Sometimes we forget that “stars” are people, too. And as regular folks just like us, their genealogy can be traced with the resources we all use online.
I was saddened to hear of the death of actress and dancer Cyd Charisse on June 17. I knew her date of birth to be March 8, which happens to be my birthday, but I was surprised that newspapers couldn’t quite agree on her year of birth. No surprise there since it’s not unheard of for Hollywood stars to fib about their age. So, I decided to confirm it for myself. As she was “believed to be 86″ according to her New York Times obituary, I knew she’d likely be on the 1930 Federal Census. Her birth name has always been reported as Tula Ellice Finklea. Place of birth: Amarillo, Texas.
After a quick search on Ancestry.com, I found Ms. Charisse on the 1930 Census (though she is indexed as “Lula” vice “Tula”).
Cyd/Tula is 8 years old, so her birth year is 1922. Her father Ernest is a jeweler, and the family also has a cook and a maid living with them. All were born in Texas, but her father’s roots are from Alabama and Texas. Her mother Lela’s parents were from Mississippi and Louisiana. It would be interesting to see how far back her American roots go.
In other Ancestry records, I found what appears to be her birth record, though the name is blank and only her mother’s name is listed. Her father died in 1938 when Cyd was only 16 years old. Her mother must have moved to Hollywood with her – her death is listed in a 1990 record at 88 years old – clearly Cyd got her longevity genes from her mother!
I’ve written a short tribute to Cyd on my Gene Kelly blog, including resources for more information on her life and career. If you’re a fan of movie musicals as I am, you know that she was graceful and beautiful – she looked fabulous even in recent photographs. Rest in peace, Tula – the world will miss you.