Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ambivalent in the 21st Century

Just recently, my book, Non-Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945: A Guide to Sources, came out in a Kindle edition from (through an arrangement my publisher, McFarland, has with Amazon). I am ambivalent about this.

On the one hand, it is the current trend and, I suppose, the wave of the future. E-books are here to stay, I know. And I am getting the same royalty rate on Kindle sales, just not the same amount, of course, because the Kindle edition costs less than the print edition. Of course, the Kindle reader itself is not exactly inexpensive, which has an effect on the dissemination of the electronic texts made for it. As the technology develops, as with other electronic innovations we have seen over the past few decades, the price will come down as they become both more common and more sophisticated. E-books do have the advantage of not requiring bookshelf space.

On the other, I am an old-school sort of person who prefers the feel and versatility of a print book. I would not read a Kindle or any other e-book in the bathtub, for instance (though I rarely read in the tub because I prefer showers). I cannot really mark in an e-book (though there are, I know, provisions for making some sort of notes and comments in them) like I can in a print book. As a historian, I read a lot of histories and related works, and I like to argue with my texts by making marginal comments. Print books are not at the whim of ever-changing technology and the problem of "platform creep." And print books are easier on my old eyes.

I also remain unconvinced that e-books are piracy-proof (though, come down to it, print ones are not completely piracy-proof, either). I suppose it is a toss-up, and I have to say I am in favor of whatever method will result in sales of my works, of course!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Place Names

In my transcriptions of the 1783 Spanish census of St. Augustine, Florida, I'm learning a good bit about the place names around St. Augustine and around Jacksonville, where I grew up. One of these fascinating tidbits is that a watercourse known today as Julington Creek, in southern Duval County, was originally Julian Anton (or in some entries, Julia Anton) Creek. Now I want to find out who Julian (or Julia) Anton was.

There are other names which have intrigued me. There are three or four references I have found to a geographical feature called Public Point. I checked the St. Johns River charts and have found no such place today. The name may have been changed. Or the feature may have been eradicated when the Army Corps of Engineers, early in the 20th century, dredged a new, straighter channel for the St. Johns River, creating Blount Island, which is now a commercial port facility (at which I served in the Coast Guard as project officer to supervise a massive military hazardous-cargo loading evolution).

We have lots of small creeks branching off of the St. Johns River. Let me give you some point of reference. The St. Johns River varies from about half a mile wide to three to five miles wide in some places along its course. It is the only navigable river in the western hemisphere that flows north. What we call a creek around here, many people in other parts of the country call a river.

My husband, a Jacksonville native, and I, who moved here when I was 7 years old (a long time ago) grew up knowing about Pottsburg Creek and Pablo Creek and Six Mile Creek. All of these names appear on this 1783 census. Other geographical names we grew up with also turn out to be a lot older than we thought -- St. Johns Bluff, Talbot Island, Doctor's Lake, Fort George Island. There are others which we knew to be very old, dating from the time of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who founded St. Augustine in 1565. One of these is Matanzas, name of a river and a stretch of beach where Menéndez dispatched two crews of Frenchmen, including Jean Ribault.

And one place name I have already talked about. That is the swamp known today as Twelve Mile Swamp.

What place names are in your local area, or in the area where your ancestors lived? Is there any significance to these place names? Are they the same today as they were then? Take a look at your records which might mention place names, and see if you can track down their origins. Then check nautical charts, if these are waterways you are looking at, old maps (see if your library or genealogical society has some), and Google Earth.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The 2010 Census: Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy!

As genealogical sources go, the 2010 census will not go down in history as one of the most stellar. It calls for very sketchy information: name, sex, relationship to head of household, age, birth date, whether of a Hispanic ethnicity, race, and whether the person stays elsewhere from time to time. On that last question, I told our younger daughter, who lives with us, that I had to answer that question "No" for her because Walt Disney World is not listed!

The 2010 census falls far short of such as 1880, 1900, and 1930, for example. These censuses gathered such genealogically valuable information as the individual's birthplace and the individual's parents' birthplaces, occupation, whether the individual rented or owned his or her home, and marital status.

2010 does not even ask occupation or marital status! Unbelievable.

On the other hand, we of the late 20th and early 21st centuries live the most well-documented lives in the history of genealogical records. The crux of the matter here is preserving our home collections of such records. Whether these records will, in their official locations, be accessible to the genealogical investigator in the future, and to what extent, could be a problem. I have already had a terrible experience trying to access church records, at the church I attended in my childhood and my teenage years, where I was pretty much treated like a potential identity thief. That was a heartbreaking experience for me.

Apparently, censuses of the future will not play as important a role in genealogy as those of the past have. That's too bad. While it is true that the purpose of the census is not genealogy, there are also other disciplines -- demography, economic history, sociology -- which will suffer from the paucity of information in the 2010 census.

Anyone who wants their story told, wants their past preserved, and hopes their descendants will be interested in keeping the family history had better hang onto employment records, church records, and all pertinent documents in their hands.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

First review (I just HAVE to BRAG!)

The first review of my new book, Non Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945: A Guide to Sources, was published in the (Jacksonville) FloridaTimes-Union 28 February 2010. I had the paper, but had not made use of it yet (that use being to cut out grocery coupons!). The online version of the review is here.

I like it. The reviewer calls it a "must-have" book. Problem is, books issued by my publisher, McFarland, usually don't appear in book stores, as they sell through the jobbers that service public and academic libraries, and do direct-order through their website. Maybe I should contact the local Barnes & Noble and see if they want to arrange a signing?

In other news, I made a presentation this morning for my genealogical society, the Southern Genealogists Exchange Society, to a small class (N=10) of my talk which I call "Bare Bones: Getting Started in Your Genealogy." It's a stepping stone to the six-week-long class the Education Chair is planning (and in which I probably will be teaching some of the units) to be announced later this year. When asked whether "Who Do You Think You Are" influenced their attendance at the class, only one raised her hand. WDYTYA is a great thing to have on TV, but the interest is already there for a lot of folks, apparently. And that, too, is a good thing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Women's History Month: Working Girl

Today's installment of the Fearless Females theme from Lisa Alzo is "Working Girl."

My mother worked right out of high school, during the Depression, in Pensacola, Florida, as a secretary. She did not say who she worked for. She did not work during marriage to my father, but when he died in 1954, she had to go back to work. Having been out of the workforce for so long, she first had to go to secretarial school, and then to work. She was able to go to school while handling all the responsibilities of a mortgage and three children because she received a pension as a Navy widow. It was only after my father died that my mother had a house of her own. All during their marriage, they always rented their homes, never buying any.

She worked first for a lumber company in Jacksonville, Florida. Later, she decided she wanted a specialty, so she took courses to become a medical secretary. She worked at Baptist Hospital in Jacksonville (now Baptist Medical Center) from the time it was built in 1955 into the mid-1960s, when she changed to working for doctors in private practice. She enjoyed being a medical secretary, and I think part of it was that medical folks have such a pawky sense of humor!

She was the secretary in the surgery department at Baptist, and wore scrubs during work hours, as was required of everyone who worked in that area. One evening, after she had changed back into her own clothes and was walking down the corridor to the elevators, one of the surgeons saw her, and exclaimed, "Why, Martha! I almost didn't recognize you with your clothes on!" She thought that was terrifically funny.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Carnival of Genealogical Societies: The Southern Genealogist's Exchange Society

The Southern Genealogist's Exchange Society, located in Jacksonville, Florida, has been going strong since the mid-1960s. It was founded by Aurora Shaw, CG. The Society concentrates mainly on southern genealogy, but the society library holds volumes on genealogy in all 50 states and many foreign countries.

One strong point for the society has been its yearly seminars. Our spring seminars have had good success and have included as speakers professional genealogists such as "The Genealogy Guys" podcast's George G. Morgan, guests from, and local speakers, some of whom come from the society's own membership. The society has also worked with the Jacksonville Public Library's genealogy department in putting on programs.

Not only have I learned a great deal from many of these seminars, I have also benefited in that this is where I have launched my own genealogical speaking endeavor. Now I am getting engagements where I am actually paid money! I don't think that would be happening if I had not started out making presentations to the SGES at meetings and seminars. As time goes by, and I develop more topics for my presentations, I expect that I will head more into the direction of being paid, and paid more as I become more proficient, and more widely known.

You never know what opportunities might open up when you join your local genealogical society.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Women's History Month: How Did They Meet?

I'm a little late with this, because I wanted to post my reaction to WDYTYA earlier; don't miss it, just before this entry.

The March 5 entry for Lisa Alzo's "Fearless Females" meme for this month is:

March 5 — How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?

My mother told me a rather romantic story, eminently demonstrative of her own resourcefulness and determination, about how she and my father met. She grew up in Pensacola, home of the Pensacola Naval Air Station, which in turn is home to one of the Navy's flight schools. She and her friends would date officers, and one night at the Officer's Club at Pensacola Naval Air Station, she spied a young officer who had not long before reported aboard for flight training. She fixed her gaze on his handsome face and said to her companions, "That's the man I'm going to marry."

She was right. That's my father, Arden Packard, in the photo at left, above. This was his wedding picture, and I have this one and the one of my mother, Martha Shideler Reed, at right, framed, sitting on a bookcase. These look very much like they come from the 1930s, which they do. They were married 16 July 1937.

The story ends rather sadly, as they were only together for 16 years, as my father died 25 April 1954. My mother did not remarry.

Friday, March 5, 2010

WDYTYA: The first installment

When I was living in a scholarship house at Florida State University back in the mid-1960s, one of the other girls in the house would say that something had her "surprised and pleased."

Tonight's debut episode of Who Do You Think You Are? has me "surprised and pleased." They have done it the way I wish Henry Louis Gates had done it! They stuck with one person through the hour, the person herself -- Sarah Jessica Parker -- did actual travel on the trail of her ancestors, from New Jersey to Cincinnati, Ohio, to Eldorado, California, to Salem, Massachusetts. They had real genealogists and real librarians and real historians showing a little bit of the process (you cannot show the entire process in one television hour) of research, and they had Ms. Parker making the acutal discoveries in some instances, rather than just sitting at a table and being handed a book. Sorry, Dr. Gates -- I think WDYTYA has it right.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether this level will continue, but I think it has a good chance. As my husband observed, they "de-celebritied" the thing pretty quickly, taking the right tack and concentrating on the search for ancestors. I still would like to see them use plain people, too, but for a show using a celebrity, this one was well and intelligently done.

I would like to see more emphasis on the correct use of records and the correct citation of sources, but that's pretty dull stuff for the TV audience, I guess. (I also wish that every census sheet had the gorgeous handwriting of that 1850 Eldorado census!). They did rather gloss over the establishment of connection between her ancestors John E. and John S. Hodge, but again, they just can't show the entire process in a television hour.

I am, indeed, surprised and pleased.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Women's History Month: Marriage Records

Today's instruction from Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist is:

March 4 — Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.

I have a marriage record for my maternal great-grandparents and my paternal great-grandparents, and for my maternal grandparents, but not for my paternal grandparents -- just haven't got round to that one yet.

My maternal great-grandparents were Francis Harvey "Frank" Reed and Florence Elizabeth McKee. The marriage was announced on page 1 of the Monticello (Indiana) Herald, Thursday, September 18, 1884: "Married, at the residence of the bride's mother, on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 1884, at 12:30 p.m., by Rev. L. J. Natzger of Logansport, Mr. Frank Reed, of Portland, Ind., to Miss Flora McKee, of this place. The ceremony was witnessed by a number of friends and relatives and the happy couple were the recipients of many handsome and appropriate gifts. They left on the afternoon train for Logansport, their future residence, bearing with them the well wishes of many friends in this locality."

On the marriage certificate itself, the minister signed his name as Lyn Naftzger, so the newspaper had it misspelled, but one can hardly blame the poor copywriter!

I do not have a wedding picture, but I have a picture of the two of them many years later. They look like typical reticent midwesterners!

My maternal grandparents, Benjamin Franklin Reed, also called "Frank," and Ruth Nave, were married 23 November 1913 in the county courthouse at South Bend, Indiana. He was a railroad switchman and she was a telephone operator. I have no photographs of them at all.

My paternal great-grandparents, Oscar Merry Packard and Sarah Augusta Hetherington, were married 17 August 1871 in Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois. I have no photographs of either of them.

I do know that my paternal grandparents were married sometime around the turn of the 20th century in southern California. My great-grandfather had brought his young family to southern California sometime in the 1890s, and it was a good place for him to be in the next 30 years, as he was a real estate salesman and developer. I do not know if my grandfather, Walter Hetherington Packard, had followed his father's footsteps originally, but later on he was supervisor of a local dairy. My grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Reynolds, is shown in a photograph in 1897, taken by a Los Angeles studio, and has signed her name "Bessie Reynolds" on the back. I do not have a photo of their wedding day, either. The only photo I have of my grandparents together is this photo, later in life, with their son Arden, who was visiting home on leave from the United States Naval Academy, probably 1932 or 1933. Arden Packard was my father.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Women's History Month: Names and naming

Here's today's Women's History instruction:

March 3 — Do you share a first name with one of your female ancestors? Perhaps you were named for your great-grandmother, or your name follows a particular naming pattern. If not, then list the most unique or unusual female first name you’ve come across in your family tree.

First name, no. My mother told me that she was going to name me Barbara -- which is not a name which appears in the family -- but she changed her mind when she read something in a magazine and came across the name Karen, and liked it. It is probably a good thing she did change her mind, because I know several Barbaras, including one of my best friends. I have two great close friends, Amanda and Barbara, and if my mother had not changed her mind, introducing ourselves might have sounded like a routine out of the old Newhart television show: "Hi, I'm Amanda and this is my friend Barbara and this is my other friend Barbara."

There have been several Elizabeths in the family, including the maternal progenitress of my paternal line, Elizabeth who married Samuel Packard in around 1635 or so, her surname being so far unknown. Elizabeth, in fact, seems to be the most common female name in the family on both sides. My great-great grandmothers include Florence Elizabeth McKee and Elizabeth Jane Reynolds.

One of my favorite given names comes from the old Puritan line of my father's, the name being Freelove Packard. I don't think it meant to the Puritans what we think of when we hear that name, especially those of us who came of age in the 1960s!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Welcome my Daughter to the Blogosphere

My older daughter has opened her blog, Marti, Not Martha. She's not a geneablogger, though she does threaten to talk about the family (wink). She's a geek, a techie, and a crafter. She does beautiful needlework. I'd be pleased if you'd take a minute to stop by and welcome her to the blogoverse.

Women's History Month: Picture

Today's instruction from The Accidental Genealogist, Lisa Alzo, is:

March 2 - Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?

Unfortunately, I have no life photos of my great-great grandmother, Sarah Ann Sunderland McKee Rogers. Sarah married my great-great grandfather Nelson Reed McKee 14 April 1859 in Monticello, White County, Indiana. In 1879, after twenty years of marriage, Nelson McKee took off one night, never to return, as I have related in an earlier blog post. This photo was taken by my cousin Connie, who lives in Wisconsin, and is descended from Nelson Reed McKee and his second wife.

Sarah was faced with whatever financial accommodation she had to make, such as selling Nelson's jewelry and watchmaking business and paying whatever debts may have remained from it, and with raising three children by herself, my 16-year-old great-grandmother Florence Elizabeth and her 14-year-old and 9-year-old brothers. Eventually, Sarah was granted a divorce from Nelson, in absentia, and she remarried on 29 October 1884, to Luke Rogers.

In an essay she wrote not long before her death in 1943, my great-grandmother Florence Elizabeth McKee relates that, not quite 17 years old, she became a schoolteacher in a classic rural one-room schoolhouse, to help support the family. I cannot imagine any 16-year-old girl today (or boy, either, for that matter) becoming a schoolteacher!

Sarah was a strong woman, because her life and times required her to be so. She did what she had to do, as did her daughter, to provide for her children. I just wish I had a life photo of her.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Women's History Month: My Aunt Elizabeth

We are now in March, which is Women's History Month, and Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist (what a great blog name!) has given us 31 days of prompts to blog on. Today's (I'm beginning this entry at 11:48 on 1 March) is:

March 1 — Do you have a favorite female ancestor? One you are drawn to or want to learn more about? Write down some key facts you have already learned or what you would like to learn and outline your goals and potential sources you plan to check.

I have blogged about my favorite female ancestor before: my aunt Elizabeth Reed. She helped raise me, helping her sister, my widowed mother. I was the youngest, and "Sissy," as we all called her, took me under her wing. She was also my godmother, and took her duties seriously. I'm not sure, but she may have been the one who caused me to be baptized in the Episcopal Church. She was Episcopalian. My father, a direct descendant of Massachusetts Puritans, was a Congregationalist, and my mother was a Presbyterian.

She took me to church each Sunday, got me to join the choir, which I did not care for at first, but came to enjoy very much when I got into high school and my best friend's family joined the church, and my friend joined the choir. She also encouraged me to join the youth group, Episcopal Young Churchmen, which I eventually served as treasurer and represented one year at the diocese-wide meeting of the House of Episcopal Young Churchmen. I had a lot of friends in the group.

"Sissy" had a great sense of humor, and relied on it to cope with her own difficulties in life, chief among them being a lifelong battle, from early childhood, with obesity. She was a gifted public speaker, who leavened and livened her speechmaking as Director of Health Information for the State of Florida in the 1950s and 1960s, with humorous monologues which she committed all to memory. She had crowds laughing in the aisles and was in demand at local meetings in Jacksonville and around the state.

What I would like to know more about is her sojourn in Brazil during World War II, when she was apparently sent by the Public Health Service to work with some nurses there. I have a newspaper article from the local paper in which she spoke of her trip. Other records I need to search out include her passport, from the National Archives (Records of the State Department), records which might exist from the Public Health Service regarding activities during World War II, and records at the state level from the Board of Health, where she worked (now the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services).

"Sissy" died in 1967, when I was away at college at Florida State University. I have always wished she could have been around long enough to meet my daughters, one of whom is her namesake. She would have loved them, and they would have loved her. She was such fun!

The Games are Over

The Winter Games are over -- those in Vancouver (and I congratulate the Canadian hockey team on a game well-played and for bringing such joy to Canadians everywhere -- and I'm part Canadian, myself!) and those right here in the genealogical blogosphere -- the Geneabloggers Winter Games. Even though I'm neck-deep in Spanish Colonial Florida these days, I did manage to return to the 21st century enough to get one Gold Medal (in the category "Back up your data!") and three Bronze ("Go back and cite your sources!", "Organize your research!", and "Reach out and perform genealogical acts of kindness!"). Not too shabby, and I look forward to the next games!