ancestryink fisherman

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.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tour of the SSV Corwith Cramer in Woods Hole This Sunday

SEA, the Sea Education Association, of Woods Hole is back in town and hosting a tour of their beautiful SEA Semester ship, the Corwith Cramer.  The Corwith Cramer is used as a teaching vessel for environmental and ocean-related programs,  and travels the world. 

Corwith Cramer at sea Courtesy SEA website

As you drive into Woods Hole via Main Street today, the village is teeming with vacationers. The Woods Hole Library is busy with the Annual Used Book Sale. The ferries go to and fro through the thick fog loaded with passengers. And amidst the general flurry of activity, you can spot Corwith Cramer's two rigged masts rising tall and stately above the Steamship Authority ferry office. 

Corwith Cramer, a steel hulled brigantine constructed in Spain in 1987, lays alongside the MBL's Bigelow dock ready to be boarded and explored by curious folks. The time?   Tomorrow, Sunday, between 2pm-4pm.  I will be there!

Here is the link to their website:

Can't get to Woods Hole tomorrow afternoon?   You can take a virtual tour right here:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Woods Hole Model Boat Show: Small in Size, Large in Historical Significance

I look for excuses to spend any amount of time in Woods Hole which, next to Menemsha on Martha's Vineyard,  is my favorite small fishing village around.  I say "fishing" but there is a lot going on in this tiny place: WHOI and MBL. The ferry to the Islands. An awesome Aquarium and Exhibit Center, Zumba classes, good food, a long  Just the way I like it!

Model boats in the WH Community Center

I have been fantasizing lately about selling my very nicely appointed home on the far side of Falmouth, and taking up residence in one of the many, small and funky wood-shingled shacks that...oh come on...would anyone really notice someone living in their boat shed?  Or garden shed?  Or better yet - house boat? And then of course, taking a small job at the Marine Biological Labs - you know:  anything at all, but preferably history related.

Okay I digress, but note that "small" is the key word here.

I have some nice photos to show you of this past weekend and a very special small event that brought a lot of interesting people - and boats - together.

Saturday and Sunday was the Woods Hole Model Boat Show hosted by the Woods Hole Historical Museum.   Every two years,  model ship makers exhibit their work throughout the village of Woods Hole in different locations.  Remote controlled model sail boats race in Eel Pond and there are a host of great events too numerous to mention, for all ages.

The Races in Two Days:

Saturday was a picture perfect day for the Men's race:

Starting Line Eel Pond

Light winds

The ship owners stood on the dock, controlling their boats in light winds.  Heading out to the buoys was a lot quicker than heading back in.

Sunday was the Ladies Regatta.   The wind had kicked up and temperatures were a bit chillier and there were far fewer boats.  I got to town early and had breakfast at my favorite place: The Woods Hole Market.  Off to the right, you can see some practice runs going on.

Back deck of Woods Hole Market- Eel Pond
Ladies Regatta
The Models in Two Days:

Saturday morning, I made the rounds of the exhibit rooms and there were some extremely impressive ship models created by folks from all over New England.

After a really stimulating discussion with one model ship maker, I learned all about the kind of "coaster" my great-grandfather may have sailed from Canada to Pennsylvania during his seafaring life of delivering lumber and coal and fish.

He also knew of the Arethusa, a rum-runner of old, which I happen to know my g-grandfather sailed on in the early 1900's.  I'm sure I took up way too much of this man's time, but I had fun swapping our genealogical info and how it related to maritime life and ships  back in the 1800's.  My only regret was that I did not get his name!

Next, I had a very special surprise.  Ray Crean, a retired teacher from Beverly and renowned model ship maker, was displaying a model of the US Coast Guard Cutter Duane. It rang a bell.  I told him I thought my father (now deceased)  had been on that ship in WWII.

When I got home from Woods Hole Saturday afternoon, I located my father's Coast Guard documents amongst our family memorabilia,  and sure enough - there was Dad's discharge paper listing CGC Duane as one of the ships on which he served.  It was wonderful to see a model of the ship.

Copy of father's CG discharge papers - Pharmacist's Mate

The ships we heard about the most in my family, and of which we have actual photos, were the  Forsyth and the USS Covington.  Dad was stationed on the Covington near Greenland and Iceland.  He rarely talked about the War, but he always talked with awe about the beauty he saw there.

Sunday morning, I dashed back to Woods Hole (ok, for the aforementioned breakfast, but also...) with a copy of the discharge papers in hand to share with Mr. Crean.  Alas, though checking back frequently for an hour or so,  he was away from his table probably taking in the show and races,  and I never got the chance to show him the papers.  Mr. Crean certainly knew his history and ships.  The knowledge I came across in this show was only rivaled by years of meticulous work of the model makers.

There were so many other model ships to talk about, too.  The amazing model of the Charles W. Morgan, the more modern remote controlled boats...too many to include here. I wish I had more time on Sunday to go back and see everything a second time.

Last but not least to mention here, the Historical Society and their friendly volunteers really made wandering around the village to see the show an easy and totally pleasurable experience!

I heard a rumor that this year's Model Boat Show was the last for Woods Hole. I certainly hope that is not true.

All photos property of the author.