Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saturday Serendipity (September 19, 2020)


Greetings from the Adirondacks where the fall foliage is just starting to turn colors and peak should be reached in the next couple of weeks.  The weather has been dry and sunny, but highs only in the 50s and we reached a low of 26 last night.

Here are just a few suggested reads for this weekend .  .  .

1.   If you have not yet seen or heard, the USPS released a new Forever stamp celebrating the arrival of the Mayflower in Plymouth Harber in 1620.  The new stamp became available as of two days ago. You can see an image of the stamp and learn more about its launch here.

2.   And speaking of the Adirondacks, I recently became aware of what is probably a little known possible resource for genealogy research.  There are 46 peaks in the Adirondacks that are said to be over 4,000 ft. above sealevel. Since 1948 there has been a formally incorporated club known as the Adirondack Forty-Sixers.  It is comprised of those who have documented completion of climbs of all of the 46 designated peaks.  In March 1990 the Forty-Sixers established the New York State Library as the  official repository of its records.  Those records are extensive and include applications for membership with documentation of the applicants' climbs as well as correspondence to and from the club secretary.  If you think you have an ancestor or relative who lived in the Adirondacks or visited there reglarly and was an avid hiker/climber, then you might be able to find information about them and their climbs in the Forty-Sixer archives at the library.  Learn more about this lesser known resource here.  

3.   With devastating and heartbreaking calamities of wildfires, floods, and hurricane damage in the news for the past several weeks, the subject of rescuing and preserving genealogy artifacts, data, and research sources has become an important and timely topic.  Linda Stufflebean, of Empty Branches on the Family Tree blog, shares her advice for preserving precious family history items here.

4.   The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, posted this week about Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, an online collection of 17,013,539 pages from 3,263 American newpapers going back to the 1780s . . . and all available FOR FREE!  Read more about this exciting research source here.  

5.  And finally, imagine the luck of discovering your 3rd great grandmother's photograph resides in a major photography museum collection.  Elizabeth Handler, of From Maine to Kentucky blog, was recently informed of this discovery.  Read more and see the photograph in question here.   

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Copyright 2020, John D. Tew
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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Saturday Serendipity (September 12, 2020)


The following are suggested reads for this weekend.

1.   American Ancestors/NEHGS has just announced the FREE availability of over 100 online video lectures and webinars.  You can review the wide variety of subjects by going here.

2.   Jacqi Stevens, of A Family Tapestry blog, wrote today about her indexing of U.S. Naturalization Records and stated, "I was indexing–and again, from New Jersey, close enough to perhaps help some shirttail relatives of my New York immigrant kin."  The term "shirttail relative" is not one you see very often these days.  Apparently it is largely a U.S. term and has supposedly been around since the 1950s. This led to an old 2012 blog posting by Susan F., of It's a long long journey blog and her exploration into a shirttail relative.  It is an Irish story involving several families--so diagraming might be helpful, but the essence of the shirttail idiom comes through clearly.  You can read Susan's story here.  [ N.B. -- One reasonable explanation for the use of "shirttail" to descibe a close friend who has been given the status of honorary relative–or an actual, but very distant relative–is that the tail of a shirt is the farthest part of the garment that is tucked away, ignored and out of sight from the daily conspicuous, shown parts.  In the same way very distant relatives or particularly close non-relative friends are there and part of the overall function of a family, but they are like a shirttail tucked away and out of sight most of the time.]  

3.   James Tanner, of Genealogy's Star blog, has initiated another multi-post topic.  Read Part I of "How do geneaogically significant records get preserved?" here.

4.   Read here the quick, succinct words of wisdom from Janine Adams, professional organizer and author of Organize Your Family History blog.  Now if I can only finally and successfully implement this great advice!  

5.   The Weekly Genealogist of American Ancestors/NEHGS highlighted an article this week announced on Jewish News about the availability of a newly digitized Holocaust database that makes nearly 20 million records relating to the Holocaust and Nazi persecution accessible for free.  The project was made possible by the collaboration of Steven Spielberg's Shoah Fondation, UNESCO's Arolsen Archives Collection, and Ancestry.  You can read more about the project and get the link to its location on Ancestry by going here.     

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Copyright 2020, John D. Tew
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Saturday, September 5, 2020

Saturday Serendipity (September 5, 2020)


Here are a few suggested reads for this Labor Day weekend.

1.  The most recent edition of American Ancestors magazine announced a new database–NEHGS Membership Applications, 1845 - 1900.  There is a search function for the surname of applicants within the database timeperiod, and the applications are a wealth of information.  Members of NEHGS/American Ancestors can see the article detailing the new database and instructions on how to access it.  Non-members might be able to see the article if a local library subscribes.   

2.   James Tanner, of Genealogy's Star blog, posted today about using YouTube for genealogy channels that are available on that site.  Read "Look for Genealogy Channels on YouTube" here.

3.  For many, the pandemic has forced unexpected time that could be devoted to one's genealogy pursuits.  Jacquiline Krieps Schattner, of Seeds to Tree blog, has been busy indeed and she presents a nice visual of the before and after status of her progress on her family tree during the pandemic.  See "Pandemic Progress" here.

4.   Marian Wood, of Climbing My Family Tree blog, posted this week about writing a family history of 18 of her husband's family members that fought in the Civil War and she answers questions she posed about writing and organizing by thinking like a reader.  Read "Finishing Touches for Family History: Think Like A Reader!" here.

5.   Ever heard of a Merci Train Boxcar?  Neither had I until I read Heather Rojo's post, "The Merci Train Boxcar of Manchester, New Hampshire" on her blog, Nutfield Gneealogy.   You too can learn about the Merci Train Boxcar by going here.

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Copyright 2020, John D. Tew
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Saturday, August 29, 2020

Saturday Serendipity (August 29, 2020)


Here are a few suggested reads for this weekend:

1.   For those in New England or with New England roots, you should be aware that NERGC (the New England Regional Genealogy Consortium) has released its second e-zine this week and the big news is that the 2021 conference will be virtual for the first time.  Read more about this big change by going to the newsletter here.

2.   Now seems to be a good time to learn more about the history of the United Sates Postal Service.  I have a personal interest because the best summer and holiday jobs I had after graduating from high school and going on to college were working as a "sub-carrier" during two summers and holidays during breaks from school. Read "A Brief History of the United States Postal Service" as presented in Smithsonian Magazine and highlighted in The Weekly Genealogist of American Ancestors/NEHGS this week.

3.   Do you like a challenge and enjoy helping someone?  Are you good at reading beautiful, but frustrating, handwriting?  If so, then Linda Stufflebeam, of Empty Branches on the Family Tree blog, could use your help.  Read Linda's three-day effort to transcribe an 1861 deed and see her missing words here.  Perhaps you will be the one to break the code!?

4.   It was 206 years ago this week that Washington became a much hotter place than it has been even this month.  Read "Rescuing History" here at The Legal Genealogist by Judy Russell.

5.  Early this week Marian Burk Wood, of Climbing My Family Tree blog, posted a nice reminder of how important it is for those of us interested in genealogy to preserve and pass on family history that would otherwise be lost and quickly forgotten.  Marian captured the concept so concisely and poignantly when she wrote, "I really don't want to be the last person on Earth to recognize grandpa." Read "Who Tells Your Story?  Choosing to Be Family Historian" here.  
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Copyright 2020, John D. Tew
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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Saturday Serendipity (August 22, 2020)


Below are some recommended reads for this weekend.

1.   While I was in the Adirondacks a couple of weeks ago I missed a post by Diane Beaumenot of One Rhode Island Family blog .  .  . and anyone with roots in Rhode Island should never miss a blog post by Diane!  In case, like me, you missed "Did Your Ancestor Make Medical History?" you should go here to read Diane's goldmine of Rhode Island medical history sources.  The Rhode Island Medical Society (RIMS) has published its medical journal for over 100 years and the special Heritage section of each issue presents stories related to Rhode Island's medical past.  Diane lists many of the titles to give a good idea of the material that it covers.  Harkening back to last week's Saturday Serendipity item about the Open Air School Movement, one title Diane mentions is "Fresh Air Camp Opens for Consumptives in Foster."  Another article is "A Chronology of Rhode Island Hospitals" about the formation of each hospital in Rhode Island–of particular interest to me as my mother is a graduate of the Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing.  Many of the sources Diane presents can lead to possible genealogical information for those who believe they have ancestors or relatives who were involved in medicine in Rhode Island.  For example, get links to Sketches of Rhode Island physicians deceased prior to 1850 or Physician's and Dentist's directory of New England States: Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut (1910).  

2.   Jacqui Stevens, of A Family Tapestry blog, posted today a truly thought-provoking piece titled, "A Genealogy Go Bag."  I spent several minutes going through a mental inventory of essential genealogy items I would need to rescue in an emergency that threatened my home and genealogy room and decided I would need a small U-Haul trailer hitched to a spare car in the driveway -- full of gas and the usual "be prepared" items to be sure, but with ramps ready to receive a room full of stuff accumulated by generations.  My head nearly exploded, but it is seriously something to ponder! [N.B. Tonight's "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" assignment at Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings blog takes inspiration from Jacqui's post.  Randy details his list and reasoning here.] 

3.   James Tanner, of Genealogy's Star blog, considers the form and history of the pedigree chart in "Blinded by a Pedigree Chart" here

4.   Anyone who has done genealogy research in the U.S. for very long has used the federal censuses at some point–and they can be very useful.  But, among the challenges and aggravations of using the census is the incredible variation in the quality of enumerator handwriting.  Janine Adams, of Organize Your Family History blog,  wrote this week about the frustration and outright misdirection that can be encountered in using censuses as a research source because of sometimes atrocious handwriting.  Read "Handwriting: One of the challenges of census research" here and see the examples Janine provides (along with the correct translations/transcriptions).

5.   Laura Mattingly, of The Old Trunk in the Attic blog, posted what I consider to be a beautifully  written biographical sketch of a family member. It is short, but very informative and engaging.  In just ten paragraphs you feel as though you come to know a man who had a life well led.  Meet "Uncle Orville" here and see if you agree.

6.   And finally, two items highlighted in The Weekly Genealogist of American Ancestors/NEHGS.  The first is about a woman who searches in old books for items left behind by prior owners/readers of the book.  Read here about this interesting hobby turned into an Instagram account you can visit for more examples of her discoveries.  The second item is about the city of Quincy, Massachusetts aspiring to create a John Adams presidential library.  They have taken a first step by formally requesting the Boston Public Library to return 3,000 volumes of books that belonged to John Adams to form the centerpiece for a presidential library.  Quincy is the final resting place of John Adams.  Read more about the effort here.  [NB: You might have to answer a survey question to access the full article.] 
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Copyright 2020, John D. Tew
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Saturday, August 15, 2020

Saturday Serendipity (August 15, 2020)

After a two week hiatus during our annual trip to the Adirondacks, Saturday Serendipity returns this week with the following recommendations for your weekend reading .  .  .

1.   Because we just returned from Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, an article highlighted in The Weekly Genealogist newsletter of American Ancestors/NEHGS caught my eye.  During this COVID pandemic, outdoor activities have become ever more popular based on the lower risk of transmission when active in the open air–and the number of people flocking to the Adirondacks certainly bears that out this summer.  Saranac Lake, of course, was a world famous center for a "cure" in an earlier health scourge (tuberculosis) using the cold fresh air of the Adirondacks.  The so-called "cure cottages" that developed and the people and businesses that supported them became a major industry in Saranac Lake.  Now we are faced with the dilemma of how to safely open our schools in the coming weeks while trying to keep our children safe.  Once again, the use of the outdoors is becoming a possible major factor in parental choices for children.  And this–use of the open-air in schools–is not a new tool in the battle against a dangerous disease.  Read here about the "Open-Air School Movement" that arose internationally in the early 1900s as a means of protecting children against TB; otherwise known at the time as "consumption," the "white plague," or "white death."  In the early part of the 20th century TB was the leading cause of death in the U.S. and an estimated 450 Americans a day were dying of the lung disease (most between the ages of 15 and 44).   

2.   Periodically I like to remind readers of the great resources provided by Randy Seaver's "Genealogy News Bytes," posted twice weekly on Randy's blog Genea-Musings.  If you have not seen this feature, you can sample this week's Friday posting of important genealogy and family history news as well as education items relating to genealogy/family history by going here.  

3.   Judy Russell, of The Legal Genealogist blog, often has a way of making points in a stark and concise manner; this week provided a fine example when she posted "Sobering statistics."  With our schools set to open in the coming weeks (see item #1 above) we should all take to heart Judy's concise presentation of where we are.  COVID19 did not go away in the heat of summer and will not go away when the cooler fall weather turns to winter cold and the annual influenza season arrives to stress our health services even more.  WE are all on the front line in this battle and our only weapons right now are .  .  . wearing a mask; washing our hands; withholding proximity to others; and withstanding the rising tide of unthinking stupidity.  

4.   Three days from today (August 18th) marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of Amendment XIX to the United Sates Constitution.  The Amendment is so short that it can be easily presented here in its entirety .  .  . "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.  Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."  The huge impact of those forty words is about to be felt in 80 days when more women than men vote for president on November 3, 2020 – just as they have done in every presidential election since 1964!  When each of my grandmothers was born (one in 1897 and the other in 1898) they were ineligible to vote for no reason other than being born female. They were able to legally consume liquor before they could vote!  My mother is of the first generation of American women who were born with the same inchoate right that their father's and brother's had possessed from birth.  It is instructive and eye-opening to read about the long road to women's suffrage in the U.S. and you can do so by going here.   

5.   Janine Adams, of Organize Your Family History blog, posted a very useful tip for preserving easily and quickly the URL of a website where you have located information for your genealogy research.  Read "Grab a URL when you download a document" here

6.   James Tanner, of Genealogy's Star blog, helpfully posted this week about the great FREE offer from MyHeritage; they are granting access to the use of their Photo Enhancer and MyHeritage In Color™ for one month beginning August 11th.  One can ehance and colorize as many photos as one desires during that month without charge.  Read the post here and see some examples provided by James.

7.   And finally--back on the subject of women's suffrage--read "100 Years Ago: Poems and Prose of Women's Suffrage" at the blog Cow Hampshire by Janice Brown. 

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Copyright 2020, John D. Tew

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Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday Serendipity (July 25, 2020)

This will be the last Saturday Serendipity for about two weeks while we take our annual break paddling, hiking and swimming in the wonderful outdoors of the Adirondacks.  Suggested reads for this week are as follows .  .  .

1.   American Ancestors/NEHGS has a major sale going on for genealogy and history related books.  The discounts being offered are up to 50% off usual prices.  The deeply discounted books are not all New England-centric.  You can look over the eight pages of offered books here.

2.   Diane MacLean Boumenot, of One Rhode Island Family blog, is back with a post this week!  Read "What Was Your Rhode Island Ancestor Doing in 1834?" and find a list of 2,200 names on a petition that just might help you answer that question if you have Rhode Island roots.   You can read Diane's post here.  

3.   With the recent news that AncestryDNA is going to eliminate many small segment matches from its matching algorithm, The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, posted this week about the controversy and says simply, "Chill!"  Read why here. 

4.  Laura Mattingly, of The Old Trunk in the Attic blog, posted (in these days of another raging pandemic) a timely and poignant piece this week about one of her relatives.  Read "A Few Days Illness" here.   

5.   Staying with a pandemic theme, another timely post this week was by Jen, of The JenGenX Files blog.  With the incongruously controversial polemics surrounding the opening of our schools during a raging pandemic, Jen provides a glimpse backwards to the Great Influenza of 1918-19 to provide what should be seen as an object lesson for us today.  Read, "Pandemic of the past" here.

6.   As any dedicated family historian/genealogist knows (or soon learns), delving into family history can reveal the good, the bad, the unexpected, and the ugly; but a full and true family history has to live with the facts or avoid them and live with an incomplete or potentially false narrative about the family's evolution over time.  It is with this issue in mind at some level that after much discussion the Indiana Historical Society has made the 1920s KKK membership records from Hamilton County, Indiana (which includes Indianapolis) available to the public.  Some 1,660 membership cards are now able to be reviewed.  You can read more about this collection here.  [Note that to gain full access to the article you might have to answer a one quetion consumer survey, such as "Name as many mattress manufactureres you have heard about."  Quite painless to gain access to the full article.]    

7.   And finally, as we are all now living through what has been called a once-in-a-century disease pandemic, it is always interesting to learn (a) that our pandemic is really not unprecedented, and (b) that this pandemic could get a whole lot worse than it currently is if we do not act now and learn from what happened in 1918-1919.  Read here Marian Burk Wood's post at Climbing My Family Tree blog.  Marian writes this week about the discovery of a relative of her husband's who enlisted in the Union Army and lived until 1919 when he died of the influenza during the Great Influenza pandemic (misnamed and often still refered to as the "Spanish Flu").  We now have over 4 million cases of COVID19 in the US and the death toll is over 145,000 and climbing, but in 1918-19 the U.S. death toll reached at least 675,000 so we are presently only at just over 1/4th the number of flu deaths in 1918 and counting upward each and every day.  Be smart, Stay safe, and Stay healthy! 

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Copyright 2020, John D. Tew
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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Saturday Serendipity (July 18, 2020)

This week's suggested reads follow.  If like us you are experiencing the dog days of summer with air temperatures into the 90s with enough humidity to make it feel like 100+, then it is a good time to spend in the air conditioning reading and working on your genealogy.  😀

1.   For those of you who are members of NGS (National Genealogical Society founded in 1903), I highly recomend reading the articles, "Inconvenient Facts" and "The Zeitgeist and Serendipity" in the June NGS Monthly.  As someone who is old enough to recall 1960 and especially the years of that decade, I was shocked to read "Inconvenient Facts."  Access to the articles might require an NGS membership.  Perhaps your local library has a subscription, if not you can try this link and see if it works. 

2.   Of the facts that genealogists hunt in their research of the lives of ancestors, perhaps the details of what their everyday lives were like are among the most difficult to find (unless you are lucky enough to have a skilled and dedicated diarist in the family tree).  The details of what the day-to-day experience of an occupation was like is an example that can elude a researcher seeking to understand what an ancestor described as a "mechanic" in a census actually did to support himself and his family.  Another everyday detail that can get lost is the actual culinary experience of ancestors at a given period long the family history timeline.  Many of us know bits and pieces about what ancestors ate since there are menu items we know because they were great grandma's recipe.  [In my own family from Rhode Island, Johnny cakes is an example that came down the generations.]  So this leads to an article highlighted in The Weekly Genealogist of American Ancestors/NEHGS.  If you have American ancestors in the years 1838-1865 and they were affluent enough to dine out at well-established restaurants, then you should read "The First American Restaurants' Culinary Concoctions" here and see how many of the dishes you have atually experienced.  Lamb fries anyone?

3.   Judy Russell, of The Legal Genealogist blog, often addresses issues of copyright and this week she answered a question about the ability to copyright a very old photograph where the photogragher is unknown (and perhaps unknowable at this point) and even the people in the photograph are not identified.  Many of us have been faced with folks who get very touchy about sharing old photographs and claim ownership that comes across as tantamount to a claim/threat of having an actual copyright when it is obvious they are not the "creator."  The Legal Genealogist post here sheds light on how such touchiness could be handled with some diplomatically provided facts about copyright.  [Be sure to read the comments and responses to the post!]

4.   For those with Irish roots--especially around the time of the 1901 and 1911 censuses–Mr. Barry Griffin has developed maps showing the location of Irish surnames based on the enumerations from those census years.  You can use his search engine to see maps for any Irish family surnames you are looking for.  Mr. Griffin's website is located here.  Be mindful that exact spelling counts when entering a surname in the search bar!

5.   If you have had a DNA test done on yourself or some family member(s), then you really should read a few posts this week by Jacqi Stevens, of A Family Tapestry blog.  Jacqi read the news that Ancestry DNA is moving to cull matches they consider to be possible or probable "false positives" and she took action.  Read "Save Your Sevens" here and then read Jacqi's posts over the following two days. 

6.   Heather Rojo, of Nutfield Genealogy blog, posted a piece this week that really caught my eye.  It is about the Nurse Cadet Corps during WWII.  My 93-year-old mother was one of the young nurses in that program and I have posted about her membership and service here (where a photo of her in uniform can be seen).  Heather's aunt was recently honored for her service as shown in Heather's post, but Heather also puts out a call to support legislation to give the women of the Cadet Corps some long delayed recognition and honor for their service.  Read Heather's post here.  [My late father was a graduate of Kings Point, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and he served as an officer in the Merchant Marine delivering supplies and munitions during WWII.  Even though the Merchant Marine suffered the highest per capita losses of any uniformed service during WWII, it took a long time for the service of those men to be fully recognized and honored too, so I understand the push for legislation to grant the women of the uniformed Cadet Corps to received similar recognition and honor.  I hope readers will register their support for the legislation that Heather brings to our attention by contacting their representatives in Congress .  I know I will.]    

7.  And finally, another interesting article this week from The Weekly Genealogist.  It is about the role of the English coroner in determining what is and is not considered "treasure" and–perhaps more importantly–which finders get to keep the find or not.  The English coroner had a very different role and influence than the American holding the same titled office.  Read here about the English coroner.  
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Copyright 2020, John D. Tew
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