All Blue-Eyed People Have This One Thing In Common

Every blue-eyed person on the planet is descended from a single European who lived around 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, and who first developed a specific mutation that accounts for the now widespread iris coloration.

Originally, all humans had brown eyes, although genetic variation relating to a gene called OCA2 resulted in changes to the amount of pigment produced by different individuals, resulting in the emergence of different shades of brown. Armed with this information, scientists had for many years searched for the source of blue eyes on the OCA2 gene, but without success.

More recently, a mutation to a separate, nearby gene called HERC2 has been identified as the cause of blue eyes. This alteration switches off OCA2, the gene that determines the amount of the brown pigment melanin that we make. It is thought to have first occurred when humans began to migrate from Africa to Europe, meaning that every person with blue eyes is a descendent of a single early European.

The fact that every blue-eyed person alive today has this same mutation is pretty compelling evidence for this theory, although the identity of the initial mutant remains something of a mystery. To date, the earliest set of sapphire-colored peepers ever found belong to a 7,000-year-old skeleton that was discovered in northern Spain. Naturally, the eyes had long since decayed, however genetic analysis revealed that they would have appeared blue in color.

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Eduard Scharff to marry Esther Marx

Pappy’s aunt, Hattie Marx, wrote her close friend, Mrs. Susan (?) Hamm from Galveston to inform her that hattie’s sister Esther Marx (Pappy’s mother) would become engaged to Eduard Scharff of Jennings, La. Below is a copy of the postcard and the wedding announcement that appeared in the Sunday August 11, 1895 Galveston Daily News. It is thought Mrs. Hamm’s mother, Susan Webber Hamm, was a servant in the Marx household at the time of the 1860 census.

Galveston, Texas
August 5, 1895

Mrs. Hamm

Dear Sister Esther requested me to write to tell you that her engagement to Mr. Edward [sic] Scharff of Jennings, La. will be made public tomorrow (Tuesday) evening. Hope all are well.

Very truly,
Hattie Marx

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Ward Belmont College

Both Jean Bloom Ghertner and Faylese Scharff  Gruber attended Ward-Belmont College on the grounds of the Antebellum estate of Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham in Nashville, Tennessee.

“It was regarded as a very prestigious “finishing school” by the more aristocratic families of Middle Tennessee, although some students were from considerably farther away.”

The Ward Seminary for Young Ladies was founded in 1865 in Nashville by William and Eliza Hudson Ward. It’s goal was  to provide “a full and thorough course of instruction, embracing academic and collegiate work.”. It was a top ranked institution.

Susan L. Heron and Ida E. Hood opened Belmont College for Young Women on 4 September 1890. This school was on the Cheatham estate.

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R.I.P. Faylese Gruber (1926-2015)

Faylese Scharff Gruber passed away peacefully the morning of February 21, 2015. I can’t say enough superlatives about this gracious, lovely lady. Faylese Fanny Scharff was named in honor of her grandmother, Fanny Fay Levy (1875-1925) who had died a year prior to Faylese’s birth.

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Ed just sent this photo

This is another photo of Pappy (right) with his cousins when he was in Germany studying for Bar Mitzvah. Here’s the one I’ve used before.

Pappy and Cousins

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Bloom family furniture

In 2011 Bob Rosen (1947-2013) sent me these photos of his bedroom furniture. He told me it was from the Bloom family, my ancestors from Pine Bluff. I don’t recall if Bob told me whose house this came from.

Armoie,Bpob's room


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Frances Jean Bloom Ghertner (1921-1978)

I came across this picture of my mom in a batch of scans from Memphis. She has the ever present cigarette in her hand. She’d toss it on the ground, temporarily, to make a golf shot but not for a photograph (?). This had been labeled as being from 1968 but judging from the cars in the background I conclude it was a few years earlier. The most recent model car I see is a 1961 Ford (on the on the left); directly behind her seems to be a 1954 Buick (like this one) and on the right is at least one 1957 Ford (link). Cars didn’t last long back then.

Jean Ghertner circa 1961

Jean Ghertner circa 1961

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Shotgun apartment in 1940s

Shotgun_house_planDuring World War II, Em & Pappy’s family lived for a while in Muskogee, Oklahoma; and that’s where Faylese met Leslie. The Army base there is Camp Gruber.

They lived in a ‘shotgun’ apartment. There was no hallway, each room from front to back had a door that opened into the next room so there was very little privacy. EL lived there a while before he went overseas and Jean was there too (the best information I have on Leonard is he deployed after D-Day in Europe. Eddy (and I suppose Bette) stayed in the apartment after EL deployed. The popularity of this design declined after WWII (link)

Faylese and Leslie were married on February 16, 1947 and they lived in a ‘railroad apartment’, which was like a shotgun apartment but like railroad cars, there was a hallway with the rooms off to the side. The kitchen & breakfast room was in the back.

Elvis Presley, who served in the Army in the 1950s and was almost assigned to EL Scharff’s company (see link), was born in a shotgun house in Tupelo, Mississippi (see this link).

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