October 31, 2015

The real Dracula

I was in the sixth grade when I discovered a copy of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula in my Language Arts classroom's library, and devoured it during silent reading time.

Then I discovered that Stoker's main character wasn't entirely fictional; Dracula actually existed. He wasn't a count or a vampire, however, but a 15th century Romanian prince who became renowned for his cruelty towards enemies and criminals.

Ambras Castle portrait of Vlad Dracula, c. 1560, said to be a copy of one taken from life

Vlad Dracula was born in December of 1431, the son of Prince Vlad Dracul; the name Dracul means "dragon", as Vlad's father was a member of the Order of the Dragon. Ironically, it can also mean "devil"-- the addition of the "a" means "son of"-- and so the name Dracula can be interpreted to mean "son of the devil." I'm sure that, to those on the wrong side of him, that moniker was quite appropriate.

At the time, Romania (the southern part of which was then called Wallachia) was ruled by the Ottoman Sultan, and the princes of Balkan lands were basically puppets who were allowed to remain on their thrones only so long as they paid tribute. The Sultan demanded not only money, but also boys to be trained as soldiers for his army. Princes and nobles were also sometimes made to give up their children as "good faith" hostages to ensure their parents' compliance. So long as the princes and nobles did not do anything stupid, like try to fight, their children were well treated and given a quality education.

When Vlad was only 13, he and his younger brother Radu became such hostages and were sent to live in Turkey. Four years later, Vlad was a commander in the Turkish army, now well versed in their religion, language, and military tactics. This knowledge would serve him well in the future.

Whatever he had endured as a prisoner of the Turks had made him diamond-hard, and after he took the Wallachian throne at age 17, he set out to avenge his father, who had been killed. He blamed the nobles of his land, whom he believed were in cahoots with their hated Ottoman masters, and he exacted brutal payback.

Dracula became known as Vlad Tepes, which means "Impaler", due to his favorite method of executing criminals, deadbeats, and anyone who was, in his eyes, unworthy of living in his realm: shish-kabobing them on wooden stakes and leaving them for display. The impalement was done in such a way that the unfortunate victims didn't die too quickly.

It didn't take much, either, to find yourself on the wrong end of a sharp stake: steal some bread, fail to mend your husband's clothes, and that was it. Not surprisingly, this resulted in a virtually crime-free land where even very expensive items could be safely left out in public squares.

Unlike his father, Dracula refused to pay tribute, which incurred the wrath of Sultan Mehmed. Mehmed sent an army to Wallachia's capital of Tirgoviste, but 60 miles outside the city his forces were met with a gruesome sight: thousands of bodies in varying stages of decomposition impaled on stakes, positioned in a line across a hill. The message was clear: "Come any further, and this will be you." The army retreated.

Vlad the Impaler was finally killed in battle in 1476, at the age of 45; one of his favorite tactics during combat was to disguise himself as a Turk, and he was probably mistaken for one by one of his own men.

Dracula's legend spawned this 16th century depiction of Vlad dining among some of his victims

Vlad Dracula was by no means a nice guy, and today he would be charged with countless war crimes-- but he was a man of his time. Despite his brutality, Dracula was a brilliant and innovative military leader who rewarded soldiers displaying bravery. He was a pioneer in the use of germ warfare, sending soldiers who had the plague into the Turks' camps to spread the disease among them. He also used "scorched earth", destroying crops and poisoning wells so that pursuing Ottoman armies would have nothing to eat or drink.

He single-handedly kept his country free from the Ottomans; it was only after his death that they actually invaded the Balkans. He is still considered a national hero-- perhaps the national hero-- of Romania today.

Bram Stoker, who never actually visited Romania, was inspired by the tales of corpses that rose from their graves and sustained themselves by drinking the blood of the living (a belief that came from not fully understanding the decomposition process). How much he actually intended to model his undead villain after the real-life prince, however, we don't know.

To this day, we can't seem to get enough of vampires. I frankly find the real Vlad Dracula much more interesting than the fictional vampire, and can't understand why there has been only one half decent English-language movie made about him.

A happy and safe Halloween to all.

October 24, 2015

A snapshot of life in Krasnostav

My grandfather Baruch (later Bernard) Krantzberg came from Krasnostav, a small shtetl in what is now Ukraine, west of Kiev. The other day I got an email from Mike Levin, a gentleman I know from the interwebs whose grandparents also came from Krasnostav.

Mike published an article on JewishGen that was written by a cousin of his mother's, who lived in and remembered the town, and he linked me to it.

This article proved to be a very interesting account of the town's history and lives of its inhabitants, especially regarding its Jewish population.

The article mentions that from the Bolshevik Revolution to the early 1920's, this was an unstable and frankly dangerous place to live, where Jews and their businesses were targeted. My grandfather's family ran a dry goods store, and one day it was raided by Cossacks. Great-aunt Gissie paid them off to leave; it was right about then that the family chose to get out.

My grandfather's family, circa 1915, in or near Krasnostav. Clockwise from left: my great-aunt Gissie, great-uncle Joel, great-aunt Ita, grandfather Baruch, and great-grandmother Nechama (seated).

The article also mentions by name my grandfather's older brother Moshe, who would immigrate to Ottawa, Canada, and teach at the Talmud Torah Hebrew School there. What I hadn't known is that he was a teacher back in the old country as well-- according to the article, he founded his own reformed "heider", or Hebrew school, where he taught Hebrew in Hebrew. For some reason, this was considered controversial, and it was shut down.

My great-uncle Moshe Krantzberg, rebel Hebrew school teacher, circa 1920's Canada

I want to thank Mike for sharing this glimpse into my grandfather's hometown and family.

October 11, 2015

COLBY of Amesbury and Salisbury Massachusetts

The COLBY family actually have Danish origins (any English name with the "by" suffix is Norse, meaning "farmstead").

Generation 1: Anthony COLBY was from Horbling, Lincolnshire, born about 1605. His wife Susannah was possibly the daughter of Jarret HADDON, another founder of what would become the town of Amesbury.

Anthony arrived with the Winthrop Fleet sometime in 1630, first arriving in Boston, then in Ipswich by 1637, and finally ending up in Salisbury by 1639. He had married Susannah soon after arriving, about 1631 or 1632. He was apparently not a man to sit quietly by or suffer fools, because in 1640 he was fined one shilling for being "disorderly" in a town meeting.

I'm descended from Anthony and Susannah through four of their children, in five known ways total; they were my 9th (twice), 10th, and 11th great-grandparents.

Generation 2a: Sarah COLBY was born in Boston, Massachusetts about 1635 to Anthony and Susannah COLBY. On 6 March 1654, she married Orlando Bagley in Salisbury, Massachusetts. She died on 18 May 1663 in Boston.

Generation 2b: Rebecca COLBY was bon to Anthony and Susannah COLBY on 11 March 1643 in Salisbury, Massachusetts. She married John Williams II, son of John I and Jane Williams, on 9 September 1661 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Rebecca died on 10 June 1672 in Haverhill.

Generation 2c: Mary COLBY was born to Anthony and Susannah Colby on 19 July 1647 in Salisbury, Massachusetts. On 23 September 1668, in Amesbury, Massachusetts, she married William Sargent II, son of William Sargent I and Elizabeth Perkins. She died in Amesbury on 27 September 1716.

Generation 2d: Thomas COLBY was born in Salisbury on 8 March 1650 to Anthony and Susannah COLBY. He married Hannah ROWELL, daughter of Valentine ROWELL and Joanna PINDER, on 16 September 1674 in Amesbury, Massachusetts. His death date is unknown.

Generation 3a: Hannah COLBY was born in 1677 in Amesbury, Massachusetts to Thomas COLBY and Hannah ROWELL. She married John TEWKSBURY son of Henry TEWKSBURY and Martha COPP. She died unknown.

Generation 3b: Jacob COLBY was born to Thomas COLBY and Hannah ROWELL on 13 April 1688. He married Elizabeth ELLIOT, daughter of John ELLIOT and Naomi TEWKSBURY on 11 November 1724, and passed away after 1755.

Generation 4: Valentine COLBY was born to Jacob COLBY and Elizabeth ELLIOT in Amesbury, Massachusetts on 29 May 1728. On 20 August 1747, in Amesbury, he married Hannah KIMBALL, daughter of Jonathan KIMBALL and Lydia WEED. Valentine served as a "minuteman" during the outbreak of the Revolution. He died in Amesbury in 1812.

First page of Valentine Colby's will. Image courtesy of

Generation 5: Thomas COLBY II was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts on 11 September 1761 to Valentine COLBY and Hannah KIMBALL. On 31 March 1789, he married Dorothy BARNARD, whose parents were Joseph BARNARD and Elizabeth TEWKSBURY, in Amesbury. Thomas died on 4 August 1833.

Generation 6: Dorothy COLBY was born on 8 December 1791 in Amesbury, Massachusetts to Thomas COLBY II and Dorothy BARNARD. She married John PURINTON on 11 June 1811 in Amesbury. She died in South Hampton, New Hampshire on 13 September 1847.

Ancestry line #1:

Anthony COLBY (1605-1661) m. Susannah UNKNOWN
Sarah COLBY (1635-1663) m. Orlando BAGLEY I
Orlando BAGLEY II (1658-1728) m. Sarah SARGENT
Sarah BAGLEY (b. 1683) m. Henry LANCASTER
Hannah LANCASTER (b. 1709) m. John JEWELL
Hannah JEWELL (b. 1739) m. Enoch DAVIS
John DAVIS (1761-1831) m. Priscilla BARTLETT
Priscilla DAVIS (1798-1828) m. William FITTS
Sophia Haskell FITTS (1823-1880) m. Isaiah F. PURINTON
Mary Olivia PURINTON (1851-1898) m. George Bailey PALMER
Frank Bailey PALMER (1888-1958) m. Bessie Maud WINSLOW
Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER (1918-1984) m. Henry Richard HOWES
Shirley Ann HOWES (1937-1999) m. Joel David KRANTZBERG (1933-2017)

Ancestry line #2

Anthony COLBY (1605-1661) m. Susannah UNKNOWN
Rebecca COLBY (1643-1672) m. John WILLIAMS
Sarah WILLIAMS (b. 1662) m. Joseph BOND
Rebecca BOND (1685-1775) m. Benjamin HARDY
Philip HARDY (b. 1719) m. Hannah TENNEY
Zilpha HARDY (b. 1756) m. Amos BAILEY
Jonathan BAILEY (b. 1788) m. Sarah CLARK
Arvilla BAILEY (b. 1816) m. Joshua BAILEY
George Bailey PALMER (1850-1926) m. Mary Olivia PURINTON
Frank Bailey PALMER (1888-1958) m. Bessie Maud WINSLOW
Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER (1918-1984) m. Henry Richard HOWES
Shirley Ann HOWES (1937-1999) m. Joel David KRANTZBERG (1933-2017)

Ancestry line #3

Anthony COLBY (1605-1661) m. Susannah UNKNOWN
Rebecca COLBY (1643-1672) m. John WILLIAMS
Mary WILLIAMS (1663-1695) m. Thomas SILVER
Sarah SILVER (1682-1770) m. James PHILBRICK
Rachel PHILBRICK (1704-1767) m. Ephraim BROWN
Enoch BROWN (1728-1768) m. Elizabeth CLOUGH
Rachel BROWN (b. 1765) m. Robert GIBSON
Elizabeth GIBSON (b. 1784) m. Asa BLY
Sophronia C. BLY (1818-1905) m. John MACE
Elizabeth A. MACE (1846-1907) m. James W. WINSLOW
Bessie Maud WINSLOW (1886-1970) m. Frank Bailey PALMER
Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER (1918-1984) m. Henry Richard HOWES
Shirley Ann HOWES (1937-1999) m. Joel David KRANTZBERG (1933-2017)

Ancestry line #4

Anthony COLBY (1605-1661) m. Susannah UNKNOWN
Mary COLBY (1647-1716) m. William SARGENT
Jacob SARGENT (1687-1749) m. Judith HARVEY
Winthrop SARGENT (1711-1787) m. Phebe HEALEY
Mary SARGENT (b. 1745) m. Jeremy TOWLE
Judith TOWLE (1783-aft 1864) m. Samuel SEVERANCE
Mary "Polly" SEVERANCE (1805-1889) m. William WINSLOW
James W. WINSLOW (1838-1906) m. Elizabeth MACE
Bessie Maud WINSLOW (1886-1970) m. Frank Bailey PALMER
Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER (1918-1984) m. Henry Richard HOWES
Shirley Ann HOWES (1937-1999) m. Joel David KRANTZBERG (1933-2017)

Ancestry line #5

Anthony COLBY (1605-1661) m. Susannah UNKNOWN
Thomas COLBY I (b. 1650) m. Hannah ROWELL
Hannah COLBY (1677-1730) m. John TEWKSBURY
Isaac TEWKSBURY (1698-1765) m. Sarah SARGENT
Elizabeth TEWKSBURY (b. 1721) m. Joseph BARNARD
Dorothy BARNARD (176201827) m. Thomas COLBY II
Dorothy COLBY (1791-1847) m. John PURINTON
Isaiah F. PURINTON (1818-1890) m. Sophia Haskel FITTS
Mary Olivia PURINTON (1851-1898) m. George Bailey PALMER
Frank Bailey PALMER (1888-1958) m. Bessie Maud WINSLOW
Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER (1918-1984) m. Henry Richard HOWES
Shirley Ann HOWES (1937-1999) m. Joel David KRANTZBERG (1933-2017)

October 3, 2015

Marriage record for Dorothy Palmer and George Everett Maynard

Before leaving for my mini-vacation two weeks ago, I managed to find the marriage record for my grandmother Dorothy Elizabeth Palmer Howes to her second husband, George Everett Maynard (he went by his middle name).

Dorothy divorced my grandfather Henry Richard Howes on 3 February 1948, and she married Everett on 2 July 1948, in Nottingham, New Hampshire.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Mom was 11 years old when her mom remarried, and her relationship with her stepfather Everett was fairly good. He was extremely strict; if Mom didn't make honor roll, she was grounded for the entirety of the next marking period. Knowing Mom, she probably didn't make things easy for Everett, either... she could be stubborn and was quite rebellious as a kid, by her own admission.

What surprised me about the marriage record was that this was Everett's first marriage. Just as I was surprised that my grandfather Henry's second wife Evelyn had been previously married, I was surprised that Everett was not.

Dorothy and Everett remained married until the late fifties or early sixties.

I've since found a couple of other records that recently became available on FamilySearch, so please stay tuned!