ancestryink fisherman

Monday, October 19, 2015

New Facebook Page for Researchers of Sailors' Snug Harbor

Are you a descendant of a mariner who once resided at Sailors' Snug Harbor, Staten Island, NY?  Or a researcher?   Or a reader of good sea-going tales?  Or perhaps you are interested in the SSH records, and the SSH Cemetery?

 This weekend, spurred on by one of my blog readers, I created the Facebook page:  "Mariners of Sailors' Snug Harbor History and Genealogy."  The purpose of the page is to share stories and information specifically about the former inhabitants of SSH: the aged, sometimes ailing mariners who found rest and camaraderie there.

The physical property and buildings of Sailors' Snug Harbor, which began in 1801, and eventually closed doors in the mid 1950's, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 
Some of the buildings fell into disrepair and were demolished over the years, but many of the beautiful original structures remain.

The entire property has been renamed:  Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens.
and overseen by a board of Trustees.  This entity has their own website (above) and their own Facebook page.

Perhaps the most interesting story of Sailors' Snug Harbor, however, originates with the lives of those men who lived there.   My own g-g-grandfather master mariner stayed there on several different occasions, and eventually died there.  The new Facebook page I have created, is a place to illuminate the lives of those men by sharing any stories we hold.

I have a handful of letters, in my family archives, written on stationary with the Sailors' Snug Harbor letterhead.  I came to know my g-g-grandfather through these letters. I came to understand what forces affected his life on the sea and how he made a living.  What treasures do you have, what tales to tell? 

Please visit on Facebook:  Mariners of Sailors' Snug Harbor History and Genealogy.  The page is open to anyone, but please "Like" the page so we can get to know you.   Thanks!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lloyd's Register of Ships Continues to Streamline Historic Information

Recently, I was directed to the website for the historic "Lloyd's Register of Ships."

Lloyd's is a multi-faceted organization, but this particular page included on their website - located in the "Research and Innovation" section - directs the interested researcher to resources listing shipping and vessel information from the earliest and first edition of Lloyd's in 1764.

All in one place.
In case you are not a Londoner, and therefore unable to visit their physical reference library, a virtual visit is in order.  Lloyd's website will direct you to several online sources of Lloyd's historical data.  These include Google Books, The Internet Archive, and Plimsoll ship data project (digitized cooperatively with the Southampton (England) Library and Archives associations.)

From Google Books - Early archives of Lloyd's

The very first Lloyd's Register of Ships, 1764 - 1766, is included on a separate page of the Lloyd's website.  This is simply a fascinating view of the original book which appears to have been digitized in 2012.

From Lloyd's Register of Ships: 1764-66

This page provides a table for locating ships alphabetically by their name (ex:  in this earliest time period. Each page appears as a downloadable PDF.

Page from earliest Lloyd's Register (website image)

It is always a pleasant discovery to learn of continued efforts to consolidate and streamline valuable historic information, in this case, regarding vessels, captains and arrival and departure ports of sea.  Lloyd's does it well.  Again, the link to Lloyd's Register of Ships.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sailor's Snug Harbor Digital Records New Locations

A reader just alerted me to new links for the historical records of Sailor's Snug Harbor held by the Maritime College of SUNY.

The Sailor's Snug Harbor Collection, Stephen B. Luce Library Archives located here.

The digital records which contain records, letters, photographs are held by the "The New York Heritage Digital Collections

Clicking here will take you directly to the records pertaining to Sailor's Snug Harbor.

Thank you to the reader who contributed this new information.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ben Affleck Attempts to Change the Course of Genealogical History

...Or, at least slightly "edit" away the unseemly stuff in his family tree.

From NYTimes: Saul Loeb, Getty Images: Ben Affleck

Since my last posting about Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s show, "Finding Your Roots" hosted by PBS, a case of "improper influence" has arisen concerning celebrity guest, Ben Affleck, in regards to his attempt to "mega-star manage" how his family history is portrayed on Gates' show.

The New York Times today reveals an investigation, and an "editing" of PBS editorial staff, due to the incident.  PBS also announced the suspension of Gates' show.

In fact - in genealogical facts - an ancestor of Ben Affleck was a slave owner.  Uncomfortable about this fact, Affleck requested this particular information NOT be included during his hour on Gates' show.

This is all in past tense.  What actually happened was that Gates, or his editorial staff and management, bowed to Affleck's wishes and focused on other, more laudatory members of his family tree during the show that aired last year.

Photo: Steven Senne/AP:  Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Yesterday, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. issued an apology for the incident.  You can read that here in an LA Times article dated June 24, 2015. 

Affleck certainly wouldn't be alone in being embarrassed by the life or actions of an ancestor.  We all may have a few "black sheep" in our families.

Or, maybe he was concerned a negative response to the news of his slave owning ancestor might result in a backlash that would endanger his own family.  (One hopes this may have been behind his actions, anyway.)

However, it seems to me Affleck's personal history is an opportunity for greater understanding of the slave era in our country, and the relationships between African Americans and Whites today - especially at this most crucial time following the shooting in South Carolina. But, this exists only if we are allowed to hear all sides of the story - celebrity or not.

Ben, whom I generally admire by the way, wanted to lie.  And he convinced a few other key folks to lie right along with him.  In the end, what he has done is to be untrustworthy.  PBS now appears untrustworthy. And we are left with a nagging, free-floating feeling of mistrust in the media and maybe human kind, in general.  Not a good thing.

When the truth is edited out of history, we lose a valuable opportunity to learn. Most importantly, we lose an opportunity to develop compassion and tolerance for others by having a fuller, deeper understanding of the woven threads of humans and circumstances that came before us - all of which serves to create who we are and how we act,  today.

To Ben Affleck - be a braver man for us.  In the words of none other than George Orwell:

"In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

To read about the story of PBS, Gates Jr., and Affleck:  visit NYT here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Fifty Ways to Find Your Family - Free!

Photo Credit: Family History Daily website

 A dream come true for genealogists:  Fifty free genealogy websites for you to use.  No subscription needed.  Start right now.

And who provides this valuable list?

Family History Daily is a "help and how-to" website full of tips for stream-lining and enhancing research  - for the avid beginner or amateur genealogist. 

Besides the "Fifty Free Genealogy Websites" article, you will undoubtedly relate to common research woes in  "The Grumpy Genealogist" by Susan Wallin Mosey.  Or an article on how to prepare for your cemetery visit.   Ten free Canadian websites. .. How to use Facebook to break through your brick walls...   The list of articles and research tools is plentiful. 

There are also many wonderful BW photos on this website. I wish the website provided photo credits for them all.

Go visit.   Website:

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Root - Tracing Your Roots with Help From Henry Louis Gates & Co.

"Finding Your Roots" is the PBS series hosted and researched by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Compared to "Who Do You Think You Are,"  a similar show produced by  investigating family histories of well-known people, Henry Louis Gate's approach has a less scripted,  more of a no-holds-barred delivery of ancestral news for the chosen celebrities who are on his show.  He has a perpetually earnest demeanor on the show as well,  and an obvious genuine interest in each and every story he reports - usually accompanied by his signature, somewhat mischievous half-smile.

Article by Gates, Moore and Siekman

I have recently discovered "The Root: History" which is an historical webpage authored by Gates and other research experts, offering good tips on investigating your own roots.  The format is a question/answer style approach with, in some articles,  Gates responding to real inquiries from real people who are not celebrities.

After years of tackling genealogical research projects, it is easy to fall into using the same set of research records, websites, sources, and tools.  We all do this because they are familiar to us.

I find Gates research suggestions to be fresh and outside-the-box.  He understands a doggedly inquisitive mind and how sometimes following the thinnest of clues or connections can offer good promise in solving ancestral mysteries.

A great example, is last week's posting authored by Gates and Zachary Garceau titled:  "How to Trace Your Ancestor Through a Name Change."

Gates answers letters written by real people, often African Americans, and often dealing with the confusing and fascinating and sometimes uncomfortable history of slavery in America.

For those who have explored these deep waters, you will know that slaves, even once freed, often retained the surnames of their owners.  The tangled records this produces is a serious challenge.

Another week, Gates offers tips on how to find that missing death certificate -a brick wall that can stymy the best of us.  He encounters wrongly-transcribed records, spelling problems, and the crooked trail to the death of a Miss Ola Mae Waters.

Here in MA, for example,  a frequent research result for death information that pops up in is the MA state Death Index.  What does this tell you?   Well, it will confirm the town, and year of death for your ancestor, a volume and page number.  But it will tell you nothing about who was present, cause of death, family members, etc.

example of MA Death Index

 Gates suggests faster and more informative
trails for finding a missing death record.  Again, more thinking outside the box by suggesting not to take things at face value:  names can be misspelled on records, for example.

"The Root" is a good source for genealogical research tools, in general. It will not necessarily jump out at you in a random Google search, however.   I discovered the website via my connection to PBS through their Facebook page.  No matter how you get there, "The Root" History articles,  authored by Gates and  by other experts, will undoubtedly offer you some new ways of breaking through your ancestral brick walls.  It certainly did for me, and I count myself among the most dogged of investigators.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Aboard the Corwith Cramer

Here is a follow-up to my last post about the SSV Corwith Cramer, a SEA Education research and study vessel.

A long line formed along the dock next to the ship at 2pm last Sunday afternoon.  Fortunately, my excitement about going aboard for the tour brought me to the dock about 15 minutes early and I was among the first 5 folks to be file on deck.

Our tour guides, alumni of past trips and current crew, seemed to have a bit of a "spirit" session on deck before beginning what would be for them, two hours of lots of questions about living conditions while at sea, destinations, studies,  equipment, communications with outside world, etc.

They all were enthusiastic, (patient!), and obviously a tight-knit family.

Corwith Cramer at Bigelow Dock Woods Hole

 Below decks, the large ship is a catacomb of bunk spaces (up to 31 people on board, during these cross-ocean trips), privacy provided by a single red curtain. Heads, galley, library, lab rooms, laptops and computer stations.  There was a cabinet holding labeled samples in glass vials of different forms of sea life. Science class was never this cool back in high school.

Library with gimbal-ed tables and bunks spaces

I spoke with  David Banks in the wheelhouse, who informed me the ship is occupied 24/7, whether at the dock or at sea.  Like a living breathing thing, it seemed to me.


Towards bow from starboard deck

I was especially interested in a foresail that opened and closed like an accordion, or "shower curtain," as one crew member described.  Folding down to either side of the mast, vertically, one crew member informed me that this allows for easier, faster opening with no need for crew members to climb rigging, thus allowing for increased safety.

I asked another tour guide the longest period of time he was continuously at sea and he said "thirty days."  

  Before sailing, all students take a six-week course in ship safety, and all they need to know about the ship, before any voyage.

The long line of folks eager to see the Corwith was now snaking out to the road and I didn't want to linger, though I had a million questions about navigation, social aspects, maintenance tasks, and more.  I felt incredibly lucky to have received the tour.  I was informed as I departed that the Corwith Cramer was rarely at dock in Woods Hole, and this time - only for one week before setting sail for County Cork, Ireland.  Wish I was going to be aboard.