Sunday, August 9, 2015

Charles William Brinton Turns Sixty-Seven

Charles William Brinton was born on the twelfth of August 1948. Or maybe the eleventh

But the story begins earlier - or actually later.

Morty's story
Aunt Betty had a baby and Uncle Ken passed out cigars. Not to me - I was eleven years old. Morty was born on the eighteenth of July.

Then a few days later, when they were discharged from the hospital, they learned that his official date of birth was the seventeenth. It was not like Uncle Ken to misreport such a thing, so what was this about?

It was about Daylight Saving Time. (No not "Savings." There are no savings. It's about saving daylight. As though we can actually do that. Like in a piggy bank or a jar.)

Morty was born during the hour that was the eighteenth according to DST but the seventeenth according to Standard Time.

Apparently Pennsylvania recognized that Daylight Saving Time was not a real thing, just an artificial convenience. (Or annoyance, depending on your perspective.) The REAL, LEGAL time was Eastern Standard Time, all year long.

I thought that for years.

The discussion
Five years ago I had some kind of issue with a date of death. The tombstone had one day and the Social Security Death Index had the previous day. I did not have a death cerificate.

There are a dozen or more possible explanations for this kind of thing. Sometimes people confuse the date of burial with the date of death. Perhaps some confusion if the death was in the evening and therefore the next day according to the Jewish calendar. Or just plain errors - the hospital, the family, the stone maker, the Social Security record, who knows. But for some reason this got me thinking - in the abstract, to be sure - about the Daylight Saving Time issue.

I posted the following to the Association of Professional Genealogists discussion group.
This is how it appears in the APG archives
Most of the responses never really addressed the questions, because this appeared to be something that no one had much thought about before. It did solve a problem for one Altoona Pennsylvania genealogist whose conflicting birthdates could now be attributed to her 12:09 AM birth.

At some point in the discussion, the conclusion seemed to be that this was not, in fact, the policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at all, but something that was decided by individual hospitals.

There was still the esoteric question of what is correct for purposes of genealogy. What do we write in our databases and websites? Of course not everything is perfectly standardized. The very fact that we use dates and times in the places the events took place means that a person born in the United States could have an earlier birth date than someone born in Europe a few hours earlier.

Surely the law deals with this when, for instance, a will leaves something to "my eldest grandson." (Does "eldest" always mean "first born?") But other than that, does it ever have any non-trivial "real life" significance?

But until I began thinking about this particular blog post, I hadn't given it another thought.

A few weeks ago, I presented the question to the ultimate authority on citations, Elizabeth Shown Mills. I wrote to her on Morty's official birthday, saying inter alia
I am planning a brief blog on the subject and wanted to mention whatever genealogists consider best practices.
She replied the same day that she had never heard the question raised before.

When it really mattered
That brings us to Charles William Brinton. It mattered to him enough to go to court.

Brinton was born 12:03 AM on the twelfth of August 1948 and so it was recorded on his Delaware birth certificate. On the first of December 1969, he realized this was not a good idea.

For those of us of a certain age - and I include myself - the first of December 1969 was an important day in our lives. It was the day of the first lottery. For the military draft. For service in Vietnam.

Wikipedia "Draft Lottery (1969)" tells us:
The days of the year (including February 29) were represented by the numbers 1 through 366 written on slips of paper. The slips were placed in separate plastic capsules that were mixed in a shoebox and then dumped into a deep glass jar. Capsules were drawn from the jar one at a time.
The first number drawn was 258 (September 14), so all registrants with that birthday were assigned lottery number 1. The second number drawn corresponded to April 24, and so forth. All men of draft age (born 1944 to 1950) who shared a birthdate would be called to serve at once. The first 195 birthdates drawn were later called to serve in the order they were drawn; the last of these was September 24.
The eleventh of August was number 324. Breathe a sigh of relief and get on with your life. The twelfth of August was number 142. Not so much. (My own number was 355.)

Brinton got the Delaware Bureau of Vital Statistics to issue a new birth certificate, to wit his birth was "August 12, 1948 12:03 A.M., D.S.T. August 11, 1948 E.S.T. 11:03 P.M."

Brinton took the Draft Board to court to get an injuncton pending a new birth certificate which would cite only August 11 as his legal birthday. According to the court's opinion, issued February 11, 1971, the facts were not in doubt.
The following factual summary has been stipulated by and between the parties to be true and correct. Plaintiff was originally assigned 1970 Random Sequence No. 142 by the Selective Service System based upon the fact that he had originally reported his date of birth to Local Board No. 5 as August 12, 1948.
Based upon Section 5(a) of the Selective Service Act of 1967, 50 App.U.S.C. § 451 et seq.; Selective Service Regulations §§ 1631.4, 1631.5 and 1631.7 and Local Board Memorandum No. 99 issued by defendant Tarr, plaintiff's liability for induction is governed by his 1970 Random Sequence Number. The 1970 Random Sequence Number for persons subject to induction born on August 12, 1948, is No. 142; the number for persons born on August 11, 1948, is No. 324. Registrants (not otherwise exempt or deferred) assigned No. 142 were liable for induction during 1970, but those assigned No. 324 were not.
Everyone agreed that Brinton had originally acknowledged his birthday as August 12, but now wanted the privileges on having been born on August 11. The draft board argued that this was sufficient, regardless of any subsequent changes in the birth record.

Charles William Brinton received his injunction and was not drafted. Sometime this week - maybe Tuesday, maybe Wednesday - he will celebrate his sixty-seventh birthday. Felicitations from All My Foreparents.

Housekeeping notes
I'm off to the US Tuesday morning. Here is the final(?) list of pesentations I'll be making while I am there.

16 August, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland Hadassah, 3723 Old Court Rd., Suite 205, Baltimore

17 August, 7:30 – JGS of North Jersey YMCA, 1 Pike Drive, Wayne NJ

20 August, 6:30 – Bnai Sholom Congregation, 949 10th Avenue, Huntington West Virginia

23 August, 1:30 – South Suburban Historical and Genealogical Society and Illiana JGS, 3000 West 170th Place, Hazel Crest Illinois

25 August, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University

26 August, 7:00 – Phoenix JGS, Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center,
Arizona Jewish Historical Society, 122 E Culver St, Phoenix

30 August, 2:00 – JGS of Long Island, Mid-Island Y-JCC, 45 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview NY

1 September, 5:30 – JewishGen and the JGS of New York, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, New York. Space for this program is limited and people are requested to register by 13 August.

I hope to see many of you along the way.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The DNA of "The Fewest of All Peoples"

I am writing this Saturday night after we read the weekly Torah portion which includes this verse:
  לא מרבכם מכל-העמים חשק ה' בכם ויבחר בכם כי-אתם המעט מכל-העמים
Not because your numbers are greater than any people did the L-rd desire you and choose you; for you are the fewest of all peoples.
Devarim (Deuteromony) 7,7

I'm not sure about "the fewest of all peoples" numerically, but we certainly don't rank anywhere near the largest peoples. And considering the large number of tragic events to strike the Jews throughout the generations, keeping us small seems to be part of a deliberate plan.

Normally, a survival strategy for a population involves large numbers of offspring over generations. From time to time we see these breathless articles about the number of people living today who can count Genghis Khan or Charlemagne among their ancestors. (Yes, conquest too plays a role in spreading your DNA.) This is not at all similar to the statistical observation that all European Jews are descended from Rashi who died just over nine hundred years ago and who had all of three daughters.

Abraham too was blessed with the promise that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore (Bereishit - Genesis - 22,17). Other verses make it clear that these promises are analogies to very large numbers, with implications that extend to influence among "the nations."

This is a strategy that anyone can understand. You want to propagate your DNA, you do it through large numbers. Even moreso if it is spread by many nations. So like sand on the shore and stars in the sky, little bits of Abrahamic DNA reach to the far corners of the world. A fine blessing.

So what's this about being the "fewest of peoples?" This seems a less effective strategy for survival, much less propagation.

When introducing the subject of DNA to an unsuspecting audience, we often use this kind of illustration to explain how we inherit DNA from our ancestors.

The first generation, the great-grandparents, are represented by solid colors and these colors decrease on average by half with each subsequest generation. Some of those colors will disappear entirely after a few generations and others will persist longer. But the point is made that the further we get from some arbitrary source, the less of that source remains.

In fact, of course, our great-grandparents are not solid colors. They are composed of hundreds of bits of different colors in a mosaic that represent the Jews of Europe who produced us over the last hundreds of years and more. If we pick an arbitrary starting point twenty generations ago, we should have a million unique ancestors. But there were not a million Jews in Europe five-six hundred years ago, so we must have drawn from most of them multiple times. This is endogamy and I have discussed it here before - and of course many others have as well. Our great-grandparents' tapestries - indeed our own as well - include several instances of most of those colors and many instances of some of them.

But the point I am after is that for Jews who are descended from Jewish lines, those great-grandparents will have very much the same colors. Any two will preserve the DNA of much the same ancestors, as will our grandparents, our parents and ourselves. And as we continue propagating within the tribe, so will our children and our grandchildren. We will be very much like our ancestors of ten and twelve generations ago and in that sense they are preserved to an extent that Genghis Khan and Charlemagne with their tiny scattered bits, can only wish for.

What is success for a population? Is it injecting tiny bits of your group DNA into other populations far and wide - populations who carry some bit of you but do not resemble you or reflect who you are?  Or is it propagation that ensures that twenty generations hence your people will be very much like you?

Note: I do not doubt that you can challenge what I write above using science, statistics or even history. If you do, you have missed my point.

Housekeeping notes
The shipping discount for ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People is valid until Monday 3 August.

I am speaking in Baltimore, Wayne NJ, Huntington WV, Hazel Crest IL, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Plainview Long Island - and probably one or two more.The precise schedule, while not quite final, can be found on the website, where you can also order books, T-shirts and tote bags.