Interview with Melissa A. Johnson, CG®

As an “official blogger” at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC 2019), I had the opportunity to interview one of the conference speakers.  I plan to attend two of Melissa Johnson’s lectures, and thought it would be nice to know more about her and some of her thoughts about genealogy.

Melissa Johnson, CG®

Melissa is a professional genealogist specializing in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania research, using DNA test results, genealogical writing, forensic genealogy, and lineage society applications. Her presentations at NERGC 2019 include:

F-104: Demystifying Genealogical Terminology (Beginner)
F-117: Go Paperless! Organizing Your Genealogical Research (All Levels)
S-121 Writing Your Family History (Workshop, Intermediate)

Questions:

Don:    Your website indicates that you specialize in lineage society applications. What do you think are the most significant benefits of becoming a member of a lineage society?

Melissa:           I am not a member of any lineage societies, so I can only speak to the reasons why my clients want to join them. Most of my clients want to become involved in society. Whether it’s the DAR, SAR, Descendants of the Founders of New Jersey, or another group, there are volunteer positions and different types of events that people can become involved in. Some of my other clients want to document their ancestral lines and the people who qualify them for membership in the society, So, in terms of the benefits, it really depends on the person. If I were ever to join a lineage society, I would do it mostly to have my lineage on record for future generations.

Don:    Your bio mentions that you specialize in “forensic genealogy.” What exactly is forensic genealogy?

Melissa:           Forensic Genealogy is genealogy as it pertains to the law. For example, if someone dies without a will, researching to identify their next of kin, would fall under forensic genealogy. So would any type of genealogical research that is part of a civil or criminal case. Also, research to move forward with a process that changes your legal status, such as dual citizenship, is categorized as forensic genealogy. Obtaining dual citizenship makes you a citizen of another country because it changes your legal status. Another example is a person who is applying to become a member of a federally-recognized Native American tribe. That process changes a person’s race (and thus, their legal status).  All those types of research fall under forensic genealogy. The use of DNA in genealogy can also fall under forensic genealogy—for example, if an individual seeks to identify their biological parents after an adoption (a legal process) took place.

Don:    Interesting. It makes me wonder if all genealogists shouldn’t endeavor to treat their research as a forensic genealogist, in that they should approach their research as if they have no personal interest in the results or the findings.

Melissa:    That can be a good approach. It is always good to go into a research project without any bias, but it’s often hard to do that when it’s our own family and when we think we know something about an ancestor we’ve heard it so many times before. It’s also good to treat all of your research as seriously as a forensic genealogist would. Our reports, affidavits, and exhibits are often brought before a court, so you always want them to be your absolute best work. All researchers should make sure that they are meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Don:    DNA testing for genealogical purposes is now very popular in the genealogy field. There is much discussion about DNA testing; my question is, when should a person not test?

Melissa:    DNA test results can be very difficult to understand for a beginner, and can sometimes include surprising results. It is essential to understand what a DNA test can and can’t tell you. That involves knowing and understanding that a DNA test can reveal previously unknown relatives. There have been many cases where a person who took a DNA test found out that they were adopted, or that the man who raised them was not their biological father. Likewise, there may have been individuals adopted out of a person’s biological family. Those individuals might take a DNA test and show up in your results; they might not know about you, and you might not know about them. There are always going to be surprises, so it’s good to understand this before deciding to take the test. Also, everyone should be very clear about what the testing company does (and doesn’t) do with DNA test results. Everyone should read the “terms and conditions” or “terms of use” for each website or third party tool to make sure that they fully understand where their DNA information is going and how the company is going to use it. So, to answer the question about when a person should not test,” I would say it is when they don’t fully understand what information a DNA test will provide, don’t want to know about any unexpected relationships, or are uncomfortable with the terms and conditions of a particular testing company.

Don:    I am the illegitimate son of an illegitimate daughter of an illegitimate daughter. As such, I firmly believe that the truth is always better than lies or confusion. I know many people say they don’t want to know the truth if it disagrees with their current world view. Today, many genealogical ethicists seem to promote only sharing findings if they don’t “hurt” anyone. What are your thoughts about that issue?

Melissa:    Many people are being provided with new information, especially as a result of DNA testing. Some of the surprises I mentioned, such as finding out that one or both parents is not biologically related, could surprise many parties—the child, the parent, the parent’s spouse, the parent’s other children—for example.  Each scenario is different and there are many viewpoints and feelings to consider, and if there isn’t a cut-and-dry sort of answer in terms of making these findings public information. It depends on the situation. It’s always good for a researcher to take a step back, look at all the parties involved, and think about how the news might impact everyone. There are lots of ways to share new findings—publicly and privately within a family, published formally or informally, or published with pieces of information redacted. The impacts on all living people should be considered.

Don:     What do you think is the best, or most desirable, way to preserve genealogical work for future generations?

Melissa:    Writing up your research is definitely the best way. This can be done in many different ways. Some people have blogs with tons of information about their family. Blogs are great because they’re searchable, and someone who is searching for their great-great-grandfather can find that distant cousin’s blog and connect with them. You can also write up your research more formally—some genealogists have written several volumes of books on specific families. There are also other options—researchers can write a short article about an ancestor or an interesting problem for a genealogy magazine. Writing also doesn’t have to be formally published—it can be placed in a file in your local historical society. Writing is the way to go, no matter the format you choose. recommend that everyone writes up some part of their research for future generations. On Saturday at NERGC, I’ll be teaching a workshop that talks about options for how to write up your research.

Don:    Excellent. I’m looking forward to it. Your workshop is on my list of things to attend at the conference. I appreciate your participating in this interview. Thank you so much.

Melissa A. Johnson, CG® is a professional genealogist and can be reached through her websites: www.johnsongenealogyservices.com and www.newjerseyfamilyhistory.com.

Donna in the News – Passaic & Patterson, New Jersey.

“Chin Chin”

This week Newspapers.Com released two more newspapers that were of interest to my Donna Montran Vaudeville Career work. First, the Passaic Daily Herald had several articles and ads for “Chin Chin” playing at the Lyceum Theatre in Paterson, New Jersey on May 7th and 8th, 1920.  Besides the Herald, the News (Paterson, NY) also had advertising and articles regarding that show.  This was all new information to me about the venues that “Chin Chin” played at during Donna’s being with the cast.

Bathing Beauties

Additionally, the News (Paterson, NY) had a small ad showing that Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties played at the Majestic Theater.  The date isn’t 100% clear, but it appears that it was January 13, 14, & 15, 1921, that her Beach Promenade played.

The News (Paterson, New Jersey) · Fri, Jan 14, 1921 · Page 21

Both of these are new dates and venues to be added to my list of Donna’s career performances.

  • May 7 & 8, 1920 – Paterson, NY – Lyceum Theater – “Chin Chin”
  • Jan 13-15, 1921 – Paterson, New Jersey – Majestic Theatre — Donna Montran and her Bathing Beauties.

“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly found newspapers articles and advertising regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and aka Donna Darling). I am always excited when I find a new venue for my grandmother’s exciting show business career of the 1910s and 1920s.

—– Disclaimer —–

Donna in the News – Delayed by Train Crash on way to Fort Armstrong

Montran Monday

“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly found newspapers articles and advertising regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and aka Donna Darling). I am always excited when I learn of a new venue for my grandmother’s exciting show business career of the 1910s and 1920s.

Three New Venues discovered.

Another great week of Donna in the News with three new venues discovered and an intriguing note about Donna having been in a train crash.

The Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Illinois) newspaper dated 29 March 1924 shows that Donna Darling and company played in a song and dance revue at the Fort Armstrong theatre. In another article, from March 31st, the paper indicated that she missed her first show at the Fort Armstrong because of a train crash. I wonder how bad of a crash was it? The crash has the potential of making another great story. I’m looking forward to additional research.

Next, is an ad from the News Record (Neehah, WI) newspaper dated 5 December 1924. The ad shows that the California Motion Picture Bathing Beauties, featuring Donna Darling played at the Neehah theatre on December 8 & 9.

Finally, from the The Record (Hackensack, NJ) dated 23 February, I learned that Donna Darling and Company played at the Lyric Theatre in Hackensack, for three days beginning February 24th.

Three new venues added to her Career List:

  • March 29, 1924 – Rock Island, Illinois – Fort Armstrong – Donna Darling & Company. com
  • December 8-9 – Neenah Theatre, Neenah, Wisconsin – Bathing Beauties featuring Donna Darling. com
  • February 24-26, 1927 – Lyric Theatre, Hackensack, New Jersey, Donna Darling & Co. com

Magdalen Polk Taylor (1890-1970) – Ancestor Sketch

52 Ancestors – Week 2018-35
Bradey-Hingston Project
By Don Taylor

Bradley-Hingston 2018 – Ancestor #5

List of Grandparents

  • Grandmother: Magdalen Polk Taylor (1890-1970)
  • 1st Great-grandfather: William S. Taylor, Jr. (1859-____)
  • 2nd Great-grandfather: William S. Taylor, Sr.

Birth

Magdalen (Madeline in some records) Polk Taylor was born on 31 December 1890. She was the third child of William S. and Maria (Polk) Taylor. She was most likely born in New Jersey, but it is possible she was born in Pennsylvania. Her two older siblings were:

  • Sister: Dorothy – Born January 1888.
  • Brother: John – Born Jul 1889.

Childhood

Little is known about her early childhood. The 1900 Census suggests they may have had two residences, one in Philadelphia and one on the New Jersey coast, in Cape May County. She grew up in the upper middle class; her family had a housekeeper/servant throughout her childhood.

Marriage

Magdalen married Arthur Wilson Bradley on 4 April 1910 at the Church of the Transfiguration, Philadelphia, PA, in a ceremony performed by John G Hatton. She was 19-years-old; Arthur was 22.

The couple had three children:

  • Christian Bradley – born 20 March 1911
  • Miriam Bradley – born in 1912
  • David Tasker Polk Bradley – born 10 May 1918.

All three children were born in Philadelphia.

Adulthood

The 1910 Census finds Arthur and Magdalen living with his mother, Emily at 4073 Powelton Ave. That address does not appear to exist today.  In the same household are Arthur’s brother, William, Arthur’s aunt Emma, and a 22-year-old immigrant servant girl, Mary E. Rowan.

Sometime before 1915, the couple moved across the Delaware River to Pennsauken Township, New Jersey. The couple moved back to Philadelphia before 1917 and were living on Verree Road when Arthur registered for the draft.

On 27 September 1919 eight-year-old Christian was hit by a truck while playing in the street; he died.

The 1920 Census shows the family, living on Verree Road. Residing with Arthur, Madeline, and the two children (Miriam & David) is a 17-year-old maid from Bohemia named Frances Corbel.

The 1930 Census indicates that Magdalen and Arthur in Warminster, on Davisville Road. Living with them are Mariam and David, now ages 17 and 11.

On 8 March 1937, Arthur and Magdalen divorced. Arthur remarried later that year. Magdalen never remarried.

I’ve been unsuccessful finding Magdalen in the 1940 Census. I thought she was living in the household of Herbert L Fischer. However, I now think that may be another Magdalen Bradley of the same age.

Death & Burial

Magdalen relocated to Arlington, Virginia sometime before she died on 24 November 1970. She lived at 702-N Highland Street. Interestingly enough, that address is now blurred by Google. However, Buck & Associates have a photo of the home on their website.

Magdalen was buried four days later in Plot Abington #2, Lawnview Cemetery, Rockledge, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Further Actions / Follow-up

  • Further research Magdalen’s life from 1937 until her death.

————–  Disclaimer  ————–


Sources

  • Bristol Daily Courier, (Bristol, PA) 09 Mar 1937, · Page 4 – Divorce – Anson W. Bradley Magdalen P. T. Bradley. Com.
  • “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M9NR-RYH : accessed 23 August 2018), William S Tayler Jr., Middle Township Angelsea borough, Wildwood borough, Avalon Borough, Rio Grande Village, Cape May, New Jersey, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 107, sheet 12A, family 308, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,960.
  • 1900 Census, 1900 Census – William S Taylor, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Ward 9, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania; Page: 3; Enumeration District: 0159; FHL microfilm: 1241455. https://search.ancestry.com/collections/2442/records/25439613/.
  • “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M2JN­FF1 : accessed 12 March 2018), William R Hingston in household of Annie Hingston, Peabody, Essex, Massachusetts, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 443, sheet 30A, family 479, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 587; FHL microfilm 1,374,600.
  • “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MGC6-VQ1 : accessed 30 May 2018), Emily E Bradley, Philadelphia Ward 24, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 513, sheet 6A, family 122, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1398; FHL microfilm 1,375,411. Accessed 29 May 2018
  • “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MGC6-VQ1 : accessed 30 May 2018), Emily E Bradley, Philadelphia Ward 24, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 513, sheet 6A, family 122, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1398; FHL microfilm 1,375,411. Accessed 29 May 2018
  • “United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MFYR-CF8 : accessed 29 May 2018), Arthur W Bradley, Philadelphia Ward 35, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing ED 1238, sheet 1A, line 30, family 7, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 1637; FHL microfilm 1,821,637. – Accessed 29 May 2018
  • “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XH88-RV4 : accessed 30 May 2018), Arthur W Bradley, Warminster, Bucks, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 75, sheet 10B, line 82, family 251, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 2008; FHL microfilm 2,341,742. Accessed 29 May 2018
  • The Central News, (Perkasie, PA) 1938-02-17, Page 4 – In the Registers Office – 4th paragraph, Mrs. Magdalene Tasker Polk Bradley – Com.
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 25 August 2018), memorial page for Magdalen T. Bradley (31 Dec 1890–24 Nov 1970), Find A Grave Memorial no. 182390190, citing Lawnview Cemetery, Rockledge, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, USA; Maintained by DAO (contributor 47943782).
  • Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013 – Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 242 Marriage – Arthur Wilson Bradley & Madeline Polk Taylor.

Donna Darling Collection – Part 20

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I am looking at three clippings from the Donna Darling Collection that indicate she played at three different Broadway Theaters; B.S. Moss’ Broadway theater in New York, The Broadway theater in Butte, (MT?), and the Broadway theater in Long Branch, NJ. None of the clippings have dates.

B.S. Moss’ Broadway Theater, New York, NY

The first clipping is a rare playbill for The California Bathing Girls and Donna Montran in “A Beach Promenade.” Previous research found that this show ran over a month, from July 26 to August 29, 1920 at B.S. Moss’ Broadway Theater.

The playbill provides much new information about the show. One of the most exciting things is that it provides names for the cast.

Besides Donna Montran, the Bathing Beauties included Alice Dean, Alice Eldridge, Dorothy Smith, Lola St. Clair, Helen Travisand, and Marie Thompson. I was surprised to see what appears to be two men in the cast, Adrian Wally and Bobby Tremaine. Also, credit is given to Behrens for costumes, Shoes by Miller, One Piece Bathing suits by Asbury Mills and the scenery was painted by Jack Klein. Tom Rooney and Earl Lindsay were the producers and the show was conceived and staged under the personal direction of Earl Lindsay.

For more information about the show see Moss’ Broadway at 41st – California Bathing Girls in “A Beach Promenade” and The Donna Darling Collection – Part 2

Broadway Theater, Butte, MT

The second clipping is an advertisement showing “An Outstanding Vaudeville Feature Act – DONNA DARLING REVUE With Sammy Clark and Company.

Showing with the Donna Darling Revue was a silent film, “Fig Leaves” starring George O’Brien and Olive Borden. According to IMDB, that film was released on 22 August 1926, so the show had to occur after that. Also, through other research I have found that the Donna Darling Review played on 27 November 1926. Butte and Helena are only 80 miles apart. With the schedule the show had, I’m sure that the Butte performance would have been within a day or two of the Helena performance.

This clipping allowed me to add another venue for Donna’s performances with an approximate date.

Broadway Theater, Long Branch, NJ

The final clipping that I am looking at this week relates to Donna and Sammy playing at the Broadway Theater in Long Branch, NJ. The program indicates that the “Darling Clark Revue” played Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, May 3-4-5. Donna and Sammy got together about 1925 and separated about 1930.  The only year on which May 3rd, 4th, and 5th, was on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday was 1926.

It is interesting to see the show called “Terpsichore Personified” and “A Novel Dance Melange.” My memory of Donna is that she had an incredible vocabulary. My mom used to say that Donna could cut you down with words and you’d never know you had been cut. I have to admit I needed to look up “Terpsichore.” Terpsichore is one of the nine Greek Muses and is the goddess of dance and chorus. That is a description that I’m sure Donna liked. I suspect she probably wrote the portrayal.

This is another new venue and date for Donna’s career. I will add it to my projects.

Actions

  • Research The Donna Darling Revue at the Broadway Theater, Butte, MT, between 24 and 30 November 1926.
  • Research “Darling Clark Revue” at the Broadway Theater, Long Branch, NJ, on 3, 4, & 5 May 1926.
  • Research Alice Dean, Alice Eldridge, Dorothy Smith, Lola St. Clair, Helen Travisand, Marie Thompson, Adrian Wally, Bobby Tremaine, Tom Rooney, and Earl Lindsay.