Thursday, January 26, 2012

What political animals lurk in your genealogy?

I am sitting at an outside table at the food court at the student union at the University of North Florida.  There is chaos on campus today because CNN, the Secret Service, local and campus police, and all sorts of subordinate supporting personnel are swarming all over the campus.  Tonight, CNN's latest in their series of Republican presidential debates (a term that is used loosely these days) will be here.  So it seems appropriate to discuss the search for the political animals lurking in our family trees.

None of my family, that I know of, has held political office of any sort since my eighth great-grandfather Samuel Packard was Surveyor of Highways and Collector of Minister's Rates (i.e., the tax man) in colonial Massachusetts in the mid-1600s.  I guess we're not much in the way of political activism.

Knowing how one's ancestors swung politically can help to flesh out the full picture of their lives, especially if they did hold local, state, or national office.  Politics informs our social views, and certainly today there are many ways in which peoples' political and religious views intersect.  Economic status may not be a good indicator at times of one's political views.  Sometimes, people's political views do not seem in concert with their real economic situation, but as the "John Dickinson" character in the Broadway play and movie 1776 said, "Most men would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor."

Do you have among your family's effects any political memorabilia?  Campaign buttons, literature, an autograph of a famous person or any of the Presidents?  My aunt graduated from Columbia University during the time Dwight D. Eisenhower was the university's president, before he became President of the United States.  I have her diploma, and thus I have Eisenhower's signature.  I have signatures of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, too, but they may have been machine signatures.  I have more optimism that the Reagan signature is the real deal, as it was in a personal note.

Obituaries are good places to look for political affiliation.  I have several ancestral obits which say what their political affiliation was.  There also may be meeting notices mentioning your ancestor, or feature articles in the newspapers, which might indicate political affiliation. 

'Tis the season for politics.  If you, like me, are up to the gills with the nasty advertisements and the sniping, turn off the television, get down to the library or online, and take this opportunity to research your ancestors' political affiliations.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Deja vu all over again

I was walking across the UNF campus after having had lunch at the Boathouse, the eatery upstairs in the Student Union, when I spied a banner hanging from the second-floor walkway of the Brooks Health Sciences building.  The banner, in very large black letters, said, "STOP THE WAR."  I nearly stumbled, because suddenly I had the feeling that I had been transported back forty-seven years (oy!  It has been that long!) to my time at Florida State University, the first time I went to college.  That time, of course, the war we wanted stopped was in Vietnam.  But it certainly did feel like deja vu all over again.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not blacked out, but I support efforts to kill PIPA

As usual, I was a day late and a dollar short with the "anti-SOPA/PIPA" strike on the internet.  So I'm not blacked out.

However, I support the effort to block the passage of this ill-conceived legislation.  Congress needs to do more research and get their heads on straight before they try to pass such laws.  They need to be more focused.  We do not need legislation that is so broad-brush that it contains the seeds of awful unintended consequences.

I am not just gassing off here.  I do not sit on the sidelines griping. I am a producer of content, I have intellectual property under copyright, not only in this blog, but also in two books.  I intend to write more books.  So I'm on the front lines in this thing.  But I agree with Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, who thinks this is bad legislation .

Congress needs to go back to the drawing board, do more research, and come up with a bill that will be more focused and more specific to get to the problem without opening the door for censorship and loss of our raucous, rough-and-tumble, open internet where we have a place to put our free speech rights to their widest use in a long time.

Perhaps it is time to elect younger people to the House and the Senate, people who have an understanding of the technology and of the world wide web.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Tell the children about me."

Barry Ewell sent me an e-mail announcing his blog, and I went to take a look.  Er . . . give a listen.  Many of his entries are in the form of brief podcasts which are well-written and well-presented.  They are also informative or thought-provoking.  The most affecting to me was his entry "Journey of a Genealogist: Tell the children about me."

In this entry he tells of his mother's passing and of a dream he later had.  His mother tells him, in his dream, "Tell the children about me."

I think that is what all our ancestors are saying to us.  I think we all hear them, and we heed their request.

Tell the children about all their ancestors so far discovered.  And keep looking for more whose stories are waiting to be told.

And go give Barry's blog a listen.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I hereby resolve not to resolve, resolutely

I have not blogged for the past few weeks, firstly because of preparing for final exams, which were on 5 December.  I did just fine, thanks.

Secondly, I haven't blogged because I've been a lazy bum.  I've been relaxing (though also dealing with a rather indelicate acute medical problem).  Christmas was lovely, with our daughters, son-in-law, and family friends -- two sisters who live not far away and who have spent Christmas with us for the past few years.

I have been catching up on blog reading today, and found quite a few talking about New Year's Resolutions.  I do not make New Year's Resolutions.  I feel they become too constraining, and I generally break them pretty quickly, anyway.  Also, I have found during my life that goal-setting and plan-making generally go completely awry somewhere along the line.  Life grabs me and sweeps me off in new, different, and unexpected directions.

As I get older -- I will be on Medicare in April, oh, joy -- I make fewer and fewer really long-range plans.  Part of this is because I come from a family that is not known for long life.  My grandparents all were gone by their mid to late 50s.  My father died at 42, my mother at 63, and my brother at 54.  So I have beat almost everyone so far.  How long my luck will hold out is anyone's guess.

My other problem is that I hate routine.  I despise schedules.  I am ill-regimented and not all that well-organized, but being regimented and organized is a drag.  Unfortunately, my husband and I are both of the packrattus accumulatus genus and species.  At our age and generally indolent inclinations, this is unlikely to change.

But I do have a few plans: a book based on my research on St. Augustine, Florida, during the Second Spanish Period.  Graduate school.  Hunting down elusive relatives, such as generations of my Reed family from the early 1800s on back into the 1700s, or my husband's mysterious great-grandfather Samuel Henston Rhoades.

Stay tuned to see how that goes.