Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bob Marley in the Florida Death Index and a Look at His Roots

"When the root is strong, the fruit is sweet." -Katherine "YaYa" Malcolm (?-1956), Bob Marley's great grandmother

Acclaimed reggae musician Bob Marley can be found listed in Ancestry's online Florida death index - see: Online Florida Death Records Indexes and Obituaries. I've always found it a bit intriguing that a reggae legend, who lived most of his life in Jamaica and England, would be listed in an American genealogy database. Shortly before his death Bob Marley received treatment for cancer in Munich, but he wanted to live his final days in Jamaica. His flight home stopped in Miami where he received medical treatment. He died 40 hours after leaving Germany in Miami's Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. Here's the Florida death index listing...

Name: Robert Nosta Marley
Death Date: 11 May 1981
County of Death: Dade
Age at Death: 36
Race: Black
Birth Date: 6 Feb 1945

The middle name given in the death index contains a typo. The name should actually be Nesta - that's what Bob Marley was called as a child. The name Nesta, perhaps prophetically, means "messenger." Robert Nesta Marley was born in Nine Miles, St. Ann Parish, Jamaica on 6 February 1945, while the world was at war. His mother, Cedella Malcolm (now Booker), is descended from Jamaican slaves. She currently lives in Florida and turned 80 this year. Bob's Anglo-Jamaican father, "Captain" Norval Sinclair Marley (1881-1955), had little contact with his son. Norval and Cedella were married in 1944 when he was 63 and she was 18. Bob was their only child.

In the Time Will Tell video biography Bob was asked if he had prejudice against white people. His response: "I don't have prejudice against myself. My father was a white and my mother was black. Them call me half-caste or whatever. Me don't dip on nobody's side. Me don't dip on the black man's side nor the white man's side. Me dip on God's side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white."

Roots, Rock, Reggae
Bob's paternal grandparents were Robert Marley (1851-1885) and Ellen Bloomfield (1854-1952). His maternal grandparents were Omeriah Malcolm (c. 1880s-1964) and Alberta Willoughby (?-1935). Omeriah was a farmer, a "bush doctor," and one of the most respected residents of Nine Miles. According to Timothy White's book, Catch a Fire, Omeriah's father, Robert "Uncle Day" Malcolm, "was descended from the Cromanty slaves shipped to Jamaica from the Gold Coast (of Africa) in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries." Slavery was abolished in Jamaica in 1838.

Bob's mother moved from Jamaica to Wilmington, Delaware in 1962. Bob lived with her for part of 1966 and visited a few other times, doing odd jobs including one as a lab assistant for DuPont. He worked hard so he could save enough money to start his own record company. Before going to Delaware Bob had recorded solo and with his fellow Wailers, Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh. He had also married Cuban born singer Alpharita "Rita" Anderson (b. 1946). When he returned to Jamaica he continued to pursue his musical career. Following a prolific series of Jamaican recordings and hits, the Wailers signed with Island records in 1972 and gained an international audience. Bob's landmark 1977 album Exodus was voted "album of the century" by Time Magazine in 1999.

"Won't you help to sing, these songs of freedom..."
In September, 1980 I visited New York City for the first time. I stayed at the Essex House Hotel at the southern end of Central Park. Bob Marley and the Wailers were staying at the same hotel. They were in town for a series of concerts with the Commodores at Madison Square Garden. I saw Bob and his entourage in the lobby one afternoon. Of course they looked a little different than the other hotel guests. Of course they all stood out. But Bob had a presence the others lacked. He was wearing a Rasta tam (knitted cap) over his dreadlocks. He was ill at this time, but I didn't know that then. His vibration, maybe dimmed by illness, still filled that lobby. Just standing in his presence you could feel it. He died less than eight months later. But his vibrations can still be felt in the music and spiritual philosophy he left behind.

Book: Catch a Fire - The Life of Bob Marley by Timothy White

Book: Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley by Christopher John Farley

A family tree for Bob's father, Norval Marley, can be found online at: Norval Sinclair Marley Family Tree Chart

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Found: the Real Ellis Island Annie Moore

As some of you may know, the first person to be processed at New York's famous immigrant center, Ellis Island, was an Irish girl named Annie Moore. But what became of Annie Moore? Where did she live after arriving in the US? Did she marry? Have children? On July 17, 2006 Megan Smolenyak announced a genealogy contest to help find out. A $1000 reward was offered. In late August, Megan annouced that the contest was over. And on September 15, 2006 a press conference was held at the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. The $1000 prize was split between two people, who will both donate the money to help buy a headstone for Annie Moore's presently unmarked grave in Queens, New York. For more see this Annie Moore Story in the New York Times (may require registration). And: Annie in the Echo.

Also check out Megan's blog post about her New York adventure - Annie Moore's Youngest Descendant.

Related Articles and Links
(This is an updated previous post.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Recent Additions - Online Death Indexes

The following links were recently added to Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records ...

- Boulder County Cemeteries
- El Paso County: Pikes Peak NewsFinder - Colorado Springs Gazette Index 1872-2006 (includes obituaries)

- Porter County Obituaries and Death Notices Index, Pre-1900
- Wells County Cemetery Index, and Obituary index 1866-2000

- Neosho County: City of Chanute Cemetery Burials

Massachusetts Death Index 1841-1910 - gives year of death only (copies of death records may be ordered by mail for a fee)

- Christian County Cemeteries & Other Records
- Christian County Assorted Records - includes Chaffin Funeral Home Records 1917-1962 (PDF files)

- Montgomery County: Woodland Cemetery Burials - Dayton, Ohio - has over 101,000 entries

- Shelby County (includes Memphis) Death Records Search 1848-1955 -- "partial death records from 1848-1955" (includes some digitized images of the death certificates for the later years)

- Titus County Cemeteries

- Manitowoc County Cemeteries & Early Death Records
- Rock County: Janesville Gazette Death Index 1845-1889 - lists surnames only

Sunday, September 03, 2006

New Website about Cemeteries and their Symbols

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetry gates...

Have you ever wandered through an old cemetery and stumbled upon a mysterious symbol on a headstone? And wondered what it meant? If so you might enjoy visiting a new website I've been working on about cemeteries and their symbols. I designed it for genealogy sleuths, taphophiles and goths. (Feel free to look up "taphophile" and "goth" in Google.) You'll find the website filled with Freemasons, Templar Knights, Shriners, Rebekahs, Odd Fellows, Woodmen and lots of brooding angels...

Cemeteries and Cemetery Symbols

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people, all those lives
Where are they now?

I tend to visit cemeteries on cloudy days. I like the light - it's better for taking photographs - no shadows. And gray stones against the gray sky just look right to me. But Morrissey prefers the dreaded sunny day...

The lyrics quoted are from "Cemetry Gates" by the Smiths, written by Morrissey and Marr. If you recognized the lyrics you probably didn't need to look up "taphophile" and "goth." :)