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.