Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday Serendipity (June 1, 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 serendipitous discoveries from this week that I commend for inclusion on your reading list.

1.  A useful read that I subscribe to is the "Word of the Day" feature offered by  Just as I discovered the genealogy-related word that became the title for this Blog on Word of the Day, I have come across a useful new word for those of us into genealogy (and perhaps astrology and horoscopes). I pass the word on to you here.  The Word of the Day for May 23, 2013 was genethliac (juh-NETH-lee-ak), which is an adjective meaning "of or pertaining to birthdays or to the position of the stars at one's birth."

2.   Heather at Leaves For Trees provided a link to an interesting and informative read on what the men in the trenches during WWI actually ate.  Read about it here.  You will be surprised.

3.  As readers of The Prism know, on Sundays I often feature stories about people who reach out to help others they do not even know in order to help solve genealogy mysteries, return family heirlooms, etc.  I call the blog  feature Samaritan Sunday.  Bill West of West in New England tells us an intriguing story involving his genealogy, a house in Berlin, NH, some 19th-century letters found during a home remodeling project, and two very determined sisters who want answers.  Read about it here

4.  I have always had an interest in, and weakness for, maps.  This week I ran across two good reads involving maps.  Most of us really enjoy reading accounts of the methodical unraveling of a genealogical knot, the analytical solving of a puzzle.  The first map-related read is just such a story provided by Nancy Messier at her blog, My Ancestors and Me.  Nancy walks us step-by-step through her use of mapping resources to solve the question about whether or not the 19th-century home of her ancestor still exists in Butler County, Pennsylvania.  Find out if she succeeds by reading her post here.  And then there was this interesting project involving mapping the locations of where ancestors lived and died.  It provides a quick visual representation of where you came from that is "suitable for framing."  Read this post by Janine Adams at her blog, Organize Your Family.

5.  Genealogy is very involved with and concerned about names.  We have all struggled with the changing trends of naming conventions and spellings.  We have cringed at some names we discover in our genealogies when viewed through the lens of modern usage.  I have looked at names like Dorcas, Peleg, Mehitable and thought, "What were they thinking!?"  And this was even when I understood that often the names that sound so odd were actually derived from the Bible.  So it was a refreshing and fun read to learn about the names with which generations today are saddling their children.  Have a read here and see what YOU think!  
6.  Yesterday was the 194th anniversary of the birth of "the good gray poet," Walt Whitman.  During his lifetime Whitman was praised and vilified.  Emerson called Whitman's Leaves of Grass, "The most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed."  Thoreau said it was "as if the beasts spoke."  And critic William Michael Rossetti declared that Whitman was on the level of Shakespeare as a literary talent.  Others simply referred to him as "that dirty old man."

The Good Gray Poet
Walt Whitman at age 68 in 1887

Whitman led an extraordinary life filled with family tragedy, adventure and fame.  He worked as a printer's devil, teacher, journalist, federal employee in Washington, D.C. and poet.  You can learn more about his life here at Wikipedia and here at yesterday's Writer's Almanac where an excerpt from Whitman's Crossing Brooklyn Ferry (a poem in the public domain), was provided.  The excerpt speaks with special resonance to those of us with a deep interest in genealogy.  Enjoy!

It avails not, time nor place-distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever
so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a
Just as you are refresh'd by the gladness of the river and the
bright flow, I was refresh'd,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the
swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the
thick-stemm'd pipes of steamboats, I look' d.

What is it, then, between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years
between us?

Whatever it is, it avails not-distance avails not, and place
avails not,
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
I too walk'd the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in
the waters around it,
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
In the day among crowds of people sometimes they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my bed, they came
upon me,
I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution,
I too had receiv'd identity by my body,
That I was I knew was of my body, and what I should be I 
knew I should be of my body.
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The photograph of Walt Whitman was taken by photographer George C. Cox in New York in 1887.  It was said to have been a favorite of Whitman's.  The image is now in the public domain and is available from the United States Library of Congress -- Prints and Photographs division. See,
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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