Saturday, April 28, 2012

Six Degrees of Karen Rhodes

From watching the Kevin Bacon/Kyra Sedgwick episode of Who Do You Think You Are? if from nothing else, we all are pretty well familiar with the concept of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon."  Yesterday afternoon and last night I got two good doses of evidence of "Six Degrees of Karen Rhodes."

In the hallway in the arena at the University of North Florida, where a bunch of us soon-to-be graduates were waiting for time to line up and filter in to the arena floor where our chairs were, I made the acquaintance of two young men, Ray and Luis.  It started out with joking around about the tassels on our mortarboards, and led further to our accomplishments and future plans.  The conversation got around to the imminent departure of Dr. J. Michael Francis from UNF.  As some of you may have already read in my blog Clio's Daughter, he's going to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.  Ray said he felt like he'd been blindsided, because as an archaeology major, he wanted to work up a program in historical archaeology under Dr. Francis's guidance.  When I mentioned that I plan on following Dr. Francis down to USFSP, Ray and Luis both said, "You're the one he was talking about!"  Seems that Dr. Francis had said quite a bit about me.  So sitting next to these two young men during the commencement, I was subjected to a stream of patter from Ray.  It was hilarious.  Even better, Ray had picked up his young son (5 years old) from his grandparents, seated in the audience, and had the lad on his lap -- and took him up on the stage with him.  That was just wonderful.  But there I was, with a connection with these young men and with Dr. Francis giving me an earful!

The second dose of "Six Degrees of Karen Rhodes" came that evening, at the party my husband and I hosted at Athens Café in the San Jose area of Jacksonville.  We had 22 people there (including us), and our assortment of friends is such that one commented that if all of us were stranded on a desert island, we would find food to cook and enjoy, materials with which to make shelter and clothing if needed, and materials to make a boat so we could return to civilization!  One friend came by himself as his wife had to work (we missed her).  Another friend came late, because her husband has been hospitalized for the past month or so, and is now at a rehabilitation center.  Turns out these two (and their spouses) have known each other for years!  They had lost touch, but now, because of their friendship with me and my husband, they have now been put in contact again.

It's a small world indeed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Grieving for Dead Infants

I found myself in the strange position today of grieving for children who died over 200 years ago.

I have been studying the family structure of St.  Augustine, Florida, for over two years now.  I have six file boxes of files on the people of St. Augustine during the Second Spanish Period (1784-1821).  Actually, I have not got much beyond 1790 on most of these people, so I have only a fraction of what will be the total when I'm done.  With all those dossiers on all those individuals, I feel like the J. Edgar Hoover of old St. Augustine!

And in studying these people, I have come to feel attached to them in some way, even to those whom I have a feeling I would not like were I to meet them!  So in reading the burial entries in the church records of 1784-1809, I felt grief, and found myself shedding tears for these little babies and their parents.  One couple lost two children in the space of a few months, and another couple lost two children in the same day!

It was a hard life, when diseases which today we have vaccines to prevent were routinely taking away these little lives.  I felt particularly sad to learn that a little waif whose parents were unrecorded, an orphan who was taken in by a St. Augustine couple, did not live very long.  I had hoped to find her in the records, married and with babies of her own, but that was not to be.

We historians can become involved in the periods we study, in the people whose lives we examine and analyze and try to make sense of.  The danger, of course, is the loss of the necessary distance we should and must maintain between us and our subjects, in order that we dispassionately examine and order our facts and come to the most logical conclusions.  I do not think that means we cannot at times put ourselves in their places, for in doing so, we may gain insights we would otherwise miss.

At the same time, we have to maintain that distance so that we can reach sound conclusions.  There is a time to feel emotion at the impact of events on people in the past, whether in the general past population, or in our own family histories, and there is a time to put the emotions aside and focus on the facts at arm's length.

The trick is to know when to do each, and when not.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12

I give this post the simple title "April 12" because I am going to talk about several events which took place on that date in the past few hundred years.

We all know that on April 12, 1861, Confederate forces began artillery bombardment of Fort Sumter.  It was the opening salvo of the Civil War.

And we know that on April 12, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, died at his retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia.

What you may or may not know, depending if you have kept up with this blog and given a jellybaby about the fact, is that on April 12, 1947 -- two years to the day after the death of FDR -- I was born in Long Beach, Los Angeles County, California.

And I think many are aware that on April 12, 1961 -- one hundred years to the day after the beginning of the Civil War in the U.S., Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly into space.

I do not know whether it is because of the date of my birth or some other factor, but I have all my life been a "Roosevelt groupie."  I just love reading about both Roosevelt presidents, Theodore and Franklin.  And I think Eleanor Roosevelt was the greatest lady of the Twentieth Century.  She was active, intelligent, wise, and she carried on in the face of awful psychological blows.  She had strength of character and strength of purpose.  Unsure of herself at first during her husband's presidency, she became a strong advocate for the underdog and an ambassador of the best in the American character.

Speaking of Eleanor, the timing was right last night, when I attended the University of North Florida Graduate Students' Organization social.  We played the game where someone writes down the name of  a famous person, living or dead, and tapes it to your back.  You are supposed to find out who it is by asking "yes" or "no" questions.  I asked, "Is the person female?"  Yes. "Is she living?"  No.  "Was she white?"  Yes.  "Twentieth Century?"  Yes.  Then I made what to me was the obvious guess -- Eleanor Roosevelt.  I was right.

I visited Warm Springs many years ago with one of my college roommates.  I was by myself in the part of the house where the President's desk was located.  As I stood facing that desk and contemplating the man and his era, I felt a presence. I felt a touch at my back.  There was nobody there but me.  Nobody there but me -- and FDR. I do not ordinarily believe in "the supernatural" as far as ghostly manifestations and such, but I definitely felt a touch, a warm touch, at my back.

So every year on my birthday, I do spend a little while, if only a few minutes, thinking about FDR, and about Eleanor.  It wouldn't hurt us to have people like them in public life today.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Adventures in Indexing: Unusual Names

Today in my indexing adventure, the thing that stood out most was unusual names. 

As I was indexing rural Florida, and I live in rural Florida, I was not terribly surprised at the names, but all the same they are unusual, especially for city folk, more especially for those not living in the rural south.

Unusual women's names outstripped unusual men's names. 

Here are today's unusual women's names:  Charles (yup, that's what it said); Nondas; Milbra (though I wonder if that were a mishearing of "Melba")' Ovella; Avie; Selzma; Trellie; Delamier.

Unusual men's names:  Grose (can you imagine the teasing of a boy had that name today?); Dorthan; Verda.

I checked my stats, and so far the arbitrators are 98% in agreement with me.  My paleography training is showing.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Adventures in Indexing

I decided, as I am having difficulties finding family members in the 1940 census, that I would while away the time between now and the debut of the indexes I may be needing, to contribute to the hastening of that day by doing some indexing myself.

So I went to the indexing site, read the information, watched the tutorial videos, and downloaded the software, and got started. My practice download consisted in a draft record for a fellow in Puerto Rico. I see that there are records in Spanish waiting to be indexed, so when the 1940 census is done, I might take on some of those.

Some of the things I have found in my brief bout of indexing today:

In that Puerto Rican sample, mentioned above, though it was not in the 1940 census, there was something I was happy to be able to remedy.  Either the fellow who filled in the form was in the habit of making his lower-case r's look like lower-case t's, or he just did not know how to spell the place name.  Knowing a little about Puerto Rico and a lot about Spanish, I was able to correct it (which the instructions said to do if you have certain knowledge).

A family consisting in a Pennsylvania German and a Mexican, and their daughter. The surname of the daughter was entered and then crossed out, as it was different from that of the parents, yet she was young and single. And her name had been written as "Carlos." Very clearly, it said "Carlos." That's a little strange, but after all, I have already mentioned females named Clifford and Russell in this blog.

There was another family which made me feel kind of sad, because they were Japanese in California in 1940, and I knew where they would soon be headed -- the internment camps. The youngest daughter was only 3. I have heard George Takei -- yes, that George Takei -- talk about his own family being interned when he was something like five years old. Not a pretty chapter in our history.

I did not come up on any really humorous entries -- odd names and that (except for the daughter named Carlos).  However, having names mis-sexed is not uncommon.  My father-in-law's name was Marshall.  In one census when he was a youngster, his name is entered as Marsha.  And I have seen in the 1920 census the entry for an "Ella" Ness, daughter, in the family of Peter Ness of Chicago, a baker.  There was no "Ella" Ness -- the entry is a mistake, and the relationship should be son, and the name should be ELIOT Ness -- the famous Prohibition agent who busted up Al Capone's breweries and facilitated the IRS tax case against Capone.

But I'll be indexing more, and will surely find some more oddities.

Friday, April 6, 2012

At long last! First find in the 1940 census!

I am finally no longer singing the blues. I have found my grandmother and aunt (though there is a story behind that; for now, we will leave it as is) in Pensacola, Florida. My grandmother, widowed, was living in a rented house. My aunt's occupation was listed as "graduate nurse." This signifies that she had finished her nurse's training. I'm not sure it was exactly this way in 1940, but when I was a nurse, we were called "graduate nurse" until we successfully completed the state board exams, then we received our certification as Registered Nurse. Later in the 1940s, Elizabeth would attend Columbia University and receive a B.S. in public health nursing. She was unmarried, and in fact, never married.

The monthly rent on the house was $65. My grandmother, Mary LeSourd Reed, was 50 years old and was the informant for this census, and my aunt, Elizabeth Reed, was 30. Mary Reed is shown as having completed the 11th grade, and she did tell me that she quit high school in her senior year to marry Perry W. Reed, her late husband. Elizabeth Reed is shown as having finished her third year of college. Mary was born in Indiana, and Elizabeth in Illinois. These birthplaces are corroborated in other records I have.

On 1 April 1935 they were living in the same place. Mary did not work; Elizabeth had a job, working for the "health board." It does not say whether that was the county health board or the State Board of Health. I know that at different times, she worked for each one, as she has told me tales of her time at the county health board, and in my living memory, she was employed at the State Board of Health (now the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services). I believe that in 1940 she was working for the local or county (Escambia County, Florida) health board, because the State Board of Health was (and the DHR is) headquartered in Jacksonville.

Elizabeth Reed had worked the entirety of 1939, making $1800. That is probably her yearly salary. She had no other source of income.

So there it is: my "first fruits" of the 1940 census.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

More from Ancestry on the 1940 Census is scheduled to have all 3.8 million census pages online by tomorrow at about 2 p.m. -- "maybe sooner."  More places having the images available should mean a wider distribution of server load, which might help alleviate the access problems people have been having just because of the massive reception the census has had!

As well, tomorrow, will be launching additional tools to help in 1940 census research.  Their take on it:  "This is HUGE."  The whole 1940 census has been huge, from the sheer mass of the number of images to the frenzy for access to the fodder for us bloggers, to the topic having trended strongly on Twitter, to the effect it is having on people's research, advancing knowledge just that much more.  It is exciting.

Don't forget that has demo videos on YouTube.  The link takes you to the playlist, where you can choose which one(s) you want to watch.

Indexing progresses, having begun on Monday when the images went live.  Stay tuned for news of which states have been indexed as the work continues.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Those 1940 Census Blues

Been sittin' at my laptop
Looking in the ED maps,
But I ain't got no address
For my mammy and my paps.
Feelin' low down,
As low as my shoes,
I'm singin' those low down
1940 census blues.

I got 'em both in 1930
But they went from town to town,
They rented, never owned a house
Never settled down.
Feelin' low down,
Right down to my shoes,
Singin' those low down
1940 census blues.

Can't find my in-laws, either
Tho' I know just where they were
'Cause the house at that old number
Ain't listed anywhere.
Feelin' low down
As low as my shoes,
I keep on singin' those
1940 census blues.

My grandmaw done remarried
I even know the name
But again I got no address,
Oh, ain't it all a shame?
Feelin' so low down,
Lower than my shoes,
I search and keep on singin'
Those 1940 census blues!

So it's back to those direc'tries
Of cities far and wide,
Searchin' and a-searchin'
The US from side to side.
Feelin' so low down,
I'm shuckin' off my shoes
Goin' to bed just singin' those old
1940 census blues!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Technological Miracles, or: Taking a Break from the 1940 Census

I am being frustrated in my attempts to access the 1940 census and find my parents, my in-laws, other relatives in it. The high demand on bandwidth is one reason, and frustrations with just plain findin' 'em is another.  I have the right enumeration districts, thanks to the Steve Morse website, and the maps are clearly showing I'm in the right place, but I can't find my aunt and uncle in Glendale or my father-in-law in Jacksonville because their house numbers don't appear to be there!  I know that the street where my father-in-law lived was renumbered, but I'm fairly sure that was done in the 1930s, when that part now known as the south side of Jacksonville (in local usage, Southside), became part of Jacksonville, having previously been the separate town of South Jacksonville.

So let's get away from the slow loading, the crashes, the hangups, and the frustrations and talk about technology.  This morning my older daughter and I were on our way here, to the University of North Florida, where she works and I am a student.  My daughter is a technology geek, and spends the ride in (I drive) accessing Twitter, Gizmodo, and other sites on her mobile phone.  She regales me with all sorts of items, and it passes the time on the drive, which takes about 45 minutes.

This morning we were talking about how technology has changed our lives.  My primary example when I talk to my much younger college classmates is how it used to be at registration when I took my first trip through the groves of academe, at Florida State University in the 1960s.  On the day of your registration appointment, what you had to do was get a good breakfast, dress in comfortable clothes and comfortable shoes, and stand in line for up to six hours outside the gym for the privilege of getting into the gym and beginning the registration process.  Registration itself consisted in moving from station to station picking up a computer punchcard at each station for each class you needed that term.  Seniors came up against the wonderful experience of having picked up the last punchcard for one class they had to have to graduate, only to learn that the only available time for that class conflicted directly with the only available time for another class they needed in order to graduate!

I got around that situation by wearing a button that said, "I am a human being; do not fold, spindle, or mutilate."  (Punch cards had on them a warning not to "fold, spindle, or mutilate" so that the data on the punchcard not be compromised.)  The person sitting at the table with that second course I needed managed to pull out a reserve he had put by of the same class offered at a different time.  In those days, humanity counted and was a necessary consideration.

Nowadays the tradeoff for any possible loss of humanity, for us being converted online into just more ones and zeroes, is nearly instantaneous registration.  It's painless and you don't even have to get dressed!  You sit down at your computer, get to the page for looking up classes, look up the classes you want or need, click the radio button, and there you are.  Less than five minutes.

To me, that is a miracle.

Another miracle is that represented in the lifespan of my grandma, Mary LeSourd Reed.  She was born before the Wright brothers made their flight at Kitty Hawk, and died nine years after Neil Armstrong placed his footprints on the moon.

What miracles are yet to come?  Remember what Arthur C. Clarke said:  "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

I may grouse and complain at times about technology, the pace of change, and the lack of realization among younger classmates of just how miraculous an age they live in.  They take for granted things that I have seen develop from nonexistence to everyday reality.  That's magic.  As much as I complain, I am also at times awed by what has come to pass in such a very brief snippet of the span of human history. What miracles have your ancestors witnessed?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

1940 Enumeration District Maps: From the Known to the Unknown

Yesterday I tested the 1940 census Enumeration District maps on addresses that I knew - that of my aunt and uncle in Glendale, California, which I suspect will reveal a clue as to where my father and mother were in the 1940 census, and of the home of my father-in-law's parents in Jacksonville, Florida.

Remembering well the layout of the street on which my aunt and uncle lived, as well as the street on which they owned another home which they rented out, I was able to find the Glendale district map in no time.

Jacksonville has been a much harder nut to crack.  As I said in yesterday's blog entry, the map for the district in which my father-in-law's family lived was not there.  I found, in Dear Myrtle's blog, another way to approach the ED maps, through the Online Public Access. What I found there was even more frustrating, because I was made to feel like King Tantalus, the desired goal being just out of reach.

What happened is that the access to the ED maps for Jacksonville revealed that there are more maps than are showing.  In fact, there are, under each of the three divisions mentioned in yesterday's entry, multiple maps.  Under Jacksonville itself, there are six maps, but I could get only one to show up.  I would select for "Jacksonville," and very briefly I saw six selections flash by.  The browser did not stop on the six selections, but jumped immediately to displaying the first one.  No matter how may times I clicked on the next page button, I could not get the view to budge off that first map, the same one I saw last night.

I do not know whether that was a glitch caused by too many hits on the website or what.  I guess I'll have to try again.  Or perhaps the National Archives need to put up instructions for the feebly inept, such as myself.

However, that is my adventure with the known.

Today I had a little adventure with the unknown.  It is a bit easier to use the ED maps if you have in your own head a clear map of the area from having lived there or visited there.  Much harder is it, says Yoda, if you have no familiarity with the area.  Just for a test, I picked Chicago.  I found someone, their identity is not relevant, in the 1930 census and noted the address of their dwelling.  I then went to the Chicago ED maps, and had the same experience I had with Jacksonville:  I could not access more than the first one.  There were more,  I just could not get at them.

Also, when I did look at the one map of Chicago I could get, there were no street names on a large portion of it.  A study of a marked street map, preferably one from 1940, would in this case be necessary.

So for me, there is a lot of work involved in using the ED maps.

I could just take the easy way out and wait until the index is done.  But I will at least search in Glendale, for which the ED map has been quite helpful, to see if my mother and father were there in 1940.

1940 Enumeration District Maps: Something found, something missing

We Ancestry Aces have been asked to take an advanced peek at the Enumeration District maps and play around with them.  The ED maps are running hot and cold for me.

I noted in my last post, the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post about guessing my ancestor's 1940 census data, that I have no real clue where my parents were in 1940.  I looked at my father's U.S. Navy service record, and there is some indication, by no means conclusive, that they may have been in California, and I suspect that I might find them with his brother Jack in Glendale.

I called up the ED map for Glendale, California, and was right in their neighborhood.  It took me no time at all, remembering what I could of the layout of the streets when I visited Uncle Jack and Aunt Billie in 1962, to find their street and their house's location.  They are in the Sonora Precinct.  There is no ED number, as such, on the map, but at least knowing the precinct may help.  I know that my aunt and uncle at one time owned another house on a nearby street, which I also easily found,  though whether they owned it in 1940, I do not know.  So I do have a place to at least check in the census on Monday for the whereabouts of my parents in 1940.

I also thought I would try to find my husband's father's family.  He had not married my mother-in-law at that time; that didn't happen until 1944.  But in 1940, my (future) father-in-law lived with his parents, and I know exactly where it is from family records my husband and I have, and from actually visiting the house as a young girl, when my then-future husband and I were friends (and, yes, we still are, after 41 years of marriage).

However, when I went to the map for Jacksonville, Florida, I was disappointed.  The only map that shows for Jacksonville itself (as the city limits were in those days) is the north side.  My husband's parents lived on the south side, which, until the 1930s, was the separate town of South Jacksonville.  But that part is not there at all.  There is another link under Duval County, the county where Jacksonville sits, which says "other places."  Those other places are only those to the northwest of Jacksonville (as the city limits were in those days).  Strike two.

The third link under Duval County shows what is today known as the Riverside area, to the west, across the St. Johns River, from the south side.  Strike three.  The area where my future father-in-law and his parents and sister lived is just not included in the maps.  I cannot imagine why.  There is no link marked "South Jacksonville," either.  It just ain't there.

Do the maps for the south side of Jacksonville just not exist?  At least I thought I would see the St. Johns river, but on the first two maps, Jacksonville and "other places," it does not show up, because the maps are too far north.  The third map, of Riverside, shows the river and one tiny corner of Southside, called "Hendricks Point," which is where the Acosta Bridge and the railroad bridge next to it span the river.  Duval County was not much different than it is today, as far as its boundaries are concerned, and certainly included Southside, or South Jacksonville, at the time.

Or is it that the map I require has not been uploaded yet?   Let me hold out hope that such is the case, and that I will find the Southside, or South Jacksonville (some old-timers still call it that) when the time comes for me to search for my father-in-law in the census.

Oh, well.  I'm 50% so far, anyway.