Were you excited when the Wonder Woman movie hit theaters recently? I was! Like you, I was obsessed with the thought of, “What kind of records can I find for Diana Prince?” Lucky for us both, it was not as hard as one might expect for someone who was born on a magical island inhabited by Amazons and once worked as a military intelligence officer.
Not surprisingly, her military records were not easy to locate, but the “island with Amazons” story led me to uncover her super-secret life as a wife and mother—and her never-before-revealed Italian roots!
As always, the Fairy Tale Genealogist has the records to prove it! Just get a load of this Brazilian immigration document for one Vittorio Piccinini:
If your Portuguese is rusty it is still better than mine, but here is what we learn: Vittorio Piccinini, who was born in Milan, Italy in 1914, arrived in Brazil in 1948 and is the son of none other than Angelo Piccinini and Diana Principe! Of course we all know Diana Principe—later anglicised to Diana Prince—as Wonder Woman.
With Vittorio coming to Brazil there is no doubt his parents were right behind him. It is easy to see how the whole confusion about Amazons (a race of immortal super-women that lived on the magical Paradise Island) and the Amazon (a tropical rainforest that is part of Brazil) thing got started with Diana once a few publicists with over-active imaginations dicovered she had lived in Brazil. And come on, she named her kid Vittorio—Italian for conqueror!
Mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent has been found out! That’s right. The Man of Steel’s “secret” identity is right there in the 1930 U.S. federal census records for all to see, thanks to some sleuthing by the Fairy Tale Genealogist.
The census enumerator was told Clark was born in West Virginia in 1907, but I was always led to believe his origins were the planet Krypton. [Entry in research log: Note #1. Write to vital records office on Krypton and obtain birth certificate to resolve this conflict. Note #2. Records are unavailable due to the destruction of the planet. Note #3. Obtain adoption file from county where Smallville, Kansas is located for the year he was found in adoptive parents’ corn field.]
There were quite a few Clark Kents in the census records, so how do we know this particular one is our Man of Steel? Well, the “occupation” category on censuses can help us to differentiate between individuals of the same name. Check this out:
And you thought “Man of Steel” meant he could bounce bullets off his chest! I wonder if there was a phone booth handy? And when did the steel mill worker make a career change to journalism? [Note #4. Check Metropolis city directories every year after 1930 for mention of occupation.]
And speaking of journalism, another key record group for genealogists is newspaper records. What can we find about Clark Kent/Superman in newspapers?
Newspaper records can help us fill in life details for individuals that other records can’t. Sometimes they even give us access to their actual thoughts (see Lois Lane’s thought bubbles above). Here we learn that Lois Lane was changed into an infant by “youthening rays”, that Superman’s former flame was Lana Lang, and that he spent his boyhood in Smallville. I’ll admit that comic strips are an unconventional newspaper source, and register fairly low on the reliability-o-meter, but they are the record of choice when researching the lives of super heroes.
Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane, was also a newspaper reporter, so naturally the Fairy Tale Genealogist wanted to find evidence of her work. And here it is:
Looks like Lois Lane spent some time at the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville, Mississippi before moving to the Daily Planet in Metropolis.
More and more newspapers are digitized every day, making this record group accessible and searchable. You can also contact local libraries for access to microfilmed newspapers from their area, and either borrow the film through inter-library loan, find a local volunteer, or hire a researcher to look up obits and articles for you. Don’t forget to check out the Library of Congress Chronicling America website to find out when newspapers were published in a given locality, and to see where they can be found in microfilm or digital form. [Research log: Note #5. Look up Metropolis on the Chronicling America website and find microfilm copies of the Daily Planet.]
They say a newborn baby’s name can influence the course of his life for good or for bad. Well you certainly can’t blame Mr. and Mrs. Hook for trying. After all, they probably were hoping for a distinguished maritime or football career from little “Captain Percy Hook”, and weren’t quite banking on him going the pirate ship route.
But kids will be kids, and what kid, when given the option, would not choose to be a pirate, right?
Little Captain Hook you’ve got a choice to make: Would you rather be the captain of the Tunbridge Footballers or the Jolly Roger?
I know you think I am making this up, right? But I have proof. The Fairy Tale Genealogist always has “proof”. Yes, I know J.M. Barrie’s character was named James, but this is a minor detail when the Fairy Tale Genealogist is presented with such a tantalizing set of records for a fictional character. Who ever dreamed a British birth record, census record, and army enlistment papers for Peter Pan’s archenemy could be produced? Little Captain Percy Hook first appears in the Free BMD Birth Index for England and Wales, for the March quarter of 1899 in Tunbridge district.
Information from the FreeBMD Birth Index (district, volume, and page) can be used to order a birth certificate from the General Register Office or view one online, and from there we could obtain his mother’s maiden name and father’s name. We can also see both his parents’ names on the 1911 England census, where twelve year-old Captain Percy Hook, the future pirate, has an occupation of “school boy” and a birthplace of Brenchley, Kent, England.
Five short years later he has “received notice” to enlist in the British army for World War I. One can only imagine the navy would have been his first choice had he been given one. Wisely, Captain Percy Hook has elected to start giving his name as Percy Captain Hook, thereby avoiding the confusion and redundancy a promotion to the rank of Captain would have caused. (Captain Captain Hook reporting for duty, sir!) Interestingly, he gives his occupation as gardener, giving us a glimpse into his early, gentler side and leaving us to wonder where it all unraveled for him. As a bonus, we get his signature on this document!
Two years later the war has ended and Captain Hook has been awarded the British War Medal and/or the Victory Medal.
Further ideas for research would be looking in the FreeBMD index for marriage and death records, as well as the 1921 census. The 1931 census was destroyed in WWII, and the 1941 census was not taken due to the war.
By all accounts Captain Hook was an upstanding citizen, and I am wondering if he was just a misunderstood character with a gardening implement for a prosthetic device. Sure, he was a pirate and forced Peter Pan to walk the plank, but like Jack Ripper and Attila Hun he faced long odds at birth when he was named.
We must look at him through the long lens of literary license and know J.M. Barrie had a story to tell, and perhaps the actual records hint at a more gentle, noble man behind the mustache. OR perhaps the Fairy Tale Genealogist has had some fun again 😉 Sorting out the fairy tales from the facts is what a good genealogist does. Arrrrgh!
Spoiler alert: Peter Pan DID grow up! In fact, The Fairy Tale Genealogist has uncovered evidence of a mid-life crisis for ol’ Pete. Yes, vital records can be valuable in piecing together the untold stories of fictional characters.
Certain characteristics of childhood that may have served him well as the leader of the Lost Boys might have caught up with Peter Pan in later years, after immigrating from Neverland to Texas, as we see from divorce and marriage and divorce-again records. Being “the boy who wouldn’t grow up” has certain disadvantages in matrimony!
Vital records indexes show us that Wendy Darling may have dodged a bullet. At age 58 Peter divorced his wife of 33 years (whose name I have redacted to protect her privacy), but a little over two years later eloped to Las Vegas with a 27 year-old woman.
Of course, vital records indexes can give a lot of information in and of themselves, but always try to obtain the original document using the details provided in the index. You will be rewarded with much more–possibly the names of their parents, birthplaces, signatures, and names of witnesses if you are lucky.
The marriage index does not give his new bride’s age, but the divorce index three years later does (and whose name I again have redacted)…
I don’t know what these divorces cost Peter Pan, but I’m thinking it might have saved him a lot of trouble and money to just buy the red sportscar in the first place.
Stay tuned for a look at Captain Hook’s birth record, and an update on Wendy. The Fairy Tale Genealogist can hardly wait to share!
Subscription genealogy websites are booming in popularity. It has never been easier to unearth fascinating facts about your kin, thanks to Ancestry, My Heritage, Footnote, Find My Past, and FamilySearch (a non-subscription site), among others.
Naturally, this led me to wonder about the descendants of the Seven Dwarfs. Were they having any luck with their family trees? Were there other famous animated characters in their ancestral lines? And how about some background on the Dwarfs? Did they always work as miners? When did they move to the forest? Were they related or just sharing rent? And what’s the real story with Snow White? Is there any truth to her family lore? What was her mother’s name. Was she really an only child? Continue reading “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Little Known Facts Uncovered Thanks to Ancestry.com”→