A Second Cousin of a Second Cousin

A couple years ago after researching as thoroughly as possible, I had decided my family was not related to the infamous outlaw, Jesse James. But, after finding this newspaper article recently, I've brought out all of my research again. To be clear, the man interviewed happens to also be named Jesse James. He is not …

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Evidence

Those glazed over eyes. You know what I mean: that moment at a party when you realize you can't remember how long you've been talking, and everyone that was listening is now either staring at hors d'oeuvres or smiling politely while internally wording their tweets about that boring guy who droned on for half an hour about the pros …

Telling Strangers Your Life Story, or Why Not to Go Whole Hog on Census Records

Genealogists are magicians. Don't believe me? Watch as I make my Aunt Barbara disappear before your eyes! In my ongoing search to learn about my grandfather, Ralph James's life, I came across a newspaper article that stated the date of his first marriage to Gladys Hooker. With the discovery of that date came an intriguing story problem: If Gladys …

Baby-daddy

Last week, I told a story about how a little circled X in the 1940 Iowa Census led me to a big discovery about my grandfather, Ralph James's life. I found out that in January of that year he'd resigned his position as Council Bluffs Assistant County Engineer during a meeting where the board was approving raises for him …

The Smallest of Clues

This snippet from the 1940 Federal Census looks pretty innocent, just another happy little family snuggled between neighbors on a page. Ralph, my paternal grandfather, worked for the government; Gladys, my step-grandmother, ran a beauty salon; the two little girls no doubt held hands as they skipped to school together. But see the circled X after Ralph's name? That's …

Angry Lily

My sister storms in looking like an angry lily—bright pink hair curled back from red lips screeching about inheritance. Spit falls around the casket instead of condolences. I say, "Dad was flat-ass broke, so pull out your checkbook. You owe me."

Get Well Soon

Everything hurt—chewing, coughing, breathing even—so between the nurses’ questions about pain levels and decreasing dosages, I occupied myself by staring at the television. The Streets of San Francisco was on. Steve Keller was chasing a bad guy across a parking lot. Rosalyn, my wife, must have gone down to make a call, and I was alone when Albert …