Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reports of my demise . . .

. . . are grossly exaggerated.  I apologize for not posting for quite a while, but it's been a madhouse.

Various family things have occurred, including a stay in the hospital for my husband.  He's home now and doing fine.

Classes started last week, and I missed the first day because of the abovementioned unscheduled stay.  But I'm getting back into it, and of course, I have a lot of reading to do.

Then there's my research project.  I haven't got as far as I wanted, but I have a few items that I think might make for a promising journal article and presentation, which I am required to do as part of the package.  I probably will not be terribly active blogging this term, and I regret that.  Priorities must be set.

I will try to keep the blog going but it will be minimal at least until Christmas.  Then I hope I can be more active at it after the first of the year.

In the meantime, let me recommend that you stretch your mind with Michael John Neill's Daily Genealogy Transcriber .  He invites everyone to try their hand at interpreting the day's sample.  (Shucks -- he beat me to the idea!)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Favorite Star Trek Episode

What does Star Trek have to do with Genealogy?  In the case of this one episode, everything.

I have a number of "favorite" Star Trek episodes, really, from many of the offshoots of that many-branched series (almost like a family tree, in fact).  One of these, like many of the best episodes of that saga, is completely without bang-bang shoot-'em-up.  It is a thoughtful episode, and it is about genealogy.  The episode is from the Voyager series, which many fans did not like, but which I am very fond of.  After all, we finally got the female captain that Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, envisioned at the beginning, more than forty years ago.

The episode is called "11:59," and in it, Captain Kathryn Janeway, not having to fend off this or that hostile alien race at the moment, explores a family legend.  Like most of us, she finds that the legend is not exactly what it is cracked up to be.  Briefly, the legend concerns her ancestor Shannon O'Donnell, at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.  She was an astronaut, so the legend goes, and an engineer.  She helped build a fantastic early twenty-first-century structure called The Millennium Gate, in a small town in Indiana.  Janeway finds that the legend has flaws, and discovers the most important part of it, which apparently had been downplayed in the telling:  the small town in Indiana, where Shannon O'Donnell did actually end up, was home to a fellow named Janeway, whom she eventually married, and thereby began the branch of the family tree from which the captain emerged.

In pursuing the legend, Captain Janeway uses the methods of genealogy, searching court records, vital records, newspaper records, censuses, and other familiar documents and sources.  All of these are stored digitally in the ships computer, loaded with all the knowledge of earth from earliest times to their own twenty-third century, a great mobile internet "wayback machine."  The rest of the crew gets caught up in the search, giving the captain advice, helping her search the records and history.  First Officer (the series' name for what we in our own century would call the executive officer), Chakotay offers a tongue-in-cheek version of their own situation, as a future family legend might tell it.

In the end, the captain, though slightly disappointed to find the legend was somewhat less glamorous than she had been told as a child by her Aunt Martha, apparently the keeper of the family history, reconciles herself to the facts.  Neelix, a crewmember, even finds a photograph of Shannon O'Donnell Janeway, late in life, with her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren arrayed around her.  It is a great genealogical story,and to the uninitiated viewer, would have been a wonderful introduction to the fun of genealogy..  Many people over the last nearly fifty years have mentioned how watching Star Trek as children influenced their career choices later in life.  I wonder if anyone has been influenced to pursue their family history by the episode "11:59?"