It is New Year's Eve 1852 and Henry HYDENWELL
sits at his desk by candlelight. He dips his quill pen in ink and begins
to write his New Year's resolutions.
1. No man is truly well-educated unless he
learns to spell his name at least three different ways within the same
document. I resolve to give the appearance of being extremely
well-educated in the coming year.
2. I resolve to see to it that all of my
children will have the same names that my ancestors have used for six
generations in a row.
3. My age is no one's business but my own. I
hereby resolve to never list the same age or birth year twice on any
4. I resolve to have each of my children
baptized in a different church--either in a different faith or in a
different parish. Every third child will not be baptized at all or will
be baptized by an itinerant minister who keeps no records.
5. I resolve to move to a new town, new
county, or new state at least once every ten years--just before those
pesky enumerators come around asking silly questions.
6. I will make every attempt to reside in
counties and towns where no vital records are maintained or where the
courthouse burns down every few years.
7. I resolve to join an obscure religious
cult that does not believe in record keeping or in participating in
8. When the tax collector comes to my door,
I'll loan him my pen, which has been dipped in rapidly fading blue ink.
9. I resolve that if my beloved wife Mary
should die, I will marry another Mary.
10. I resolve not to make a will. Who needs
to spend money on a lawyer?
Of course, birth and death dates in genealogy
are important to have. While backtracking one family group, I came upon
a death date entry indicating only that the man's demise was "None too
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