Wednesday, 14 September 2016

What if...?

Recent news reports carried descriptions of a major storm system over parts of Maryland that dumper almost seven inches of rain in two hours and caused significant flooding. The region is, of course, one of the earliest locations where American colonies were first established.

So I wondered, what if a rainstorm such as the one that hit Maryland on 30 July 2016, hit the first colony established there in 1632. Or, what if such a weather front crossed over Jamestown after 1607. Would these sites have survived the flooding?
This image shows instantaneous IMERG­estimated rainfall rates at 8 p.m. EDT on July 30, 2016. It
depicts a strong band of heavy rain (an inch per hour in purple areas) extending east­west over northcentral Maryland extending southwestward into northern Virginia. CREDIT NASA/JAXA/Hal Pierce
Actually just the opposite happened in this region after colonist arrive. 

In 1585 new settlers came to Roanoke Island, in what is now Virginia, to begin a new life. According to a 1998 study, The Lost Colony and Jamestown Drought  (Stahle, et at, 1998) the years of 1587-89 saw the region experience a major drought.

The authors state that “Tree-ring data from Virginia indicate that the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island disappeared during the most extreme drought in 800 years (1587-1589) and that the alarming mortality and the near abandonment of Jamestown Colony occurred during the driest 7-year episode in 770 years (1606-1612). These extraordinary droughts can now be implicated in the fate of the Lost Colony and in the appalling death rate during the early occupations at Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America.”

What these kinds of studies say to genealogists is that consideration should be given to the role natural phenomena played in the lives of their ancestors. People were often forced to adjust to different and often harsh conditions or move to more hospitable places in order to survive. But sometimes those new habitats were not any more forgiving.

Stahle, David W.; et al. (1998). "The Lost Colony and Jamestown Droughts". Science. 280 (5363): 564–567.doi:10.1126/science.280.5363.564PMID 9554842

Caroline Lee Heuer; Jonathon T. Overpeck. "Drought: A Paleo Perspective – Lost Colony and Jamestown Drought". Retrieved August 16, 2009

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The World of Genealogy Blogs

(Many of the following comments were first published as the Editor’s Comments in the February 2016 issue of Relatively Speaking, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society.)

I subscribe to dozens of genealogy-related blogs. Some posts arrive daily, others less frequently. They run the gamut from information about updates to commercial database websites to opinion pieces from other writers and researchers. Over the years they have proven to be a major resource for me — for information and for people involved in family history research. Some of those I read daily are shown along the right side of this blogsite.

Now I know that there other social media that are consuming the attention of people, with respect to genealogy as well with other personal activities. James Tanner pointed out the declining traffic on many blogs in a post last March, Updated Thoughts on Genealogy Blogging and Pi Day.
Notwithstanding the focus on other online sources, I have made, and continue to make many direct contacts with genealogists through their blogs. We have consulted together on the latest methodology, where new information might be found or just about general subjects of common interest. Some have helped me understand new techniques, such as DNA, or suggested where to go to find specific information about people, places or events. Several have written articles for me in the family history journals I have edited.

I am probably also one of the anachronisms James talks about in his post – I know my children certainly think so – but I cannot get excited about or find the time to be part of the daily, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WeChat or myriad other social media communication methods.

Discover Genealogy is my own blog and I try to post something weekly. I have also contributed to The Pharos Blog on occasion as well. Writing blog posts allows me to put ideas together, practice my writing skills (always a challenge) and seek opinions from others.

Blog subjects can be divided into several categories: those primarily containing news items; stories about the bloggers’ families; geographic-specific information; specialty subjects related to family history; opinions by experts on a variety of topics; or a combination of any of the above. The subject matter really is endless.

I have found blogs that are just collections of family stories mainly meant for members of those families. They are written as a way to preserve information about the writer/researcher’s ancestors and to disseminate it to other relatives. While they are not necessarily intended for public consumption many are nevertheless very entertaining and informative about events and places. They can also be great places to learn new techniques in searching.

Some posts come from commercial sites which have databases of varying types. They comment on what new lists are available online or which ones might have been updated.

Most posts are not of direct interest to my family tree but every once in a while I see some new data that is relevant to my research and I take a look. Often I find information about freebies, either special prices on access to data or where information can be downloaded for nothing.

Blog posts are easy to sign up to receive and just as easy to unsubscribe from if they do not prove to be of value. You can receive many posts directly in your email inbox and read them at your leisure. You can also comment back to most of the bloggers or ask questions of them right on their blogsites.

Most of us do not have the time to keep up with all the news and developments that come out of the genealogy world. Reading blogs offers a way to learn about: new databases or additions to existing ones; new research techniques; meetings, conferences or webinars; email lists or other ways in which family historians can directly communicate with each other; and who knowledgeable people are for different parts of the world or for various specialty subjects.

From the blog posts we can often link to various webpages or publications that might be helpful to our own research. Each one is like a whole new newsletter. I have to say many are much better ways of communicating specific types of ideas or information than local newsletters or journals.

A comprehensive list of over 3,000 genealogy-related blogs can be found at GeneaBloggers.
A few bloggers highlight what they think have been the best of recent blog posts. I peruse these lists very closely and almost always find at least one worth reading. Often a post will lead me to sign up for ongoing posts in a new blogsite. Among those who regularly list the week’s best blogs is Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings. He also lists the “pick posts” of other bloggers, those posts thought of as most worth reading. Randy’s most recent summary can be found at Best of the Genea-Blogs - 28 August to 3 September 2016.

Since you are reading this post, you are obviously tuned into genealogy blogs. You might even read many more than I do. If you know of people who have not discovered this resource, let them know they should have a look at blogs. They will thank you for pointing out sites that were of interest and helpful to them.

Some of the blogs of note by Canadians like me include:
·         Gail Dever – Genealogy a la carte
·         Elizabeth Lapointe – Genealogy Canada
·         John D. Reid – Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections
·         Lorine McGinnis Schulze – Olive Tree Genealogy Blog       

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Old Letters

In a recent blog post, Denise Levenick commented on Finding Clues and Connections in Old Family Letters.

Letters are hard to come by anymore what with email, Facebook, Skype, WeChat and all the other instant communication programs that I hardly ever or never use. They are great for finding out what is going on right now or seeing pictures of grandkids and others. But no one really puts a lot of thought into sending news and rarely are they saved like letters and cards used to be.

I commented on some letters a friend of mine has that were written by his mother just before and after World War II broke out. They were very illuminating impressions about how the family felt at a time when war was imminent.

I also wrote about cards people sent years ago for special occasions. Again, it’s rare to receive these in this age of right-now messaging.

Denise makes a point about information that may be contained in old letters – personal information about family members or events that you will never find in a database. Not only are these important in constructing a family history, they give us very good insight to the people themselves – how they lived, how they thought, what kinds of personalities they had, etc.

I have copies of cards and letters written to and by my mother – she did most of the correspondence in our family. I have some written by me to parents and grandparents, and which were later returned to me by relatives, which are kind of funny now. They are all unique memorabilia.

My aunt used to write many letters to family members when she was researching the family history. I have found many interesting stories in them. She also collected copies of letters that had been saved by others. She sent me copies of those. Not all of them are easy to read, being copies of copies, but it is still very interesting to see the actual handwriting of my ancestors and hear the stories of their day-to-day lives.

Here are transcriptions of two of them:

The first was written by my maternal grandmother’s sister, Rebecca (McDaniel) Slemp to her brother, James, and his wife, not long after ‘Becca had moved to Missouri from Virginia. Becca was, of course, a daughter of Asa McDaniel one of whose letters appears below. James and his family came west to Oklahoma in 1896 as I described in my June 7th post about the McDaniel Family Goes West. I do not have a copy of the original letter. The transcription was done by my aunt, so I cannot confirm the exact spelling. But it is interesting to hear Aunt Becca talk about her family as well as learn about other members of our family.

Tarkio, Mo
Nov. the 17, 1889
Mr. and Misses James McDaniel

Dear Bro, sister and family.
I will try to answer your kind and most welcome letter I rec'd some time ago but have delayed some time ans. it. Well, Jim you had aught to see my big boy, he weighed 9 lbs. the day he was a week old. He was born the Oct 30th. He is a good baby, he lays in bed all day, I took him up this morning and washed and put his clothes on him and put him back to bed and he lay till noon with his fist in his mouth and it is 6 o'clock and he hasn't waked up yet. I have been up ever since last Sunday doing my work. George and R. L. carried the wood and water in the house so I don't get out much. I went to the stable today to see the hogs, one is so fat it can't walk at all, it is a last spring shot e. I guess we will kill him for Thanksgiving Day. Jennie says she is going to make R. L. set a dinner for her and Annie, so I told her we would kill that hog. It will weigh over 150 lbs. now. It just lays and eats all the time.
Jennie was here today, they are well as common. Lillie is cutting teeth. Annie's is tolerably well. Lonnie burn his face on the jaw and Annie had her teeth all pulled out yesterday a week ago, 28 I believe and one now one has come since. Matthew's of Tarkio pulled them, charged 10 dollars and will put the now ones in, in the spring, he will only charge 15 more dollars. He wont charge anything for pulling if he replaces the teeth but that makes them 25 dollars a set. Oh! I forgot to tell you our boy's name is Edgar Earnest. Ask John if that ain't a good stout name. We had Dr. A. L. Gray from Tarkio. It was half past 11 Wednesday night when he got here and half past 4 Thursday morning when he got ready to leave and when he started, he had no team. He had hired a livery team and buggy and they had got loose and went back to Tarkio. So he waited till daylight and George took him home. George had the fun of going over after Annie, and R. L. after Mrs. Rhoads. R. L. went after the Dr. So we laughed at George about having a party. The young folks have parties out here. Has the boys got lots of chestnuts? There is plenty of hazel nuts out here. Tell Willy to come out and see Edgar and eat apples and be sure to bring his pockets full of chestnuts for I've not seen one since I've been here.
R. E. Slemp

George = George McDaniel, Rebecca's brother
Edgar Earnest = Rebecca’s first child
R. L. = Richard Landon Slemp, Rebecca's husband
Jennie = Virginia (McDaniel) Slemp, Rebecca's sister
Annie = Elizabeth Ann (McDaniel) Slemp, Rebecca's sister who lived Oklahoma City
Lillie = 3rd child of Jennie
Lonnie = son of Annie
Rebecca Elaine (McDaniel) Slemp (1873-1986) taken in 1949

The second was written on November 1, 1896 by my great-grandfather, Asa McDaniel, and sent to his daughter, Molly Davis who was still living in Virginia. The letter is very informative about Asa’s family who had moved to Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma in the 1880s and 1890s as well as things in general around the farming community.
Page one of letter written by Asa McDaniel to Molly Davis on 4 November 1896

Cleveland Co
Norman, O. T.
November the 4 1896

C. C. and Molly Davis

I receved your letter the 2 was glad to hear from you and hear you was wel it found me Tollerable wel I have a mity bad Cold and sourer Throat but feel better To day I have bean Down hear nearly 3 weeks at John's tha are Tollerable wel at this time thar was a mity hard Rain and storm hear the 25th and then turned verry Cold about as Cold as it ever gets in this Country and has give Nearly evry boddy awful bad Colds. Olie and Michels baby has bean bad of but is a heap better to Day Jim has Rented him a farm and moved to it Michel has got him a Place but haint moved yet thar Plunder that tha had to frait haint got hear yet or hadent yesterday Jim lives in 4 ½ mils of Norman Carna is hear wel and harty ways 140 lbs I think me and Carna wil go to Kate Bundyes some time this winter if I Ceam wel and it Dont get two cold and bad I got a letter from Kate Last week tha was all wel but Leroy he had let his team Runof and Broke one of his Ribs but had got nearly wel when she Roat George Mc and Jinna Slemp and famlyes was all wel a short time ago I heard from Matty the other day tha was wel I haint heard from Anne and Beckie sence I left thar but I suppose tha are all wel or I would hear from them I was sorry to hear Davis was Porly hope he is Better by this time give him my Best respects and all other enquiring friend with a few exeseptions thar is the finest wheat in this Country that I ever saw at this time of the year and thar is a quantile sowed a heap of the farmers has sowed 100 acres Ed Miller has sowed 120 acres Dick Slemp has over 200 Anne about 100 wheat is worth 40 cts per bushel Corn l7cts hogs is worth $260 cts per hundred flour 240 cts per hundred Coffy 18 to 20 cts per Pound shuger 21 lbs to the Dollr all other goods is very Cheap I think I will go back to Yukon in a few days I saw John Morgan at the sitty yesterday Rite sune

Asa McDaniel

CC = Claiborne Columbus Davis, Molly’s husband
Molly = Mary Saphronia (Molly) (McDaniel) Davis
John = Asa’s second son
Olie and Michel = unknown relationship
Jim = Asa’s oldest son
Carna = Sarah Carnelia, Asa’s youngest daughter
Kate Bundy = Eliza Katherine (McDaniel) Bundy, Asa’s fourth child
Leroy = Henry Leroy Bundy, Kate’s husband
George Mc. = George McDaniel, Asa’s youngest son and 10th child
Jinna Slemp = Virginia (McDaniel) Slemp, Asa’s oldest child
Matty = Martha Alwilda Jane (McDaniel) Miller, Asa’s second youngest daughter and my grandmother
Anne = Elizabeth Ann (McDaniel) Slemp, Asa’s fifth child
Beckie = Rebecca Eliane (McDaniel) Slemp,  Asa’s third youngest daughter
Davis = unknown relationship
Ed Miller = Matty’s husband and my grandfather
Dick Slemp = Richard Landon Slemp, Rebecca’s husband
John Morgan = unknown relationship
Asa McDaniel with two granddaughters taken about 1896

This is the second of three of Asa’s letters I have copies of, written in 1895, 1896 and 1897, all to his daughter, Molly. There is also one from Molly to her father written in 1894 and confirms that Asa moved to Missouri that year. My Aunt Doris acquired them from Molly’s daughter, who was also involved in family history research. All the letters describe the health and activities of McDaniel family members.

These are wonderful pieces of the family’s history to have, even if they are not originals. I go back and look at some of the correspondence every once in a while, like today, and always learn something new or get another idea of where to search.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated