Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Serendipity (June 22, 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.  What is a "mishpocha" and how does it relate to genealogy?   Mishpocha is a noun that entered the English language in the middle of the 19th Century.  It comes from Yiddish and Hebrew and is pronounced mish-PAW-khuh or sometimes mish-POOKH-uh.  Curious?  Go to this link and find out the answer.  Then, as they say, "use the word [in your genealogy writing and conversation] and it becomes yours."

2.  Heather Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy shares in photos what I think is a truly great Father's Day idea and tradition!  See the picture story here.

3.  Do you have ancestors in early Massachusetts (1600 - 1850)?  If so you need to be aware of the Massachusetts Vital Records Project by John Slaughter.  The resource is explained and illustrated in a June 12th post by Jane Sweetland at her blog AncestryInk.  Read her post here and then visit the project at the link just above.  Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings also did a post on this database complete with screen shots.  See Randy's post here.  

4.  Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings provides a wonderful list of quotes about fathers and fatherhood here including three gems from none other than Randy himself.  Enjoy!

5.  In the wake of all the publicity surrounding Angelina Jolie's action after discovering she has the BRCA mutation -- and the recent SCOTUS decision on the patentability of naturally occurring human genes (see Judy Russell's synopsis as linked to in last week's Saturday Serendipity) -- I highly recommend reading guest blogger Colter Brian's  "How Genealogy Research Can Save Your Life" at UpFront with NGS here.    

6.  As we all know, Genealogy is at least a specialized branch of the study of History -- although I would argue that Genealogy is actually the root stock of History since back when knowledge was first transmitted through oral recitation, people were first concerned with the personal background and history of their families and tribes before they concerned themselves with learning about unrelated others.  Well, if you have not already seen or heard about it, you should check out the cover story for last Sunday's Washington Post Magazine.  It is a fascinating read about a man in Fairfax, Virginia whose amateur love of history has led him to amass "one of the largest and most significant private collections of African American artifacts in the country."  Oh, and did I mention that the collector, Mark Mitchell, is not African American himself?  If you do not get the Post, you can read the article on line here and see photos of some of the amazing items in Mr. Mitchell's collection.  

7.  Unintended consequences or just a dumb law?  Ken and Nicole were digging post holes on their property in Ontario, Canada when some bones were discovered.  Human bones.  Bones of a 24 year old woman who died in the late 1500s or early 1600s.  Ken and Nicole reported the find to authorities and an anthropologist arrived to examine the site.  Congratulations Ken and Nicole for your good deed -- you now owe $5,000 under Ontario's Funeral, Burial and Cremation Act!  Say what!??  Read here the full story of what I think is a really, really dumb law that is short-sighted to say the least.

8.   The Weekly Genealogist by NEHGS provides a link to A Story of Interest this week about the restoration and reopening of the birthplace of Abigail Adams in North Weymouth, Massachusetts.  The article can be read here and you can see a 1947 photograph showing how the home was sawed in half and moved to its present location.

9.  As DNA testing becomes more and more popular as an additional genealogy research tool, there are increasing numbers of stories illustrating how DNA can fill in genealogy gaps.  Here is one such success story with more than a few twists and turns!

10.  UpFront With NGS provides a handy little "infographic" first posted June 11th by Family Tree Magazine on its Facebook page.  It is a guide to help provide clues by ancestor birth date as to what wars an ancestor might have fought in.  I think it is a tool worth printing off and sticking somewhere that you can glance at any time you come across ancestor birth dates.  It might help guide you to the next place you want to look for records on that ancestor.  AND, more recently (June 19th) on the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page, is another infographic useful to those with Irish ancestry -- it displays graphically the number of Irish immigrants to the U.S. from 1821 - 1920.

11.  AND, last but not least, the current issue of TIME magazine (June 24, 2013) has a major article titled, "The Rise of Cremation."  This is an interesting and informative read with possible implications for genealogists. In 1998 about 24% of deceased Americans chose to be cremated versus being buried.  In 2011that percentage had grown to 42.2% overall, but some states (Nevada, Rhode Island, Oregon and Washington for example) now have more than 70% of citizens choosing to be cremated.  Nevada leads the pack at 74% cremations -- almost three quarters of deaths in that state! Now add to those statistics the fact that currently only a third of the so-called "cremains" are buried and memorialized in traditional cemeteries or columbaria -- whereas two thirds are either taken home or scattered somewhere -- and creation of permanent memorials to the deceased could slowly become a thing of the past (to the chagrin of genealogists who see such memorials as a research source).  As one member of the funeral industry put it, "Throughout history, we have not only stopped and celebrated people's lives, but we've tried to create a permanent memorial so they'll be remembered.  And I think we may now have a whole generation of people where there's no permanent remembrance of that person."

Estimates are that if trends continue by 2017 half of all post-death decisions in the U.S. will be in favor of cremation. 
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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  1. Thanks for mentioning my "Father's Day Tree" blog post. I wonder how many other families have a similar tradition? Also, I was fascinated with that TIME magazine story on cremation, and I'm glad you mentioned it. I have a genealogy mystery in my family on the cremains of a relative who was cremated at Forest Hill Cemetery in Boston in the 1920s. A "relative" picked up her cremains according to the records. We have no idea where she was buried or if she is still on someone's mantel. All I know is that her cremains are not at Forest Hill. This mystery is nearly 100 years old. Imagine how many folks will be puzzling over the same conundrum in the future with the popularity of cremations climbing?

  2. I have never heard of a tree tradition such as your family has, but I think it is a wonderful idea! I too am curious what Father's Day traditions are out there that are different than the dinner, card and phone call routine that so many of us mark the day with. Maybe some other readers will write in and let us know. :-)

    I think the burial vs. cremation decision is a very interesting one and that changing trends in the choice are important to follow for reasons the TIME article mentions and others. There are religious and environmental issues and perhaps genealogical ones too, so how this plays out over the coming decades will be interesting to see. I suspect that creative approaches will end up preserving the genealogical data of cremated ancestors -- they just need to be developed into traditions such as those surrounding burials.

    Your family cremation story is fascinating and would make such a good post on your blog whether or not the answer is finally discovered.