Monday, October 20, 2014

Delights at Dinner with the Dead

For a closet taphophile, I somehow spent several years missing the Dinner with the Dead events that have taken place in the surrounding areas. Fortunately, the Lexington History Museum resurrected the event this past weekend, long dead since 2009.

The event this Saturday was quite a novelty on many fronts. First, as a cemetery that is only open by appointment, just getting in was delight numero uno. From that point onward, I was just taking it all in: the stones, the falling leaves, the side events, the food, and the entertainment.
As a cemetery, the Old Episcopal Burying Ground is old for the area, 1832, but too young to be in this state. The ravages of time have not been kind. Most of the stones are either in pieces lying along the edge of the property, or weathered away, never to be read again. This fact made the scavenger hunt a tad disconcerting, but there were pockets of stones in decent enough shape to be read for the activity.
Personally, I found the size of the cemetery perfect for this type of event. It was small, yet not too small. There was plenty of acreage for folks to wander around at leisure, with plenty of space. Kids were running around, having fun, and groups had ample time to see all the stones available without getting overly tired.

Speaking of kids, there were several small activities to keep them engaged: besides the scavenger hunt, there was an eyeball (ping-pong) toss, and a cauldron-like musical walk that resulted in prizes based on the image each child stopped on....again, with plenty of room.

Probably the only awkward part of exploring was the abundance of walnuts and hedge apples on the ground. This is something one cannot control, but I found myself watching every step carefully, simply because I didn't want a twisted ankle. It made me think about liability with this type of event - should that be a concern, or am I over thinking this?

The dinner included a rather long wait due to each person being served at a time, but the choices were nice, yet simple: Pizza, mac and cheese varieties, jambalaya, chips, and a tiny cupcake dessert. As everyone was eating, the character interpretations got underway. One that was particularly educational was the Reverend London Ferrell. As the only African American buried in this cemetery, his story of pre-Civil War popularity among the white population was fascinating. He reminded everyone that he had the second largest funeral in Lexington, only Henry Clay's was larger.
It was a cloudy, and slightly drizzly evening, but that fit the somber nature of this cemetery, begun as a result of cholera that ravaged the area in the 1830s. As I took in the names and stories with reverence, the families and young people were bringing life back to the space. Ironically, the crowd had VERY few gray hairs....most were college students, young families with children, or middle-aged professionals. The families were also culturally/ethnically diverse which was representative of the urban population, but perhaps, also a reflection of the event itself. Many other cultures enjoy celebrating the dead, and others enjoy the fright of the season. Either way, the life celebrated was quite a treat - I'm sure the dead would have approved!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Eternal Membership Level

This weekend, our family went cemetery traipsing in Pendleton County and stumbled upon a new stone we had not seen before. I cannot tell you how old the stone is, nor even if the person memorialized is dead or not. I know it is fairly new because I had not seen it last year when visiting my grandparents' graves, plus, it is constructed in a current style: Solid black, polished granite with fine etchings. Despite the stone containing a name, there is no date range to determine time frame of this person's existence. After a little research, I have determined that this person was from the Falmouth area, but was living in Biloxi Mississippi as recently as 2004. A few possibilities: This person is still alive and will be buried here someday, the person is buried in MS and simply wanted a memorial stone in his hometown and family plot, or, this person has died recently and the dates are still waiting to be etched.

It is, however, the flip side of this stone that caught my attention. Every organization he was affiliated with is represented in the applique or etching of the official logo. I'm serious...EVERY ORGANIZATION. His church affiliation is the first and largest organization represented, followed by military insignias, educational logo, and finally LINEAGE societies seals. Some of the Lineage societies represented are: SAR, Kentucky First Families, Sons of Union Veterans, First Flight Families. He also chose to include membership affiliations such as the Kentucky Genealogical Society, and the Kentucky Historical Society, among others. As much as I enjoy my affiliations and memberships, I would personally prefer family information to be on a tombstone. Then again, this does tell me about the individual possibly buried there. I learned that he was very passionate about his membership in lineage societies and valued history. I also had a clue as to further research directions, such as church membership and education connection. My question is: what is your impression of this...good information or over the top allegiance?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our Cincinnati Union Terminal

Some places on planet earth have the ability to transport the living back through time as they envelope us in waves of sensory memory. With a look, a touch, a reflection of light off of a surface, we physically sense time. Not just seconds or minutes on a clock, but the emotions and heavy presence of life that came before us. The lives that built our present still resonate in the structural echos.

When the Museum Center asked "why" we love this museum, my mind immediately passed over dozens of scenes from more than one lifetime. With the building's construction in 1928-33, I saw my great grandfather, Clyde Daniels. Family tradition has always proudly remembered him as not only a railroad employee, but one that was employed and on-site when the building opened. 

His son Charles followed in his footsteps, working at the terminal, monitoring and maintaining train cars for over 25 years. When the flood waters of 1937 rose steadily, it was Charles that was in the lower levels that night (Black Sunday), witnessing the flood waters come up through the sewer system as the lights began to fail in this part of the city. His call to authorities began mobilization in his area.

"I was a young man of twenty five years of age and was employed by the Cincinnati Union Terminal Company and a First Sergeant of Company C 147th Infantry Ohio National Guard....On Friday night, the water started to back up onto Freeman Avenue near the ball park and around the Union Terminal. All activity stopped at the Mail Building at the Terminal and I was left there to watch the property. I was in the basement of the office and just outside of the door the lid blew off the sewer and water started to bubble up into the street. I called the Master Mechanic and suggested he get some people to start moving the material up stairs. He laughed at me and said I was just being excited. Soon the water got so deep I went upstairs on the first floor. I went to the water fountain for a drink and there was no water. I tried to use the telephone and it was dead. Then the rising water in the basement hit the generators and the lights went out. I then started down the platform toward the Coach Yard. When I reached the end of the platform I could see that the water was several feet deep. So I turned around and went toward the passenger station. I was able to get to the station and stayed there until my time to quit at 7AM. The water by this time had backed up in front of the Terminal and it was necessary for a high bed truck to take us out. I was told not to report to work that night." Charles C. Daniels, Sr. 1985

I saw the many travelers, especially in wartime. My grandfather and his brother would have been among the many men who had to say goodbye to their families as they were called to serve their country. I saw the women in the USO, providing comforts of home to weary soldiers. I saw tearful partings and reunions. It was under these colorful arches of the semi-dome that many said final goodbyes. 

I saw my father Charles Jr. as a boy, following his father around the terminal, getting glimpses of the nooks and crannies rarely seen by the regular visitor. Years later, he applied his profession of photography to the back tracks with his father as the subject, chronicling his retirement. I saw generation after generation of parents teaching their children to talk in the far corner of the front entry as they were given a magical lesson in acoustics.

I saw the fast paced buzz of train travel in the 20th century, and the busy cabbies driving through the circular underbelly to transport new arrivals or drop of the departing passenger. 

Fast forward to the lean years of indecision and trepidation. I saw shoppers and a whole room of suits as my parents took their time, shopping and savoring the palpable remnants of the past. 

I saw rebirth. A new generation of visitors. Some train passengers, the rest time passengers as they were transported through Cincinnati's history. Children exploring and learning at every turn. My brother and I screaming and laughing in the sink hole cave exhibit. Dad taking a picture with a flash, and blinding us all. The train of twinkling lights stretching across the iconic clock each Christmas as a bright and joyful treat coming down the expressway.

I remember ice cream in the soda shop and marveling at the Rookwood tiles inside. I remember weddings, theatre, and flying over the Grand Canyon. I remember walking the plaster statues of WWII, having a bowl of Skyline in the rotunda, and being transfixed with wonder every time I see the massive murals of colorful glass that tell a story all their own: Seriously, EVERY SINGLE TIME. 
Today, we talk about uniqueness, aesthetics, and sense of place as necessary building blocks of a happy and satisfied community. How do we draw them in and make them want to live here or stay here? Give them a unique experience unlike any other, so they say. There is no more unique place in this city than the Museum Center at Union Terminal. Where else can you get a healthy dose of art, culture, history, and architectural wonder? It has no equal in the entire country, let alone in this Queen City. Union Terminal is not just a building, an Art Deco echo, filled with exhibits and theatre, it IS Cincinnati. This temple of time, this holy place, tells OUR story as no other could.

For more information, including how you can help support this American treasure in trouble, visit the Museum Center website. or @CincyMuseum on Twitter

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

PSA: Backward Balloons

This Public Service Announcement is brought to you from the past. The little girl in the photo, proudly holding a balloon, is me. The year is probably around 1979 or 1980. My Mother and I are standing outside our Church in Cincinnati, ready for the yearly Vacation Bible School balloon release. This annual tradition served as the kick-off for VBS, and provided two weeks of wonderment for children who eagerly anticipated the return of the cards attached to said balloons. The contest was simple: each balloon had a card attached. As the balloons popped at the end of their journey, we hoped someone would find the card and mail it back to the Church. The winning balloon was the one that had traveled the farthest.

This tradition went on for years....but I remember when it ended. There was a shift in collective opinion regarding the environmental safety of releasing dozens, hundreds, or thousands of balloons into the atmosphere. Once we understood the impact of these repeated and widely popular actions, we just stopped. In fact, several states went as far as to make such releases illegal: California, Connecticut, Florida, New York, Tennessee and Virginia. In Kentucky, such releases are currently illegal in the city of Louisville.

Unfortunately, I have noticed a huge resurgence in this activity. In 2014, the activity appears to be almost untouchable or irreproachable due to its connection to mourning. It has become the new go-to celebration of a life passed. Yes, I will admit, such releases are beautiful...but the brief moment of beauty does not erase the harm inflicted on wildlife that may come across the balloon remnants once the pieces fall back to the earth.

When history does repeat itself, sometimes the same horrible results follow. I am saddened that we are taking a step backward to make the same mistakes of the past. Instead of celebrating a life passed by releasing dozens of items that could bring death to other creatures, why not come up with alternatives? Some have suggested doves or butterflies or even bubbles. While gardening the other day, I had thought of ladybugs. Gardeners purchase these beneficial little bugs on a regular basis as a natural balance of power when battling flower pests.

Some will argue that this concern is no longer valid because of two things: 

1. The balloons are made of latex which is a natural substance and biodegradable: Not really - natural latex could be, but it takes 6 months for a natural latex balloon to decompose - plenty of time to adversely affect an animal. Most released today are not natural, but modified to decompose after years of exposure.

2. The helium inside the balloon takes it to a height that shatters the balloon's surface, thereby removing the danger of larger pieces falling to the ground: Not really, this can happen in some cases, only if every balloon is tightly sealed or tied closed. If the closure is loose at all, the pressure can cause the end to open and the balloon floats down intact. However, you cannot seal them with anything but the balloon bottom - any other closure, such as string, plastic, or tape is regarded as non-biodegradable and littering according to most local laws. Plus, even the shattered pieces can be large enough to choke a small animal. 

***One special note about closures, strings, or tags: Non of the aforementioned items should be used if you do make the sad decision to release balloons. Unfortunately, when viewing some local releases here in Kentucky, I have observed strings or ribbons attached to the balloons when let go. Which tells me this new and hazardous retro-fad has not even been researched prior to the organization of such events.

For those of you who have lost loved ones, I have every sympathy for your loss, and believe you should celebrate their life in beautiful, grand gestures of love. However, in the case of balloon releases, please take that off your list, and try to think of a celebratory gesture that will not harm the environment or accidentally take a life as a result. Please pass on this word of knowledge from the past. I implore you to make a different choice BEFORE this new collective activity takes too great a hold!

For more info:

Friday, May 9, 2014

#NGS2014: Librarian Lessons

The official kickoff of the NGS conference was quite exhilarating this year! Attendees were treated to a lovely talk by Dr. Sandra Treadway of the Library of Virginia. As the State Archivist and Director of the Library, she sees first hand, the challenges faced by researchers, and the staff that serve them. This is one of those libraries that is not only a research facility, but a public library as well. From the administrative standpoint, that makes for a complex approach to serving their patron base. How do you make the collections available to the public, while meeting their changing technological needs, while still managing to protect the archival/rare materials that are under your care? It's certainly not easy, and it's a challenge they have met head on by creating specialized areas for type of use.
Most of you have spent a good amount of research hours in this relatively new facility (ca. 1994). And as beautiful as it is, the administration is eager to change things around to better serve their patrons. According to Dr. Treadway, they are already consulting architects to review options. So far, the report is favorable....they can modify in almost any configuration they desire, fitting in with the budget. The lesson here is multi-faceted. Libraries are ready to adapt their spaces for maximum patron engagement and use. Most all are restricted by budget cuts, but if the economy recovers, be on the look out for new library directions.....directions that serve the diverse patron groups seen everyday! 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

NGS Pre-Conference Sessions

The NGS Conference pre-sessions are well worth an extra day or two. As a brief re-cap of the activities I attended on Tuesday, I will highlight some tidbits learned.

This yearly staple for librarians who handle genealogical collections was held in the gorgeous Library of Virginia. Our opening session featured Leslie Anderson from the Alexandria Library as she covered their transcription project: Virginia Slave Births Index, 1853-1862. The project was originally the child of the WPA back in the 1930s. However, the microfilm copies were atrocious and needed to be re-processed. As a labor of love, they re-transcribed the records and have published them in a book available
We were also treated to sessions about re-thinking the contents of your genealogy vertical files, Family Search Wiki, Proquest products, and an exploration of the Civile War Legacy Project based out of the Library of Virginia. This project is focused on digitizing personal Civil War collections throughout the state. If you live in Virginia, be on the look out for a scanning date in your area! They are bringing their digitization equipment to a town near you!
Blogger Dinner Presented by Family Search:
At the NGS blogger dinner last night, Family Search let us in on a few new developments.

They have added more content to their Civil War records to their collections.

Their indexing software is moving to a browser based model, which means you will no longer have to download software in order to participate in indexing projects. 
Since mobile applications are evermore important to users, FS is developing more in-depth mobile apps for both platforms. If you would like to test their new mobile apps, just send your name and operating system (iOS or Android) to:

The obituary indexing project is their biggest project at present. On July 21-22, they will be hosting another crowd sourcing indexing event to get 20,000 users indexing during a 24 hour period. Be on the look out for announcements about that upcoming fun.

The obituary indexing project is extremely large....when finished, they will be four times as large as the 1940 census! 

That's it for the moment...more to come!
Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

NGS 2014: Bag Switch-aroo

For those still packing for Richmond, I have a confession to make. So, ya'll with with your bag advice...telling us to save the NGS bag for later and bring along a different bag to use during the win...for NGS I am a convert. I had forgotten about the NGS bags. They are not close to the body, but rather open, kind of loose, and not easily slung on the arm. They are fantastic for hauling all of your loot home gathered over the course of the conference and I use them a lot after returning, but on a daily basis, they are not travel friendly.
For any other major conference, I would still use the conference bag. As you can see above, the FGS and the RootsTech bags are designed to hug the body and are much smaller. I know some have been worried about accidentally leaving their bag behind in the mass confusion of duplicate bags. With the NGS bags, I agree. They are not on you physically at all times, so more chance to leave them behind. So, my bag of choice for this conference will be the RootsTech bag given to speakers this past February. It is a cross body style that is large enough to handle the exhibit hall goodies, and yet, stays with me at all times. I admit defeat for the NGS conference, but I'm still not convinced with the other conferences. I am so protective of my conference swag that it rarely leaves my sight, so I'm OK using the body hugging bags. 
Conference packing = such serious dilemmas! JK....See y'all in a couple of days!


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