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  Both the street name and the town name are nearly 20 years out of date..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.