Quiz #78 - September 23, 2006
Forensic Genealogy
Table of Contents
The Digital Detective
The Digital Detective
Where, Who.....?
Many thanks to Dale Niesen who submitted this week's quiz photo.
This bridge is named after an internationally famous fast food item.
The price of the item in a foreign country is used to index its
economy against that of the U.S.
What is the fast food item and where is the bridge located?
A Case Study in Digital Detective Work
The "Big Mac" Hamburger
The Mackinac Bridge connects the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan.
The bridge spans the Straits of Mackinac and
connects Mackinac City in the lower peninsula with
St. Ignace in the upper peninsula.
The Database Detective
The Database Detective
The Mackinac Bridge
Official name
Mackinac Bridge
4 lanes of I-75
Straits of
Maintained by
Longest span
3,800 ft
Total length
26,400 ft
54 ft
Clearance below
155 ft
Opening date
Nov. 1, 1957
Mackinaw City
with St. Ignace
The Ulmer Family
A Case Study in Database Detective Work
The DNA Detective
The Mackinac Bridge (pronounced like
MACK-in-aw, note the silent "c", and affectionately
known as the "Mighty Mac" or "Big Mac"), is a
suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac
to connect the non-contiguous upper and lower
peninsulas of the U.S. state of Michigan.
Envisioned since the 1880s, the bridge was
completed only after many decades of struggles to
begin construction. Designed by the engineer David
B. Steinman, it connects the cities of St. Ignace on
the north end with Mackinaw City on the south.

David B. Steinman was appointed as the design
engineer in January 1953. By the end of 1953,
estimates and contracts had been negotiated, and
construction began on May 7, 1954. The American
Bridge Division of United States Steel Corporation
was awarded a contract of over 44 million dollars
to build the steel superstructure. Construction took
two and a half years and cost the lives of five men
who worked on the bridge. It opened to traffic on
schedule on November 1, 1957, and was formally
The DNA Detective
Image and text taken from  
mightymac.org The Mackinac Bridge is
very faintly visible linking Mackinaw
City (to the south) and St. Ignace to (to
the north). Mackinac Island is the small
island to the right of St. Ignace. Photo
courtesy NASA.
dedicated on June 25, 1958. The bridge officially achieved its 100 millionth crossing
exactly forty years after its dedication, on June 25, 1998.

The design of the Mackinac Bridge was directly influenced by the first Tacoma
Narrows Bridge, which failed in 1940 because of its instability in high winds. Three
years after that disaster, Steinman had published a theoretical analysis of suspension
bridge stability problems which recommended that future bridge designs include deep
stiffening trusses to support the bridge deck and an open-grid roadway to reduce its
wind resistance. Both of these features were incorporated into the Mackinac Bridge.
Mackinac Bridge Trivia
* Travelers across the Mackinac Bridge
can listen to a radio broadcast that
specifically tells about the history of the
bridge. One fact mentioned on the
broadcast is that the painting of the
bridge takes seven years, and when
painting of the bridge is complete, it
begins again.

* Five workers died in the construction
of the bridge: three iron workers died in a
catwalk collapse, one iron worker fell
from the north tower, and one diver
surfaced too quickly and died from "the
bends." Contrary to folklore, no bodies
are buried in the concrete of the bridge.

* Since the bridge's completion, only one
bridge worker has fallen to his death.
David Doyle was painting when he fell 60
feet on August 7, 1997. His body was
found the next day in 95 feet of water.

* Two vehicles have gone off the bridge:
a 1987 Yugo was blown off the bridge during a particularly bad windstorm in 1989
(high speed may have also been to blame), and a sport utility vehicle drove off the
bridge in March 1997 (which may have been a suicide).

* The bridge is painted green and white, and at night bluish vapor lamps light up the
roadway while maize-colored spotlights shine on the main towers. Michigan residents
speculate that these colors symbolize the state's two largest universities since green and
white are the official colors of Michigan State University and maize and blue represent
the University of Michigan.

* Residents of the Upper Peninsula ("Yoopers") often refer to Lower Peninsula
residents as "trolls" because they live "below the bridge."

* On August 13, 2006, it was reported that hundreds of cellphones purchased by three
Palestinian-American men from Texas were intended to be used in a possible terrorist
attack on the Mackinac Bridge. The men were apprehended and were charged before
such an attempt could take place. [2] On September 06, 2006, a federal judge threw out
the conspiracy and money laundering charges against these men, and released them.

* Before it opened, travel between Michigan's two peninsulas was by car ferry. A fleet
of nine ferries could carry up to 9000 vehicles per day. Traffic backups sometimes
stretched to Cheboygan, Michigan, 16 miles (26 kilometers) away from Mackinac City.

* Building the Mackinac Bridge took three years, 2,500 men, 85,000 blueprints, 71,300
tons of structural steel, 466,3000 cubic yards of concrete, 41,000 miles of cable wire
and millions of steel rivets and bolts.

See the Mackinac Bridge Authority's Live Bridge Cam from St. Ignace, MI
Most Popular Wrong Answers
Angus L. McDonald Bridge
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Daniel Carter Beard Bridge (also known as the Big Mac)
Cincinnati, Ohio
The Big Mac Index
The Big Mac index is an informal way of measuring the purchasing power parity (PPP)
between two currencies and provides a test of the extent to which market exchange
rates result in goods costing the same in different countries. The Big Mac index was
introduced by
The Economist newspaper in September 1986 as a humorous illustration
and has been published by that paper annually since then. The index also gave rise to the

One suggested method of predicting exchange rate movements is that the rate between
two currencies should naturally adjust so that a sample basket of goods and services
should cost the same in both currencies. In the Big Mac index, the "basket" in question
is considered to be a single Big Mac as sold by the McDonald's fast food restaurant
chain. The Big Mac was chosen because it is available to a common specification in
many countries around the world, with local McDonald's franchisees having significant
responsibility for negotiating input prices. For these reasons, the index enables a
comparison between many countries' currencies.

The Big Mac PPP exchange rate between two countries is obtained by dividing the cost
of a Big Mac in one country (in its currency) by the cost of a Big Mac in another
country (in its currency). This value is then compared with the actual exchange rate; if
it is lower, then the first currency is under-valued (according to PPP theory) compared
with the second, and conversely, if it is higher, then the first currency is over-valued.

For example, suppose a Big Mac costs $2.50 in the United States and £2.00 in the
United Kingdom; thus, the PPP rate is 2.50/2.00 = 1.25. If, in fact, the US dollar buys
£0.55 (or £1 = $1.81), then the pound is over-valued (1.81 > 1.25) with the respect to
the dollar by 44.8% in comparison with the costs of the Big Mac in both countries
(information as of 2005).

In January 2004, The Economist introduced a sister Tall Latte index. The idea is the
same, except that the Big Mac is replaced by a cup of Starbucks coffee, acknowledging
the global spread of that chain in recent years. See
International Big Mac Index Values - The Hamburger Standard
(Based on the price of a Big Mac on March 25, 2006)
Big Mac Price
in Local
Big Mac
Price in
Power Price
against the $
1.94 pound
10.50 yuan
2.94 euro
Hong Kong
12.00 $HK
560 forint
14,600 rupiah
29.00 peso
6.50 zloty
48.00 ruble
Annual Big Mac Bridge Walk of 1967
Submitted by Judy Pfaff
[In the 1960s], when you completed the
walk [across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor
Day] you were handed a certificate.  On the
back of the certificate was a number.  
Merchants would have door prizes by
number in the downtown windows. So, you
would walk around some more and see if
you won anything.  One year I won a trip to
Mackinaw Island for my whole family.  
What a prize!  We came back up the next
year and 8 of us went to Mackinaw Island
for the day.

Stan [Read] tells me that children under 10
are no longer allowed on the bridge walk.  
My little brother was 11 months old, my
Walking the Bridge 1967
sister 3 and other sister 13 (she is barefoot or has taken off her shoes).  Don't know
who the kid in the background is (I will digitally remove him for the family album), Dad
and Mom in photo, and I must have snapped the picture (age 18).  This would be at the
end of the walk.  Only 1/2 of the bridge is open to walkers and you can only walk one
way.  My family walked the bridge several times in the 60s.  The entrance onto the
bridge is all paved.  Then you come to a wire mesh that makes up the center of the
bridge.  It has quite a hum to it if you drive on that section.  You can see the big ships
and boats pass under the bridge and, of course, the water below if you look through the
mesh.  The walk is just a super thing to do on Labor Day.  Some people get to walk
with the Governor.  Our family never got up that early.  There were plenty of scout
troops, some people walk backwards, I remember a float of square dancers one year
that danced across the bridge.  Our family watched the bridge being built over many
years.  Before the bridge, people had to drive their cars on great ferry boats to go to the
UP.  Many times the car ferry lines were several miles long waiting to cross.  I loved
the ferry rides and even waiting for them.
Comments from Our Readers
[S]ince I knew it was a suspension bridge, I started with that, rather than start looking
at the fast food items.  Could it be the French fry Bridge?  How about the “Frosty”
Bridge?  Or, better yet, “Coke” Bridge?  It was good for a lot of giggle from me! I
wonder how that works if one ‘pays off’ in Big Macs?  Does one get back a bunch of
little bit-sized things (midget burgers) in return?                                
Kelly Fetherlin
Well, it isn't Fries bridge either....  That gave me a video of kids jumping off the side of
"Fries Bridge"   Kinda cute.                                                                 
Suzan Farris

The Big Mac hamburger was introduced eleven years later in 1968, and was probably
named after the famous bridge. By the way, the bridge does not have sesame seed buns.

I grew up in Flint, Michigan but went to college at Michigan Tech in the upper
peninsula city of Houghton. I once calculated that I crossed the bridge fifty times
during my college years.

Some interesting trivia is that residents of the Upper Peninsula tend to call themselves
"Yoopers" (after U.P.) but call the residents of the Lower Peninsula "Trolls" since those
unfortunates live below the bridge (on the state roadmap). Anyone who pronounces the
bridge name "Mackinack" is immediately identified as a troll.               
George Wright

When, oh when, will I learn NOT to assume???  In this case, I stupidly began with the
idea that this was the Golden Gate in San Fran, CA!!  So, much wasted time!?!?! Not
having any success caused me to finally use my brain, which is when I stumbled upon
the truth!  This is the Mackinac Bridge, nicknamed "Big Mac" in Michigan - hence the
discovery of how McDonald's Big Mac sandwich has been used as a point of
reference for the cost of living in other countries.  Thank you Google and Wikipedia!!
                                                                                       Elaine C. Hebert
Michiganders should be automatically disqualified from this quiz if they don't get it
right.  I have walked this bridge on a few labor days and even won a raffle item on my
bridge walk certificate that enabled me to take my whole family to Mackinaw Island
free the following year.  You should see this bridge at night with the lights on.  And you
must mention the Yugo that blew over it into the deep one year.  I can send you a photo
of my family walking the bridge -- only on Labor Days and before noon can you walk
the bridge.  Walkers are bussed back to the lower peninsula.                       
Judy Pfaff

At first, I thought this was going to be a tough one.  Then it turned out that I didn't
have to put any effort into it... I was watching a travel-related show on tv as they
visited Mackinac Island.  When they showed a camera shot of the bridge as they left, I
realized it was the "The Bridge".  A quick check to confirm that it was also known as
"Big Mac" and I was done!                                                             
Evan Hindman

Note: WOW.  That's a first to have the Travel Channel air a show because they heard
about what quiz we had up that week.  :-)

Actually this was a fairly easy puzzle but the Big Mac Bridge in Cincinnatti had a much
stronger story. Named for Daniel Carter Beard the founder of the Boy Scouts and called
the Big Mac bridge because the arches resembled the Golden Arches and at one point a
Floating MacDonalds was going to be build nearby.                                  
Jim Kiser

Note from David Lepitre: I take exception with the remark about the founder of the
Boy Scouts. Baden-Powell was the founder.

C'mon.  A Michigan girl can answer that without even thinking! Big Mac Mackinac
Bridge, between the peninsulas, Michigan Our local postcard club is having this as the
subject of its next meeting.                                                              
Marilyn Hamill

[It] appears I missed the bridge locale by a whole country (in Michigan, versus my no-
research sudden guess that it was Canadian and possibly in the Maritime provinces).
And to think, my family migrated from Canada into the US some generations ago!
Frank Nollette
Congratulations to our winners!

Mike Pfister                Kelly Fetherlin
Marilyn Hamill                Tonya Dillon
Frank Nollette                David Lepitre
Grace Hertz (Welcome Back!)
Sue Edminster                Elaine C. Hebert
Pam Rein                Sandy Thompson
Rick Mackinney                Don Haase
Stan Read                Fred Stuart
Debbie Sterbinsky                Evan Hindman
Peggy Spencer                Eva Royale
Gwen Upton                Elizabeth Mackie
Mary Fraser                Mike Pfister
Linda Snider                Marty Guidry
Mark Brzys
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Quiz #78 Results