ancestryink fisherman

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In Memory of Children

This has been a difficult week, not just in Newtown, CT but all over.  We are a universe spilling over with sorrow.

In Camden, Maine there is a beautiful, peaceful sanctuary created in 1960 by a woman named Helene Bok.  It is called the Vesper Hill Children's Chapel.  The Chapel and grounds are sacred, natural, a lovingly-tended landscape of flowers and green lawns, full of bird song, and with views of the sea.  There is a plaque that dedicates the chapel.  The most loving tribute I can think of, struck like the rest of the world in profound and speechless sadness, is to share this with you all. I like to think while climbing their staircase to heaven, the 20 children of Newtown have many stops such as this along the way.

To read the plaque, click on the image for larger version.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Witch, or Beloved Wife??

In the Old Burying Yard in front of the First Parish Church of York, Maine stands a grave stone marking the resting place of Mary Nasson who departed this life in 1774.

Behind this beautifully carved stone with benevolently smiling portrait, a heavy rectangular stone lies horizontally over the grave, marking the place where 29 year old Mary lies beneath.

Why the extra stone?? 

With Halloween upon us, let's go with the popular, haunting version:  The stone slab was supposedly put there to keep the "witch from leaving her tomb."

Here is the real story, though:

Click for larger version - plaque outside cemetery walls.

In truth, Mary Nasson was just a well-loved wife and mother.  The Old Burying ground lies at the center of York Village, a place traditionally used in old New England towns as grazing and marketing grounds for livestock of local farmers.  Mary's considerate husband simply sought to spare her the indignities of roving sheep and cattle stomping about her final resting place.

With Hurricane Sandy upon us, I thought I would include this photo of the cemetery and the First Parish Church behind it, from yesterday - a truly gorgeous Fall day.  Probably the last view of colorful foliage, before the leaves are unceremoniously ripped from the trees by Sandy's high winds.

Be safe, all.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Whalemen's Shipping List

The Whalemen's Shipping List, Merchants' Transcript was published in New Bedford, Mass. during the 1800's, and is a fascinating, fecund, briny source of information regarding arrivals and departures of whaling ships, masters, owners, tonnage, barrels of whale oil - and detailed descriptions of far flung destinations and adventures/misadventures on the high seas.

$1.00 / year, payable in advance, would give you six copies for 12 months.  The masthead states in fine print:  "This paper contains a complete list of American Whaling Ships, with the latest report from each."  And it certainly does deliver just that. is a good online repository for this paper.  You can enter names, date parameters, and include, and exclude, keywords. "Keywords" allows you to enter a ship's name, for instance.  Very helpful.  You need a subscription, but it is well worth it. 

The Whalemen's Shipping List is a very beautiful newspaper. Someday, I would love to actually hold one in my hand.  I am sure the New Bedford Whaling Museum has archives of these papers.  And while we are speaking of New Bedford, the New Bedford Public Library began a project some years ago to give access to information about whaling expeditions on their webpage.  Here is a link to this other very valuable, searchable resource.

Click for close up detail of ads and text

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New! U.S., Navy Casualties Books, 1776 - 1941

Many mariners, sailors, Navy enlistees, schooner captains, PIRATES, in your family? has released this new database of U.S. Naval casualties to help you find them.  Man Overboard... This is exciting!!

Click on the image to be taken to the page

Now, remember.  These are "casualties."  Here is an example of a WWII listing you might come across. My search resulted in this particular page:  "Combat Naval Casualties, World War II, (AL-MO)"

U.S. Naval Casualties - Dead
Click here to read the's description of the Naval database.

I will be very interested to discover what "misadventure" means!

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Very Grave Matter

Today, I have to pass along news that I really wish was not necessary.  However, I hope in the sharing, the work of this devoted young woman will be appreciated anew.

Jenn Marcelais: image credit see below

Jenn Marcelais of Portsmouth, NH, who is the tireless researcher, designer, and author of the website "A Very Grave Matter," passed away at the age of 39 last month.  Her contributions to genealogical research are immeasurable.

My own discovery of her website predated my knowledge of, another fine cemetery site.   Much of my New England cemetery research took place right there on her site, and with much success,  and forwarded my own genealogical endeavors.

Visiting the site today, I notice that all the many photographic images posted there are unattainable.  However, the town-to-town list of names for each cemetery included (in Maine, NH, and Mass.) are still viewable.  Also, the reports of individual cemetery conditions, the short summaries of the local town history included in the right hand side bar of the pages is also still viewable.  As an historical resource, the website lives on as a tremendous aid to researchers.

Please honor and appreciate Jenn Marcelais' work by visiting her website today.

(Photo credit for above image: courtesy of Portsmouth, NH

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wedding Cake House of Kennebunk

The Wedding Cake House of Kennebunk has only been open to the public three times. The last time was as a benefit for Katrina victims.  This time the owner, Roger Barker, story teller extraordinaire,    has opened the house from mid-September to mid-October to benefit the local food pantries.

After three days of rain, this beautiful Fall day seemed like the perfect time to head over for a tour.  Volunteers for the Food Pantry organization lead the tours through this unique house with its eclectic collection of original furnishings, contemporary artwork, an incredible curved hallway, even the owner's beloved spaniels are present. It's all very relaxed, fun, and takes about 30 minutes.

The woodwork detail is the best part.   Edward Bourne, the original owner worked with a local shipbuilder to create the beautifully ornate decorations outside the house (by hand), and stunning trim work and mouldings around doorways, fireplaces and ceilings. 

Here are a few photos:

Wedding Cake House   Kennebunk

Side and attached carriage house

Painted mural of old Kennebunk. Panels next to staircase are trompe l'oeil

The Wedding Cake House tours will continue another two weeks. If you are in the area, grasp this rare opportunity to see this well-known Kennebunk historical home, while donating to the Food Pantry - a great cause.

The Wedding Cake House on Summer Street, Kennebunk, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily for $10 a person.

(All photos courtesy of AncestryInk. Copyright restrictions apply.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Useful Things to Know in 1877

Yesterday I had the pleasure of opening up the Historical Society of Wells & Ogunquit while the regular 'commandress in chief' is away.  The Society is attached to a beautiful parish which is now used for various functions including weddings.  Bryanne and Brian Flitter of Manchester, NH tied the knot there yesterday, on a perfect Fall day.

At least one emergency always occurs before a wedding.  This time, the Best Man's button popped off his tux just minutes before the ceremony was to begin.  Luckily, the Historical Society is well-stocked with paper clips. 

While I waited for the nervous wedding party to get settled, I did some research upstairs in the Society library and came across this 1877 edition of the Gospel Banner published in Augusta, Maine.

Inside was this list of "Useful Things."  And they are actually useful things to know. The most interesting item on the list is definitely the last.  Thank your lucky stars for modern medicine, vaccines, and despite the hue and cry for a healthier life, we must be doing something right!

Useful Knowledge: click for larger image

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Floating Prison Hulks

Since my last post, I have been able to fully flesh out the family tree of my Words With Friends Australian opponent.   From that research, I feel I should correct and update some of the findings included in my last post regarding:  The Prison Ship.

The image posted in last entry, shows what is actually known as a "prison hulk."  These ships were not used to transport convicts from England to Australia (thankfully - since it looks incredibly top-heavy.)  They were actually tied up to shore and used as a floating prison, to alleviate some of the full-to-bursting London prisons.   Think of our floating casinos and restaurants - but not as fun.

Here is a sectional view of a prison hulk*.  Prisoners had daily work routines consisting of working around the docks, cleaning arsenal, etc.  Like most jails, there was an ever present likelihood of riot, as well as peace among the convicts.

And below is an image of the last convict ship to transport prisoners to Australia.  Though much of the relocating had slowed down in the 1850's, this last voyage occurred in 1868.  There were around 200 prisoners on board, and another 100 or so passengers.  Apparently many of the prisoners were literate, yielding a number of logs and diaries about the 89 day voyage.

Hougoumont:  credit: Wikimedia
A mind-boggling fact about Australia's early population:  in 1821, the population was around 30,000.  By the end of the penal transportation era, the population had soared to 1 million.  This was Australia - now on the cusp of becoming an independent, self-sustaining land. 

The convict history of Australia is incredibly complicated in the collective national consciousness.  I would not begin to talk about this without further research.  Again, refer to the last post for good sources of information on the convict ships and population.

* Credit for image: prison hulk sectional of the ship "Defence." 

Source for information about "Hougoumont:"  Australian

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Words With Friends Yields Australian Convict

For some reason, many of my Words With Friends players are from Australia.  In over two years of daily playing, I have discovered this through the "Chat" option while playing.  The Aussies are always stiff competition.

This week, I have struck up a lively Chat with a certain Shane from Melbourne.  He informed me that his four times great grandfather arrived from Essex, England to New South Wales, Australia on board the "Lord Lyndoch," one of the active prison ships of the 1820-1830's.   I asked him if he would let me delve into his family history a bit, as the whole Australian Convict realm is new to my research experience.  He was happy to let me have at it.

Above,  a darkly eerie image of a prison ship, in Portsmouth, England harbor.  Convicts are seen boarding.*   Hard to imagine 330 convicts in the holds of this ship, crossing from England to Australia.

My friend's ancestor was convicted of "stealing fowl" and served a 7 year sentence. His occupation is also listed as "farmer."  Hmmm.  Gives one pause.  Why steal a chicken, then??

 The records for Australian convict ships are amazingly plentiful on They include certificates of freedom, medical reports of illness on board, court orders, pardons, ship lists, and more.  And there are many independent websites full of information and lists. The crimes range from larceny to murder. 

It is well-known that London's prisons were full to overflowing with convicts in the early 1800's and the criminals were eagerly placed in ships, and sent off to Australia, to lighten the load.  

With a sentence of 7 years for stealing a chicken, for a 20 year old  man, it occurs to me that perhaps men seeking to leave crowded London and find their fortune elsewhere - might perhaps commit a small theft, just SO they could be shipped off, free of charge, to a brave new land.    If anyone has the answer to this, I would appreciate the feedback.

Here are few of the websites and databases with great Convict Ship info:

There is nothing like a great Words With Friends game.  The next time someone tries to kick you off an airplane for playing your game, simply tell them you are conducting important historical research. 

* Citation for painting from the National Library of Australia
  • Cooke, Edward William, 1811-1880.
  • Prison-ship in Portsmouth Harbour, convicts going aboard [picture]
  • [London : s.n., ca. 1829] 1 print : etching, hand col. ; plate mark 16 x 24 cm.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Magic Wand II Scanner Revisited

Good morning.   As promised, I am getting back to you about my experiences with the Magic Wand II hand held scanner.  This time I used it for images only.

Here are two magazine covers I scanned - American Ancestors, a really fun and well-written magazine issued by the NEHGS to members, and of course - Rolling Stone.  (Yes, I have rather eclectic reading taste.)

Both images reproduced almost perfectly.  The only difference in quality was in the color and contrast realm.  Here they are:

click for larger image

This magazine image reproduced with amazing detail.  The original image had a canvas-like texture to it which makes sense, since it is a reproduction of Andries van Eertvelt's "An Algerine Ship off a Barbary Port," 17th century.  If you view the image larger, you will see the canvas texture.

Pretty impressive.  However, the color characteristics are slightly off.  The actual magazine cover is much softer, lighter, and with an overall greener tint.  Very subtle and beautiful.  I slipped the image from the scanner into Photoshop, and ran Auto Level corrections over it, to see if it corrected itself.  There was a slight change in "tone" but not much.

I don't find this an objectionable difference, though.  I can lighten up the overall image very easily in Photoshop with one quick click.  But it's not really necessary when the purpose is simply to capture the image for either personal use, or maybe including in a genealogical report.  If you wanted to print this up, you might want to undergo the minor corrections in Photoshop, first.

* I now have to confess that the CAT decided to rub up against my arm as I scanned both of these images, so....even with that feline distraction, they came out very well!

Here is the second:

Again, click for larger image

There is really nothing at all to report with this image from the glossy cover of Rolling Stone.  It came out exactly true to the original.

I think the quick summary of these image results is that the scanner tends to produce somewhat contrasty results.  The Rolling Stone image is already very sharp and contrasty, therefore scans very well.  The American Ancestors cover painting has many more subtle gradations of color for the scanner to handle.  And I am not sure if room lighting has an effect.

Overall, I think you will be very happy with Magic Wand II.  The  ease of scanning and downloading to your computer is a real plus.  And of course, the portability.  I don't think you would regret the purchase.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is upon us.  In honor of this day, I thought it would be interesting to locate and share an excellent source of Jewish genealogy.

Getty Image:  Blowing the Shofar and Ushering in the Holiday

Cyndi's List once again, does not disappoint.  Of the hundreds of websites she lists, this one seemed to yield the most vital information.  It is a list of websites which are "locality specific."  The locations of Jewish heritage range from Manitoba, to Italy, to Iraq, to Suriname - to name just a few. There are 71 links in all.

Here is are some examples:

- The Jews of Cuba:   Includes a comprehensive list of Jewish burials

-  A free database allowing you to search by surname, locale and more.  See "Jewish Communities and Records of the UK" for a good example of this site's offerings.

- Sephardi Genealogy and History:  a well-appointed blog about Sephardic Jewish History

There are many many more to explore.  Cyndi's List consolidates genealogical and historical research into categories, thus saving you endless hours of searching the Web for relevant databases.  Time that could be well-spent learning how to blow the Shofar.

Happy New Year!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Your Gravestone Has an App

That is the headline for a Yahoo! News article touting the use of a QR scan code for gravestones.

Scanning App for the Deceased - image from the news article

My daughter Annie shared this article with me while we were chatting this morning on IM.  (She's well-trained about the graveyard stuff. I'm very proud.)

Technology hits graveyards.  It is an interesting idea.  The article seems to be describing the app as an "instant obituary."   Using their QR reader app on your iPad or smartphone, you would receive obituary-style information about the deceased by scanning a code placed on the gravestone. 

Something in me feels a little squeamish about the idea of people traipsing through peaceful cemeteries, waving their phones or iPads over any random gravestone, and standing there immersed in the digitally rendered information - rather than enjoying their surroundings and having slightly more meditative ruminations on the dead.

Granary Burying Ground, Boston - May 2012

However, that being said, if this idea were applied to the headstones of historically renowned people, often buried within graveyards such as the Granary Burying Ground in Boston which inevitably will receive a good deal of foot traffic, it might be an opportunity for combining a wonderful history lesson, with significant information about these famous, deceased citizens. Museum tours with audio headphones, comes to mind.

Grave of "Mother Goose" - Granary Burying Ground

Read the article and see how it strikes you.  Should we be using technology in graveyards to "summon the dead?"

Graveyard photo images:  by Jane Sweetland, property of AncestryInk©

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Magic Wand II - VuPoint Scanner Review

The MagicWand II hand-held scanner by VuPoint, is most often reviewed positively by genealogists, if you research online review forums. 

After some months of pondering and researching, I finally ordered one. I was getting tired of using my iPhone to snap images in libraries, and then go through the whole "sharing/download" plus editing process to remove any green tint from overhead lighting.
MagicWand II - VuPoint Scanner

The Wand allows you to scan anything: book pages, covers, photos, documents - without man-handling them in a flatbed scanner and risking damage to bindings or fragile paper.

I bought mine refurbished, for $79.00, and as a complete package which includes the following:
(sorry for the amateur photo, I was in a hurry...)

-Scanner (red, but there are many color choices) with LCD menu screen; 8.5" length; 300 & 600dpi capability
-8 GB SD memory card & Micro SD adaptor
-Two carrying cases: a standard nylon sheath, plus a nice padded, zip case
-ABBYY Fine Reader software CD  (NOTE !! This program is ONLY for Windows OS.  If you have a Mac, you would have to be operating Windows in order to make use of this software)
-Lint free cloth to clean scanner glass
-USB cord for downloading images to computer
-White balance calibration paper
-Two AA batteries
-90 day warranty

This package happens to be a great deal, if you are looking to buy the scanner.  Often the SD Memory card is not included. The padded case was a bonus, and the red color can often cost more than say, black. So shop around.   (Contact me if you'd like to know where I purchased it.)

Also, I think this is the first time I've bought anything refurbished online, so I was nervous.  It arrived looking completely untouched and brand-new, complete with menu screen protector. In went the batteries, a brief scan of the Start Up guide, and I was in business.

I just got this yesterday so I am giving you my initial reactions and results.  In a week or so, I'm going to post another review of the scanner, after I've continued to have more experience with it.

It works great, basically.  So far, I have scanned at 300 dpi.  Naturally, I scanned a few pages and some images and immediately downloaded them, to see what the jpeg quality would be like.  Not bad at all!  I have not white balanced the scanner yet either, so I think those images will be even sharper after I do so.

Image Reproduction:

Here are a few of images:  (From a Complimentary copy of "City of Nashua Report, 1923" - an elegant, weighty annual report of 384 gold-edged pages)

Book Cover scan

The cover comes out very well.  Even the leather texture of this old book reproduces well.  The gold lettering completely true.  Each image  you scan can be cropped later, for your purposes.  And the 8.5" scanning radius can be limiting for larger objects.  However, for larger items you can scan in two or more sections.

The page below came out relatively well.

One of the tricks is to line up your scanner
correctly from the start.  You will be scanning over a page that wants to curve and curl.  Also, when scanning a page from a book, it is recommended to scan with Magic Wand parallel to inner binding and scan across the page to outer edge.  Once you download this image, you can easily rotate it in Preview, or any image editing program you use.  Only takes a second.

The next image shows more clearly one of the possible pitfalls of MagicWand:  the wavy-gravy image scan due to a curved  page.

This has happened to me a few times, which again I say with the caveat:  I have only just begun.

Time-Saving Element:

As mentioned above, the fact that you are working on the curved page of an open book, can create a curved image, if you are not careful.  Again, this can be corrected in Photoshop with basic editing skills.  I do it all the time.  However, my excitement about the Magic Wand, was that it would reduce my time editing images.

A concern I have had thus far:  the scanner is meant to go easy on books by not crushing them into a flatbed scanner.  However, I find you still have to be pretty careful not to splay a fragile binding, while you are making sure your scanner will capture the words closest to the inner binding.  This need for care does take time, so I would say the scanner in some ways is not a time-saver, in this respect.  Though, it may make up for time loss, in the ease of downloading and the lack of lighting abnormalities.

Your purpose for the MagicWand will dictate whether it is right for you.  It is, in general,  excellent for quickly copying information that you may later transcribe.  Also, note that I have not/cannot make use of the ABBYY software (Mac girl that I am) and scan the images as OCR: editable text.  I would like to know from a Windows person how effectively this works.  All reports online are that the text reproduces almost perfectly into OCR form. 

I did scan two BW photos.  One of them scanned perfectly.  The other was a mass of wavy, messy lines.  Not sure why, but again:  practice makes perfect.

Okay!  That's enough on the MagicWand II for today.  I will end by saying I'm very pleased so far.  This will be packed into my bag next time I'm hitting a library or historical society.  Not to mention, helping me with blog images!   A later review after more practice will appear here soon, so check back.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dying Speeches and Bloody Murders

The Harvard Law School Library (HLSL Historical & Special Collections) has published a collection online entitled:  "Dying Speeches & Bloody Murders: Crime Broadsides." 

I'm grateful to Rob Stanhope, a fellow BU alum forum member,  for pointing out this intriguing, historically significant,  (sometimes horrifying!) collection.

'The Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn' -William Hogarth 1747

A broadside is defined as the following:  (from the website)

"Broadside. A sheet of paper printed on one side only or containing one large page without columns. The term is applied to such works as copies of a "last dying speech" of some celebrated criminal, and other similar street literature."

Forgery, murder, treason, heinous crimes punishable by public execution - all were reported in broadsides and sold for around a penny or less, to rubbernecking (so to speak)  citizens gathered to witness the demise of these criminals of 18th-19th century Great Britain.

The collection features more than 500 Broadsides, searchable by keyword,   category  - or you can "browse the collection."   Once you make your choice, you will see a link taking you to a copy of the original newspaper image of the account.

The "category" choice allows you to search by crime - and there are many!  From "Adultery" to "Uxoricide" and "Wife Abuse."  You are able to search by name of "Condemned" and "Victim," as well. 

A quick review of the "browse the collection" option, took me to the following example. 
I particularly love the devious masquerade - two men posing as "shipwrecked sailors!"


Murder most image to view separately.

Resources and Bibliography for this collection and above images:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inst. and Ult.

I was mystified when I first encountered the usage of "inst." and "ult." in Shipping News reports from historic newspapers. I noticed they were generally used in commercial language, such as business correspondence or news reportage and indicated some form of abbreviation.  

They are actually abbreviations of Latin terms. "Inst." is short for the Latin "instante mense" or "this month."  And "ult." is short for "ultimo mense" or "previous month."  (Another related term genealogists may encounter is "prox.," from "proximo mense" or "next month.)

Oftentimes, an old newspaper item will report a total list of shipping arrivals and departures over a two week or 30 day period.  These shortened terms replace the need to keep mentioning the actual name of the month.

"Inst. and ult." are used in many descriptions besides shipping news, however. 

Here are two examples from 1870 newspapers. The terms "inst." and "ult." are highlighted in yellow.  Please click on the images for a larger, more readable version.

Inst.    A collection of news items for various towns in Ireland, 1870

Irish American Weekly, NY NY  29 Oct 1870

Ult.    A list of recent deaths, from the Springfield, Mass. newspaper

Springfield Republican 8 Apr 1870

In 1923, Punch, a popular British satire magazine, referred to these terms as "outdated jargon."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Rough on Rats road to distraction - Three Tips to Stay on Target During Genealogical Research

Have you ever watched the TV series "Bones?"  Notice how the investigators and forensic scientists always seem to go about their business completely without distraction,  always on track towards analyzing the dead body and solving the case?  Who is taking out the trash at home? Who is writing that rent check or arranging (later in the series) for day care?  Maybe once in a blue moon I've seen them go food shopping.  Nothing seems to really throw them off the path of finding clues, roughing up a few bad guys/girls, and solving crimes.  All in less than 60 minutes.

Genealogical research is no different than CSI work.  Driven by our goal to solve family mysteries we spend hours, weeks, years even, chasing down clues about that one ancestor you may know nothing about- the Elusive One who is leaving a huge gap in the leafy branches of your family tree. However, in real life the powers of distraction are huge and before long, I guarantee, you will find yourself "Off Track."  You will be Alice chasing the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole. 

Here is my "Rough on Rats" story - a short, personal tale of extreme distraction - and some useful tips for avoiding this very common pitfall for the genealogical researcher.

Old age or opium?  Cause of death
While perusing death records for a Maine ancestor online, I discovered that this poor woman had died from an overdose of laudanum, otherwise known as opium.  I will spare you the history of its usage, but laudanum was prescribed for health reasons a tad more liberally than it is today.  Shortly thereafter another death, this time suicide by laundanum, caught my eye on a Maine death record.

Two weeks later, I had almost completed my rampant, obsessive quest fueled by Curiosity, for the appearance of laudanum as a cause of death amongst Mainers.  I literally went county by county, year by year from 1840 - 1920, and from A-Z by surname looking at death records.  Why?  I had become interested in the history of laudanum usage in deleterious ways, and how that issue was eventually resolved in the United States.  Not a bad mission, but what about my original ancestral research?  Oh yes, that.

Wait. (cringe) There's more.  I discovered that besides laudanum used in suicides, another method,  a rodent-killing product called "Rough on Rats," was quite popular in the late 1800's.  "Rough on Rats" was produced by a NJ company and available to farmers and householders alike.  I googled it.  They had colorful, delightful ads of dead rats lying feet up!  Obsession led me to EBay where I discovered that an October 1905 edition of "Woman's Home Companion" contained one of these ads.  You guessed it.  For $11, I now have a real-life original "Rough on Rats" ad in my possession - not one of the really colorful ones, but that's okay. Sad but true. End of my saga. (For now...)

Genealogy is fascinating and inseparable from historical events.  It is easy to find yourself down any number of bottomless rabbit holes and distracted from your main focus.  Here are Three Simple Tips for staying on target, from the start of your research day, through to the end:

1.  Goals: Before you sit down at the computer to commence your online research, write down the specific goal of the day.  Here are some examples:

- Name:    "Alexander Henderson, in Nova Scotia"
- Topic:     "Shipbuilding in Bath, Maine 1840 - 1860"
- Record:   "Death Record of Marietta Small, 1870 - 1920"
- Location: "Migration path of Nelson family from PA to Iowa"

This same tip is essential for visiting a physical source such as historical society or library where you will be surrounded by shelves of books and documents singing their siren call.

As tempting as it will be to deviate from this chosen goal - do not succumb. 

2.  Take Notes:  It is inevitable that you will find important facts along the way that need to be pursued - later.

Write them down, then push them aside.  I enter mine in my "Evernote" app on  my iPad. This way when I switch back to researching ancestry databases, I don't have all these tempting topics taunting me from the sidelines on some piece of paper visible from the corner of my eye.  You have to be cagey when avoiding distraction.

3.  Exercise:  Yes, you read that right.  In order to avoid getting hunched over your computer or desk, locked into eye-straining, muscle-fatiguing research - a situation which will eventually sap your resolve and allow your mental concentration to wander - you need to periodically get up and walk around.  Do some jumping jacks. A Downward Facing Dog or two.  Anything to rush blood to the brain and re-invigorate your commitment to pursue that one topic of interest.  Trust me, it works.

These three simple tips will go a long way to keeping you on track in your genealogical research.  Pretty uncomplicated, but very effective.  Good luck!

Monday, August 27, 2012

In the Portsmouth Herald Today

Suzanne Laurent, a reporter for the Portsmouth Herald who covers the South Berwick area, recently called me for an interview about this blog.  Her article was published today and I am pleased to share it with you!  Click on the Headline below:

South Berwick Woman Unlocks the Past Through Genealogy

**Correction:  There is a misquote in the article I would like to correct.  Regarding lumber shipping business in Maine:  After active shipping of Maine lumber to other parts of the country, and an incredibly busy period of shipbuilding at Maine shipyards,  supply of first-growth white pine, commonly used for masts, became depleted for a time, around mid - 1800's.  At this point, lumber was then carried by ship to Maine from other states, mostly those in the south. This was not the onset of the shipping trade in Maine at all.  It was simply a change in the balance of imports and exports of lumber and the beginning of the use of oak for masts in shipbuilding. 

Now, moving on.  I like to periodically review my links and research websites to see if there are new updates.

Cyndi's List website logo

Cyndi's List sent out an email a couple of weeks ago notifying followers/genealogists of changes and additions to the site. I decided to go for a visit.

Cyndi's List is a multi-layered, cross-referenced website featuring thousands upon thousands of links, no exaggeration.  She, Cyndi, lives near Seattle, Washington, and started listing and categorizing the entire website herself, some years ago.  Since, she has been able to hire a web company to manage the technological requirements of this powerful site.  She now spends much of her 24/7 weeks checking for broken or defunct links, and reviewing suggestions from folks contributing new links to include in her site.

I have had trouble with navigating this site in the past, partly because of the sheer amount of info, and partly because I found the site design somewhat cluttered. But this latest rendition is friendlier.

The best way to begin your research is to click on the "Categories"   purple arrow in the left hand menu on the front page, and you will be taken to a page allowing you to search using an alphabetized keyword search tool.

Most of my difficulties in the past have been due to the sheer amount of links to review, in looking for needed info.  It's pretty daunting!  But very well worth the time it takes to keep diving into the different categories.  The links relate to people, events, locations, covering the entire planet.  You can search by time period, nationality, geographic location, societies, religion - basically anything you can imagine that has to do with the human population.

My advice is to begin with just one category - and at least an hour of unbroken time ahead of you.  This will be enough to open up a tantalizing Pandora's Box of related categories and websites, and you will be off and running. Here are a few samples for you which barely scratch the surface of all there is to see.   Just click away... 

1.  Occupations

2.  Prisons, Prisoners, and Outlaws

3.  Ships and Passenger Lists

Good luck!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Analyzing an Old Photograph

This 1890 photograph was taken in the home of William H. Ropes,  Salem, Mass around 1890.  This is known from handwritten information on the back of the photograph.

The woman seated at the center of the image holding the infant (her first child, Raymond Henderson,) is my Danish great-grandmother Marie Dorothea Henningsen, who arrived with her father Georg Nicolai Henningsen, mother Anna Catharina Liebsch, and siblings from Schleswig-Holstein in 1872.  At the time of this photograph, she is married to my great-grandfather Alan H. Henderson (b. Deer Isle, Maine) who is a master mariner. He is not present in this image.

Or is he?

Henningsen-Ropes - please click on image for larger size
It was common practice in the 1800's to include paintings, photographs or illustrations of family members who were not able to be present when the family photograph was being taken by a local studio photographer.

Just behind my g-grandmother on an easel, is a portrait image of her husband, Alan Henderson.  As a schooner captain who delivered goods up and down the east coast from Philadelphia to Canada, he was frequently at sea and absent. (Marie would later divorce him, and he would never be mentioned again, in my family!) Against the back wall directly to his left is undoubtedly a photograph of his ship.

The woman to the far left of the photograph is another Henningsen sister.  To her left is another portrait of a man - most likely her husband.  He appears quite a bit older than her and the easel is adorned with an elaborate scarf-like decoration.   It almost appears funereal. Research would follow to determine if he was deceased.

There is much to be gleaned from an image.  This one very purposefully includes a row of photographs along the mantlepiece behind George Ropes (the seated, bald gentleman.) These photos are likely images of ancestors or living relatives of the Ropes/Henningsen family. The other men standing in the image are Henningsen brothers and possibly a Liebsch cousin. Some of the Henningsen family settled in North Carolina after immigrating, and perhaps these smaller images are of that branch of the family.

At the very center of the photograph, we have the eldest female and mother: Anna Catherine (Liebsch) Henningsen. 

Their clothing is formal and indicative of the time period.  The room, possibly a formal parlor, has ornate wallpaper and chandelier and was probably the receiving room in the house.

The inclusion of absent family members in the form of a photograph or painting is something to look for in your family photo collections.  Not decorative or random - these framed images are very likely to be ancestors vital to your family research.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What If Tampa Lost Power?

With Hurricane Isaac bearing down on Puerto Rico, and Florida, there is much concern about the GOP convention happening in Tampa next week.  "What if Tampa lost power?"  The mayor of Tampa reports reassuringly that the city is prepared.

Historic storms in Tampa?

I searched, that great archive of old newspapers and documents.  Keywords:  Tampa, power lost; Date: 1890-1930.   This website never disappoints.  Occurring a little later in the year than the last week of August, a significant storm did in fact knock the stuffing out of Tampa in October of 1921.  Here is an excerpt from the article published by the Macon Telegraph, Macon GA:

(click on images for larger size)


" The business section of Tampa is practically flooded under three feet of water as a result of the gulf storm...No loss of life has been reported, but the industry is at a standstill...The entire West Coast of Florida is feeling the effects of the storm and is virtually isolated insofar as communication is concerned...

Tampa is without lights, telegraph, telephone or street car service..."

Even before this 1921 storm, dating back as far as 1860, old newspapers report numerous historic storms and loss of ships, life, crops and general hurricane mayhem during the month of August.

It is possible that the weather will prove to be much more enthralling than the convention??  Just a thought...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Are Women to Blame?

Senatorial candidate Todd Akin put his foot in his mouth, right? To put it mildly.  The Republican party is reeling.  There goes the female vote.  Somebody left a body in the road, Romney's carriage has hit it and is heading for a ditch.

In a few days, it will all be forgotten, as usual.

One of the more disturbing implications of this whole brouhaha is the darker current that still flows below Akin's statement.  A woman's right to her own body is still political fodder - and still apparently not really her own jurisdiction.  When Akin implies something to the effect that during a rape - "a woman's body can just shut that thing down," there lurks that age-old shadow of shame and blame.  Somehow, if a woman's body does NOT 'shut that thing down' during rape, this attitude subtly implies that once again, a woman is solely responsible for preventing pregnancy, even when brought about violently and against her will!   And if she fails at that, she has to physically and emotionally just ride out the consequences.

We really haven't made much progress here.

Once again, I wondered what the general language surrounding abortion and more importantly, women's rights, would be in the 1860's.  I figured this was far enough back to present some real contrasts between then and now.

In the 1860's the topic of abortion usually surrounded the untimely death of a young woman, and whether the doctor who may have performed the abortion was culpable.  Okay, so that makes sense.

Here is an excerpt of a short article dated August 23, 1860, from the Boston Herald, addressing just such a case.  Read it carefully.  That underlying shadow of blame overrides any criminal investigation.  Though this is not about rape, by the end of the article what is left is really just a not so thinly veiled assignation on a woman's character.  She died, by the way.  Unsupported by friends, and barely assisted by doctors.  They even imply that it was a "woman" who performed the abortion.  Blame, again.  The fetus is referred to as "her shame." Instead of sympathy towards her situation,  her case just ends up being a "sad warning to humanity" that she somehow deserved her fate due to her indiscretions.

From the Boston Herald, August 23, 1860

And again, the really uncomfortable notion that Akin implies this week is not all that different from the tone of the 1860 article.  If a woman's body does not "shut that thing down," - then what?  Oh well - it is her responsibility in the end. A woman is raped and the refusal to condone abortion in a case like this - the refusal to support a woman in taking care of herself and choosing her own future - just somehow hints that it was "her fault." 

To end on a totally different note, Diana Nyad quoted this lovely verse from a Mary Oliver poem, when asked how she felt about her recent failed attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida.  This is a woman who definitely defies the odds, makes her own decisions, and lives her life to the fullest.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sailing Ships of New England & Soaring Ancestry Revenue

By  George Francis Dow & John Robinson
This book is a total sleeper.  I found it at one of my favorite bookstores: Jabberwocky Bookshop, located in Newburyport, Mass.  On sale for $7.98 in the local books section, I picked it up because I was looking for a picture of a hermaphrodite brig but honestly wasn't expecting too much.  Don't judge a book by its sale price.

The book was originally published in 1922 by the Salem Marine Society and this paperback edition was published in 2007.  There are over 300 illustrations of ships.  Many of them are courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.

The first 65 pages contain descriptions of each type of ship, from Pinky to Topsail Schooner. There is navigation info, a chapter about the life of the captain, the shipwright, rigging - even information on the artists who painted ships - anything connected to the building and sailing of ships is there.  And in a concise, not overly technical way.

The rest of the book is dedicated to ship illustrations.  The ships are listed in alphabetical order by ship's name.  This is helpful if you are searching for a particular ship.  I would have liked the ability to view the ships by their make, however.  I had to hunt and peck to find the images of hermaphrodite brigs.  Otherwise, it is a really interesting volume, the likes of which I have not found before.  Most ship books seem to deal with either an era such as "WWII vessels," or a single type of ship.

And, the price was right.

Speaking of "price," today we have news of a transaction that has been in the works since last April: purchased the Silicon Valley based website for a cool $1 million.  Nothing will change on the outside, however., which was a competing genealogical history database site (with lower subscription rates,) will look and act the same for you.

Genealogy is high finance.  Got stock??

Friday, August 17, 2012

Penobscot Marine Museum Archives

Collections of thousands of photographic images compiled by subject and photographer on a searchable online database - that is what the Penobscot Marine Museum has to offer for researchers.

Just a sampling of Penobscot Marine Museums collection
You can do a keyword search of their database in one or all of the following categories:

~ Archives
~ Photos
~ Creators
~ People

Located in Searsport, Maine, the museum is open from 10am - 5pm Monday - Saturday; and Sunday 12 - 5pm.

The online offerings are wonderful and a great gift to researchers, but personally I cannot wait to visit.  A September trip is planned.

They also have educational programs for both kids and adults and community outreach programs.

Stuffy museum fare?  Not on your life.  This looks like a lot of fun for everyone.

Take a trip to their website to see all that is going on at Penobscot Marine Museum. 

Images Source:  Penobscot Marine Museum website.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

1940 Facts and More Weird Weather

Two brief items of note, today:

St. Augustine, Texas - 1940:

7.7 years of schooling.  That was the norm for folks in rural farming communities.

Think about that for a moment.  My father, who was single and living in New York City in 1943, would end up completing 18 years of school, after a brief interruption to serve in WWII.  Quite a difference. 

From 1940 Census website - Education 1940
The 1940 Census website and records are a lot of fun to search.  The home page of the census website contains a map of the U.S.  You can click on each individual state and find out a few fun facts about what was happening there in 1940.

Maine had the dubious honor of being the "toothpick capital of the world."

Visit the 1940 Census website, a section of's vast database.  I don't think you need to have a subscription to access some of the fun stuff.


Okay, I couldn't resist one more reference to extremely weird weather, lest you feel singularly plagued by our current weather patterns.

Remember how Spring normally arrives around ...oh... March or April??

Here are two entries excerpted from the diary of "Schoolmaster Joseph Tate," who was a citizen of Rollinsford, New Hampshire in the mid-late 1700's.  (Source:  Catalfo's:  "History of Rollinsford, New Hampshire."  (Most of his entries were records of deaths, you may notice.)

Thursday, May..1777.  Snowed almost all day...10 inches snow

Possible 10 inches of snow in May??

Clearly, this was followed by a lethal
thunderstorm.  Death by thunder...

A year earlier, another record of bizarrely unseasonable weather, noted by Schoolmaster Tate:

May 30, 1776 A severe frost  - ground frozen an inch deep

Okay, I know what you are thinking, and I had the same shadow of doubt cross my mind when I read this.  Should we question the memory or sanity of Mr. Tate??

I may be wrong about this, not being a dyed in the wool farmer, but when does corn appear in May?
Beans, sure.  They are an early season crop....but corn?  Possibly this corn was planted in the traditional way of using a corn stalk for a beanpole, and not for the eating kind.  I don't know about that.  At any rate, the report of this very late, hard frost is probably true.

We have been known to have snow still lingering in the dark hollows, in late April...

*Just a note:  Rollinsford, New Hampshire is just north of Portsmouth which places it at the very southernmost region of New Hampshire, nearly in Massachusetts. Rochester, NH, is a bit futher north, but not much.  So, we're not talking the chilly climes of the White Mountains, here.

History can be reassuring.  If you think you have "seen it all," and our lives and environment have been freakishly and forever altered, chances are - IT all happened before.  And yet,  here we are.