Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saturday Serendipity (January 6, 2018)


Following a slight hiatus last week to celebrate the New Year (and mark my blogiversary on New Year's Eve), Saturday Serendipity returns this week with the following reading recommendations .  .  . 

1.  If you are a member of NEHGS (New England Historic Genealogical Society) and receive their quarterly magazine, American Ancestors, in hard copy or online, then you should be sure to read "How I Lost My Alcock, Bradfield & Whitehead Ancestors" by Patricia Law Hatcher in the most recent issue, vol. 18, no. 4 Winter 2018.  The article is a well-written example of how even very experienced genealogists can take a wrong turn and how diligence and devotion to "getting it right" results in both gains and losses.  [If you do not belong to NEHGS, consider joining and in the meantime see if your local library has a copy of American Ancestors.  More than New England is covered by American Ancestors!]               

2.  I do not tweet and never have. Even at the doubled length of 280 characters, I tend to think of Twitter as a very flawed means of communication that is degrading the use of our immeasurably rich language. I also have wondered if and how the increasingly never-ending accumulation of tweets would ever be worthy or capable of being captured for future generations.  It seems that the Library of Congress has also spent energy wondering the same thing and they have arrived at a decision. Read at Smithsonian Magazine online why the LOC has concluded that tweets have become too numerous and too long and so only tweets of "historic value" will be saved. One must wonder what the criteria will be for historically valuable tweets and -- for those genealogists who do tweet -- what tweets would be worth preserving as part of a genealogy.

3.  The Weekly Genealogist of NEHGS mentioned a very interesting DNA story this week that was caught on CNN. Two men who have been friends for 60 years made an amazing discovery when one of them began using DNA tests to search for his biological father. Read the full story here.          
        
4.  James Tanner of Genealogy's Star blog has posted Part Three in his series "From Whence and to Thither -- Understanding Migration Patterns" here.  This is an interesting and informative mini-series and you can access Part One here and Part Two here.             
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Copyright 2018, John D. Tew
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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday Serendipity (December 23, 2017)


Below are just a few recommended reads for this weekend .  .  . 

1.  Among the "Stories of Interest" mentioned by NEHGS in The Weekly Genealogist newsletter this week is an article about the things that folks placed on Christmas trees as decorations of old.  Family traditions around holiday time have always fascinated me (from the dinner fare, to decorations, to timing -- such as when to put up the tree or if Santa brought I and decorated it -- and I have been know to often ask the questions at social gatherings to learn how other folks celebrate.  With that in mind you should have a look at this article if the subject fascinates you too.               

2.  Recently I blogged here about the genealogical value of holiday newsletters.  Usually such letters are inserted into holiday cards, so I also found this article noted by The Weekly Genealogist to be of interest.  Read "A Brief History of the Holiday Card" here

The 1843 card by John Callcott Horsley said to be the first
commercially produced Christmas card.

3.  I have always been a fan of Norman Rockwell.  A few years back Molly and I visited a Rockwell exhibit in Washington, DC and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The exhibit was largely of Rockwell art owned by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, both of whom are big Rockwell collectors.  Since Rockwell got an early start in his career (1912) through association with the Boy Scouts of America, and became art director for Boys' Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the National Headquarters of BSA (when it was still located in New Brunswick, NJ -- home of Rutgers University) had a large exhibit of original Rockwells that were done for the annual calendars, magazine covers, etc. When I was at Rutgers I visited the BSA HQ several times and always paused to view the Rockwells on display. Rockwell was always grateful for the early boost to his career from the BSA and was proud of his association. He produced annual calendar illustrations for BSA from 1925-1976! You can see an example of one of Rockwell's Boys' Life Christmas covers here as provided online by the Norman Rockwell Museum.   Recently, Barbara Poole of Life From The Roots blog, treated us to the wonderful images of her trip to Stockbridge, Massachusetts and the Norman Rockwell Museum, where many of the items in the exhibit are of Christmas themes.  If you too are a Rockwell fan, you really must have a look here.           
        
4.  The blog Cow Hampshire by Janice Brown has been concentrating on posts about WWI during the last two years as we recognize one century since that "war to end all wars" was fought. She posted this week about a fairly well-known Christmas event that happened on Christmas Day in 1914. It is well worth the read in these turbulent times when it often appears we could soon be engaged in yet another armed conflict. It perhaps gives hope that if the meaning and spirit of this time of year could have broken out in the midst of The Great War, then maybe it could prevail to prevent another one.  We can hope anyway! Read "WWI- The Song That Stopped The Fighting" here

5.  And finally, from the blog New England Folklore by Peter Muise comes a summary of a twist on the usual merry holiday stories and celebrations during this season of the year. This post summarizes a 1923 New England Yuletide story by the writer H.P. Lovecraft called "The Festival."  Lovecraft was  born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1890 and died there in 1937.                   
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday Serendipity (December 16, 2017)


Below are just a few recommended reads (and one listen) for this weekend .  .  . 

1.  The Weekly Genealogist of NEHGS provided a link this week to a story that is sure to be of interest to anyone with Irish roots. The Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) has so far identified 10 distinct clusters of DNA differences among people across the island and the clusters roughly mirror ancient provinces. The first genetic map of people living in all the parts of Ireland has been produced. You can learn more by going here.                 

2.  Heard of the "digital dark ages?" You certainly have read genealogy bloggers and researchers who have raised concerns about the preservation and future access to digital data being created in recent years at a truly alarming pace. Most of us hope that all our research efforts and written summaries of that research will survive for our descendants, but will it? This quote from Vincent G. Cerf, VP at Google, should cause all genealogists -- professional or amateur -- to cringe, "All digital artifacts that we have created today in the beginnings of the 21st century will no longer be accessible in the 22nd century."  Yesterday on many NPR stations the Science Friday (SciFri) show of Ira Flatow, presented a piece titled "Preventing A 'Digital Dark Age.'"  You can listen to the 12-minute piece here.  It is part of the series "File Not Found" by Lauren Young.  You can also access three-parts of the series on the very serious problem of storing, preserving, and making accessible in the future all the digital data we are producing. Every genealogist should be aware of the issues and what is being done. Here are the links to the three parts: (1) "Ghosts In The Reels"; (2) "The Librarians Saving The Internet"; and (3) "Data Reawakening."

3.  This week Marian Wood of Climbing My Family Tree blog treats us to a look into her project of testing whether her husband's memory of his family's experience of a famous historic event was correct. It is an instructive piece of detective work. You can read it here.    
        
4.  Finally, Nancy Messier of My Ancestors & Me blog has confessed she has too many ancestors. Read her delightful 'Confession" here.               
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Friday, December 15, 2017

Immortality (December 15, 2017) -- John Andrew Tew II


John Andrew Tew II (1945)

"Immortality Lies in Being Remembered by Family and Friends." -- John D. Tew


My parents are each the eldest child of their respective nuclear families and I am the eldest of their four children as well as the eldest of my generation. When I was born, I was named John David Tew after the brothers of my parents. My mother's brother, David Otis Carpenter, died on May 9, 2005. Today I returned from attending the funeral of my father's brother, John Andrew Tew II. 

My Uncle John was born on October 22, 1926 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. He was the second of the three children of Arnold G. Tew, Sr. and his wife, Huldah A. [Hasselbaum] Tew.

John Andrew Tew II (1927)

John Andrew Tew at left holding his dog "Blacky" and
my father holding their sister Priscilla

John grew up in Rhode Island and when WWII broke out he joined the Navy before he completed high school. After his service he attended and graduated from Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts as a member of the Class of 1948.


Seaman John Andrew Tew with his older brother Arnold G. Tew, Jr.
and their sister Priscilla E. Tew (1944)

John served aboard the cargo ship U.S.S. Cybele (AKZ-10) during WWII. He was first received on board April 16, 1945 as a S1c (Seaman 1st Class) and the Muster Rolls show he served on Cybele until at least June 1946.  The U.S.S. Cybele was originally built by Delta Shipping Company in New Orleans and it was launched as the SS William Hackett under a Merchant Marine Commission on October 9, 1944.  It was later transferred to the Navy on November 14, 1944 and underwent some conversion construction at Tampa Shipbuilding Co. in Tampa, Florida.  On April 16, 1945 the ship was commissioned in full as a Navy ship under the command of CDR J.H. Church, USNR. This made my Uncle John a "plank owner" by virtue of being among the first crew after the ship was fully commissioned in the Navy fleet. 

U.S.S. Cybele October 1, 1945 Muster Roll 


U.S.S. Cybele

While John was serving onboard, Cybele departed Galveston, Texas on May 15, 1945, and then loaded general stores at Bayonne, New Jersey, before sailing on June 4th for Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on June 30.  She cleared on July 31 for San Pedro Bay, Philippines where she issued stores to ships until August 21, 1945. Cybele then arrived in Tokyo Bay on August 31, 1945. Cybele provided stores for ships engaged in the occupation of Japan until October 12th when she sailed to Samar to load cargo for Tsingtao, China. Between December 4, 1945 and January 15, 1946, Cybele issued general stores at various Japanese ports. After reloading at Saipan, she issued cargo to support the occupation troops at Tsingtao and Taku, China, and Jinsen in Korea until April 15, 1946 when she sailed to San Francisco, California, arriving on the 22nd of May. Cybele was finally decommissioned on August 22, 1946 at Pearl Harbor and, after being towed back to San Francisco, was transferred back to the Maritime Commission for disposal April 24, 1947. Cybele was ultimately scrapped in April 1965. 
   
Gen. Douglas MacArthur signing the Japanese surrender papers (September 2, 1945)

The battleship U.S.S Missouri (“Big Mo” or “Mighty Mo”) had a long history and since 1998 she has been a museum ship at Pearl Harbor. Her place in history is probably most preserved as the location where the surrender of Japan was signed in Tokyo Bay.  The Missouri entered Tokyo Bay on August 29, 1945.  Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and General of the Army Douglas MacArther boarded the Missouri and on September 2, 1945 the unconditional surrender of Japan was signed on the deck of Missouri. As indicated by the operations history of the U.S.S. Cybele above, John was present in Tokyo Bay when the surrender was being signed and when WWII officially came to a long-awaited end

When my uncle returned home from the war he completed his education, married and had four children -- two daughters and two sons. He began his ultimate career when he joined S.S. Kresge, one of the largest discount retail store chains in the U.S. during the 20th Century. Kresge stores were the foreunners of what became Kmart in 1977 and eventually, in 2005, Sears Holdings Corporation (parent of both Kmart and Sears) after Kmart bought Sears. John worked his way up within Kresge/Kmart at stores in New England and New Jersey and also at locations in Indiana and Pennsylvania. He retired from Kmart. 

John Andrew Tew II at right with his brother Arnold and sister Priscilla (2008)


My Uncle John died at age 91 on December 8, 2017 -- 76 years and one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor that resulted in his enlistement in the Navy and his service in WWII. He was interred yesterday afternoon at Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Newtown, Pennsylvania. 



REST IN PEACE UNCLE JOHN!
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Photos of USS Cybele and of the surrender aboard USS Missouri from U.S. Government photogrphers and thus in the public domain.

John A. Tew's class portrait and biography from the Cushing Academy yearbook, the Penquin 1948.

All other photos in the personal collection of the author.
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Christmas Tree of Memories


EDITOR'S NOTE: 

Now that we are firmly within the Christmas season for 2017, I am reprising a wonderful guest post that ran here back on May 14, 2017. The post is authored by Carol Kerr who, with her husband Neville, runs a wonderful Bed & Breakfast (pictured above) in the Forest Park section of Springfield, Massachusetts.

I am thrilled and honored to be able to share Carol's story and photos once again and during the Christmas season. As I noted back in May, I suspect that -- like Carol and Neville's house last Christmas Eve -- there will be many a moist eye in the blogosphere after reading . . .    


The Christmas Tree of Memories
By
Carol Kerr

My parents didn't have much when they came to America by boat from Germany in the mid fifties. They had a few suitcases, two children, a violin.  There was never much in the way of possessions or heirlooms to pass down.

Mom lived with me for almost 20 years. When she died in August, there was really no inheritance to pass on to her children. She owned no car, no home,  no insurance money. She had a small amount of savings, but even that was not in her name.

What Mom did have was stuff. Lots of it. Old photos, items she had knitted (she was a prodigious knitter), mementos, dishes, stemware, books, tchotchkes, things that her children had given her over the years, paintings she had painted, travel souvenirs. In short, the story of her life in ephemera, trinkets, glass, and costume jewelry.

For the last couple years of Mom's life, my husband and I turned our dining room into a large bedroom/sitting room for her and provided her with a storage room upstairs and parts of several other rooms as well. Mom had lots of stuff, and we had a home large enough to accommodate all of it. After she died, it was time to repurpose the downstairs to a dining room again, and create a guest room upstairs from the storage room.

Then, I had a dilemma. I had all of it . . . everything my mother possessed. I didn't want to keep everything, yet I couldn't bring myself to just get rid of so much. Her possessions represented so much of her life . . . and so many memories. Plus, in my mind was the thought that the other children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren she left behind had nothing of her.

At some point in my mind I made a decision to give stuff to my three siblings. But then the question was what to give and to whom. And what was a fair division? Should the brother with three daughters and a new grandbaby get more than the sister with one son? Or, should the other sister who already had a son, granddaughter, and three great grandchildren receive a larger share? Would they even want any of it? There was nothing of value beyond sentimental.  

In the end, I decided to give something to everyone, and let them decide what (if anything) they wanted to keep. And with Christmas just a few months away, I had an idea to give them this stuff when we were all together for the holiday. And from there, Mom's Last Christmas came to me.

I bought 10 moving boxes (3 siblings, 4 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren = 10 boxes) and set them all up in a side room. Then, I started going through all Mom's things while at the same time converting rooms. As I came across her things, I would put them in the boxes. I tried to evenly distribute as much as possible. Everyone got some old photos, everyone got something she knitted, everyone got something from her china cabinets, everyone got one of her cookbooks and some jewelry. I distributed evenly and randomly, so that even I wouldn't know what was in each box.

Then I found a series of cassette recordings. Mom married for a second time in her early sixties. For their honeymoon, they went on a tour of Germany to travel and to introduce Richard to all the family. Each night they would turn on the recorder and just discuss the day they had. It was wonderful to hear their voices. My husband, Neville, transferred all the cassettes to disk and I put a disk into each box.

Filling these boxes took about three months. Seems like every room I cleaned, there was more and more. Every room had bits of Mom in it. I think that going through it all helped me with the grieving process too. At some point it occurred to me that if I stacked the boxes 4, 3, 2, 1 it made a large pyramid which could easily look like a Christmas tree if decorated. 


When the boxes were filled, I wrapped each in festive holiday paper, added lights, garland, large balls, and a few ornaments. It turned out to be, by all accounts, a beautiful Christmas tree.


On Christmas Eve, after dinner and after all the other presents were distributed, it was time to open the gifts from Mom. Box by box we dismantled that Christmas tree as each person took one.



Opening each box was full of joy, surprise, and memories. People kept holding things up to show what they got in their box. Mom's signed photo of astronauts from her visit to Houston, her framed wedding invitation, her paintings, her knitted and crocheted hats, sweaters, and throws, her special wine glasses, her old family photos from Germany, her handwritten recipe books, the small bibles that she saved, photos of all of us, little statues, all things Egyptian, dishes, servers, cups, her favorite books, letters, cards, everything and anything. I encouraged everyone to feel free to trade amongst themselves.


In the end, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. We cried together, we laughed, and we all felt very close to Mom and to each other. Everyone agreed it was an amazing Christmas and a fabulous way to remember Mom.  As we headed up to bed, in place of the tree was just a heap of lights, garland, balls, and ornaments left for Christmas Day. It was beautiful!


I like to think that years from now as the grandchildren become adults, this will be the Christmas that will be remembered and they will tell their children about the Christmas Tree of Memories.


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All photos by, and courtesy of, Carol Kerr.

Copyright 2017, Carol Kerr.
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Monday, December 11, 2017

'Tis the Season for Genealogy -- Reconsider the Often Maligned Holiday Newsletter as Genealogy Gold



Many of us at one time or another have probably said something like, "Enough of these end-of-year holiday newsletters. Why do people write these things anyway?" Or we have voiced particular criticsm of specific newsletters we receive -- morsels like: "All this bad news is a downer!" Or its polar oppositie, "Geez talk about self absorbtion, the 'we,' 'me,' 'us,' and the litany of all the great things we do and that happen to us. Makes me want to vomit." And then the whispered appraisal of family members who remain anonymous, "Why do they tell us all this stuff when they know we hear of all these things and events during the year as they happen?"

A Google search of "Holiday newsletters good or bad?" yields some evidence of the criticism that is out there: "Just Say No to the Holiday Newsletter -- Snarky in the Suburbs" or "Oh No! The Generic Holiday Newsletters Are Coming!" and "Holiday letters: Personal updates can reveal too much information." There are undoubtedly some valid points in these various views of the holiday newsletters that often come stuffed in cards containing only canned holiday sentiments and a bare signature; but perhaps there is another way to view these annual newsletters. How about something like "Holiday Newsletters: Genealogy Gold For Descendants and Relatives!

Many years ago I grew tired of simply signing printed holiday cards or having to painstakingly handwrite some real news for every card sent to family and friends. After some years of voicing my own often derisive criticism of end-of-year newsletters, I had an epiphany and a re-set in my thinking. I decided to begin an annual newsletter to insert in cards that we sent to family and friends (and more recently even emailed to some). Sure, it was easier than handwriting pithy news blurbs tailored to each recipient -- blurbs that usually became repeated across cards anyway -- but after rethinking the purposes of a newsletter and who the audience was, I realized that there were two basic groups and two differnet purposes to writing a holiday newsletter.

The first group is friends and somewhat distant relatives who are often scattered around the country and as a result we did not see them often and communicate with them sporatically and mostly in the telegraphic language of email or instant messaging. The content of the annual newsletter is an update for them of things they did not know about in real time and are probably of only ephemeral interest -- the newsletters are read and shortly find their way into the "round file" until trash pick-up day.  This is fine and the newsletter serves a real need and purpose. It is easier to be informative for this group with a newsletter that covers many news events of the year than to try to handwrite individualized summaries in each card.

The second group is comprised of members of the immediate family (who really already know most or all of the news and events in a newsletter) and, I realized, their children and future descendants. For the latter especially, the newsletters would be informative windows into the lives of the ancestors and relatives they never met or knew. I thought of how many times I wished I had letters, diaries, or other written material from ancestors and relatives to fill in their stories beyond the cold facts of birth, marriage, children, death etc. I realized I would love to have annual holiday newsletters written by ancestors and relatives to tell me what they valued as memories for a given year, to memorialize their successes and perhaps some disappointments, to share their joys and sadness, etc.  

And that was when I put aside the thought that my newsletters might produce groans or smirks or even derisive laughter because I knew more clearly for whom I was writing the newsletters and why.  Sure, the newsletter serves a purpose of ease and convenience for me regarding most recipients, but for others it provides a genealogical record that might just be preserved so those in the future need not wonder as I have about the important events in the everyday lives of their ancestors or relatives.

In 2013, as I wrote the annual newsletter for that year, I realized it was the 21st such annual summary and I decided to make a gift of all the previous twenty newsletters (1992 - 2002) to our sons.  I posted here about the three-ring notebook of twenty years of holiday newsletters that I assembled, wrapped, and presented to them on Christmas Day 2013. We spent considerable time that day reading back issues of the newsletter, recalling forgotten events, putting mistaken events back in their correct chronological order, and laughing out loud at many stories and photos the newsletters helped us reminisce about. At the time neither of our granddaughters had been born, but they now feature large in the newsletters of the last three years.  We look forward to the time when we can sit with them and read over the newsletters so they can learn about the early experiences of their parents and grandparents, read and see how they entered the family and got their own section in the newsletter, and come to appreciate the value of having an annual review of their lives and those of their family members.  They might even want to continue the tradition in their own nuclear families when the time comes.

And this is why each Christmas since 2012, I have gifted our sons with the newest annual holiday newsletter in a protective sleeve to be inserted into their binder of the collected Tew Family Holiday Newsletters. Fifteen days from now they will receive the "Special Edition" 25th Annual Tew Family Holiday Newsletter .  .  . and I will have my binder with me to add the 25th edition and just maybe I'll pause to read portions of some oldies but goodies!

         

So,  I urge you to reconsider the much maligned holiday newsletter. Put aside any prejudices you might have about holiday newsletters and start creating one if you do not already compose one each year. Remember you have different audiences. Care not about the audience that will groan or laugh at you and not with you. Observe a few cautionary tips: avoid being heavy on bad news and disappointments (nobody likes downers), but give gentle and truthful summaries within the limits of getting too personal; include photographs and stories; add a little appropriate and perhaps silly humor; and most of all .  .  . remember that you are not just creating an annual holiday summary of the years event's, you are creating genealogy gold for your descendants!  


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Newsletters image screenshot from Google Images search for "holiday newsletters."

Scanned image of the "Tew Family Holiday Newsletter" binder cover was created by the author. 
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday Serendipity (December 9, 2017)


Below are a few recommended reads for this weekend .  .  . 

1.  This week starts with a historic event (actually a tragedy) that occured 100 years ago this past Wednesday, December 6th. It was mentioned on NPR and in The Weekly Genealogist of NEHGS this week. Readers with a connection to Boston might know that over the years since 1918, the people of Nova Scotia have sent a choice Christmas tree to the people of Boston for use in the annual lighting ceremony on Boston Common. Even if you know the basic reason why Nova Scotia does this, you will want to read a full backstory about the reason. You can learn about an amazing Bostonian by the name of Abraham "Cap" Ratshesky, the first mushroom cloud explosion known on earth (long before Hiroshima), and perhaps about events and humanitarian responses that ancestors or relatives were caught up in in Halifax and/or Boston. If you read nothing else in today's recommendations, read this from Globe Magazine. AND, if after reading the first article, you think you might have ancestors or relatives that were involved in the events described, then by all means go to the website commemorating the 100th anniversary of the tragedy and response to look into the 100 stories about the disaster and the bravery, courage, and humanitarian efforts it spawned. You might just find some reference to folks in your genealogy.               

2.  Have you ever wondered what the difference -- if any -- is between dower and inheritance? Well, so has NEHGS genealogist Alicia Crane Williams. She writes about the difference in Vita Brevis, the    
NEHGS blog and you can access her post here. Be sure to read the comments too.

3.  Given the major news events of the last few weeks about sexual harassment, there is a very interesting piece at The Vault, a history blog of Slate. In yet another example of how "all things old are new again" and how the problem of sexual harassement has been with us for time beyond memory, Rebecca Onion of The Vault unearths a 1978 article by noted anthropologist Margaret Mead calling for taboos on sex in the workplace. Read the post here. I think you will find it very interesting.
        
4.  Diane Boumenot of the blog One Rhode Island Family posted this week about "drilling down in FamilySearch.org." Diane created and provides four very instructional videos to show rather than write about how one can access record images for free on FamilySearch. You really should check these out!  Diane uses examples for Rhode Island research, but her instructions are applicable for any location.           
5.  To paraphrase good old Ralph Waldo (that is Emerson, not Where's Waldo), "Procrastination can be the hobgoblin of the otherwise diligent genealogist." How many times have we read or heard a genealogist say that he/she procrastinates too much and wishes it were otherwise? I end this week's Saturday Serendipity with two posts about procrastination. Don't worry, it starts with a little humor with some big points and ends with a simple formula for working your genealogy research into your daily routine. Along the way you will learn about the kinds of procrastinators and about special characters called "Rational Decision-Maker," "Instant Gratification Monkey," and "The Panic Monster" (complete with simple illustrations). Then there is a short read that will give you the formula. First, go here and see Tim Urban of Wait But Why blog present his TED Talk on procrastination. Then, go to the Organize Your Family History blog of Janine Adams here to read a brief explanation of her formula for harnessing the Instant Gratification Monkey and working your genealogy easily into your daily routine. Probelm solved with a nice mix of the humorous and the practical.  Enjoy! 
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Saturday Serendipity (December 2, 2017)


After a two week recess for the arrival of several family members during the Thanksgiving holiday and a celebration of my father's 95th birthday days later, Saturday Serendipity returns this week with a few recommended reads for this weekend .  .  . 

1.  By now anyone interested in U.S. history and/or in genealogy has heard the story of Sally Hemmings, an enslaved woman on the Thomas Jefferson estate, and the genetic connection to Thomas Jefferson (or perhaps another close Jefferson male). The Weekly Genealogist of NEHGS brings us a similar story about the "Father of the Constitution," James Madison, and an enslaved woman on his plantation named "Coreen." With the current exposure of the sexual offenses by men who exploit their power advantage to violate women, this story reminds us that such iniquity has been with us far too long, but it also illustrates how modern genetic analysis can begin to unravel very complicated family stories. You can read the full story here.           

2.   Also from NEHGS this week is an article that highlights the new website inaugurated by NEHGS to allow Mayflower descendants to post their names, photographs, and other information about being a Mayflower descendant.  The site conatins the names of the 108 Mayflower passengers and crew members with brief biographies.  You can read the very brief article here and access the NEHGS website directly by going here. 

3.  Diane Boumenot of One Rhode Island Family blog does an annual holiday list of potential gifts for the genealogists in your life. Diane's list of 50 gift ideas for 2017 can be seen here.               
        
4.  Nancy Messier of My Ancestors and Me blog shares a new discovery about images for FamilySearch film. Images from the film can now be obtained online from the comfort and convenience of your favorite home-based research nook. You can read Nancy's explanation and hints here.  Nancy also posted this week about the fairly recent availability of digital images of civil birth and death records from the U.K. Government Records Office.  The price of obtaining them is less than paper copies.  Read the details here.         
  
5.   The musings of James Tanner of Genealogy's Star blog are almost always interesting and thought provoking. As a Facebook avoider, I found Mr. Tanner's musings yesterday about the use of FB in genealogy to be interesting, but as he points out, "There is a tradeoff." Have a read here and see what you think.  James Tanner also posted a very interesting and thought provoking piece this week about the preservation of genealogy data with respect to "data migration" issues and -- most ominously for those of us with hundreds or thousands of genealogy images in JPEG format -- the possibility that this near universal image format could be replaced. You really should read this post. You can access it here.

6.  The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, posted today about the entertainment app known as "We're Related." Judy is dead on when it comes to the app and I can only believe that her many critics are simply not serious genealogists familiar with the GPS (no use trying to explain the acronym to the critics Judy refers to -- they obviously do not understand).  It should go without saying that relationship means much more than simply sharing the same surname(s). Use the app if you like its entertainment potential, but don't think you are doing anything close to real genealogy research.  Astronomers do not study horoscopes and zodiac charts they are based on in order to learn about the true nature of the stars and planets.  Genealogists (professional or serious amateur) do not go to We're Related to find or establish true family relationships.  You can read Judy's post and the comments it generated by going here.
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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