Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday Serendipity (April 15, 2017)

Here are a few recommendations for your weekend reading.

1.  If you have any roots in Rhode Island or southeast Massachusetts around Narragansett Bay, then you really should get a copy of "Between Land and Sea" by Christopher L. Pastore, Rhode Island native and Assistant Professor of History, State University of New York - Albany (Harvard University Press, 2014). Prof. Pastore covers the ecological, social, political, and cultural story of the Narragansett Bay and the push and pull among Native Americans, the settlers of Plymouth and early Massachusetts, and the settlers of Rhode Island.  It is an absorbing, informative, and at times fascinating read that reveals Narragansett Bay and the story of establishing the perimeters of the Bay as part of the demarcation of the border between colonial Rhode Island and Massachusetts -- all in only 238 pages. [1]


2.  Regular readers of Saturday Serendipity know what a fan I am of Diane Boumenot and her blog, One Rhode Island Family.  Just a few weeks ago I finally met Diane in person while on a genealogy trip to do some on-site research on my Rhode Island ancestors and relatives.  The occasion was an excellent presentation Diane made to the Rhode Island Genealogical Society (RIGS) at the N. Kingstown Library on creating personal genealogy books very inexpensively -- complete with samples of her own work. Two days ago Diane posted the great news that her webinar titled "Find Your Colonial Rhode Island Ancestors" will be offered for free this weekend (Fri. - Sun.) at Legacy Family Tree Webinars. AND the even more exciting news is that "[t]his summer [Diane] will have several more webinars on the site, offering tips and techniques for tracing our Rhode Island ancestors." Read more at Diane's post here. If you have Rhode Island roots, then you really should avail yourself of Diane's expertise and presentation skills. 

3.  And speaking of the N. Kingstown library (which by the way has an excellent little genealogy room on the lower floor), did you know that this week was National Library Week?  There is still time to celebrate by visiting a library as the week-long celebration ends today.  Read more about this annual week in celebration of libraries here.  The theme this year is "Libraries Transform."  As all genealogists know . . . indeed they do!   
4.  Two weeks and counting . . . Things at's Family Tree Maker laboratory must be a bustling beehive of activity. Two weeks have passed since the first announced launch date for the new and improved FTM 2017 and no general launch yet for those of us who pre-ordered, or for those wanting to begin using FTM and its new features.   Bottom line is that there is still no new release date, but the April 14th status report is detailed and and provides "AN OPTION FOR THE ANXIOUS." The latest status update from can be seen here.

5.  I found two items of interest posted this week at UpFront with NGS blog. One is about removing damaging fasteners from historic document.  Read "Staples -- our friend and our foe!" here. The other is about a new application on a free website called . The app is a tool that can help in GUESSING the age of people shown in old photographs.  Read here about the application, get links, and see the examples that Diane Richard provides from her attempts to use the website (mixed results!).                   

6.  I also found that The Weekly Genealogist of NEHGS had two items of interest this week.  The first was a fun and useful one about the most distinctive baby names for each of the past seven generations. You can read the story here.  The other item was a piece in the Cape Cod Times that interviewed NEHGS genealogist Christopher Child. The article is titled "A caveat on DNA testing firms' links to lineage" and you can read it here.    

7.  And finally, today is the 11th Blogiversary for a premier genealogy blogger (and very distant cousin) Randy Seaver. Genea-Musings is 11 years old today and that is quite an accomplishment -- especially considering how prolific Randy has been during that time! Read more about Genea-Musings and its amazing numbers, find out the original name for the blog, see a screen shot of the original blog page, and more by going here.  
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[1]  Thank you to Steve Booth, cousin of my daughter-in-law, who brought this book to my attention and kindly lent me his copy to read!
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday Serendipity (April 8, 2017)

Here area few recommendations for your weekend reading.

1.  The latest status report on the roll-out of the new Family Tree Maker 2017 is that they missed their new projected shipping date of Tuesday, April 4th. The newest launch date (as of the April 6th UPDATE) is . . . they don't have one! Mackiev is working with Ancestry to solve "some architecture adjustments."  FTM is "getting closer and will continue to keep [users who pre-paid for FTM2017] posted."  If you are an FTM user -- or think you might like to begin using FTM 2017, then you need to follow their path to launch here.

2.  Have you ever heard of "surname extinction?" It is related to the concept of "daughtering out" and of what I guess could be called "marriage deficit" where lack of marriage throughout a generation of a family also includes a failure to procreate and pass on a surname independent of marriage.  You can read more about this phenomenon here at UpFront With NGS blog and get a link to view a  5 minute video about surname extinction here on YouTube (after you click to skip the ad).      

3.  The Weekly Genealogist by NEHGS linked this week to a piece that is probably all too familiar to genealogists with long-suffering spouses or partners who end up "tagging along" on genealogy adventures. Having just returned a few weeks ago from a genealogy trip to RI and MA where Molly chauffeured me to cemeteries, a town clerk's offices, various ancestor haunts, etc. (and walked rows of gravestones assisting me in the hunt) I think she might get a kick out of this one (or identify a kindred soul at least). You can read the piece here

4.  This week The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, reminded us of the 100th anniversary of the United States entry into World War I -- the supposed "war to end all wars." In reminding us, Judy also points out that  . . . many men = many records. She provides lists of many links to sources each genealogist should consider exploring at some point. You can read Judy's post here and surf the many useful links she provides.                       

5.  The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC) bi-annual conference is just over two weeks away. It is being held in Springfield, Massachusetts this year. Heather Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy blog posted yesterday about the NERGC conference and you can read all about it (with many links to other blogs that have covered it) by going here. As Heather says, this is a major genealogy conference and will be of special interest to those having New England roots, but the topics are useful for anyone with a serious interest in genealogy. 

6.  Amy Johnson Crow posted a reprise and update of a post she first published back in 2015. The title says it all. . . "5 Photos You Should Take at the Cemetery." See Amy's list here.    
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday Serendipity (April 1, 2017)

NO FOOLING around today at Saturday Serendipity .  .  .  here area few recommendations for your April Fool's Day weekend reading.

1.  For those with Connecticut roots, NEHGS just announced this week that they are updating the Connecticut Marriages and Deaths, 1790 - 1833 database. The database now has images and can be searched by first name, last name, parents' and spouse's names, location, date, and record type. Learn more here.              

2.  The Weekly Genealogist newsletter of NEHGS brings to our attention this week a very interesting article published at This month marks the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States into World War I. As author Stephen Fried's opening line states, "Just weeks after joining World War I in April 1917, the United States was in deep trouble -- financial trouble." The article is titled "WORLD WAR I: 100 YEARS LATER How the Liberty Bell Won the Great War." Read Mr. Fried's informative article here.      

3.  Those who follow Saturday Serendipity know that I use Family Tree Maker (FTM) and that I have followed the acquisition of  FTM from by Software MacKiev.  Yesterday, March 31st, marked the planned roll-out of MacKiev's new FamilySync to replace the former TreeSync .  .  . and as a result syncing between FTM and trees ceased on March 29th and will not resume until today. Family Sync will only be available in MacKiev's FTM 2017 edition, which was planned for release yesterday. Without FTM 2017 no previous FTM versions will sync with trees located on Ancestry. UpFront With NGS blog has a good explanatory post here and anyone with trees on and on FTM software residing on a home computer should definitely read that post. [NOTE:  I preordered a download of the new FTM 2017 for Mac on March 23rd and had my purchase confirmed with a reply email, "Your order is processing. You will receive additional information via a separate email."  The roll-out was to have taken place yesterday.  I have yet to receive any additional email or information from MacKiev.]        

4.  We genealogists are always on the lookout for possible sources to advance our family genealogies and so speaking of World War I and the blog UpFront With NGS, the blog brings to our attention this week the partial digitization of The Stars and Stripes newspaper. The current online collection of the newspaper includes "the complete seventy-one week run" of The Stars and Stripes during World War I. Read more about this collection and get links here.                  

5.  In another in a long line of "food for thought posts" by blogger James Tanner of Genealogy's Star blog, Mr. Tanner posted a piece on privacy -- what is and what is not "private."  The post is worth a read and you can do so here. [While Mr. Tanner makes some very good points about the amount and type of information that is available on living people, he also illustrates the varied sources that would be required to compile a profile of living people. It can be done by searching out and using openly available information after expending varying levels of effort, inconvenience, and expense, but I think it remains true that we in the genealogy community (who are, after all, trying to compile at least basic profiles on our ancestors and relatives -- dead and living) have a heightened and special responsibility (absent explicit permission) to avoid providing in a public forum or repository (such as public trees) a compiled profile that would otherwise require considerable effort, inconvenience, and expense to assemble.]  

6.  A post by Elizabeth Handler at From Maine to Kentucky blog reminded me of a website I learned about a few years ago and somehow always forget to check out periodically. The site is called DeadFred and it is a photo archive where folks upload old photos in the hope that they can be reconnected with descendants or relatives. Read here how the site provided a real genealogy gem for Elizabeth and get a link to the website.  

7.  Diane Boumenot of One Rhode Island Family blog posted another informative and useful piece this week. Her post of March 30th titled "A Sense of Place" provides tips on resources that help scratch the itch that many genealogists have to learn as much as possible about the places where ancestors and relatives actually lived. And as Diane notes, "If you want to solve a brick wall, one best practice is to learn as much as possible about the nearest locations you can find." For those with Rhode Island roots, Diane identifies the wonderful work and guides done by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission. Read Diane's post here and get the convenient and useful links she provides. [NOTE: I have used one of the RIHPHC guides myself and posted about how it solved a problem for me -- with a little help from my mother too. You can see that post here if interested.]
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Friday, March 31, 2017

A Genealogy Artifact for Others -- The Atlantic Division Little League Tournament, August 12 - 15, 1964 in Concord, New Hampshire

When you are a card-carding member of the fictitious International Order of Packrats (IOOP), you never know what you might find when it is time to do some long-delayed spring cleaning. And so it was that -- procrastinate as I might -- when spring arrived on March 20th this year I just stared at some boxes of "stuff" that my father shifted back to me years (and admittedly maybe more than a decade) ago when my parents sold the home they had lived in for more than 30 years and had to empty their attic.

Finally, just before March turns to April I could stare no longer and sat down to sift through the boxes and make those impossibly hard decisions about what was a genealogy treasure and what was really just accumulated "stuff." Of course the ever patient Molly (who is not a card carrying member of IOOP because she has not quite reached the level of accumulation needed for membership) would have had no problem deciding for me and the whole process would have been over in less than the time it took to bag it all up for the trash; whereas for me it took literally hours to go through two small boxes a little larger than a shoe box. But what treasures there were to mull over, to generate memories, and to place in the "Definitely Keep" pile!

Above is Exhibit A from August 1964. It is the front and back pages of the program for the 1964 Atlantic Division Little League Tournament held in Concord, New Hampshire -- where my family was living at the time.

Neither I nor any member of my family is mentioned in the program, but as will be shown below, the program does list the individual players on the competing teams from: Smithfield, Rhode Island; Waterville, Maine; Laconia, New Hampshire; Vermont; and Puerto Rico. In addition, the sponsors, patrons, and local advertisers are also listed along with the Director, Deputy Director, and Chairman of the tournament.

Among the twenty-nine listed sponsors of the tournament is Sears, Roebuck & Co. My father was at the time the Assistant Manager of the Sears store in Concord and usually handled requests for such donations or sponsorships on the part of the local Sears store. I honestly have no recollection of attending the tournament, but it is quite likely that my father and I and perhaps the older of my younger brothers did attend as an extended part of Sears's sponsorship. [My Little League participation began and ended in Concord, but that is an entirely different story.] 

Another reason I might have this program is that I believe the tournament Chairman, John Fraser, was a neighbor who lived two houses down from us on Essex Street Extension in Concord -- and so he might have enlisted boys from the neighborhood to attend.

So why did I place this old, stained, 53-year-old, 10c program in the Definitely Keep pile if the connection was so tenuous for me or anyone in my family?? It was for three reasons: (1) It brought back some memories of Concord for me; (2) It preserves the names of people, local businesses, and local advertisers who acted as officials, sponsors, or patrons for the tournament . . . and many of them might no longer be around; and (3) It states the names of all the individual players on the competing teams who surely must remember this event as one of the highlights of their young lives! It is not very likely that many of these 10c programs exist anymore. It is even possible that this could be the only one. So while this might not rise to the level of "genealogy gem" for me personally, it could be just that for some of these players now in their mid to late 60s. It could also be just that for those connected to the many local businesses mentioned that might have passed out of existence or passed down to family members. And it might for similar reasons be a minor "historical nugget" for the business history of Concord, NH in the early part of the 1960s.

How many items like this get tossed out without any thought to what they could mean to others? The memories things like this could restore to others is worth the honored place in the Definitely Keep pile -- even if it is only for so long as it can be shared here to perhaps bring some joy to others. [But shhh, don't tell Molly. It has already graduated and found its way into one of the permanent (?) genealogy artifact boxes!]   😀

So, for all those boys of summer who so long ago earned their way onto one of the five 1964 Atlantic Division Little League Championship Teams, here are your names and one of your moments of glory preserved on a 53-year-old 10c program. Show it to your children and grandchildren and regale them with some stories to prove you were once a boy and enjoyed baseball so much you earned your way onto one of five teams to compete for the Little League Atlantic Division championship in Concord, New Hampshire during a few August days more than half a century ago!

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Scan from an original program in the Definitely Keep/genealogy artifact collection of the author.
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday Serendipity (March 25, 2017)

Since I was in Newport, Rhode Island and a few other Rhode Island and Massachusetts locations doing some genealogy research and photography, Saturday Serendipity was on a brief hiatus the last couple of weeks. During my sojourn north, I finally had a chance to attend my first RIGS (Rhode Island Genealogical Society) meeting. The meeting was held in the North Kingstown Library and the first speaker was Rhode Island blogger extraordinaire, Diane MacLean Boumenot. I have corresponded periodically with Diane for a few years now and often recommend reading her always informative and well-written blog posts -- but I had never met Diane until last Saturday. Diane did a wonderfully informative and illustrated presentation on how to produce genealogy-related books at an extremely reasonable price.  If you ever have a chance to see a reprise of her presentation, make sure you do so!  

And with that recommendation, Saturday Serendipity returns this week with the following recommended reads . . . 

1.  As we all know, the foods we are exposed to and learn to either enjoy or dislike are heavily influenced by our ancestors. Foods and recipes favored by our grandparents and great grandparents have a way of being passed down the generations and so food is also an interesting subject for enhancement of family history and genealogy. In the case of our family, a favorite dessert is "Sailor's Duff" that my wife's great grandmother, grandmother and mother made on occasion and often by special request.  Our sons are now both great fans.  The dessert and the family recipe are now being enjoyed by a fifth generation. And, UpFront with NGS blog recently addressed the subject of food, family recipes, genealogy cookbooks.  Read about it here and get some links to pursue the subject further.          

2.  Heather Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy blog posted a thought-provoking piece recently about what she calls genealogy "close calls." We probably all have them and it is simply a matter of whether we know of them or they are simply yet to be discovered. Learn about "close calls" here and see if you have any you can identify in your genealogy -- or perhaps begin to be on the lookout for them as your research continues.     

3.  It is amazing how the advent and advancement of scientific DNA analysis has solved or made significant progress on questions of history, anthropology, and genealogy. A recent article that was highlighted by NEHGS in The Weekly Genealogist explains how DNA analysis has helped solve the mystery of how and when humans first came to Australia. You can read the article here.      

4.  And, speaking of NEHGS and The Weekly Genealogist, for those who are members or otherwise have access to the NEHGS databases, it was recently announced that the Vital Records collections for Londonderry, NH and Plaistow, NH have been updated and are now searchable by first name, last name, record type, year, and parents' and spouses' names. You can learn more about these changes by going to the Database Blog here.  Two other interesting articles were highlighted by The Weekly Genealogist this week.  Read here about a USAF veteran who was shot down in his F-105 fighter jet over North Vietnam in 1965.  He was rescued, but his helmet and other gear were found and taken by enemy soldiers. Fifty years later he and his helmet were reunited. . .  read how here. Then there is the story about a photographic quality portrait of a man who died over 700 years ago. You really need to have a look here and read about how this amazing depiction was created.                 

5. UpFront With NGS provides information and a link to a collection of 170,000 photographs from 1935 to 1945 created by the U.S. Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OWA). The photos depict life in the US during the Great Depression and WWII. Who knows what you might find in the collection? If you don't find photos of ancestors or relatives or their homes and farms, you might find photos that would help illustrate your genealogies (with the requisite permission if applicable, of course). See the post here.  

6. For those of you who choose to use Ancestry DNA, you really should read Judy Russell's March 21st post about the updated Ancestry DNA consent form for voluntary participation in research studies. You can read it a The Legal Genealogist here

7.  James Tanner once again provides food for thought in his recent post "What is a genealogically significant document?? Read his post on Genealogy's Star blog here

8.  Planning to visit a library to do some genealogy research? Won't you just hate it if the library is some distance from your home and you arrive to find it is closed the day you arrive or that it closed just minutes before you arrived? Amy Johnson Crow has a very useful post to help you avoid this and other frustrations when heading to a library for your genealogy research. Read "6 Ways to Have a Better Library Visit" here.   
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

History, Genealogy, and Ice Harvesting

History and Genealogy are conjoined twins, and like all such twins, while they are intimately connected, they each eventually and inevitably develop different perspectives and interests. One has perhaps a broader vision and more desire for external adventures and the other maybe has vision focused in a more limited direction and is content with internal, parochial adventures.  And yet both are inexorably influenced and guided by the other without end.  As I have often thought and said, genealogy is history on the most immediate and personal level, while history writ large is much broader in societal and temporal scope.

Broader history often informs our more personal and focused genealogy endeavors and so I have yet to meet anyone who indulges in Genealogy as a hobby or profession who is not also a devoted student of History. 

And it is with this intimate conjunction of History and Genealogy that I from time-to-time set aside a post here at The Prism to recommend a history book that I think can offer interesting and important material for genealogists. This is one of those posts. 

As a follow up to a recent post about a trip north to the Adirondacks in upstate New York and the Winter Carnival of Saranac Lake, I want to recommend a very interesting and informative book by Caperton Tissot titled "Adirondack Ice a Cultural and Natural History." [1] 

It was not until just after the turn of the last century (in the life time of many of our grandparents) that refrigerators for home use were first invented. Fred W. Wolfe of Fort Wayne, Indiana is often credited as the first inventor in 1913. The early domestic refrigeration systems consisted of a refrigeration unit mounted on a so-called "cold box." These first home refrigeration units were a bit cumbersome and space intensive since most of them required the mechanical parts of the system (the motor and compressor) to be placed in an adjacent room or in the basement while the cold box was conveniently located in the kitchen. It was not until 1923 that the first self-contained home refrigerator unit was introduced by Kelvinator and by that year the company had 80% of the home market for electric refrigerators. But, it was not until 1927 (the year my mother was born) that GE introduced what they called the "Monitor-Top"[2] refrigerator; it became the first really widespread home refrigerator with over 1 million units sold. 

The General Electric "Monitor-Top"
 refrigerator of 1927.

A real downside to the Monitor-Top and similar home refrigeration units was the refrigerants that were used -- either methyl formate or sulfur dioxide. The former was highly flammable and toxic if inhaled or ingested, while the latter was very corrosive and could irritate the eyes and even cause a loss of vision or cause burns and lesions if it came in contact with the skin. It was only when Freon was introduced in the 1930s that a refrigerator with safer, less toxic refrigerant came to market. 

Before powered refrigerators were introduced to American kitchens, the common method of cooling and keeping food in the early 20th-century was a mechanical kitchen appliance known as an "icebox" or "cold closet." [I remember my maternal grandparents still having a beautiful oak ice box in their kitchen in the early 1950s and getting blocks of ice delivered for it.]

An icebox was constructed with walls lined in tin or zinc and packed with insulation made of materials such as cork, sawdust, seaweed, or straw. To provide the cooling, a large block of ice was placed in a compartment of the box or on a tray at the top of the box and then the cold air would circulate down and envelope the lower storage compartments. For less expensive icebox models the water created when the ice block melted would collect in a drip pan that was placed beneath the icebox and would have to be emptied almost every day. More luxurious models had a holding tank for the accumulated ice water and a spigot that could be more conveniently used to drain off the water. 

An oak icebox similar to the one owned by my maternal grandparents.

And with this brief background on refrigeration in American kitchens, we come full circle to Adirondack Ice and how History writ large can so nicely and interestingly inform personal Genealogy.

Iceboxes, of course, were completely dependent on large quantities of ice in order to bring refrigeration into American kitchens. So naturally an industry developed to provide this necessary commodity to American homes. Before the advent of powered refrigeration, it was certainly not feasible to provide the ice for iceboxes through artificial refrigeration and so the source had to be naturally formed ice. And where was the best source for natural, freshwater ice to be found in sufficient quantities? In the large ponds and lakes of the northern tier of American states of course! 

Beginning in the mid-19th century and well into the 1930s the industry known as "ice harvesting" thrived in the United States in order to provide the ice refrigerant necessary for all the iceboxes in kitchens across the country. The basic process involved cutting and retrieving large blocks of ice created naturally in frozen lakes and ponds and preserving them in large, thick-walled ice houses where the blocks were insulated with layers of plentiful sawdust or other materials until they could be transported to market. In the colder climes of the country .  .  .  farms, restaurants, markets, and resorts would construct and fill their own ice houses (or contract with ice harvesters to fill them). In the warmer more southerly states, the ice was transported and stored in ice houses closer to the cities and towns where the ice was needed. [I remember a large ice house up on "the Heights" in Concord, New Hampshire in the early 1960s where my family would get 12 to 18 inch square blocks of ice to use in ice chests for picnics, trips to the drive-in, etc.  The ice was in a building built part way underground with a heavy wooden door that opened into a cavernous, pitch black interior where the blocks of ice would be hauled from under layers of sawdust with tongs and then washed off with a hose before being dropped into our ice chest.] 

So for almost 100 years the natural ice harvesting industry provided a huge number of jobs for Americans from the actual harvesting, to the storage, mass transportation, and delivery of the ice into American homes. At one time the delivery of ice to homes by the "iceman" was as common as the delivery of milk by the milkman and it had all the same social importance. 

Many of us might actually have relatives or ancestors who made their living in whole or in part as integral links in the chain of the ice harvesting industry . . . and this is why I recommend Adirondack Ice as not only a very interesting and informative history, but also as a resource for informing and enhancing an understanding of what could well be a part of your family genealogy!

If you had ancestors or relatives that lived in the northernmost tier of states you might have some ice harvesters in your family tree.  In Adirondack Ice you can learn about the typical process and tools used to get naturally formed ice from frozen lakes. [The tools and terms in the process derive from farming terms and implements and many farmers turned to ice harvesting when their fields were under feet of snow during the intense northern winters.] You might have an iceman in the family who made ice deliveries to homes and restaurants. Or you might have a family member who operated an ice house to supply the iceman, or worked to transport the ice to ice houses from the northern harvesting points.  If any of these occupations are known amongst your ancestors or relatives (or you think they might be), then you really should pick up Adirondack Ice to learn more about this fascinating, but now long-gone industry.

Adirondack Ice is a brief history of the formation and forms of natural ice and a fact-filled, well illustrated explanation of the process of ice harvesting in the past and its limited preservation and uses today.  You can see photographs of the early harvesting process and the development of the tools and automation of the process.  You can see a photo of an ice house in New York that held 46,000 tons of harvested lake ice. Learn how in 1913 -- on the cusp of the powered refrigeration revolution -- 1,200 to 1,500 tons of Adirondack ice, in about fifty train boxcars a day, were shipped to the metropolitan areas of New York City. Learn more about northern ice sports, celebrations, animal strategies for living with ice, and, most of all, learn the importance of northern ice to the way of life of our ancestors and relatives!

Adirondack Ice provides an absorbing connection between History and Genealogy and you will not regret adding it to your reading list -- especially when the heat of summer arrives and you want a nice read while you relax with an ice-filled glass of your favorite drink. 😊      
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[1]  Caperton Tissot, Adirondack Ice a Cultural and Natural History (Saranac Lake, New York, Snowy Owl Press, 2010).

[2] Apparently the name "Monitor-Top" came from the resemblance the top unit had to the gun turret on the Civil War era ironclad, USS Monitor.  

The scanned image of the book cover is from this blog author's personal copy of the book.

The image of the GE Monitor-Top refrigerator is from the digital collection of Mike Manning and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

The image of an oak icebox similar to one used by my maternal grandparents is from Magi Media and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

To learn more about the use of home refrigerators in the U.S. see,  For more about "iceboxes" (or "cold closets") see,

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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday Serendipity (February 25, 2017)

Here are a few recommended reads for this weekend.

1.  Janine Adams of Organize Your Family History blog posted some important advice to keep in mind.  Read "Take another look at your documents" here.       

2.  Knowing history is important; it has a lot to teach us. As Jorge "George" Santayana famously said,  "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, did the important service this week of reminding us of the 75th anniversary of a shameful chapter in our nation's history. Last Sunday marked the anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  The Order is one of the most infamous in our history. It began the internment of thousands of men, women, and children who were citizens of the United States (and their family members who in many cases were not).  These citizens were often of Japanese descent and had committed no crime. They were uprooted from their homes and livelihoods simply because they were of Japanese descent.  Read Judy's post here and learn more about this part of our history to we do not forget. And then read about the 6 - 3 decision of the United States Supreme Court that found the Executive Order was constitutional. In Koramatsu v. United States, six of the eight FDR appointees to the Court sided with the President. The sole Republican Justice on the Court, Owen Roberts, voted against the constitutionality of the Order! It took 41 years for Fred Koramatsu, who was convicted of evading forced internment, to have his conviction overturned.  Mr. Koramatsu died in 2005 and sadly did not live to see California declare in 2011 that January 30 would be "Fred Koramatsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution." Nor did he live to see the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2015 become the second state to declare each January 30th as Fred Koramatsu Day. One of the last things Mr. Koramatsu said before he died was, "I'll never forget my government treating me like this. And I really hope that this will never happen to anybody else because of the way they look, if they look like the enemy of our country."

If we fail to remember this bit of our history, we might be tempted some day to repeat it!   

3.  James Tanner of Genealogy's Star blog posted an interesting piece yesterday about genealogy as a business. It has links to other articles related to the subject and provides some data points worth mention.  You can read the post here.   

4.  With the 100th anniversary years of World War I (1914 - 1918) slowly winding down, UpFront With NGS blog calls to our attention a major resource on the subject of WWI . . . one sure to be useful to the many genealogy enthusiasts who have ancestors or relatives who participated in the "war to end all wars." Read here about the new WWI collection portal just launched by the Library of Congress and get some useful links to further explore this topic to enhance your genealogy.                

5.  At one time I had a regular feature on this blog called Samaritan Sunday. At last count there were 32 such postings before the series petered out at the end of 2014. I enjoyed searching out "Good News" articles about people who rendered assistance with some genealogical importance for complete strangers, but the series never seemed to be of interest to readers and I do not recall ever getting a comment about the series. This week I came across a truly impressive act of genealogical kindness that would have fit beautifully into the old Samaritan Sunday series and I want to highlight it here. Laura Mattingly of The Old Trunk in the Attic blog performed a truly wonderful service by posting an extensive extraction of references in wills from "Wills of Washington County, Kentucky 1792-1858,"compiled by Annie Walker Burns in 1936.  The extracted references are intended to capture all the mentions of negroes in the wills in the hope that it might assist descendants to locate some of their ancestors. Laura has extracted only half of the Burns book in her blog post of February 22nd, but when you have a look at the length of her post here, you will appreciate what a service she has provided. I can only imagine the time and patience it took to capture all the references and type up the extractions. Laura has performed an outstanding genealogical "Good Samaritan" act and we join her in the hope that it helps folks locate some long lost or unknown ancestors/relatives.  Well done Laura!

6.  And finally, The Weekly Genealogist from NEHGS brought several interesting articles to our attention this week.  The first is about the discovery of a previously unknown photograph of the famous African-American abolitionist, Harriet Tubman. See the beautifully clear portrait of a young Ms. Tubman and learn more about the discovery here.  

     Speaking of photographs, the second item of interest brought to us this week by The Weekly Genealogist answers the question, "What can you do if you do not have beautifully clear and detailed color photographs of your ancestors (male and female), but you do have some old painted portraits?" The answer for Peruvian artist/photographer, Christian Fuchs, is to painstakingly dress up as those ancestors and take your photograph with all the detail and clarity modern photography can capture.  You really should have a look at what he has done by going here.

     Third is a very intriguing article that illustrates the genius and creativity of women who are devalued in their culture, but nonetheless find a way to express themselves by keeping their autobiographies, writing their poetry and stories, and communicating with "sworn sisters," . . . bonds between women who were not biologically related. Read here about who these women were and the experiences that led them to invent "Nüshu" to secretly bond with one another and communicate what they could not otherwise express. 

     Last, but certainly not least -- and perhaps most directly related to genealogy -- is an article about how the huge genealogy databases of and are being used to analyze "for patterns like migrations, lifespan, and when people stopped marrying family members."  You can read this interesting piece here.
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Friday, February 24, 2017

The Adirondacks Again -- Winter Carnival 2017

Our trek on a snowshoe trail.

A meadow brook crossing on the snowshoe trail.

I have posted here several times about the special place the Adirondacks have in the hearts and minds of our family. We have been visiting the Adirondacks for over 40 years!  While most of our time over that period has been spent in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks during the summer, we have been up there during each of the seasons.  

Recently we visited Molly's sister Kathy at her home in Saranac Lake during the "Winter Carnival."  While the temperatures back in northern Virginia were progressively rising into the upper 60s and low 70s (and hit almost 80 degrees F. yesterday), it snowed every day we were in Saranac Lake and did not really get above freezing.  One day it was zero with a wind chill of minus 19! It reminded me very much of my youth in New Hampshire during the late 1950s into the mid-1960s. Snow was everywhere and the community just went on about its business. Stores and restaurants opened without a hitch, the air buzzed with the sound of shoveling, snow plowing, snow blowing, and the excitement of Winter Carnival.

In the 1880s, the village of Saranac Lake was a logging community that was evolving into a location where tuberculosis victims could go to "take the cure" in the fresh air of the Adirondacks. The great grandfather of political cartoonist, Garry Trudeau, was instrumental in putting Saranac Lake on the map for the battle against TB.  A tuberculosis sufferer himself, Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau founded the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium in Saranac Lake in 1885 and soon "Cure Cottages" sprang up all over the village.  In 1887, the writer Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the early notables who traveled to Saranac Lake to take the cure.  

The genesis of Winter Carnival goes back to November 1896 when a club was formed to promote winter sports and activities to combat cold weather isolation and stave off the seasonal listlessness that could otherwise develop into a full-fledged case of cabin fever. Just a few months after its founding, the Pontiac Club promoted a one-day event in early 1897 to be marked by fanciful dress and costumes. When winter arrived in 1898, the Club reprised the event, but expanded it and billed it as the "Pontiac Club Carnival" . . . and so 120 years ago a High Peaks tradition was born in a corner the Adirondacks to shatter the grip of frigid winters with a bit of frolic, irreverence, merriment, and north country sports.

The Winter Carnival in Saranac Lake was not initially held annually.  In the beginning it was held about every two years and in the decades between the world wars there were many years when it was not held at all. Then it was renewed in the winter of 1947-48 when WWII was finally over and life began to return to normal. It has been held annually ever since. 

Being in Saranac Lake the week of Winter Carnival 2017, the excitement and community involvement in Carnival was everywhere. As the day of the parade approached you saw more and more people out and about in colorful clothes and fanciful or wacky animal hats.  One often heard the term "north country culture" and it was hard not to be taken in by the festive air engulfing the community. It is a culture that laughs in the face of snow and ice and comes together around a common celebration of winter and all things cold and wonderful. Day and night the village hummed with activity leading up to the Winter Carnival Parade and the closing night "Storming of the Palace" when the community gathered around the lighted Palace in the dark to watch a music-enhanced slide show of the Carnival's various preparations and events projected on a large outdoor screen. The "storming" ended with a long, spectacular fireworks show over the Lake behind the Ice Palace. 

The "Palace" is the focal point of the Carnival and it is elaborately constructed each year with blocks of ice cut from Lake Flower.  The design of the Palace differs from year-to-year and it is colorfully lighted at night. The King and Queen of the Winter Carnival are enthroned at the Ice Palace.  

"Ice Palaces" have long been built in winter climes around the world and in the past were found in many cold-country communities in the United States . . . but today it is said that Saranac Lake is the only place in the U.S. where a "true" Ice Palace is still built each year entirely by volunteers (one of whom this year was Molly's sister Kathy).  Saranac Lake's true Ice Palaces are built entirely of ice blocks cut from the local lake and are not sculpted in whole or in part out of mounded snow or gigantic blocks of molded ice (although decorative ice sculptures are used in and around the Palace itself).  It took 2,000 blocks of ice to construct the 2017 Ice Palace. 

Site of ice block harvesting on Lake Flower.  Blocks are cut and then guided with pikes to the exit channel in the forefront where they are lifted out and transported to the nearby construction site.

The harvesting site with some left over blocks of ice.

Side view of the 2,000-block Ice Palace (2017) 

Inside the Throne Room.

A classic Adirondack Lean-to made of ice on the shore of Lake Flower behind the Ice Palace (2017)

Two Adirondack Chairs made of ice beside the lean-to (2017)

The Ice Palace at night (2017)

On Saturday, February 11th the annual Winter Carnival Parade took place through the center of the village and the route was lined with people two and three deep.

Along the Parade route on Broadway.

The approach of the "Lawn Chair Ladies," a dance and lawn chair drill team club
that is always a favorite at parades.

The Lawn Chair Ladies passing in formation and beginning a routine for the crowd.

But, all things must come to an end, and when the Ice Palace is deemed structurally unsound steps are taken to demolish it and send the ice back into the lake. On February 18th, the Palace had deteriorated to the point that officials had to close the site to the public.  It was still lighted at night and could be observed from behind barriers . . . and then on February 20th the end arrived and the Palace was razed.

Razing the Ice Palace on February 20, 2017.  The blocks are pushed back into Lake Flower.

To see more of the Winter Carnival go to the official website of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival here  At the website you can view photos of the whole ice block harvesting process, the crowning of the King and Queen, many of the Carnival's outdoor sports and activities, many more pictures of the Carnival Parade, the full Carnival schedule, and more.

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All photographs are by the author except the razing of the Ice Palace, which is by Kathy O'Kane, and the Ice Palace with the sculpted moose in the forefront, which is from the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival website.

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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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