Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Serendipity (May 31, 2014)

Here are a few recommendations for inclusion on your reading list this week:  

1.  Barbara Poole of Life From The Roots blog has been posting a very interesting and useful series -- photo tours of libraries in Massachusetts.  Not only are the photographs a pleasure to look at -- capturing the varying architecture of the library buildings inside and out -- but Barbara provides a very useful list of all the Massachusetts libraries she has visited that have genealogy departments.  This is a "must keep" list for anyone with family roots in Massachusetts and New England!
2.  Congratulations to Jana Last of Jana's Genealogy and Family History Blog on the two-year anniversary of providing weekly Friday lists of her "Fab Finds" -- articles and posts of interest to the genealogy blogosphere.  You should make Jana's blog a routine stop on Fridays.  Yesterday was Jana's 100th Fab Finds post.  Fabulous Jana . . .  Blog On!!      

3.   Diane MacLean Boumenot of One Rhode Island Family blog always posts interesting, useful and well-written items on her blog.  In the useful category was her post of May 18th about the Rhode Island Census of 1782.  Then there are Diane's posts that are step-by-step tours to the solution or exploration of a genealogy puzzle she is working on.  These posts are always an instructive pleasure to read and they are invariably accompanied by photo illustrations.  Such is the post of May 28th titled "Finding New Sources for Asa Aldrich."  Have a read and see what I mean.     

4.  I am often transfixed by photographs that capture a moment in time in the lives of people and also manage to illustrate something of the times in which they were taken.  A blogging friend from north of the border, Celia Lewis of Twigs and Trees blog, posted a photograph of her father holding up Celia's one-year-old older sister when he was home on leave during WW II.  The photo captures a smiling moment and a Canadian neighborhood in January 1943.  Look at the photo here.      

5.  Do you have Jewish roots in your family?  Here is a resource mentioned in Upfront With NGS this week -- an alleged site for the origin of almost all Ashkenazic Jewish names.  You can visit the site and begin researching Ashkenazic Jewish names in your family names here , but be aware that the article has been criticized by some in the Jewish community.  Be sure to read the post comment at Upfront by Emily Garber who provides web links so you can further investigate the controversy. 

6.  I was gratified to see that Upfront Mini Bytes this week recommended bookmarking one of my very favorite history/genealogy sites and one I often mention here -- The Vault on Slate.  An interesting resource posted by The Vault this week is an item about "redlining" -- the refusal of a loan or insurance to someone because they live in an area deemed to be a poor financial risk.  Read this post to learn about maps created by the Home Owner's Loan Corporation -- a New Deal governmental agency -- and maps by other organizations to understand how they categorized neighborhoods on so-called "security" maps to show the best and the hazardous areas.  These maps could be a tool to unlock some buried data and perhaps implications about the experience of one's ancestors if one has an address of former residences during the Depression and post-Depression era.  

7.  Are Getty Images now free for non-commercial bloggers to use?  Before you rush to start downloading, here are two posts you should read.  UpFront's recent Getty Images post here and the recommended post by the always current and informative Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist.     
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday (May 27, 2014) -- Abby Hunt Miller (1807 - 1893)

The tombstone pictured above was in bad shape when it was photographed in late March 2010 in the Cumberland Cemetery on Dexter Street in Cumberland, Rhode Island.  Time and the elements had worked on the stone so that the engravings were barely legible.  The stone reads. . . 

                                          ABBY MILLER
                                               Wife of
                                             Eber Miller
                                       Born March 17, 1807
                                       Died April 23, 1893

Abby is my 3rd great grandmother and she has been something of a mystery until just recently. Her parents were unknown and the only facts I had were those engraved on her headstone and family records and an artifact that indicated her maiden name was "Hunt."

Abby is going to be the subject of a future post.

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Photograph by the author (March 2010).
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Monday, May 26, 2014

Military Monday -- Heather's Honor Roll Project (Memorial Day, May 26, 2014)

Wallingford, Connecticut Town Hall

Among the Honor Roll memorials located on the grounds of the Wallingford, Connecticut Town Hall is one for "Fallen Men Of The Civil War From Wallingford."

The wording on this particular memorial is important to note because it points to the distinction between Memorial Day and Veterans Day here in the U.S.  While Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for the men and women who died while serving, Veterans Day celebrates those who served.

Originally Memorial Day was known as "Decoration Day."  Decoration Day was initiated after the American Civil War to commemorate both Confederate and Union soldiers who died while serving in the Civil War. The origins of Decoration Day and the claim to various "firsts" surrounding the holiday are varied if not controversial. You can read more about the background of Decoration Day and how the name for the holiday changed to Memorial Day beginning back in 1882 here at Wikipedia.  The name of the holiday was officially changed to Memorial Day by federal law in 1967 and in 1968 the "Uniform Monday Holiday Act" established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May each year.

In honor of Decoration Day/Memorial Day it is altogether fitting that this year's contribution to Heather's Honor Roll Project is a Civil War memorial located in Wallingford. Connecticut.  Credit for the photographs of the memorial go to  my cousin, Bruce Marquardt, who took photos of the Civil War, World War I, World  War II, Korean and Vietnam War memorials located on the grounds of the Wallingford Town Hall.  The World War I memorial was posted for Veteran's Day last year.  Future holiday posts will feature the memorials in Wallingford for World War II, Korea and Vietnam.    

There are 24 Wallingford, Connecticut men who died in service during the Civil War.  The names of  those who died are by rank and are not in overall alphabetical order.  While the name and ranks are clearly visible and legible in the photographs above, for purposes of searchability the names of the fallen transcribed below.

                           Arthur H. Dutton                                              Oliver S. Munson
                           George N. Bailey                                              John H. Boughton
                           Oscar Crusias                                                    Delevan W. Ives
                           Austin Phelps                                                    Patrick Condon
                           George V. Dagle                                                Edward B. Dolph
                           Bernard Dougherty                                            Demetrius S. Dowd
                           Patrick Dunn                                                      Edward Early
                           Edward Hazard                                                  William Maschmeyer
                           Frederick Mayer                                                Patrick Lynch
                           Thomas Lynch                                                   Harry Parson
                           Samuel Richards                                                Jonathan Swift
                           Edward Westerhood                                           William H. Moore

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Memorial Day image from

All Memorial photographs by, and courtesy of, Bruce O. Marquardt.

Photograph of Wallingford Town Hall by the author.

Honor Roll name transcription by the author.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturday Serendipity (May 24, 2014)

The month of May has turned into the first significant hiatus from blogging sine Filiopietism Prism was born in December 2012.  The combination of trips and paperwork to assist my parents with selection and application to a continuing care community in Pennsylvania, and travel to the Adirondacks to examine and submit an offer on a lakeside property (along with a little necessity called "a job"), have consumed almost this entire month and, sadly, left no time to blog.  Today marks a return to The Prism and some more regular posting I hope. 

Here are a few accumulated recommendations for inclusion on your reading list this week:  

1.  Readers of The Prism know of my long-time interest in the 1918 influenza epidemic [ and].  The Weekly Genealogist by NEHGS published about the "The Great Influenza Epidemic" recently and subsequently published reader accounts of how the epidemic affected families.  These posts make for fascinating reading for those interested in this world-wide catastrophe and for those who want to learn about a significant event that might be buried and undiscovered in their own genealogies.  You can see these posts here and here
2.  The families of veterans of the Revolutionary War had to prove their relationship to a veteran when applying for government pensions.  Many of them sent their proof in creative and beautiful ways.  You can see some examples of their relationship proofs at this article from The Vault.       

3.  A little-known and very sad chapter in U.S. history was the stripping of U.S. citizenship from thousands of American women who fell in love with and married men who were non-citizens.  This was all done pursuant to laws in the early part of the last century.  Since this was applied to thousands of women, many of us might have female ancestors or relatives who were mistreated in this way. Read about this injustice and the belated resolution of "regret" by the U.S. Senate here.  

4.  As mentioned here at The Prism and many other places, 2014 is the 100th Anniversary of the start of World War I.  Much attention is being devoted in the genealogy world to this signal event in many family histories.  To aid in your exploration of ancestor and relative memories and writings about this horrific war, you might find this piece on the slang names for German munitions of interest and of help in deciphering accounts of the war. For example, find out what Flying Pigs, Hissing Jennies, Jack Johnsons, Rum Jars, Sneeze Gas and Turtles were.     

5.  Do you have new arrivals to your family on the way in 2014?  If so, you might want to see what folks were naming their babies in 2013 -- either to emulate and join the crowd or to avoid overly popular names.  Go here to see the top male and female names for 2013 according to the Social Security Administration. 

6.  One of the most devastating storms to hit the northeast United States was the September 21, 1938 hurricane.  My father was 16 years old and living in Woonsocket, Rhode Island the day it arrived almost without warning.  He remembers well running around the neighborhood with a hastily donned leather football helmet looking for his missing younger brother -- who was discovered playing in a friends cellar completely oblivious to the storm raging outside.  A cache of essays about experiences during the storm has now been discovered in Fairhaven, CT.  You can read about them here.

7.  And finally, this "must-read" post by Heather Rojo on Nutfield Genealogy raises good points about the nature of genealogy blogs and blogging as well as the importance of speaking up when one believes an error has been made.  Like many things in life it is not what you say, but how you say it -- so berating comments, sarcasm, insults and the like are not acceptable, but well-intentioned inquiries and suggested corrections should always be welcomed.  As Heather points out, "The give and take of ideas and information is part of the whole blogger format."       
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy May Day (May 1, 2014) -- May Baskets Reprised. . .

The following is a reprise of a post from May 1, 2013 about an all but lost May Day tradition. 

In the minds of many people today (perhaps especially Baby Boomers and their parents), the 1st of May has come to be more associated with images of the huge military parades of the former Soviet Union through Moscow's Red Square -- and with International Workers' Day celebrating the international labor movement in more than 80 countries -- than with the ancient roots of the day as a  festival signaling the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the rebirth, renewal, romance and reproduction associated with the warm growing season.

Many northern cultures around the world have festivities and traditions related to early May and the marking of the beginning of summer.  The celebrations and traditions go back millennia to pagan holidays such as the Celtic Beltrane, but they are also expressed in rites and traditions such as Morris dancing, the Maypole and the crowning of a May Queen.  For more about the variety of May Day celebrations and traditions, go here

In the United States, May Day traditions and celebrations have fallen into disfavor among many groups because of associations with the May Day parades of the USSR and/or association with perceptions of socialism and unions.  But, there was a time when the tradition of May Day baskets was widely practiced in America and the tradition survives in some areas of the country today.  The tradition most widely followed was the making of baskets to be filled with flowers (usually by children), which were then delivered to friends and neighbors -- especially adults and the elderly -- through a ding-dong-ditch method.  Ding-dong-ditch involved hanging the basket on the front doorknob, ringing the doorbell (or delivering a loud knock) and then running away quickly before being discovered or caught.  In the more romantic version of this tradition among young people, the recipient of the basket tried to catch the messenger and, if successful, a kiss could be exchanged.

Back in 1849 New England the tradition of May Day baskets was apparently widely known and seems to have been part of a rather staid courting tradition that might or might not have included such public displays of affection as kissing among the young participants.  Below is a nice example of the use of May Day baskets in young flirting or courting traditions in the early part of the 19th Century.  It is from my 2x great grandmother, Martha Amanda Shearman, to her future husband and my 2x great grandfather, Mason Freeman, on May 1st, 1849.  

Martha Shearman's May Day Basket note to Mason Freeman, her future husband.
The trasncription of Martha's note is as follows . . .

          Friend Mason

       This Basket Please except [sic] and flowers as a token of highest esteem from one that is your friend.  I know not in what light it may be considered or how it may be received but if it is acceptable please return it in your possetion [sic] as a token of acceptance and remember that she who hangs it wishes you health happiness and every other blessing which earth can afford and now friend I must bid you good night and as often as you look upon this basket cast one thought upon her who hangs it upon your door.
                                              May 1st 1849
              To Mr. Mason Freeman

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Photograph of the original note and envelope in the collection of the author.
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Copyright 2013, 2014,  John D. Tew
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