Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just A Pile Of Rocks Or An Old West Icon

Here's a 2002 newsletter I penned for the now defunct "Chatsworth Equine Cultural Heritage Organization" (Chatsworth ECHO).  The question remains: Are they just a pile of rocks or the hidden gold of Chatsworth?

Over the past 100 years Chatworth, California's rocky hills became an Old West icon that cannot easily be separated from mythical cowboy heroes, names like Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and, of course, the Lone Ranger.

Not much has changed in a dozen years.  In an October 2013, Los Angeles Times news article we learned a Newport Beach developer is reviving a recession stalled housing development, and will soon build 314 houses in Chatsworth's Deerlake Highlands.

Will they be respectful to our history or just bulldoze away?  Will horsemen (and women) be forced out of Chatsworth as they have been in most of the rest of the San Fernando Valley?

Stay tuned...

Was Great Grandma A Marranos of Portugal

1807 engraving showing people being tortured during the Spanish Inquisition
Last year a distant cousin posted a story titled "Marranos return to Judaism after 500 years" (source on the page for my 10th great grandmother Susana DaCruz.  

I read the article and have been thinking about it ever since.  I've always had a strong affinity for Jewish people, so wouldn't it be amazing if I actually have a small percentage of Jewish blood flowing through my veins.


Marranos were originally Jews living in the Iberian Peninsula who converted or were forced to convert to Christianity.  Many of whom may have continued to practice Judaism in secret for more than five centuries.

Spanish Inquisition

Following the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, the Jews of Spain were expelled, and many fled to Portugal.  Then in 1497, the Jews of Portugal were forced to convert Christianity.  However, many of the converted Jews -- called marranos "pigs" by Christians -- continued to practice Judaism in secret.

It has been suggested that many of the converts, after being forced to abandon their Jewish names, chose surnames with a Catholic connotation to offer apparent proof of their loyalty to their new faith. 

A surname often chosen was Cruz -- which means cross.  In fact, the name Cruz is so widespread in Covilha, Portugal that a Portuguese author facetiously remarked that in that town there are more "Crosses" than in the cemetery.

Susana DaCruz

We may never know the truth about Susana DaCruz who was born 1628 in Sao Joao, Lisbon, Portugal, and died 28 Oct 1671, in St Jean, Lisbon, Portugal.  Given her name and the location of her birth there is a good chance she was part of a Marranos family.

Susana married João Rodrigues before 1650, in Lisbon, Portugal.  Their son João Rodrigue was born 1650 in St Jean, Lisbon, Portugal and emigrated to Quebec, New France (Canada) before 1671.  Records in New France identify João Rodrigue's mother as Susana LaCroix.

Update 2016

The results for my DNA tests suggest that I have from 0 to 2% European Jewish ancestry.  Statistically the result is zero, and states, "These are regions included in our evaluation, but where there is very little evidence that the region is part of your genetic ethnicity. Both the estimated amount and the range of the estimate are very small or zero."

However, in most other ethnicity regions such as Native American, West Africa, Pacific Islanders, and Asia my range is 0 to 0%, suggesting that there is, in fact, some small percentage of European Jewish ancestry.

In as much as Susana DaCruz is my 10th great grandmother the DNA I share with her is bound to be very small indeed, so I'm inclined to believe my 0 to 2% European Jewish ancestry comes from her.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Yosemite Winter Club History

In 1927, the Ahwahnee Hotel (above) was completed in Yosemite National Park.

Near the hotel California's first ski school opened the following year with Jules Fritsch -- a Swiss ski expert -- as instructor.  In those days Fritsch led six day snow excursions in Yosemite from the Ahwahnee Hotel to Tenaya Lake to support and strengthen the ski school.

Also in 1927, the Curry Company completed a four-track toboggan slide near Camp Curry in Yosemite National Park. 

About the same time Dr. Donald Tresidder, the first president the Yosemite Park & Curry Company, formed the Yosemite Winter Club.  The rare and highly collectible watch fob (above) is part of my collection.

In 1928 the Yosemite Winter Club built small ski hill and ski jump near Tenaya Creek Bridge.

In 1933, a ski lift was built at Badger Pass and the first slalom race in California was held that year.  While in high school about 1958, I learned to ski at Badger Pass.

Today Badger Pass is still a popular ski area for both downhill skiers and nordic skiers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas -- Jack Hoxie

Jack Hoxie (1885–1965) was an American rodeo champion and Western motion picture star whose career began in the silent film era and thrived through the 1930s.

Jack Hoxie's limited Santa Susana locations filmography includes:

Outlaw Justice (1932) starring Jack Hoxie, Dorothy Gulliver, Donald Keith (Iverson Ranch) Majestic

Gun Law (1933) starring Jack Hoxie, Betty Boyd, Mary Carr (Iverson Ranch) Majestic

Monday, November 24, 2014

Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas -- Brian Donlevy

Brian Donlevy (1901 - 1972) was an Irish-born American actor who was best known for his tough-guy roles in Westerns and dramas between the 1930s and the 1960s.

His Santa Susana locations filmography includes:

When the Daltons Rode (1940) starring Randolph Scott, Kay Francisand Brian Donlevy - Universal

Impact (1949) starring Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines and Charles Coburn (Corriganville) United Artists

Slaughter Trail (1951) starring Brian Donlevy, Gig Young and Virginia Grey (Corriganville) RKO

Escape from Red Rock (1957) starring Brian Donlevy, Eilene Janssen and Gary Murray - 20th Century-Fox

Waco (1966) starring Howard Keel, Jane Russell and Brian Donlevy (Iverson Ranch) A.C. Lyles Prod.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Great Granddad Was An Ironmonger

An Ironmonger was a term originally used to describe someone -- usually a blacksmith -- who made and sold iron products.  

Over time the term has been expanded to include other materials such as steel, aluminum, brass, copper, tin and even plastics.

In Great Britain, the word "ironmongery" still has this meaning, but in the United States, the term "ironmongery" has been replaced by "hardware."

Following the industrial revolution some Ironmongers dealt specifically with architectural ironmongery such as door handles, locks, hinges, lamps, etc.  Other Ironmongers might have manufactured items for ships and boats such as anchors, pulleys, cleats etc.  And, still others might have crafted items for the horse and carriage trade such as stirrups, buckles, bits, spurs, etc.

By the Victorian era an ironmonger's shop was the nineteenth-century equivalent of the modern department store and many offered a vast array of goods -- everything from knife-cleaning powder, candles and saucepans to kitchen ranges, gas-fittings, bell-fittings or even wallpaper. 

Many tradesmen such as the carpenter, boat-builder, gardener, grocer and undertaker depended on the ironmonger for their tools and materials.

If you'd like to learn more Victorian Ironmongers in Great Britain I can recommend reading: The Victorian Ironmonger (Shire Library), by Cecil A. Meadows (Author) available on Amazon.

David Austine 1781 - 1850

Not a great deal is known about my 3rd great grandfather David Austine.  We know he was born about 1781 in Dumfries, Scotland, and served in the Royal Navy from 1818 to 1827.  At the time of the marriages of two of his daughters in 1844, he was identified as an Ironmonger.

It is assumed David Austine passed away about 1850.  His wife Elizabeth Reeves Austine was still alive and living in Montrose, Scotland in 1851, but she too is gone before 1861.  

Perhaps the carpenter's tools in this chest (that I collected in 1970s) were purchased from a Victorian Ironmonger.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas -- James Brown

James Brown (1920-1992) was an American film and TV actor best known for his role as Lieutenant Ripley "Rip" Masters in "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" TV Series (1954-1959) on ABC.

James Brown's supporting and starring roles at Santa Susana filming locations include: 

The Fabulous Texan (1947) - Bill Elliott, John Carroll and Catherine McLeod (Iverson Ranch) Republic

The Gallant Legion (1948) - Bill Elliott, Lorna Gray, Joseph Schildkraut (Garden of the Gods) Republic

The Younger Brothers (1949) - Wayne Morris, Janis Paige, Bruce Bennett - Warner Bros.

"Sky King" TV Series (1952) 

"The Lone Ranger" TV Series (1952)

The Man Behind the Gun (1953) - Randolph Scott, Patrice Wymore, Dick Wesson (Bell Ranch)(Iverson Ranch) Warner Bros.

"The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" TV Series (1954-1959) as Lt. Rip Masters

Five Guns to Tombstone (1961) - James Brown, John Wilder, Walter Coy (Iverson Ranch) Kent Prod.

Gun Street (1961) - James Brown, Jean Willes, John Clarke (Corriganville)(Iverson Ranch) United Artists

"Have Gun - Will Travel" TV Series (1962)

"Gunsmoke" TV Series (1963)

"Daniel Boone" TV Series (1964)

Black Spurs (1965) - Rory Calhoun, Linda Darnell, Terry Moore (Corriganville) Paramount

"The Virginian" TV Series (1962-1966)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Great Granddad Was A Great Lakes Sailor

William Allan MCNEIL, my great grandfather, was born 31 July 1865 in Goderich, Huron Co., Ontario, Canada.  He was the son of Duncan McNeil who emigrated from Scotland and Margaret McDonald who was born on Prince Edward Island to Scottish parents.

He married Adaline PROCTOR, daughter of William Proctor and Ellen Sturdy (Irish emigrants), on 31 Oct 1887 in Sarnia, Lambton Co., Ontario, Canada.

In the mid 1890s Allan (the name he went by) became a sailor working on the Great Lakes between Canada and the United States.

His wife Adaline died 25 Nov 1908 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, USA.

The children of Allan and Adaline Proctor are:

i. Alan W.  MCNEIL born 12 Apr 1891 in Sarnia, Lambton Co., Ontario, Canada
ii Hugh Sturdy MCNEIL born 7 Sep 1894 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, USA
iii Annie Margaret MCNEIL born 8 Nov 1892 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, USA.

Alan died young and does not appear after the 1901 census (Sarnia, Lambton).

Hugh Sturdy McNeil turns up in an orphanage (Good Will Home) in Fairfield, Somerset, Maine, USA in 1910.

Annie was living in Port Huron, Wayne Co., Michigan in 1910, with Anthony Beale and his wife Mabel Colwell (Annie's cousin).  Mabel Colwell (Annie's cousin) was the daughter of John Colwell and Anna McNeil.   This Anna McNeil, born 1863 in Ontario, was the daughter of Duncan McNeil and Margaret McDonald and sister of William Allan McNeil.  

The life of the Great Lakes sailor was difficult.

In 1900, working conditions for a sailor were arduous and hazardous with poor compensation.  Seasonal unemployment complicated their already difficult personal finances and living conditions aboard vessels were deficient, lacking any comfort for common seamen.

These poor working conditions coupled with the loneliness during long sailing stood in stark contrast to most working class men during the early part of the 20th century.

1913 Great Lakes Storm Shipwrecks

Weather related shipping disasters were commonplace in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on inland seas.  The height of shipping on the Great Lakes occurred in the late 1800’s into the first half of the 1900’s.   

Ships that sailed on the Great Lakes carried a wide variety of cargo and people.  They carried everything from grains, livestock, iron, coal, lumber, cement, stone and even Christmas trees. 

After Adaline's death in 1908, Allan McNeil spent the rest of his life working as a sailor, and died 07 Mar 1927 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, USA at age 62.

Allan's life was one of great sadness… his parents and several siblings perished from consumption during the 1880s, he lost his eldest son before he reached adulthood, and his young wife died in her 40s.  While I cannot be sure -- it appears that he may have sailed the world spending long periods away from home.  My father, his grandson, only remembered meeting him one time.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas -- Andy Devine

Andy Devine (1905–1977) was an American born actor and comic cowboy sidekick best known for his distinctive raspy voice.

He is best-remembered for his role as "Jingles", Guy Madison's sidekick in "The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" TV series.

Andy's Santa Susana locations filmography includes:

Noah's Ark (1928) - Dolores Costello, George O'Brien, Noah Beery (Iverson Ranch)  Vitaphone Corp

Stagecoach (1939) - John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine (Iverson Ranch) United Artists

Geronimo (1939) - Preston Foster, Ellen Drew, Andy Devine (Iverson Ranch) Paramount

When the Daltons Rode (1940) - Randolph Scott, Kay Francis, Brian Donlevy - Universal

Trail of the Vigilantes (1940) - Franchot Tone, Warren William, Broderick Crawford (Iverson Ranch)(Corriganville) Universal

The Vigilantes Return (1947) - Jon Hall, Margaret Lindsay, Andy Devine, Paula Drew (Iverson Ranch) Universal

Slave Girl (1947) - Yvonne De Carlo, George Brent, Broderick Crawford (Iverson Ranch) Universal

On the Old Spanish Trail (1947) - Roy Rogers, Trigger, Tito Guízar (Corriganville) Republic

The Fabulous Texan (1947) - Bill Elliott, John Carroll and Catherine McLeod (Iverson Ranch) Republic

Old Los Angeles (1948) - Bill Elliott, John Carroll, Catherine McLeod (Iverson Ranch) Republic

Under California Stars (1948) - Roy Rogers, Trigger, Jane Frazee (Chatsworth) - Republic

The Gallant Legion (1948) - Bill Elliott, Lorna Gray, Joseph Schildkraut (Garden of the Gods) Republic

Grand Canyon Trail (1948) - Roy Rogers, Trigger, Jane Frazee (Iverson Ranch) Republic

The Far Frontier (1948) - Roy Rogers, Trigger, Gail Davis (Iverson Ranch) Republic

The Last Bandit (1949) - Bill Elliott, Lorna Gray, Forrest Tucker (Brandeis Ranch) Republic

The Traveling Saleswoman (1950) - Joan Davis, Andy Devine, Adele Jergens (Iverson) Columbia

New Mexico (1951) - Lew Ayres, Marilyn Maxwell, Robert Hutton (Corriganville) Irving Allen Prod.

Around the World In 80 Days (1956) - David Niven, Cantinflas and Finlay Currie (Iverson Ranch) UA

"Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" TV Series (1951-1958) 

"Wagon Train" TV Series (1959) 

"How the West Was Won" (1962) - John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart (Corriganville) MGM

"The Virginian" TV Series (1967)

"Bonanza" TV Series (1968)

"Gunsmoke" TV Series (1969)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

DNA Links Grandma To Scotland

In recent years genealogy -- the study of your family history -- has become a popular multi-billion dollar business..  Ancestry (dot com) has more than 2 million paid subscribers, and some hobby experts claim genealogy ranks second only to gardening as American's favorite pastime.

I have been interested in tracing my family history since the 1970s, but it wasn't until the late 1990s that I made much progress.  The internet -- more specifically the world wide web -- created new opportunities for genealogists, and today one can subscribe to any of several genealogy websites and sift through millions of records, stories, and even photographs.

I have been a long time subscriber to Ancestry (dot com) so when they offered DNA testing in 2011, I jumped at the chance to learn more about my ancient family history.  Honestly, I wasn't sure exactly what I'd learn, but I ordered both Y-46 (paternal) and mtDNA (maternal) test kits.

In a few short weeks I obtained the results.  I learned that dad's family probably arrived in Great Britain after once living in Scandinavia, and mom's family arrived in Great Britain after once living in present day Basque Country, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.  

Frankly, I was disappointed in the results because I really didn't learn anything new.  However, I was told my DNA would be part of a huge database that would be compared with others.  In time it might be possible to identify distant cousins and share family history with them.

Then a year later in 2012, Ancestry (dot com) offered an updated DNA test that promised to yield new facts about my ancestors, so I ordered the new test.  This time I got more specific information about the ethnicity of my ancestors.

The 2012 test identified me as 100% European, broken down as follows:

Europe West 53% (Primarily located in: Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein; also found in: England, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic)

Ireland 21% (Primarily located in: Ireland, Wales, Scotland; also found in: France, England)

Great Britain 20% (Primarily located in: England, Scotland, Wales; also located in: Ireland, France, Germany)

Iberian Peninsula 4% (Trace Region -- Primarily found in: Spain, Portugal; also be found in: France, Morocco, Algeria, Italy)

Scandinavia 2% (Trace Region -- Primarily found in: Sweden, Norway, Denmark; also found in: Great Britain, Scotland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium)

Meanwhile the DNA database was being improved and is growing daily.  And, most importantly it is yielding some useful family links and new information.

DNA testing can't tell you who your ancestors are or provide you with a family tree, but it can determine if two people descend from the same ancestor, and it can prove or disprove family tree research.

How DNA proved where grandma's Scottish family came from

One of my favorite childhood memories was having afternoon tea with my grandmother (dad's branch of the tree).  Her full name was Annie Margaret McNeil (maiden).  She had been born and raised in Ontario, Canada and having descended from Scots-Irish ancestors she spoke with a charming brogue.

I once asked grandma about her brogue and she told me her family was Scots-Irish.  I asked her where in Ireland or Scotland they came from, but she didn't know.  She said she knew they came to Ontario from Nova Scotia.

Using Canadian census records in the 1990s I quickly learned grandma's grandfather was Duncan McNeil born 1821 in Scotland, and his wife's name was Margaret born 1832 in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

During the next 15 years I pieced together one fact at a time 

Margaret McNeil's death record gave me her maiden name.  I learned she was Margaret McDonald born 1832 on Prince Edward Island.  The death certificate stated she was a Baptist, but all the census records stated she was a Presbyterian, so I went with that as her religion.  

In time I discovered a Prince Edward Island Baptismal Index for St. John’s Presbyterian Church Belfast with baptism dates ranging from 1823 to present day.  In its Record Book Number 2; Page: 83 (Officiating Clergy: John McLennan), I found Margaret McDonald's birth and baptism dates and the names of her parents:

Child's Full Name: Margaret McDonald 
Birth Date:  25 September 1832
Place of Birth: Cape Bear
Father's Name: Angus McDonald
Mother's Name: Catharine Munn
Baptismal Date: 27 September 1834
Place of Baptism: Belfast

I also learned she had three brothers John, James and Angus, and a sister Catharine all born before 1841 at Cape Bear, Prince Edward Island.  Next I found a really obscure 1841 census for Angus McDonald living at Cape Bear.  From the census I confirmed that he and Catharine Munn were both born in Scotland, and all five of their children were born at Cape Bear.

Leaping forward to just a few months ago I found an essay -- that I had previously missed -- on Islandregister (dot com).  It's titled "The Americans, The Earl of Selkirk, and Colonsay's 1806 Emigrants to Prince Edward Island," by John W Sheets, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Archives and Museum, Central Missouri State University written June/July 2001.

ABSTRACT: In September 1806 the ship "Spencer" landed at Prince Edward Island with over one hundred people from the island of Colonsay, Argyll, Scotland. Traveling in large, extended families, they had responded to a local laird, John McNeill, "Improving" their lives and to the Earl of Selkirk offering land across the Atlantic. Selkirk wanted Gaelic-speaking emigrants to block colonial America on the verge of expansion.  Success of the Colonsay settlers started a "chain of migration" into Canada that depopulated the isolated, tiny island. Early 19th century emigrations from Gaelic Scotland often involved planning and sponsors reacting to the politics, personalities and changing spaces in the era of Jefferson and Napoleon.

Within Sheets' essay I found reference to Catherine Munn (an infant born 1806), her father Angus Munn (1774-1837), her mother Margaret McNeill (1785-1871), and her grandparents Duncan Munn (1746-1821) and his wife Flora Brown (1748- ); and Malcolm McNeill (1755 - ) and his wife Mary Livingston (1755 - ) all from Colonsay.  

I also found extended family members including Catherine's grand aunt Grisael (Grace) MacNeill (1766 – 1833) and her husband Malcolm McMillan.  Finding Malcolm McNeill's sister Grace would eventually prove to be a bit of crucial information to confirm my family tree.

Remember earlier when I said DNA testing can't tell you who your ancestors are or provide you with a family tree, but it can determine if two people descend from the same ancestor, and it can prove or disprove family tree research.

I have faithfully searched Ancestry's DNA results each week trying to find matches that will prove my family tree work.  One can search the DNA results for either a surname or a location, so if you believe you have an ancestor from Colonsay, Argyll, Scotland you can search for that.

Two weeks ago searching "Colonsay, Argyll, Scotland" yielded a match, and that match turned out to be a 4th cousin (95% confidence range) who is a direct descendant of Grace McNeil born about 1759, Colonsay, Argyll, Scotland and died 07 Jan 1833, Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island, Canada. 

So our DNA match proves we are distant cousins who are both descended from the McNeils of Colonsay.  Better yet the DNA match cements my family tree work in place, and proves grandma's Scots ancestry was from the tiny Hebrides Island of Colosay, Scotland.

-- 0 --


I Think We'll Go Too : a Highland Homestead : the Story of Flora McNeill, a Pioneer Woman
by Mary I. MacKay
Published Paisley, Ontario, Canada 2002
ISBN: 0973208031


Lauchlan's Legacy
by Mary I. MacKay
Published Paisley, Ontario, Canada 2000
ISBN 0973208007


We Must All Stay Together
by Mary I. MacKay
Published Paisley, Ontario, Canada 2000
ISBN 0973208015

I would be happy to pay any reasonable price for a new or used copy of these books.  Leave a comment with your email information.

-- 0 --

For anyone that has followed my French Canadian connection on mom's branch of the tree.

You'll be happy to learn DNA results have identified a 4th cousin (95% confidence) that shares my 7th Great Grandfather Andre Mignier dit Lagace the French Sharpshooter assigned to the Carignan-Salières Regiment…