A quick note: The Archaeologist has an article featured in the current issue of Actuarial Review. Yes, really.
This story grew out of my ongoing research into the fate of my German grandfather’s sister, an ancestress whose long-ago presence in the United States I discovered only a few years back. (I wrote about her here and here.) The more I dug into the story of the 1921 automobile accident that caused her death, the more it got me to thinking how quickly and radically America’s roads changed in the years after the First World War. This article delves into that a bit, and reflects on a world in which auto insurance was still in its infancy.
It all goes to show that you never know where genealogy might lead you.
I see that actress Jayne Meadows has passed away, aged 95.
Busy with Broadway, movies and TV, she had notable mid-20th century showbiz chops – and pedigree. Her husband was comedian/talk-show host Steve Allen, while her younger sister, Audrey, made history giving Jackie Gleason what-for as Alice Kramden on “The Honeymooners.” And Jayne was a game-show panelist par excellence in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Perhaps one of Meadows’ most endearing collaborations with her husband was a long-ago PBS series called “Meeting of Minds,” in which Steve Allen presided as his urbane talk-show host self over a roundtable of “guests” who were actors portraying pivotal characters from history.
Watch Meadows (as Catherine the Great) sitting down for a chat with Oliver Cromwell and Daniel O’Connell. The clip manages the feat of being both a hoot and a brain-teaser at the same time. Could you imagine anyone successfully pitching a show like it today?
A tale of two Saturday events: The drum beats ever louder for the Global Family Reunion on Saturday, June 6 at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows. The sheer volume of activities and speakers is daunting, but so is the awesomeness potential.
You could pose for the world’s biggest family photo or do a family-themed scavenger hunt — or match brawn with an arm-wrestling machine! Not to mention the presentations by genealogical heavy-hitters like Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Finding Your Roots) Maureen Taylor (the Photo Detective) and CeCe Moore (Your Genetic Genealogist).
I would be derelict in my duty if I failed to point out the Genealogical Society of New Jersey is holding its spring program on the Very Same Day, June 6th, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark. No scavenger hunts, but:
- James Amemasor and Doug Oxenhorn will be presenting Doing Research at The New Jersey Historical Society.
- Christopher Zarr will be presenting NJ and the National Archives at New York City.
- Melissa A. Johnson will be presenting Researching Your Newark Ancestors.
- Catherine Stearns Medich will be presenting So What is New at the New Jersey State Archives.
- Andy McCarthy will be presenting New Jersey Collections at NYPL.
- Joseph R. Klett will be presenting Colonial New Jersey Research.
It is undeniable: If New Jersey research smarts are what you’re after, head to Newark. Here’s the program brochure. Note that free parking will be provided.
I know you really wanted to check out the arm-wrestling machine. But it is all about sharpening the skillz, is it not?
Plus: free parking! In Newark! I mean, come on!
Meanwhile, in May … Thank goodness not everybody is scheduling things for the first Saturday in June. Here are two more New Jersey events to consider:
May 2: The Montclair Historical Society is presenting its Restoration Fair at its headquarters, the historic Crane House, 108 Orange Road. Check out free workshops on repairing vintage roofs and researching your house’s history. Also, the society will be holding its annual herb sale, so you can get started on the heirloom garden, too.
May 9: Mark the calendar for the Spirit of the Jerseys history fair: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine, at the Monmouth Battlefield State Park in Manalapan. Wander the historic battlefield and check out exhibits from historical sites and societies from all over the state. A list of exhibitors is here.
The Archaeologist is Irish-American-Catholic, and a chorister. This entails two deeply felt but diametrically opposed things: church singing and old-style Irish-American Catholicism.
In my Catholic youth, everybody sang pretty much all the time until they got to church, where they clammed up and glared at anybody who dared so much as intone an Amen. Churches were places of reverent silence, muttered responses and rigidly maintained personal space. (During my adolescence the Vatican enacted the Sign of Peace, a part of Mass ritual in which you shake your neighbor’s hand and say “Peace be with you.” For many in my hometown parish, this was the emotional equivalent of requiring a raised middle finger and a raspberry.)
Music was show-offy, vaguely suspect. Especially the good stuff. (Was Mozart’s setting of the Regina Coeli OK for church? Oh, Mozart was Catholic? Seriously? He wrote that stuff for Catholics?)
As for Handel … well. He belonged to the Protestants. You could hear him in a concert hall, if you wanted. But not in church, not on Easter Sunday.
Happily, that has changed. My present-day parish revels in its music program. We have adult choir, children’s choir, bell choirs. And we do Handel, especially at Easter. This year at the Vigil we took a gander at “Worthy is the Lamb,” with its majestic, endlessly textured Amen.
It’s kind of a monster. But a great one. Here’s an old-school version conducted by Otto Klemperer, with a big fat chorus and orchestra. Not the Baroque-authentic, smaller-scale sort of production favored today, but delightfully rich and ripe. Enjoy.
P.S. For a penetrating and frequently hilarious dissection of American Catholics and their love-hate relationship with music, read Thomas Day’s Why Catholics Can’t Sing. It’s a treat.
This morning on the photography site PetaPixel, I learned about a online collection called THTK (short for Too Hard to Keep), curated by Jason Lazarus, an adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago.
The story link is here, but a caution: Although most of it is not graphic, the material is definitely disturbing.
Lazarus collects images that people can’t bear to live with anymore. In some the pain is obvious — a building falling to the wrecking ball, a family at the bedside of a desperately ill relative. Others disturb by implication — scenes of cluttered, chaotic rooms hinting at some offstage crisis.
Why do we take photos, why do we keep them?
Maybe some images should never be made at all. (Personally I will never think it’s a good idea to photograph an open coffin at a wake. I don’t care if the Victorians did it. I bet some Victorians didn’t like it, either.)
Yet even as I write that, I realize that painful images can be an act of bearing witness, fulfilling important human and historical needs. And even ostensibly happy images hold potential pain as life unfolds.
But what do you think? Have you ever possessed a photo that harmed your peace of mind? And should it be kept, or destroyed, or passed on to someone else?
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day here’s a special moment from Columbia’s live recording of an early 1960s Clancy Brothers concert at Carnegie Hall.
This clip revisits the unforgettable “Children’s Medley,” wherein the group shares an encyclopedia of traditional songs sung by Irish kids. They run the gamut of funny, vulgar, angry and even a bit mysterious. Clocking in at 12 minutes plus, it’s a fascinating journey, fantastically performed.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!