28 February 2007


Mike Nifong is the name of the DA who started the Duke lacrosse case. I have a lot of questions about the whole affair, but I will stick to the one that's been bothering me for a while:

What kind of name is Nifong???

I poked around in some records and found that the Nifongs have been in North Carolina for a long time. George Nifong, the DA's 4th great-grandfather, is on the 1790 census in Rowan County. George's father Balthasar came to Pennsylvania from Germany in 1748 with the last name Neufang. The name was quickly corrupted to Nifong (North Carolina branch) or Knifong (Missouri branch).

So you can see that the DA's name has been around for quite some time and is not just recently trumped up.

22 February 2007


When Roger and I watch a movie, we always watch the credits at the end. All those names! We enjoy reading and wondering about the names as they scroll by. Not just the stars, but all those behind-the-scenes name that most folks don't see because they are filing out of the theater.

Sometimes we wonder where a name came from. Like, what kind of a name is Garant? It appears in the credits of Night at the Museum. (Pierre Garand, Rouen to Quebec 1665) What about the name Winick in Charlotte's Web? (Abraham Winnik, Russia to New York 1906)

Now and then we recognize a nicely corrupted Swiss name like Niswanger or Lookabill. Or we spot a probable cousin named Robidou or Dutcher.

Some of the names just have to be read aloud. Go ahead, nobody's listening:

Samrod Shenassa
Hazel Catmull
Sergio Mimica-Gezzan
B. Tennyson Sebastian III
Mark 'Guns' Navarette

Speaking of movies, you might want to rent Akeelah and the Bee. If you pay attention, you will see Roger and me sitting right behind Angela Bassett in the auditorium at USC. Besides being able to see us on the big screen, you will probably enjoy the movie.

Our names, however, do not appear in the credits.

18 February 2007

Death Spiral

I've been working with death records a lot lately but the rules various jurisdictions set up can be really frustrating and nonsensical. They are just not set up to deal with genealogists. I'm telling you, without Joe Beine's always up-to-date death indexes site, I could not even find half the places that issue death certificates.

Some places have rules based on how long its been since the person died. In Texas, if they've been less than 75 years, they're not dead enough. Why does it matter how long the guy's been dead? He's dead.

In New York, to get someone's death certificate you need to provide "an original, notarized letter signed by that person authorizing release of their certificate to you."

Utah, bless them, puts the actual certificates on line. Now that's a state that knows genealogy!

California has always allowed anyone to order a death record. But as part of recent "statewide efforts to reduce identity theft," they now stamp it as Non-certified. Can someone please explain to me how someone would use a death certificate to steal someone's identity???