Monday, 5 January 2015

The Birdman of Alcatraz

Today, while hubby spent his last day of Christmas vacation binge-ing on NFL, the semi-finals of the World Juniors hockey tournament and WoW*, I spent 147 minutes watching the Turner Classic Movie Channel - specifically, the black and white classic film that is "The Birdman of Alcatraz," starring Burt Lancaster.

In 1962, Lancaster was nominated for an Academy Award for this performance.
Photo courtesy of

Widely known as The Birdman of Alcatraz, Robert Franklin Stroud, spent most of his life in solitary confinement (ironically, not at Alcatraz) after being convicted on two separate occasions of murder. Although recalled to be a difficult inmate, Stroud was allowed to raise canaries in his cell in effort to make a productive use of his time. Indeed, the convict managed to author some articles and two books on ornithology and become a leading voice in the field before it was discovered some of his requested equipment was being used to create an alcoholic still. Shortly thereafter, The Birdman was transferred to Alcatraz.

Photo courtesy of

All of this to say... I suppose if you HAVE to find a criminal in your family tree, one like this would be a good one to find. I mean, at least he contributed in a meaningful way to society at some point, right? Though I'm not sure any contribution can make up for murder...

Anyway, without digressing into a discussion about civil rights and the downfalls of the criminal justice systems of our world, yadda, yadda, yadda ---

Have you ever found a criminal in your family tree? How do you feel when you uncover someone's scandalous past? Guilty? Ashamed? I suppose it matters how close they are to you in that stuff we call wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey**...

My husband's family tree seems to be drooping from its load of "perps" and suspects*** while I have only unearthed one scoundrel in my family history so far -- the son of a crofter who shot a gun into the face of a servant girl while participating (inevitably inebriated) in a wedding parade one jolly night in the early 1800s of Scotland.

My one and only reaction to all of the above? EXCITEMENT!

I imagine this is from a movie but I found it here:
Huzzah! So many documents to find! New avenues of research to consider! Out-of-the-ordinary details to scrutinize, glean inspiration from and incorporate into the family history narrative! Another hopefully tantalizing tidbit with which to interest disinterested family members! And above all, another challenge!

I can't be the only one...........

Yes, The Asterisks Mean Something

*WoW = World of Warcraft, an online multi-player role-playing game created in 2004 by Blizzard Entertainment. You may have seen William Shatner, Mr. T and Verne Troyer et al on some of their television ads a few years ago...

**wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey = A Dr. Who reference. I don't watch the program but do accrue points with Hubbly-Hubbard (hubby) for such geekery.

***Okay "drooping" is probably an exaggeration. Simmer down! But one side of his tree IS predominantly Italian.... Just sayin'. (hehehehe)

Reference List

Alcatraz History website,; Ocean View Publishing Company, 2014 [accessed 07 Jan 2015; 4:30pm EST].

IMDB website, [accessed 07 Jan 2015; 4:30pm EST].

Wikipedia website, [accessed on 07 Jan 4:45pm EST].

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