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  • Pearl Harbor Source

    Sunday, Dec 07, 2014

    by Delia

    December 7, 1941, termed by Franklin Roosevelt as “a day that will live in infamy,” saw the deaths of 2500 Americans and the injury of 1200 others. The events of that day resulted in the United States participation in the war that was already raging in Europe. There is a great deal written about the events of that day, in books, in periodicals and, now, online, with many opinions concerning what actions led up to the attack, and the results that followed.

    As a genealogist, I am more interested in the toll on the people who were serving in the military and endured the attack. First-hand accounts abound, many owned by The Genealogy Center for those researching or just interested. One interesting source for Pearl Harbor research is the “Pearl Harbor Muster Rolls” on Fold3. Each ship and section is divided by year, then by date of muster. Before the war, muster was usually taken quarterly, an alphabetical list providing name, service number, date of enlistment, rank and when the service man had arrived. The Report of Changes provided name, service number, date and place of enlistment and any changes to the service man’s status, including reassignment, illness or death. The September 30, 1941 Muster Roll for the USS Arizona is 38 pages of names, from to Hubert Aaron to Loyd M. Zimmerman. The December 31st Muster Roll has only one page, with the Report of Changes for December 7th and December 31st which contains a total of 83 pages, with most of the changes listed as: “Missing since action against enemy, Dec, 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor; next of Kin not notified,” including Hubert Aaron and Loyd M. Zimmerman.

    Of course, these rolls and changes are not solely about the attack. Muster rolls from the 1930s and throughout the war are included. If you have a serviceman in the South Pacific during World War II, this is an excellent source of information. But all of us should think about the many lives lost that day. Each had a name. On this anniversary, get to know a few.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Thanksgiving and Family Stories

    Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014

     Thanksgiving

    When I was a child, Thanksgiving was all about the feast. My mother would have been preparing for several days, and was up early on Thursday to get the turkey in the oven. She made a number of dishes that were traditional, and often added a new one, which might or might not become a regular. We daughters (there were no sons) would do our assigned tasks and, when we lived in California, Daddy would pick roses for the table. We would sit down to eat about 1 p.m., and might be sitting there an hour later, having finished eating and were just talking. If we had any relatives with us, we might be sitting there for several hours, chatting and laughing over old stories. As the family expanded and various relatives married, sometimes the new family members did not understand why we’d sit in hard chairs at the table and talk. Wasn’t it time to get back to the game on TV? Some never quite got it. I wish I had had some of these questions to spark their interest.

    You can use these questions any way you like. Ask everyone each of these questions or make a game of it, with each person selecting a question at random and record them (video, audio or transcription). You and your guests may not spend two more hours chatting after dinner like my family, but you may put off the football game just a bit longer and share stories as well as your meal.

    Five questions for older relatives:
    1. Describe the ways your family celebrated Thanksgiving when you were a child? How did your traditions change as you grew older?
    2. Pick a school year. Describe a typical day, and describe an event that was un-typical.
    3. Did your family celebrate Halloween when you were a child and teen? What did you do?
    4. When did you first get your driver’s license? How difficult was it to get one? Describe your driving lessons.
    5. Who was the oldest person in your family when you were a child? A grandparent or great-grandparent?

    Five questions for younger relatives to get them thinking about their life story, and sharing it:
    1. How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving? What are your three favorite parts of the celebration?
    2. Describe your first day of school this year: What grade, school, and teacher? What did you wear? What did you eat for lunch? What was the biggest surprise of the day?
    3. What did you do for Halloween this year? What were your best Halloween memories of your life?
    4. Do you have your driver’s license or learner’s permit? Describe the process and any anecdotes.
    5. Who is the youngest person in your family right now? Tell how you first met him or her?

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Six Things to Know for the Fourth of July

    Friday, Jul 04, 2014

    • The Declaration of Independence was written by five people: Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, the main author; John Adams of Massachusetts; Robert Livingston of New York; Roger Sherman of Connecticut; and Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania. It was submitted to the Continental Congress on June 28, 1776. No minutes were kept of the writing of the document, nor of the discussions that took place during the following days.
    • Although July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day, John Adams always felt it should have been July 2nd, the date the document was approved by Congress.
      John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress signed first, and his was the largest signature, making his name a synonym for the word “signature.”
      Benjamin Franklin, at 70, was the oldest signer, and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina was the youngest at 26 years.
    • John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only two Signers to become President, both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary. As he was dying, Adams comforted himself by noting that Jefferson still lived, but Jefferson had actually preceded him in death by five hours.
    • Fifth President James Monroe died on July 4, 1831, and Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872.
    • In 1870, Congress made Independence Day a holiday for federal employees, but it wasn’t a paid holiday until 1938!
    • The Genealogy Center’s Our Military Heritage has biographies, unit histories and rosters, individual biographies and other information on Revolutionary soldiers, as well as photos, letters and other material on soldiers from all American conflicts.You can add material on your family’s military ancestors to this great site as well. Contact us for information. And take a few minutes today to remember what our nation’s founders have provided for us.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Remembering D-Day

    Friday, Jun 06, 2014

    by Delia

    Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, the well-planned invasion by the Allied Forces against the Nazi regime that had overtaken Europe landed along a 50-mile stretch of beach on the north coast of France. More than 156,000 soldiers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Norway and Free France participated. Of these, 10,000 became casualties (killed, wounded, missing) that day, and many more in the days following.

    There are many published accounts of D-Day, both personal reminiscences and historical overviews, in books, periodicals and online, and we have all seen documentaries and movies highlighting June 6, 1944 (who can forget “Saving Private Ryan?”). Our World War II veterans are dwindling in number, and we all should see that their memories are preserved before they are lost. If you know a Vet, whether a D-Day survivor or not, please take this day to arrange to preserve his recollections.

    Also take a few minutes to remember the many who didn’t make it off of those beaches. Their stories must be told by other servicemen and by their families.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Search Strategies for Online Databases

    Thursday, May 29, 2014

    • By Dawne

      It’s common and it’s frustrating to perform a search in an online genealogy database and not find the person or family being sought. The next time this happens, try these strategies:
    • Read the description of the database. What are its parameters? Most likely the marriage database that is titled “Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941” does not include all counties’ marriages for all of the years between those inclusive dates.
    • If the parameters of the database are not described, do a “spot-check” with a common first name (John) or last name (Smith) and the year or county needed. If you get no results, such as in a marriage database, you can be relatively certain that county – or that year’s – marriages are not included.
    • Check for the source of the information in the database. Its source might give you a clue as to how complete the database is.
    • Consider alternate spellings for your ancestor’s name – both first name and surname. This might include common ones, such as Steven and Stephen, but also those foreign prefixes like Mc, O’ and de that might have been seen by the indexer as a middle initial. (John McDonald might have been indexed as John M. Donald, for example.)
    • Use wildcards. Some databases allow “?” in place of a single letter and “*” in place of several letters. This will allow you to search for Jens?n and get Jenson and Jensen results in the same search. Or Pax* will bring back Paxon, Paxton, and any other surname beginning with “Pax."
    • When searching for a family with a common surname, such as in the census, search for the person with the most unusual given name in order to narrow the results. James and Elizabeth Jones had children named William, James, John, Zora and Jennie. Searching for Zora might help pinpoint this family more easily than using the name of James, the father.
    • Omit the first name – or surname – of the target individual and use other parameters, such as age, place of birth and place of residence. You can search for all Johns living in a particular county and state in 1910 who were born circa 1856 in Tennessee, for example.
    • Search using no target name, but adding parents’ first names or father’s surname and mother’s maiden name. This is especially useful to find second marriages for daughters of the couple.
    • Take your “blinders” off and expand your search beyond what you think you know. Maybe the family was living somewhere you didn’t expect at the time of a census enumeration.
    • In the census, browse page by page in rural areas instead of searching for a name.
    • Consider that surnames and given names might have been reversed on the census schedule and therefore might have been indexed that way.
    • Perhaps the most important tip is to think “person” instead of name: Age, birth place, gender, residence. In some cases, people have been enumerated on the census with completely wrong surnames, not just misread or differently-spelled surnames.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Celebrate Memorial Day!

    Monday, May 26, 2014

    by Delia

    The first day set aside to honor fallen war dead in the United States was in 1866, when the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia, passed a resolution to set aside one day a year to honor fallen Confederate dead, and invited ladies in the other Southern states to join with them. The date chosen was April 26th, to commemorate the day in 1865 when Confederate General Joseph Johnston surrendered to General W.T. Sherman in North Carolina. Women in other former Confederate states joined the April 26th observance, but a few states chose other dates in honor of more local Confederate heroes. In Columbus, Mississippi, local women went to decorate the graves of Confederates who died at the Battle of Shiloh and noticed that the resting places of the Union fallen were bare and neglected, so they decorated those graves as well.

    In 1868, John A. Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a national Decoration Day to honor the Union dead. May 30th was chosen because it did not honor one specific battle. Participation grew, and the name gradually changed to Memorial Day. Observance changed to the last Monday in May under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in the 1960s. It is believed by some that the purpose of the day has been lost by many Americans who now see the holiday weekend as just the beginning of summer, but many still observe the day with parades, lowered flags and decorating the graves of soldiers with flags and flowers.

    Take a few minutes today to honor the memory of our country’s fallen dead.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Mother's Day!

    Sunday, May 11, 2014

    by Delia

    Happy Mother’s Day! For many children, this is the day you call, send a card or take your mother a gift. If you are a mother, this is the day your small children bring flowers from your garden and your adult children brave every other family in the country to take you out to eat. But Mother’s Day actually has an interesting history with roots in the Civil War.

    Ann Reeves was born in Virginia in 1832. She married Granville Jarvis in 1850 and moved to what is now West Virginia. Over the next seventeen years, the couple had about a dozen children, although, due to childhood diseases, only four lived to adulthood. In 1858, Ann established Mothers’ Day Work Clubs in towns in her area to promote sanitation and combat disease. During the Civil War, Ann encouraged the Clubs to maintain neutrality, providing aid to both armies. After the war, the Clubs promoted a renewal of friendship between former enemies.

    Elsewhere in the country, temperance groups were also promoting a day to honor mothers who should band together to fight the demon liquor, but they had no connections specifically to Ann’s activities. In her later years, Ann continued her activities promoting health and sanitary conditions, as well as being active in other social causes to educate children and improve their lives. As a widow, she moved to Philadelphia to be near her children, and died there on May 8,1905.

    Two years later, Ann’s daughter Anna Jarvis, organized a private memorial service for her mother, and in 1908, two public services were held. One was in the Andrews Methodist Church, where Ann taught Sunday School for many years, and the other, attracting 15,000 attendees, was held in Philadelphia’s Wanamaker Store Auditorium.

    In the following years, Anna continued to promote a day to recognize mothers and their contribution to civilization, and to promote peace by honoring women who had lost or were at risk of losing sons in military conflicts. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson established the second Sunday in May as an official day of observance in honor of women whose sons had perished in war.

    One early tradition was the giving and wearing of flowers by mothers: red if the wearer’s mother was still alive, white if the wearer’s mother was deceased. In recent years, pink flowers were worn by pregnant women.

    Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world, but not always on the second Sunday of May. It’s March 8 in many Eastern European countries, and the fourth Sunday in Lent in Great Britain and Ireland. It’s celebrated on the vernal equinox (March 21) in many Arabian countries, and the end of May or early June in France, the third Sunday of October in Argentina, the last Sunday of November in Russia, and, like the US, the second Sunday of May in Australia.

    My own mother is gone now, although she received from me the requisite white corsage for many years. Now, I take the second Sunday of May to remember her, my grandmothers, my great-grandmothers and all of the wonderful women on my family tree. You know, half of my ancestors are mothers!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • It's Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May)!

    Monday, May 05, 2014

    by Delia

    Do you have plans for celebrating Cinco do Mayo? Like St. Patrick’s Day, one doesn’t have to actually have the appropriate heritage to participate in Cinco de Mayo festivities! But what are you actually commemorating?

    By 1861, following the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, the Mexican Civil War of 1858 and the Reform Wars of 1860, the Mexican territory was in dire financial straits, and placed a hold on paying off foreign debts. Britain, Spain and France all sent naval forces to compel payments. The British and Spanish negotiated with Mexico and returned home, but the French, seeing an opportunity to gain influence in the Western Hemisphere, landed a large French contingent at Vera Cruz, forcing President Benito Juarez and his government to retreat. The French fought their way to Puebla, near the Mexican forts of Guadalupe and Loreto. There, on May 5 (Cinco de Mayo), 1862, the Mexican army of about 4500 faced and defeated the 8000-strong French. But one battle did not win the war, and the Mexicans continued to resist the French invaders until 1867, when high ranking French leaders of the invasion were executed and Juarez reestablished his government.

    Cinco de Mayo is not “Mexican Independence Day,” nor is it even a national holiday in Mexico. Mexico’s actual Independence Day, September 16th, celebrates the beginning of Mexico’s War of Independence in 1810, and is the national holiday in Mexico.

    Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated by the Latino community in California since the mid-1800s, and spread to other Hispanic communities in the western United States. It began to become more popular in the rest of the U.S. in the mid-twentieth century, but really gained popularity when various companies promoted it as a holiday. Now, while it’s still marketed as a time for anyone to party, it’s also used as a vehicle to highlight Mexican history and culture. So, go ahead and enjoy the fiesta!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • It's May First!

    Thursday, May 01, 2014

    by Delia

    The month of May. For many it signals the end of the school year and the start of summer, genealogy travel and other, less important vacations. But the first day of May has a long tradition of festivals and feasts, starting in the pre-Christian era with the Germanic festival Walpurgis and the Celtic Beltane. Both celebrate spring and planting with bonfires to banish the long winter nights and dancing around a Maypole (Maibaum in Germany), and the crowning of a May Queen in Britain. As these lands became Christianized, the Church tried to associate May 1 with the Virgin Mary, but for many it remained a secular holiday to celebrate the fertility of the land, the flocks and the people. And in early England, May 1 was the first day of summer, with June 21, the Solstice, celebrated as Midsummer, when planting was finished.

    Although traditions were similar, many regions added specific regional touches, such as Bulgaria’s Irminden, which is associated with protection from lizards and snakes, and Arminden in Romania, celebrated to insure the protection of crops, farm animals and people.

    Settlers in the United States and Canada handed down their own traditions to their descendants, although in Canada it may be celebrated later in the month, as the weather warms. May baskets, filled with flowers and candy and left for the recipient to find, became popular in some areas of the United States.

    May 1 was also chosen as International Workers’ Day to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, and is celebrated as Labor Day in many countries. It is also associated with the Russian Revolution of 1917.

    So think about your ancestors today. They may have crowned a Queen of May, either Catholic or agricultural. Maybe they danced around the Maypole to celebrate fertility or just have a good time. They could have demonstrated for an 8-hour work day or rejoiced the coming of spring. Or a bonfire might have been lit, to drive away winter or just barbecue some ribs. Take a few moments to celebrate May Day.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Book of Ages: A Review

    Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014

    by John

    Sometimes a book that at first glance would not seem a perfect fit for The Genealogy Center has value to historians and genealogists alike and is, on closer examination, a welcome addition to our collection. Jill Lepore’s new biography of Jane (Franklin) Mecom (1712-1794), Benjamin Franklin’s younger sister, is a case in point. Titled Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), GC 973.3 L55bo, the book is the first such biography of Jane, whose ordinary life in eighteenth-century Boston was greatly overshadowed by that of her more famous brother. Some of the tools that Lepore uses to reconstruct Jane’s life could be employed by anyone undertaking micro-historical research during this time period, including genealogists.

    I’ve become an unabashed fan of Jill Lepore, a professor of American History at Harvard and the author of a number of books, including, among others, New York Burning, a history of the New York Slave Rebellion of 1741, and The Name of War, a history of King Philip’s War, both of which are also in The Genealogy Center’s collection. Other titles in the library’s main collection reveal the author’s keen intellect and often acerbic wit as she relates modern and often-distorted perceptions the past with the complex nuances of the historical record.

    Lepore begins her biography of Jane Franklin with a study of Jane’s so-called Book of Ages, a bound manuscript in which she recorded the births and deaths of members of her family, much the way other families would record such events in a family Bible. Lepore assembles a chronological narrative using this book and Jane’s extant correspondence with her brother to fill in the details. Jane was an avid reader, a person with strong opinions about current events, but also a person who, in contrast to her brother, often lived in humble circumstances. Hence this work gives us a glimpse of an average person in the eighteenth century, perhaps in some ways not unlike our own ancestors. Jane followed a trade by making soap, using a family recipe. She advertised in the local newspapers and attended church. She endured the mental instability and economic failure of her husband and sons. She mourned the passing of nearly all of her children and many of her grandchildren during a life that spanned almost the whole of the eighteenth century.

    Even with the surviving correspondence, there are many gaps in Jane’s life that Lepore fleshes out using other records, including local newspapers, published sermons of ministers associated with Jane’s church, and other writings from contemporaries. Lepore also uses the tenacity of a genealogist in attempting to locate missing letters in the private collections of her descendants and determining what other papers may have gone to family acquaintances after her death. Indeed, this search for direct evidence – and how some of Jane’s letters were bowdlerized by later Franklin scholars thereby altering her original expressions – is as intriguing as the story of her life. Lepore not only includes a brief genealogy of Jane’s family in her appendix, she also writes of the interest that both Benjamin and Jane shared in genealogical research. Franklin at one time visited their ancestral home in Ecton, Northamptonshire, where he copied the epitaphs of his ancestors. Later, in old age, he asked Jane to share what she knew about their extended kindred in New England, which Jane appeared to relish in compiling. Interest in one’s ancestors and kindred, it seems, did not germinate in the nineteenth century. For these and other reasons, including Lepore’s writing style and the process of her meticulous research, genealogists and historians alike will find Book of Ages a fascinating read.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Professional History and Professional Genealogy

    Friday, Mar 28, 2014

    by John

    Historians who teach in academia and professional genealogists have had, at best, a peripheral and tenuous relationship. For much of the last half century, academics have viewed genealogists as amateurs whose work is provincial, at best. They viewed with derision the activities of earlier generations of genealogists whose interest in historical research was almost solely geared toward gaining admittance into hereditary societies. They also faulted genealogists for being so focused on specific families that they failed to place them into historical contexts and thereby give their work deeper meaning and relevance. This disdain continued into the 1970s, when many academics began to focus their own work on specific communities, using them as microcosms for understanding larger historical trends or the social and cultural dynamics of families. Works such as Kenneth Lockridge’s A New England Town: The First Hundred Years, Dedham, Massachusetts and John Demos’s A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony broke new ground for their use of local records (the same used by genealogists), but these and other studies did little to bridge the gulf between the two disciplines.

    For its part, the field of genealogy underwent a major metamorphosis during the same period, becoming more professionalized and increasing the scope of what genealogists researched. All families, regardless of race, ethnicity, and social status, became subjects of scholarly interest, leaving the old stereotypes of WASP-ish exclusivism in the dust. While plenty of newcomers continued to produce work that lacked documentation, a new wave of genealogical scholars, both professional and amateur, began to apply new standards of documentation to their work. The Board for Certification of Genealogists established a means for granting professional credentials, and through its promotion of the Genealogical Proof Standard, it provided new benchmarks for evaluating genealogical evidence.

    This evolution became evident in a variety of publications. Journals such as The American Genealogist, the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, The Genealogist, and the New England Historical and Genealogical Register began to publish articles that embodied high standards of documentation and deductive reasoning. Robert Charles Anderson and a team of other researchers produced the highly-acclaimed Great Migration series that raised the bar for all newly-published genealogical books. His accompanying Great Migration Newsletter offered advanced discussions of how to evaluate evidence at the New England town level, and in doing so he offered new insight about the process of English immigration that extended well beyond what had appeared in academic works.
        The publication of Anderson’s first installment, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, proved to be a seminal event in getting academics to take notice of a professional genealogist’s work. The noted Puritan historian Roger Thompson of the University of East Anglia, hailed it as “invaluable to future researchers in many specialisms” and a “marvel of the age” for the new century; see Roger Thompson, review of The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, by Robert Charles Anderson et al, Journal of American Studies 30 (August 1996): 298-300, specifically 300. Gloria L. Main of the University of Colorado at Boulder echoed the praise, recognizing Anderson’s high evidentiary standards for his work. “Although anyone can practice genealogy, just as anyone can practice history, professional genealogists hew to stricter rules of evidence and more rigorous citation practices than even professional historians… As a consequence of the rigor and discipline that have come to mark professional genealogists’ efforts, their work furnishes excellent material for social historians, although they may not condone the ways historians use it;” see Gloria L. Main, review of The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, by Robert Charles Anderson et al, William and Mary Quarterly LIV (October 1997): 857-861, specifically 856.

    While this recognition marks significant progress, a gulf endures between genealogists and academic historians. Some genealogists, while appreciating the macro-research of academics, have faulted some assessments of micro-evidence, alleging that some community studies have fallen into the trap of “same name, same person.” By failing to follow the Genealogical Proof Standard or accepting as evidence secondary works now considered of dubious value, these university-press studies have failed to meet professional genealogical standards. Many professional historians, while accepting the value of such works as the Great Migration, also admit that they do not read genealogical journals.

    Other attempts at bridging the continuing divide have had only limited success. Conferences featuring both academic historians and professional genealogists as speakers have led to some conversations but have not paved the way for many interdisciplinary projects. If the gulf has begun to narrow, it remains a slow process. In a recent blog post, genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills, who has also written academic works, discusses the progress of the dialogue in an insightful article: Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World? Seriously?” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( posted 9 January 2014).
       
    What may bring the groups even closer together is the prospect of joint advocacy for record preservation and digitization. The rise of such websites such as Ancestry, Fold3, and FamilySearch, and the plethora of digitized records contained in them, while geared for genealogists, has also proven of value to academic historians. Many smaller websites with localized focuses have followed suit.
       
    As proof of this trend, one might consider an article by Loren Schweninger, a professor emeritus in History at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, appearing recently in the William and Mary Quarterly, volume 71, no. 1 (January 2014): 35-62. Titled “Freedom Suits, African American Women and the Genealogy of Slavery,” the article explores how mixed-race descendants of free white women used the courts to win their freedom in antebellum Maryland. Significantly, Schweninger uses a number of sources found on websites traditionally associated with genealogists to develop his thesis, and the result is a well-researched study that could have found a home just as easily in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.
       
    Historians and genealogists can join forces by demanding that historical records be made more publicly accessible without restrictions and supporting efforts to make more documents available digitally. Indeed, records once stored behind archival walls and under the exclusive purview of academics are increasingly finding wider audiences through digitization, which can only help the research interests of both groups.

    Libraries like The Genealogy Center at the ACPL can also play a role in bridging the divide by collecting the publications of both academic historians and genealogists and providing access to historical and genealogical websites. Both are fundamental components of our collection-development policy, and we encourage both historians and genealogists to use our resources.
       
    The two groups have far to go to achieve full cooperation and mutual respect. But the gulf is not insurmountable. More articles like Schweninger’s will bode well for the future.
     

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Christmas Traditions and Genealogy

    Monday, Dec 23, 2013

    by John

    The holiday season is a great time to investigate traditions associated with our families. When we interview older relatives, asking them to share holiday memories often elicits an animated response, and the information can be valuable material for us to preserve later on. One of my best Christmas gifts occurred in the early years of the 1980s, when I decided to write to several of my elderly great aunts and first cousins of my grandparents about their earliest Christmas memories. In several cases these were ladies born in the early 1890s whose earliest memories pre-dated the twentieth century. I still have their letters, which they wrote out in a shaky hand, setting out how my great-, and in some cases, great-great grandparents celebrated Christmas. One great-aunt on the Neal side, who had grown up in an upper middle class home in southern Kentucky, described the paper bell that was hung in the hall, the Roman candles that were given to the children to shoot off (one flame nearly missing another aunt), and a recipe for Christmas custard (egg nog, Kentucky-style), that my great-great grandmother (born in 1843) had always made. I still make it for guests, a Civil War era symbol of hospitality.

    Another great-aunt, who had grown up in Goshen, Indiana, in the 1900s, talked about how her parents would decorate the family’s modest tree while the children attended evening church services. My grandfather had gotten stage fright and refused to say his lines in the Christmas pageant, so his little brother had stepped in for him. When they returned home, they found that Santa had come while the kids were at church. Money was tight, but my great-grandmother had scraped up enough money to buy each of the younger girls a bisque head doll. Candles were lit on the tree, but there was always a bucket of water handy in case of fire. A Beatty cousin who lived in the country in the early 1900s said her grandmother, my great-great grandmother (born in 1834), would never light the candles on her tree for fear of fire, since there was no fire department in rural Kosciusko County at the time.

    My maternal grandmother, born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1899, remembered Christmas mornings with presents that Santa had carefully stacked on chairs in the parlor. They had only a very simple tree with handmade ornaments and popcorn strings. Her mother and grandmother, born in Switzerland, would bake Mailänderlis, a Swiss butter cookie cut in shapes and painted with egg yolk before baking. The tradition was carried down, I loved them as a child, and I got the idea in 1990 to video my grandmother (then a spry aged 91), preparing the dough and rolling the cookies out, giving an explanation in the style of Julia Child. Today, sadly, my children hate the cookies, I’m a vegan and can’t eat them, and the tradition has been allowed to go dormant, but I still have the video for any future descendant who wants to take on the challenge.

    I’m also fortunate to have a short 78 rpm record, made for Christmas 1939, with greetings from the family, my grandfather singing “O Holy Night” in his baritone voice, and a precious clip of my great-grandmother (born in 1863), sending greetings. My project this year is to photograph and catalog all of my Christmas ornaments (some of which go back to the 1930s), and put together a kind of ornament heirloom catalog with information about where the ornament came from, if known, and who had it before. (Most are of the German painted blown-glass variety).

    All of these stories are among my holiday treasures, and you can make treasures like this, too, by sending emails to older relatives, cataloging decorations, and, yes, making videos of traditions and events. The stories and traditions won’t just descend to you – they take effort to record. But in the end, you will find it is definitely worth it.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Thanksgiving & Early Settlements

    Saturday, Nov 30, 2013

    by Delia

    It's always a challenge to find something new and informative to share for the various holidays, so I thought I'd pass along some of what I "knew" as a child, and add what little more I know today. Thanksgiving as a national holiday represents a day to be appreciative of what we have achieved and what we have survived. Traditionally, it was a day to give thanks for the bounty of the harvest that would carry the people through the coming winter and into the new growing season, and had been celebrated on various dates in the different states until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln, prompted by Sarah Josepha Hale, settled on the last Thursday in November for a national celebration, although, due to the ongoing Civil War, the date was not recognized in parts of the South until the 1870s. Franklin D. Roosevelt shifted the date to the fourth Thursday in November to provide an economic boost (that is, extra time for Christmas shopping).

    To a child of the 1950s, the holiday seemed centered on the Pilgrims of Plymouth celebrating a decent harvest with their Native American neighbors. Little girls were dressed up in white bodice collars and caps with long black dresses. Boys had tall black hats and buckle shoes. Dried flint corn and paper turkeys decorated the tables, and we remembered the early European settlers to this country.

    Of course, it was only later that I realized that there were plenty of other early European settlers. There was a Dutch settlement on the Hudson River near Albany, New York in 1614. The English already had a settlement in Jamestown, Virginia that had been established in 1607. The earlier Roanoke Colony in North Carolina was settled in 1585, but the colonists disappeared by 1587. The French established several short-lived outposts in South Carolina, Florida and Texas, but the oldest European colony in the United States is Saint Augustine, Florida, established in 1565. And, of course, there were also many other people already here, with cities and towns already thoroughly established.

    So this year, remind everyone to celebrate Thanksgiving and share the stories of the making of this melting pot.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Remembering Together

    Wednesday, Nov 13, 2013

    by Delia

    Where were you and what were you doing when you heard that John F. Kennedy had been shot? It may very well be the defining moment in American history for those currently age 55 and older. For most of us, it’s a moment frozen in our minds. Just after 12:30 PM CST, shots rang out in Dallas, Texas, ending the life of the President of the United States. Days of mourning culminating in a televised funeral, then years of investigation, theories and accusations, but what most of us who were alive then remember is what we were doing.

    I was a fourth grader in a Catholic school in central California. We were herded into the fifth grade classroom, along with the sixth graders, to listen to events unfold on the radio. A Michigan colleague was in third grade, and recalls hearing the president died which was followed by three days of televised coverage. Another colleague was a high school student in Columbia City, Indiana, and just happened to be in an assembly when the announcement came. Another, only four years old at the time, recalls how shaken his parents were by the news. All are very vivid memories from four different people in four places, all about the same event.

    We aren’t going to go into the history and aftermath here. There have been many books, documentaries, movies, articles and investigations over the years for that. We are interested in making sure that all of us pass along for posterity our experience and reaction at the time. And we invite all of you to share, either here in a comment to this blog, or on our Facebook page, one or two sentences about your memories of that day. Where were you when you heard?

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Daylight Saving Time and Families

    Sunday, Nov 03, 2013

    by Delia

    Time keeping in the United States, indeed, in many parts of the world, was very much a local option based on the movement of the Sun, until railroads began to cross great distances in short amounts of time. The variations in local times caused confusion to travelers and employees alike, so in 1883, the railroads established a standardized time for the country, allowing for movement of the Sun by creating time zones.

    Some areas were reluctant to have big business, in the form of railroads, dictating something as personal as time, but by the time of World War I, so much of the country had accepted it that when the Calder Act was passed in 1918, it was just a legal acknowledgment of what was common practice. However, the Calder Act also established Daylight Saving Time, which did not meet with approval by many and was repealed in 1919.

    The advent of World War II resurrected the idea of Daylight Saving Time, making it year-round in an effort to conserve energy. The end of the war signaled the end of Daylight Saving Time as a standard, but communities were allowed to use it as a local option, usually from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in September, although some areas extended it to the last Sunday in October.

    The Uniform Time Act was passed in 1966, which standardized DST as the last Sunday of April to the last Sunday in October. States were allowed to opt out, and Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana, and Michigan did so. Over the years since, some of these states have opted in and and out, as the various populations pushed. Indiana finally went to all DST in 2006, after many years of wrangling in the state legislature.

    Daylight Saving Time has had an impact on many lives through the years. My uncle, a farmer in Kentucky, railed against it every year. His day, like that of most farmers and many others, ran by when the Sun came up in the mornings, and altering the pattern of the day seemed foolish. My father always considered my oldest sister's birth day "wrong" because she was born during WWII, and without DST, she would have shared her birthday with George Washington. But growing up, I never minded Daylight Saving Time. With a birthday in late October, it was thrilling to a 13-year old to have an extra hour in her birthday!

    So use this extra hour this fall to consider what effect standardized time and DST have had on you and your family, and remember to pass those stories along to the next generation!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Occupational Thoughts for Labor Day

    Saturday, Aug 31, 2013

    by John

    It is Labor Day weekend, and while for many it is a time to mark the end of summer vacations, the holiday was originally instituted in 1894 to celebrate the contributions of American workers. For us genealogists, it seems to be a fitting time to think about the occupations of our ancestors. How did each of them earn a living, what knowledge and skills did they need to perform their work, and how did their occupation place them into the context of the time and place in which they lived? These are great questions to ask as we research and write our family histories.

    I suspect that for most of our ancestors, especially before the Civil War, farming or some variation of farm labor dominated their lives, since America was overwhelmingly agricultural. However, even in rural areas, there were small shop keepers, millers, doctors, carpenters, and a variety of other skilled tradesmen. The federal censuses since 1850 listed the occupation of the respondent, and these can be extremely useful in documenting our ancestors' work, though sometimes a worker will be listed only as "laborer" without any additional detail. City directories will sometimes list the names of employers and can be useful, especially if we have urban ancestors working in factories or performing a particular skill.

    Several books in our collection offer detailed descriptions of various occupations. In 1939, the U.S. Department of Labor compiled a "Dictionary of Occupational Titles," (973 D5636) which included detailed descriptions of various Depression-era trades. At more than 1,000 pages, the dictionary is surprisingly varied in its scope.

    For earlier occupations, many of which may be archaic to a modern ear, there are several other useful dictionaries. Barbara Jean Evans's book, "A to Zax: A Comprehensive Dictionary for Genealogists & Historians" (929.03 Ev15aa), lists many unusual occupations, such as "tabellarius" for record keeper and "lacewoman" for ladies maid. Paul Drake's "What Did They Mean By That: A Dictionary of Historical Terms for Genealogists" (929 D78w) is also an excellent source with many occupational descriptions. For the eighteenth century and earlier, Richard Lederer's "Colonial American English" (973.2 Aa1L) is an especially useful source for archaic occupations. German researchers will often find occupations included in parish registers, and Ernest Thode's "German-English Genealogical Dictionary" (929 T35g) remains an essential reference tool.

    So this Labor Day, let's remember our worker ancestors and envision performing their jobs. Whether they were plowing a field or hammering on an anvil near a forge, preaching in a pulpit or selling goods in a store, their legacy of work helped to shape each one of us.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Fun Fourth Facts

    Thursday, Jul 04, 2013

    As we celebrate the Fourth of July today, here a few fun facts with which you can dazzle friends and family during the fireworks show:
    • Less than half of the residents of the thirteen colonies supported the Revolution. About one third of the remaining supported the British, and the rest were neutral.
    • African Americans served on both sides during the Revolutionary war, but the first man shot in the Boston Massacre was African-American Crispus Attucks.
    • The only person to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4th was John Hancock. Most of the other delegates signed it on August 2nd. Hancock’s signed in such large letters his name became a term for “signature.”
    The Genealogy Center wishes you a happy and safe Fourth!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Died

    Monday, May 27, 2013

    by Delia

    Recently, someone who noticed signs indicating that The Genealogy Center would be closed on Monday, May 27th, for Memorial Day, asked, in a rhetorical fashion, "What's the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans' Day?" The difference is that while Veterans' Day honors all who served, Memorial Day is specifically for those who died in service to our country.

    This is an interesting concept, as as I thought about it, I realized that many who died in service or from injuries incurred in service were young and may not have had direct descendants to keep their memory alive. While I do not wish to disrespect any veteran, I think that this Memorial Day, I will I will concentrate my thoughts on those collateral ancestors who died young because of war.

    This is also a good time to organize what family military records I have acquired for addition to The Genealogy Center's Our Military Heritage website. We welcome your contributions, too, so take a look at the site, and send the records or digital images this week!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Who Will Record Their Stories?

    Saturday, Jul 21, 2012

    by Dawne

    The death of my dear Uncle Stan at the end of May has brought again to the forefront of my mind the need to get family stories written down sooner, rather than later. Uncle Stan was one of four brothers – Oliver, the oldest; then Stanley, Philip and Laurie, my father. My father and his brother, Oliver, have been gone for almost ten years. They died within five days of one another back in December 2002. Since then, Uncle Stan and Uncle Phil have filled the role of surrogate grandfather for all of the family’s grandchildren.

    I was able to attend Uncle Stan’s funeral in North Little Rock and, as I suspected that it would be, it was an occasion of joy and laughter, along with the sorrow and tears. Uncle Stan was a rare character. He had a quirky sense of humor and his escapades are legend in our family. Stories about him were shared at the visitation, and funny stories that he told time and again were repeated once more. Many of the “props” for his practical jokes were on display at the visitation and the funeral. These included a fake wooden cell phone made from a piece of a tree limb with the bark still attached, and wallets that caused money to disappear and reappear. Also holding a place of honor was the radar gun that he used to check the speed of passing cars near the elementary school where he picked up his grandchildren every day. He kept this up until school administrators asked him to stop because they were getting complaints from drivers about an older gentleman who was “pointing something at them.” Undaunted, when Uncle Stan subsequently witnessed drivers speeding, he took a soup can from groceries he had purchased and laid it on its side on the window ledge, pointing it at the offenders. The school received additional complaints, but Uncle Stan was able to tell them honestly that he no longer was clocking drivers’ speeds with his radar gun!

    One of the most famous stories within the family about Uncle Stan concerns the first of his three encounters with copperheads at the golf course. The first time he was bitten, he had reached into the weeds to retrieve his ball. A trait among men in this family is their absolute dread of doctors and hospitals. Stan shared this trait, so rather than seeking medical attention, he carefully drove home through Camp Robinson because his vision was blurred. Once at home, he sought refuge in his recliner. He later said he didn’t feel too bad other than fighting a heck of a headache for about three days. Uncle Stan didn’t tell anyone what had happened immediately following the event, but a few days later he called his youngest daughter and told her he had a boil he wanted her to lance. When she did, the snake’s tooth popped out of the wound, and he was forced to confess. Uncle Stan suffered copperhead bites twice more, but they didn’t affect him nearly as much – apparently he had built up some immunity!

    As I heard these stories this most recent time and shared the laughter and tears with my cousins, I wondered if we would always be able to tell the next generation about Uncle Stan and his radar gun and his encounters with the copperheads. We have a strong oral tradition going now in the family, but some of the stories that my father told, and Uncle Ollie and Uncle Stan about their childhoods – will we remember the details? Will my children remember and pass them to their children? Someone needs to write them down. I need to write them down. All of you who are interested in genealogy need to be the scribes who write them down for your families. Let’s not let those family stories disappear.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Celebrate through Contribution

    Tuesday, Jul 03, 2012

    by Delia

    July 4th. Independence Day. The day means more than sales, picnics, and fireworks. It's the day we celebrate our great nation's freedom, gained through a war from 1776 to 1783. But we often forget the Second War of American Independence, also known as the War of 1812, which was fought to convince Great Britain that, yes, they really could not impede our trade or force our citizens to fight their battles.

    Much attention has been paid to the Revolutionary War veterans and the records generated by that war, but the War of 1812 often falls through the cracks in history. Although an index to the pension records of the soldiers who fought in that conflict has been available on microfilm for many years, and is even online at Ancestry.com, to obtain the actual pension records, one had to send to the National Archives and Records Service for copies. Meanwhile, the documents have been quickly deteriorating and fading. The Federation of Genealogical Societies is spearheading Preserve the Pensions to digitize and preserve these records and make them available for research. And Ancestry.com is providing matching funds: Every dollar donated by you will be matched by Ancestry.com! And Preserve the Pensions is just the first step to digitizing other important military records from the Civil War, World War I and World War II.
    For more information, see Preserve the Pensions, and consider making a contribution today!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center