ancestryink fisherman

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Nobska Point Lighthouse for Sale

The Nobska Point Lighthouse was built in 1828 for the considerable sum of $2,949.30.

The lighthouse graces a hill overlooking the invisible junction of Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay.  It is a breathtaking view and the long, winding shore road leading past it, from Woods Hole to Falmouth, is one of the more picturesque drives of Cape Cod.

Yesterday, after a morning of cold snow flurries, the sun broke through and I headed to Surf Drive to take in the spectacular sunlight and view - and contemplate the fate of the beloved landmark which has, just recently, been marked to be sold by the Coast Guard.

Photo: J. Sweetland     Nobska Light    2.26.2014

The Keeper's house of late, has traditionally been occupied by the Commander of the local Coast Guard unit.  Recently, this person moved out of the house.  Inspection of the building revealed approximately a half million dollars of renovations needed.

Photo: J. Sweetland     Nobska Light    2.26.2014

The Coast Guard has been divesting itself of ownership and upkeep of lighthouses and buildings. This is no surprise or shock.  And they will continue to operate and maintain the light itself.

Here are a few historical facts:

In the 1840's, lighthouse keeper Peter Daggett manned the station.  Daggett was actually a veteran of the war of 1812.  Politics held sway in many areas, and in 1849, Peter Daggett was "removed" from his post for being a Democrat.

In 1874, Oliver Nickerson manned the lighthouse.  He held the longest stint, ending in 1911.  His daughter Florence was as active as her father in the functioning of the light and buildings.

Pre-1876  Nobska Lighthouse
The tower as it appears now, was built in 1876.  The iron tower was built in a shipyard elsewhere in New England and brought to the location.

Next, came George Cameron, taking over in 1911.  It is said that his wife and six children quite immediately departed.  Perhaps they found lighthouse life too confining or isolated. It's not for everyone.

The importance of the Nobska Light has not wavered over the centuries.  In 1829, 10,000 vessels passed by Nobska Point.  In 1866, in the course of one day, 188 ships passed the light, most of them schooners.

Time passed, and in 1968, Joseph Hindly inhabited the lighthouse keeper's cottage until 1972.  By 1985, the cottage was inhabited by the Coast Guard commander, and that tradition continued to the present.

The Nobska Lighhouse bears a strong resemblance to another personal favorite of mine, visited often during my four years in Maine:

Nubble Light   Cape Neddick, Maine
This has been a very 'dashed-off' history of Nobska Light.  There are many additional facts, stories and people to fill out the long life of the lighthouse and keeper's buildings. Not to mention the history of the fourth order Fresnel lens that lights the way through dangerous shoals Hedge Fence and L'Hommedieu in Woods Hole. (Interesting discovery: Ezra Hommedieu (1734-1811), a lawyer and statesman from New York, chose the location of the Montauk Point Lighthouse, in 1796.)

Town news imparts that it is very likely a non-profit organization will pull together to purchase and care for the lighthouse which is already included in the National Registry of Historic Places. As this has been happening along other areas of the nation's seashore, there are many models in existence for the take-over and care of our lighthouses.  We will hope for the best!


The Golden Age of American Lighthouses: A Nostalgic Look at U.S. Lights from ...
 By Tim Harrison, Ray Jones

American Lighthouses, 3rd: A Comprehensive Guide to Exploring Our National ...
 By Bruce Roberts, Cheryl Shelton-Roberts, Ray Jones

Lighthouses, edited by Julie Stetzko Taff

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mossy Thinking and a New Gen Website

The last few days have been a little - I don't know - "off."

I don't know why. The weather has been fabulous and sunny.  Lots of green shoots are showing up in the gardens.  Last Saturday, I dropped by Mahoney's, the local garden store, and they had many exciting signs of Spring:  seed packets, pots of purple pansies, wonderful mossy planter things.

However, short of re-upholstering an old Victorian chair of my grandmother's last weekend, I've been feeling at odds.

This morning, while Googling: "How to grow moss on a pocketbook,"  (Martha Stewart has a video on this.  Of course.)

an email came flying in from an unknown genealogy person.   I ignored it, busy as I was with the moss-growing idea.

Soon, I had to rush off and meet my daughter and her boyfriend as they got off the ferry from Martha's Vineyard, and bid them farewell, as they jumped on a bus to Logan Airport, from whence they would fly off to Albuquerque, NM for a week (envy envy).  That all went well.  Hugs and good byes.  On the way home, I dropped by the local Starbucks and got a Tall coffee.  And that is probably when things started to go a little haywire.

Back at home again, with full intentions of "getting something done" today, I made a reasonable list. Of course, on this list was "investigate new genealogical website."

Suddenly, I received a text from our family friend Douglas who works as a flight simulator instructor at Logan.  "When are Annie and Adam arriving?  I will meet them at JetBlue and surprise them."  So, I gave Douglas their bus ETA: 12:30pm.

An half hour daughter and boyfriend have arrived at Logan, Doug reports.  I immediately went on the Peter Pan Bus Lines (oh how appropriate a name) website to search the status of their bus.  The website was DOWN.  A wee little ribbon of panic started to float in.  Possibly aided by the very strong cup of coffee from Star*Bucks.  I texted Annie.  Repeatedly (okay, like um ten times.)  No Answer.

Another text from Douglas:  "I never saw the bus arrive, and I went to the Jet Blue Gate and did not see them."

By now, the ribbon of panic has turned into a full-blown Olympic-sized banner of wild fear.  Where ARE they?  My caffeine-amped imagination saw their poor, gentle bodies strewn across Route 3, with the wheels of said Peter Pan bus, belly up from some unfortunate accident, spinning in the air.   Being an historical researcher (and a mother) I happen to know that no such horrendous accident has befallen a Peter Pan bus. Ever. I know because I've actually spent some time looking into this. (I don't care what you think of me at this point. You mothers out there will understand this kind of hysteria.)

But, I hear you.  "Take a deep breath. Chillax." In my head, I wanted to be like Sage Kotsenberg, snowboarding his way to a Gold Medal without a muscle twitch- broad spacey smile, and windblown locks, the epitome of chill. My nerves were just not in touch with my head.

 I finally got Peter Pan on the phone.  The customer helper (Tinkerbell? Wendy?) sounded concerned and...indefinite.  "Let me look into that for youuu," and put me on eternal hold with sad, funereal music playing in the background.  Complete and total panic, now.

An eon and multiple chewed fingernails later, a tiny, mini-text from Annie chimes in saying "we're checked in. we're eating." That was it.

Douglas went back to work upstairs in the Control Tower.  I'm sure, shaking his head. And I finally got my heart rate back to normal -and finally, finally,  re-addressed the genealogical website issue.

So.  Here it is.  I have to confess, I did not register, as suggested on the website.  But it appears to have quite a few registrants, and I feel that any possibility of sharing information with new people, is probably a good idea.  Here it is, as referred by Mary Vanstalk.  If any reader happens to avail themselves of the information on GenGathering, I would like to hear about your experience.

Cheers, and have a nice relaxing week!  Jane

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to Avoid Magical Thinking in Your Ancestral Research

Magical thinking in the research realm can be defined by the term "causal fallacy."  Now I have nothing against magical thinking.  The fruits of our imaginations can lead to happy lives, a constant renewal of hope, even good choices in our life partners (don't ask me to explain this, but picture sharing your morning cup of coffee and toast with an extremely cynical breakfast-mate... forever. Not magical. Advice: go for the mate with a great imagination.)

**As I mentioned in my previous post, NPR  aired a news piece about people posting fake family trees on public ancestry websites.   These cheeky folks knowingly publish a false family tree, linking them to a King or some other noble (or ignoble) personage. Not mistakenly, but for the sole reason of drawing attention to themselves!  The grasp for celebrity is reaching desperate heights.**

I love this image from the Gala Darling blog

 "What we SEE depends mainly on what we look for."

Perfectly true.  And here, in a few short steps, is how this phrase applies to you and your family research - and where it can go from magical thinking to delusional thinking, complete with research gone very badly astray.

1. Let us say that you have heard via family lore, that there is an elusive Italian Count lurking somewhere in your family tree. You must find him. Oh, to be related to a Count!

We all enjoy finding unique or unusual characters in our lineage.  Whether discovered with pride or chagrin, these people can provide the fascinating, unique blossoms on our family Tree.

2. You have spent hours/months/years tracing your ancestral roots.  Using all available sources - local findings, online databases, family stories and documents - you seem to have exhausted all clues and hit a brick wall.

Here is where magical thinking (the fun of finding a possible Italian Count in your tree - hoping against hope you actually have one!) can take a turn into erroneous research results.

Step Three is important.

3. After all your hours of fruitless searching, a NEW family tree posted publicly by an or member, suddenly appears in your search results for Italian Count So and So.  Eureka!  You do a quick comparison of your family tree with New Person's family tree and, seems applicable.  Maybe there are few extra spouses.  Or, maybe the mother's maiden  name is just a tad...different?  But mostly it looks pretty good.

Proof!  You can now say with no Magical Thinking involved, that you are related to the Italian Count.

Step Four:  Get Real.

4.  Go back to the adage above:  "What we see is mainly what we look for."  Keep that in mind, and then ask yourself:  Was New Person's family tree adequately sourced and documented?  Or, am I just maybe a wee bit tired of detective work, and up against a brick wall, and just really WANT this to be true ??

Next, is the key to avoiding major misleading mistakes in your family research.  You may have to bite the bullet and be ready for the conclusion that you are NOT related to Italian Count So and So.  But it will be worth having the truth of your real family tree.

The Key:

5.  Always check for Sources of information when perusing the family tree (usually posted online) submitted by someone outside your family.  (Actually, don't hesitate to question your own family members! Bless their hearts - they can be dotty about facts.)

Are there any Sources included at all??  If so, did New Person cite traceable, original Sources?  Even if they have not posted an image of a document or record, is there a citation for it which can lead you to the document or record, on your own? 

The Uncomfortable Truth.

Unfortunately, all it takes is one undocumented source  - or a lack of a source of information altogether - to lead you astray.  In your passion and fervor to make the link to Italian Count So and So, you are just oh so ready to pounce on New Person's family tree and make it part of your own. And Voila!, you are part-Royal.

The maddening and uncomfortable truth (*sigh*) is that you  must be able to PROVE every fact, story, tidbit, record, person, that you find shoring up the branches of your family tree.  Simple.

Without abandoning the delights of Magical Thinking in other areas of your psyche and life, when it comes to research, be aware that it is going to lead you down a path possibly strewn with "rotten blossoms" fallen from the undocumented family tree of a stranger.

I hope you do find a link to that Italian Count So and So, I really do.  How cool!  But, remember, everyone's family is remarkable, somehow.  If you only "see" the magical thing you are looking for so desperately - you are bound to miss, and fail to appreciate, the truer magic of your real ancestors.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Logs, Blogs, and Fake Family Trees

This being Monday, and at times "Maritime Monday" here, I thought I would share some fun etymology facts that are rooted in maritime traditions.

Have you ever wondered where the word "blog" really comes from?  Hmm, 'b-log' Blogs abound. They are referenced, referred to, aired in the media, used for sharing how-to tips, or for talking about genealogy...

 I Googled it. (Of course.)  Blogs have been in existence for so long now, we have probably all forgotten that the word is a combination of "web" and "log."  As in...ship's log!!  (Which, thank goodness, was never shortened to "shlog.")

Yes, a blog is a web journal or diary.  And like all things computer-related and subject to modern short-hand, the term "web log" was quickly pared down to simply "blog."

So, where did the definition of "log" as a diary or journal, originate?  Why a ship's "log?" 

Whaling log - "Cruising in the Coral Sea"

It's really quite wonderful -the reason.  Ships used to tow a tree log at the end of a line from the stern of the ship, to measure the ship's speed.  Afterwards, the log-keeper/author, (often the Second Mate) would record this speed into a ledger or journal, along with other events that would take place on board the ship.

Thus, "log" was literally referring to a tree trunk or piece of wood. And because, even historically, humans like to shorten words, sailors began by calling their journal a "log-book," but eventually shortened it to "log."  Original whaling logs are especially wonderful, with the added whale images in the margins, and notes of weather, and of men "taken by a whale."

Later, the wooden tree trunk was replaced by a lovely brass instrument.  Basically, an underwater speedometer.  I love the evolution of the nautical log.  And how, with "blog" we still 'tow behind us' this original meaning of the word log.

Now, on to other topics:

If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you never turn off your TV at the end of the show until you catch the previews of next week's episode.  This week, all heads turned to watch Mary walk off across the lawn with her three eager suitors....Who will it be that wins Mary's heart?

An NPR spot today (heard on my car radio) brought up an important research dilemma for genealogists:  Fake family trees are cropping up on various ancestral records websites, usually created by the amateur family tree "sleuth," and very often full of completely erroneous information.  The reason??  Folks like to "em-bell-ish" their roots.  Can you trace your ancestors all the way back to Adam??  Is your g-g-g-g grandfather a King??

So, this is the preview of what is to come in my next blog entry:  How do we sort out the fantastical family trees from the real thing?  Sometimes funny, often frustrating, learn how to avoid hitching your family tree to a fictional or false set of records and conclusions.  Stay tuned.

Monday, February 10, 2014

History of Cape Cod Boat Building Emerges from Annual Show in Hyannis

I had the pleasure this cold February weekend, of attending the annual Boat Builders Show held in Hyannis, Mass.  What a treat to wander amidst the beautiful hulls and lines - the fine workmanship of devoted boat builders.  Many of whom have been in existence since the 1800's.

Boat Builder's Show bulletin

I was particularly taken with the gorgeous varnished hull of a cedar-strip wooden kayak, custom made by the Witmers, a couple who, once a year, build one of these lovely vessels for the benefit of Habitat for Humanity, Cape Cod.  It turns out there is a raffle for the kayak, winner to be drawn October 19th.  Of course I bought multiple tickets.  You should too!  She's a beauty.  Here is the website and info:

There appears to be no image of the kayak on that webpage, so I will include a quickly-snapped (and rather blurry) photo of her fair bow with it's unique detailing.  Trust me - she's a beauty.

Varnished hull cedar strip kayak raffle

The history buff in me wanted to get a sense of just how many of these small boat yards/builders dated back to much earlier times.  Here is a partial copy of the list present at this show:

And here is just a quick sampling of what I found, after a little boat building research: (quotes taken from their respective website histories.)

 -At E.M. Crosby (Barnstable) Ned Crosby, Jr. continues a boat building legacy dating back to the 1700's.
"...His great-great-grandfather, Horace (1826-1894), has been widely celebrated for having designed and built the first of what became known at the Crosby Catboat.

- Herreshoff Yachts. After graduating from MIT, Nat Herreshoff and his brother John began, in 1848, a boat building tradition by first designing steam powered vessels.  By 1890, the brothers were engaged in building yachts of the finest quality for elite buyers such as the Whitneys, Vanderbilts and Morgans. 

-Beetle Cat, Inc. "The Beetle Cat was named after the Beetle family of New Bedford, MA who originally designed and built the small 12' gaff rigged wooden sailboat for their children in 1921. Famous for their Beetle Whaleboats, they used some of the same mass production techniques that enabled them to build quality whaleboats in record times. With interest growing in the Beetle Cat, and the demise of the whaling industry, the Beetles shifted production to the Beetle Cat boat."

-Cape Cod Shipbuilding:  The history of this boatbuilding yard began with the crafting of wagons in the 1800's.  By 1899, the brothers Gurney decided they need to expand their focus:

"While they occasionally built small skiffs for personal use they couldn’t part with one of their skiffs when an offer was made to buy it but they offered to build one just like it.  With that, their new venture was decided.  The Gurney brothers named their new business Cape Cod Power Dory Co.  Charles did the drafting & designing.  During this time, Cape Cod Shipbuilding Corp. built wooden pleasure and commercial boats (including coast guard boats). "


This is just a tiny sampling of shipyards that date back well before 1900.  And even some of the smaller boatyards, manned by single craftsmen of recent years, often hearken back to ancestors who in some way or another,  began a family legacy of boat building.

By the way, this is in NO way meant to deflect you from the incredible, newer boat builders featured at the Hyannis show.  Their adherence to tradition and ingenuity of new designs, coupled with months and months of hard work, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.  All for the special joy of being on the open water in a superb vessel.