Friday, April 23, 2010

The Compleat Database: Cultural Affinities

Social context is an important aspect of genealogy research. Understanding more about the social environment of our ancestors may lend clues to the bigger genealogical questions and help pinpoint people in time and place. In her article, "The Compleat Database: Cultural Affinities, " Judy Rosella Edwards encourages researchers to include social information -- what she is calling "cultural affinities" or "connections" -- in the genealogy database. While a certain piece of information may not reveal much at first glance, later that bit of information may be the one thing that puts you on the right path. As the article observes, information on certain traditions, hobbies, celebrated holidays, even trinkets may hold clues. 

One thing to keep in mind, as well, in considering cultural affinities is the possible existence and value of non-traditional source material such as performance programs, club and society membership records, organizational histories, reunions, business associations, etc. If an ancestor is identified with a particular group or activity, there may well be records available that provide additional information. For locating such sources, be sure to check our parent site,, which has been a leader in transcribing original, non-traditional source material for many years and offering it online. With recent changes to the site, all databases have been combined and are now offered as a single, affordable package. But even browsing the holdings or doing a search on your family name, you can learn something new and may even be guided to other sources you might not have known existed. Not only can you learn about the various types and categories of records published, but you can also see what has been transcribed, thus far, for a particular region. And with the new Wiki you can learn even more. It's a work in progress -- new materials are being added weekly, so you'll want to check back often. Be sure to check out the Genealogy Today Subscription Data, the Family History Wiki, and the helpful Search features available on the home page.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Traditions across cultures

An article in the Detroit News, "Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa: A time for joy, traditions and reflection," highlights traditions across cultures, reminding us that even though our faiths and practices may differ, this "season of celebration" is about love and family and shared tradition. It's is good to recognize, appreciate, and share with our children the traditions from other cultures,  bringing us closer together as a people and making the holiday season even more meaningful.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of Holidays Past

As with so many other things, we take often holiday traditions and practices for granted, seldom stopping to think about their origins. It may also be that some traditions and practices of the past have become antiquated and rarely practiced, caroling from door to door being one example. Our ways of passing the time and socializing and certainly changed. In the article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of Christmas Past," Jean Hibben explores the language of Christmas, clearing up some commonly held misconceptions and, perhaps, bringing a greater sense of meaning to our holiday observations.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

The "real" story of Thanksgiving -- reaching mind share

As genealogists we know there are two (or more) sides to every story. We also know that history is often romanticized to favor one version or another, depending on who is doing the telling -- history textbooks are no exception. As the poet Emily Dickinson wrote, "Tell all the truth but tell it slant." The story of Thanksgiving is, perhaps, one of the most controversial of all holidays in what it celebrates and how the story is told. Although racial discrimination and bigotry still exists in the this country and in the world, most non-Native Americans are aware of and respect the plight of Native Americans. So much so, in fact, that one of the most popular yet elusive of all genealogical quests in tracking down one's legendary Native American ancestry. That said, the pain of that heritage lingers in the modern generation, as illustrated in the recent article on entitled, "Thanks? Giving? A History of Civil Rights." The PBS special, "We Shall Remain," is an attempt to tell the whole story of the Native American up to the present time, in what producers call "an unprecedented collaboration between Native and non-Native filmmakers." Episode 1, After the Mayflower explores that first Thanksgiving and its consequences. Old traditions die hard -- it may be awhile yet before the "real" story of Thanksgiving reaches mind share.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

A face to scare the devil

I have long been admired beautiful and creative pottery -- this article from Pittsburgh Post, "Artist draws on family history to put unique spin on pottery," sheds light on the fascinating history of "jug art." Akin to quilt and song, the jug art provided expression in society not free to communicate openly.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thoughts on the 4th

In her article, "Independence Was Not Free," Melissa Slate recounts an article from a recent issue of the American Legion Magazine, showing the trials and tribulations faced by signers of the Declaration of Independence. This is a good time, perhaps, to help children understand the meaning of patriotism and the value placed on the liberty by our forefathers.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Celebrating Juneteenth, July 19

My grandmother, who grew up in Central Texas at the turn of the twentieth century, told me in a personal interview many years ago, that while she did not remember celebrating the 4th of July, she did remember celebrating another event on the 19th of June, with great hoorah, including fireworks. Although she did not know it by that name, the celebration she recalled is known as Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. While my family was not African American, their community included many former slaves, among them my family's nearest neighbors, whom my grandmother remembers most fondly. Texas is one of 29 states recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday . . . and Texas figures prominently in its beginning.

As noted on the web site, Juneteenth, the "19th of June", recognizes June 19, 1865, in Galveston, TX, when Union General Gordon Granger announced freedom for all slaves in the Southwest. This was the last major vestige of slavery in the United States following the end of the Civil War. This occurred more than two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln. Upon the reading of General Order #3 by General Granger, the former slaves celebrated jubilantly, establishing America's second Independence Day Celebration and the oldest African-American holiday observance.

For more on recognizing U. S. Emancipation, see Melissa Slate's article, "Celebrate Juneteenth," which also highlights additional resources.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

An article on Woodlands Online presents a brief history of Father's Day, and reminds us "to spend time with dad and show your appreciation for all that he does for your family." It may also be a good time to record your own personal memories of a father or an important father-figure in your life. This Father's Day, I would like to pay tribute to my brother Mike, who was my surrogate father when I was growing up. Mike recently survived a serious heart attack, which makes this Father's Day a little more special.

I was only four when my parents divorced and my mother had to work to care for her five children, of whom I was the youngest and only girl. While the eldest brother went off to join the Navy at age 17, it was my mother's second son who stepped up to help with the kids. On a typical day, after putting in a full day at his own job, Mike would come home and take care of the kids, getting dinner and putting us to bed; then at 10 p.m. he would head for the bus stop to meet my mother, arriving home from work. On payday, both of my teenage brothers, Mike and Jim, handed their paychecks over to Mother, and she, in turn, gave them each an allowance for their own use during the week. Mike taught me to write my name and he taught me the "correct way" to wash dishes, lining up three chairs at the sink. I would walk from one chair to the next, washing, rinsing, and drying the dishes -- and if they weren't clean, I walked back and did it over. Mike has a very strong work ethic that he passed along to his younger siblings and to his own children -- they are some of the hardest working people I know. Mike also taught me how to behave and to respect others . . . and sometimes those lessons were hard.

Mike suffered a severe heat attack just three weeks ago, and we almost lost him. Gratefully, he survived, and owing to his strong determination and to his general good health and fitness, he recovered beyond what the doctors might have guessed. Mike is now home and "looking forward to a great summer." Truly, you cannot keep a good man down. Happy Father's Day to Mike and all those sons, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, and friends who step in and lend support when and where it is needed, and to all those dad's who have gone up against some pretty incredible odds to "be there" for their kids.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Tis the Season . . .

Melissa Slate in her article, "The Ancestor's Christmas,"reminds us that our "Christmas traditions and celebrations are varied and diverse with roots in many nationalities." This time of year many faiths, Christian and non-Christian alike celebrate special observances with a rich history, dating back many generations. Reflecting on our heritage may help us take less for granted in busy rush of the season.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Wreaths Across America bound for Arlington, Sunday, Dec 9

Time once again for Wreaths Across America, a stunning tribute to our men in arms. The Wreaths Across America convoy to Arlington National Cemetery will travel Route 1 through the Midcoast on Sunday, Dec. 9. This year's convoy from Maine to Virginia is slated to be the biggest, with between 50 and 300 vehicles joining along various sections of the route, according to an article yesterday in VillageSoup.

Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington has for 15 years been donating wreaths and decorating the graves of 4,500 veterans buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Each year the parade of wreaths is escorted 750 miles, through 196 communities, by the Patriot Guard Riders and Civil Air Patrol on their trek to Arlington National Cemetery, where the wreaths make their eventual home adorning the graves of veterans.

The Wreaths Across America story began more than 15 years ago when the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington began a tradition of donating and placing wreaths on the headstones. It's worth taking a look at the article and/or the Wreaths Across America web site to see the beautiful photos of the wreaths after they've been placed

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