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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, December 21, 2009
Photos with Santa
Posted by Diane

8d23937u santa.jpg

A simple question from my editor, the Genealogy Insider Diane Haddad, has me scrambling for the answer. She asked, "What's the history of having your picture taken with Santa?" Whoa! These iconic kid pictures are in a lot of family albums, and judging from the lines at mall Santas, having a photo with this Christmas symbol remains popular. 

But when did the first kid have a picture taken with Santa? It's a good question.

Out on a gift-buying journey I found a cute little book, A Century of Christmas Memories, 1900-1999 by the editors of the Peter Pauper Press (Peter Pauper Press). In it is a picture of baseball great Babe Ruth playing Santa at a benefit in December 1947. 

The photo featured above was taken in 1942 at Macy's Department Store in New York, and now is in the collection of the Library of Congress.  Accompanying information mentions there were two Santas, concealed from one another, so that the children wouldn't be upset. Each child got to talk with Santa and received a piece of candy.

The tradition must be older than that. I turned to Google for help. A quick search turned up a site that mentioned that the first department store Santa was a R.H. Macy's in New York in 1870, but it didn't mention photographs.

On the History Channel website, there's a history of many things relating to Christmas—including a short article on mall Santas. According to that piece, in 1841, a Philadelphia store featured a life-size Santa model.

I thought a newspaper search might help. I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, but I did locate an obituary for Charles W. Howard, who was considered the "Nation's No. 1 Santa Claus." According to the obituary in the May 2, 1966, New York Times, Howard began his career as Santa when just a child, and then in 1937, he opened a school for Santas. He taught "psychology, costuming, makeup, whisker grooming, voice-modulation and ho-ho-ho-ing."

Howard said "You've got to know the character you're playing. It's so real to me sometimes that I can feel the reindeer breathing on my cheek."

While I don't have a definitive answer yet on Diane's question, I'm still working on it. I have some leads, but need to contact some folks in the know. They haven't returned my calls in this busy season....they must be out shopping.

Happy Holidays!!


children | Photo fun
Monday, December 21, 2009 5:14:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, December 14, 2009
Finding the Story, Part Three
Posted by Maureen

If you've been following the last two weeks' worth of Joan Lee's search for her husband's grandfather, you know how complicated this story is. In week one, I looked at a photograph reputed to be Fred Klingbeil and in week two, I explained some additional problems with the Lee/Klingeil family tree.

Here are the basics: The Canadian branch of the Klingbeil family told Joan that Fred's father, Julius, immigrated to join his brother Louis in Canada. Joan had documentation but thought it would be fun to confirm the relationship with DNA. Her husband (descended from Julius) and the man in Canada (descended from Louis) sent off their cheek samples for a 33-marker test from Ancestry.com's DNA testing service and waited.

Joan couldn't believe there was yet another twist in the story—the DNA didn't match. At all! Not a single marker.

According to Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA, this is almost an impossibility and shows that the two men aren't related. They didn't even share a haplogroup. Joan's husband is R1a and his Canadian cousin is J2. They took the test again, with the same results. The brother of the Canadian cousin also sent in a DNA test and that matched his sibling exactly.

So where does this leave Joan's husband and her research? The documentary evidence clearly shows that Fred was Melvin's father on the birth register, but if the DNA doesn't match, then Melvin wasn't genetically matched to the Canadian family, or was he?

This raises a question about a non-paternity event in the family. Was Fred the genetic father of Melvin? Were Louis and Julius Klingbeil natural brothers? Greenspan suggested that the family needs a tie-breaker, another direct male descendant to see where this issue occurs. In order to find the "break" in the family tree, Joan needs to locate another male descendant to see if the non-paternity is on Louis or Julius's line, and when it happened.

Just when you think you've see it all, Joan discovered another factor: Her husband had an exact match in the Ancestry.com Y-DNA database. This individual's family immigrated through Ellis Island from Kalix, Sweden, in the early 20th century, and eventually settled in Minnesota. That man's family appears to have German origins.

But here's the trouble: Joan has never found any link to this man in her research and their paper trails don't match. It's no wonder that Joan and her husband and his Canadian kin are shaking their heads.

From a simple photo and an ordinary question, a set of family history complexities have caused a lot of confusion. This is one heck of a family history mystery. For now, it's unsolved.

Got a family photo of the holidays to share? Send it to me and I'll feature it next week (or post it to your blog and I'll link to it here).


Immigrant Photos
Monday, December 14, 2009 3:40:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Monday, December 07, 2009
Finding the Story, Part Two
Posted by Maureen

Last week, I examined a lovely portrait of a young couple and their son. Although family in Canada identified the husband and wife as Fred and Marie Klingbeil, the facts of Fred's life and the date of the photo don't add up.

I asked Joan Lee if she had any other positively identified images of Fred to use for comparison. She did:
 
Klingbeil Frededit .jpg

In this one, Fred is a young man. This image looks like a high school graduation picture, which would place it in the c. 1900 time frame. His clothing and hair are appropriate for this period.

If you compare this image to the one featured last week, you'll see how the two men have strong jaws, but their other features aren't a match. They have different ears, eyes and even hair.

There's an even bigger question in Joan's research than who's who in the first image: She's been thorough and careful, but could she be looking at the wrong family tree. She started with a simple question about her father-in-law, Melvin Lee. "Who was his father?" Lee didn't know. He's alternated used Lee as a surname with that of his step-father, Martinson. Joan aimed to find out.

Joan found Melvin's birth record in a microfilm of the St. Petrie American Lutheran Church (Nome, North Dakota) 1904/05 register she'd obtained from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. His parent's were listed as Fred Cleigbol and Josie Lee. Josie Lee wasn't married to Cleigbol.

Lee birth.jpg

Tracking down additional information on the Lee family didn't turn up any new leads on Melvin's father, but Joan did find a name change. The Lees were Norwegian immigrants originally named Olson. The family legally changed their surname in 1876.

I'm impressed with Joan's follow-through. She researched 28 surname variations and left messages on multiple message boards. No luck!

A breakthrough came when a Lee cousin planned a family reunion and arranged a service at the St. Petrie Church. Joan's job was to write down the family history so that it could be handed out to attendees. As she was working, she began to think, "Could the C in Cleigbol be a K?" Her husband studied the record and agreed with her that it could represent a K when pronounced. She suddenly started finding information on Fred Klingbiel and connected with two other relatives.

Finally she felt the missing pieces fall into place. The Canadian branch of the Klingbeil family told her that Fred's father Julius had immigrated to join his brother Louis in Canada before moving to the United States. The documentation seemed to prove the relationship between her husband and his Canadian cousin. 

Being a thorough researcher, Joan thought, "why not confirm it through DNA?" Oh boy, there was yet another twist in this tale. Stay tuned for next week. Joan and I need another week to sift through this part of the story.


1900-1910 photos
Monday, December 07, 2009 9:18:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]