Elton John and Bernie Taupin, genealogists?

Elton John has long been regarded as a gifted songwriter. Besides his numerous top 40 hits, he has written for stage (Aida, The Lion King, Billy Elliot) and screen (The Lion King). Along the way, he has won five Grammy Awards and a Tony (for Aida). He and longtime musical collaborator Bernie Taupin have been creating music since 1967.

I’ve been an Elton John fan for a long time. Growing up, I even had a poster of the cover of “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” on my bedroom wall. I have a rare copy of “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road” on yellow vinyl. What I didn’t realize until today is that either Elton John or lyricist Bernie Taupin (or perhaps both) is a genealogist.

What made me realize this is the name of Elton’s new son Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John. “Levon” is a song off his album “Madman Across the Water.” That by itself isn’t proof, but think of the song. “Levon” is a great genealogical song. In it, we learn:

  • Levon was born “a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas Day, when the New York Times said ‘God is dead and the war’s begun. Alvin Tostig has a son today and he shall be Levon.’ ” (So we have a date of birth and father’s name.)
  • Levon has a child Jesus, so named ” ’cause he likes the name.”
  • “Levon” might be a family name (“And he shall be Levon, in tradition with the family plan.”)
  • Levon has a war wound (though we don’t know if he was in the military or was a civilian casualty).
  • Levon has a family business selling cartoon balloons in town. Jesus works there, too, blowing up balloons all day. Levon appears to be successful, as he spends his days counting in a garage by the motorway.
  • Jesus goes to the finest school in town. (Also, if we lose track of Jesus, we might want to look in Venus, since Jesus wants to go there.)

How many other popular songs contain that many genealogical references?! We have three generations, a date of birth, and information about occupations, schools, and possible military service.

Consider, too, the name of Elton John’s album from the late 1980s “Reg Strikes Back.” “Reg” is a reference to his real name (Reginald Kenneth Dwight).

Put the three together (the name of Elton’s son, all of the genealogical references in “Levon,” and the album “Reg Strikes Back”) and I believe that you have a case that Elton John and/or Bernie Taupin is a genealogist. (I wonder how long before one of them will be on the British version of Who Do You Think You Are.)

Why would he do that?

I’m a bit of a stickler about grammar. I cringe when I see things like “Its snowing now” or “Their going to the movies.” Similarly, it bothers me when I read especially bad sentences.

In yesterday’s Columbus Dispatch, there was a short article about a man who was charged with negligence in the death of his daughter in a car accident last year. The sentence read:
“He was charged with failure to restrain his unbelted 12-year-old daughter, Jessica, after she died in a Feb. 22 crash in which another vehicle slid across the center line and struck his van on an icy Rt. 22.”

I know that is not what the reporter intended to say. (At least, I hope that’s not what the reporter intended to say!) Why would the man restrain his daughter after she died?

The incident was a tragedy and I don’t mean to sound flippant. But that sentence is so poorly constructed that it has bothered me ever since I read it yesterday. I think I need to turn “editor mode” off every now and then.

Stayin’ Alive

I love music — all kinds of music. I’m also a big fan of mnemonic devices. (Any one remember Roy G. Biv?) So when I heard this report on the news this morning, I had to smile. Researchers at the University of Illinois knew that people doing CPR commonly do the chest compressions too slowly. The ideal rate is 100 compressions per minute. It turns out that the Bee Gees’ hit “Stayin’ Alive” is 103 beats per minute — and doctors and students who heard the song did the compressions at the correct rate. It’s an easy song to remember and the title fits the situation, so perhaps this will be a good musical mnemonic device.

I do see one drawback. What if you panic and use the wrong Bee Gees song? “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” really wouldn’t work out.

(I realize this has nothing to do with genealogy or history. This falls under the “whatever else crosses my mind” category :-) )

The New Historical Scholarship

For a long time now, it has been said that historians do not value genealogy, choosing instead to focus on the “big picture” while considering the lives of everyday people unimportant to their studies at hand. Ever since returning to school (and, in fact, since I heard Dr. James Madison speak at the 2005 Midwestern Roots conference), I have not believed that to be the case. All of my history professors have had positive reactions to my being a genealogist. In fact, I am now a student assistant for one of my professors because of my experience as a genealogist.

Last night in my reading for one of my classes, I found the following quote about the new historical scholarship. From the essay “The Changing Face of Reformation History” by Andrew Pettegree in The Reformation World (Andrew Pettegree, ed. New York: Routledge, 2000):

It is perhaps here that the new trends in historical scholarship have impacted most profoundly (and not simply in the field of Reformation studies). It is now accepted that it is possible to write the history of ordinary people; indeed, no presentation of the past is real without such an attempt.

Some historians may not see the value of tracing a lineage, but they have recognized that the study of ordinary people — which is what we as genealogists/family historians do — is vital to historical scholarship.

Getting to Know Me, Getting to Know You — Amy’s Genealogy, etc. Blog

Terry Thornton at Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi has issued a challenge to the Genea-Bloggers group on Facebook. In order for help everyone get to know us and our blogs better, we should share at little bit about ourselves, our goals for our blogs and examples of our “Best, Breeziest, and Most Beautiful” posts.

I’m a genealogist (you probably could have figured that out on your own ). My focus recently has been on developing genealogical databases and websites. I’m the former webmaster for the Ohio Genealogical Society and am the creator and developer of DeafBiographies.com. My goal for Amy’s Genealogy, etc. Blog is to educate researchers and to share some neat things I’ve come across. I’m also a full-time student at Ohio State University – Newark where I am majoring in history.

Now, for the posts:

1. Best Post: Tombstone Tuesday: How old is that tombstone? at http://familytrees.wordpress.com/2008/07/09/tombstone-tuesday-how-old-is-that-tombstone/ This one sums up what I hope to do with this blog: give some information about genealogical research and share some things that I’ve found along the way.

2. Breeziest Post: Waxing Nostalgic and a Seriously Cool Bag at http://familytrees.wordpress.com/2008/07/27/waxing-nostalgic-and-a-seriously-cool-bag/  This was tough, because I think this is one of my “best” posts. Since Terry said that “breezy” can mean “provocative”, I put it here.

3. Most Beautiful Post: Christmas Memories at http://familytrees.wordpress.com/2007/12/22/christmas-memories/  I chose this one because it is the post I feel the most “invested” in.

To those of you who read my blog regularly, I promise that I will resume posting Tombstone Tuesday this week (as well as give an explanation of where it’s been the past few weeks).

Please feel free to leave a comment so that I can get to know you a little bit better, too. Thanks for stopping by!

So Many Records… So Little Time

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I’m behind in posting Tombstone Tuesdays. In fact, I’m behind in posting darn near anything!

The problem has not been a lack of things to write about. On the contrary — I have LOTS of things to write about. The problem is time and the lack thereof. As I have mused to my friends and colleagues, it is an unfortunate truth that labors of love are often pushed aside by labors of “gotta do.”

Don’t get me wrong — I love my day jobs. I truly enjoy preparing materials for the websites I work on. I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of working on some very interesting projects. But as I’ve discovered as I’ve delved more deeply into various records, websites and blogs, there are more records and resources available than any of us could hope to cover completely in our lifetimes.

That thought could be rather depressing. I’m trying instead to think of it as a challenge and a comfort. It is a challenge to get through as many meaningful, interesting resources as possible. It is also a comfort to know that we as researchers will never be bored.