Thursday, November 24, 2011

The REAL First Thanksgiving

We here in northeast Florida have known a secret for a long time. That secret came out but with little notice in 1965 when Michael Gannon, Ph.D., wrote The Cross in the Sand, his history of St. Augustine, Florida. That secret has been taken up by newspaper reporters looking for a feature story and then by a fifth-grade teacher in St. Augustine, who in 2007 wrote a children's book about it.

The secret? The first Thanksgiving on the North American continent was not in Massachusetts. My cousin Bill West of West in New England may want to scalp me, but the first Thanksgiving was here in Florida on 8 September 1565, when Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded the oldest continuously-occupied North American settlement - St. Augustine, Florida.

The Spanish role in early American history is largely ignored in American History classes, even here in Florida.  In the fourth grade, we had a slim green-backed book called La Florida which was our Florida history text.  It was not very thorough, and probably not all that accurate, either.  For one thing, it told us that Ponce de León discovered Florida in 1513 while looking for the Fountain of Youth.

Well, let us analyze that . . .

  •  He did not discover Florida.   The Spanish knew it was here, already, because they'd been nosing about in the neighborhood for some 21 years, and had already established themselves all around the Caribbean basin and the Gulf of Mexico.  They just had not bothered to get off their ships and go take a look at it until León did.
  • 1513?  That may depend on whether one is using the modern Gregorian calendar or the Julian calendar.  The Julian calendar would have been in force in 1513, as the Gregorian was not called for until 1582.  In Spain, 1 January was selected as the beginning of the new year in 1556, years before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar.  But as of 1513, the new year may have begun on either 25 December or 25 March, depending on what the Catholic Church had felt like at the time (when most of Western Europe chose one or the other of those dates, during the Middle Ages).   To today's calendars, it could have been 1512 or 1514.
  • He was not looking for the Fountain of Youth.  He probably knew the legend, as most people in Europe were familiar with several legends, such as the voyage of St. Brendan in the 6th century, when he supposedly set sail to westward and found a land of bounty.  Or there was a legend about seven caves, which, when transplanted to the New World, became seven fabulous cities of gold -- Cíbola.  No, not the Fountain of Youth.
Ponce de León had already been governor of Puerto Rico, and had lost that post in a squabble with Diego Colón, son of Cristóbal Colón (whom we know as Christopher Columbus).  He went back to Spain to think of another means to make his mark in the new lands.  He obtained an asiento, or contract, from the king to be the adelantado, or head man with some really neat powers, of Bimini, part of the Bahamas.  But navigation in those days was uncertain at best.  They could calculate latitude with some certainty, maybe an error of plus or minus 5 degrees or so, and some did better than that.  Longitude, however, was not at all accurately computed in those days, and it was not until about the middle of the nineteenth century, really, that they could get an accurate longitude because it was not until then that highly accurate seagoing chronometers (clocks) were available.

So what happened was that Ponce de León's navigator missed Bimini and hit Florida.  So he decided to go ahead and take a look around.

Ponce de León -- yeah, that was his name.

So there is a definite need to bring the early Spanish role in American History to light, and one of those stories was that first giving of thanks for a safe voyage and landing in a strange and promising new world.

So whether you live in Florida, New England, or way out west, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

(But we did it first.)

Thankful for . . .

At the urging of Lisa Alzo, here is my list of things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving.

1.  That I'm still here, despite my deteriorating health!  And along with this, I'm thankful for top-notch doctors taking care of me!

2.  A functioning brain that is being well-exercised.

3.  A husband I would readily nominate for best in the world, for giving me the chance to be all I can be.  He's been supportive of all my hare-brained schemes, and even is suggesting more!  (That's because I keep him entertained.)

4.  Terrific daughters, a fine son-in-law, and a silly grandson.

5.  Great and caring professors at one of the smallest great universities in the country.

6.  St. Augustine, Florida, and all the people of the Second Spanish Period, with whom I have become fascinated.

7.  An ability with words which has permitted me to write two books which have been given solidly good reviews.

8.  Having had the opportunity to serve my country (in the Coast Guard).

9.  A cozy little house with a state forest for a back yard.

10.  The flexibility to have been able to deal with the changes in direction my life has taken.

11.  All y'all, as we say in the South.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The "Bull" Connor of His Age

This post does not intend to advocate any particular political or social stance, but merely to comment on a similarity I have noticed between the "uprising" of the 1960s, which came out of the Civil Rights movement, and that phenomenon's direct descendant, the Occupy Wall Street movement. I am a historian-in-training, and this is intended merely as a comment on history.  It is, however, history to which I have been a witness, at both times, though from a remote distance, through television and now through the internet.  And, as a genealogist, I am keenly interested in the historical milieu in which my ancestors lived, as well as in commenting on the historical milieu in which I, now an "ancestor" myself to my daughters and grandson, have lived.

In the Civil Rights movement, there was an iconic figure: Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham, Alabama. Connor became infamous for ordering police to use fire hoses to disperse peaceful black demonstrators, including children. The rest of the nation got a shocking look at what went on in the "Jim Crow" nation, as they saw on the television news reports helpless, peacefully assembled people whose skin happened to be dark tumbling down a city street, propelled by the powerful wash from a fire hose. It was a wake-up moment in which "Bull" Connor became a household name and a symbol of the violence, repression, and hate which blacks had suffered for centuries.

University of California, Davis, campus police officer Lt. John Pike has become the "Bull" Connor of his age for an unnecessary and arrogant act: pepper-spraying peaceful student demonstrators who had shown no overt act of violence. Pike is now also an iconic image, like "Bull" Connor. He is a symbol, unwittingly appearing as a bully, and, as the Occupy movement no doubt holds, a lackey of the corporate state. It is unlikely that he gave any conscious thought to what might be the consequences of his action in spraying those students. It is highly doubtful he had any notion of being compared to, much less becoming as iconic a figure as,"Bull" Connor.

In that moment, Lt. Pike lost control of his public image. A report on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" yesterday (21 November) illuminates just how completely that loss of control has been. The story discussed the "casually pepper-spraying cop" meme which has swept the internet. In this meme, a photograph of Lt. Pike using the pepper-spray has been "photoshopped" into classic paintings, including one showing him at the assembly of the Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence, pepper-spraying the document.

The actions of "Bull" Connor have been credited (in the article linked above at Connor's full name) by a historian writing for the Alabama Department of Archives and History, as having led to the passage of the most sweeping Civil Rights legislation since Reconstruction: the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  It remains to be seen where the actions of Lt. John Pike may lead.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Prezi: Presentation Software with Pizazz

As I earn a partial living by public speaking on genealogical and historical topics, I have used PowerPoint for several years now.  But in my time here at the University of North Florida -- where I am composing this blog entry between classes -- I have been introduced to a different presentation software.  It's called Prezi, and it moves!  Whereas PowerPoint is static, Prezi is dynamic.

Prezi moves.  It zooms in and out, it rotates, it swings from one concept to another.  You create your presentation on a single "canvas," rather than as a series of discrete slides, as on PowerPoint.  Prezi is a lot like mind-mapping, and if you like mind-mapping, you probably will like Prezi.  There are some tricks you need to know in order to use it efficiently and well.  The website has tutorials to help you learn how to use it.

It does not have available a lot of nice background templates like PowerPoint does, but you can import PowerPoint slides as part of a Prezi presentation.  It also does not have a very large color palette, nor does it have practical ways of drawing lines.  There is basically only one line form, which is rather thick and clunky.  Since Prezi is so dynamic, it would be great if there were a variety of lines which could be vectored to bend in different ways.

However, it is rather new, and I am sure that as it develops and as users provide feedback, those aspects will show much improvement.

Disclaimer:  I have not been asked by Prezi or anyone connected with it, or anyone connected with the University of North Florida, to give this review.  I have not been given nor promised any software, but obtained my copy of Prezi using the student license.  The opinions in this review are mine alone.  Prezi and PowerPoint are trademarks of their respective owners.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Morning Tech Routine? What Morning Tech Routine?

From Geniaus comes the question, "What's your morning tech routine?"

My answer:  I do not do morning, and I despise routine!

I'm a night owl.  It is very difficult for me to get up in the morning.  (Raising right hand:)  I am not now, nor have I ever been, a morning person!

I'm not a fan of routine, either, but there are some things I do on a fairly regular basis.  I get up on the mornings I have classes, shower, eat breakfast and take my pills (a routine I refer to as "first breakfast" and "second breakfast"), get dressed, get my books, and go. 

As I spend so much time in class or in the university library, I pretty much keep my cell phone turned off.  I do not allow my life to be ruled by machines; I see the cell phone primarily as something with which I can communicate if an emergency should arise.  But at least once during the class day, and sometimes twice, I do check for messages.  At lunchtime, I call my husband.

I also take my lighter laptop to school with me, and in the library I will check on e-mail from my friends & family e-mail account, my "public" account, and my university e-mail.  We are actually required to check our university e-mail at least once a day.  I take care of any that is pressing, leaving the rest for when I get home.  Then I get down to studying.

When I get home in the evening, I take care of the rest of my e-mail, do whatever studying I can, or if it's the end of the week, I play games.

On days I do not go to class, I sleep in.  When I get up, I check e-mail, then get into whatever I need to be doing.

I do not use my cell phone at home.  We live out in the country, and at our house, we do not get a signal!

And that's as close as I come to a routine.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Child's Questions About Death

The other day, my husband sat with our 6-year-old grandson while Mommy went to pick up Daddy from work.  Grandson asked grandpa about death.  He asked if grandpa would die, and grandpa said that, yes, he would, someday, and that it is just another part of life.  Grandson also asked if his mommy and daddy would die, and grandpa said, truthfully but kindly, that yes, they would, someday.  Then grandson asked plaintively, "Who will take care of me?"

Grandpa answered that by the time any of this happens, grandson will have grown and learned to take care of himself and of others, too, as he will most likely have a family of his own; but that for right now, we are all here and we all will take care of him, and teach him how to take care of himself.

Grandson seemed satisfied with that, and the bottom line there was his worry about being cared for.  He asked the questions quietly and without fear, but with a legitimate concern in mind.  Grandpa answered truthfully and kindly.  His curiosity and concern satisfied, grandson then turned back to the more usual concerns of childhood -- play.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Correction and a New Cousin

Previously in this blog, I had mentioned a collateral relative on my mother's side, Merritt Wright Reed, and had lamented that he died in 2001.  That date came from an assumption -- and this is a lesson in never assuming!

The source of that information was the listing at Mount Hope Cemetery in Logansport, Indiana, which states that Merritt Wright Reed was buried on 4 April 2001.  Just because he was buried in 2001 does not mean he died in that year, I have found out to my chagrin.  But, lesson learned.

Here is the story, from a newfound Reed cousin who related to me his investigation into the death of Merritt Wright Reed, his grandfather:

It seems that Merritt Wright Reed died 14 August 1949.  He was cremated, but his remains were never claimed. My cousin went searching in 2001 and made this discovery when he contacted a successor to the funeral home which had handled the cremation and which had since gone out of business.  This successor firm inherited the building of the old firm but not the records.  They had a surprise for my cousin.

The ashes of Merritt Wright Reed were, and had been since 1949, in the basement!  After being given this news, my cousin says, "Needless to say, it was a few minutes before I could catch my breath and continue the conversation."  He could not take the ashes right then, but went home to research.  He went to Mount Hope cemetery and discovered that the family plot of our mutual great-grandparents, Francis Harvey ("Frank") Reed and Florence Elizabeth McKee, had an available spot.  My cousin contracted for the burial, bought a marker, and went back to claim the ashes that had sat in a basement for over fifty years.  Merritt Wright Reed finally had a resting place, in the bosom of his family.

 That certainly is an astounding story!  Thanks to my new cousin for the correction, and for a great family tale.  It is a bit strange, but the factual statement is:  Merritt Wright Reed, died 14 August 1949, buried 4 April 2001.

In a few minutes, I'll go get ready to get on the road.  My husband and I are driving down to Orlando, about 2.5 hours from here, to meet this newfound cousin.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hallowe'en in the 1950s

I was a child, and did my trick-or-treating, in an era when we did not lock our doors during the day nor our windows at night.  Life was fairly secure, at least in the suburbs where we lived in Jacksonville, Florida.  Crime was something that happened Somewhere Else.

Hallowe'en was a carefree time as well, when few parents felt the need to accompany their children over a certain age on their rounds.  Everyone knew everyone else in the neighborhood, so there was little to no danger of harm coming to us from adulterated goodies in our trick-or-treat bags.  The greatest danger was the stomach aches we got from eating too much of our booty at one sitting!

My brother and I would get ourselves up in home put-together costumes and we would each grab a pillowcase or a grocery bag and off we would go.  Not very many of our group wore store-bought costumes.  Some of us did our own -- a sheet for a ghost; a paper hat, ragged jeans, an ill-fitting shirt and a cardboard sword for a pirate.  Other kids had stay-at-home moms with the time to sit at the sewing machine and make wonderfully inventive and unique costumes.  Hardly anyone got themselves up as any celebrity.  There were more werewolves, ghosts, pirates, vampires, Frankenstein monsters, zombies, and incarnations of the Headless Horseman than there were movie or sports stars.

Someone might host a party, but it would not be a substitute for trick-or-treating.  I actually did not do badly at bobbing for apples.  And there were few organized activities to take the place of trick-or-treating, nor did anybody get their knickers in a knot about children going about impersonating the dead -- or the undead.  We knew what Hallowe'en was -- a modern expression of an age-old observance for the dead, a recognition of the factual existence of death as a part of life, not something to be avoided and denied.  And those of us of certain denominations -- I was Episcopalian -- knew that the next day was All Saints' Day. 

Not to say that bad things did not happen, but they were more on the order of the night when some big boy came running out of his hiding place in the bushes and stole my bag of candy.  I was mad!  My mother's counsel was to get another bag and continue where I left off, which I did.  The boy was lucky that my brother was a bit ahead of me and did not see which way he went, or that boy would have got a beating.  And the next year, I was eager to go trick-or-treating again.  I just took precautions to be sure my bag would not be stolen that year!

Now, the situation is unfortunately different, but kids and their parents are generally coping well.  Churches and towns have supervised activities for children for trick-or-treat.  They still get up in costumes and have a good time, but trick-or-treat itself is a dying tradition.  For the past couple years, nobody has come trick-or-treating down our street.

I'm glad we had the Hallowe'en we had.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A True Vocation

All my life, I have heard and read of people who had a true vocation, a calling to this or that field whether it be medicine or the priesthood or public service, among other fields.  I have rattled around in life looking for mine.  I was not ready when I went to Florida State University in 1965, after graduating from high school.  I have always been an academic overachiever, but I went to university without a clear plan or a clear calling.

I have been a librarian, a nurse, a member of the armed forces.  That latter was for a number of years the closest I have come to feeling that I had a calling  I enjoyed the Coast Guard, and felt like I was part of something that made a difference.  But after that was done, after arthritis took me out of active participation, I felt once again like I did not have a calling.

Another reason I was not ready out of high school to find my vocation was that I had been raised in a traditional family in the 1950s.  Girls were not "supposed" to aspire to more than either being at home or being a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse.  I broke one of those taboos many years into my adulthood by enlisting in the Coast Guard, and I also shattered my family's notion of the character of women in military service.  However, what I had really been discouraged from pursuing was my desire to be a journalist.  Girls just did not do that (never mind Nellie Bly or Margaret Bourke-White or Adela Rogers St. John).  It was a long, long time before I was able to revive that dream.

My first attempt at actually being a writer was in fiction, since I had lost the dream of being a journalist.  I was a member of a local writing group and an online writing group.  I tried various genres and methods, having some short stories published in little magazines, but just not finding a fiction voice.  Then I turned to non-fiction.  After my first book, a history and critical review of a television series, I floundered for subjects, and then I found genealogy.  After getting a genealogical education through the National Institute for Genealogical Studies in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I then found a subject: a guide to sources for Florida's colonial, territorial, and state censuses.  That book was published last year. 

Work on that book led me to the University of North Florida, first to brush up on my high school Spanish from forty some-odd years before, and then one thing led to another, and I found myself on a path to a second bachelor's degree with a double major in history and Spanish.  Now I am about to finish that up.  I will graduate at the end of the 2012 spring term.  And as I have blogged previously, I will be starting work on a master's degree in history in the fall.

This path has been something strange and wonderful. Associations, opportunities, nearly all my class work has in one way or another led me to study the history and families of St. Augustine, Florida, during the second Spanish period (1784-1821), or has contributed in some way to my investigation.  I have become enchanted with the place and the people -- though some of them at times behaved in less-than-enchanting ways.  But even rascals should have their stories told.  All my education, including the genealogical education, seems to have led up to this area of study.  I feel like I have been taken up by an inexorable current, and cannot escape from it.  Nor do I want to.

I have found my vocation.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blog Action Day: Food in St. Augustine, 1784-1821

This year's Blog Action Day has the theme of food. The focus is on any aspect of food, but the imptus behind it is the existence of hunger around the world.  People blog about areas where there is hunger today, or how food is part of their culture.  I am going to blog a little food history, and talk about the food situation in St. Augustine during the Second Spanish Period, my academic area of study.

One of the sources we have that describes the native foods available to residents of East Florida in the late 17th and early 18th centuries is William Bartram's Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, generally referred to simply as Bartram's Travels.  He describes the crops the Indians -- mainly the Seminoles, by that time -- grew, such as corn and pumpkins and beans.  There were fruits such as melons and oranges (which the First Period Spanish had brought with them).  He also describes the fresh- and salt-water fishes and shellfish available for harvest in northeastern Florida waters.  And there is game in his food-roll: deer, squirrel, and other animals.

St. Augustine had all that, but it was not all abundance and feasting.  There were times when St. Augustine faced some very real shortages, though there was not the general, every hardscrabble day starvation some authors in the past have portrayed.  When St. Augustine was subject to siege during invasions such as the "Patriot War" of 1812, the citizens of the town and some from the outlying areas took refuge in the Castillo de San Marcos.   There might be upwards of 1500-2000 civilians packed into the fortress, with food rationing the order of the day.  There was a well in the fort, so the water supply was generally not affected by siege.  During the 1812 siege, the black militia would sortie to forage for supplies, and were generally successful.  Protecting one's family and town was a fine motivator, but for these individuals there was the added incentive of defending the fort to keep from being taken prisoner by the invaders from Georgia and South Carolina and taken back into U.S. territory and a life of slavery.

The critical shortages in St. Augustine at the time were cold hard cash, wheat, and salt meat.  St. Augustine was not an area of vibrant economic growth, though again,the picture was not as dismal as some have painted it.  But the town existed largely on credit, because cash was slow to come in.  There were some wealthy individuals in and around the town, but mostly the town, and especially the garrison at the Castillo, existed on the situado, basically a government subsidy.  There were times when the situado did not arrive.  Governors had to get creative in order to keep the town's soldiers and government workers if not happy, at least pacified.  Credit was one of the strategies the government and private citizens used a great deal. This is evident in the many I.O.U.s found in wills and administrations.

Spain had a mercantilist economic philosophy; that is, goods bought by the colonies had to be bought from Spain or Spanish ports and carried in Spanish ships.  When the situation became urgent in St. Augustine, governors found ways around this policy, which was eventually relaxed to be in tune with the realities of the world.  Part of this mercantilism, however, required that St. Augustine obtain its wheat from Mexico , via Cuba.  It soon became apparent that this wheat was of inferior quality, often spoiled, and when the governor compared prices in Philadelphia and later New York, he found wheat much cheaper, and of superior quality, than what they were getting from Havana.

Many people supplemented their diets with kitchen gardens.  Among the Menorcan population of the town, refugees from Andrew Turnbull's New Smyrna plantation, there were fishermen.  The largest occupation group enumerated in the 1784 census is farmers.  There were some large farming and ranching operations, as well, which grew produce and raised cattle.  In sum, just as with any other frontier colony in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, St. Augustine had much the same relationship with food as many areas of the world today -- enough to get by, most of the time, with periods of definite lack which required emergency action.

The inexcusable thing is that today, in the 21st century, there are areas of the world which are several times worse off, on a day-to-day basis, than St. Augustine ever was at any time in its history.

Further reading:

Bartram, William.  Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida. London: Reprinted for J. Johnson 1792.
Cusick, James G.  The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida.  Athens:  University of Georgia Press, 2003.
Griffin, Patricia C.  Mullet on the Beach: the Minorcans of Florida, 1768-1788. Jacksonville:  University of North Florida Press, 1991.
Landers, Jane.  Black Society in Spanish Florida.  Urbana:  University of Illinois Press, 1999.
Landers, Jane, ed.  Colonial Plantations and Economy in Florida.  Gainesville, University Press of Florida, 2000.
Tanner, Helen Hornbeck.  Zéspedes in East Florida, 1784-1790.  Jacksonville:  University of North Florida Press, 1989.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Baa-baa Meme Sheep, redux: the Ancestors' Geneameme

From Geniaus comes this Ancestors' Geneameme.

Here are the instructions:

Things I have already done or found: bold face type
Things I would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things I haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents
Can name over 50 direct ancestors
Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents
Have an ancestor who was married more than three times
Have an ancestor who was a bigamist
Met all four of my grandparents (No, they all died before I was born)
Met one or more of my great-grandparents (Ditto)
Named a child after an ancestor
Bear an ancestor's given name/s (well, middle name)
Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland (Most are from England)
Have an ancestor from Africa
Have an ancestor from Asia
Have an ancestor from Continental Europe (Switzerland)
Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer
Have an ancestor who had large land holdings
Have an ancestor who was a holy man - minister, priest, rabbi (circuit-riding Methodist preacher)
Have an ancestor who was a midwife
Have an ancestor who was an author
Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones
Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng
Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X
Have an ancestor with a forename beginnning with Z (Two: Zaccheus Packard, father and son)
Have an ancestor born on 25th December
Have an ancestor born on New Year's Day
Have blue blood in your family lines
Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth
Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth
Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century
Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier
Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents
Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X
Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university
Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offence
Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime
Have shared an ancestor's story online or in a magazine
Have published a family history online or in print
Have visited an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries
Still have an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family (only the land)
Have a family bible from the 19th Century
Have a pre-19th century family bible

As you can see, I haven't done much, but some of these things are not attainable, of course, just from the circumstances of my family's history.  My family were just plodders -- no authors,  but there was one preacher.  No big landowners, no royalty, and nothing left behind by way of writings or Bibles or any of it.  Pretty dull, actually.

Except for the bigamist; that did liven things up some!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Is cursive handwriting disappearing in the U.S.?

James Tanner, of Genealogy's Star, one of my favorite blogs to read, has commented more than once on the trend in American public schools to drop the teaching of cursive handwriting.  His latest posting, a humorous consideration of the subject, can be seen here . My reaction to his first posting on this subject was:  "I'm a paleographer.  I smell job security!"

Having been a registered nurse, I could also say that I wondered long ago if the teaching of it had already been dropped, for, judging from doctors' handwriting, it wasn't being taught well, if at all!  But on a more serious note, I echo James's concern that future family historians will have a great deal of trouble reading and analyzing the documents passed down in their family from earlier times.

Other commenters mentioned the delights of cursive handwriting -- love notes, letters, little post-its.  There is something so much more human about handwriting that electronic communication just cannot duplicate.   Pixels are cold, handwritten letters are warm.  And even though James's above-referenced current post on the subject is humorous, it points up the humanness of cursive -- the little uses to which we put it, which generate memories to be cherished -- and laughed over -- and passed along as part of an individual's and a family's history. 

I suppose in the Great Cosmic Scheme of Things, the demise of cursive handwriting does not stack up as being of primary importance.  But on a more individual, more intimate level, we will lose a bit of our human character if we let it go altogether, without some attempt to preserve it in some way.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Today is Change a Light Day

According to Thomas MacEntee's Geneabloggers calendar, today is Change a Light Day.  In honor of that day, and because I need to get back to studying for a midterm exam tomorrow in Latin American cultures, I am reprising my posting titled:



One to screw it in.

One to create the original document describing the event and all the participants in it, tracing the lineage of each one back seven generations.

One to write the source citation for the document, in accordance with Evidence Explained.

One to transcribe the document.

One to abstract the document.

One to index the document.

One to place the document in an archive.

One to write it up in a peer-reviewed journal.

One to write a subsequent article in the same journal, disputing the findings of the first author.

One to digitize the document and upload it to, Footnote [now Fold3], and

One to blog about the document, the event it describes, its creator, and the participants.

One to write a source guide to the document and all similar documents which describe this event or similar events, or which contain information about the participants in the event, and their families.

One to give a presentation about the event, the original source document, its creator, and the participants and their family lines at the Federation of Genealogy Societies conference.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - What does Spokeo know about me?

Saturday night once again, and time for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. Here is tonight's "assignment:"

I'm always on the lookout for websites that can find living people.  I read about Spokeo this week and thoguht that I would try it out.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1)  Go to Spokeo - and put in your name (or any name). 

2)  See what Spokeo says about you.  Is it accurate? 

3)  Share what you want to share with us in a blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a status or comment on Facebook, or in a Stream post on Google Plus.

I entered my name as "Karen Rhodes" and found that in Florida alone, there are 90 Karen Rhodeses.  I did not think there were that many of us!  In the Jacksonville area, including Clay County, there are three listed.

However, the information Spokeo has for me is, in the main, incorrect.

The address (only partial) they have for me is for a place we have not lived for nearly 20 years.  Both the street name and the town name are nearly 20 years out of date..  The family listing shows only one of our daughters, the younger one.  It does correctly identify me as a female in my mid-60s, and as being caucasian.

I also searched on my name as "Karen Packard Rhodes," and under that name, they have nothing.

How do I feel about this?  I think all this is none of their beeswax.  I am not happy that they are making money off of the facts of my life.  I should at least be getting a percentage!  And if the above information is incorrect, how much of what else they have or think they have -- for which they want to charge me for access -- is also incorrect?  Could any of that incorrect information damage me?  If it did, how would I know and how would I be able to recover damages?  Frankly, I do not like the whole setup.

What does Spokeo know about me?  Not much.  I would like to keep it that way.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Undoubted doubts

This afternoon I am taking notes from a book I am consulting for background information and perspectives on St. Augustine at the end of the First Spanish period (the decade or so leading up the the transfer of Florida to the British in 1763).  The book is a Ph.D. dissertation, the title and author of which I will not divulge.  I do not want to embarrass anyone, but there is something in it that bugs me.

The author has several places in which, in the absence of concrete evidence, she says something "undoubtedly" occurred.  Now, this dissertation was finished in 1980.  Standards have become more rigorous in the intervening years, in history and certainly in genealogy.  But I think we need to stop from time to time and examine the assertions we make and the words we use to make them. 

As I have developed as a genealogist and historian over the past four years at the University of North Florida, being exposed to the latest in historical research and writing, as well as to many works from prior decades and prior centuries, I have become more keenly aware of the requirements of clarity and logic in our writings. And beginning next fall, I will be using a good deal of the research I have done, as well as being involved in more and new research, in the writing of my master's thesis.  I want to be sure that the statements I make in my master's thesis will be supportable.

Speculation is fine, as long as we are sure we label it as such rather than presenting it as something no longer open to debate.  To say that something is "undoubtedly" the case is not proper labeling, to my mind, unless there is good, solid, incontrovertible evidence to back it up.  However, the author of this dissertation does not adduce such evidence to her "undoubtable" statements.  It would have been better in these cases to use words such as "possibly" or even "probably" rather than to be so final in her assessment.  Even with speculation, we have to have something to base it on.  What we are doing when we speculate, with some foundation, is saying that here is some circumstantial evidence which seems to indicate that a certain thing may have been true.

Of course, the other side of that coin is that it may not have been true, and we also have to acknowledge that.


Friday, September 16, 2011

The Tech-Savvy Genealogist Meme

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
Feel free to add extra comments in brackets after each item.

Which of these apply to you?

1. Own an Android or Windows tablet or an iPad [not likely to, either]
2. Use a tablet or iPad for genealogy related purposes [same]
3. Have used Skype to for genealogy purposes
4. Have used a camera to capture images in a library/archives/ancestor's home
5. Use a genealogy software program on your computer to manage your family tree
6. Have a Twitter account
7. Tweet daily [not daily, but frequently]
8. Have a genealogy blog [Um, obviously . . .]
9. Have more then one genealogy blog [Does being the official blogger for the Southern Genealogists Exchange Society count?]
10. Have lectured/presented to a genealogy group on a technology topic [One of my stock of lectures is on Facebook, Twitter, and blogging for genealogists]
11. Currently an active member of Genealogy Wise
12. Have a Facebook Account
13. Have connected with genealogists via Facebook
14. Maintain a genealogy related Facebook Page
15. Maintain a blog or website for a genealogy society [I do the blog]
16. Have submitted text corrections online to Ancestry, Trove or a similar site
17. Have registered a domain name
18. Post regularly to Google+ [using the term "regularly" loosely]
19. Have a blog listed on Geneabloggers
20. Have transcribed/indexed records for FamilySearch or a similar project
21. Own a Flip-Pal or hand-held scanner
22. Can code a webpage in .html [I'm rusty as a tin can in a swamp, but I can do it]
23. Own a smartphone [someday I will have to, but I prefer my phones stupid]
24. Have a personal subscription to one or more paid genealogy databases
25. Use a digital voice recorder to record genealogy lectures
26. Have contributed to a genealogy blog carnival
27. Use Chrome as a Browser [I do, but Firefox is my preferred]
28. Have participated in a genealogy webinar
29. Have taken a DNA test for genealogy purposes
30. Have a personal genealogy website [I'm very picky about this]
31. Have found mention of an ancestor in an online newspaper archive
32. Have tweeted during a genealogy lecture
33. Have scanned your hardcopy genealogy files
34. Use an RSS Reader to follow genealogy news and blogs
35. Have uploaded a gedcom file to a site like Geni, MyHeritage or Ancestry [probably won't, either]
36. Own a netbook [One of my FOUR computers!]
37. Use a computer/tablet/smartphone to take genealogy lecture notes
38. Have a profile on LinkedIn that mentions your genealogy habit
39. Have developed a genealogy software program, app or widget
40. Have listened to a genealogy podcast online
41. Have downloaded genealogy podcasts for later listening
42. Backup your files to a portable hard drive
43. Have a copy of your genealogy files stored offsite
44. Know about Rootstech
45. Have listened to a Blogtalk radio session about genealogy
46. Use Dropbox, SugarSync or other service to save documents in the cloud [I am NOT putting my business in the cloud!]
47. Schedule regular email backups
48. Have contriibuted to the Familysearch Wiki
49. Have scanned and tagged your genealogy photographs
50. Have published a genealogy book in an online/digital format [I prefer my books to be published in hard copy book format by a "traditional" publisher]

28 out of 50 is not bad for someone my age!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Using Music in your Genealogy Research

At the 2003 Federation of Genealogical Societies/Florida State Genealogical Society conference in Orlando, I attended a lecture by Katherine Scott Sturdevant which has heavily influenced the way I do my genealogy. Her lecture, “Don't Throw it Away! Artifacts in Family History Research and Writing,” was based on her book Bringing Your Family History to Life Through Social History. After the lecture, I immediately went to the dealers' room and bought the book, because Professor Sturdevant had lit a fire under me with her ideas.

The heart of the lecture was the preservation and analysis of family heirlooms, the artifacts of our ancestors' material culture. But there's more to it than that, as explained in her book. In her foreword to Sturdevant's book, Sharon deBartolo Carmack, CG, says, “Prior to the debut of social history – the history of ordinary folks in ordinary society – it was difficult for many genealogists like me to see a relationship between traditional history – politics and military campaigns – to their own families." (1) Social history helps us, as genealogists and family historians, bring our ancestors to life and to gain insight into who they were and why they did what they did.

Music is part of that social history, woven as it is into the fabric of human life almost from the beginning. I love to listen to all kinds of music while I'm doing research, and I tend to tailor my music to the era of the ancestor or ancestors I'm researching at the time. Thinking about this, I realized that this music is a key to the social and cultural atmosphere in which our ancestors lived.

One album I enjoy listening to when I'm working on Samuel Packard (ca1612-1684), my Puritan ancestor who emigrated from Suffolk, England to Hingham, Massachusetts in 1638, is called Ghoostly Psalmes, a collection of Anglo-American psalmody 1550-1800. (2)   In the liner notes, Anne Heider observes:

Surely one of the most invigorating changes the Reformation brought about was the institution of congregational singing in the vernacular as a regular part of worship. . . The Puritans who left England to settle in America brought with them the tradition, already a half-century old, of congregational singing of plain tunes.

There, already, is an insight into the religious life of Samuel Packard. I know from my research that he was a Puritan; I also know now some of the songs he might have sung in church on Sunday, thanks to Ghoostly Psalmes. And I know that that music was part of a tradition, and that it had an important place in the life of the society in which Samuel lived.

Another facet of that life was the span thereof: “The unhealthiness of daily life may well be the most striking of the great divides between past and present,” writes Jack Larkin of the life expectancy from 1790 to 1840. (3) Women and children were particularly at risk: “Between 25 and 50 percent of all women died in childbirth or from childbed disease, and the infant mortality rate was comparable.” (4) This is borne out in a number of the hymns on Ghoostly Psalmes, such as “Brevity,” a one-verse song written by Abraham Wood (1752-1804):

            Man, born of woman, like a flow'r,
Short-liv'd is seen to rise;
At morning blooms, at evening hour
He withers, falls, and dies.

My ancestor Richards Packard (1763-1840) may have been familiar with a hymn called “Chester,” published in Boston in 1778. Richards enlisted to fight on the Patriot side at the age of 17 in 1781. The hymn makes no bones about which side it is on:

Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And slav'ry clank her galling chains,
We fear them not, we trust in God
New England's God for ever reigns.

Howe and Burgoyne and Clinton, too,
With Prescot and Cornwallis join'd,
Together plot our Overthrow,
In the Infernal league combin'd.

When God inspir'd us for the fight,
Their ranks were broke, their lines were forc'd,
Their ships were shattered in our sight,
Or swiftly driven from our coast.

Thus music directly reflects the social and often the political tenor of its times. This is reflected quite starkly in another album I like to listen to: the original soundtrack recording of Ken Burns's seminal documentary, The Civil War, (5) When I'm researching my own Civil War ancestors, Matthew Hale Packard (1822-1881), who served in two different units of New York cavalry, and Charles Reed (1840-1920), who served in Company F, 140th Indiana Infantry, I listen to the more Yankee-oriented songs such as “The Battle Cry of Freedom” (“The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!”), “Hail, Columbia,” or “Marching Through Georgia.” That last one does irritate my husband, descendant of Southern soldier Daniel MacLeod Marshall (1836-1919), who served in R. F. Kolb's Battery (artillery), a CSA unit raised in Alabama. For him, I switch to “Dixie,” of course, or the plaintive “Lorena,” though that tune was (as Mr. Burns tells us) sung by soldiers of both sides, and banned on both sides by commanders concerned that their troops not be affected by it and rendered unfit for battle.

The period between the World Wars saw a musical renaissance, the burgeoning of jazz, and the rise of one of my favorite composers, George Gershwin. When I'm researching my maternal grandfather Perry Wilmer Reed (1886-1938) or my paternal grandfather Walter Heatherington Packard (1879-1937), or my parents Arden Packard (1911-1954) and Martha Shideler Reed (1916-1980), I listen to Gershwin on one of several albums I have of his music. One of my favorites is “Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra,” composed 1925 and tentatively titled “New York Concerto.” The piece reflects both the singular loneliness and the vibrant involvement we find in our big cities. It's a portrait of New York, and a portrait of America, reflecting the energy and optimism of the 1920s. Music can show us the spirit of an era; we can listen to the songs and instrumental pieces that moved our ancestors.

Bringing research on my parents forward into the 1940s, there is a lot of music to accompany that quest. The music of this time ranges from the silly “Cow-Cow Boogie” and “Hut Sut Song” to the poignant “Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover,” the latter reminding us of the many Londoners who sent their children into the countryside or even over the water to Canada or the United States to get them away from the devastation and the horror of the Blitz:

The shepherd will tend his sheep,
The valley will bloom again,
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again.

And as my father was in the United States Navy during World War II as a Naval aviator and flight instructor, I listen to another of my favorite composers with one of my very favorite suites of music, Richard Rodgers's Victory at Sea. (5) Rodgers composed the suite for a television series of the same name which ran in the early 1950s (and much later on in syndication), which I remember watching as a child – and therefore this music touches my own past as well. 

Take another look at your music collection, and see if you can't use it to get some insights into your own ancestors – and into yourself as well.

1.  Sharon deBartolo Carmack, Foreword, in Katherine Scott Sturdevant, Bringing Your Family History to Life Using Social History. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2000, np.
 2. Goostly Psalmes, His Majestie's Clerkes, Paul Hillier, director. Harmonia Mundi HMU 907128
3.  Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840. New York: HarperPerennial, 1988, page 72.
4.  Dale Taylor, The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Colonial America, From 1607-1783. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1997, page 79.
5.  Original Soundtrack Recording: The Civil War (a Film by Ken Burns). Elektra Nonesuch, 9 79256-2.
6.  Richard Rodgers, composer. Victory at Sea and More Victory at Sea. RCA Victor, 09026-60963-2, 09026-60964-2.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hurricane Memories

With the possibility of Hurricane Irene aiming at Florida, though recognizing that it is still early yet and she may change course, I am going to relate some family history regarding hurricanes.

My earliest memory of a hurricane is when my family lived in Jacksonville the first time, in 1951.  We lived on the south side, on Peachtree Street.  My memories of this hurricane are quite vague, as I was only three years old.  But I do recall there was a lot of rain and wind and we stayed inside the house. 

The next hurricane I experienced was Hurricane Dora in 1964.  I was in my senior year in high school, and my mother and I were sharing a house with a nurse my mother worked with.  There were several 60-foot-tall pine trees in the yard, and I remember looking out and seeing them swaying in the winds.  The thought that they could snap and come down on the house was worrisome. Fortunately, they proved flexible enough to bend but not break.

There was some humor, though.  At the height of the storm, when the wind was whipping through and the rain was falling in buckets, there was a commercial for an airline which had just begun serving Jacksonville's airport.  The commercial startled me, then made me laugh out loud, when it began with the phrase, "There's something new in the air over Jacksonville."  Timing is everything.

This was in September, just after the beginning of the school year.  In those days, we didn't go back to school until after Labor Day.  After the storm passed, I drove over to my high school to see if there had been any damage.  Other than a few trees down on the grounds, there did not seem to be any real damage.  We were out of school for a few days, though, because of the interruption of electric service to the area.  One of my classmates later told me her family had been without electricity for two weeks.

When Hurricane David came across us in 1979 I was a registered nurse working at a hospital in downtown Jacksonville.  I shared rides with another nurse, and that evening I was driving.  I picked my co-worker up and we drove into town.  With the winds at that time at 55 miles per hour, I decided not to go across the Mathews Bridge, which is very high and has a rather treacherous metal grille at the top.  Instead I went through the southside and went over the Main Street Bridge.  It has a grille, too, but it is much lower, and I thought the wind might be less.  Later that night we were told that we would all be doing a double shift, as the storm had worsened and the hospital nursing supervisor had called the next shift and told them to stay home rather than get out in it.  We had a "hot rack" room set up, where we could each take turns grabbing a nap during the 16-hour shift. 

For a time in 1999, we thought Hurricane Floyd was coming at us.  We boarded up the house, my husband having installed a system with which we could board up pretty quickly.  But Floyd passed us by and hit North Carolina (which is what Irene may do, too).  I discovered during our boarded-up period, a couple days and nights, that I sleep much better when it is pitch black dark, with no clock dials or moonlight or someone else's outside light filtering in.  So now I use a sleep mask.

In 2004, we got brushed by a few storms, as Florida got smacked and smacked again.  We suffered enough damage that we got payment from our insurance company to replace our roof, after it was all over.  It wasn't until November that the insurance adjuster got to us to assess the damage, and the roofing companies in Florida were so busy, we did not get ours done until February.  We called upon an established and well-known company in Jacksonville, recommended by friends who are very picky in such matters.  They did a great job.  I called that hurricane season the "Big Wind Tour" of 2004.

We have friends living in Lake Wales, and my husband got a big laugh when he saw a National Geographic cover with a satellite photo of Florida covered by the tracks of four of 2004's hurricanes -- all of them intersecting over Polk County, where Lake Wales is located.  My husband scanned the photo, placed a target at the intersection with the words "you are here," and sent it for her to use as wallpaper on her computer.

That's what's called Florida humor.

So we sit and watch once more, and prepare.  I bought more bottled water today, and tomorrow my husband and I are going to place new foam tape on the outside window sills preparatory to putting up the boards, if we need to.  We have a Coleman stove, flashlights and battery-powered lanterns, radios, and other supplies.  I'll make sure I have all my medications current, and we'll fill the cars' gas tanks.  And with any luck, Irene will turn and head out to sea, not bothering Florida or North Carolina or any other part of the inhabited land masses.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Using the I Ching for Genealogy

Live, from Blogger, it's Saturday Night!  Time for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.  Today's assignment:

1)  The writer of the Nuts from the Family Tree blog wrote about her question for the I Ching ( Book of Changes) guru in Cluless No More.  I thoguht that this might be a fun thing to do on Saturday night.

2)  Go to and ask a question relating to your genealogy research.  You can "throw the coins virtually" or "throw the coins by hand."  You have to click the "throw" button six times, then click on "Read."

3)  Report the question you asked and the answer you received, in the form of the Cast Hexagram (which explains the situation you are now in, or what has gone before), to your readers.  

4)  Does the answer make any sense to you?  How do you interpret the answer?

4)  Write your own blog post about this, or post a comment on Facebook or Google Plus, or write a comment on this blog post.

The question I asked relates to a few blog entries ago, that is, my search for Samuel Henston Rhoads.  I found his marriage license, as I posted in my blog.  But I wonder, what to I need to search in order to find why he dropped out of the family picture?

So my question to the I Ching is:  What records to I need to consult to find out what happened to Samuel Henston Rhoads?

And the answer:

Cast Hexagram:

40 - Forty

Hsieh / Liberation

A Thunderous Cloudburst shatters the oppressive humidity:
The Superior Person knows the release in forgiveness, pardoning the faults of others and dealing gently with those who sin against him.

It pays to accept things as they are for now.
If there is nothing else to be gained, a return brings good fortune.
If there is something yet to be gained, act on it at once.


The relief you experience here is not your own personal pardon, but the release of others from your rigid expectations.
Like a hot air balloon, you will rise to new heights as you cast the heavy sandbags of resentments and restrictions away from you.
Feel the lightness of being that results from forgiving others and accepting them as they are.
Free yourself of the endless vigil of policing the behavior of others.
See them for who they are, not what they can or can't do for you.

Well, okay -- I can go for a cloudburst shattering the humidity, since I live in one of the most humid states in the country -- Florida.  That I'll go for.

The rest of the answer is a bit more nebulous.  That second line about forgiving those who sin against one is interesting.  I have been wondering if I need to look in court (criminal) or prison records.  That may be some sort of "message" -- if I ran my genealogy that way, which I don't.  But I will look for such records anyway, along with tax records, property records, other court (civil) records, death records and whatever else I can think of as possible leads.

As for Randy's suggestion of using the "Trigram Symbols" tab in the explanation window for a custom search, that was a complete strikeout.  Ah, well.  It's an interesting game, but for me, nothing more than that.

And a bit of genealogy fun with some humor.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gathering family history

The Southern Genealogists Exchange Society,to which I belong and am the official blogger thereof, is hosting a seminar on 10 September in which Patricia Charpentier will teach participants how to write their family history.  I attended the last time Patricia was here, and it was an interesting, instructive, and fun day.  I had already written down a few vignettes from my own memory of family events and happenings, but the seminar encouraged me to do more.  Alas, I have not done much in that area for the past several years, being caught up in furthering my formal education.

I have several segments written down, though, and am glad I have been doing that.  Remembering some events can often spark memories of other things as well.  And these days, memory is just about all I have to go on, outside of the family documents I have been able to accumulate.  I am in just about the last generation of our family.  There are a couple aunts still alive, but other than that, most of the older generation in our family is gone.

Another approach we can take to recording family history is the interview.  I have interviewed one of my aunts by e-mail, and that brought out some things I had not previously known, not only about her and my uncle, but also about my parents.  Interviews can also be conducted in person, and recorded using a digital audio recorder.  I bought one for myself while I was taking a course in oral history at the University of North Florida.  It was fascinating, and a classmate and I interviewed some interesting people for our class project. A good digital audio recorder can be had for $60-$80.

There are references which tell us how to conduct oral interviews,.  One of the best for the family historian is found in Emily Croom's Unpuzzling Your Past.  She devotes an entire chapter to conducting interviews of relatives, with great information from which questions to ask and how to formulate more on your own to how to make your interviewee comfortable.  Croom writes specifically for the genealogical interviewer.  A more academic approach designed for professional historians is the text we used in the abovementioned class, Donald A. Ritchie's Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide.  Ritchie goes into more detail on designing an oral history project and setting up the interview.  He has extensive endnotes and his bibliography is divided into segments including such topics as oral history of women, oral history of the Great Depression, and oral history of the Second World War.  These bibliographic entries alone can provide a family historian with background information for interviews and for their own family histories.

We are constantly being enjoined to "do it now," to interview older relatives.  Take it from one who did not "do it now," who waited until it was too late -- Do It Now.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Geni Flap has Old Roots

I'm going to talk about a little different genealogy tonight -- the genealogy of a concept that is under fire currently with the controversy over the Geni website. To nutshell it, Geni has two tiers of membership: free and pro. The PTB (Powers That Be) at Geni decided to "improve" the website -- by taking away some of the functions available to the free members. Geni users are also upset that anyone can, as more than one blogger put it, "hijack" their family trees, merging with them information that may or may not be properly sourced. Geni changed this term of use without notifying the users. People feel like this was sprung on them, like they were blindsided.

I am not a Geni user. I never signed up for it, and was only peripherally aware of its existence. But I have read with interest the blogs on the subject, and have discussed it some with my husband, a computer professional of long standing who, before turning pro, tinkered with computers (he was a software nerd rather than a hardware nerd) for many years before that. The Tandy 1000s, Commodore 64s, and VIC-20s in our garage can attest to that!

I see a long train of abuses that has for years been perpetrated on the computer consumer, especially the consumers of software, for decades, since the first commercially available programs -- be they apps or games -- came out. It all began, as I see it, with the "shrink-wrap license." This was an agreement that said that by opening the shrink wrap on a piece of software, the user agreed to whatever terms and conditions the company chose to put on it. This usually includes not reverse-engineering the program or making copies. Some of us old-line users were not happy with the "no copies" provision, though many of us acknowledged that the intent was to prevent unauthorized (that is, unpaid-for) distribution of someone's intellectual property. As a professional writer, I can understand that. However, what most of us wanted to do was make one copy to actually use, keeping the original safe, so that it would not be damaged, as these early programs came out on media that could be compromised mechanically or electrically (magnets, lightning strikes to the house), and we wanted to be able to use the program without risk of damage.

The main objection to the "shrink-wrap license," however, was that the conditions that one was agreeing to were INSIDE the package, and you could not read them and tell whether you wanted to agree with them or not unless you tore off the shrink-wrap and opened the package!


So what is this agreement? It is a form of contract, but I do not think it is a good one. Now, mind, I am not a lawyer. As a government major at Florida State University in the 1960s, I did take three courses of Constitutional Law, one of which spent the entire semester on the contract clause (article 1, section 10). A contract, very simplistically, is an agreement reached between a willing seller and a willing buyer. Money may or may not change hands -- compensation is up to the parties to decide. But the idea is that the buyer and the seller both agree, not that the seller imposes conditions on the buyer, who may or may not be willing. It certainly also does not mean that the seller can hide the conditions of the contract behind a barrier, such as a shrink-wrapped package.

I was raised never to sign anything (agree to it, that is, whether actually signing my name to it or not) without reading it first. But how can you read something that is concealed in a package? What kind of agreement is it that is forced upon a person by the act of them tearing open a shrink-wrap?

By the same token, these days we have terms and conditions of use for websites, for example, in which the website owner or the company whose site it is tells us the terms of use, but states that they can change these terms at any time without notifying us of the changes. This is what is at stake in the Geni flap. Geni changed the conditions of use without notifying the customers who would be adversely affected. The implication is that we, the users or consumers, are burdened with having to go back from time to time and read the terms and conditions of each website we use to see if any of them have changed. Who has time for that? Who can keep track of all the terms and conditions of all the websites we use? Not me, for sure, and not most people. This, to me, constitutes an unreasonable burden.

These websites that we have memberships in all have our e-mail addresses. How hard is it to cobble together a notification and send it out to all those addresses? Most of these websites are all too keen to send us advertisements; is it really that much more difficult to send notifications of changes in the terms of use?

These companies have an obligation to inform the users of these changes, to provide for an informed consent to their contract. The customer, notified of the proposed changes, then has the information necessary for them to decide whether or not they wish to continue the contract. Any other arrangement fall far short of the intent of a contract -- to be an agreement between a willing seller and a willing, and properly informed, buyer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Social Network Overload?

Social networking has blossomed with a vengeance -- and I intended to mix that metaphor with the beautiful and soothing image of a blossom and the harsh, violent image of vengeance. I feel both pleased and overwhelmed with social networking.

I started out on LiveJournal, and I do not know anyone who is actively using it nowadays. I have not touched my LiveJournal in a few years. Then I migrated to Facebook, and still visit that site fairly often. It is a place to keep up with my family, as several relatives -- an elderly aunt, my cousins, my nephew, among others -- are all on Facebook.

A classmate at the University of North Florida then invited me to join Hi5, which is popular in Latin American countries (he and I are both interested in Spanish colonial history, and he has moved on to a Ph.D. program in North Carolina). So I did that -- just for him. But I have not visited that account in ages.

Then came Twitter, with its instant, on-the-moment updates, which can easily get out of hand. I'm sure nobody would be interested in hearing that I am grabbing a slice at Mellow Mushroom as I zoom through a day. But Twitter has its uses, especially to professionals in their fields, for such things as announcing a new blog post or a new book, both of which I have found to be good uses for Twitter.

And you can follow some interesting people on Twitter, such as George Takei, Roger Ebert, or the Dalai Lama. Yes, the Dalai Lama tweets! Isn't this a great world?

Then just a few weeks ago, came the beta version of Google+, and everyone climbed aboard. I managed to get in, and have found it interesting. Just yesterday (Monday), I attended a webinar held by Paul Allen, Dan Lynch, and Mark Olsen, in which they discussed uses of Google+ for genealogy. Google+ is growing by leaps and bounds, as shown by statistics posted by Paul Allen showing that Google+ hit ten million users in 16 days, whereas Facebook and Twitter took a few years to reach that level. Allen kept saying that they had not even begun advertising and promoting Google+ yet, as it is still at the beta stage. They haven't "officially" advertised or promoted it yet, but somehow there got to be a big buzz about it. Clever.

Now I have had in the past couple months two invitations to join LinkedIn. I resisted at first, but finally caved in. One thing I immediately see in LinkedIn that I do not find so readily in Facebook or Google+ is how locally-oriented LinkedIn is. Everywhere there are groups and other features focused on the Jacksonville, Florida area (I live just outside of Jacksonville, in another county, outside a small unincorporated bump in the road). This has several advantages. I like that emphasis quite a bit.

But . . . This is an awful lot to keep track of! It gets a bit tedious, for instance, to post here in my blog, then I go to, the URL shortener, to post the URL for the day's blog entry on Twitter. Now I also will be posting the link on Google+ and LinkedIn (and should even put it on Facebook -- I'd like for my family to read my blog).

When you are my age, and thereby a little slower, and have reading and papers and classes and more papers, that gets to taking up a fair chunk of time. So I'm waiting for the day when some bright kid designs and puts onto the web the METAsocial network site, where all the others -- one's blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ -- can be read and posted to all at once. Now, that will save some time!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

All Hail John Gorrie!

Reading my blog feeds, I came across Karen Krugman's post at Genealogy Frame of Mind titled Heat and Ancestors ( -- see note at bottom). She's in Michigan talking about the heat.   We here in Florida are particularly qualified to comment on heat, and Karen inspired me to do so.

Karen mentions the layers of clothing our ancestors wore, and I have seen photographs of how ladies in Florida dressed in the middle and late 19th century and early 20th century.  If we were expected to dress that way nowadays, I would lead a rebellion that would make the Civil War look tame!  I have often wondered how people survived the summer in Florida wearing so many clothes, and made out of heavy materials, not the light synthetics we have these days (though 100% cotton is still best for hot weather).

Karen also mentions her grandparents having a "wall unit here and there" for air conditioning, but not central air.  In the 1950s, my widowed mother did not even have a window unit in the house, though my aunt and grandmother, who lived around the corner from us, did.  We had an attic fan, an industrial fan installed in the ceiling in the hallway outside the bedrooms.  It really did not do much to cool in the daytime when the temperature reached the 90s (F), but at least moving air was a benefit, especially if you were drinking ice water or iced tea.  We drank a lot of that to keep cool.  But at night, the attic fan did a great job of cooling.  It required that we sleep with our windows open, because it operated by drawing air in through the windows and exhausting it out through the attic, but in those days there was little if any crime in our neighborhood.  We thought nothing of leaving the windows open at night, or of leaving the house unlocked during the day.

In fact, my husband (whose family had window-unit air conditioning in their house in the '50s) and I did not have central air until after we were married.  Our first house did not have it, nor the house we lived in while he was on active duty in St. Petersburg, FL.  The house we built after we had come back to the Jacksonville area was the first to have a central air unit -- a heat pump, which is the most popular kind of air conditioning/heating in Florida.  We have one in our present house, too, and in fact just had a new unit installed last year to replace the one which had kept going, like the Energizer Bunny, for 17 years.

Yes, we here in Florida have a soft spot in our hearts for the memory of Dr. John Gorrie, who developed the basic principle behind refrigeration and air conditioning.  See more about this here at the website of the University of Florida. Gorrie is indeed "Our Hero," as the website characterizes him, as his work helps keep Florida cool. Thank you, John Gorrie!

(Note: I am sorry you have to cut and paste the link in the first paragraph; I tried for one solid hour to get a live link to work at that point in the paragraph, and Blogger stubbornly refused. I finally had to just give up.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happy Coast Guard Day!

Today is the 221st anniversary of the founding of the United States Coast Guard. My husband and I both spent time in the Coast Guard.  He entered Officer Candidate School at Yorktown, Virginia, after graduating from Florida State University.  We married while he was in the Coast Guard on active duty.  He was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Ingham out of Norfolk, Virginia.  I was on contract to the Jacksonville Public Library, which had sponsored me for graduate school in library science under the Library Services and Construction Act. 

Once we were a family unit again -- to which had been added our older daughter Marti -- we went to St. Petersburg, Florida, where he was assigned to the Group office.  He had so much fun overseeing safety at regattas; being liaison with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a civilian body which voluntarily provides a great deal of help to the Coast Guard; and taking other assignments as they came along.  I saw how much he was enjoying it, I decided to join, too, an idea he enthusiastically supported.

That did not happen until we returned to Jacksonville after he had been released from active duty and transferred to the Coast Guard Reserve.  I enlisted in the Reserve in February of 1976 as a yeoman third class.   By the time I had to stand down because of the onset and progress of osteoarthritis, I was a lieutenant (junior grade).  During my time in, I had had some fascinating and fun stints of active duty, as well.

It was not until fairly recently that I discovered my husband's genealogical link to the Coast Guard.  During World War II, local people along the coasts of the United States could serve as temporary members of the Coast Guard, with such duties as patrolling the waterfront or the beaches.  Among my husband's grandfather's papers and his father's papers, we found documents showing us that both his father and grandfather had been temporary Coast Guard personnel during the war.  When he went into OCS, we thought he was the first in his family to serve in the Coast Guard.  Turns out he is a third generation Coastie.

I do have a first on my side of our family -- I am the first woman in my family to serve in the U.S. armed forces, as well as the first in the Coast Guard. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In for a penny, in for $14,000?

Next spring, in April, I will graduate, with my second bachelor's degree, from the University of North Florida with a double major in history and Spanish.  I am contemplating, with the enthusiastic support of my family, friends, and professors, applying to the graduate school at the University of North Florida, for a Master of Arts in history.  I am just about decided I am going to do it, but I am also wanting to make very sure that I am doing it for reasons that are mine, and not to live up to the expectations of others.

With that in mind, I will soon be taking a little bit of a "retreat" at the home of friends who have eminent good sense, and cats to pet.  The cats will offer their own wisdom, which I shall take into consideration as well. 

Reasons to do it:
  • I am already doing original research into the family structure of St. Augustine, having begun that under a grant from the university for independent undergraduate research.  Why not get another degree out of it, one which can open more doors?
  • As my major professor pointed out, the structure of a master's program can only help strengthen my work on that research.
  • The master's program may also open doors to sources I would otherwise not have access to, and provide contact with historians I might not otherwise have an opportunity to meet.
  • The credential of a master's degree may help me in getting published.
Reasons not to do it:
  • Money.  But my husband has said we will find it.
  • My health.  That is a bit of a sticking point, and I intend to talk to my doctor.
  • Three dreaded letters:  GRE (the Graduate Record Examination).  However, according to an e-mail from the Graduate School at UNF, since I already have a master's degree (Library science, Florida State University, 1970) and took the GRE for that, I do not have to take it again.
So that last negative comes off the list, leaving a puny two in contrast to the four very solid points on the plus side.

Another reason to do it is that my research into the family structure of St. Augustine is based not in history, strictly speaking, but in genealogy.  Genealogy is slowly making its way into the academy.  Of course, Brigham Young University has had a degree-granting program in the field -- the only one in the country -- for a long time.  Now Boston University and other institutions are offering courses in genealogy.  I hope that my project, and the future work I do with that master's degree in history, will make a contribution, however small, to genealogy's acceptance as an academic discipline.

That alone would be worth it to me to do the work and take the time that getting the master's degree will involve.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Further down the trail

The other day I posted about my pursuit of Samuel Rhoades/Rhodes and Ida May Dewey.  I mentioned the marriage record I expected to find.  Today I made it to the Jacksonville Public Library and examined the LDS film I had ordered. 

I found them.  Samuel Henston Rhoads, as his name appears on the marriage record, and Ida May Dewey married on 5 September 1881, the ceremony conducted by a Justice of the Peace, Thomas Lambert.  This took place in Pike County, Ohio, and is recorded in the Probate Court in Marriage Book Volume 4, page 36.  There is not a lot of information in the record -- no parents' names, for example.  The record does say that the groom was over 21 years of age and the bride over 18, and that they were no nearer in relation than second cousins, and that there was no impediment to the marriage.

It just does not seem to have lasted terribly long.  I wish I could go to Ohio, because the answers to the riddles posed by Samuel Henston Rhoads probably are there.  I'll still be working on running him down.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On the Trail of Samuel Rhoades/Rhodes

There is a family legend in my husband's family about his grandfather, Andrew Lewis Rhodes. The tale goes that sometime in the late 1880s or early 1890s, Andrew and his brother Harley were placed in an orphanage by their mother, Ida M. (Dewey) Rhoades/Rhodes. The variations in the spelling of the surname are "explained" in this story, which relates that Andrew was not a good speller as a little boy, and he wrote his name "Rhodes" rather than "Rhoades" upon entering the orphanage. Why the boys were placed in the institution -- located somewhere around Chillicothe, Ohio -- is not revealed in the tale.

The bit about the name spelling seems a bit specious, for a couple of reasons. It is unlikely the child would have signed himself into the orphanage; his mother would have done that. I have no idea what sort of speller Ida was. The second reason this portion of the tale, at least, seems bogus is that in Andrew Lewis Rhodes's Railroad Retirement file, he spells his father's name as "Rhoades" on one document, and "Rhodes" on another. If he was a poor speller as a child, he did not lose the habit as an adult! His own name, however, he consistently signed as "Rhodes."

The photograph at right was found among Andrew Rhodes's effects.  I found it in Andrew's wallet, which we had in a box of other items.  On the back, Andrew identified the seated man as his father, Samuel.  The man standing next to him, with his hand on Samuel's shoulder, is unidentified.  To me, they appear a couple of rough-looking characters.  I cannot determine what the light patch on the standing man's hat is, but I wonder if it was not a police badge or a Pinkerton badge.  I have not been able to find out anything about the circumstances under which this photo was taken.  Were they both cops or private security?  Was the standing man a cop, and is that the hand of an arresting officer on Samuel's shoulder?

This could have a bearing on why the boys were placed in the orphanage.  Ida Dewey Rhoades/Rhodes was apparently alone at that time, with no means of support, and put the boys in the orphanage so they could be cared for.  She subsequently remarried, and Harley, at age 15, is with Ida and her second husband and their own three children, in the 1900 census.   Andrew, who would have been 18 in 1900, has so far not been located in that census, 

Andrew, in his Railroad Retirement file, lists his birthplace as Pike County, Ohio.  In an earlier census, 1870, there is a Samuel Rhoades in the home of his father Levi Rhoades, and not far from this household is a Dewey family with a daughter, Ida M.  My thought is that this is probably Andrew's parents as youngsters.  I need to corroborate that, but have not yet found, for instance, a birth record for Andrew.  It is the right county, however.  I also am on the track o a marriage certificate for a Samuel H. Rhoades and Ida Mary [sic] Dewey, recorded in the Pike County records as microfilmed by the LDS church.  The film is waiting for me at the Jacksonville Public Library, but I have not yet, due to illness, got a chance to view it.  Again, it is the right county, and the right time frame.

Harley Rhoades died in Florida in 1947.  I have found him and his wife in a couple of city directories, as well as seeing his death listed in the Florida death index.  Andrew came to Florida as well, and married in Lakeland.  Later, he came to Jacksonville in the course of his work as a Pullman conductor, and died there in 1966.

Though the trail is obscure, I feel that I am on the track of Samuel H. Rhoades/Rhodes, and will lay him to heel one of these days -- perhaps as the standing man in the photo did so long ago.  That is a story I really want to uncover!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Careers in Genealogy: My Own Humble Path

I just read Amy Coffin's "We Tree" entry about careers in genealogy, and her take on the subject.  Here's mine:

I have chosen to speak and write.  I do not make much money at it because, due to my health, I cannot work at it full time.  I do as much as I can, while getting the rest I need and while dealing with the occasional difficulties my health status tosses me.  So I'm a part-timer.

I chose speaking and writing because I enjoy talking about the subject, yet I am also very much a loner.  I enjoy solitude.  I just love sitting in a library or archive, tracking down genealogical or historical facts.  I also enjoy the process of writing -- taking all those facts and weaving them into a coherent whole.  I very much enjoyed putting together my last book, Non-Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945: A Guide to Sources.  And now that the grant period is over, and all I need to do now is get an article written for the university's scholarly journal, the "project" concerning St. Augustine during the Second Spanish Period is no longer the "project."  It is the "book."

I write in a field that is not exactly known for blockbuster best-sellers, and I write about "niche" subjects within that small sphere.  That is all right with me.  I have made enough to further my education, picking up skills and knowledge which will make me more effective working on this particular book about St. Augustine, as well as further researches I plan on the colonial Spanish lineages and history of Florida.  And I hope that by presenting this examination of the families of St. Augustine, using a genealogical as well as historical approach, under the auspices of a university grant, I will have made my little tiny contribution toward bringing genealogy to its rightful place in the academy as one of the social sciences.  I agree with Amy, that great days are in store for genealogy.  I think recognition as an academic discipline will be one of those great things.

I am fortunate in that my husband has a retirement which, while not allowing us to be in any way extravagant, allows us to be comfortable.  I do not have to work to live.  I speak and write on genealogical/historical subjects because I enjoy it and because I do want to make some contribution to the field.  Each of us, doing our little bit and putting our one little brick into the walls, will help construct a fine edifice of genealogical knowledge.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bill West's Civil War Genealogy Challenge

Bill West, whose blog is West in New England, has offered a challenge for 12 April 2011, which is the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.  Have you noticed that on the television, they're repeating Ken Burns's "The Civil War," and programs about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln?

Bill asks us to blog about our Civil War ancestors.  I have mentioned before my maternal great-great grandfather Charles Reed and my paternal great-great grandfather Matthew Hale Packard. Charles Reed served in a regiment of Indiana infantry, and Matthew Hale Packard in two different regiments of New York cavalry.  By profession, Charles Reed was a nineteenth-century jack of all trades, having been a miller, a teacher, and an inventor.  Matthew Hale Packard was a carpenter.

Having talked about their service before, tonight I'm going to talk about how the Civil War left them.  Both suffered from afflictions common to soldiers during the Civil War, a war in which there were more casualties from disease than from combat.  Charles Reed survived with chronic dysentery and all the afflictions that may accompany it, until 1920.  He suffered pain and discomfort almost every day of that period of time.   When he did die, it was in poverty and as a widow.  His daughter Carrie Alice had taken care of him in his final years.

Matthew Hale Packard likewise suffered from chronic illnesses after the war.  He did not last as long as Charles Reed, dying in 1881.  Both of them were eventually left unable to work.  Matthew Hale Packard's wife Emily Hoyt was able to earn a living as a milliner. 

Aside from being the date of the start of the Civil War, April 12 is also the day the Russians launched Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961.  It is also the day Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in 1945.  I try to find something positive in the day, because April 12 is also my birthday.