ancestryink fisherman

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: