ancestryink fisherman

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Vacationing on Nantucket??

If so, the Nantucket Whaling Museum cannot be missed.

As part of the Nantucket Historical Society, the Whaling Museum building was, in brief, originally a candle factory, circa 1846 - 1860, at the end of the whaling era.  After several incarnations, the building was bought by the NHA in 1929 and converted to the Whaling Museum.

Nantucket Historical Museum

No museum of dark and dusty artifacts - there is something exciting to see for everyone in your family.

Here is a little preview of what you will enjoy there: *

A favorite:  the full skeleton of a sperm whale that "washed ashore on New Year's Day, 1998."  Yes, you read that right:  not "1898" but fairly recently, in 1998.  He is the happiest looking sperm whale around (and could possibly have been cast in "A Night at the Museum.")

Sperm Whale skeleton at the NHA

Whale, boats, and scrimshaw and art

Not to be missed, among this summer's current exhibits, there is "Nantucket Legends: Foggy Facts and Fiction."  Any Off-islander will quickly come to understand that Islanders have a unique gift for passing down colorful tales.  The trick is discerning truth from fantasy.  Or...does it really matter??

Another exciting must-see is the premiere film of "Lost on a Reef: Nantucket Whaleship Two Brothers."  The Nantucket whaling captain Pollard of the ill-fated "Essex" ended his career in a violent storm off the Hawaiian Islands, aboard the "Two Brothers," in 1823.  This documentary brings alive the two year salvage operations of the "Two Brothers."  In cooperation with NOAA.  For more historical info about the ship "Two Brothers," click here to the NHA page.

*All images and some description in this post are from the NHA website.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Maritime Monday: Cause of Death: Commotion & Who Do You Think You Are

The volunteer transcribers of have been very busy.  I am seeing many new records online, including not-seen-before death records and mortality schedules, for Massachusetts.  This is very exciting and many a mariner is included in these records. On the other hand, the speed at which these records are being transcribed is starting to yield a disturbing number of errors.

Here is one 1850 record of deaths in Falmouth, Mass., including that of a certain mariner, Albert Baker, that was pretty humorous.  (And a bit shocking.)

Here is the abstract:  Click for closer reading.

Cause of Death:  Commotion

Albert Baker, age at death 26, died in May of 1850.  "Cause of Death: Commotion."

Hmm,  was that a euphemism for someone who had lost their marbles?  Or had he died of a heart attack amidst a particularly busy or chaotic day? Could this be the 1850 version of "Hypertension," a cause of death that is used currently? Naturally, I went straight to the original document.

Here is the original.  Click on it for a closer view.

Commotion or Consumption?

Honestly?  I can completely understand where this curious cause of death came from.  At first glance, the penmanship reveals a word that looks much like Commotion.  But, if you scan down the document, it appears  that at least eight Falmouth citizen succumbed to Commotion, also.  Hmmm, I would think that curiosity at the odd death, and a little knowledge of common causes of death in the 1850's might prompt the indexer to see that Commotion is in actual fact "Consumption."  

Keep an eye out for errors.  But, this one record of death gave me a good chuckle.


Remember that show?  It was produced by Lisa Kudrow on the NBC network and was pretty popular for awhile, though it seemed to limp into the second season with a few too many contrived moments of "tears of emotion," perhaps. Anyway, I enjoyed it.  At the end of the season, however, it was unclear if it was returning to air.

Well, "Who Do You Think You Are" is back!  Yes, now aired on TLC, and still directed by Lisa Kudrow, the season began with Kelly Clarkson.  

I have to say, it was a fun episode.  She is a truly engaging, well-spoken young woman, and her ancestors had some really unexpected twists and turns.  The format is the same, as she travels hither and yon, in search of her ancestor, consulting knowledgeable historians along the way.  But there was none of the scripted "oh wow" and then the torturous wiping of tears stuff.  Her surprises and yes some tears, seemed genuine. 

Just my opinion - but  the whole show just seemed less "Hollywood" and more authentic. I actually do not really care who the celebrities are, as long as they have an intriguing ancestral journey.  I'm looking forward to the next episode.  You can read more about it on the show's website: WDYTYA

Watch it Tuesday nights at 9:00pm.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Getting Ship-Shape

Woke up this morning enlivened by a lonnnnng-awaited cool breeze wafting through my rooms, returning temperatures (and brain functioning!) to normal.

With the wind in my sails, I decided to bring the AncestryInk blog up to a more ship-shape condition.  There is one simple change of which to take note. I think it will help readers find resources more readily.

The right hand "research" menus have become more defined. There is now a "Maritime Research Online" list which should enable you to home in on maritime stuff right away, without weeding through links to genealogical resources.  "Genealogical Research Online" stands alone as a separate resource list.

The "Historical Societies" resource list remains the same.

Also, those who are interested in whaling crew lists and vessel lists and whaling voyages by year:

 The New Bedford P.L. (Public Library) has a great searchable archive.  And the New Bedford Whaling Museum ALSO has an archive.  Redundant, you say?  You would think.  However, I have searched for someone on one list, not found him, and then found that crewman on the other of the two lists.  So, try them both, just to be safe. The differences may just be a function of their search engine capabilities.

TIP: when searching for crewmen, in particular, if you are not finding them - try searching with just their last name.

Lastly, I have added a link to the really fabulous "Nicholson Collection" held by the Providence Public Library.  This collection holds many, many whaling logbooks - all digitized for you to read online.   You can search by vessel names which are listed alphabetically.  

I think that is about it!  Enjoy the cool air and I will see you next Maritime Monday.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Maritime Monday: Launching of the Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport

The 1841 whaleship, Charles W. Morgan, was launched into the Mystic River, this weekend, after five years of restoration.

Launch Ceremony attended by many
The ship was launched on her 172nd birthday.  She is the oldest commercial vessel in existence and made 37 whaling voyages in her lifetime.  Her 38th voyage, which will take place in May 2014, after her interior and rigging is restored, will take the Charles W. Morgan to various ports of New England, including New Bedford and Vineyard Haven, on the island of Martha's Vineyard.

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ric Burns (not sure if he is related to the well-known Ken Burns) gave the keynote address.

More about the launch and facts and video about the restoration process, can be seen at the Mystic Seaport website.  

The New York Times, Hartford Courant, and The Washington Post also carried news of the launch, this past weekend.

A touching and significant part of the launch ceremony was the breaking of the bottle on the bow of the C. W. Morgan by Sarah Bullard, the great-great-great granddaughter of Charles Waln Morgan, the original owner.  The bottle was not filled with champagne.  Instead, it contained waters gathered from each of the seas traveled by the Charles W. Morgan on her various whaling voyages.

Another notable fact is that the C. W. Morgan's whaleboats were contracted out to various boat yards around the country.  One of these is the highly-esteemed wooden boat builder Gannon & Benjamin, of Vineyard Haven. 

Gannon & Benjamin's whaleboat for the C.W. Morgan
Having lived on Martha's Vineyard for nearly 30 years, I know both owners and many, many Vineyard people who have worked for them.  Their work is exquisite and their adherence to the traditions and art of wooden boat building is admired across many seas and borders. 

You can follow news updates of the Charles W. Morgan over the coming year, at the Mystic Seaport website.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Update on the Shifting Ice of Arctic Waters

My copy of Rolling Stone finally arrived (safely and unmutilated by dissenters) in my mailbox yesterday.  I read the article about the Arctic Ice right away.  The concerns we have in this century, differ quite radically from the concerns of 1800's mariners, and the fate of the 32 ships locked and crushed in ice, in 1871, which I reported yesterday.

This article follows Jason Box, a scientist tracking the melting of the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland which, according to the article,  holds about 10% of the world's ice.  Between July 8 and July 12 of last year, "the entire surface of Greenland began melting." Shocking facts abound.

This is a different threat than those our mariners faced, for sure.  We are not talking about the seasonal shifting and calving of glaciers.  This is about the glaciers disappearing altogether, and changing our climate forever.  Box explores the effect of soot from wildfires creating a warming effect over the glaciers. The article is a huge wake-up call,  and important to read. 

"Jahar" Tsarnaev?

 The piece about the Marathon Bomber written by Janet Reitman is a thorough, well-written, and unbiased biography of this - boy.  Whether you are offended by his portrait on the cover or not, I wouldn't let anything about the cover put you off from reading the article.  Especially those of you who are passionate Bostonians.

Most of us, in the event of a sudden tragedy,  immediately want to know "why."  This article gives a timeline to the lives of both Tsarnaevs, and left me feeling a sense of - rest. Not peace.  But the reconstruction of his background from childhood, and of his brother, does bring a certain sense of order and in a way, understanding, to the shockingly violent, sad events that unfolded in just a matter of minutes, in downtown Boston.  It helped me to read it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Let's Talk About the Cover of Rolling Stone - Things Are Heating Up

Warning:   I am about to post an image of the cover of this week's Rolling Stone magazine.  You can turn away right now, or hear me out.  Because just to the left of the inflammatory, controversial image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,  is the headline for another extremely important issue:  "The Arctic Ice Melt: Report from the Front Lines of Climate Change."  I have to tell you - this is the article I cannot wait to read.

Blistering heat and high humidity this week, on the East Coast, and over much of the country.  It certainly gives one pause to think about global warming. Maybe the following 1871 story of icebergs and shipwrecks will at least give you a few moments of coolness. 

It is a dramatic tale and a true one. Despite the $1.6 million loss to the whaling industry, (in our 2013 terms, that translates into over $22 million)* and the desperate circumstances, great heroics were exhibited and not one life, out of the 1200 whaling mariners involved, was lost in this icy disaster that took place in the Bering Straits.

The New York Herald reported the incident in their November 7, 1871 edition, in the following way: (article, broken into excerpts)

Financial view of the Arctic whaling incdent

Thirty-three vessels in this report - lost in the Arctic Ocean.  What happened to cause a disaster of such large proportion?  The incident would affect the whaling industry for years and garnered attention, worldwide.

Abandonment of the Whalers in Arctic Ocean
The next excerpt from the New York Herald article lays the timeline for the event: (click to read)

Scientific observations about whale migration

The fleet of whaling ships would push northward in June of 1871, in pursuit of the bowhead whale.  As the whale sightings became more plentiful, the fleet pushed on passing through the Bering Straits into the Arctic Ocean.  In June, the ice was open and passage through was viable.

"Have we not here, then, some very valuable hints in reference to any future expedition in search of the North Pole and the open sea, into which these whales migrate as their summer cruising ground?"

As early as 1871, the migrations of both whale and ice were under investigation.

Images of the whaling disaster were even caved in scrimshaw
What happened next was unprecedented.  The floating moving bergs of Arctic Ice would shift in such a way as to surround the 32 ships and - crush them. All were lost.  The nine remaining ships who had heeded the warning of local populations, would turn from a whaling mission to a rescue mission.

The next excerpt from the New York Herald, November 1871:

1200 sailors  rescued by remaining fleet

A word of remonstrance to the unfortunate whalers. The article would conclude by reminding whalers to familiarize themselves with the patterns of whale migration and to take note of the effects of a warm and sunny June, July and August, in the Arctic region.  This warming trend in 1871 proved disastrous and affected the whaling community until - believe it or not - a very similar incident took place seven years later, in 1878.

I look forward to reading both articles in Rolling Stone. I hear the article about the Marathon Bomber is very well-written, and I like good, informative news writing.

But this remarkable tale of the demise of the whaling fleet shows that warming trends happened, and then reversed themselves - and happened again.  Is this historic pattern of polar ice migration forever lost now?  Have we irretrievably warmed our planet to a point of no return?   The headline posted next to the Bomber's image on the cover of Rolling Stone?  That is the article I will read first.

* Source: has a colorful depiction of the 1871 Arctic whaling loss on the National Marine Sanctuaries website. Though I have read of this disaster from many different sources, including whale ship logs of Falmouth sea captains, this website provides an excellent total picture of the remarkable event. To read more: click here.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Maritime Monday - Photograph Rescue After High Tide (And High Humidity)

Here we are again at Maritime Tuesday!  This time let's blame the day-lateness on the Fourth of July throwing everything off.

My house feels like a boat.  The high humidity level lately reminds me of a year I lived on an old wooden sloop.  I thought nothing could feel as damp as that, but this summer in Falmouth is becoming a close second.  I have thought about years lived at sea in the 1800's for both mariners, and their families that at times traveled with them.  Being damp was a way of life.  It's amazing the ship's logs and journals were preserved for us to read today.  As I sit here watching the pages of my books curl in the humidity in my own living room, my heart goes out to those ancient mariners.

I was further prompted to investigate treatment of moisture-ridden objects, by my local Falmouth Library.  They have recently sent out their microfilm of old newspapers, ships logs, and other manuscripts, for digitization. Besides the conservation effort, digitization will also relieve the library visitor (like myself) from sitting at a very noisy microfilm machine under too-bright lighting (necessary, in a library) straining to read penmanship from the early 1800's.  Yay!

Whaling Log Penmanship &Whales

Back to the topic of moisture. In times of floods like those hitting the west and south lately, and high humidity - there is great concern about books, documents and photographs.

AIC - Conservation of Valuable Objects

The AIC or American Institute for Conservation is a vast and multi-faceted organization dedicated to preserving and restoring artworks of all kinds, manuscripts, books, pretty much anything of deep historical or personal significance.  They are as they say on their website:  "The SWAT team for art."

AIC Emergency Response Team

On the Resources page of their website, they also offer a great tip to the common man, for saving photographs after a flood.  Maybe not an every day occurrence in your life, but good to know in case your valuable photos either fall off a boat or otherwise meet a watery demise.

Quoted from the AIC site:

"Photographs and photo albums are often the only records of momentous occasions like weddings, birthdays, and graduations," Sarah Wagner, senior photograph conservator at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) said. "If the flood has damaged them, saving them may be possible. Remember that if flood waters did not damage the negatives, you can make new prints anytime."

Damaged photographs for which there are no negatives should receive attention first. Once photographs have stuck together or become moldy, saving them may not be possible. Handle wet photos carefully; the surfaces may be fragile. Wet photos may be rinsed in clean water (if needed) and sealed in a plastic garbage bag with a tie or a ziploc type plastic bag. If possible, put wax paper between each photograph. If a freezer is available, freeze the photos immediately. Later, the photos may be defrosted, separated, and air-dried.

If no freezer or refrigerator is available, rinse wet photos in clean water and dry them, face up, in a single layer on a clean surface (a table, window screen, or clean plastic laid out on the ground. Avoid drying the photos in direct sunlight. Don' t worry if the photos curl as they dry. A photo expert can be contacted later about flattening them.

The tip about separating the photos with wax paper and freezing is a brilliant idea.  Obviously, if you have experienced a massive flood, there may be no power to run your fridge.  Maybe you can find someone with a generator to help out.  In any case, even if it is just your basement that has flooded or fallen to damaging humidity, this is a quick and easy thing to do until you are able to bring the photos to a better environment.

 Stay cool and dry, all ye mariners and non-mariners alike!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fourth of July from the Whale Ship's Log

From the log of the "Lafayette" whaling ship, voyage 1843:

The Coast Peru

"Tuesday 4th
Lat 15 - 15
Land 25 to 40 (miles)

Steady winds from SE by E. Employed men wing Boat at 6am passed the Napoleon Maria and Henry in Co. at 8am the Barque a see whales and caught one at 11Am see whales going to the NW the Napoleon in pursuit Could not come up with them Hauled our wind in shore for more whales so ended this Fourth of July pursuing whales I am in hopes we shall soon get a good fair of oil to make up for our hard fortune may fortune Smile on us Tomorrow."

 "Whales seen 53 times."

From the voyage of the Florida, 1858-1861, Captain Thomas William Williams. Journal written by his wife Eliza Azelia Griswold Williams, on board. Two of their children were born on this voyage to the Pacific and Indian Oceans:

"July 4th.  It was thick this morning and all night. About 12 o'clock the Cooper told us that there were boats around.  He could hear their horns...Very soon they came alongside.  They were ours....some of the boats, it seems see aplenty of Whales, and once in a while are lucky enough to take one, but not often.  Our boats lost two of their Men and that was not all...It doesn't seem much like the Fourth of July, up here."  (Shantarr Bay)

"July 4th. Today is Independence.  Oh how I would like to be at home and enjoy this day with family and friends.  We cannot celebrate it here with any degree of pleasure. Just after dinner, we spoke the bark Monmouth, Capt. Ormsby...He reported the loss of the clipper ship Polar Star, Capt. Wood, Master.  Capt. Ormsby also told us that the Alice Frazier is lost..."

And from the journal kept by Mary Chipman Lawrence aboard the Whaler Addison* with her husband Captain Samuel Lawrence, Falmouth - 1856 - 1860:

"The Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean: 1858

"The Fourth of July today and the Sabbath.  How different our situation from our friends at home! A gale of wind with ice and land to avoid. The ice probably would be a refreshing sight to them.  Probably the celebration, if there is any to come off, will take place tomorrow.  We had a turkey stuffed and roasted with wild ducks, which are very plenty here. Perhaps tomorrow we may get a whale..."

"Lower California: 1859
July 4.  Minnie arose early this morning and hoisted our flag, which was all the celebration we could boast of, as we did not get that whale that we hoped to.  A beautiful day, which I improved by washing, after waiting ten days for a clear day."

(Minnie is the child of of Mary and Captain Lawrence.)

So ends this day!

Happy Fourth of July to all, on land and sea.

*Excerpts from "The Captain's Best Mate, The Journal of Mary Chipman Lawrence on the Whaler Addison, 1856-1860," Stanton Garner, editor; 1966 by Brown University.