Monthly Archives: November 2013

Saying ‘adieu’ until the New Year

The upcoming weeks are going to be busy ones, so I’ve decided to take a break from the blog. Best wishes to all for a very happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas, and a wonderful New Year. Thank you for your kind support over the past year in the form of your comments, emails, and ‘like’s. I greatly appreciate the feedback and opportunities to exchange information and opinions.

I will check in periodically and respond to any emails and comments received. Meanwhile, I’ll remind you of two great (and easy) holiday recipes. Click the links provided below.

Enjoy, and all the best! Looking forward to delving into more family history in 2014. ~Gail

Cranberry-Walnut 'Pie'

Cranberry-Walnut ‘Pie’

For the Cranberry-Walnut Pie recipe, click here.

Ice cream patties

Ice cream patties

For the Ice Cream Patties recipe, click here.

Categories: Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Margaret Ann Wait Lewis cause of death

Margaret Wait Lewis (b. Perth Amboy, NJ, March 7, 1817) is a 3rd great grandmother to me. She was the wife of Juebb (Jacob) Lewis and the oldest of three daughters of John Oliver Wait and Elizabeth Crow.

Margaret died in Perth Amboy on March 26, 1851, at just 34 years of age. I’d long wondered what took her, and so I sent off for her death certificate. It came in the mail today. Cause of death: consumption (a.k.a. pulmonary tuberculosis – an infectious bacterial disease of the lungs). Note: I’d always had her date of death listed as 26 March; the certificate says 25 March, but the entry in the Wait family Bible corroborates the 26th as being the date.

She is listed as “married” so her husband Juebb appears to have survived her—that’s the first morsel I’ve discovered about him. Anyone with more information, please get in touch.

Categories: Crow, Death, Death Certificates, Lewis, Wait | 3 Comments

The ability to drink milk—it’s in your DNA

Brindle cow  PHOTO BY Christian Bickel, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany

A brindle cow
PHOTO BY Christian Bickel, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany

As a child, I assumed that lactose intolerance was a strange and rare phenomenon. Adding to my belief that milk-drinking was the “norm” was the U.S. government’s food pyramid which always included milk (and still does). It was only several years ago that I discovered how unique it is to be a milk-drinker—lactose-tolerant individuals are in the overwhelming minority, making up only a quarter of the world’s population. In contrast, roughly 25 percent of the planet’s adult human population has no tolerance whatsoever for lactose, while 40-50 percent of people can just partially digest it (Dunn, p. 132).

By NmiPortal (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By NmiPortal (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

An inconvenience more than a medical problem, lactose intolerance can lead to a shortage of dietary protein, Calcium, vitamin D, and riboflavin. Affected individuals need to find ways to overcome that issue, whether by taking vitamins and supplements or consuming more foods that contain calcium such as salmon, broccoli, or drinks like orange juice which are often sold with calcium added in. In addition, affected individuals may choose to seek out dairy products that have less lactose in them than regular milk and are, therefore, easier to digest. These include things like lactose-free milk and milk products, buttermilk, ice cream, and aged or hard cheeses (PubMed Health).

All babies, except for some born prematurely, are able to make the enzyme lactase for the purposes of digesting their mothers’ milk. The intolerance of lactose, which coincides with diminishing lactase levels, does not begin to manifest itself until sometime later. The time of onset largely depends on race and ethnicity. An African-American child can, for example, begin to experience problems as early as age two, while Caucasians rarely experience symptoms before age five (PubMed Health). If intolerance begins in adulthood, it usually strikes between the ages of 20-40 (Medscape Reference).

The Basic Seven issued by the US Government in September 1946 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Basic Seven issued by the US Government in September 1946 (Wikimedia Commons)

For years, researchers have studied and attempted to explain the genetic component that regulates the tolerance of intestinal lactase. Studies in the 1960s and 1970s demonstrated that most people are indeed lactose-intolerant (Montgomery et al, p. 2824).  In European populations, the lactase phenotype’s distribution was seen to vary greatly: 0 percent of the Dutch were affected by lactose-intolerance as were just 1 percent of the Swedes, whereas 44 percent of those in Southern France and 72 percent of Southern Italians were affected. Distribution in the United States also showed variations in intolerance levels: 22 percent of Caucasians, 7 percent of those of Northern European descent, 65 percent of Blacks, 95 percent of Native American Indians, and 100 percent of American Vietnamese (Montgomery et al, p. 2825).

It was during those two decades that anthropologists 1) started connecting lactose tolerance with those groups of humans that took up dairying and 2) established a genetic basis for the inability to drink milk (Check, p. 994). In his fascinating book, The Wild Life of Our Bodies (2011), Rob Dunn describes the evolution in the ability of some humans to drink milk and how that ability likely began with the domestication of plants and animals. The ancestors of the modern cow were the aurochs, elephant-sized creatures resembling cows that evolved in northern Africa and southern Asia, who were able to digest cellulose,thanks to the presence of certain bacteria in their guts. Somewhere along the line, the wild aurochs, who enjoyed years of grazing on the vast grassy plains that then existed in those geographical areas, met humans and an alliance, and eventually a mutual dependency, was formed (Dunn, p. 120). That dependency resulted in a permanent alteration in our genes.

Photography of Lascaux animal painting.  February 2006. Author: Prof saxx (Wikimedia Commons - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Photography of Lascaux animal painting. February 2006. Author: Prof saxx (Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Over the last decade, scientists have identified the mutation that occurred which gave many Europeans, and Northern Europeans in particular, the permanent ability to drink milk beyond infancy. Erika Check describes it as “a small change in an ‘enhancer’ region upstream of the lactase gene” that “seemed to keep the gene from being switched off after infancy” (p. 995). From that information about the mutation, scientists gleaned that the ability to drink milk emerged 9,000 to 10,000 years ago, and that once it gained a toe-hold, it spread quickly among populations, far more quickly than scientists had previously thought (Dunn, p. 123).

Being able to drink milk gave people a dietary advantage, especially during periods of intense hardships like droughts. Adult tribesmen and women who could not digest milk from the newly domesticated aurochs suffered the consequences (e.g. diarrhea exacerbates dehydration) and died out. “Humans with the genes for digesting lactose as adults fared better, and so did aurochs with genes for being a little kinder to humans, for mating in captivity, and for producing more milk. Because of humans, aurochs with those genes were able to eat more grass, something they would never have found on their own,” wrote Dunn (p. 124). Thanks to humans, the aurochs became protected from possible predators; forests were leveled to make way for fields that could produce food for the newly domesticated aurochs. Fast forward to today, and the aurochs’ descendants number in excess of one billion. It’s nearly impossible to imagine life without them.

Life restoration of an aurochs bull and cow based on skeletons and primitive cattle anatomy. 31 March 2012, Author DFoidl. Wikimedia Commons -  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Life restoration of an aurochs bull and cow based on skeletons and primitive cattle anatomy. 31 March 2012, Author DFoidl. Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

But, interestingly, the ability to drink milk is not strictly confined to those of European ancestry. Researchers have wondered why some non-European groups such as the Maasai of East Africa are milk drinkers. An extensive study by geneticist Sarah Tishkoff revealed that the ability to digest lactose evolved more than once, first in Europe as previously mentioned and then at least three times in Africa starting around 7,000 years ago, when cows were domesticated yet again (Dunn, pp. 126-127).  Per Dunn, “Tishkoff has shown that individual humans who had the genes to digest milk as adults had far more children who survived to have children than those who did not, and so on into subsequent generations. Their family tree grew branches, and with them, the genes that allowed them to drink from the land spread quickly all over Europe and Africa. These were the biggest genetic changes in our recent histories, at least as far as we know” (p. 127).   Lactase persistence is a thrilling and uncommon example of convergent evolution—the same biological traits occurring independently in unrelated lineages (Check, p. 996).  And, more examples are just waiting to be discovered, a prospect that excites the scientific community.

In summary, the lactose-intolerant can take comfort in the fact that they are the majority and that manufacturers appear to be bending over backwards to create special products to help them enjoy nutritious milk-like drinks. Meanwhile, the lactose-tolerant minority, when they next reach for a glass of milk or get ready to enjoy their favorite flavor of milkshake, can revel in the fact that they are endowed with an interesting genetic component owed to humankind’s evolution. One day, thousands of years ago, some ancient human was staring at an aurochs and had a “light bulb moment”, and then decided to put their idea to the test. This was a bold move that paid off in a huge way because the aurochs cooperated quite contentedly, and a  mutually beneficial alliance was formed that helped human populations survive and flourish.

Note: The above is a condensed version of a paper I wrote for a chemistry class in 2011. Since then, I’ve had my DNA tested and the material covered by the paper has gained more relevance for me, so I thought I would share it here in the event others find the content of interest. As always, comments, suggestions, corrections, and updates are welcome.

News Link: Scientists Seek to Resurrect the Aurochs…


Check, E. (2006). Human evolution: How Africa learned to love the cow. Nature, 444(7122), 994-6.   doi:10.1038/444994a

Dunn, Rob (2011). The Wild Life of Our Bodies. NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Medscape (2011). Lactose intolerance. Retrieved from

Montgomery, R., Büller, H.A., Rings, E., & Grand, R.J. (1991). Lactose intolerance and the genetic regulation of intestinal lactase-phlorizin hydrolase. The FASEB Journal, (50), 2824-2832. Retrieved from

PubMed Health (2010). Lactose intolerance.  Retrieved from PMH0001321/

Wikipedia (2011). Lactase. Retrieved from

Categories: DNA, Miscellaneous | 6 Comments

Job W. Angus (1856-1936) — Letters from Texas

Hamilton Pool near Dripping Springs; Photo taken by Reid Sullivan during drought conditions 1/2/2006 (Wikimedia - Image in public domain)

Hamilton Pool near Dripping Springs, TX; Photo taken by Reid Sullivan during drought conditions 1/2/2006 (Wikimedia – Image in public domain)

In my last post, I mentioned that James W. Angus and his wife Wealthy Ann (Jaques) Angus, who settled in Elizabethtown, NJ, named one of their sons after Job Winans Angus, James’s younger brother. That son, Job W. Angus, was born on 7 July 1856, in Elizabethtown.

It’s worth mentioning that James W. Angus, a highly successful coach maker by profession and investor in Elizabeth real estate, died quite young (23 Dec 1862, at age 52) of erysipelas, an acute bacterial infection of the upper dermis, so Wealthy was left to care for the 7 of their 11 children (4 girls, 7 boys) who were still under 18. That included Job, who was just 6. She outlived James by 30 years and during those decades was a powerful matriarch in command of a large household and the family’s real estate holdings which she slowly sold off through the years to keep herself and her family going.

The Angus family dining room table seated 12 comfortably, and one descendant described remembering seeing Wealthy in command at that table, directing family business, with all her sons in attendance. Her death in 1892 marked the end of an era; to this day, her descendants are well aware of the powerful influence she had on all her children and grandchildren. The loyalty and love felt towards her would have been palpable.

James W. Angus, older brother of Job W. Angus, father of Job W. Angus (b. 1856)

James W. Angus, older brother of Job W. Angus, father of Job W. Angus (b. 1856)

Wealthy Ann (Jaques) Angus

Wealthy Ann (Jaques) Angus

Who would have stepped up to fill James’s shoes as a father figure to Wealthy’s boys? She had five brothers. One of them, John Barron Jaques, would not likely have been up to the challenge due to his own personal issues. Brother Charles, an assistant surgeon during the Civil War, died in 1866, only a few years after James. Walter passed away before 1863, so he would not have been involved. That leaves Isaac and Christopher; I don’t know much about either of them, but they may have provided some support to Wealthy’s children. And certainly Grandfather Isaac Jaques, Wealthy’s dad, would have done whatever he could.

James had but one brother, Job, and we know from the last post that James Jr., James and Wealthy’s second-born son, is believed to have spent some time working with his Uncle Job in Washington, DC. And, I have evidence that shows Uncle Job also provided support and guidance to his namesake, young Job Angus; that evidence takes the form of some letters written by young Job, while in Texas and Alabama, to his older sister and her husband, Wealthy Ann Angus Woodruff and William E. Woodruff (my great grandparents). I’ll post those letters in the near future. Meanwhile, I have one letter of Job’s that was written to his mother Wealthy Ann, the influential family matriarch, on July 24, 1877. He was about 21 years old at the time, and writing from San Antonio enroute to Dripping Springs which is not far from Austin.

Lithograph - Map of San Antonio, Texas, 1886 (Wikimedia - Image in public domain)

Lithograph – Map of San Antonio, Texas, 1886 (Wikimedia – Image in public domain)

Old map of Austin, 1873 (Wikimedia - Image in public domain)

Old map of Austin, 1873 (Wikimedia – Image in public domain)

From reading this and his other letters, it sounds like he was a young man in search of adventure and opportunity–something his mom could relate to most definitely. Her life with husband James took her to Mexico in the 1840s, before and during the Mexican-American War. There she gave birth to some of their children and had quite a few adventures herself (I’ll piece together a post about her in the future). So, while reading this letter at age 52, situated rather permanently at that point in an established city like Elizabeth, Wealthy probably found herself pausing to reflect on some of her own travels. Perhaps she lived a bit vicariously through her children whenever they veered into territories and circumstances unknown, and like any mother, she probably found herself worrying and waiting for the post each day in hope of getting some news. (Some of us are old enough to remember what that was like!)

The scenery in Texas was, of course, a far cry from anything young Job had encountered in the Northeast, and it seems likely he would have taken in extraordinary sights like Hamilton pool in Dripping Springs with a sense of awe and wonder.

Job misses his mom and the comforts of home; he’s spent days riding horseback solo for long stretches and nights sleeping in the chapparel and mesquite. He’s heard no news from anyone but her. Good old mom–she’s provided letters that are tucked away in his gear, ready to be pulled out whenever he needs to feel the love of home. He’s in awe of the rivers and streams, and heading towards whatever future awaits him in Dripping Springs. Interaction with Uncle Job awaits; Wealthy was probably delighted the senior Job was in the picture, ready to help her son out if needed, but he seemed determined to make it on his own. Self-reliance, independence… that’s the way he and his siblings were raised.

Job had excellent handwriting so no transcription is needed:

Job W. Angus letter from San Antonio, page one, from private family archives

Job W. Angus letter from San Antonio, July 24, 1877, page 1, from private family archives

James W. Angus letter from Sanantonio, page two, from private family archives

Job W. Angus letter from San Antonio, July 24, 1877, page 2, from private family archives

Job did not stay in Texas permanently. Around 1883, he married Jeannette (“Nettie”) Tillou (1860-1935), and they made their home in Elizabeth, NJ, after spending a bit of time in Mobile, Alabama. Job and Nettie had two children: Rev. Harry Baremore Angus (b. 1883) and Daisy A. Angus (b. 1889). The 1900 census shows that he was employed as superintendent of a barrel company. The family, living at 426 North Broad Street in Elizabeth, must have been doing quite well as they had a live-in servant even though it was a relatively small household. Job (d. 1936) and Nettie (d. 1935) and their two children are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, NJ. You can visit Find a Grave to view their resting places.

More of Job’s letters in upcoming posts. Thanks for stopping by the blog; as always comments, additions, and corrections welcome. Have a good weekend!

San Marcos River Foundation
Guadalupe River State Park

Categories: Angus, Austin, Dripping Springs, Jaques, San Antonio, Texas, US Federal 1880, US Federal 1900, Woodruff | Leave a comment

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