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 http://IChingOnline.net 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 bit.ly, 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 (http://genealogyframeofmind.blogspot.com/2011/08/heat-ancestors.html -- 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.