Monk in Quarantine

Read an article somewhere that said Tony Shalhoub was recovering from COVID and couldn’t help being shocked, shocked! that Mr. Monk would allow such a thing to happen. But I thought this little skit featuring Monk was funny.

They really need to do a TV special or something.

Songs from great uncle Bert Hodgson


I mentioned my 3x great uncle Bert Hodgson a while back. I thought it was interesting that he was a songwriter, since he’s the only other composer I know of in my immediate lineage (that is, not including distant cousins). At long last, I found some recordings of at least a couple of his songs. The secret was that they weren’t listed under his name, but rather under the artists who recorded them. I was browsing through mentions of his name in old newspapers from Knoxville (where I found the above article as well), and found mention that a Maynard Baird and his band had recorded some of his songs, which then came up on YouTube. So here we go, here’s some music by good old great great great uncle Bert…

Not sure why he never became internationally famous… (sorry Uncle Bert; for what it’s worth, neither have I… but I’m not dead yet, haha!)

Anyway, it’s awesome to finally find some of his work! And it looks like the Tennessee Archive of Moving Images and Sound has some recordings of his songs on old 78s. Just last week, Eric Dawson mentions him in an article:

There was also a record show, where TAMIS acquired a singular acetate recording by Maynard Baird, probably the most popular musician in Knoxville during the 1920s. Baird and his jazz band recorded several tunes at the sessions; this 1950s-era acetate finds him still going strong on a tune by Bert Hodgson.

I definitely hope to contact TAMIS soon and find out if I can have a listen to these somehow! Cool stuff!

The color green and the musical fifth


I recently bought the latest album from Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus. Symphonic metal, very cinematic, operatic, bombastic, and… metallic, I guess? A good portion of it is in Italian, so I can’t understand it without looking up translations, but it doesn’t stop one from enjoying the music itself. I listen to operas in foreign languages, after all. (And Italian is the proper language for symphonic metal. All educated people agree on that.) Anyway, this particular track gets stuck in my head: In Tempo Degli Dei (translating to Time of the Gods?) … Check out the epicness:

I was curious as to what that guy was saying at 2:51. It’s a quote from the diary of Italian thinker and painter Gustavo Rol, which translates to:

I discovered a terrible law that links the color green, the musical fifth, and heat. I have lost my will to live. I am frightened by power. I shall write no more!

… What?! How enigmatic. What the heck is this “terrible law”? And who is this guy anyway?

Gustavo Rol does not seem to be very famous outside of Italy. All I can find on him in English, other than his brief Wikipedia article, is this website, which states that Rol was:

a spiritual Teacher of Christian-Catholic orientation, who lived in Italy in the twentieth century (1903-1994), gifted with many “paranormal powers”, which he defined as “possibilities”.

These “possibilities” include “clairvoyance, telepathy, precognition, retro-cognition, telekinesis, materialization and dematerialization of objects, doubling, levitation, time travel, healing powers, xenoglossy, lightening strikes, diagnosis of illnesses (endoscopy and ability to see an aura), transfer or agility, etc.” The site states:

The intertwining of mystical aspiration and rational analysis of what surrounded him, united with curiosity, stubbornness and will, led him to the conviction at the age of 22 that it was possible to predict the color of the cards without seeing them after having passed randomly in front of a tobacco shop window where decks of cards were on display. It was a challenge that began almost like a game, but after two years of attempts he managed to predict all 52 cards in a deck. On that day, July 28, 1927, he was in Paris, and he wrote the following in his work diary:

“I discovered a terrible law linking the color green, the musical fifth and heat. I lost my will to live. Power frightens me. I will write no more!”

He began to develop his possibilities from that moment on and onward into the following years.

Regarding “the law”, the site quotes Rol as saying:

I began with the cards: why should it be impossible to predict the color of a face down card? I tried and tried again, but for a long time I could not do it. Then one day I looked at a rainbow and it was then that lightening struck. I realized that the color green was the central color, the color that kept the others united. I measured the vibration of the green color and discovered that it was the same as the musical fifth, and that it corresponded to a certain degree of heat. I then began to predict the cards accurately, and little by little to do all the other things…

I’m not quite sure how green keeps the other colors “united”. It has a frequency of 526 Thz (according to Wikipedia). A musical fifth has a frequency ration of 3:2. The highest frequency visible to the human eye lies around 789 Thz. The ratio of 789 Thz to 526 Thz is, aha, 3:2. Furthermore, the ratio of 526 Thz to the lowest visible frequency, 400 Thz, is very close to 4:3, the perfect fourth. So translating colors to musical degrees, green indeed lies at right about the musical fifth. Is this what Rol meant? I don’t know. Interesting, though.

What does this have to do with heat? Something about thermal radiation? And what does this all have to do with telepathic possibilities?

I have no idea at this point. I’ll have to continue thinking about it.

Unfortunately, beyond the aforementioned website, there’s not much info about Gustavo Rol out there, at least not in English. There is one book on Amazon in English about him, but it looks to be a collection of anecdotes from witnesses of his “possibilities”, which seem a bit like tall tales in and of themselves, and I’m not sure are very valuable to someone who just wants to understand exactly what insights Rol may have had.

I shall write no more!

Presidential cousin…

Our local paper was recently bought by a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, which led me to briefly browsing Warren Buffett’s Wikipedia page, where it mentioned that he’s “of distant French Huguenot descent.” Not sure why this is considered noteworthy, but whatever. Anyway, I am also “of distant French Huguenot descent”, from my 10 x great grandfather (if I counted the generations right), good old Benoit Brasseur, or Old French Grandpa Benny as we call him in the family. So what Huguenot is Buffett’s Wikipedia page referring to? Could it be the same one?!

Nope. Wikipedia’s page is referring to a Mareen Duvall. But Duvall’s second wife, and the one Buffett is descended from, was Susannah Brasseur, daughter of Benoit! So that makes my 10 x great grandfather Warren Buffett’s 7 x great grandfather, making Warren Buffett my 8th cousin, 3 times removed! So the local paper is like a family business now.

But there’s a bonus relative, too. Also descended from Mareen Duvall and Susannah is a president of the USA! As in… the current one. Bleh! Old cousin Barry, 11th cousin, once removed.

(Other famous descendants of Mareen Duvall include Harry S. Truman, Dick Cheney, and actor Robert Duvall, but my brief Googling around seems to indicate that these famous guys are descended from Duvall’s first wife rather than his second.)

Of course, these connections are so distant that they’re completely and utterly unremarkable, but it is interesting to actually be able to trace a path.

Presidential cousin… or not

So I was exploring the tree of my 13 x great grandfather, Sir Thomas Adams, Lord Mayor of London, trying to see if there was a connection between his tree and the tree of that other famous Adams man, John Adams, the second president of the United States. Just browsing through several trees online like this one, a connection emerges easily enough: Sir Thomas Adams’s grandfather, Randall Adams, was brother to a Henry Adams, the 4 x great grandfather of John Adams the president. That would make distant cousins of us.

But wait.

Something doesn’t look right in this tree.

Randall Adams was born and died in Wem, Shropshire, while his father and brothers were born and died in Barton St David, Somerset?

Hmmm. I’m not so sure Randall Adams actually belongs in this family. Although the dates are believable, I couldn’t find any evidence that Randall’s father made a brief visit to Wem and left a son there. And these trees have no resources to back up the connection other than private emails.

I haven’t been able to find any trace of Randall’s true parentage, so they may be lost to the mysteries of time.

But we’ll never be royals

I’ve been exploring my family tree a bit more and found some interesting things.  Full disclaimer: I went pretty far back, like to the 1500’s and beyond, so I don’t have census data or birth certificates for a lot of this stuff.  But I’m not making any new claims.  I mostly just explored large family trees that I am far from the first to study. I still need to do some more digging, but when lineages trail off into English nobility, it makes sense there would be records of this stuff despite its age; keeping track of family relations was very important to the way these ancestors lived and did business with each other.  Still, I’m far from a genealogy expert, so don’t go sourcing this in your scholarly works.

In the interest of not being too boring, I’m not going to give the names of all spouses here.  As I said, I’m not making any new claims, so all that info is out there somewhere with a bit of Googling or searching.

So here we go: my great great grandmother Katherine Burns (1878-1963) of Tennessee was daughter of Edmond Burns (1854-1904), son of Levin Burns (1828-1863), son of Wilson Burns (1782-1843).  His paternal grandfather, Adam Burns (1736-1799), came to colonial America in the 1750’s from Scotland and fought in the American Revolution.  Wilson’s mother was Mary Wilson (1762-?), daughter of Wadsworth Wilson (1725-?), son of Thomas Wilson (1691-1744).  Interestingly, Thomas’s maternal grandfather married Eleanor Sprigg, who was related to philosopher Francis Bacon.  This would make Bacon a distant cousin, if not for the fact that Sprigg was in fact Thomas’s grandfather’s second wife, while we are descended from his first.  So, no Bacon for us.  At least not through Sprigg.

Thomas Wilson married Priscella Kent (1701-1744).  On her father’s side, Priscella was descended from Benois Brasseur (1620-1663?), a Huguenot from France.  She was the daughter of Mary Wadsworth (1680-1718), daughter of Elizabeth Claggett (1662-1711), daughter of Captain Thomas Claggett (1644-1703).  Thomas Claggett journeyed to colonial Maryland in 1670 from England, so from here on, we’re exploring English ancestry.  Thomas Claggett’s maternal grandfather was Sir Thomas Adams (1586-1667), who was elected the Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1645:


Sir Thomas Adams
13 x great grandfather

Thomas Claggett’s descendants also include historical figure Thomas John Claggett, the first bishop of the American Episcopal Church.  Thomas Claggett’s father was Edward Claggett (1606?-1673), son of George Claggett (1563-1638), son of Margaret Godden (1529-1574), daughter of Joyce Lovelace (1500-?).  The Lovelace family seems to have been quite a prominent one, so there’s more to explore there.  It is very likely Joyce was somehow related to the poet Richard Lovelace, though I have not yet sought the connection.  Joyce was the daughter John Lovelace (1478-1546).  Some resources say that John was a member of the Grand Jury that indicted Anne Boleyn.  John’s mother was Laura (or Lora?) Peckham (1436?-1482).  The Peckham family also seems to have been a prominent one.  Laura’s father was James Reynolds Peckham (1410?-1454), son of Reginald Peckham (1386-1407), son of James Peckham (1340-1400), son of John de Peckham (dates start to get fuzzy around here, 1320?-1363?), son of Margery Aldham or Audham (?-?), daughter of Sir Thomas de Audham and Isabel Montacute.  (Disclaimer: While there’s a definite connection between Margery Audham and Sir Thomas de Audham, it’s hard to be exact about the relation, because resources never seem to mention the family as a whole; only a piece of the family here and another piece there.  So I think it’s possible that Margery could have in fact been a granddaughter of Thomas de Audham and Isabel Montacute, but until I do some more digging, I’m just listing her as a daughter, as resources suggest.)

What makes Isabel Montacute interesting is that she was part of a Montacute / Montague / Monte Acuto family, a huge family that includes some highly prominent descendants.  According to this book, Isabel’s father was a William de Montacute, son of Drue de Montacute, son of Drue de Monte Acuto, son of Richard de Monte Acuto, only son of William de Monte Acuto, only son of Drogo de Monte Acuto (1040-1125), my 29 x great grandfather.  Resources say that Drogo de Monte Acuto’s name means “Dragon from the Mountain Peak” and that he came to England from France with William the Conqueror and fought with him in the Battle of Hastings.

The Montague family has many interesting branches to explore, but of particular interest is a Philippa (or Philippe) Montagu, a 6 x great granddaughter of the aforementioned Drue de Monte Acuto, my 26 x great grandfather.  Philippa married Sir Roger de Mortimer, whose descendants include a lot of British royalty.

Which means cousins!  So there you go.


King Henry VIII
14th cousin, 13 times removed



Bloody Mary and Queen Elizabeth I
15th cousins, 12 times removed


Mary, Queen of Scots
16th cousin, 11 times removed

Queen Victoria
25th cousin, twice removed

Princess Diana
27th cousin, twice removed

Queen Elizabeth II
27th cousin, twice removed

Cousin Gregory Peck

More random genealogy trivia.  (This stuff is perhaps meaningless, but it’s fun.)  I knew actor Gregory Peck was supposedly in the family tree somewhere, but I like to find the exact connections to prove it if I can.

So I knew my great great great grandmother was Nora Ashe from Ireland.  (My father’s father’s father’s father’s mother.)  And I knew the Ashe family tree from Ireland was large.  Gregory Peck’s Wikipedia page mentions a grandmother named Catherine Ashe.  Aha!  Ashe!  That’s the connection!  So, if this Ashe family tree I found online is correct, I just had to find out how Catherine and Nora were connected.

The connection is a James Ashe, who would be Gregory Peck’s great great great grandfather (his father’s mother’s father’s father’s father) and my great great great great great grandfather (Nora’s grandfather, or my father’s father’s father’s father’s mother’s father’s father, if you like).

Which makes actor Gregory Peck my fourth cousin, twice removed.

So why didn’t he ever come to visit us?  I’ll never know.

Cousinly Silly Putty

Some more random trivia from my free trial…

My great great great grandfather’s older brother’s grandson was Peter C.L. Hodgson.  So that would make him my second cousin thrice removed.  He was famous for what he did with a newly invented strange but useless putty.  According to Wikipedia:

In 1949, the putty reached the owner of a toy store, Ruth Fallgatter. She contacted Peter Hodgson, a marketing consultant. The two decided to market the bouncing putty by selling it in a clear case. Although it sold well, Fallgatter did not pursue it further. However, Hodgson saw its potential.

Already $12,000 in debt, Hodgson borrowed $147 to buy a batch of the putty to pack 1 oz (28 g) portions into plastic eggs for $1, calling it Silly Putty.

Oh, Silly Putty, I always knew we had a cousinly connection… a second cousin thrice removed connection…