Links, 5.16.11

Monday blues? Never! At least, not for long. Links always help.

Awkward: Finding uncomfortable facts in family history is an occupational hazard for genealogists. Columnist Betty Malesky serves up a few compelling examples.

Schoolwork: An interesting initiative gives Alameda County (CA) high school students a chance to study genealogy. As a study topic, it has a way of expanding perspectives, organizers say. Or as one student puts it: “You just don’t come from any old thing.”

Make it count: Wired magazine continues its Genealogy for Geeks series with a primer on using censuses.

Background factors: The LexGo blog of Lexington, Ky., has a review of a book I think I’d like to read — a case study of families whose histories  intersect in complicated ways with the history of race and class in the U.S.

Blogger blackout: Lorine at Olive Tree Genealogy confronts the painful truths of the BloggerFail 2011 and asks other bloggers: How do you back up your blogs? More on the epic fail at Genealogy’s Star. In another angle, Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings tells what he did while Blogger was down.

Kinfolk: Lady Gaga and Madonna are distant cousins, says a “Hollywood genealogy expert.” No doy.

Around and about at NGS 2011: releases a major collection of Civil War records.

Ancestry Insider covers NARA chief David S. Ferriero’s address.

Lovely conference postcards from Greta Koehl, Linda McCauley, Jennifer (and daughter Ellie) at Climbing My Family Tree, to name a few. If you were there and posted something about your experience, tell us in the comments. Pretty please from those of us with mingy travel budgets?

Hope everyone traveled safely or just played nice, whatever you were up to. Have a great week.


Wordless Wednesday: A Dog in Le Havre

This great picture turned up as I was going through my files, trying to pull together a stunning pets post for the 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy Pets Prompt, and failing miserably.

Not because I lacked pets photos, but because there were so many cool ones.

Like this one.

Aaaand … I kept trying to come up with ways to tie all the pets pictures together in one remarkable, compelling post.

A Pets Post of PluPerfect Proportions. Deep Themes! Deft Transitions! Daring Analogies!

Result: No Pets Post at all. I always overthink things. Sorry.

But here is this fine pup anyway. I cannot tell you who the gentlemen in the picture are. But my father, Peter Haigney, was almost certainly the man behind the camera. And I can tell you that the tower in the background belongs to the The Cathedrale Notre-Dame du Havre, said to be the oldest of the few buildings in the central part of Le Havre to survive the wartime bombardments. The picture was likely taken in November 1945.

And in my next post I’ll explain how I figured some of this out through research into my dad’s Coast Guard ship and where it traveled. I promise not to overthink things this time.

Links, 5.09.11

Greetings from the Post-Mother’s Day Celebration Headquarters. Hope your celebrations were fine, where applicable.

Now back to work, right?

Roots travel: Now you know it’s big business: The Wall Street Journal reports on genealogical tourism.

Get outta my tree: Columnist Sharon Tate Moody asks what point of etiquette applies to uninvited aristocrats on your family tree — which happens when other researchers graft online twigs to it with more enthusiasm than care. Funny post on a perennially vexing topic.

Irish records: The Courier newspaper reports that UK online publisher Brightsolid is launching a new Irish-centric genealogy site,, an offshoot of their findmypast site. The venture is in partnership with an Irish history/heritage company, Eneclann. Not clear when things will really be up and running, but here are some records the firm says will be included: wills, the 1798 Rebellion Census and “exclusive publication of the Landed Estates Court Records, which includes details of more than 500,000 tenants on Irish estates.”

Resting places: CBS station KYW in Philadelphia provides a glimpse of the historic Christ Church graveyard and the people who go ancestor hunting in it. P.S. It’s a neat spot to visit even if you don’t have an ancestor there.

In Blog Post Land:

• Have you taken a look at the FamilySearch Research Wiki? If you haven’t, James Tanner explains why you should.

• Joan Miller at Luxegen shares insights on social media marketing from a recent conference.

• What happens when a person just decides to hold a webinar on the fly? Maybe build-up is overrated, as this Dear Myrtle article on  so-called Flash Webinars suggests.

• I liked this tip of the day from Michael John Neill: Be patient with beginning genealogists. Most veterans I know are wonderful,  but a couple of regular posters on my email loops could use a reminder.

• Don’t miss this roundup of Irish genealogy news items from Deborah Large Fox at Help! The Faerie Folk Hid My Ancestors!

• Nice post on the genealogy of a stove company, and why it matters,  from Olive Tree Genealogy Blog.

I plan to continue writing up some ancestor profiles I’ve been working on and finish documenting some old photos I recently put into a non-sticky, non-evil magnetic album. What’s up with your genealogy this week?

My Mom, In The Lab

Here’s my mom, Theresa Rudroff Haigney (1927-2003), at her microscope. That’s some serious petri dish action going on the background there, if you care to look. This photo was taken in a lab at the Pfizer Pharmaceutical facility in Brooklyn, N.Y., where Mom spent the first phase of her working life.

I don’t have an exact date but I believe it was taken at some point in the late 1940s, when Pfizer was developing terramycin and my mother was assisting the team working on what was then a revolutionary new antibiotic.

Mom always remembered it as an exciting time, not only because of the work, but because celebrities and heads of state (I remember her mentioning Haile Selassie of Ethiopia) would be ushered past the glass observation windows to peer at the staff as they toiled away. She also developed a lifelong love of bridge there, honed at cutthroat card games in the Pfizer break room.

Mom came to Pfizer as a bright high school graduate who had excelled in mathematics, chemistry, physics and German (naturally; her parents spoke it at home).  College was not in the cards for her, alas. Her father did not believe in it for girls, who would only end up marrying and wasting all that education. But bright high school grads in those days could get lab assistant jobs, and she loved the work. She continued to work in various lab settings after she married my father and they moved to Chicago for him to complete his education.

She hit a snag when she realized she was pregnant with my oldest sister. Quitting was not a financial option, but pregnancy left her subject to immediate dismissal.  Thank God for lab smocks, she would say. She hid under them and kept the job. The stress was sky-high. When the next child was on the way, she simply leveled with her boss and begged him not to fire her, as Dad still had a year of school to go. The boss let her keep the job. After Dad graduated, Mom stopped working outside the home.

I think there was always a wistfulness in the background about what she’d left behind. It’d be nice to write a heartwarming screed about how she didn’t mind a bit staying home, due to the awesomeness of me and my siblings (and we are awesome). But she missed working, and I don’t see why she wouldn’t, even as she concentrated her energies on home and kids. A decade or so later and she might have combined family and job, but that just wasn’t something women did a lot, especially with seven children.

I do puzzle sometimes over what to tell my daughters if they ever ask for life advice. (I know, as if.) I guess I would start by telling them about their grandma, and about regrets, and about making the most of the opportunities you get, while doing your best to open up more opportunities for the women who follow you. It’s a start, anyway.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of us — the ones who went before, and the ones coming after. And those of us in the thick of it right now.

Stuff That Comes Up: Shorthand

From the Whoops! Been Meaning To Tell You About That files:

These notes are on the back of the 1946 coroner’s report filed in the death of one of my distant cousins. They’re in shorthand, I’m guessing. They cover most of the back of the page.

My first reaction was surprise, of course, but my second was surprise at my own surprise. I should have known I’d come up against shorthand sooner or later — in probate documents, for instance.

Is it Pitman or Gregg? Alas, I would not know. As a reporter I relied upon a compact tape recorder and a really, really fast longhand. Still do. I need to find an interpreter, and I might have a couple of candidates among my friends and neighbors. At least I hope so.

Or I might have to become more educated myself.

It’s always entertaining, the things you end up having to learn when you’re doing genealogy.

News You Can Use

My dad wouldn’t have been caught dead reading The New York Times. “The paper for eggheads,” is about as printable a comment as I can reproduce here. But there were culturally sound reasons behind his distaste.

The Times didn’t cover Dad’s New York. It’s famous for having a blind spot about working-class New Yorkers, really. I do think they’ve tried to rectify that in recent years. But to this day, it’s possible to read unintentionally amusing pieces wherein an earnest Times writer takes a trip to a place like Queens or Staten Island, and carries on as if they’ve just been to Mars.

My purpose is not solely to make fun of the Times (no! not solely!). The more important point is that I belong to a Daily News family as far as death notices go. In the more distant past, we were of course a Brooklyn Eagle family, but one branch seems to have been staunchly Brooklyn Standard Union.

We know from any basic research guide that newspapers are valuable sources for genealogists. Obituaries and birth announcements are only the most obvious benefit. Society meetings, town government, charity balls, who was visiting whom and who had just come home from the hospital — all this was fodder for news once upon a time, and a good thing, too.

But we must pay attention to who our ancestors were, to use newspapers effectively. Because once upon a time, the paper you read was a bit like where you worshiped. You just didn’t read some papers because they were edited by those [expletive] dirty [political/economic/religious enemies]. You would never, ever insert a notice about a loved one’s birth or death in that [expletive] paper. After all, you’d want your friends to read it, wouldn’t you?

And don’t think you’re off the hook in small towns. For an example, consider this episode in Terry Ryan’s affecting memoir, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. At one point young Terry and her mother make a nostalgic visit to Mom’s small Midwestern hometown. Here’s what newspaper consumerism was like there, circa 1915:

The seven papers Mom’s uncle Frank and aunt Clara read were mostly Republican-owned, but they subscribed to a few Democrat newspapers, too. “Not to mention,” Mom said, “a German-language paper for immigrants like my grandparents, and a Whig paper.”

“Wig?” I said …

“No, Whig with an h, like the political party of the same name,” she said.  … “The party died out in the mid-1800s, but it still had its followers. According to Uncle Frank, people had to have a variety of news sources to be well-rounded … “

I grew up long past the time when it was possible to subscribe to seven newspapers! Consolidation and corporate ownership meant, even by the 1970s, that relatively few large towns in the U.S. had more than one daily. Today, there is much talk about the death of the printed newspaper, but re-reading this passage, it occurs that we’re experiencing not a death, but a restoration of diverse opinions and themes. If Uncle Frank were alive today, I’m convinced, his Google Reader would be working overtime.

As it is, it helps to be aware of this vanished and complex world of print news, when we’re using it to track our ancestors.

Ancestral Dish: Candied Peel

Let’s be frank: Candied peel (in all likelihood) is not one of my personal ancestral dishes. It involves citrus, and back in the day citrus was an expensive treat. My ancestors did not have the big bucks.

In fact, citrus was still a big deal at Christmastime during my mother’s Brooklyn childhood. So I have a hard time imagining my 19th-century immigrant forebears springing for a bag of oranges just to candy some peel.

Even so, I could not resist having a go at candied peel. (1) It’s a classic old-time confection. (2) It just looks so darn pretty. (3) Oranges have been on sale at my local supermarket.

And the taste! I’ll admit I was dubious when, after a long stretch of peeling and simmering and sugaring, I took my first bite. A revelation.

“Chuckles!” I said.

“?????” said one of the offspring, who is not familiar with this movie house candy  we gorged upon as kids.

But that’s all I could think: So this is what the Chuckles people were imitating! Those rascals. There is no comparison between the jellied replica and the real, intense thing. It’s a sharp, sweet and above all pure taste. Citrus cubed.  Bonus: The kids loved it as much as I did.

I used this recipe, from Luna Cafe. The method is the same whether you use lemons, oranges or limes. You don’t need high-level culinary skill to candy peel, but you do need a lot of patience. It’s a long-winded, frankly boring process — peeling the oranges, removing the bitter white pith from the peels, triple-blanching the peels and finally, simmering them in a sugar syrup for as long as it takes.

The key here is “as long as it takes.” Some recipes tell you the peel will be done in 15 minutes. Peel must vary wildly. Mine simmered for an hour, and that was about right. You want some give to the bite, not too chewy. Test it by removing a piece from the syrup and biting into it — if you can bite easily, it’s ready.

After you dry the peel on a rack and roll it in some sugar, it’s ready to go.

And it goes — fast. Trust me on this.