Wikitree becomes evil / Chris Whitten is a liar

Several years ago I stopped using Geni.com because they decided to make previously private profiles public. I started using Wikitree instead because the founder, Chris Whitten, promised that Wikitree would not do this. He lied. Let me re-iterate. Chris Whitten is a liar. I wish I had saved screencaps where he told me Wikitree would not do the thing it has now done.

Wikitree decided to take private information and make it public.

I have profiles of people that I had set to private that were made not only public, but editable by anyone. Because Chris Whitten thinks he’s a better judge of what should be private about my family than I am.

While there’s nothing about people who died over 100 years ago that I am worried about, I no longer trust Chris Whitten. I would have no problem if he decided this is how privacy levels will work for all new profiles. But to retro-actively remove privacy protections for information tells me he’d be willing to do it again. What’s to say he won’t decide to make public information about living people? Or recently deceased? He’s shown that their privacy policy isn’t worth the electrons it was printed with.

Even worse, Wikitree will not let me delete the information they’ve let me keep private to this point. So I’m stuck with leaving that information with an untrustworthy shitheel.

So I repeat. Chris Whitten is a goddamn fucking liar. Wikitree has become evil.

Edited to add: Employee Eowyn Langholf is also a liar. In her response to my complaint with the Washington Attorney General she stated that: ” no private information has or will be made public “. Which is incorrect. The profile of my great grandfather Joseph Peter Weiss was made public.

Adventures in medical insurance enrollment

When I put in my notice at the last job, I assumed my insurance would carry through to the end of the month. I had an MRI scheduled for my last day (a Friday), and the related oncologist appointment for the following Tuesday. In my exit interview at 1 pm on that Friday, I was informed that my insurance got cut off at midnight. I hadn’t read the documentation I was sent two days earlier closely enough.

So I scrambled to apply for insurance that day, rather than do it the following Monday as I’d planned. Got on WAHealthPlanFinder, put in my info, including that my last day of coverage was 3/24. Picked a plan. Got confirmation that night that I was approved and that I should call the insurance company (Regence) or go to their web site to pay. Start date 4/1.

Called the oncologist on Monday and delayed my appointment for a week. Called Regence to find out how to pay. They had no record of me. CSR said it took a couple of days to get in the system. That’s fine. I expect these things.

I get “secure email” from Regence on 4/3 saying they need a letter from my employer before they can approve my insurance, deadline 4/10. I submit it online the same day. Within the hour. On 4/5, having heard nothing, I emailed Regence asking what’s up. I get a non-committal response. There’ll be a new deadline if that doesn’t suffice.

On 4/10, having heard nothing I call my oncologist and delay the appointment until May.

On 4/11, I get a request for a document from my previous insurance, deadline for submission 4/25. Letter from the employer wasn’t good enough. Note that this is the day after the previous deadline. I immediately call Cigna, the previous insurance. The document from them arrives on 4/17, and I submit it online that day.

On 4/26 (the day after the deadline), having not heard from them and starting to worry, I call the underwriting department. They say they’ve approved it and I need to call the exchange to arrange payment. Payment goes through Regence anyway. So I call the exchange, they have no record of the approval and as far as they are concerned, it was approved on 3/25. I need to talk to Regence. So I call Regence again, the regular line this time thinking it’s out of underwriting’s hands. But the CSR just transfers me to underwriting. This time the underwriting person tells me the application was approved this morning at 10:36, but that there’s nothing they can do on their end to speed of processing any more. Later in the call, she tells me because it’s an exchange based policy, it will take 4 days to get the paperwork transmitted back to the exchange, rather than the normal two. This means that the earliest I would actually have insurance is the last day of the fucking month, but I’d have to pay for the entire month. But even that’s unlikely because after the exchange gets it the information has to be put back into Regence’ system for payment and then to send me my insurance card. So I won’t be insured until May at least, but I’ll have to pay for April.

And no guarantee that all this paperwork will be processed before my appointment.

So, frustrated, I file a complaint with the Washington Insurance Commissioner, explaining all this. Total delay that I’m responsible for is a few hours. Total delay due to Cigna is 6 days. Total delay due to Regence (and possibly some due to the Washington insurance exchange) is 27 days. So far. I request:

  • A refund of any premiums I have to pay for April.
  • That Regence word its document requests so that everything can be submitted in one shot, with requirements understandable to people who aren’t insurance terminology geeks.
  • That Regence staff its underwriting department sufficient that paperwork processing happens in a timely fashion rather than the day after deadlines.
  • A pony

I tweet the previous bit out too, tagging the Regence Twitter handle. That person wants my info and I’m reluctant to give it, having been on the phone for an hour today already. However, about an hour later she’s on the line with me and with the exchange at the same time, and the exchange is putting in a ticket to change my start date to 5/1. With the Regence person on the line, she doesn’t think there will be any problem approving it. It would have required me putting a request in to Regence and paperwork being sent back and forth without that. I also recorded all this portion. Thank you Google Voice! It’ll probably mean I get one set of insurance cards for a start date of 4/1, and a second set with a start date of 5/1.

I’d rather have gotten the insurance processed in a timely fashion, and my oncologist appointment not delayed for a month. But it’s better than nothing. And I still want them to rewrite their requests and staff the hell up. I doubt the insurance commissioner will order that however. Still, I hope Regence has to at least spend some cycles on responding to those parts of the request.

Genealogy: do not trust, verify

The last couple of days I’ve been doing some quick research on an in-law, Andrew Fischer of Campbell County, South Dakota. He married Anna Lindemann, a relative of mine. I generally do some research on an in-law’s parents, siblings and anyone else that can be considered “immediate family” in case those people’s lives reveal something about my family.

Andrew Fischer was born in South Russia in 1903 and came to the US in 1910. His parents, Andreas and Magdalena Fischer, had more children after establishing themselves in Campbell County, South Dakota. (However, see my note in the final paragraph of this post regarding Andrew’s parents.) The one I want to highlight is his brother, Arthur Fischer. Arthur Fischer was born about 1918 in South Dakota, and that’s where things go wrong.

Somewhere along the line, someone found an Arthur Fischer who was born in 1918 and died in 1988 and was buried in South Dakota. They assumed this Arthur Fischer was the son of Andreas and Magdalena. After all, what are the odds of more than one Arthur Fischer born in 1918 and connected to South Dakota? Pretty good actually.

Searching the Social Security Death Index for Arthur Fischers born about 1918 with some connection to South Dakota results in seven people:

Name Birth Date Death Date Last Residence (City,County,State)
Arthur Fischer 28 Oct 1918 6 Apr 1988 57754 Lead, Lawrence, South Dakota, USA
Arthur Fischer 17 Mar 1918 7 Aug 1997 32798 Zellwood, Orange, Florida, USA
Arthur Adolph Fischer 4 Jun 1916 22 Sep 2010 57078 Yankton, Yankton, South Dakota, USA
Arthur Fischer 3 Jun 1915 Dec 1961
Arthur M. Fischer 20 Mar 1915 7 Sep 1999 57437 Eureka, Mcpherson, South Dakota, USA
Arthur J. Fischer 6 Sep 1922 4 Dec 1993 57437 Eureka, Mcpherson, South Dakota, USA
Arthur Fischer 22 Feb 1922 Feb 1984 55112 Saint Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota, USA

Two had their last residence in Eureka, just a 21 minute drive from Artas, where the “real” Arthur Fischer grew up. So which one is he?

According to ELCA baptismal records, the son of Andreas and Magdalena was born 17 Mar 1918:

ELCA baptism record for Arthur Fischer

The second Arthur Fischer listed above appears to be the correct one. Looking for an obituary for him, Genealogy Bank has the following (citing an obituary in the Orlando Sentinel):

79, Greenbluff Road, Zellwood, died Thursday, Aug. 7. Mr. Fischer was a quality assurance inspector for the U.S. government. Born in Artas, S.D., he moved to Central Florida in 1986. He was a member of Zellwood Golf Association. He was also an Army veteran of World War II and a member of Disabled American Veterans. Survivors: wife, Lois H.; sons, Bruce W., Inver Grove Heights, Minn., Bradley C., St. Paul, Minn.; sister, Elvina Huber, Mobridge, S.D.; brothers, John, Corvallis, Ore., Walter, Baxter, Minn. Woodlawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park, Orlando.

The obituary does not list his parents names, but the birthplace matches up. More importantly, Andreas and Magdalena had children named Alvina, John and Walter. Research on Alvina shows she married an Edward Huber. The Arthur Fischer who died in 1997 is the correct Arthur Fischer.

There are currently 10 family trees on Ancestry.com other than mine that include Arthur Fischer. As of today, all of them have his lifespan matching the first Arthur Fischer in the list above. And someone found the Find a Grave entry for the first Arthur Fischer, connected him to Andreas and Magdalena, added a bio, and included a photo.

That Arthur Fischer, however, was born in Napoleon, North Dakota, as his obituary states:

1988 obituary for the other Arthur Fischer

Maybe most of the people on Ancestry treat their trees there as “experimental” as I do, meaning, copy this at your own risk, as I haven’t verified everything. What’s on Find a Grave should be correct, however. People make mistakes. But it’s clear that noone has done much verification on the information for Arthur, they simply copied what someone else had. If you value the accuracy of your tree, do that verification before you copy a tree into your own. Assume that people make mistakes.

I’ve let the maintainer of the Find a Grave entry know, and I expect it’ll be corrected before too long. But those ten Ancestry trees, along with others on services I don’t use, will probably remain incorrect for years to come. A lesson from that is to remember that correctness of genalogical information is not proven by majority vote.

In my case, the easy things to find on Arthur Fischer didn’t reveal anything about Andrew Fischer, husband of Anna Lindemann. He died before Arthur, and I haven’t found any crossover in their records after childhood. In fact, in my better database (not my Ancestry tree), I haven’t included anything about the parents of the Andrew Fischer I’m interested in because I haven’t found a solid connection between Anna Lindemann’s husband and the rest of his family. Those same ten family trees are what suggested he is the son of Andreas and Magdalena. There’s a lot of suggestive evidence that backs that conclusion from those trees, but nothing solid, much less sufficient for a G.P.S. proof argument.

Initiative 1433 – Washington State Minimum Wage

Washington state already has one of the higher minimum wages in the Unites States, and our minimum wage is already adjusted for inflation every year. However, that does not mean we have a living wage. Initiative 1433, on the ballot in November, aims to increase wages for the working poor by increasing our minimum wage and instituting a few other worker-friendly protections. I am sure there are some marginal businesses that this will hurt. If you are making a crappy product that is barely selling, having to pay people better wages may make your business not feasible. I’d rather protect people who are marginally making it than businesses that are marginally making it. So, unsurprisingly, I am in favor of Initiative 1433. The things it would do are:
  • Raise the minimum wage:
    Year Projected w/ Current Law New Minimum Wage
    2017 $9.55/hr $11.00/hr
    2018 $9.77/hr $11.50/hr
    2019 $10.02/hr $12.00/hr
    2020 $10.28/hr $13.50/hr
    2021 $10.56/hr $13.86/hr (projected)
  • Require businesses to provide paid sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 40 worked.
  • Require 40 hours of accrued sick leave to be rolled over every year.
  • Prohibit employers from requiring employees to find their replacements for sick time taken.
  • Prohibit discrimination against workers who use sick leave.
  • Expand minimum wage law coverage to include some additional caregivers who provide DSHS services.
The proponents of I-1433 claim that the new minimums will increase wages for 730,000 workers, citing the Budget and Policy Center (BPC). I can’t find with a cursory search how they obtained their numbers. In one place, the BPC says that 500,000 workers make less than $12/hour. The financial impact statement prepared for the voters pamphlet makes clear that a fair number of people will be raised out of poverty with I-1433, as it predicts a reduction in caseloads for a number of state programs that benefit the poor. the I-1433 opposition says that 1.13 million people make less than $13.50/hour in the state. That’s a lot of people who will be helped. One of the big arguments against I-1433, as noted by the Defeat 1433 folks is that the initiative would cost the state $363 million through 2022. What they don’t note in that argument is that those costs are primarily due to a 4 year lag in collecting unemployment insurance premiums. In other words, rates for 2020 are based on what employers pay from 2015-2019. So we’d be paying out unemployment compensation based on the new minimum wage but collecting based on the old minimum wage. As unemployment insurance rate calculation is not affected by this initiative, the legislature could easily remedy that through a simple majority vote. If the legislature doesn’t want to, any shortfall is on them, in my view, not I-1433. I-1433 also mandates sick leave. Workers at the low end of the wage scale don’t have much of a safety net if they can’t work. This gives them a safety net. The principle reason opposing this, according to the organization advocating defeat, is that it is unclear how much sick leave can be taken in a single year. That argument is based on rolling over 40 hours into a new year plus an additional accrual of 52 hours that year. How is a business to survive if they can’t tell if an employee might take between 0 and 92 hours of sick leave in a one single year??! You might think I’m being facetious with that claim, and you’d be right. A business allocates a certain percentage of money into a reserve account to account for that. That is approximately 5% of full time hours. It’s a fairly narrow range of unpredictability. I think they can adjust to the uncertainty a lot easier than low wage workers can adjust to the lack of income when they are sick. It’s important to note that opponents of higher wages predicted gloom and doom when Seattle and Seatac raised their minimum wages. Nothing of the sort happened. Maybe the opponents will be correct this time, but it would be a first. And if they are correct, then the legislature can halt or roll back the increases. A quick look at who is funding the campaigns, because I think that says a lot about who benefits. The Defeat 1433 campaign’s contributions come from the Washington Restaurant Association, the Washington Food Industry Association, and the Washington Retail Association. Their workers would benefit from higher wages. The other campaign is being funded by Nick Hanauer (a local businessman), unions (who might see higher dues from higher minimum wages), and a group called The Fairness Project. I should note that as of the information in the PDC’s database today, the proponents have raised over $3.8 million to the opponents $54,000. Featured image for this post taken by Elvert Barnes and used under a Creative Common Attribution license.

Alt Metten in Bohemia

My second great grand uncle (by marriage), Joseph Zimmerman, died in 1908 in Los Angeles. I had his death certificate and brief death notice from Los Angeles to establish the details around that event, but I knew there were obituaries for him in Iowa, where he’d resided for many years before removing to Los Angeles. I’d seen a transcription for one from the Guttenberg Press on a GenWeb site. Last week I remembered that, like a lot of other Iowa county libraries, the local library probably had a web site hosting digitized versions of their old newspapers. And the Guttenberg Library does have a newspaper site!

In addition to the Guttenberg Press obituary, the site also has one from the Clayton County Journal (only the first portion shown):

Obituary for Joseph Zimmerman from the Clayton County Journal
Obituary for Joseph Zimmerman from the Clayton County Journal, 11 Dec 1908, page 8

Unlike other evidence which listed either Austria or Baden as his place of birth, this obituary gives a fairly precise location: Alt Metten in Bohemia.

Being the curious and detailed person that I am, I want to know where Alt Metten was. I know there are gazetteers for historical Germany, but I didn’t know offhand if any such things cover the Austrian Empire or Bohemia in particular. And I like maps. So I perused the David Rumsey map collection web site to see if it had any for Bohemia. It does, and the approximate date is 1838, which is really close to Joseph Zimmerman’s year of birth.

Unfortunately, Alt Metten was not immediately apparent. So I made a copy of the map and, using GIMP, started crossing off place names that were not Alt Metten. Below you will see my handiwork, which is still not complete. The red marks tick off places that are within the Kingdom of Bohemia according to the map. Then I started with yellow marks for places outside the borders shown but which could conceivably be considered Bohemia. A couple of places I circled in green for further checking in case I can’t find better candidates. I still have some places to check.

Map of Kingdom of Bohemia  from Allgemeiner Hand Atlas der Ganzen Erde
Map of Kingdom of Bohemia from Allgemeiner Hand Atlas der Ganzen Erde

So far, nothing that is clearly Alt Metten.

Post-glacial Rebound near Håkansön

I attended a genealogy seminar on 25 September 2016 at the Swedish Club in Seattle, put on by SwedGen. The final portion was on the historical maps available from Landmäteriet. I’ve used that web site for the current maps, mostly as a gazetteer. I didn’t know the historical maps were available.

So I poked around looking for maps of Håkansön, the village where both my great grandparents are from. Some of the old church records identify the farm numbers where my family lived. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any land reform maps for the village, which would show the individual farms.

But there were some general maps for the area, and I noticed something interesting. The first image is from Google Maps of the peninsula today. The marker on it shows where Håkansön was according to the old maps (I thought it was slightly south of there).

Map of Klubbviken 2016
Klubbviken 2016

The second image is of the same area on a map identified as being from 1858-78. The peninsula is shorter, with an island just off the tip.

Map of Klubbviken from 1859-78
Klubbviken 1859-78

What was an island in the 1800s is now part of the mainland. I’m betting the change in sea level is due to post-glacial rebound. The entire area was under thousands of feet of ice 20,000 years ago. and it is now rising because the weight no longer presses down.

Kind of neat to see a long term geological process actually reflected in the maps.

Initiative 1464 – Washington government accountability act

It looks like there’s going to be a lot on the ballot for the 2016 Washington general election, so I’m going to get started early on reading up on measures and candidates. These posts are not endorsements exactly, though some will end up being just that. Keep in mind that I am a liberal and I am not going into these posts unbiased looking for the ultimate correct answer.

First up, is Initiative 1464 which bills itself as the Washington government accountability act. It’s not really a general government accountability act. It’s a campaign donation accountability act at best.

The headline feature of the initiative is a form of public finance for state legislative and executive campaigns. I don’t hate the program, but I suspect it’s not going to have a transformative effect in Washington politics. The Democracy Credit Program lets each voter in the state make $50 donations to three candidates where the money comes from the program rather than the person’s own pocket. To be eligible to receive these funds, a candidate has to collect 75 small donations from voters within their district.

Reading a summary of Initiative 1464 for the state legislature, it appears that candidates have to forego all contributions besides the 75 qualifying ones. It’s for this reason why I don’t think this will have a transformative effect. Candidates who can collect enough contributions through the current system are going avoid the new program. The Democracy Credit Program is a lot more work, because it requires that candidates spend a lot of time cajoling people to give them one of their three $50 contributions. I think a lot of candidates would rather spend their time convincing people to vote for them. Smaller candidates may well jump on the bandwagon. But from the elections I’ve seen, they have less well thought out and comprehensive platforms, so we’ll be giving money to fringe candidates and not affecting how mainstream candidates fund raise.

The Democracy Credit Program would be funded by revoking the sales tax exemption we give to out of state residents. The appeal is that we publicly fund candidates with other people’s money.

The initiative also has limits on contributions, $100 per candidate for lobbyists and contractors who have business before the agency that the candidate would run. Note that this appears to be $100 total for such donors to these candidates, rather than the current limits which allow donors to start over at $0 after the primary.

What candidates can do with unused campaign funds would be more limited under the initiative. They would no longer be able to pay themselves a salary in excess of the state median income.

It would makes so-called independent expenditures count as candidate donations under a whole host of circumstances. For example, I campaign official could not leave the campaign to run an independent expenditure campaign and have the independent campaign continue to count as independent. So lots more could count against campaign limits.

The initiative would require political committees that advertise to list the top 5 donors while disallowing the committees to hide the ultimate donors’ names behind additional anonymous committees.

A new proscription means that an official cannot lobby their former agency for three years after leaving the agency. There are additional restrictions on lobbying for former state employees as well


The no campaign doesn’t appear to have a working web site. Looking at the PDC web site, they appear to have limited funding that comes primarily from the contractor and food industry. Supposedly they want us to worry about funding state education before we do this, but I don’t see them making any effort there, so I call bullshit on that point.


The Yes on 1464 campaign is generously funded, at just under $2 million as of this writing. One fourth of that comes from Connie Ballmer, wife of Steve Ballmer. That makes me very suspicious. Steve Ballmer funded the committee that opposed a state income tax initiative a few years ago, and he’s generally behaved like a jerk with respect to Washington politics. Connie Ballmer has also generously funded ($500,000) an attempt to defeat Barbara Madsen, the Washington Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion that invalidated one of her pet initiatives, publicly funded charter schools in Washington. Makes me think that she thinks Initiative 1464 won’t hurt her chances to get her own way.

Other contributors to the yes campaign do not follow the rules that would be enacted as part of this. Every Voice has contributed $300,000 to the campaign, but not filed any reports with the Washington State PDC. Neither does $100,000 contributor Represent US. Pretty sneaky for a campaign that supposedly is supposed to increase transparency.


I’ll be voting for this, but it’s not a strong endorsement. Given the Supreme Court’s declaration that campaign contributions constitute political speech, I just don’t see any way we can meaningfully reform campaign finance. Rich people will just opt out of any voluntary system. And frankly, if it fails I won’t shed a tear because the people behind the yes campaign appear to believe their proposed rules apply only to other people.

Mary Evelyn Frederick’s SS-5

An update on Mary Evelyn Sorenson, the daughter of Alfred and Mae Sorenson. Between Ancestry’s Social Security Applications and Claims Index database and the death certificate of the person who had that Social Security Number, I had an idea that I’d found what had happened to my first cousin twice removed. However, her death certificate did not list parents, so I wasn’t certain that I had records for the right person.

In July I requested the Social Security SS-5 for the person with Mary’s Social Security Number. That’s the original application for a social security number. It has date of birth and parents on it usually. Here’s what I got:

SS-5 - Mary Evelyn Fredericks
SS-5 – Mary Evelyn Fredericks

Many of the items in this application match what I know about Mary Sorenson:

  • Father’s full name.
  • Mother’s first name.
  • Approximate year of birth.
  • Place of birth.
  • Name matches the name of Mae Sorenson’s daughter in the daughter’s announced marriage to George Grantzow.

That’s a lot of matching points. And unless someone took over her identity it’s the same woman who died in 1990, the S.S.N. and date of birth match the death certicate. I’m considering it pretty safe to assert these are all the same person.


Armed with that information, I was able to find a marriage record for Mary Evelyn Sorenson and Herbert George Fredericks in Los Angeles from 1935.

Marriage certificate for Herbert Fredericks and Mary Sorenson
Marriage certificate for Herbert Fredericks and Mary Sorenson

For some reason, Mary Sorenson thought her mother’s maiden name was Radtke. The other indication I have for Mae’s maiden name comes from Mae’s marriage record, which gave her name as Gibbons. She was raised in an orphanage, so I don’t know how accurate either name is.

I can start to put together a timeline for Mary Sorenson now:

Date Event Place Source
9 Mar 1914 Birth Madison, Wisconsin Death certificate
SS-5
1 Jan 1920 Census, recorded living with parents Madison, Wisconsin 1920 US Census
8 Sep 1935 Marriage to Herbert George Fredericks Los Angeles, California Marriage certificate
24 Feb 1937 Residence Redondo Beach, California SS-5
1 Apr 1940 Census, living with Herbert Fredericks Inglewood, California 1940 US Census
23 Nov 1943 Marriage to George William Grantzow Unknown, but announced in Madison, Wisconsin Two announcements in the Wisconsin State Journal
23 Jan 1948 Divorce from George Grantzow Madison, Wisconsin News in Wisconsin State Journal
7 Jun 1948 Marriage to James “Shorty” Reigle Dubuque, Iowa Announcement in Wisconsin State Journal
1 Nov 1949 Marriage license with James “Shorty” Reigle Madison, Wisconsin Announcement in Wisconsin State Journal
18 May 1951 Divorce from James Reigle Madison, Wisconsin News in Wisconsin State Journal
7 Jun 1951 Divorce from James Reigle vacated Madison, Wisconsin News in Wisconsin State Journal
26 Mar 1952 Divorce from James Reigle Madison, Wisconsin News in Wisconsin State Journal
May 1956 Name under Frances Marie Sorenson U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007
Oct 1956 Name under Frances Marie Newton U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007
Nov 1957 Name under Frances Marie Vonhauzer U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007
16 Nov 1958 Residence, name under Evelyn Tanner California Mother’s obituary in Capital Times
13 Oct 1990 Death, name as Frances Marie Newton Lynwood, California Death certificate

There’s still a lot of gaps in her life that I could research and document, in addition to better documenting the known events.

  • how and when did her marriage to Herbert Fredericks end
  • what was the deal with incongruent marriage records for Mary and James Reigle
  • how did Mary get the name Evelyn Tanner, and did she marry to get that name
  • when and where did she change her name to Frances Marie
  • did she marry to acquire the surname Newton
  • did she marry to acquire the surname Vonhauzer

Ysola Chaves Ryan’s Sensational Will Contest

It’s no secret that I love a scandal in my family tree. These situations make for the best stories. I found this one involving my second great uncle Elgie Jerome Ryan earlier this week.

My second great grandfather’s first wife (my ancestor), Mary Parker, died in 1875. William Dennis Ryan re-married a year later to Mary Powers, and they had three children: Elgie Jerome, Glenn Alexis and Arch. William already had six children with Mary Parker: Alice, Frances, Mary, Julia, Laura, and Leo. Glenn and Arch died before age 30. Over the years, Elgie lived with his siblings in Merrill and Colorado before moving west to Tulare, California and establishing a very successful drug store.

Elgie’s first wife was Barta Holford, who was from Bloomington, Wisconsin, just a few miles away from the Ryan farm. Elgie married Barta on 22 Aug 1905 at the Eastern Star Lodge in Bloomington. Shortly after that Elgie and Barta were established in Tulare.

The following are photos of Barta and Elgie taken from a family photo album.

Barta Holford Ryan (left) with Allie Ryan (right)
Barta Holford Ryan (left) with Allie Ryan (right)
Ryans in Tulare (Elgie in back right)
Ryans in Tulare (Elgie in back right)

Elgie died on 28 Jun 1926 in Tulare. The following obituary appeared in the Bloomington Record on 7 Jul 1926. I suspect the obituary is in the public domain, but out of caution I have included only the parts necessary to my story. Notice anything about the obituary? There is no information about who his second wife was.


Until this week, that’s all the information I had. It wouldn’t be too difficult to get Elgie’s death certificate to find that out, but I hadn’t yet gotten around to it. Last time I spent much time researching Elgie, I didn’t have access to too many California newspapers. But I recently upgraded to the “Publisher Extra” service at Ancestry’s Newspapers.com web site, which includes the Los Angeles Times. On a whim, I’d searched for “E. J. Ryan” and the following article from the 2 Mar 1927 edition of the Times showed up:

Headline from article on suit over Elgie Ryan will
Los Angeles Times, 2 Mar 1927, section 2 page 11 col 6, Sensational Will Contest

Now that’s juicy! I’ve included only the headline under fair use. Additional information that the article gave me included his second wife’s name (Ysola Chaves Ryan) and that an autopsy found poison in Elgie’s body! The death was ruled a suicide.

That was enough information for me to track down their marriage record on FamilySearch. I’ve no idea why I wasn’t able to find it earlier. They got married on 22 Mar 1925 in Los Angeles. Other articles in the Times say that Ysola was a teacher in the Tulare schools at the time of her marriage, but she appears to have resided in Los Angeles most of the time. Her sister was Mignon Le Brun, wife of silent film actor Cullen Landis.

Even stranger, at the time of Elgie’s death, Ysola may have left him and returned to Los Angeles. She maintained that Elgie didn’t commit suicide, but instead consumed strychnine accidentally. Now, it seems odd to me that a druggist, even a despondent one in ill health, would commit suicide in one of the most painful ways possible (strychnine) rather than a relatively painless one such as an overdose of morphine.

Eventually though, the courts ruled for Ysola Ryan that she was entitled to the entirety of the $118,000 estate ($1.6 million in 2016), and Elgie’s death remained a suicide officially, denying Ysola the benefits of Elgie’s life insurance. From the 5 Mar 1927 edition of the Santa Ana Register:

Santa Ana Register headline on resolution of suit of Elgie Ryan's will
Santa Ana Register, 5 Mar 1927, page 12, column 4, Wife of Suicide Awarded Estate

Ysola doesn’t appear to have remarried, dying in 1964 under the name Ysola Chaves Ryan.

Bowie and Prince as the Little Prince

With the death of two music icons recently, I’ve seen this image floating around the internet. It imagines David Bowie and Prince as the Little Prince. For those looking for the origins of the image, here’s the information in one place.

The Bowie side is a modification of Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s depiction of David Bowie as the Little Prince, created shortly after his death. Click the link to go to the original. The image is linked to his Facebook post.

David Bowie imagined as The Little Prince
Jarrett J. Krosoczka

The Prince side is a modification of Sean Gregory Miller’s image from a couple years ago. The image is linked to the original on DeviantArt.

Prince imagined as The Little Prince
Sean Gregory Miller

Images copyright by the artists and included here in small sizes only to provide enough visual idea to identify the pieces.