Friday, December 23, 2011

Chains Shall He Break...

Just over a month ago, I was searching for a family's records in Cumberland County Kentucky when I came across the following entry from Chesterfield County Virginia, dated 1790:

"Know all men by these present that I John Baker of Chesterfield County do believe that all men by nature are Equally free, and from a clear conviction of the Injustice & Criminality of depriving my fellow creatures of their natural rights, do hereby Emancipate or set free the following men, women and children, towit,

Bob & Daniel, December 25th......1790
Grace and Amy(?), December 25th......1790
Barbara......December 25th......1790
Tom, to go out, December 1793
Sally, to go out October 1796
Betty & Polly, to go out December 1802
Oliver, to go out November 1805
Indy, to go out September 1806
Hannah, to go out January 1807
(??), to go out February 1808
Peter, to go out December 1809
Amy, to go out March 1811

      I do hereby relinquish all rights, title, and claim to the said people after they (??) arrive at the dates above mentioned and not before; In certainty whereof I have herewith set my hand and seal this 9th day of June, 1790.
John Baker (seal)"

Without knowing anything about John Baker or the slaves he freed in 1790, I was instantly moved by this lone document hidden among the general deeds of Cumberland County Kentucky. Just reading the strong language used in this document brought some goosebumps and tears. Despite his obvious role as a slave-owner, he eventually felt strongly enough to boldly let this group of slaves go. I am in no way romanticizing his part in this process, but the document itself made me stop and think what freeing slaves might have been like in the late 18th century. In Virginia, slave-holders were the norm. We of course think of Jefferson who resided only a couple of counties over and whose own history of slave ownership is still controversial. In 1790, slavery was a hotly debated subject, but not yet within the realm of unmendable discourse.

I believe my goosebumps moment came from the strength of the language used, coupled with the dates in which he chose to give some of his slaves their freedom. Setting a number of slaves free could have been no small task in 1790, let alone filing such a proclamation with his local county officials, who were more than likely, his slave-holding neighbors. And it is true that he did not free them all at once - keeping some of them for ten more years. In a vulgar consideration, he was also choosing to disregard the cost associated with such an action. We are not accustomed to putting a price or value upon another human being, but they evaluated cost and value everyday - which is another testament to his strong feelings concerning the injustice of slavery. But.....the truly beautiful part of this document is that for the first batch set free, he picked Christmas Day to begin their new life!

He did not construct this document in December, choosing instead to plan ahead, having it drawn up in June of that year. After the document was in place, did he tell them in advance to prepare them for their freedom in December, or did he leave it as a surprise - a gift presented on Christmas Day? In either scenario, what must that first Christmas of freedom have been like for those five men and women? I think it is safe to say the celebration had to have been the most memorable of their lives. It has also occured to me, that perhaps the delay in freedom for the others could have been due to their age at the time. Were they under age? Was he keeping them on the plantation while letting their parents go - a way to keep the parents working while earning a small living - or was it too dangerous to set a large number of slaves free? If the locals were not receptive to such an idea....perhaps he was protecting them in a way?

These were just some of the questions that floated around my brain for awhile. But when I hear that extra verse in "O Holy Night", I will forever remember how important that verse truly is. Our world has not changed all that much since 1790. There are still places where slavery is accepted, and there are various forms of slavery in our own country. Despite what our own neighbors think, and what our pocket-book says, how much would we sacrifice to secure the freedom of another? Those are the questions we must ask ourselves each Christmas. He did not come so we might open tons of gifts, stuff ourselves and throw perfect glittery parties. He came to set all men free. Yes, it is a wonderfully joyous occasion and spending time with those we love is a perfect way to celebrate this amazing eternal gift - as long as we take some time to remember why we celebrate. I know there was some serious dancing going on in that cabin on December 25th, 1790! Let us take a moment and dance, just for Him, in grateful celebration for the freedom He bestowed upon all of us - for we were all slaves until that Holy Night so long ago! Merry Christmas Everyone!

"Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease!"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Perspectives: RootsTech 2012

Wow! I LOVE when genealogists get all fired up! We think we librarians can rock the social media outlets with outrage....I'm thinking genealogists may have the upper hand on this! If you don't believe me, just do a Twitter search for 'RootsTech' and watch the feed that has been tearing up the cyber-sphere for the past 24-48 hours! The issue? Conference planners purposely excluding all Book and/or Arts & Crafts vendors in the RootsTech Exhibit Hall. For the blog post that first reported on this amazingly shocking decision, check out Leland and Patty Meitzler's informative post here at: The Genealogy Blog.

I refuse to re-hash what everyone has said. The response posts, comments and various commentaries are so very informative and righteously indignant that I truly encourage everyone to spend some time today just absorbing the controversy first-hand. Even the official RootsTech bloggers are writing up a storm and being 1000% honest about their opposition - which is awesome!

So, as another blogger who also happened to attend last year, what's my take? Ok, they mentioned the Exhibit Hall Coordinator by name and are pretty much vilifying him across the board. Due to our Pastology talks with Family Search, we are personally acquainted with Mr. Clarke and find him to be a very nice and extremely intelligent person - who happens to be passionate about genealogy. And he is much more than the Exhibit Hall Coordinator - his official title is "Web Services Product Manager/ Affiliates Manager" for Family Search. However, he is a self-professed techie - through and through. After talking with Mr. Clarke on many occasions - about technology and genealogy specifically, I think I know where he and the rest of the RootsTech planners were headed, but also where they took a huge wrong turn. There are certain areas of technological development that he would like to see the genealogy field move toward. As a technological field, genealogy is only just now finding its tech wings within the past 15 years or so. We are a little behind in advancing....I think we are advancing fine....but in the developer realm, the hugely talented developers do not flock to genealogy for cutting edge development or large pay checks. So, in a way, I really think he was trying to bring in developer interest that looked more cutting edge and truly techie than anything we had done before. Also, by bringing in the users and developers I think he was also trying to show developers that there is a hungry user market waiting for new advances - and a VERY unique market at that: a group very passionate and devoted to the field, yet very helpful and tech savvy! 

The thing is, I agree with him - to a point. This is a different conference. This is not NGS or FGS, nor any of the other jamborees out there....this is a technology conference....and technology conferences look different. Any attendee from last year can attest that things looked and FELT different - which was why we all loved it! It was NOT the same conference we were all used to. Someone had just combined what we love into something new....something that allowed us to give input into the development of future products.....while adding the fast paced social media interaction....all covered in sparkly gravy!

However, with all of that taken into consideration we all noted a few oddities that just didn't fit our field.

When I spotted the huge area devoted to video games and pool tables, I actually stopped in my tracks with my mouth open. So many little thoughts were bombarding my mind at that moment. 

Here is the train of thought as it happened:

1. Very interesting and a very unique addition.
2. Wow, my 28 year old brother would LOVE this!
3. Oooh, so just like a REAL technology conference - play areas! Cool!
4. Great way to think outside the box!
5. This is WAY different than any other genealogy conference I've ever been to - which is what they promised!
6. Boy, all those young guys are sure having fun!
7. I don't think those are young genealogists hogging all the video games and Foosball tables.
8. (Looking around) Come to think of it, where ARE all the genealogists? Oh there they are! Being interviewed in the sound/video booths and taking up massive space in the media centers to blog their experiences - in other words, working and not playing - being passionate about this conference!

Another area of concern was the mix-mash of sessions that didn't really allow for much developer/user interaction, but fostered birds of a feather learning opportunities. I really felt this could be improved upon for the next year, and I hope they make changes accordingly. For more on my RootsTech hits and misses from last year.....see my previous posts.

A concern that is growing for me since I witnessed it first hand last year and now hear of others complaining about the same issue, is a lack of communication from the RootsTech side. By not responding to exhibitors on a timely basis, they seriously hurt genealogy businesses, and present an unprofessional appearance. After our communication struggles as presenters last year, we thought this would be fixed for year two....but it sounds like the unprofessional qualities are gaining in reputation = bad form guys, you really need to step it up in this area! Especially with a cutting edge popular conference of this magnitude!
"You're taking away the books!? But the children LOVE the books!".....sorry, it's Christmas, I had to quote Elf for this one! Taking away all books and arts/crafts is silly and and a fundamental misunderstanding of your base audience. This is another fundamental flaw in conference planning. You have to UNDERSTAND your audience.....not just the tech developers you've invited, and who may be coming over from California (that's a joke, I know some are travelling great distances)....the real, everyday users who are paying TONS of money to fly out to Salt Lake in February to attend.....and who will ultimately anoint or sink your future developments!

Solution? Simple.....develop your conference exhibit hall policies around technologies and enforce them reasonably, on a case by case basis. I have no problem with them wanting to keep this a technology conference - I like the fact that when I walk into the exhibit hall, it's going to be different. It's not the same as all the other genealogy conferences out there - and it's ok to be that way. However, books are the fundamental basis of learning any new technology anyway. Seriously, I know that most user manuals are electronic these days....but there are still developers who learn new code through print manuals (XML Bible anyone?). And they must remember that THIS audience favors learning about new technologies through print! We love books, it's our nature - don't ask us to just set that aside to fit the developer mold. We will be paying YOU for the products, not the other way around - so accommodating our preferences is a GOOD idea!!!
So.....if we want this conference to look different, how do we compromise? RootsTech needs to tailor the acceptance policy around technology based products - including books! I think it would be acceptable for officials to limit products sold......for instance....someone mentioned Maia's books wanting to exhibit.....I LOVE her stuff and have blogged her praises here before....but require her to bring along a tech heavy inventory to make sure it fits in the atmosphere of the overall conference. Not forbid certain titles, but encourage tech-heavy material. I know most vendors would be happy to comply - and this should apply to tech publishers and arts/crafts people. Make sure they understand that they are exhibiting material that is in some way related to a technology product or process.

Someone commented earlier that it would be beneficial for the developers to be introduced to our reading material to LEARN about what we are passionate about! I wholeheartedly agree with that! How does a developer enter a citation template/format into a genealogy product without having Evidence Explained on hand? They do need our input or they would not be having this type of conference - well this is their turn to show us that they really do value our viewpoint and want to bring both perspectives together, not just bring the genealogists into the tech world. After all, without the Roots in RootsTech, they just have the same old technology conference.....booooring. Oh! And how about, instead of having the huge play area consist of Nintendo and Microsoft games, it is only filled with tech play that is genealogy related!!! Let's make the tech vendors play by the same rules! Genealogy ONLY tech related items allowed on the exhibit hall floor! How awesome would it be to have a line of stations with various genealogy tech products to play with? Roots Magic, Legacy, Flip-Pal, e-publishing/heirloom creation.....ok, that scene gets me really excited! If only.....hope they are listening!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Breathing in History

Every Thanksgiving our family continues a newish tradition by renting a cabin in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Under normal, warmer circumstances, my personal Smoky Mountain mission includes spending as much time as possible in the mountains, hiking the trails or dangling my feet in the streams, while breathing in that fresh air. I'm not a huge shopper, but when Thanksgiving roles around, the weather prevents a lot of mountain time, and forces more shopping time. To make the best of this enforced shopping hiatus from the mountains, I try to make sure we hit as many "local" places as possible - i.e.: off the beaten and suffocating strip. One of my absolute favorite places to shop when in town is Ely's Mill. Follow me as I show you around this little hidden gem of retro shopping.

One of the quickest and most effective ways to quickly get immersed in the mountain atmosphere is to follow the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Yes, I know, you drive an automobile through the mountains - a contradiction of my previous paragraph - but not so! There are MANY places to park and hike or wander through fascinating stops along this paved trail. Since the tour is within the National Park boundaries, they have preserved many little former homesteads that existed before logging and tourism changed the landscape forever. However, once you get to the very end of this trail and cross just outside the Park lines, you encounter a collection of structures that has been preserved in a very different manner.
I will not attempt to portray the long history behind the existence of Ely's Mill. There is a web site where you can learn all about it. But in a nutshell, it was begun sometime back in the 1920s by a very educated man who wanted to get as close as he possibly could to in this small mill tucked away along a mountainside stream that has a magical beauty all its own. This man lived off of the land, but did so in an appreciative way that honored the beauty around him.
Fast forward many decades to today, and his descendants are still keeping that small little cluster of buildings full of delights and long standing mountain traditions for the curious tourist. Among the many wonderful treats that await are: hand woven rugs, table runners, scarves, etc. Antiques of all kinds. Locally made honey - which my mom has fallen in love with. Welcoming cats of all sorts. Historical tidbits, informative books and artifacts from the region. And stories/lessons galore. If the family is not giving a local demonstration of their weaving tradition, someone will be more than happy to sit a spell and explain the difference between locust honey and wildflower honey - and the specific seasonal sequence that has to occur to produce either.
This adorable hodgepodge of culture is sure to charm anyone with eyes attuned to the convergence of history and present-day traditions. I not only adore each visit for the sake of what I can buy from the present, but for the experience of wandering through an atmosphere overflowing with tidbits of the past. In fact, I feel more connected to history when wandering around Ely's than I do in the stark "preserved" homesteads within the park. Here, history is still alive in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a multi-generational legacy.
And besides......
Who can resist a place that has history AND kittehs?! Seriously!

P.S. Just remember, like the motor trail through the mountains, Ely's shuts down for the winter, so you best wait until spring to enjoy this special treat!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Changes and Noteworthies

I have a few news bits and updates to relate, so I figured a hodgepodge post would be the best method!

1. New Twitter account. Last year I wrote a post called Twittering Trees, that explored my impressions of Twitter and why my excitement was building for this communication trend - especially in the field of genealogy. Well, my feelings have not changed at all, and in fact, I spend more time on Twitter trying to keep up with current genealogy/historical news than I do with any other social media these days. In that last post I explained that it was just easier for me to tweet under @Pastology to keep things simple. While I will continue to tweet current events in genealogy/history land on the @Pastology account, I find life has become even more complicated career-wise, so I decided to end my issues of split personality, and create my own Twitter account. This new account (@Historiana) will have more personal impressions/tidbits from my research/genealogy encounters.....and probably a lot more fun! So, where did I get the name "Historiana", you ask? I've actually used this for years as an account name around the web, and always thought of it as a play on the word origin "Victoriana". Which means, it will be a playful feed on things historical/genealogical......with a spice of librarian sense....or nonsense! Plus, some things may be a bit more regional.....I am in Kentucky after all.....but I also travel and come across tidbits from all sorts of places. If I rant about anything patient, it is only a momentary pause in the proceedings.

2. AAGGKY. It is official! The African American Genealogy Group of Kentucky (AAGGKY), also known as "The Group" - has their web site live, their Twitter feed live and their blog up and running! They have been in existence for almost a year, but need your support! So please consider following them and promoting their efforts! They need all the help they can get, but they are already making quite an impact, even nationally! This organization fills such a need in this area of Kentucky research! Way to go guys! Their web site is: Their blog: and their Twitter: @aaggky

3. KHS. Ok, so, as some have caught on, I have a new connection to the Kentucky Historical Society.....but after being able to attend their genealogy programs, I wanted to make some of you locals more aware of the quality programming they regularly offer. The KHS and the KGS (Kentucky Genealogical Society) jointly host a genealogy program every second Saturday of the month. It is free and open to the public at the History Center in only need to call ahead and register so we can have a head count. They do have lunch available at $6 per person, but the lunches available are only based on those who pre-regsitered, so make sure you call ahead. Anyway, this program is in a wonderful facility, and they invite guest speakers in for an almost day-long session (~10:30-2:30). This is not your run-of-the-mill genealogy meeting. After attending so many national conferences....I can safely say this feels like attending a conference session....even the facility and speaker list feels like a mini-conference. Last month was a rep from Family Search (all day), next year we will be having other national speakers....including Dick Eastman! Last summer, for their full conference (not free), they had Elizabeth Shown Mills! Seriously! So anyone within driving distance, should mark these on their calendar.....what a great genealogy resource for the region! Here is the calendar link: (Btw, they already had the 2nd Saturday event yesterday due to a Holiday event conflict, but take a look at the December offerings & follow their Twitter account for reminders: @KyHistSoc) Also, check out their Thursday night schedules:

Tis all for now!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Empty Grave

After last year's post about genealogy encounters of the Creepy kind, my creepy meter has been getting a work out all year. My above title does not refer to the Resurrection, but to those monsters of the cemetery: The Resurrectionists (cue evil cackle and lightning/thunder.) My interest in this macabre group came about after two incidents. Late last year I became acquainted with the cemetery/burial issues concerning the Eastern State Hospital in Lexington KY. During a period of time spanning from 1824 to the 1950s, patients dying while residing in the "lunatic asylum" were believed to have been buried on the premises, especially when family members could not afford the cost of hometown burial. Unfortunately, finding the "missing" remains has been a huge challenge. The records are "missing" from the state, and apparently, so are the bodies. Some bodies have been discovered on the premises, but the number is very low compared to the amount that should be there. One of the documents I viewed in regard to this issue was a letter from a health nurse in the 1980s. She suggested that perhaps many of the bodies are missing because they were never buried, but instead, transported north to the Cincinnati Medical College for post-mortem use: ie: dissection.

I don't think many people took this suggestion very seriously, but I suspect it is a distinct possibility. Eastern State Hospital sits right next to the railroad line, and reports have surfaced that the Cincinnati to Indianapolis to Michigan network for cadavers was a true network that involved pickle/paint vats and the train system. For those of you not familiar with Cincinnati's grave robbing history, I suggest three things: 1. Read up on the grave-robbing scandal involving the Harrison family. 2. Check into some of the publications written by Dr. Linden Forest Edwards at Ohio State University. He wrote a series of articles for the Ohio State Medical Journal back in the 1950s that were later re-published in the form of small booklets by the Wayne County Indiana Public Library. These articles/booklets explored the medical practice of employing grave robbers to fill the need of fresh cadavers for medical dissection. (I will provide a small reading list at the end of the post) 3. Watch the video posted at the end from the History Detectives. They are researching a grave alarm which in turn leads them to go over some of the numbers associated with the grave robbing "industry" of the time. With each medical college in the area advertising a cadaver for each student, the number of fresh cadavers needed each year was pretty staggering.

The Cincinnati area was rife with the problem. Bodies were being stolen all the time during this period (1860s-1880s)....many from poorer cemeteries. Dr. Edwards wrote about the stories that were being told, and people were so aware of this problem that they employed night watchmen to guard over fresh graves - if they could afford this service.....otherwise, sometimes carried out by family members. Ironically, in the largest Cincinnati Cemetery, Spring Grove Cemetery, the Medical College erected a headstone in memory of all the bodies used for scientific purposes. I think that alone speaks volumes about the number of bodies we might be talking about.

So what about the central Kentucky area? Were these areas susceptible to the crime of stealing bodies? Without any real proof, my gut says, not as much as the Cincinnati/Louisville area. We had Transy's Medical School here, but I would imagine the need for them was not as large. Louisville was noted to have a bit of a problem there, but like Cincinnati, they were on a river. I would say, unless we used the railroad heavily, I would guess the easiest victims were had more along the river. After all, the grave robbers may have sold the fresh bodies to the medical colleges, but they were essentially on their own. If arrested, it was clear the men acted "on their own", with the doctors nor colleges feeling any heat with the arrest. Public sentiment grew pretty hostile against this practice, but things did not change until laws were passed that allowed legal acquiring of cadavers, including the donation of bodies.

This regional issue brings me to my second encounter with grave robbing. It came when I stumbled upon a note in the E.E. Barton papers of Pendleton County KY. One of my distant cousins related a tale that had been passed down in the family about the burial of my fourth great grandfather, Samuel Cox: "My Mother never did think that her grandfather rested in his grave, for just in a night or two at 12 o'clock, a man left that grave with something wrapped in white lying across his horse in front of him. The man was a truthful man, and is a brother-in-law of my father, Newton Humble was the man. (Speaking of the witness). We always thought that it was old Dr. Thomas, and that he probably took the body to Cincinnati and the medical college to find out what was the cause of his death."

What really struck me about this report was the proximity of Samuel's is a small family plot on the side of the road, out in the rural areas of northern Pendleton County, which is a pretty hilly place. If I was going to snatch some bodies, I wouldn't want to have to trek up those hills an back down again carrying a body, just for $10. But then, it wasn't too much farther to Foster in Bracken County which was right on the river. What better way to transport bodies? So, it has all just made my head spin a little to many of our ancestors are not in the cemeteries we visit? I don't really mind them being used for science.....but it kinda makes me mad in a way....our ancestors were so against it, for religious/principle reasons.....what gave these colleges the right to steal what belonged to our families? And once they were done, I'm assuming the bones were burned, etc. Which means we no longer have true knowledge of a final resting place. I think the headstone placed in Spring Grove is a nice gesture, but I would like to know where they deposited the post-dissection pieces or ashes. I think that would be the proper place for a memorial - and a place we could point to as a final resting place. Anyway, just some points to ponder - especially on Halloween :-)

Watch Cemetery Alarm on PBS. See more from History Detectives.

For additional reading:
Body Snatching in Ohio During the Nineteenth Century by Dr. Linden F. Edwards
Cincinnati's Old Cunny by Dr. Linden F. Edwards
Dissection and Body Snatching in the Nineteenth Century by Heather Fox, The Filson, Volume 9, Number 2, Summer 2009
The Poor, the Black, and the Marginalized as the Source of Cadavers in United States Anatomical Education by Edward C. Halperin, Clinical Anatomy, Vol 20, 2007.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Willow Magic at the Stroke of Midnight!

It is that magical time of year, dear readers, when this genealogy addict flies off the handle and takes her blog on a flight of fancy! I beg indulgence once again as I attend the annual Willow Manor Ball! Held each each year by prolific and talented blogger/poetess, Tess Kincaid, it has become the cyber event of the year. When the invitations came around again this year, I scurried away to find just the right accoutrements, and the perfect date! The rules are simple: you have been invited to attend a magical ball at Willow Manor. This event is magical because time and human flaws do not exist! You may look any way you wish (Jean Harlowesque figure), dress any way you wish (money is no object), dance like a master, and your date can be anyone you choose since time does not exist here. In retrospect, this is not that out of character for a historian - after all, in order to do what we do, we must have complex and advanced imaginations in order to visualize what life was like before our time! Blog about your adventure and then visit the Life at Willow Manor blog to post your evening's report. Things get started at midnight, so off to the ball we go! BTW, there is one other way to attend, simply visit Ms. Kincaid's blog and leave a comment - but where is the fun in that?! Let your imagination loose for a change and dust off those magical dancing shoes! Blogging/comment entries are allowed for 24 hours beginning at the stroke of midnight, October 12th.....follow me, and I'll show you where my imagination took me this year.....

So, last year, my choice was extremely hard, but I settled on a light blue with silver trim dress, accented by diamonds - moonlight itself was my theme, but it had a hard argument to make when my other choice was so tempting - night itself. This year was easier as I knew the darkness, with a hint of blue would set off our dancing in a beautiful way.....I am of course talking about Sapphire. I almost chose a more Mad Men 50s/60s flare of the skirt, but was drawn back into a more sleek and sultry cut. After all, with this figure, why hide it on a night like this? Besides, when I think of "evening gown", I think long and flowing, something that drapes and silhouettes the body in a manner that is elegant, yet seductive. This sapphire blue gown was exactly what I had in mind, and fit like a kid glove.....

Only to be perfectly accented with the following....
This gorgeous necklace that drapes downward to follow some of the plunging neckline....yet with diamonds.....both whispering the phrase "Starry Night".
To continue this mix of rich hues and sparkles of light, these gorgeous pumps.....
Further accented by this amazingly unique handbag - slipping back into a little art deco element - my design motif of weakness!
Once my shopping was complete, I needed  one more perfect element - a special date for the evening. After last year's date, William Powell, made such a grand and dashing entrance, I was at a loss for this year's selection. After all, I refuse to give up any of my fantastical requirements for the perfect date: he must be able to walk into a room with an air of confidence and debonair charm. He must be able to carry a tux like he was born in one. He must be able to dance beautifully, and above all, he must make me laugh! No ultra serious men will have the honor of my company for the ball. The perfect mix lies in that sophisticated, intelligent, charming man, who is confident enough to smile and laugh in a way that proves he is enjoying life to the fullest! Throw in a charming British accent, and you have: David Niven.
After reviewing David's offer, it was discovered, that he was not only an amazing actor, completely charming and witty fellow, but a war hero, and overall honorable guy - who also loved to laugh! It was said that "Niv was the twinkling star, the meteor who lit up every room he entered." I always loved him as an actor, and for tonight, he is not the older, gruffer actor I remember, but the young, witty, with a dash of slap-stick actor that I remember so fondly from his 1939 stint with Ginger Rogers in The Bachelor Mother.....move over Ginger, this time it's my turn to dance with the legendary twinkling star of Hollywood! 
See you all next year! Thanks to Ms. Kincaid for another triumphant ball!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sepia Saturday - Sleeping Beauty

I know I'm a day late this week for Sepia Saturday, but when I saw the theme earlier in the week, I knew right away which photo I was going to pull out of the collection. She is labeled in our tin-type album as Mary Allender. With that name attached, I'm pretty sure I know where she fits into the family tree - and would like to assure everyone, that she is NOT a memento mori. About 20 years ago, a distant cousin of ours, Ron Woods, renovated the "Mary Allender Log Home" in Pendleton County Kentucky. I have put the title of the home in quotations to point out its connection to the little sleeping girl.
Ron named this house after his grandmother Mary Allender Carnes who was born and raised right there in the house on Hickory Grove Rd. She was born in 1882, the granddaughter of the original builder, James Jackson Allender. However, for those of us who are cousins from a different line, the "Mary Allender" name also fits our ancestry. James Jackson Allender was married to Mary Stout Allender - both making their home and establishing our ancestry in this beautiful dwelling. This original couple built the log home in 1856, although, poor James only got to enjoy it for about 11 years before he died of smallpox.

James Jackson Allender
The little sleeping Mary is one photo among many others in what I call "The Allender Album". According to a notation in the front, this album belonged to Mary Stout Allender. It is filled with photos of her children and grandchildren. Judging by the age of the photo, and when little Mary was born, chances are pretty good that this is Mary Allender Carnes who grew up with her father Benjamin Allender in the log home. After just a glance at the Allender lines from James and Mary, I'm not seeing any Allender girls named Mary within this time frame: except for Mary Allender Carnes.

As a side note, I've not visited the homestead for quite some time, and have not visited with cousin Ron since he opened the finished log home back in the early 90s. If you are still around cuz, shoot me an e-mail. I have a duplicate tin-type of this photo and if you too think this is your grandmother, we'd love for you to have the original duplicate. I also hear you have a stash of photos - we need to get together for a photo scan fest of our own! I'll be at the Wool Fest in a couple of weekends in case you run across this post!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sepia Saturday - Family Travels

For this week's Sepia Saturday, the theme of travel or place was a welcome suggestion. When deciding which photos to post, a family pattern emerged. It turns out that one side of my family has been very travel savvy over the generations, while the other side was full of home bodies. The photo to the left is typical of my mother's side of the family. Kentucky farmers who loved posing with the cars, but hated traveling very far away. These two young men (Roy Watts and Bill Beyersdoerfer - brothers-in-law) were quite the road devils in the 1930s. They loved racing around the curving hillsides of Pendleton County Kentucky and "driving up closely to the bumper of an old couple's car to honk" their horn for a good laugh. Throughout the rest of their lives, they maintained this close relationship to each other and the roads. Roy remained addicted to taking leisurely Sunday drives, just to "go" somewhere and view his neighbors crops, while Bill complained of the slowness of "old" drivers when he was in his advanced 80s. I can imagine these two still racing the roads of heaven together as they did when first forming their friendship so long ago. The remaining images are a sampling of family travels from my father's side of the family.
The woman on the right is my great grandmother, Ruth Elizabeth Schilling Daniels. I have no idea where this is or whether these ladies went up in the plane, but Ruth was from the Ohio/Indiana areas, so that will have to be our default location for the time being.
Here is another photo from the Klondike Gold Rush collection. Someone on the Daniels/Schilling side of the family must  have been enormously adventurous to travel this great distance for the small possibility of finding gold! This mode of travel in that area is also the subject of another interesting point of trivia. These boats were often dissected once arriving at their location to provide building material for the shacks that housed the miners.
Grandpa Charles Daniels traveled extensively while serving in the military. He not only served in both the Pacific and European theatres during WWII, but took his entire family with him to live in France while he was stationed there during the Korean War. This is a view of his corner of Paris during WWII.
Grandpa Charles, celebrating the end of WWII in Marseilles, France (Front right) - would love to have tasted that bottle of French Champagne!
A piece of travel ephemera from Charles' collection - his ship assignment from 1943.

Before and after the war, Charles worked for the Cincinnati Union Terminal. Perhaps working along-side so many travelers kept his travel bug strong and active. The photos above and below were taken after his retirement from railroad work, and at a time when the fate of the Terminal was very precarious. For another Sepia Saturday post about the terminal, please see the Lincoln Park blog post.
That about wraps it up for the older travel photos. Charles and Bessie were some of our biggest travelers. They spent their retirement years travelling to Hawaii, several other states, and down the Mississippi on the Delta Queen - so many times I cannot count. In turn, their children and grandchildren have taken on the tradition of globe trotting like travel pros. Me, I'm a bit more middle of the road: have not travelled too far, but can be happy either way. I love a good trip, but enjoy being a home body as well.
Safe and happy travels everyone!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Personal Library as Family History

When beginning my genealogy journey, my intent was to discover the stories of my ancestors, not just collect facts about them. I guess it was always the thrill of the story hunt that fueled the fires, so to speak. When approaching genealogy in this manner, your collection of information tidbits may be handled differently. Instead of simply asking others about a list of facts, you also ask about their interests/passions and feelings associated with such. However, once loved ones are already gone, we must look to their personal belongings to tell more of the story. Now, I understand how hard this is for many of our ancestors. After a few generations, maybe even after one, belongings scatter, and unless someone has kept a story with the item, they lose their "voice". One group of belongings can always tell a story if kept together or even if separated, and if the original owner's identity is attached to said group/item, you can recover a treasure trove of information. I am, of course, referring to the personal library.

As a librarian, I've always been cognizant of the books people display in their homes. It immediately tells me a little bit about what is important to them, and a bit of insight can be very useful. Not everyone owns significant book collections, but almost every household has a little collection of some sort. We are a nation of readers, and books have always been a symbol of education and learning - something we have held to great esteem over the centuries. Therefore, a small collection of books is usually valued, no matter how humble the circumstances.

A few years ago, my grandmother was complaining about the "clutter" she had in her basement. Now, she was not ready to get rid of any of her "clutter". She was referring to the "clutter" of others. My grandparents on my fathers side were definitely magpies.....they collected everything. Their collection tells decades of stories, just by scanning what they have - a museum to their life, and it is quite fascinating. The "clutter" grandma was complaining about was a large collection of books that filled a large bookcase at the bottom of the stairs. She was ready to get rid of these because they were a collection from three generations ago. The books had belonged to my 2nd great-grandfather, Horace Schilling from Columbus, Ohio. This man would have been her husband's grandfather, therefore, a branch of the family that she was no longer relating to. Her solution was for me "the librarian" to haul these books out of her house. Well, ummm, I wasn't quite ready for anything like that, since, there were at least a couple hundred books, maybe more, and they were very dusty and dirty. Besides, as much as my bibliophile radar was pinging off a storm, I knew I lived in a very small house that would not accommodate such a collection.....but I took the invitation as a beginning step, and told her I would take a few at a time.

Grandpa described his grandfather Horace as a man who "loved to read". He remembered that Horace loved to take his little rocking chair outside onto the brick walkway in front of his house and read a book. It was no surprise then, when I made my way through his collection that I found his very organized, typed "bookplates". They are very homemade, but charming. In a way, they are also somewhat of a primary source. After seeing the family name spelled various ways in the census and other records, and predominantly with no "c", this typed version in all of his books could be considered "from the horses mouth" with his own hand/typewriter. He had books that numbered up over 200, so he must have been a voracious reader. I very much like to think that he would  have approved of having a librarian for a great great granddaughter, and every time I hold one of his books, I like to think of him out there in his little rocking chair, enjoying this title so many years ago.

As I started pulling some titles that looked interesting, I was noticing that some were resonating with past information and mysteries that we had heard about over the years. For instance, there was a book about pharmacy....all sorts of chemical compounds that would help in relieving medical conditions. Inside the front cover, was the signature: Horace Schilling, V.S. I smiled at this one because my grandfather had once told me that after retirement from the railroad, grandpa Horace was a sort of jack-of-all-trades, with one of his side professions being something of a local/amateur veterinarian. He remembered that grandma Schilling completely disapproved of this "hobby" because he wouldn't take payment for his services.

Another couple of titles gave me more clues about a family mystery: White Fang and The Official Guide to the Klondyke Country and Gold Fields of Alaska. One of our family photo albums is a combination album. I'm pretty sure it was my great grandmother Ruth, Horace's daughter, that put this album together. It contains photos from both sides of the Schilling/Daniels families. Unfortunately, not everything is labeled, and many times I am unsure which side of the family the photos come from. There are several large photos scattered throughout the album that are clearly from the Alaska/Klondike region.....from around the turn of the century. They are an amazing collection, and I want to investigate further, but have been very uncertain about which side of the family to research for more information. With these two titles being in grandpa Horace's collection, it points me in a Schilling direction, and to the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800s.

Overall, there are other things to be gleaned from Horace's collection. He enjoyed humor, fiction, military stories, hunting stories, lots of fiction, and general history books. Which brings me to the recommendation to take a look at some of your family members' collections. If I thought back, I know my grandfather Daniels collection would consist of WWII, Civil War and Railroad titles, which are a pretty close match to the interests of my own father. My grandfather Watts on my mother's side consisted of religious, farming and western titles - he loved Zane Grey. So think about your own books. If someone looked at your collection, what would they learn about you? Mine would consist of the following subjects: history, genealogy, herbs/gardening, religious, Smoky Mountains, Antique collecting, art/exhibits, children's picture books, Italy, and random antique editions that I found in book stores.

So while you're out there, gathering your family history, don't forget about the books! They tell another story besides the one between their covers. Re-connect with your ancestors by reading one of these old titles, and don't forget to flip through the pages! People stuck all sorts of sentimental little keepsakes inside for safe keeping! Or even chose to record the family history in the most unusual places - like my grandmother Ruth did as a young girl. Also, another family history tip: if the collection is too large to keep together, dispersal of a family library is a way to let everyone in the family have a piece of the historical pie. With a collection of this size, there would be one or two titles that would particularly appeal to the interests of each descendant. For instance, I pulled one for my brother because it was about the Boy Scouts, since he had belonged as a youth. If the subjects vary a lot, each person can take a title that helps them relate in a personal manner to the ancestor that came before them.
The Library:

My days among the dead are pass'd;
Around me I behold,
Where'er these casual eyes are cast,
The mighty minds of old;
My never-failing friends are they
With whom I converse night and day.

With them I take delight in weal,
And seek relief in woe;
And while I understand and feel
How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedew'd
With tears of thoughtful gratitude.

By: Robert Southey
From one of the books in my personal collection: A Thousand and One Gems of English and American Poetry, 1884

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

School Days

When I arrived at work this morning, I was reminded that today was our first day back to school on campus. I know many other kids have already went back in our area, but now, even the college crowd has arrived. I will not name exactly which University I work for, but I was amazed at the amount of blue and white being worn by the students. Sure, some school spirit is natural, but on the first day it was pervasive.....and very fun to see. There was an air of excitement and a bit of joy....I can remember when sporting your school colors would have been seen as a bit nerdy......but I'm very glad to see things have changed for the better in this area. For the rest of the youngsters out there who were not as excited about returning to school I present this small token for your amusement.

This is quite the smart looking bunch sitting for their school portrait in Pendleton County Kentucky - but then, if you look closely - I see a whole lot of scowling faces! I know that smiling for the camera was not a preference in the above time period......but I see some girls in the very back row grinning for the camera. The rest of the students on the other hand were downright sour! Regardless of whether you are wearing a grin or a sour face - welcome back everyone!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sepia Saturday - Tree Memories

Reuss-Beyersdoerfer Clan
The suggested Sepia Saturday theme for this week, trees, inspired me to look back on my own family tree memories, and what better way to celebrate genealogy than by honoring the image of the tree. I attempted to pull some sepia images from my family collection - but as other bloggers have learned today, there are not many "tree" photos in our collections. The family image that you see to the left is my favorite "tree" image. To see this family group, standing proudly in front of this equally proud tree that towers over them demonstrates a perfect blend of history and symbolism.

My other favorite family image that includes a tree is this one of the Cox family in Pendleton County Kentucky. Most family group images we have utilize a more family focused composition. In other words, close enough to only see the people. This family photographer took a little artistic license and let the trees be even more prominent than the human subjects - or perhaps they were so new at taking pictures that they forgot to get closer.....either way, we get to see the expansiveness of the trees on this property, and not just the expansiveness of the prolific family unit!
Within my other family memories, trees have played a prominent role. I spent a huge chunk of my youth and adolescence traipsing around, climbing, drawing and adoring trees. I was an outdoors kid all the way. Nature and all of its complexity was, and still is, a dear friend. This image is from my grandparents farm in Bourbon County Kentucky - an old walnut tree that sits between a small field and the vegetable garden. That farm was not only a source of spiritual and mental health for me, almost as necessary as oxygen, but it also embodied all of the love my grandparents bestowed upon us when visiting. And don't get me started on the adventures! So many I cannot count! As a side note, this farm in the far western part of the county was certified a few years ago as home to the second largest tree in the state of Kentucky! An amazing old burr oak tree that sits in a valley, just below one of the ponds. Each tree branch is the size of a large tree trunk.....awe inspiring.

I have always regarded genealogy as somewhat of a spiritual journey. There is nothing as humbling as looking back across the generations and realizing that you are merely one addition to the long string of people that have come before you. Soon, you too will be nothing more than someone's memory. But in this realization, it bolsters my belief in life eternal. Time is ever flowing. And yet, when I think of the spiritual realm, and perhaps the place where our ancestors reside, there is no time. This final tree was captured on "film" just this past June while hiking up to Laurel Falls in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We all learned in school that the trees we see above the soil have a duplicate existence in size and proportion below the soil in the form of roots. I can remember thinking, as a child, that had to be a load of bunk.....they were asking us to believe in something we could not see. This is just another example of nature demonstrating to us that we only understand a small portion of the world we encounter. I've also heard it said that the spiritual realm is just as real as the world we can see with our eyes, like this tree and its roots - and if our roots are as important as most genealogists believe, our journey is never finite.


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