Sunday, September 29, 2013

Samaritan Sunday (September 29, 2013) -- A Letter And A Purple Heart Find Their Home After 70 Years!

[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.  ;-) ]

Peggy Eddington-Smith never met her father because he was killed in Italy in June 1944 during World War II; but before Pvt. John Eddington was shipped out from his base in Texas to Europe, he wrote a letter to Peggy's mother and to Peggy just after Peggy was born.  The problem was, neither Peggy nor her mother ever received the letter -- and why remains a mystery.

About a week ago, after almost 70 years, Peggy, now 69 years old, received her father's Bronze Star, Purple Heart, reproduction dog tags, AND the three-page letter her father wrote to the newborn Peggy and her mother.

To read where the letter was found, to find out about the Good Samaritan who worked the internet and libraries for years to find the people the letter was addressed to, and to learn what other items of her father's Peggy now has, go here and here.  You can see the wedding photo of Peggy's parents, a photo of Peggy receiving items belonging to her father, and a photo of the amazing escort Peggy and her Good Samaritan received on their way to the presentation ceremony.     
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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,
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday Serendipity (September 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.  There are those who think about important, complicated social issues.  There are those who talk about such issues.  And then there are those who recognize that some issues are too meaningful to just think about or talk about. They seem to have or find a voice that tells them repeatedly, "Acta non verba."  Diane at One Rhode Island Family is telling us about the voice her parents heard in 1963 and the answer her mother gave for both of them.  

2.  A tip from NEHGS's at The Weekly Genealogist led to this interesting read about writing complete with five steps to writing one' own story.  The Readers' Writers: The greatest untold story.  

3.  You really have to take some time to visit this site and see the lovely map drawings by a young schoolgirl named Frances Henshaw in 1809.  She apparently did maps for 19 of the then 24 states.  New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio are shown at the link. 

4.  JoAllison Henn of the new blog, Climbing My Family Tree, has a post on learning the lesson of the need for very cautious consideration and use of the "Hints" generated by  In particular, JoAllison discusses hints showing up in your family tree that involve data on public member trees.  See, "Going Backwards" where JoAllison recounts her experience with public member trees on  It is not a story of prohibition, but one of caution and remembering that the public member tree data is best treated just as labeled -- as "hints" and not unquestioned reliable sources!     

5.  My father has often told stories of his experience of the devastating 1938 hurricane that hit Rhode Island and elsewhere when he was 16 years old. Known variously as the Great New England Hurricane, the Yankee Clipper, the Long Island Express or just the Great Hurricane of 1938, it was the first major hurricane to hit New England since 1869.  The storm gained Category 5 status before it made landfall as a Category 3 at Long Island on September 21, 1938.  In Rhode Island the storm  roared up Narraganset Bay wreaking death and destruction as it progressed.  Somewhere between 682 and 800 people died and over 57,000 homes were destroyed or damaged.  Since this month is the 75th anniversary of this killer storm, The Weekly Genealogist of the NEHGS tips us off to two articles about the hurricane -- a Providence Journal article and a blog post by meteorologist David Epstein here. Also, the Wikipedia article here is a good companion read.

6.   Nancy at My Ancestors and Me posted an amazing video from the BBC that actually does have something to do with "family history."  I guarantee that you will be glad you spent 4 min 49 sec. watching it!  The boy that is featured actually has two siblings that you can also read about here after you have seen the short video about this astounding boy and his writings.  Enjoy!   
7.  The Garden Gnome Rescue League??  In case you missed it earlier this week, you might enjoy this true story about the disappearance and return of a special Gartenzwerg in New Jersey. 
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Friday, September 27, 2013

"Easy Rider" Bermuda-style: Friday Fotos (September 27, 2013)

1992 was a year for landmark birthday celebrations.  Molly threw a surprise square dance party with live band and caller for me and told me not to surprise her with anything when she reached (a few months later) the same milestone (which will NOT be disclosed here).  I quickly assured her I would do no such thing and had no need to cross my fingers or anything.  Unbeknownst to her I had already surreptitiously planned and executed the reservations for a cruise to Bermuda that was cleverly planned to occur about three months before her actual birthday in order to be a genuine, full-tilt surprise.  As you can see from the photo evidence of me (above) on a scooter in Bermuda in May 1992 -- my plan worked. [Well, at least from the proof of the photo I made it to Bermuda!]

Actually, I also have a nice scooter photo of my "Biker Babe"-- who did accompany me to Bermuda.  [I did mention this cruise was a celebration of her birthday, right?]  Well, I would not think of posting the Biker Babe shot without her permission.  If -- or perhaps I should hasten to say "when" -- I get her permission, that future post here on The Prism can also serve as the vehicle for presenting my version of how I became a hero to all the wives we knew and how I was vilified by all the husbands.  I still consider it my crowning achievement as a married man! 

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May 1992 photo by Molly in the collection of the author. 
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

First Cars -- The Minivan Cometh! (September 26, 2013)

Our maroon, 1986 Dodge Caravan LE

As this series has explained before, there are many kinds of "first cars."  The car pictured above is a special first for Molly and me and for our two sons -- it was our first true family car and is probably the first vehicle about which our sons have any clear memories!

When our younger son, Christopher, was born in 1986 we quickly realized our much-loved Honda Accord  was going to be too small for two sons under age two -- especially given all the accessories and gear that were required to accompany the boys wherever we went.  The time had arrived to make the quantum leap to the near ubiquitous minivan!

After some extensive research about the various minivan choices that existed when the car companies scrambled to cash in on the minivan rage, we decided on a Dodge Caravan.  Some good friends who had a son the same age as our older son also decided they were going to make the move to a minivan and so we joined forces to venture forth into negotiations with dealers confident in the thought we were going to emerge victorious because we were offering to buy TWO minivans.

As it turned out, we could not get any dealers in the Washington, DC area to negotiate reasonably with us when we knew exactly what we wanted and were willing to wait for them to order and deliver two vehicles with no worries about carrying costs on their lot.  They were completely unwilling to deal and so we walked out of two or three local dealers shaking our heads at their careless loss of two sales and at their completely baseless belief that we would be back.  We bought two brand new, fully equipped Caravans from a dealer in Delaware!

The standard story is that the idea for the minivan was conceived by Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich while they were employed at Ford, but Henry Ford rejected the idea in 1974 and both Iacocca and Sperlich moved to Chrysler where they developed prototypes of what came to be nicknamed the "Magic-wagons."  They certainly turned out to be that, since after their introduction in November 1983 as 1984 model vehicles, the Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler brand minivans have outsold all other minivans in the U.S. and over 80 other countries.  More than 13 million have been sold.

The Generation I Chrysler minivans (1984 - 1990) came in three trim levels: Base, the standard SE, and the luxury LE.  The minivan was configured for seven passengers: two bucket seats with armrests and an open aisle between them up front; a two-passenger bench seat immediately inside the sliding side door; and a three-passenger bench seat in the back.  Both bench seats could be completely removed without a great deal of trouble to accommodate large non-passenger loads, but there was also a generous storage space behind the back bench seat even with both bench seats in place.  The minivans had no air bags and no ABS braking.  The 1986 model came with a 5-year/50,000 mile (whichever came first) buyer protection plan.

Our Caravan had roof racks, air conditioning front and back, drink wells built in the back and simulated wood-grain side trim.  It also had an FM stereo radio and cassette player with speakers front and back.  I forget the other items in the LE package and cannot recall or find the original cost of the car, but it served us well as a family vehicle.  Our sons must have lots of memories of overnight trips to the Adirondacks, piling Cub Scouts into the van, schlepping kids and gear to sports practice and games, and trips to camps, vacations and adventures from South Carolina to New England.  It was a great "first car" for our family!  

Our 1986 Caravan at the trailhead for a Copperas Pond backpacking trip in the Adirondacks
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Photographs from the collection of the author.

For more information and history on the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler's role in the development of the American minivan, see and .
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"PublicProfiler Worldnames" -- A Surname Search Resource (September 25, 2013)

My older son brought an interesting website to my attention today. 

PublicProfiler Worldnames is a site where you can enter your surname and run a search to determine the world-wide distribution of the name.  The image above is of the results for a search I ran on the surname "Tew"at

The search results will provide you with the Top Countries where your surname is found as well as the Top Regions of the world and the Top Cities where the surname is found.  It even provides the Top Forenames (first names) that have been found with the surname being searched.

The search results map is interactive and you can click on the highlighted, color-coded regions or countries to zoom in for more detailed information.

Visit PublicProfiler Worldnames and see what it reveals regarding surnames in your genealogy!

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Image from Copyright 2010 Public Profiler -- All rights reserved.

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2013 John D. Tew
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Mappy Monday (September 23, 2013) -- 1838 Newell Nelson map of Cumberland, Rhode Island

Back in July, Diane MacLean Boumenot of the One Rhode Island Family blog posted a very helpful indexed map of the City of Providence in 1881.  At that time, I mentioned to Diane that among the genealogy treasures I have from my Rhode Island ancestors is an 18 x 24 map of the Town of Cumberland, Rhode Island by Newell Nelson dated 1838.  The map also has an inset showing the Plan of the Villages at Woonsocket Falls, Rhode Island at a scale of 40 rods to the inch.   The map identifies family homes and property (including that of my 3 X great grandfather, Eber Miller), but virtully none of the roads are named.

Diane found the Newell Nelson map of interest because it mentions a member of her Ballou family.  She posted a week ago about her use of the map to enhance her knowledge about her 6x great grandfather, Richard Ballou.  I recommend you read Diane's careful, well-written, and thorough explanation of her search for Richard's property at "Locating Richard Ballou." 

Because of the size of the original map in my possession, I could not scan it on my small flatbed and so I took it to Staples for processing on their oversize scanner.  I was not thinking, however, and so I arrived home with the scanned image of the map on my thumb drive only to find it was in .pdf format -- which cannot be uploaded on Blogger.  The image above is from a printed copy of the .pdf file that I force-fit into an 8 1/2 x 11 image frame and then scanned as a .jpg file -- but this means the detail of the small identified property names is virtually impossible to make out.

After communication with Diane about this problem, she very kindly tried three times to converted the full .pdf file that I sent her some weeks ago into a manageable and usable .jpg file -- BUT the conversions range from 10 to 20.7 MBs and each is too large to upload on Blogger. In the interest of getting this map out to those who might be interested, I have given up trying to post a usable size map.  Any readers who have a real interest in obtaining a usable version of the map, please email me at the contact address on The Prism home page and I will email you as an attachment the full-size .jpg version -- just be advised that it is over 20 MBs.
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Scan of the original map in the collection of the author.

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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Garden Gnome Rescue League -- Samaritan Sunday (September 22, 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.  ;-) ]

I posted recently about how the simplest of objects can become family treasures.  In my case the treasure was a simple letter opener and a small mechanical calendar.  In the case of a New Jersey couple it was their treasured garden gnome. 

Now this was not your usual miniature gnome as illustrated here.

This particular gnome was three feet tall and weighed 100 pounds.  It had presided over and decorated  the yard and garden of Lois and Claude Jaillet in East Hanover, New Jersey for 30 years!  And, the gnome had been passed down to Mr. Jaillet by his mother, so it was a true family heirloom and garden guardian with decades of service to the Jaillet family.  That is, it graced the Jaillet yard until it disappeared suddenly in early August of this year.

To understand the Jaillet's loss, you need to know more than the fact that it was a family heirloom handed down from mother to son over three decades ago -- you really need to learn more about garden gnomes.

Statuary in gradens has been common since at least the Renaissance in Europe and a wide variety of figures have been used as garden decorations.  By the early 1800s figurines of dwarfs became popular garden decorations in Germany where they were known as Gartenzwerg, literally "garden dwarf."  These figurines were introduced to England in 1847 by Sir Charles Isham who brought back a collection of 21 Gartenzwerg to decorate the gardens at his Northamptonshire estate, Lamport Hall.  Today only one of the original figurines survives.  Known as "Lampy the Lamport Gnome," the survivor is reputed to be insured for 1 million Pounds!

By the 1930s the Gartenzwerg in England had come to be called "gnomes" and the tradition of decorating English gardens with them had caught on to the extent that they were now manufactured in the UK.  One well-known English manufacturer was Tom Major-Ball, a vaudeville and circus performer in America and father of the future British Prime Minister, John Major.     

The popularity of garden gnomes or the Gartenzwerg spread across Europe and eventually to the United States too.  Germany has over 25 million at last count.  The reason for such interest in garden gnomes is probably found not just in their whimsical nature and symbolic good luck, but also in the folklore that holds garden gnomes like to help in the garden at night.  When humans have retired from their garden labors and the sun has set, the gnomes come alive to work on gardens and lawns helping flowers to bloom, leaves to change color, and plants to absorb nutrients.  

Believe it or not this innocuous explanation of the popularity and importance of garden gnomes eventually led to the rise of a twisted contrary view and narrative on the good work of gnomes in yards and gardens.  This view holds that the nocturnal labor of gnomes is not voluntary, but rather is forced labor requiring the liberation of gnomes by any means and their relocation back into the wild or into special sanctuaries!  Two notable organizations were formed to accomplish just these goals.  In France there is the Front de Liberation des Nains de Jardins and in Italy the Movimento Autonomo per la Liberazione delle Anime da Giardino (the Garden Gnome Liberation Front) or MALAG.  Some kidnapped garden gnomes were even sent on photo-documented trips around the world and this became the basis for the now famous Travelocity gnome advertisements.

The recent experience of the Jaillets may have been perpetrated by an American offshoot of the European liberation movement, but the Jaillet abduction has a happy ending --  and, in the humble opinion of this author, might actually mark the rise of something like a "Garden Gnome Rescue League" in the midst of the Garden State!  

Just two weeks after the Jaillets' heirloom gnome disappeared and seemed to have been the latest victim of the misguided and crazed gnome liberation movement, it was found sitting contentedly in the Jaillets driveway early one morning when the family dog was being let out.  The gnome is said to have bravely endured his kidnapping and is in near perfect condition back with his family.  It still remains to identify the misguided souls who sought to "liberate" this gnome -- and it also remains to identify the Good Samaritan member(s) of what this author now prefers to view as the Garden Gnome Rescue League.  

Those of us who know how family treasure exists in the simplest of objects thank these Good Samaritans and salute what must be the welcome first evidence of a counter movement to the terror that is the gnome liberation movement.  

Good on you, intrepid members of the Garden Gnome Rescue League! 

To read the details of Jaillets' loss and recovery -- and to see a photo of their very special garden gnome -- go here.       
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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,

Photo of a 12 inch Clementine Gnome with Heart from Kimmel Gnomes at

For more information about the history of garden gnomes and the garden gnome liberation movement, and to see photos of more garden gnomes -- including "Lampy the Lamport Gnome" -- please visit these sites: and
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun! (September 21, 2013)

This is the first time I have participated in the weekly “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!” prompt on Randy Seaver’s well-known blog, Genea-Musings.  This week’s “mission” is as follows . . .

1)  Consider your Birth Surname families - the ones from your father back through his father all the way back to the first of that surname in your family group sheets or genealogy database.  List the father's name, and lifespan years.
2)  Use your paper charts or genealogy software program to create a Descendants chart (dropline or graphical) that provide the children and their children (i.e., up to the grandchildren of each father in the surname list).
3)  Count how many children they had (with all spouses), and the children of those children in your records and/or database.  Add those numbers to the list.  See my example below!  [Note: Do not count the spouses of the children]
4)  What does this list of children and grandchildren tell you about these persons in your birth surname line?  Does this task indicate areas that you need to do more research to fill out families and find potential cousins?
5)  Tell us about it in your own blog post, or in a comment to this post, or in a comment on Facebook or Google+.

1.            My TEW surname line is as follows:

            Þ Henry Tew (1560 -  ?  ) had 2 known children and 4 known grandchildren

            Þ  Richard Tew (1605 – 1673) had 4 known children and 35 grandchildren

            Þ  Henry Tew (1654 – 1718) had 18 children and at least 9 grandchildren

            Þ  Richard Tew (1678 – aft. 1725) had 9 children and at least      grandchildren

            Þ  William Tew (1720 – aft. 1755) had 6 children and at least 8 grandchildren

            Þ  John Tew, Sr. (1746 – 1827) had 7 children and at least 12 grandchildren

            Þ  John Tew, Jr. (1784 – 1873) had 12 children and at least 16 grandchildren

            Þ  Adam Tew (1825 – 1908) had 6 children and at least 11 grandchildren

            Þ  John A. Tew (1853 – 1903) had 5 children and 4 grandchildren

            Þ  Arnold G. Tew, Sr. (1896 – 1958) had 3 children and 10 grandchildren

            Þ  Arnold G. Tew, Jr. (1922 -      ) has 4 children and 6 grandchildren

2. and 3.     I did this using my “Tew Family Tree” on as synced with my Family Tree Maker for Mac 2.  I counted the children and grandchildren I have entered for each male in my line.

4.            This exercise tells me several things (in no particular order):

>  I have clearly concentrated overwhelmingly on my direct line and have much work to do in tracking down the children of relatives – particularly the children of daughters who married and had offspring.
>  There is no real pattern in the number of children produced in each generation, but it does appear that large families of 9 or more children are a thing of the past.
>  While not immediately apparent in the bare statistics revealed above, my review of the data in my family tree confirms that the number of children who survived childhood has indeed increased dramatically since the advent of the so-called miracle drugs/antibiotics in the last century.
>  My male line has surprisingly few first names in it -- only six over twelve generations when I am included.
>  This exercise has shown me that I have more holes (or “research opportunities” as Randy calls them) than I thought I had in my surname tree.  I am missing more death and marriage dates and spouse maiden surnames than I thought.
>  The average lifespan of the males in my line since 1605 is about 67.2 years, but prior to about 1750 it was only about 54.3 years.  Since about 1750, the life expectancy has risen to just about 76 years and would be in the 80s but for the sad accidental death of my great grandfather when hit by a train in Providence, RI on his way to work in 1903 at age 50.  The youngest death in my male line is possibly at age 35, but the actual date of death for my 5th great grandfather is unknown. My father is the longest lived male in my line thus far.  He will turn 91 on Thanksgiving Day!  

            5.            I am posting here on The Prism and posting a comment about the existence of this post in the comments section of Randy’s September 21, 2013 Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!

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Image of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun! from Randy Seaver's weekly blog prompt at Genea-Musings.

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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Saturday Serendipity (September 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.

This week has a mini-theme of longing to locate and see the homes of our ancestors and relatives -- and the changes time has wrought.

1.  "Locating Richard Ballou" is a recent post by Diane MacLean Boumenot on One Rhode Island Family.  Diane's posts are always examples of thorough research and a creative thinking process.  This one is no exception and I recommend it for the process it illustrates. [DISCLAIMER: Diane includes a kind mention of a map I provided to her, but read it for her research process and writing.]   

2.  Wouldn't all of us who own a home just love to have a photograph or picture to show precisely what the exact spot where our home is located looked like, say, 100 or even 150 years ago?  Well today some lucky people that live at 1717 Shearn in Houston, Texas in new single-family, three-bedroom, 3.5 bath, $395,000 townhouses on Lot 12, Block 299, Baker Addition can see the family home that sat on that exact location in 1908-1909.  And so can you at ABY UNK, the blog by Amanda Pape, Those Places Thursday: 1717 Shearn, Houston, Texas, circa 1908-09

3.  And in the same vein, have a look at the photograph posted here by Laura Mattingly on her blog, The Old Trunk in the Attic.  Laura has found the site she believes to be the location of her ancestor's homestead.  If the high power lines were gone it would surely be what the couple in American Gothic would looking out over!   

4.  "Hallelujah!" Today is the birthday of one of my favorite singer songwriters and poets -- Leonard Cohen.  Most people are not aware that the song Hallelujah, which has been recorded by 200 or so singers (including k.d. lang,  Allison Crowe,  Jeff Buckley and of course John Cale and Rufus Wainwright who sing the song in Shrek the movie and the Shrek soundtrack respectively) was actually written by Leonard Cohen.  If you too are a fan, raise a glass to Leonard sometime today while reading his poems or listening to his music.  [I recommend his original version of Hallelujah and the classic 1967 album, Songs of Leonard Cohen.]

5.  As I have mentioned here before, most of us are fascinated by seeing photographs and pictures of our ancestors and relatives caught at moments in time during their lives.  We can see and imagine their lives at different stages.  Our favorite legal eagle genealogist, Judy Russell, has a nice birthday pictorial tribute to her aunt today and shares with all of us some beautiful family photos of her aunt from young girl to adult woman here in Trisha's birthday.  

6.  And speaking of old family photos, if you have followed Jana's posts about her "Traveling Dentist Great-Grandfather" and his son -- Jana's Grandfather Debs -- check out here the photo Jana posted showing Debs with two of his sisters the day after Christmas 1922.  The look on Debs's face is classic -- a little boy attracted by something off camera while his sisters dutifully attend to the photographer and the camera.  One has to wonder what drew Debs's attention slightly to the side.  :-)   
7.  For those fellow bloggers who clearly have an interest in writing and history, I highly recommend you look at and, better yet, subscribe to Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac.        

8.  A reminder that we all need to attend to the proper preservation of our precious family documents and photographs is always welcomed.  Janine Adams at Organize Your Family History  provides just such a reminder with citations to some useful resources.

9.  Heather Rojo continues her 20th Century Americana series (centered in New England) with some wonderful photos of "programmatic advertising architecture" along Route 1 in Saugus and Lynnfield, Massachusetts.  It is not "lions and tigers and bears, oh my," but dinosaurs, Tiki god, cattle and more, oh my!  
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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