Tuesday, December 31, 2013

From 0 to 25,312 -- One Year of Blogging! (December 31, 2013)

It is hard to believe that it was a mere 365 days ago today that Filiopietism Prism ["The Prism"] was born -- but as the old adage goes, "Time flies when you're having fun!" Or as others have put it and warned, "Genealogy blogging can be addictive!"  I think the latter admonition might have a lot of truth to it after re-reading my very first post on The Prism
It absolutely amazes me as this first year of blogging comes to a close that there have been over 25,000 page views by others during this year.  I want to thank each and every one of you for stopping by. I'd also like to especially thank those who provided encouragement, advise, clarification, corrections, and supplements via likes and comments throughout the year!  THANK YOU ALL!

Since this is the last post of the first year of Filiopietism Prism -- the omega if you will -- I thought it might bring some symmetry to the year by publishing again the first post on The Prism.  This is the time of year that we tend to look back as we stand looking and planning forward. And so to bookend this year with the alpha and the omega for 2013, here is a reprise of "First Things First," which was posted minutes before midnight one year ago today.


First Things First

Today is New Year's Eve day 2012 and there is no better time to get a jump on a New Year's resolution than the night before the new year begins -- and it also makes it easy to remember a Blog Anniversary!  Following an excellent introduction to the world of genealogy blogging earlier this year (see immediately below), I resolved that I would start my own modest contribution to this growing community.

But, first things first.

I was inspired to finally get started with my own genealogy blog by the outstanding example of Nutfield Genealogy http://www.nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com owned by Heather Wilkinson Rojo.  Heather and I have never met, but we have exchanged several emails following my initial introduction to her blog.  In the January 11, 2012 issue of The Weekly GenealogistHeather's Nutfield Genealogy was selected by Lynn Betlock, Editor of the New England Historic Genealogical Society's (NEHGS) The Weekly Genealogist, as the first ever "Featured Blog."  Since my ancestors are almost all from New England -- and since I was born in Rhode Island and lived in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire before venturing southward when my father's work transferred him to Philadelphia -- I immediately checked out Heather's blog centered in New Hampshire.  To my surprise and delight, I actually found that Heather had a posting relating to my Tew family from Rhode Island.  I emailed Heather to inquire further.  This led to Heather's very generous and kind invitation to submit a posting on the pirate Thomas Tew for consideration as a guest post to her blog.  She accepted the submission and posted it on February 16, 2012!  As so many authors have said before, the inspiration (and recent encouragement) for beginning this Blog belongs to another -- Heather in this case -- but any errors and missteps will be entirely my own.  THANK YOU HEATHER for your inspiration and encouragement!  :-)

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This is my first post to my new Blog.  I am definitely in the learning stages of the techniques, etiquette, effort and time commitment involved in maintaining a useful and meaningful genealogical blog.  It will undoubtedly take a while before I can aspire to the dedicated consistency Heather and others have shown with their genealogy blogging, so please do not expect regular postings for some time to come (probably to coincide with my too-distant retirement).  I hope to post at least bi-weekly for the time being while I begin to learn the basics of Blogger and put together some items of interest through my genealogy prism; but the all-important first step has been taken -- and there is no turning back now.

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for a wonderful 2013!  :-)

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Copyright 2012,  John D. Tew
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Monday, December 30, 2013

Maritime Monday (December 30, 2013) : The "Flying Santa," An 84-Year New England Tradition

While "Christmastide" (the "Twelve Days of Christmas") is still with us, it is an appropriate time to recall an 84-year New England tradition of the "Flying Santa" for those who know about it (and to introduce the tradition to those who have never heard of it).

I first stumbled across the tradition of the Flying Santa while researching Benjamin W. Walker (1838 - aft. 1900), a younger brother of my great great grandmother, Susan A. (Walker) Tew, (1828 - 1893). Benjamin was born in Coventry, Rhode Island and for a time (circa 1862) served as an Assistant Keeper at the famed Beavertail Lighthouse at the tip of Conanicut Island in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.

Benjamin W. Walker, younger brother of Susan A. (Walker) Tew

Beavertail Lighthouse (1749) was the third lighthouse built in the American colonies after the lights at Boston Harbor and Brant Point on the island of Nantucket.  Its name comes from the shape of the southern end of Conanicut Island, which resembles a beaver's tail. The early settlers of Rhode Island recognized the strategic importance of the southern tip of Conanicut Island because it looked over the passages into Narragansett Bay.  As early as 1705 a "watch house" was erected at Beavertail Point. During the Revolutionary War, the British occupied Newport, Rhode Island for almost three years (December 1776 - October 1779), but when they evacuated one of the last things they did was to set fire to the original wooden lighthouse tower. 

Photographs of Beavertail Lighthouse at Beavertail Point, Conanicut Island

1846 map of "Connanicut" Island showing Beaver Tail Point and
the lighthouse location. Note also in the northwest section
 of the island just under the word "JAMES" the Tew family property. 

An early pioneer of aviation in New England was a Friendship, Maine pilot by the name of William H. Wincapaw. Since Capt. Wincapaw often had to rely on the light beacons from coastal lighthouses to guide his navigation, he came to greatly appreciate and admire the service that lighthouse keepers provided to maritime travelers on the sea and in the air. In many ways a symbiotic relationship developed between pilots such as Capt. Wincapaw and the lighthouse keepers. The pilots could provide quick visual contact and communication with keepers on isolated islands or peninsulas in case of emergency and the keepers would watch for pilots and their planes. When Capt. Wincapaw and other pilots were known to be on a mission, keepers would always try to relay information to airfields whenever planes safely passed their position. 

Capt. Wincapaw in particular developed close relationships with lighthouse keepers along routes he flew in maritime New England. On occasion Capt. Wincapaw would land at some of the lights and spend time visiting with the isolated keepers and their families (if they had them).  In time, William Wincapaw decided he should try to do something significant to recognize and show appreciation for lighthouse keepers and the important, often lonely and sometimes dangerous service they provided. On December 25, 1929 William Wincapaw determined that he would deliver some small holiday gifts of things such as coffee, candy, magazines and sundries.  He loaded his plane and on that Christmas Day he flew low over lights in the Rockland, Maine area and dropped surprise packages to the keepers and their families. These acts of kindness and holiday cheer were so appreciated that Capt. Wincapaw realized he would need to repeat the Christmas flights and so an 84-year tradition began and spread around maritime New England and eventually along the eastern coastline of North America.

In time William Wincapaw, his son and others -- like author Edward Rowe Snow -- came to be referred to as the "Flying Santa" and the pilots and their successors began to dress the part.  Various aircraft have been used over the decades including single and twin-engine airplanes and helicopters.

There is now an organization called "Friends of Flying Santa, Inc." and they maintain a website here. They can be contacted by mail at PO Box 80047, Stoneham, MA 02180-0001, or by phone at (781)438-4587, or via email at Info@flyingsanta.org. Their website has a detailed link to the origin and history of the Flying Santa tradition.  The site also has numerous photographs of Capt. William "Bill" Wincapaw and his family members, Edward Rowe Snow and his participating family members, the various aircraft that have been used over the decades, and some of the lighthouses that have been visited by the Flying Santas.  The photos are copyrighted and I do not have permission to share them  on The Prism, but you can easily view them here while learning all about William H. Wincapaw, the original "Flying Santa," and how what he started has continued and expanded into its ninth decade.

Merry Christmastide and a Happy New Year!
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Image of Santa and his bi-plane from Open Clip Art Library as obtained from The Washington Herald (1914).

Photograph of Benjamin W. Walker courtesy of Joshua Oehler from his Oehler Tree.

Photographs of Beavertail Lighthouse from the virtual archives of the State of Rhode Island  and from the U.S. Coast Guard respectively. Both images are believed to be in the public domain.

For more information on the history of the "Flying Santa" and to see copyrighted photogrsaphs and other images of the planes, pilots and supporters of the program go to The Origins and History of the Flying Santa.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Samaritan Sunday (December 29, 2013)

[If you should choose to adopt this prompt to contribute your own stories of folks who have gone out of their way to lend genealogy-related assistance to others, I would greatly appreciate a mention to Filiopietism Prism whenever you do so.  Thank you!  And please do use the same photograph below to illustrate the prompt.  ;-) ]


The Chris Jensen nursing home -- now the Chris Jensen Health and Rehabilitation Center -- is located in Duluth, Minnesota.

Marvin and Shirley Westerlund were married in Duluth on October 3, 1953. Marvin died after only thirteen years of marriage to Shirley, but Shirley lived until 1992. 

Matthew Seppo is a property manager in St. Louis County, Minnesota where Duluth is located. Mr. Seppo is also a determined man and a Good Samaritan who, as an amateur genealogist, recognizes the importance of family history and the materials and objects that document that history.

When an album from Marvin and Shirley Westerlund's wedding was unexplainably discovered in a store room at the Chris Jensen nursing home after lodging there unclaimed for two decades, Matt Seppo obtained the album in his role as property manager.  [The nursing facility had been owned by St. Louis County at one point.] Mr. Seppo decided he was going to try to find surviving relatives of Marvin and Shirley to return the genealogical treasure that had come into his hands. 

Mr. Seppo began using genealogy websites, public records and any other sources he could think of to aid him in his quest.  The Duluth News Tribune ran a story about Mr. Seppo's efforts on December 11, 2013 and slowly various information emerged through email responses to Mr. Seppo.

Good Samaritan Matthew Seppo faced quite a challenge in his quest because Marvin and Shirley never had any children. Shirley was an adopted only child and had no known relatives -- but Matthew was ultimately successful!  Read here the full story of how Mr. Seppo persevered in his quest and how he got assistance along the way. You can see a photograph of Marvin and Shirley and learn where the album now resides. The album is no longer in Minnesota, but it is in the hands of a close relative due to the discovery of a very helpful clue placed in an obituary.   

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Photograph of the The Good Samaritan sculpture by Francois-Leon Sicard (1862 - 1934).  The sculpture is located in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, France.  The photograph is by Marie-Lan Nguyen and has been placed in the public domain by her. See, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Good_Samaritan_Sicard_Tuileries.jpg
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday Serendipity (December 28, 2013)

Saturdays often allow a more leisurely approach to life than work days. I can more easily post links to some blog posts or other materials I have discovered during the week, or even to those discovered during a Saturday morning coffee and extended surfing of the blogosphere/internet.

Here are a few recommendations for inclusion on your reading list.

1. Does "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens owe a lot to the writings of mill girls in Lowell Massachusetts in 1842 -- the year before Dickens published his famous Christmas redemption tale? In this week's Weekly Genealogist newsletter, NEHGS provides a link to this article that explains the connection.  
2.  The Civil War was instrumental in making the celebration of Christmas an important and permanent American tradition.  Read about it here at The Vault and follow links to some illustrative engravings and "Christmas in America: A History" a 1996 book by Penne Restad.      

3.  The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, has an interesting post about the legal aspects of Christmas as a holiday.  

4.  How about strategies for organizing your genealogy research efforts for the coming New Year?  Janine Adams at Organize Your Family History blog shares her approach and provides a link to her genealogy research goals from last year.           

5.  Most all of us like to illustrate our blogs with captivating subject-related photos or other images, but few can aspire to the level of the photography showcased each year in the annual National Geographic Photo Contest.  To see some truly awe inspiring photography, go here to see the winners of the 2013 contest.  

6.  Here is a very different twist on what it means to be a "professional genealogist."    

7.  With the recent receipt of annual holiday newsletters and posts here and elsewhere about the wisdom of saving, reproducing and sharing these wonderful genealogy source materials, you should check out Lynn Betlock's "Note from the Editor" in this week's The Weekly Genealogist. Lynn discusses the preservation of Christmas memories and mentions a collection of 82 years of such memories by the Blake family.  The Blakes collected their documents in a self-published book To Friends at Christmas: A Garland of Holiday Greetings in Verse 1927 - 2009. NEHGS has a copy of the book in their library and Lynn quotes a few examples from this unusual collection of holiday memories. [Look for Vol. 16 No. 52 Whole 667]    

8.  For those of us with some Irish roots, Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings has posted his review of the new edition of a well-known resource book for researching one's Irish ancestry.  The book is Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, 4th Edition by John Grenham.  See Randy's review and an overview of the contents here.   
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Fotos (December 27, 2013) -- Otis Mason Freeman

Otis Mason Freeman (1868 - 1949) circa 1882.

Otis Freeman is the youngest brother of my great grandmother, Sarah Etta (Freeman) Carpenter. He was born March 23, 1868 in Rhode Island.  He grew up in Lincoln, Rhode Island and lived as an adult in Providence. At one point in his working career he was a "factor" (an agent for the sale of goods entrusted to his possession) of "high-grade bicycles" during the bicycle craze of the 1890s. 

Otis Freeman is my great grand uncle.

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Original photograph in the collection of the author. 
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday Serendipity (December 21, 2013)

Saturdays often allow a more leisurely approach to life than work days. I can more easily post links to some blog posts or other materials I have discovered during the week, or even to those discovered during a Saturday morning coffee and extended surfing of the blogosphere/internet.

Here are a few recommendations for inclusion on your reading list.

1.  Could you use a few images from the 17th, 18th and 19th century -- say about 1 million of them -- to illustrate your blog or other writings? The Weekly Genealogist by NEHGS points us to a story with links to over 1 million images taken from books of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  All the images are on Flickr Commons and have been released into the public domain by the British Library.  Read all about why the images are being released and the feedback the Library would welcome by going here. As a teaser, here is a seasonal image from "The Coming of Father Christmas" (1874) by Eliza F. Manning.

2.  "A Note from the Editor: Holiday Newsletters Revisited" by Lynn Betlock in The Weekly Genealogist this week (Vol. 16 No. 51 Whole #666) was the inspiration for a post here on The Prism this past Thursday.  It is well past time to collect, copy, share and preserve all those newsletters you have!      

3.  Since all things old are eventually new again, you might be well advised to check out a pamphlet from New York City's Special Fraud Squad in the 1980s informing tourists about the cons games and frauds haunting the streets of The Big Apple.  This is brought to us by Rebecca Onion here at The Vault.

4.   While you are visiting The Vault, you should also take a side trip to learn about the "open air school" trend in the early part of the 20th century. There are some chilling photos in the piece that you can use to convince your kids that returning to school after their winter holiday break could be a whole lot worse!      

5.  For those of us who have never been to Salt Lake City at Christmas time and therefore have never seen seasonal lighting displays on Temple Square, here is Part 2 of Jana Last's beautiful photo tour for all of us to enjoy!

6.  We can all use a stark reminder from time to time about the importance of taking steps to protect and preserve our precious family photo history.  Heather Wilkinson Rojo had a post yesterday at Nutfield Genealogy that illustrates in text and photos why this needs to be done and reminds us what a task it can become (and the losses that can result) if not done in a timely manner!

7.  Keeping up the theme of protecting genealogical materials leads to the burning question, "Should we glove or not glove when handling archival material?"  The new opinion might surprise you a bit. See the post and related links here on the UpFront with NGS blog edited by Diane L. Richard.  

8.  Harold Henderson at Midwestern Microhistory calls to our attention the newly revised and updated Genealogical Standards published by the Board for the Certification of Genealogists. The editor of the revision and update is Thomas W. Jones, author of the recently published and much praised Mastering Genealogical Proof.  

9. If you have not heard, our so-called "do nothing Congress" has actually done something in the
last days of 2013. We who are interested in genealogy certainly will not like it, but it is done. Judy Russell at The Legal Genealogist explains that one of the items that lurks in the depths of the budget package passed this week is a provision that cuts off access to the Social Security Death Master File
(the SSDI or Social Security Death Index) until three years after the death of an individual. The law also removes the ability to access the data under a Freedom of Information Act request. Read the
details so clearly explained by Judy here -- and weep.

10. And finally, for those who appreciate and love the at of quilting (and make no mistake, it is an
art as well as a skill), do check out the heirloom quilt Laura Mattingly shares with us at
The Old Trunk in the Attic blog. It is a wonderfully colorful quilt made for Laura by her Grandma.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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