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View Diary: GFHC - Open Thread - The Methuseleh of Massachusetts (26 comments)

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  •  I think some of it is youthful stupidity (7+ / 0-)

    Like the 15 yo who lies to join the military, for one. Once they've lied, there's got to be a fear of exposing your lie.

    I think you're right about getting close to 100 and realizing that it may not happen. Nothing to lose, really. The notes about Ephraim Pratt say that he has a good sense on humor. He enjoys telling people that he was engaged to a 22 yo woman when he was 105. Now, that's a classic style for a New England storyteller.

    I've only run across a couple of women who decided to be younger in the census records. I guess my ancestors weren't vain.

    Yes, I've been frustrated by the choices in the early census records as well. My bro-in-law's family has ancestors from the same region and into SC, GA, and FL eventually. We know there's Cherokee and AA mixed in with these families and it's nearly impossible to sort things out. B, M, or W. Not even "other".

    "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

    by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 12:05:27 PM PST

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    •  I haven't had much (6+ / 0-)

      of this either:

      I've only run across a couple of women who decided to be younger in the census records. I guess my ancestors weren't vain.
      The actress Josephine Hull, of Arsenic and Old Lace among other things, grew up about three blocks from where I now live. She was born in 1877 but, by the time she married a younger actor, had shaved off five years. Later in her career she shaved off another four years.

      I understand it in her case, since she might have faced professional discrimination. But the records are there to disprove it, and our local historical society had a write-up attaching the census showing her alive years before she claimed to be born.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 01:36:56 PM PST

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      •  I came upon an interesting woman (5+ / 0-)

        Did a ton of interesting stuff. A dash of Zelig to her. One of the first to be a professional interior decorator, including the West Wing of the White House for Teddy Roosevelt.  

        A writer, first ladies' domestic advice, but then largely on international travel. Volunteered for Red Cross in Italy, where she was a nurse to Hemingway. Credited with being an important advocate for Oklahoma statehood and making tourism to Cambodia fashionable. Her books are still in print.

        She was a passenger on the Titanic and her article about it was used for the movie. She did a lot of international travel, and she managed to get her passport to show her as ten years younger than she actually was, according to the many ship passenger records left behind. I have no idea how she pulled that one off.

        "Taxes are for the little people" - Leona Helmsley (before being sent to jail for tax evasion)

        by Land of Enchantment on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 02:18:08 PM PST

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        •  Interesting (5+ / 0-)

          I think in those days you had to fill out an affidavit but didn't have to produce birth certificate, etc. Officials didn't freak out if someone fudged on the birthdate. I've seen countless WWI draft records where the year of birth is 1 or 2 off from what the birth certificate shows. In a lot of those cases they were making themselves older so they could serve, I think.

          Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

          by fenway49 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 04:36:48 PM PST

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          •  There are also those who were just not (4+ / 0-)

            keyed to exact dates the way we are today. This is the WWI draft card of my 1st cousin once removed ... and I think it will likely remain one of my favorites:

            The line on the second page "Not sure as to his age - whether he was born in 1895 or 1896. Will get an affidavit from mother in Oklahoma."

            Either way, he was old enough to serve ... his birth year apparently hadn't been much of an issue before the draft.

            "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

            by klompendanser on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 07:33:33 PM PST

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            •  In a similar vein (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              klompendanser, Jim H, GrumpyOldGeek

              I found a voter registration in Chicago.  Born in Canada, he was accepted as a citizen for voting, despite no information being provided as to naturalization.  The voter rolls, specifically, said "unknown" with regards to naturalization particulars.  That was around 1890, give or take.

              "Taxes are for the little people" - Leona Helmsley (before being sent to jail for tax evasion)

              by Land of Enchantment on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 06:32:51 AM PST

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        •  She lied - I found her passport application (5+ / 0-)

          on ancestry.com.

          She applied for a passport on 5 Jun 1920 which was granted on 8 Jun 1920. She was scheduled to sail to Japan and Hong Kong on July 1. pared. Since she was a well-known socialite, widow, famous person, and Titanic survivor, I doubt if she had to show any proof of anything.

          In 1920, passport applications outside of DC were processed by state approved passport agents; a lawyer. I assume she contacted her personal attorney.

          Everything she filled in seems to be accurate except the year of her birth. She clearly wrote 1868. It's not a sloppy '5'. She lied.

          In 1920, married women didn't need a passport if they were travelling with their husband. So she never had a passport in her name. Rather than providing proof of citizenship, marital status, and a birth certificate, she was allowed to provide an affidavit signed by a credible witness.

          Just who did she bring along to sign the affidavit? None other than the famous artist and genuine international hero of WW 1 , Claggett Wilson. Holy crap, Batman!

          Wilson swears that everthing is correct but says that he's known her for just 17 years. He's 30 years younger. How he can attest to her birthdate is beyond me.

          Apparently, this is one way to get away with lying on a passport application.

          Indeed, she was an interesting woman.

          "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

          by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 05:41:54 PM PST

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          •  She was divorced in 1896 (5+ / 0-)

            She had an asshole of an abusive, drunken husband.  New York judge refused to grant her a divorce on those grounds.  Back then, you didn't go to Vegas for your "quickie" divorce.  Apparently it was Oklahoma, where she went and established residence to get her divorce.  And while there, she wrote a novel about Oklahoma, eventually becoming an advocate for Oklahoma statehood and settlement.  So it wasn't actually all that quick either.

            She was quite the enterprising character.  Invented herself, pretty much.

            "Taxes are for the little people" - Leona Helmsley (before being sent to jail for tax evasion)

            by Land of Enchantment on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:03:04 PM PST

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            •  My gg-aunt got a divorce in 1898 (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              fenway49

              But it was her husband who filed on the grounds of adultery. It was the MA Supreme Court that granted the divorce. It wasn't because she was an enterprising woman, rather this was a tragic scandal. She lived a quiet and solitary life after that, working in a shirt factory for decades. I wrote part of her story here.

              As for Helen Churchill H Candee's passport application, she's listed as a widow. Technically, I suppose, that's true since her ex-husband died in 1907.

              I can only surmise that she lied about her age due to vanity. It would have been a disaster to her career and social standing had she been caught. I'm glad that didn't happen.

              She was an amazing woman. Thanks for telling us about her.

              "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

              by GrumpyOldGeek on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 12:25:40 PM PST

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      •  Ah, yes. Elwood P Dowd's sister. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jim H, fenway49, klompendanser

        I've lost count of the number of times I've seen local productions of Harvey and Arsenic. There are only a handful of plays that I enjoy watching again and again. These are two of them.

        Just because I can, I did a quick ancestry.com search for Josephine and found TWO marriage records. Sure enough, she claims to be 28 years old in Apr, 1910. Her husband, Shelley Hull, is listed as 26 years old. One marriage is recorded in Newton, the other is recorded in Chicago. She claims to be 27 years old in the 1910 census.

        She's 7 years older than her husband and over 30 when she married. It's a thought.

        She definitely lied to the US government. In 1930, she went to France using passport #205034 showing dob of 3 Jan, 1882, still just 5 years off.

        Her findagrave.com entry and her cemetery marker, carved in stone, lists her dob as 3 Jan, 1886, accounting for the full 9 years.

        It's not the 17 years that Ephraim Pratt claimed and it's the other direction, but I forgive her. I fell in love with her long ago. Her acting was magical.

        "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

        by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 03:59:06 PM PST

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