Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday Serendipity (August 30, 2014)

The following are recommended for inclusion on your reading list this weekend: 

1.  What do you know about the origins of the Labor Day holiday?  Given the hard times that have befallen labor unions in recent years and the often expressed distain for unions in some quarters, it might surprise you to learn more about the history of this particular holiday that has come to mark the end of the summer holiday season in the U.S.  Read more about the holiday here this Labor Day weekend.      

2.  If you are reading this, then you probably already have a subscription to, had at one time, or have been thinking about renewing a subscription or getting one for the first time.  You have probably also heard from numerous others sources about Ancestry's FREE access this Labor Day weekend up until 11:59 PM on September 1st.  So you should tell others about it while there are still a couple of days to do some genealogical exploring for FREE.  Go here and tell others who might be interested in giving it a try.  

3.  A very interesting new research source is now available on line -- the U.S. Marine Corps History Division has made its Casualty Card Database available here.  If know you had an ancestor or relative who served in the Marine Corps (or suspect one did) during World War II through the Vietnam War, you should check out this database.  If an ancestor or relative was killed, wounded, missing in action or deemed a prisoner of war, you might find a casualty card filled with vital information to add to your genealogy.  

4.  While Judy Russell may be our favorite and best known Legal Genealogist, there is a new publication just released by the National Genealogical Society (NGS) titled, "Genealogy and the Law: A Guide to Legal Sources for the Family Historian." The authors are Kay Haviland Freilich and William B, Freilich, Esq.  You can lear  more about the publication here.

5.  I have written before about the infamous hurricane of September 21, 1938 that devastated much of southern New England and affected the lives of many of our ancestors and relatives. But it turns out that the 1938 storm was probably not the worst storm to ravage southern New England.  That distinction apparently belongs to a hurricane 379 years ago that crossed eastern Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts in 1635. It had sustained winds of 135 miles an hour and hit without benefit of anything even close to the warnings we have today or had in the 1930s. Read more about the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 here.     

6.  This month marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.  Much has been and will be written about that war in the genealogy blogosphere. Now the New York Times is soliciting stories of World War I from family historians. If you have a story to tell, go here to see how you can submit it to the NYT.     

7.  "Realtor" or "Genealogist" -- who qualifies to be called either?  James Tanner has a nice post that ruminates on this question.  You can read it at Genealogy's Star blog here.  

8.  Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings blog reviews the new features of the mobile app here.  

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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Fotos (August 29, 2014) -- Elizabeth Ann [Fennell] Jeffs

Elizabeth Ann [Fennell] Jeffs

Elizabeth Ann [Fennell] Jeffs is my wife Molly's great grandmother.  Elizabeth, the daughter of Robert Fennell and his wife, Mary Jane Wood, was born in Bradford, Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 1866.  She married Herbert Beverly Jeffs on September 16, 1891 in Bradford.  

Together Elizabeth and her husband had three children -- all girls: the oldest, Eulalie Lillian Mary Jeffs (1893 - 1964) is Molly's maternal grandmother; Helen Elizabeth Jeffs born in 1894 was the middle daughter; and Kathleen Lorena Jeffs, the youngest, was born in 1897.  You can see a photograph of the three young Jeffs sisters here

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Scan of an original photograph in the family collection.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wordless Wednesday (August 27, 2014) -- Sarah Etta [Freeman] Carpenter With Two Of Her Grandchildren

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Scan of the original photograph of my great grandmother, Sarah Etta [Freeman] Carpenter, with her grandchildren, Shirley Carpenter (my mother), and David Otis Carpenter (my mother's brother) circa 1932.  Original photograph in the collection of the author.  

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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Remembering "Dr. Fred" (August 25, 2014)

I have written  before about my maternal grandmother's older sister, Helen (Cooke) Roberts and her husband, Dr. Frederick A. Roberts, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. See the post here for example.

This past weekend while visiting my parents in New Hope, Pennsylvania, my mother found and gave to me a little newspaper clipping from the Pittsfield Eagle, addressed "To the Editor" and titled The Best Medicine. It was written by Rena Hudelston, who at the time of the letter was residing at 62 Riverview West in Pittsfield. The date of the publication is unknown, however, from the content of the letter it was after the death of "Dr. Fred" who died in 1935 at age 76.

"Dr. Fred" and his wife, Helen (who was herself a nurse), were big influences on my mother.  My mother later became an R.N. and served as a Director of Nursing at a hospital in New Jersey during her long nursing career across several states (RI, OH, CT, MA, NH and NJ).

The quality of the clipping shown above is not as good as it might be and so my best attempt at an accurate transcription is provided below.

          The best medicine        

          To the Editor of THE EAGLE: --

                  I wish to answer Dr. Franklin
               Paddock's column in Wednesday's
               Eagle, in which he lists the usual
               contents of the doctor's "black bag"
               back in the days when physicians
               made house calls.
                  There are two very important in-
               gredients he forgot that were
               brought along by our family doctor.
               They were a deep-seated love and
               trust that would confound the med-
               ics who do not make house calls.
                  Our family physician was the late
               Dr. Fred Roberts. When we ap-
               proached the house and saw the car
               parked out front with license No. 19,
               we never got excited. I think that is
               why I always remembered that a
               calm and cheerful outlook was a ne-
               cessity in a sickroom. The strange
               part is that we never seemed to
               have any illnesses we didn't feel
               confident he could cure. To me, the
               trust you have in your doctor is
               three-quarters of the cure.
                  He delivered me at birth and two
               of my four children before his de-
               mise. I will always hold a deep re-
               spect and love for this gentle and
               dedicated doctor. He was like a
               member of the family.
                                      RENA HUDELSTON
               62 Riverview West

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Scan from an original newspaper clipping in the collection of the author.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday Serendipity (August 23, 2014)

The following are recommended for inclusion on your reading list this weekend: 

1.  Diane MacLean Boumenot of One Rhode Island Family blog had an excellent post this past Wednesday about the value of close reading of genealogy journals. She illustrates with examples from the journal of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society (RIGS), Rhode Island Roots. You can -- and should -- read Diane's post here.  

2.  This week The Weekly Genealogist newsletter of NEHGS announced the availability of the 1865 Massachusetts State Census, which includes the actual town-by-town census schedules.  The announcement states, "The 1855 and 1865 Massachusetts state censuses complement the United States federal censuses, allowing researchers to trace a family every five years between 1850 and 1870. The state census can also occasionally provide additional information not present in the federal census, such as town or county of birth. For the 1865 census, an individual's town of birth was recorded for most residents of 96 individual towns. This database will be free to guest users for one month following its release."

3.  Curious about what the last Plantagenet king of England ate and what kind of lifestyle he had? New research on the bones and tooth chemistry of Richard III uncovers some interesting details here.   

4.  UpFront With NGS had a nostalgic and interesting post this week with links to articles on disappearing smells and disappearing sounds -- think the smell of the long-gone mimeograph paper and the sound of the rotary dial phone for example.  Have a look at the post and the links here.

5.  NGS also had another interesting and useful post this week on the movement patterns of Americans between various states since 1900.  There is a visual representation of how the population composition for each state has changed over the last 100+ years.  Have a look here.  

6.  I have posted on The Prism about John Barry's awesome book on The Great Influenza of 1918, but he also wrote an equally amazingly book titled Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America.  If you have not read these books I highly recommend both since they affected the lives of millions of people in the U.S. and quite possibly could offer some explanations for questions you have come across in your genealogies. If you have read or decide to read The Great Mississippi Flood, then by all means check out these photos showing the effects of the 1927 flood as posted here on Flickr.     

7.  We are hearing a lot in the news in recent days about the Cordon Sanitaire being imposed in areas of West Africa to try to control the spread of the scary Ebola virus. This tactic has been used in the past.  In Honolulu's Chinatown there was an outbreak of the bubonic plaque in 1899-1900 and a Cordon Sanitaire was imposed there with disastrous results.  Read about it and see period photographs here at The Vault.   

8.  Find-A-Grave is an extremely useful genealogy research tool that many of us use to enhance or support our other research.  If you have ever used Find-A-Grave, or plan to do so, then you really need to read this past Wednesday's post about the Find-A-Grave "terms of use" at The Legal Genealogist blog!  As always, Judy Russell, walks us step-by-step through the legalese and explains in practical terms what we can and cannot use from Find-A-Grave . . . and how.  Read Judy's post here.

9.  James Tanner of Genealogy's Star blog has an interesting post about how to deal with the changing names and boundaries of geographic/jurisdictional locales in one's genealogy research and about why citing to the original location of documents and records can be important. .  You can read his post here

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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Fotos (August 22, 2014) -- Invitation To The 1907 Cumberland High School Commencement Reception

As shown in the post of July 9, 2014 here at The Prism, and as discussed in the post here on July 21, 2014, both my maternal grandfather, Everett S. Carpenter, and his older sister, Ruth A. Carpenter, graduated from Cumberland High School on the same day -- Thursday, June 27, 1907.  Shown here in today's post is a scan from an original invitation to the graduation Commencement Reception the evening after the graduation exercises just over 107 years ago. The Commencement Reception was held at 8:00 PM on Friday, June 28, 1907 at Lonsdale Hall in Lonsdale, Rhode Island.

According to a National Register of Historic Places Inventory -- Nomination Form submitted in or around 1984, Lonsdale Hall was built in 1869 by the Lonsdale Company to serve as a community meeting place and commercial center.  It housed the local library, club rooms, and a meeting hall on the upper floors with small shops occupying the first floor. In 1888 the commercial occupants were a drug store, barber shop, dry goods store, and bakery. The building was a 3 1/2 story brick structure with bracketed cornice and windows set under segmental arches between brick pillars. 

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Scan of the original invitation in the personal collection of the author.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Almost Heaven (August 21, 2014) -- The Adirondacks Might Not be Heaven On Earth . . . But You Can See It From There!

No internet, no cell phone, no TV, no Blackberry. 

Lakes, mountains, and the call of the loons.

 Warm days, cool nights and 

countless stars.


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All photos by the author -- August 2014.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wordless Wednesday (August 20, 2014) -- Pop Eye's Lunch, Woonsocket, Rhode Island (March 1933)

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Scan of original newspaper clipping from a scrapbook in the family collection.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Daguerreotype And The Dawn Of Photography -- A Precious Genealogical Resource (August 19, 2014)

A Daguerreotype camera from 1839 in the Westlicht Photography Museum, Vienna, Austria.

For those who are lucky enough to have photographic images of ancestors from the period of around 1840 to the early 1860s, the original images were quite likely produced by a process known as the "daguerreotype." Today marks the 175th anniversary of the formal presentation of Daguerre's process to the French Academy of Sciences.  

As part of an arrangement whereby Daguerre was granted a lifetime pension in exchange for the rights to his photographic process, Daguerre agreed to present the details of his process in a step-by-step demonstration to both the Academy of Science and the Academie des Beaux-Arts on August 19, 1839.  While Daguerre gave away the rights to his process for the grant of a lifetime pension, he was shrewd enough to retain for himself the patent on the equipment that was necessary for implementing his photographic process and thus for producing the seemingly magical images that resulted.

The invention of the daguerreotype process also marks the point at which the capture of images of people left the sole domain of the rich and famous who previously were the only ones who could afford to have portraits painted or sculptures rendered. The daguerreotype made photographic images of surprising quality available to the merely affluent and eventually to the masses as the art and science of photography developed beyond the start provided by Daguerre.

The process of making a daguerreotype was laborious for both the photographer and for live subjects.  It required long exposure times of up to 30 minutes and the subject had to stay still during the entire time of exposure of the silver iodide coated copper plate in the camera.  For this reason early use of the daguerreotype was for artistic and scientific purposes more than for portraiture.  Still life art compositions and scientific specimens were immobile and could be staged in ideal bright light conditions that live subjects could not tolerate for necessary exposure times without blur-causing movements as small as the blink of the eyes.  It is for this reason that the best daguerreotypes were of inanimate objects while portraits of people were often blurred images of subjects desperately trying to maintain frozen, grim-looking visages.  It is probably also why so many early daguerreotypes were solo portraits of a single person -- fewer problems in having a single subject maintain the necessary immobility. 

By the 1860s -- and Mathew Brady's images of the U.S. Civil War with which we are all familiar -- the daguerreotype process was almost entirely replaced by much less expensive and more easily produced images.  The ambrotype was introduced in the 1850s and involved production of a positive image on glass.  In the 1860s and 1870s the tintype image became common and was produced on very thin black-lacquered iron.  The albumen print or albumen silver print was invented in 1850 and it was the first method of producing photographic images on paper.  It used the albumen from egg whites and became the dominant photographic medium from about 1855 until the start of the 20th century.  This paper-based photographic process resulted in the popularity of the carte de visite or "visiting cards," which were photograph cards on paper about 3.5 x 4 inches.  The cards became a fad and were traded among visitors and friends.  Later, 4.5 x 6.5 inch "cabinet cards" nudged aside the popular carte de visite because they were larger and mounted on cardboard stock.  Cabinet cards were the most popular and common form of photographic images from the 1870s until the advent of the Kodak Brownie camera and modern snapshots in the early 20th century.

Sadly, only a handful of Daguerre's own photographs (some still lifes, portraits, and views of Paris) still exist today due to a fire that destroyed his laboratory in 1839.  Below are some examples of daguerreotype portraits.

A daguerreotype of Louis Jacques-Mande Daguerre in 1844.

A daguerreotype of Andrew Jackson at about age 78 in 1844 or 1845. 

A daguerreotype and first authenticated photographic image of Abraham Lincoln, U.S Congressman -elect in 1846.

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For more information about Louis-Jaques-Mande Daguerre (1787 - 1851) and daguerreotypes see, and

Image of an 1839 Daguerreotype camera in the public domain per a grant from the authorére_Daguerreotype_camera_1839.jpg 

Daguerreotype of Louis Jacques-Mande Daguerre by Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot in the public domain due to an expired copyright

Daguerreotype of Andrew Jackson in the public domain due to an expired copyright

Enhanced daguerreotype of Abraham Lincoln in the public domain due to an expired copyright,_1846-crop.jpg

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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Monday, August 18, 2014

(August 18, 2014) -- "Our Club House Burned"

In the 1930s my father's family was living in the Union Village area of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.  He and his younger brother, John, along with some neighborhood friends had constructed a "club house" in a small shed in the backyard of their home.  Somehow the club house apparently caught fire and became a neighborhood event and a news item.  The exact cause has never been disclosed by my father or his brother and, in fact, this is the only evidence of the incident -- and it was only discovered in an old scrapbook just recently.

It was probably just one of those rare cases of inexplicable "spontaneous combustion" . . . 

Right Dad!  That's the story and you and Uncle John should stick to it since no other explanation has arisen in the last 80-some years!  

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Scan of original newspaper clipping in the collection of the author.

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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Saturday Serendipity (August 9, 2014)

The following are recommended for inclusion on your reading list this weekend: 

1.  Having just posted an obituary this past week, I recognize the value of finding these bits of genealogy gold.  Kenneth Marks of The Ancestor Hunt blog, has done us the service of formalizing a list of 30 different kinds of information you could find in the obituary of an ancestor or relative.  Read Kenneth's post here.  

2.  This week, UpFront With NGS gave a well-deserved shout out to one of the bloggers I follow. It was  for a 2013 post on how to use  Jana Last of Jana's Genealogy and Family History blog posted on October 15, 2013 about the ability to use RootsMapper to visually represent the migration routes of one's ancestors. This is a colorful and easily grasped graphic as Jana demonstrates in her post.  You need to have a Family Search account to use the RootMapper application.  Have a look at Jana's demonstration here.  

3.  Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings blog has an interesting post responding to Russ Worthingon's questions about recording data from Census Records . . .  What Census data do you record and how do you record it?  You can read Randy's response here and get a link to Russ Worthington's post originating the questions.  

4.  Is the exploration of DNA evidence now properly considered an element of the first factor of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) -- to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search?  The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, weighs in on this question and, as always, provides an informative and thoughtful post on the question here.  

5.  Early in my career working for a firm in the Washington, D.C. area, I had many occasions for doing research at the Library of Congress (LOC) on Capitol Hill. Among the resources I used in those days before computers and digitized databases came into being, was the newspaper reading room in the John Adams Building of the LOC.  The reading room had a copy of every newspaper published in the U.S. and usually had them available within a couple of days of publication.  They also maintained a library of back issues in the non-public stacks that could be called up for viewing. Now James Tanner of Genealogy's Star blog has a post the reminds me of this great resource as a tool for genealogy research -- and it is available on line at the LOC website.  Read about this tool here

6.  Denise Levenick at The Family Curator blog, has come up with a short summer reading list for those interested in genealogy.  See Denise's picks here.  

7.  Having just returned from a trip to Iceland a few weeks ago, I found the post "Little Secrets AboutScandinavian Research" on K.C. Reid's Deeper Roots Genealogy blog  interesting.  The comparative table for Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden was particularly useful.  I thank Jana Last for her mention of the post and I am going to update my post of this past Thursday to suggest readers go to  K.C. Reid's post for additional information on Scandinavian naming conventions/laws. 

8. What were the odds? As part of a World War I commemoration project in Stockton, England, a group of young girls in Brownies selected the name of one of the 1,245 sailors and soldiers from Stockton who died in The Great War. Keira Wilson was given the name of William Brown and did she get a big surprise!  Thanks to a tip from The Weekly Genealogist of NEHGS, you can read about it here. 

9.  An finally, for those who were around and remember the events of Watergate (and for those who were not around and do not remember), today marks the 40th anniversary of the only resignation by a sitting U.S. President.  At noon on August 9, 1974, Richard M. Nixon resigned as President and the only unelected President of the U.S., Gerald R. Ford, took the oath of office. I was in downtown Philadelphia at the time of the resignation and every store had a radio or television tuned to minute-by-minute progression of the transition of power. 

It is time for our annual summer trip to the Adirondacks, so Saturday Serendipity and The Prism will be on hiatus this coming week.    

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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Fotos (August 8, 2014) -- Oscar Herbert Hasselbaum: Born One Hundred Twenty-five Years Ago Today

Two weekends ago I visited my parents and was delightfully surprised by some old photographs they had uncovered in going through some of their possessions as they prepare to move into their new apartment in a continuing care community in Pennsylvania.  The photograph above is one that I had never seen before and is one of only two or three photos I have of my paternal grandmother's only brother, my grand uncle Oscar Herbert Hasselbaum.

Oscar Hasselbaum was the only son of my great grandparents, Anton Hasselbaum (1857 - 1916) and Maria Johanna Richter (1859 - 1948). Anton and Maria had five daughters:  Mary (1888 - 1914); Olga (1896 -    ); my grandmother Huldah (1898 - 1983) and her twin sister Josephine (1898 - 1990); and Helena (1901 - 1982).

Oscar was born on August 8, 1889 in Providence, Rhode Island --  125 years ago today! He died on March 16, 1974 in Springfield, Massachusetts at age 84. 

As the photograph above shows, Oscar served during World War I.  He is the man on the left in the photograph.  The taller man on the right is unknown and the date and location of the camp are also unknown. Oscar was not quite 28 years old and living in Fresno, California when he registered for the draft on June 5, 1917.  He was married at the time and he was employed as an automobile electrician.

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Original photograph from the family collection.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Glacier, Trolls, Genealogy and Exotic Cuisine in Iceland (August 7, 2014)

This is actually a glacier near the 2010 volcanic eruption that brought European air travel to a temporary halt.  The black piles are volcanic dust from the eruption that filled holes and cracks and are now left to form a starkly beautiful black and white landscape atop the glacial ice as the ice continues to melt around the accumulated deposits.

I am still thinking back on our amazing trip to Iceland in July and so I am taking the opportunity to post just a few more photos taken on the trip, but in order to do so I am going to stretch a bit to make a genealogy connection.  

No, the couple above are not Icelandic relatives or typical of Icelanders in any way! They are large sculptures of trolls outside a store in downtown Reykjavik.  I avoided photographing them for days until we heard the stories about the role trolls play in Icelandic culture.  The Old Norse tales were used by J.R.R. Tolkien in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  If you recall the scene in the recent Hobbit movie installments where three trolls capture Bilbo and his dwarf companions, they are saved when the sun comes up and turns the trolls into stone.  This is right out of Old Norse/Icelandic stories and legends.  In Iceland many of the lava formations are said to be trolls that were out partying or otherwise carrying on too long and got caught out of their caves when the sun came up and so were turned to stone.  An example follows . . .

While you might be excused for thinking that this is a photograph of rock formations just off shore, these are actually a family of trolls who got carried away partying and did not get back before the sun came up and turned them to stone!

With respect to the genealogy connection for this post, it is quite interesting that in Icelandic genealogy they have what to our family nomenclature is a different and perhaps more confusing system for surnames --patronymics.  It seems to me that their system would give an extra challenge to mapping out genealogies, but it clearly works for them and they are a very genealogy-focused culture. According to one of our tour guides, Icelandic genealogy is very different due to their naming conventions and is probably difficult and confusing for those of us used to consistent family surnames across generations down male lines.  The traditional Icelandic surname system works as follows . . . 

With apologies to any Icelanders out there who will notice my mixing of Scandinavian names and my departure from common Icelandic names . . . 

Traditionally in Iceland a son takes as his surname the first name of his father so that Bjorn son of Olaf would be Bjorn Olafson (Olaf's son), whereas his male first cousin Per, who is the son of Olaf's brother Kristian would be Per Kristianson. Even though both Olaf and Kristian are brothers and as sons of Sven share the same surname Svenson, their sons who are first cousins have different last names. And just to make it more confusing, Bjorn's sister Sigriour would not be Sigriour Olafson -- she would be Sigriour Olafsdottir (Olaf's daughter).

Greenland shark meat being "processed."

And this last photo brings us to the subject of Icelandic cuisine.  The photo shows part of the processing of what some have called the most disgusting food in the world. Molly and I tried some and came away convinced that it is the preparation of the food that gives this delicacy its bad reputation and the unappetizing name that some have tagged it with -- "rotted shark." The taste was not bad at all and in fact was somewhat disappointing -- not disgusting at all and not overwhelmingly "fishy" as one might have expected.

The photo shows slabs of Greenland shark in an open air shed.  After having been cut from the shark and set into slatted wood bins to sit outside for about six weeks (for the bacteria and elements to work on it while the weight of compression helps to drain off liquids from the flesh), the slabs are hung from nails on rafters in the open shed -- for four or more months!  The bacteria and elements continue to work on the flesh until it turns the leathery color you see.  After this processing the outer part is cut away and a soft yellow-colored flesh is left to be consumed.

Why all the trouble to process the shark meat in this way? Well because otherwise the flesh is poisonous to humans.  The Greenland shark does not have kidneys to filter toxins and so the toxins are absorbed into the flesh of the animal -- unprocessed meat contains the poisons and so can kill.  We were left to wonder who decided to come up with the brilliant idea of putting the uncovered slabs of shark meat outside for about six months and then decided to actually eat what was previously known to be deadly!?  And who volunteered for that job?? 

A 100-year old female Greenland shark caught about three days before
this photo was taken.  It was part of by-catch that a traditional shark meat processor obtained.

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All photographs by the author (July 2014)

For more information about patronymics in Scandinavian genealogy and for a very useful chart comparing the traditions and laws in the Scandinavian countries, see K.C. Reid's recent post here 
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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