Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Talented Tuesday: Elizabeth Reed

My aunt . . . well, let me back up here. 

My mother was an intra-family adoption, as I've discussed here before.  So Elizabeth Reed, my mother's adoptive sister, was really her cousin, and my second cousin.  But I always called her my aunt, and she was instrumental in raising me.  So I'm going to continue to be "genealogically incorrect" in this post.

Elizabeth Reed was a registered nurse whose specialty was public health.  She never married.  She was a large woman, and never was successful at losing weight.  But she was a character.  She spent a lot of time on the lecture circuit, mostly within the state of Florida, where she was Director of Health Information for the State Board of Health (now the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services).  And along with her serious speechifying about health and wellness, she would entertain her audiences with monologues.

The art of the monologue ranges from Robert Benchley to Johnny Carson and Jay Leno.  Elizabeth Reed's monologues told a story, or presented a slice of life with a comedic twist.

She would present the natural history of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" as sung by a little girl at a recital, a honky-tonk singer, an operatic diva, and other variations on the theme.  All of the variations were hilarious, and delivered with great gusto.  Another of her monologues showed a hospital volunteer "cheering up" a patient by discussing the competence of the surgeon who operated on him, dietary restrictions, the sounds and smells endemic to hospitals, and other joys.  She had a stock of monologues, and not a one was written down.  They were all stored in her memory.  She told me one day that she had tried to write one of them down, and it looked so dreadful on paper that she never tried to commit one to writing again. 

Unfortunately, she died before the arrival of home videotape, and the usual home-movie 8mm that we had did not have sound.  I would give a lot to have these monologues on videotape.

Not all of them were comedic, though the majority of them were.  She surprised me one day when she appeared at my high school in 1964.  The school's speech and drama teacher, Sabina Meyer, arranged for my aunt to perform a monologue for the speech and drama classes.  My classmates were skeptical, and were making jokes about the whole prospect of a monologue performance -- and my aunt's size -- which were getting me angry.  But then she started the monologue, which was a surprise to me in that it was not a comedy, it was drama, and it was one which I had never before seen. 

The story was an old grandmother who had made the arduous overland crossing to the American West in a covered wagon, and had lost a child "on the plains of Kansas" counseling her teenage granddaughter about life and relationships.  Before my aunt was one-third the way into the monologue, the joking and chatter had stopped and you could have heard a pin drop.  There were even some tears glistening in the girls' eyes.  After the performance, the kids couldn't wait to tell me how much they had thought of the monologue, and that my aunt was great.

Well, I knew that.

One modest individual in a small city in the middle of the Twentieth Century with a talent that could make people laugh or cry.  That was my aunt, Elizabeth Reed.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The picture becomes clearer

I've been working in the baptismal records of St. Augustine during the early part of the second Spanish period (Volume I, 1784-1792) in the transcriptions available at the St. Augustine Historical Society research library.  It is much easier to use these transcriptions, at least from 1784 into the fall of 1788, because the entries during that period were made in Latin, and I do not read Latin.  It was in 1788 that Bishop Cirilo de Barcelona made his visita (inspection tour) of St. Augustine and he decreed that henceforth entries should be made in Spanish.  He cites errors and other unacceptable conditions in the records, and prescribes a form which is preserved in the baptismal record. 

I have also just finished transcribing from the original the 1786 census of St. Augustine taken by Father Thomas Hassett, the priest at St. Augustine.   It is not a complete census, as Hassett himself points out in his introductory comment.  He purposefully left out the government officials and the troops stationed at the Castillo de San Marcos.  Spanish censuses frequently left out military personnel.  For one thing, they were probably considered transient, even though other records I have examined show many of them participating in the daily life of the town. 

These documents, along with marriage records, form the basis for reconstructing the family structure of the town, and I am beginning to see patterns of relationship.  Another aspect found in the baptismal records is the godparent relationship, which I've mentioned previously. 

It is necessary to bear in mind that with these Spanish censuses, however, the one consistent aspect of them is their inconsistency.  There were no prescribed formats and no preprinted forms.  Not all entries have all the information.  For example, it is traditional in Spanish records (as it is in French records) for a woman, married or not, to be recorded by her maiden name.  This is a boon to family historians researching their female lines.  Most of the entries in the census and baptism records have the women by their maiden names, but not all of them.  Then, too, it is careless to assume that because the woman's surname is the same as her husband's, that it is not her maiden name.  Non-first cousins could marry, and sometimes did.  It is also possible that, even in a town as small as St. Augustine, you could have two unrelated individuals with the same surname.

More information is necessary in these events, and the marriage records are the best source for that.

They're next.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Answering a Comment: More on SmartDraw

Today in my comments to be moderated, I found this from Ben Sayer:

Hi, Karen. Thanks for sharing news of this tool's application to genealogy.

What would you say are the reasons one might use SmartDraw instead of the capabilities of their existing genealogy software to create diagrams?

Why are computer fillable forms the "holy grail" for you?

I find the forms in genealogy programs to be rigid; they cannot be edited, or if they can, it isn't easy for me.  SmartDraw forms can be edited, modified, changed around.  And easily, too!  Besides, which -- heresy of heresies -- for my St. Augustine project, I'm not using a program, I'm using paper forms.  I am an old-school scholar who responds best to paper.  

My St. Augustine project has specialized needs: for instance, I needed a form which would show a godparent and all the children he or she had been godparent to, with their parents.  I didn't find anything I thought suitable in a genealogy program, but was able to create one in SmartDraw in a very short time with very little effort.  

As for why computer-fillable forms have been my holy grail:  my handwriting is horrible!  That is one of the chief reasons.  For another, I have arthritis, and it is impossible for me to write small enough for some forms -- that's another complaint I have about forms in general, that often they do not have enough room for what I need to enter into a particular blank.  With SmartDraw, if I feel that a blank or an area in a form is not large enough, I can change that.  And with some of these Spanish names, I need LARGE blanks on the forms! 

Thanks for your comments, Ben; gave me fodder enough for another blog post!  And thank you for reading my blog.

I know where I was 39 Years Ago Today!

I was in the hospital, having given birth to our older daughter!  Happy birthday, kiddo!

The picture shown here is one I had done at what was then (December, 1971) Jacksonville's premiere department store, Cohen Brothers.  When I went downtown to pick up the prints, the manager asked me if it would be all right if they displayed a very large (something like 2 ft. x 3 ft.) poster-sized print in their department, on the wall.  I said it would be all right -- especially when they told me that when they were ready to change the display, they would give us the poster-sized portrait!  So my beautiful baby was highly visible to the elite of Jacksonville for a while.

Software for Genealogists: SmartDraw

Someone on a forum I participate in recommended the program SmartDraw when we were talking about creating genograms, which are used particularly by health professionals in plotting family health histories.  Genograms can have other applications, and I thought they might be useful in my research project.

I downloaded the trial version of SmartDraw and discovered that in addition to genograms, there are family group sheets, pedigree sheets, individual record sheets, and various forms for genealogists to track their research progress, such as correspondence record sheets.  The beauty of these forms is that they are all computer-fillable!  This has been a holy grail of mine for a long time.

With SmartDraw you can modify each of their pre-stored forms to fit your own situation.  You can also create your own templates, as I did in creating the form I am using for tracking compadrazgo -- the godparent relationship -- in the population of St. Augustine, FL, during the Second Spanish Period.  What I am finding there is leading me to investigate the importance of the patrón in St. Augustine society.

SmartDraw also has maps.  Lots and lots of maps.  And again, you can modify the maps to fit your needs.  I may try my hand at creating some meaningful maps, especially if I can import formats from scanned images. 

I was disappointed to discover that SmartDraw's timelines are completely business-oriented, and I am having a difficult time modifying that particular template.  I will have to try more experiments when I have a little more time.  But overall, I am very pleased with the usefulness of SmartDraw, its flexibility and its ease of use in connection with my project.  I anticipate further uses later on, as well, when I am finally able to get back to doing my own family's genealogy once again!

Required disclaimer:  I was not given the copy of SmartDraw; I paid for it with my own money.  I was not asked by anyone connected with SmartDraw or with any other entity to write this review.  Views expressed herein are mine and mine alone.  Neither I nor any member of my family is employed by the company which created and sells SmartDraw, nor do we have any other connection with them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The records do not always give us what we want

I have recently had an inquiry concerning a Spanish marriage record from the middle of the 1800s.  The individual who sent me the copy of the record wanted to know why the prospective groom's grandparents were not mentioned in the record, to see if the page she sent me revealed any information on that score.

Alas, it did not.  It often happens in these records that there is a variation -- sometimes a wide variation -- in the amount of information provided.  You would think, for instance, that a will would name any heirs to an estate, or that an inquiry into an intestacy would reveal the names of heirs.  Not always.  I had one probate case -- in fact, it was the one I have discussed here before, of the doctor who committed suicide in St. Augustine in 1809.  The rather lengthy packet of documents mentions, more than once, the doctor's two daughters.  Nowhere in the documents are their names revealed.

And in the marriage record in question, there is no information as to why the groom's grandparents were not named, nor would there be.  It is often the luck of the draw in how much information we find in a particular document.

I am currently dealing with baptism records in my research into the families of St. Augustine, FL, during the Second Spanish Period, and I find a tremendous variation in the amount of information provided.  Some records list not only the parents and godparents, but both sets of grandparents as well.  Some reocrds list the profession of the father or the godfather, and sometimes both.  Others are mute on the subject. 

One tactic I intend to employ, once I get all the transcriptions done, is to see whether it was one particular priest who entered the more complete information into the records.  That may or may not have been the case, but it has my curiosity up.  It could very well be that one of the priests was more prone to gather more information than the other one was.  It could also be that parents just did not reveal a great deal of information about the family.

We just have to understand that we may not always find what we want to find in the documents.