Links, 8.15.11

Not that I’m having a terrible August, but I must say it drags on a bit. I keep asking whether it’s Sunday when it is, in fact, the previous Saturday, or even the previous Thursday. I am reasonably sure, however, that today is Monday, and therefore a good time to post links.

Eyecatching: I hadn’t seen the Western History & Genealogy blog of the Denver Public Library, but it strikes me as a nicely thought-out and well-presented example of a library highlighting its resources. For example, this Manuscript Monday meme, which features examples from the library’s manuscript collections.

Reunited: Megan Smolenyak has started rescuing orphaned heirlooms again. Yay!

Submerged: Severe drought reveals the remains of a long-forgotten cemetery in Texas where freed slaves were buried in the Civil War era (see also Dick Eastman).

Unsettling: Well, OK, here’s a hazard to family revelations that hadn’t occurred to me: British actress Emilia Fox, two weeks away from her due date, discovers via the UK Who Do You Think You Are that her great-grandma died in childbirth, delivering a stillborn baby. Not the sort of thing I would have wanted to dwell upon at that stage in pregnancy.

Debatable: Uh-oh, Dick Eastman wades into the tombstone touch-up controversy with How to Read Unreadable Tombstones. Go ahead and read it. Then go have a fight with somebody about it.

Useful: Newspaper columnist James Beidler reviews what sounds like a wonderful resource: a Surname Atlas of Germany.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the week!


A Second Look

The copy editor in me prompts some quirky reactions to old newspapers: “Ewwww…. Futura! I hate that font!” (By the way, did you know there’s an entire documentary about Helvetica?)

But as we all know, newspapers are about more than type fonts. They give us big genealogy discoveries. Today is about a sequel to one of them.

A while back I wrote about the treasure trove of family nuggets I found through keyword searches of the Troy (N.Y.) Times-Record.  I pawed through this impressive pile of clips in drunken abandon, updating my notes like mad.

Several months later, I’m regarding my impressive pile of clips with more wariness. Like censuses, newspaper items can contain a lot of information to cross-check. Did I get everything right? And what did I miss?

As part of Operation Database Cleanup, I began updating the database card of my great-great-aunt Mary Ann (Mamie) Haigney Walker (1872-1956). She had been a minor part of the Big Newspaper Trove, but it did contain her obituary, where I found the names of her husband and son. My current task was doublechecking these names. I didn’t have much else planned.

The names checked out fine against the obituary. But it occurred to me that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to cross-check these names in the rest of the newspaper items in my files – purely as a precaution. I just knew I had seen everything there was to see about this surname.

Except this:

Mrs. Mary Walker of Kelly Road recently celebrated her eightieth birthday. At the time she was at the summer home of her sons in Far Rockaway and was surprised with a large dinner party of relatives and friends. Mrs. Walker was honored with a large birthday cake. Four generations of Walkers were represented by Mrs. Walker, her son, Edward, grandson and great-granddaughter.

OK, class, what is of interest here?

(A) The phrase “home of her SONS.”

(B) The phrase “FOUR GENERATIONS of Walkers were represented.”

(C) The headline font may be Futura.

Very good, it is both A and B!  We see that Mrs. Walker might have had more than the one son listed in her obituary. She also had a grandson and great-granddaughter. Perhaps they are mentioned by name elsewhere in the clips? Perhaps it would be a good idea to look?

After further examinations of the clips, I think “sons” might be a typo, as I have found only one son mentioned by name in subsequent articles. But I certainly went back to the rest of the clippings in a chastened and more careful state of mind. I realized I hadn’t really been paying a lot of attention to the Walkers – I had been too busy looking for clues about the Haigney surname.

As a result of renewed hunting I have added two grandchildren to the list I’m investigating for Mamie’s family group, plus a woman with a surname different from Walker who might be a married granddaughter or great-granddaughter. All of these names were scattered throughout my collection of newspaper snippets, but because I wasn’t really scanning for them, I read right over them.

A clear case of read in haste; re-read (and research) at leisure. Consider me abashed.

Links, 8.8.11

The links and I went on vacation last week. But vacations end and overflowing mailboxes remain.

Just a quick glance showed me that while I was gone, JK Rowling got the Who Do You Think You Are? treatment (British edition), a preponderance of Australian Gen-Ys said they would prefer that their census forms were destroyed, and apparently much of Western Europe turned out to be  related to King Tut.

You just can’t turn your back on the Internet for a second, people. Anyway:

Feasting: Delicious entries at the Carnival of Genealogy, 108th Edition: Food. I threw some cake into the mix on this one and had a complete blast reading a great collection of musings on food, family and the occasional bout of indigestion. A few examples:

• Great pictures (and some delightfully dogmatic pronouncements) from Judy Cole at  It Must Have Been Something I Ate.

• Bill West explains the ins and outs of Blue Collar Cuisine (and condolences that Bill, too, experienced liver and onions in his formative years).

• Carnival host Jasia has a tell-all about the tasty (no, really!) Duck Blood Soup, which she bravely resists calling by its less-scary  alternate name, Czarnina.

• Debbie at Mascot Manor asks Who Are These People?, reminding us that the stories behind the recipes need to be recorded, too.

• Also, NoliChucky Roots reminds us that some food fashions die deserving deaths in Salad Oughtn’t Wiggle.

Read them all but make sure you’ve had a meal first or else you’ll be raiding the refrigerator.

Irish data: Very interesting analysis tools from the National Centre for Geocomputation: an atlas examining population shifts during Ireland’s Great Famine, along with an Irish Famine Data Atlas. h/t Pat Connors, NY-Irish listserve.

More Irish data: Pat also mentioned a link to an online collection of 70,000 burial records from County Kerry, searchable by name, date and location. This reflects 140 cemeteries that are under the control of Kerry Local Authorities. More about the scope and background of this database here.

Enjoy the week!

The Pickle: Fierce Culture Warrior.

[Mrs. Leopold] said to her daughter, “I don’t know where you learned to use spices in such an original way.” Implying that … spices were common, and that real food, eaten by real people, was either plain American or French.

— Laurie Colwin, “An Old-Fashioned Story”


Only a couple of generations ago, food was such a highly charged litmus test of Fitting In for immigrants. Hard to believe now! New Yorkers, for instance, revel in the ethnic and cultural diversity of their food scene, to the point of being tiresome about who gets credit for ferreting out the latest hidden gem. Chicago was much the same, from what I remember of my time there.

So I laughed out loud at Immigrant Identities, Preserved in Vinegar?, author Jane Ziegelman’s eye-opening paean to the pickle on the OpEd page of the New York Times.

Who knew the lowly pickle was once the equivalent of a culinary stealth warrior to stuffy, anti-immigrant cookery authorities? “The spices in it are bad, the vinegar a seething mass of rottenness,” declared one horrified 19th-century observer.

Holy brining barrel, Batman! Read the whole thing. It’s a hoot.

P.S. I had a very nice pickle (and terrific smoked-meat sandwich) at the legendary Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal several days ago. No seething masses of rottenness were anywhere in the vicinity. If you’re ever in the area and you haven’t yet tried smoked meat (a distinctive and delightful distant cousin to New York-style pastrami), you owe yourself a taste.