Sunday, February 28, 2010

Census Problems: Dos Semillas or Doce Millas?

In working with the St. Augustine, Florida, Spanish colonial census if 1783, I have come across problems similar to those we encounter in more modern censuses. First among these is that we do not know who the informant was for any entry in that census. And there are also problems such as one I have encountered, that is: What did the respondent say vs. what did the enumerator hear? This is one way we come up with some of the creative spellings of names and places in the censuses.

In this particular instance, there was a woman named Honoria Clarke who lived in an area which is named in the census as "dos semillas" -- two seeds. However, this place-name is also found as "doce millas" -- twelve miles. It is quite likely that Honoria Clarke, being a "Doña," or a lady of quality, would not have been the individual responding to the census enumerator. Doña Honoria was actually British, this census having been taken right after Spain re-acquired control of Florida after it had been in British hands for twenty years (1763-1783). So the respondent was probably a servant or even a slave, and most likely a fluent Spanish-speaker, and they tend to speak quite rapidly.

The property of Doña Honoria is stated as being between three and four miles northwest of St. Augustine. We must remember that in those days, a "mile" was probably not the 5280-foot statute mile we use today. And mapmaking was not nearly as accurate as it is today, either. Something like five miles, today, northwest of St. Augustine is an area known as Twelve Mile Swamp. I have a suspicion that it is this area in which Doña Honoria's property was located. And if the respondent in this case was a fluent Spanish-speaker, he or she could have said "doce millas" and the enumerator could not be blamed for hearing "dos semillas."

On the other hand, there is also the possibility that the area was indeed, in those days, known as Two Seeds, and the homophone phenomenon occurred, leaving us with "doce millas" -- Twelve Miles. I have to seek out a contemporary map to see if that area is labeled, and as what. Place names can undergo curious metamorphoses.

Such an instance happened in St. Augustine. Early on, there was a street named Calle de la Marina. That has been rendered in one source I examined for my book on the censuses of Florida as "Street of the Marine." Such a word-by-word translation is not a refined piece of work. Today, the street is known, translated with proper regard to usage in the language being translated to as well as from, as Marine Street. This, however, is a misnomer. The Spanish word for "Marine," as we Americans and the British call a certain military member type, is spelled exactly the same way -- marine -- and is pronounced "mah-REE-nay." The word "Marina" is pronounced in Spanish pretty much as in English, where it has come to mean an area for mooring recreational boats. But in Spanish, "Marina" is the word for NAVY. I suspect a faulty translation during the British Period for this error. What today is called Marine Street in St. Augustine should be Navy Street.

Disclaimer: My father was in the Navy. He taught his dog a trick. He would ask the dog, Smoky, "What would you rather be? A dead dog or a Marine?" and the dog would roll over with all four legs in the air.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Geneabloggers Winter Games: Final Score, not so hot

So my final tally for the Geneabloggers Winter Games is:

20 documents organized, 10 source citations created, one act of genealogical kindness performed, and my data backed up!

Not so great, but this is a very busy time, and I have to watch that I don't get too run down because I have a habit of overdoing.

I think next time I'll be able to do more!

It was fun, and thanks to Thomas MacEntee for doing all he does for us!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why I'm Not Excited about WDYTYA

Will everyone forgive me for being a wet blanket and not being awfully excited about Who Do You Think You Are?  I am happy to see another genealogy program on the air, and yes, I have been watching Henry Louis Gates on PBS.  But I'm not as excited as others seem to be, from all the buzz, because I have to admit that I am just about up to the gills with celebrities.  Yes, Dr. Gates is using celebrities on his show, too.  It is interesting to see, for example, that the genealogy of Yo-Yo Ma goes back so far and to hear the story of how courageously his kinfolk in China hid an extremely valuable family record from the ignorant depredations of the "Cultural Revolution."   WDYTYA is airing on a commercial station instead of PBS, which leads me to wonder just what the production values are going to be like.   One thing that worries me is that in all the announcements about it, I haven't seen the name of a genealogist yet.  At least Henry Louis Gates has earned his stripes in the field.  It is possible that I've missed something, so if there have been announcements that particular well-known genealogists are affiliated with the show, please let me know.  it might help to assuage my fears.

Okay, it's nice that people will watch the show because everyone in the world seems to be more interested in celebrities than I am.  But I think it would just be so much more interesting if they were talking to and investigating the lineages of plain people.  Plain people finding out interesting things about themselves and about artifacts or family documents and the people behind them is why I like Antiques Roadshow and History Detectives, and I think is part of the reason for the success of these shows.  I think it would be so much more interesting to see plain people -- who probably have thought "Who would be interested in my dull story?" -- finding out just how fascinating it is to learn who their ancestors were, even if there's not a famous person or royal bloodline among 'em.  How much more motivating would this be?  Watching the celebrities find out about their lineages may be nice, but plain people might watch them and say, "Well, they're celebrities.  Of course they're going to have interesting stories.  But not me."  Seeing other plain people find out about how their ancestors came across the Atlantic or the Pacific, or up from Latin America, how they dealt with situations such as wars and depressions and strikes and discrimination would, I think, be much more heartening to other plain people, who might say, "Wow.  That guy's a working stiff like me, and look at his story!  I wonder if there's something that interesting in my family history." 

I'll watch WDYTYA, of course, to see how the whole subject of genealogy is handled.  I'll be holding my breath.  I know how commercial television handles history.   I do hope they get the details right, because it will grate on me if they don't.  I'm also generally not impressed with the ability of network TV to present a subject intelligently these days, and in recent months, too, I've seen reason to have very unsettled feelings about the judgment of NBC executives!

My genealogy society is hoping that the show will cause the phone to ring at our headquarters, so in conjunction with our meeting next month, I will be presenting, in another room from the main meeting, my presentation called "Bare Bones: Getting Started in Your Genealogy."  I'm happy to do this, and will be happy if WDYTYA brings people into the door of the society.  We've been doing some exciting things in the past few years, and we hope more people will want to become part of that. 

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: Google Maps

For this week's segment of 52 Weeks . . . Google Maps!

Play with Google Maps. This is a helpful tool for determining the locations of addresses in your family history. Where your ancestral homestead once stood may now be a warehouse, parking lot or field. Perhaps the house is still there. When you input addresses into Google Maps, don't forget to use Satellite View and Street View options for perspectives that put you right where your ancestors once stood. If you've used this tool before, take some time to play with it again. Push all the buttons, click all the links, and devise new ways it can help with your personal genealogy research. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experiences with Google Maps, or suggest similar easy (and free) tools that have helped in your own research.

I have used Google maps some. In fact, I am on Google Maps! Type in Calle Rodrigo de Triana 20, Seville, Spain, and pan around without moving forward or back, until you see someone wearing a striped blue-and-white shirt and brown pants with white shoes standing just outside an apartment building. My face is fuzzed out, bless Google's lawyered-up hearts, but that is me when I was in Seville to do research at the General Archive of the Indies!

I just looked up some addresses in my ancestry -- the house where my grandparents lived when my mother was born. The house is still there. I tried looking up another address, where my mother's grandparents lived in Logansport, Indiana, but apparently Google hasn't got there yet because it would not shift to a street view. Too bad.

I also saw that the house where my great-great grandparents lived in Bloomington, Illinois, is probably still standing, too! Wow. My great-great grandfather died in 1881. That's a long time, and I certainly do not expect the house I'm living in now, built in 1992, to be around for that long. They just don't build 'em like they used to!

One thing we do have to keep in mind is that house numbers may change over the course of time. The houses where my husband's parents and grandparents lived, right next door to each other, changed house numbering in the early 20th century. Apparently the house numbers on the street where my mother's family lived when she was born changed, too.

I prefer to play with Google Earth, however. There I get a real perspective of where everything is -- and where everyone was -- on the planet. I have "pins" stuck all over the planet on Google Earth, from ancestral stomping grounds in Suffolk, England, to Seville to mark my sojourn there, to places all over the U.S. where my family has lived at one time or another, from Massachusetts to California, and even up into Canada for a three-generation interval. I can draw lines on Google Earth, too. That's nice for marking migration routes. But as for migration routes, what I would really like is a huge wall map on which to plot those. What I need in our tiny house is a huge wall to display it!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: A-HA!

Once again it is time for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. So here are tonight's instructions:

1) Think of any number of genealogy events or moments that make you have a genealogy happy dance, an ah-ha moment, or a genea-gasm.

2) Tell us about them in a blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a comment on Facebook.

I didn't know until I was 10 years old and my cousin told me, that her mother and my mother, sisters, had been intra-family adoptions. Their father died in a railroad accident in 1917, when my mother, the youngest of three, was not quite a year old. They were adopted by uncles and their wives. I've told the story before here, so in a nutshell I'll just say that I never knew my mother's biological mother, my grandmother Ruth Nave. She lived a sad life, according to my aunt, had at least one other marriage if not two, and her last husband's surname was White. The other thing my aunt told me, about 30 years ago now, was that Ruth Nave died in 1951.

So one day I was at home not feeling very well, and I was messing about on the Internet and I decided to go hunting for grandma. I was at the website of the city of Logansport, Indiana, where my grandfather grew up. I remembered something about a Mount Hope Cemetery, so I went looking at the cemetery's website, which was linked from the Logansport website. There I found my great-grandparents in their family plot, and an apparent grandson that I had not known about buried there, too. I also found my grandfather, Benjamin Franklin "Frank" Reed, whose tombstone was marked B. F. Reed. He was not buried in the Reed family plot, however, but with his in-laws, Teter Nave and his wife Lizzie. Odd, I thought, because the Reed family had made the funeral arrangements and held the funeral from their home, according to my grandfather's obituary. Either they had acceeded to a wish from their not-terribly-favored daughter-in-law, or this was their way of saying to their son, of whose wife they did not approve (according to my aunt), "You made your bed, now you lie in it!"

But where was my grandmother? The tombstone marking my grandfather's grave also had my grandmother's name on it, as "Ruth, his wife." Her birth year, 1892, was on the stone, but the other date was missing. Was she not buried there? She had married again -- had she and her subsequent husband even stayed in Logansport? I couldn't search all the listings, because there were some 80.000 interments in that cemetery. So, feeling dejected, I closed the browser and was going to get up from the computer until I remembered what my aunt had told me: She had a husband whose surname was White, and died in 1951.

So I went to the index listing at the cemetery website, and there she was -- Ruth White, died 1951. And she was indeed buried there in the Nave family plot, right next to my grandfather, her first husband. Mr, White, then, must have been an understanding fellow. I later obtained a transcription of her death certificate from the Cass County (where Logansport is located) Health Department, and the informant on the certificate was Harold White.

Well, that was an A-HA moment, for sure, finding the grandmother I never knew and never would know, except to know where someday I need to visit her and let her know that her granddaughter thinks of her from time to time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Geneabloggers Winter Games: Jammed Up

I've had much to do in the last few days, but I did manage Tuesday to do a backup with my copy of HandyBackup. Not much else, but I hope to do more this weekend as a study break. Tomorrow I will be spending the day in the public library buried in the East Florida Papers and other references for my grant project.

So the tally now is 20 documents organized, 10 source citations created, one act of genealogical kindness performed, and my data backed up!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Geneabloggers Winter Games: Workout!

I feel like I've done a real physical Olympic competition!

First of all, yesterday, an opportunity to perform a genealogical act of kindness dropped into my lap. An individual who had seen my post about Asking the Right Question sent me an e-mail in which he said he was looking for a photo of the historian I discussed, who turns out to have boarded in his great-grandma's house in 1920! What a small world! I said I did not have a photo, but I gave him the contact information for a special library collection which holds many of his manuscripts, and may just have such a photo.

Today I organized 20 hard documents into their proper binders, in archival document sleeves. These ranged from my father-in-law's original World War II draft registration and draft classification (he was 4-F), and a 1945 Florida state census sheet to notes, official letters, funeral documents, and tombstone transcriptions. I keep binders by individual or by married couple. I also keep binders by family surname for those dribs and drabs I accumulate on a variety of people, but which are not of such volume that they need their own binder yet. But someday I know I will have to have another bookcase.

I also created at least 10 source citations, and decided that I am not going to migrate from The Master Genealogist to Family Tree Maker 2010 after all. Yes, FTM 2010 is using Elizabeth Shown Mills's sourcing templates, but it is using them too rigidly, and does not take into account original documents privately held in my own collection -- such as the aforementioned draft registration and classification cards. The template for "National Government documents," I think it was called, demanded to have me select from among National Archives or Library of Congress or other government agencies as repositories, with no way to put in that I am the repository for these documents! The Master Genealogist is still much more flexible and forgiving on that score, and was very happy to have me say that these documents are part of the "Rhodes Private Papers." No problem.

So the tally so far: 20 hard-copy documents organized, 10 source citations created, and one act of genealogical kindness performed.

Tomorrow is a class day, and I will be on campus all day, but I hope tomorrow night at the very least to backup my data to my portable hard drive with HandyBackup.

52 weeks to Better Genealogy: Online Databases

This week's challenge, posted by Amy Coffin at We Tree , is:

Online databases at your public library: Search your library's web site and see if your card grants you access to online databases. Libraries (even small ones) often have wonderful online tools including genealogy databases, historical newspapers and more! Take some time to play with these little perks that come with a library card. You just may get some help in your own genealogy research and gain some free research tools to boot. If you don't know how to access online library databases or you're not sure if your branch has them, ask a librarian for guidance. If you have a blog, discuss which databases (if any) to which your library subscribes.

I have four library cards -- my home Clay County (Florida) Public Libraries, Jacksonville Public Libraries, Alachua County Libraries (Gainesville), and the University of North Florida. Since I use the Jacksonville and Clay County libraries most, I'll just talk about them.

Clay County is a small but fast-growing county, and the Clay County Library system has come a long, long way in the 30 years we have lived here. They have access to a number of online databases which I might find useful including, for my Florida colonial lineages work, a database of Spanish-language Latin American journals in the social sciences. Other relevant databases include Academic One File for peer-reviewed journal articles in a number of fields, Civil War: Sources in U.S. History online, an electronic books database which covers "all electronic books available online that were catalogued by OCLC member libraries," and the FloridaCat Group Catalog in which I found a wonderful article on how the fisheries of St. Augustine have changed from the 15th century through the 21st, which will add a great social-history note to my research on St. Augustine during the Second Spanish Period! So right now the Clay County library electronic resources has benefited me! Clay County library's website also has Heritage Quest, which patrons can use at home.

Jacksonville is just north of here, and I often go to the main library there. I used to work for the Jax library, so I have a soft spot for them. They have a huge Genealogy department which is supplemented by the Florida Collection. They have the library edition of, as well as ArchiveGrid, which describes archival collections in libraries, archives, historical societies and museums across the globe. These two databases are in-library use only. I hadn't known about ArchiveGrid, but I will give it a test drive the next time I go to the Jax library. Among the history entries they have Daily Life in America (social history), History Resource Center: U.S. and History Resource Center: World, and Popular Culture Universe (covers from the 1920s onward), among others. The resources in this category of History, and in the Latino American category, are slim and do not include original sources or peer-reviewed journals, but rather seem to come from derivative compilations and encyclopedia entries. So, other than access to ArchiveGrid, I think I'll go for my journal article access to the University of North Florida website, where I can access a very large selection of peer-reviewed journal articles.

But it's good to know what is there, and I am looking forward to testing ArchiveGrid, and am rather pleased to see that Clay County's little library system provides me with more access to peer-reviewed journal articles than the large Jacksonville library system!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Geneabloggers Winter Games!

Okay, in the midst of everything else I'm up to my eyeballs in, I've decided to compete in Thomas MacEntee's Geneabloggers Winter Games , scheduled to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver (provided they can find some snow!) over the course of the next two weeks.

I have designed my flag, which you see there on the right. The flag shows the American flag on top, with the flag of the United Kingdom and a smaller flag of Switzerland, which means that I am an American with mainly British ancestry, and a smattering of Swiss ancestry on my mother's side.

There are six categories of competition, and I will be competing to one extent or another in all six. I am not by any stretch of insanity going to try to do all the tasks under each category -- I have books to read and 18th and 19th century Spanish documents to transcribe and journal articles to copy and read and my classes and two days a week with the five-year-old grandson! But I'm going to try to do some of the tasks in each category, as a way of advancing some of my own personal genealogy work which has gone neglected with all the other stuff I get involved in!

The categories are:

Go Back and Cite Your Sources!
I have recently transitioned from The Master Genealogist
to Family Tree Maker 2010, and need to be sure that all
my sources transferred intact, as well, and surely there
are other documents I need to make citations for.

Back Up Your Data!
I won a copy of HandyBackup in a Geneabloggers Data
Backup Day contest, and I will be using that to back up
all my data, not just genealogy, onto the portable hard
drive my husband bought me.

Organize Your Research
I have a drawerful of items that need to be cataloged,
sourced, and placed into binders. I also have some more
photos to put into my heritage scrapbook that I have
been working on. Time to get some of that done, and
these tasks will make a good study break.

Expand Your Knowledge
I'm always in favor of that!

Write, write, write!
That's what I do for a living, so I will be doing some of
it for the Games.

Reach Out & Perform Genealogical Acts of Kindness
I'll do what I can in this department with the time

So let the games begin!

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: My Funny Valentine

Here are the instructions for tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver:

1) Recall a memory of a Valentine's Day in your life. Is it the first love of your life? A special day with your lover, spouse or significant other? Do you have a picture of a Valentine's Day event, or a special Valentine that you received, to share?

2) Describe your Valentine's Day memory, activity and/or image in a blog post of your own, a comment to this blog post, or a comment on Facebook.

3) Have fun remembering a special day.

Back in my mother and father's day there was a song called "My Funny Valentine." Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald did renditions of it, among others. It was written by Rodgers and Hart, and the words were something less than complimentary but the sentiment was "Don't change a thing; I love you the way you are." Kinda sweet, in a backhanded way. But "My Funny Valentine" probably should be the theme song for my husband and me, not simply because neither one of us would win any contest for good looks (especially now in our old age), but more because humor has been a huge part of our lives and our relationship. So this SNGF won't pick on just one memory, but on the general tone of Valentine's Day around here.

We usually go for the humorous in the cards we get for each other on this day. Not the insulting humor that has such a place on the card racks -- though some of those are quite funny as well. Usually we go for the humor that reflects the absurdities of life, the little sillinesses that make life sometimes bearable in the face of increasingly disgusting news from the real world. We like the cards with puns, and the sillier the pun the more fun it is. As for our celebration, that usually revolves around food -- tomorrow night we will go to a favorite steak house that we reserve for very special occasions such as this, but do not get to visit often because it is quite expensive! Valentine's day comes one week before our anniversary, which adds a little to it, too. Next weekend, for our anniversary, we will be attending a symphony concert program of the music of John Williams. That will be fun.

And fun is a key word in any activity. Sure, an activity can be meaningful and helpful to others and contribute positively to society and all that good stuff, but if an activity or a relationship or any other thing we put our minds to can't be fun, why bother?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Asking the Right Questions

In our genealogical study and training ,we are urged to question our sources. Who created the source? When was it created? Why was it created? These are important questions, and I can give you an example as to why they are important.

In my research for my current grant project on the family structure of St. Augustine, Spanish Florida, 1783-1821, I came across an excellent article by Sherry Johnson, titled "The Spanish St. Augustine Community 1784-1795: A Reevaluation" (Florida Historical Quarterly, 68:1 27-54, July 1989). In the article, Johnson discusses the ethnic/national makeup of the population of St. Augustine, and deals with a contention entrenched in the historiography of St. Augustine: that the Spanish population during that period was quite fluid and therefore not of much consequence in the affairs of the town. From a comparison of the census of 1786 with a town plan drawn up in 1788 (which includes owners' names for town plots) and the census of 1793, it appears the English and Menorcan components of the population were more stable, and therefore of more consequence in the town's history.

This evaluation stems from the work of Joseph Byrne Lockey, who transcribed and translated the censuses found on Reel 148 of the East Florida Papers, Bundle 323A. The East Florida Papers, the originals of which are at the Library of Congress, consist in Spanish records seized at the time of the United States' takeover of Florida in 1821. There are several censuses from 1783 to 1814 on Reel 148 of the microfilmed East Florida Papers, but not all of them bear dates. It has been difficult to discern which enumerations apply to which years. Lockey transcribed the entirety, and thought along with everyone else at the time -- the early to mid 1940s -- that there was one huge census from 1793, the census of 1786 which is dated and identified, and a few from about 1813-1814. However, when Lockey was working with this long transcription of the supposed 1793 census, he discovered that names appeared more than once, with changes in family composition and in ages of the individuals. He was able to figure out that there was more than one census recorded, and to figure out the years of each of them within a small margin of error.

However, in examining these censuses, according to Johnson, Lockey also reached the above conclusion -- that the Spanish population turned over fairly rapidly. He assumed that these were the government officials who served short terms and then returned to Spain or Cuba or wherever. This rapid turnover, as perceived by Lockey, led to the conclusion that the Spanish were not that tied to St. Augustine during the period, and were not that important.

The problem is that in looking at the 1786 census, Lockey, a historian, did not ask an important genealogical question (which, may I point out, is also an important historical question): Who created the 1786 census? WHY was the 1786 census created?

Johnson did more research, thinking like a genealogist, and came up with the explanation, and support for the idea that St. Augustine in the Second Spanish Period was very much a Spanish town with a very stable and significant Spanish or Spanish-descended population. It is well-known that the census was taken by the parish curate, Father Thomas Hassett (he was Irish). The census has a brief descriptive introduction signed by Father Hassett, in which he states that he did not enumerate the Spanish officials or the troops of the garrison of the Castillo de San Marcos. He took the census because he wanted to know how many protestant foreigners resided in St. Augustine, for whom and whose children he wanted to create a school to catechize these protestants in the Catholic faith.

For 20 years, between 1763 and 1783, St. Augustine had been under the control of England. When the Spanish returned, there was a decree that foreigners who wished to remain as residents of the town must swear allegiance to the King of Spain and must, if not already Catholic, convert to the faith. It was those protestants who had been permitted to remain whom Father Hassett wanted to enroll in his school. It follows, then, that Father Hassett would not have enumerated the Spanish and Spanish-descendant families in St. Augustine who were already Catholic and not in need of Father Hassett's schooling.

Johnson adduces much other evidence to show the importance of the Spanish and Spanish-descended population of St. Augustine.

We need to remember to question our sources, for doing so may prevent us from reaching erroneous conclusions.

Monday, February 1, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: WorldCat

Here are the instructions for this week's challenge: Play with WorldCat is a massive network of library content that the public can search for free (user name and password not required). Not every library is a part of WorldCat, but the vast size of the network makes it an important genealogy tool. If you are looking for a specific book or publication, enter the identifying information into the WorldCat search box and see which libraries hold the item. You may even find that you can get the item through your library’s inter-library loan program. Don’t forget to search for some of your more unusual surnames and see what comes up. The goal is to play with WorldCat and examine its possibilities for your own research. If you’re already familiar with WorldCat, play with it again. The network and collection grow and change constantly. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experiences with searching WorldCat for this exercise

I have been playing with WorldCat lately because I've been looking at how many libraries have bought my new book, Non-Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945: A Guide to Sources. It is just so cool to see your own work in a library catalog, or, in this instance, a meta-catalog.

Something else I played with, according to the instructions: I entered the phrase "St. Augustine, Florida" and saw what came up. There are a few things I might look into for my current grant project on St. Augustine, so WorldCat did give me a bit of help there. But as for my own surnames, not much luck. Seems the branches I descended from had no writers hiding in them!