. “We are excited to have a genealogist of Dr. Rae-Venter’s caliber working with us to set industry-leading standards for investigative genetic genealogy.”

Ontario Genealogical Society Presents Peter Wilson with the Society’s Award of Merit

Peter Wilson (left) was presented the Award of Merit by the Ontario Genealogical Society’s President Steve Fulton

Peter Wilson, the Richmond Hill, Ontario, Public Library’s Local History Librarian, was recently award the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Award of Merit for his work in leading the Library’s efforts in the organization, preservation, and digitization of genealogical and local history material.

According to the announcement, “Peter has worked tirelessly to preserve the area’s local history and to ensure that materials are made available and accessible through digitization. In addition to providing access to a diverse local history collection housed in the Richmond Hill Public Library’s Mary-Lou Griffin Local History Room, Peter and the Library also support the Ontario Genealogical Society’s York Branch by showcasing the branch’s collection of material through the RHPL online catalogue, and by offering training opportunities for the use of genealogy tools like Family Tree Maker software and Ancestry Library Edition. Congratulations Peter!”

My thanks to newsletter reader Terry Mulcahy for telling me about this award.

Follow-Up to Another “Interesting” Obituary about Joseph Heller, Jr.

Last week I published an article at about Joe Heller’s obituary. It seems that his funeral and burial ceremony have now taken place and, as you might expect, both were a bit “unusual.”

According to the New York Times at

On Friday morning, Mr. Heller’s body, in a coffin draped with an American flag, was placed on the 1941 Mack fire truck he helped restore and taken to Centerbrook Cemetery to be buried next to his wife, Irene, who died in 2015, and whom he embarrassed daily “with his mouth and choice of clothing,” according to the obituary.

Family members followed the fire truck in Mr. Heller’s immaculately restored 1932 Plymouth roadster with, as per his request, a set of plastic testicles dangling from the rear bumper.

There’s more information available at:

Another “Interesting” Obituary

I have published a number of humorous or otherwise interesting obituaries in the past, simply because I enjoy reading them. Apparently, humorous obituaries are also enjoyed by many others. Two different newsletter readers have now sent me links to the same person’s obituary and I must say that I am sorry I never met the man. He sounds like “my kind of guy.”
Joseph Heller, Jr.
Joe Heller made his last undignified and largely irreverent gesture on September 8, 2019, signing off on a life, in his words, “generally well-lived and with few regrets.” When the doctors confronted his daughters with the news last week that “your father is a very sick man,” in unison they replied, “you have no idea.” God thankfully broke the mold after Joe was born…
Also, you will enjoy these words to describe his memorial service:
Joe despised formality and stuffiness and would really be ticked off if you showed up in a suit. Dress comfortably. The family encourages you to don the most inappropriate T-Shirt that you are comfortable being seen in public with as Joe often did.

Digitizing Canada’s Heritage is the Top Priority for Canada’s new Chief Librarian and Archivist

This should be good news for anyone researching Canadian ancestry but doesn’t live near the location(s) of those ancestors!

Canada’s new chief librarian and archivist says her profession’s biggest challenge remains meeting the digital demands of the next generation of library patrons, and that could mean collecting tweets and emails alongside those historical books, maps and photographs.

Leslie Weir, who took over as Library and Archivist of Canada on Friday, told CBC’s Ottawa Morning that in 2000, many were predicting the demise of libraries amid the increasing digitization of books and information. The technology never slowed, yet now, nearly two decades later, libraries are still around.

You can read more in an article in the CBC web site at:

This Man Facilitates Surprise Inheritances from Long-forgotten Relatives

This never happens to me but obviously it has happened to others. The stories all seem to be similar to the often-repeated stories of surprise inheritances from long-lost uncles. The true stories may not always involve uncles but surprises do happen.

James Chalmers is an “heir finder,” a genealogist who finds heirs who have unexpectedly inherited money or property. Chalmers has been employed for 12 years at State Trustees in the state of Victoria, Australia. The firm works with clients to create wills, documents providing the power of attorney, and related services.

Mr. Chalmers is something of a gene detective, scouring all manner of public and private records to deliver sums of money and inherited items to mostly unwitting next of kin. His extraordinary job sometimes makes millionaires (his record inheritance is about $3 million) and sometimes reunites families. Almost always, he uncovers secrets.

A Study of Immigrants from Russia to Baltimore

Roughly a century ago, scores of immigrants moved to Baltimore from a Russian village.

Howard Schwartz says he was never one for researching family history, but after his mother died six years ago, a pair of old photographs hanging on her wall piqued his curiosity. Who, he wondered, were those serious-looking, bearded men? The women in buttoned-up dresses, the girls with the braids, the boys in knee-length trousers?

Joseph M. (Joe) Lalley Jr., R.I.P.

Joe Lalley Jr

Joseph (Joe) M. Lalley Jr of Asheville, North Carolina passed away Friday night, August 2, 2019 at the age of 93. He had a long and productive life as a teacher and headmaster, as documented in his obituary at, he was better known in the genealogy community for the website he created at many years ago that charts the genealogy links between County Galway, Ireland and Wilmington, Delaware.

While Joe Lalley’s obituary may be found at, perhaps an even better memorial to his dedication and accomplishments may be found at his web site at:

My thanks to newsletter reader Mike Carroll for telling me the sad news.

The American Ancestry of Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Is Revealed by American Scholar

The following announcement was written by American Ancestors, also known as New England Historic Genealogical Society:

Johnson is Related to at Least Ten U.S. Presidents and Many Notable U.S. Political Figures

August 1, 2019—Boston, MassachusettsAlexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, the British Prime Minister, has Turkish, Jewish, noble German, and much English ancestry. However, the extensive American ancestry of the newly-elected head of the U.K. government is much less known.

Gary Boyd Roberts, Senior Research Scholar Emeritus at American Ancestors, also known as New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), has studied the American forebears and notable kin of Johnson and published his recent findings on

The new Prime Minister has family relationships with ten U.S. Presidents: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, Grover Cleveland, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush—and to many political, industrial, and cultural icons in America’s history.

Thomas Mulligan’s Humorous Obituary

“Thomas (Tomm) WJ Mulligan of Nashua [New Hampshire] has passed away at home in his recliner as he had threatened to for years.

“He was a kid from Brooklyn who grew up to live the American Dream of marriage, a career, a house in the suburbs and two pain in the ass kids. He attended Bishop Ford High School.

“He was a DIYer with no less than five unfinished projects at any time.”

New UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is Related to Queen Elizabeth

I am not sure if this qualifies as “news” or not as most everyone with western European ancestry is related to almost every member of every royal family. However, the connection between Britain’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Her Majesty was recently documented.

The BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? programme discovered in 2008 that Mr Johnson’s paternal grandmother Yvonne Eileen Irene Williams (nicknamed ‘Granny Butter) whose family name was de Pfeffel, was a descendent of Prince Paul Von Wurttemberg.

Yvonne’s great grandparents were Baron Charles de Pfeffel and Karoline von Rottenburg. Karoline was the illegitimate daughter of Prince Paul von Wurttermberg and an actress named Friederike Margrethe Porth. In turn, Prince Paul was a great-great grandson of King George II, who reigned from 1727 until 1760.

Anne Leishman Merrell is the Winner of the APG Young Professional Scholarship

The following announcement was written by the Association of Professional Genealogists:

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo., 17 July 2019—Today the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG®) announced Anne Leishman Merrell of McLean, Virginia, as the winner of the 2019 APG Young Professional Scholarship.

The APG Young Professional Scholarship is awarded to a student or young professional between the ages of 18 and 29 who aspires to a professional career in genealogy. The scholarship includes registration for the APG Professional Management Conference (PMC) and a stipend to defray costs of travel and lodging at the conference.

Merrell holds a B.A. in Family History and Genealogy from Brigham Young University (BYU). She is a volunteer at her local Family History Center, where she teaches a family history course for youth. She is the producer of the Family History for Youth podcast, aimed at adults looking to get kids and teens involved, and was recently hired as the web content editor for the North Carolina Genealogy Society. She has been the director for BYU’s Family History Youth Camp, has been a staff genealogist for the Daughters of the American Revolution, and is a winner of the Young Family Historian Award from the BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy.

David Mishkin, R.I.P.

It is with sadness that I learned of David Mishkin’s passing yesterday. David was well-known within the genealogy community as the owner of “Just Black and White” in South Portland, Maine.

Until his retirement in 2005, David specialized in restoring old photographs. He worked primarily with old family photographs. He worked exclusively with black and white film, processing, printing and restoring older photographs using traditional darkroom techniques, not digital photo editing.

He often gave lectures to genealogical groups and historical societies across the country. I was fortunate enough to hear David speak several times and I learned a lot from him as a result. I am sure many others benefited from his charming and witty presentations as well.

Minister Rodriguez Announces Appointment of Leslie Weir to Library and Archives Canada

The following announcement was written by Library and Archives Canada:

As the new Librarian and Archivist of Canada, and the first woman to take this role, Leslie Weir will help to acquire, preserve and encourage access to documents that tell our collective history.

Leslie Weir

GATINEAU, QC, May 27, 2019 The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, announced today the appointment of Ms. Leslie Weir as Librarian and Archivist of Canada for a term of four-year term, effective August 30, 2019. Ms. Weir will be the first woman to become Librarian and Archivist of Canada since the merging of these two institutions.

Ms. Weir was the university librarian at the University of Ottawa from 2003 to 2018. Prior to her tenure at the university, she held positions at the National Library of Canada and the Statistics Canada Library.

Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood left out of Who Do You Think You Are? because his Family History is “Too Complex”

Ronnie Wood is an English rock musician, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, artist, author and radio personality best known as a member of The Rolling Stones since 1975. He was scheduled to be a celebrity guest on the U.K. version of Who Do You Think You Are? The show’s professional genealogists researched his ancestry and found a lot of information about his ancestors. There was but one problem,: they found too much information to fit into a one-hour program!

It seems that Ronald Wood has a huge family tree made up of gypsies, most of whom lived on canal barges.

A representative of Who Do You Think You Are? stated, “With Ronnie’s colourful relatives – who can be traced back over 300 years – there was too much to be able to work through in time for this year’s series.”

Struggling Care Worker Becomes Lord of $60 Million English Estate After DNA Test Proves He’s an Heir

Did you ever wish to inherit a fortune from a rich uncle who had recently passed away? That happened to Jordan Adlard-Rogers. He received a roughly $60 million inheritance from an uncle that previously Adlard-Rogers was not certain was his relative.

Adlard-Rogers — who reportedly grew up in a council house and suffered long periods of financial hardship — has now quit his job and moved into the estate. The 1,536-acre Penrose Estate is said to be where King Arthur was mortally wounded and died.

You can read a lot more in an article by Phil Boucher in the People web site at:

NGS Awards Excellence in Genealogy Scholarship and Service

The following announcement was written by the (U.S.) National Genealogical Society:

At our annual banquet on Friday evening on 10 May at the 2019 Family History Conference in St. Charles, Missouri, NGS presented awards that acknowledge and honor genealogical scholarship and service. The banquet speaker, David E. Rencher, AG, CG®, FIGRS, FUGA, spoke about the precarious future of tombstones in his presentation, “If Carved in Stone, Your Epitaph is Already Disappearing!” Awards Committee chair Janet L. Bailey opened the awards portion of the banquet.

Each year, NGS presents awards to organizations and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to NGS programs or have done outstanding work in the field of genealogy, history, biography, or heraldry.

National Genealogy Hall of Fame