Visit to the Newberry Library

This weekend, I had a chance to visit the Newberry Library in Chicago and I am so pleased I had the opportunity to visit!  I was in town for business purposes – to deliver a presentation for work. However, I arrived early Saturday morning so that I could take advantage of the library being open from 9-1pm.

I arrived in town at 8am and made it to the library by 9:30. Fortunately, it was only about a mile away from my hotel so it was very easy to get there. The first thing I can say is that it is a beautiful building. I love big, stately, building and Newberry Library does not disappoint.

front of the Newberry Library

painting of the Newberry Library

The check-in process was very easy, and there were nice gentlemen in the lobby to help explain all the procedures for getting checked-in and getting my reader’s card. The library has good information on the website to help prepare for the visit so there were no surprises for me throughout the process.

On my way up to the genealogy room, I did pass some gorgeous artwork, but look at this incredible family tree! It is a tree from 1880 from the Richard & Abigail Lippincott family. You can see more up-close pictures of it here.

Lippincott Family Tree, 1880

It is so detailed and absolutely amazing!

detail of the Lippincott Family Tree

Can you imagine having a family tree like that? So cool!

After getting my card, going to the 2nd floor genealogy collection and getting signed in, I was assigned a table to work at – K2.

my research table – K2

I’d done some preparation before the visit since here, most of the collection is in closed stacks and staff retrieve materials for you.  You can request 3 items pulled at a time. I requested my first three and then began browsing the reference materials they do have on open shelves.

I worked through a few items in the reference collection, that even though I have access to here at home, I don’t get to the library & state archives as often as I’d like, so having some time to look was still valuable. I then also worked with many items over the course of the morning that I don’t have regular access to and that was helpful.

I wasn’t there to do any specific type of search, I was generally just looking up some information & material I can use on the genweb sites, so at least I didn’t feel pressured. It was nice just to be among the beautiful research setting and have a few hours to take in my surroundings.  The staff at the library were all helpful and I can see why the Newberry Library is so well-regarded.

looking around the research room

the Chicago-related materials

I have some leads to follow-up on now which will probably take me awhile; and that’s fine by me. :-)

If you have ever been to the Newberry Library or are planning to go, I’d love to hear from you!

My State Library & Archives Going Even More Digital


Don’t you just love it when you visit a library and they are on the ball when it comes to using technology?  I visited the Tennessee State Library & Archives yesterday and was happy to learn that they now have a digital book scanner.  Scanning book pages to USB is a dream come true – ooh yeah!

Of course I had to write about it! Check out my post on the TNGenWeb blog for more details.  

Death Has a Preference for Birthdays

This is a morbid post, but I have to do it!  The other night while perusing my feed reader, I saw this article from the Annals of Epidemiology.  (yeah, I have scientific journals in my feed reader – how else is a gal supposed to keep up with the medical literature for work! :-))

Ajdacic-Gross V, et al., Death has a preference for birthdaysdan analysis of death time series, Annals of Epidemiology (2012), doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2012.04.016

I was ecstatic to see this because it presents research around something that I and my mother have talked about for years now.  As we look at the dates of death in our family trees, we seemed to have seen a pattern of people dying around their birthdays.  I was fascinated that a research group has set out to examine this on a large-scale basis. 

Here’s the overview of the research this team from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine in Zurich.  (you can look more closely at the article here)

Why did they do this research? Whether or not deaths occur more frequently around birthdays has been a controversial for 40 years. Some research on suicides has shown there is a relationship; some has shown there is not. Some research on cancer deaths has also had mixed results. The problem has been though that all of these studies have looked at small groups of people or had flaws in how the research was conducted.  This research team has access to a very large database of deaths, so wanted to study it and see if they observed a relationship. 

Who did they study? They used a Swiss database of computerized death records that spanned 1969-2008. Excluding infants less than 1  year of age and people who were born or died on February 29th, they had 2,380,997 deaths of all causes to examine.  Wow.

What did they find out?  When looking at all the deaths, they saw that there was a peak in the data set for deaths that occurred the same day as the person’s birthday.  The “peak” was statistically significant (e.g. higher than you would expect to occur on average).  Deaths from all cause occurred almost 14% more often on the person’s birthday than any other time of the year.  This was pretty much the case for both men and women. Taking suicides out of the equation and looking at only natural causes (because people make conscious decisions about when to commit suicide and may or may not purposefully do it around their birthday), the effect was still significant.  Deaths on the person’s birthday occurred 18.6% more often than other times of the year in cardiovascular disease, and in women with cerebrovascular disease 21.5% more often than any other time of the year.  In cancer, death occurred 10.8% more often on birthdays than any other time of the year.  Significant excesses of death on birthdays were also found for deaths from accidents (vehicular + falls) and endocrine diseases.

What does it mean? It means be careful around your birthday! Nah, seriously, it confirms what my mother and I have suspected for several years now.  Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve seen too many cases of death ON the birthday, but usually somewhere  AROUND the birthday.  Of course, all research has its limitations, so it will remain to be seen if others reproduce these findings.  For example, there are properties of the data set that may sway the results — when  the exact date of death is not known, it is not uncommon to put the 1st or 15th of the month.  If the the exact date of birth is not known, it is not uncommon to put the same date as the date of death.  In this study, the investigators were aware of these trends and did adjust for it. I find it fascinating nevertheless.  

To quote a line from Randy Quaid in Independence Day when the television is showing the alien invasions around the world:

Good God! I’ve been sayin’ it. I’ve been sayin’ it for ten **** years. Ain’t I been sayin’ it, Miguel? Yeah, I’ve been sayin’ it.

Minus the *expletive deleted,* that was precisely my reaction reading this study!  Case in point, my ancestor Rufus Tannahill McNair.  According to his headstone he was born June 11, 1823 and died June 11, 1910.  I was always a suspicious of those two dates; a little *too* convenient and I suspect it was a case as described above – they didn’t really know his birth date.  But, I do have plenty of other family members that did die around their birthdays. Hmm.. I should run a report in my database and see if I see any observable trends or if I’m just making it up.  

I’m in total MPH geekdom right now applying this epidemiological study to genealogy research. Kewl. :-)

 

A True Homecoming

As if my Memorial Day Weekend didn’t already get off to a good start, Day 2 was also incredible. 

Today the family and I spent time accompanied by 4 visitors from Spain.  One in particular, Carol, is on the search for her family here in Nashville.  

Carol is the daughter of an English woman and an African American man from Nashville.  While in the Army, Carol’s father, who I’ll call Mr. C, went overseas and had a relationship with Carol’s mom. Mr. C later returned to the states.  While he knew of Carol, as did his own mother, Mr. C.’s family contact with Carol was extremely limited and Carol never had the opportunity to know her father.  Mr. C. died in the 1970’s 

In February, I was contacted by Carol’s friend Barbara, who’d been working on Carol’s US family tree.  It so happened that Mr. C is from North Nashville, where I live, and grew up just a couple of blocks from Meharry.   Carol was planning to come to the states and wanted to see the area where her US family was from, so I agreed to help do some research before she arrived (e.g. pulling obits, cemetery photos, etc.) and then take her around when she visited.  Our visit was today. 

Herman Street is where Mr C. grew up

Since Mr. C.’s family had been in this community since the early 1900s, I wanted to give them a sense of the history of this area. I showed Carol and her friends the original Pearl High School, we walked some of the campus of Fisk University, drove through Meharry’s campus, went up and down Jefferson Street, and a few other things – all the while talking about what this area was like back “in the day.” After driving the neighborhood, we went back to Herman Street to see if it would be possible to find someone who may have known Carol’s family.  This is when the fun really began!

view down Herman Street

Our plan was to start knocking on doors and just asking if anyone knew of Mr. C’s family.  We did, but unfortunately, no one was home as most of the houses we checked.  Interestingly enough though, we did see a hub of activity further down the street.  This was probably why no one was home. 

Galilee Missionary Baptist Church

It was the Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, established in 1922. We were here at 12pm on a Sunday afternoon, so of course church services were in session! Being brave, we all decided to just go to the church and see if any of the members knew anything to help us.  When we arrived inside, services had pretty much just started so we attended the whole service.  

church in session

And, as soon as services were over, started asking some of the church elders. Lo and behold we were in the right place!

Several members of the church knew Mr. C and was able to share some details of the family with Carol.  Mr. C. had a brother named Mr. R.C. and we met R.C.’s stepdaughter-in-law and step-grandchildren.  They had all grown up right on this street and shared some of their memories of Mr. C’s family.  Then, amazingly enough,  the stepgrandson of Mr. R.C. went out to his car and got this picture for Carol. 

We don’t know who everyone is in this picture, but two of the girls are sisters of Mr. C – thus, are Carol’s aunts!  The picture was given to us by the grandchildren of the woman labelled as “sister-in-law.”  That family got the picture from the son of the woman labelled “family friend.”  Amazing! Carol noted some family resemblance, especially in her aunt that is standing. The guess was that this was a social club picture, but they were not sure.  

The dinner served at the church after services were over is primarily what allowed us to stay so long and meet and talk to Carol’s extended family members.  This weekend, just happened to be the church’s Homecoming weekend.  And, what a Homecoming indeed – for this is Carol’s family’s “home” church and she was able to be there today.

More time is needed to continue to look for additional family members, but the fact that we were able to experience this was incredible.  We will keep the research going, will try to stay in touch with the family Carol met today, and perhaps it will lead her to even more living family members.  Carol will be returning home back to Spain soon so may not have time to connect with them while here, but we hope this is only the beginning. 

It was a pleasure meeting Carol, her husband, and their friends and I’m glad we had this time together today!  

Taneya & Carol in middle, joined by Carol's husband (on the other side of me) and their friends

Meanwhile, if anyone happens across this post and is familiar with this neighborhood and church, please email me!

Finding Dwight Hillis Wilson: The Resolution

Almost a year ago to date, I shared a quest I embarked upon to find a picture of Dwight Hillis Wilson, a former archivist at Fisk University.  The Society of American Archivists was looking for a picture of him for a set of trading cards they were putting together in honor of the organization’s 75th anniversary.  A couple of weeks later, after I found and contacting his son, the SAA had their pictures! Dwight Jr. was kind enough to send them a few that he had.

A couple of weeks ago, I followed up and did find that the SAA did indeed publish the cards and they were kind enough to send me a complimentary set as an acknowledgement for my help.  The cards arrived this week.

The cards inside are very nicely done and right on top was Dwight’s.

On the back is a summary of his accomplishments.

What a great treasure for Mr. Wilson’s family to have these cards in his memory.  I am so honored to have been able to help.  And, most importantly, this process has sparked an interest in Mr. Wilson’s son and family to do more research on their family tree.  That makes me smile. :-)

 

 

 

Wiki Thoughts

Today while reading a blog post on the FamilySearch blog, a phrase they used with regard to their Research Wiki caught my eye — the blog post mentions that anyone using the wiki “need look no further” than their Research Wiki.  The Research Wiki, while a great resource, is far from needing to be the last place to look.

But, after reading the post, I did take another look at the site; for I do use it from time to time.   Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about use of Wikis in genealogy and how I’d love to see a site as comprehensive for genealogy as Wikipedia is for general use.  I think the Research Wiki has this kind of potential.

What I Like

  • interface – clean layout,  easy to navigate, easy to browse or search. given the importance of locality searching in genealogy, having an option to browse by country as they do on the front page is important.  also, on any subpage, there is a clear option in the top right corner to either browse by country or browse by topic. very handy indeed.  of course, the search box is always present.  Breadcrumbs are used throughout most of the site so you know where you are.  The icon at the top of the page needs to change though — it should go to the front page of the wiki, not the main FamilySearch page.  Branding the site as one of FamilySearch’s can be done differently.
  • editing – uses a “what you see is what you get” editor — much like using a word processing program.  This feature encourages broad participation since most users will be familiar with how to do edits if they’ve ever used a word processing program..
  • LDS records – the wiki is especially helpful in that they link to available LDS records and we know there is a lot of those! who else to do that better?
  • formatting – each county page, as an example, has a standard format; makes it easy to orient yourself when you move from county to county.  Topic pages are not standardized, but this would be harder to do given their variety.
  • social – each page has links to send a page to your Facebook or Twitter profile.  None of the other genealogy wikis have this feature.
  • registration – is easy. one-step process. see something you want to edit? register and you can start editing immediately.  and of course, anyone can edit.

The competition?

  • Ancestry Wiki – the newest broad-topic genealogy wiki. I like it’s interface too.  Registration capitalizes upon your Ancesty.com account so there is no need to learn a new password.   I like the overall interface of Ancestry Wiki, but without the use of breadcrumbs it is easy to get lost in the site; there is no constant navigation feature to keep you oriented.  Editing also is not truly WYSIWYG — you have to use Wiki syntax which means a steeper learning curve and is a barrier to participation that could be eliminated.  And, the logo on the site does not link back to the homepage – instead it takes you to Ancestry.com.  At this point, I don’t see it as viable yet for being “the Wikipedia” of genealogy.
  • Encyclopedia of Genealogy – this was started by Dick Eastman and is the oldest genealogy wiki of which I’m aware.   Eastman was forward-thinking to create the wiki and offer it as a way to capture the collective’s genealogy knowledge, but the site so far has less content than the Research Wiki and is not as comprehensive.   This is understandable though so I can’t complain too loudly :-)
  • National Archives Wiki – this is new as well, just announced a few weeks ago.  I applaud NARA’s efforts to incorporate more web 2.0 technologies and will keep my eye on this one.  The scope of the site is too narrow to be “the Wikipedia” of genealogy, but could grow to be a great resource.  I don’t find this wiki very easily navigated.   The link to browse by Record Group blends too easily on the right sidebar and should be made more prominent since most researchers will be familiar with the Record Group structure for NARA records.  The front page of the wiki also tries to squeeze in too much content in the space.   Their page editing is WYSIWG and that’s a positive! However, the registration process is cumbersome – it is not a one-step process like the Research Wiki and/or Wikipedia.  When I “create an account” b/c I’m ready to edit something,  I need to be able to edit right away – if I have to wait and come back I may not come back.

Overall, I’m excited by the potential the FamilySearch Research Wiki offers.  Given the long-standing history of LDS and their efforts to promote genealogy research, including their massive indexing project,  the Research Wiki has potential to become a great resource indeed.  The site has come a long way, but still needs work, so I’m going to do my small part this weekend and edit more pages so I can get an even more comprehensive understanding of its strengths and weaknesses.

Vacation Day 3 – Can’t Get Enough Yearbooks

After learning yesterday that the Nashville Metropolitan Archives had a strong yearbook collection, I decided to spend my afternoon there today.

I wrote to the email reference of the Archives last night and received a response that they had a print listing of the yearbooks they have available, so I requested this list upon my arrival.  They have a few hundred yearbooks from area schools & colleges.

I first wanted to look at any yearbooks they had for African-American schools.  Since their yearbook collection is established mostly via donations, they had only a few available.  I scanned the senior class listings from them so I can transcribe them for the Davidson County TNGenWeb site.  The ones I captured were  Pearl High School from 1955, 1965, 1975 and a school publication from 1942.

Then it was on to my obsession, Vanderbilt! They have many years of Vanderbilt yearbooks, so I captured the graduating classes of many years up to 1919; specifically – 1908, 1911, 1912, 1916, 1917, 1918 & 1919

All in all, a good few hours spent this afternoon!

Caption: As he feels on graduation. From the 1908 Vanderbilt University yearbook.

Vacation Day 2 – Nashville Public Library

The genealogy vacation extravaganza continues! Today I spent my time at the Nashville Public Library in their Nashville Room.  I came to realized I’d seriously underappreciated the resources in the Nashville Room for I learned today much more about their holdings.  As with yesterday, everything I gathered today will eventually go to the TNGenWeb & NCGenWeb projects to aid others doing family history research.

The reason I went to NPL was to capture digital images off of a couple of microfilm rolls I ordered years ago from the NC State Library & Archives.   In the past I’d paid to have two rolls scanned by a professional microfilm company, but I keep trying out different ways to do it myself.  Our public library has two microfilm machines hooked up to computers and this makes scanning quite easy to do.

I captured key information from:

  • Roanoke Beacon of Plymouth, NC from April – June of 1890.  This is a weekly paper.
  • Kinston Free Press of Kinston, NC from a couple of weeks in January 1910 and a couple of weeks in Aug/Sep 1910.  This is a daily paper.

One of my recreational blogs is Black Nashville History & Genealogy.  Most of the info for the site comes from the Nashville Globe, an African-American newspaper that ran in the early-mid 1900s.   Today, I captured:

  • Nashville Globe-Independent — death notices & obituaries from Jan – Jun 1960.

Then, I discovered that the public library has quite a number of yearbooks.  I’ve been in yearbook deluge lately so I had to continue and look at those.  I even had to take a picture.

yearbooks at the Nashville Public Library

Today I captured the senior class listings for:

  • Vanderbilt University – 1896, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905,
  • Ward Seminary for Young Women -  a girl’s high school.  I got the names of the 1902 seniors.
  • University of Tennessee – 1897, 1914, 1915 – these are all online already having been digitized by the University of Tennessee, but I took a few pictures anyway
  • Hume Fogg High School – 1919, 1921

I also learned that the Nashville Metro Archives has a large yearbook collection so I will need to plan a visit there one day to look at them.  Another very productive day! Unfortunately, tomorrow I need to run errands so no genealogy for me, but these past couple of days have been stellar.  I now need to start my genealogy project Works-In-Progress List so I can keep track of my status with each of these.

Ward Seminary For Young Women - 1902

Researching While On Vacation

Today was the start of my 2 week vacation and you know how I spent it? Like any true genealogist – in the library :-).  I visited the Tennessee State Library & Archives to gather information to share on the TNGenWeb & NCGenWeb sites in which I participate/ccordinate.  I also pulled a couple of obituaries for researchers who have contacted me during the past month.

I captured a lot of information today and this was the first time I really put my new handheld, portable scanner to use (see my blog post about it here) and it was great! I captured hundreds of images today between it and my camera.  I used it on books and even the microfilm reader to capture newspaper images.  I still need to learn to tweak the microfilm machine for best capture, but for my purposes, what I was able to obtain today will go a long way.

Here is an example of a capture I was able to get by using it on the microfilm machine screen.  It’s not perfect, but it is good enough for me to the abstract decedent, date of death, & cemetery info that I am planning to use.

Here is my list of what I gathered today:

  • Index pages to Blount  County Court Minutes 1795-1804, 1804-1807, and 1808-1811.   I plan to turn these pages into an online listing to assist county researchers for my Blount County TNGenWeb site.  These were compiled in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration.
  • Deaths in the Maryville Enterprise newspaper (Blount County, TN) from January – June 1961.  A Blount County researcher has done an amazing job indexing obituaries from 1867-1960 so I’d like to begin to expand upon what he’s done.   Using the handheld scanner makes this a more feasible project.   Photocopies using the microfilm readers are .25 each.  My method is free.
  • Index to Martin County Madison County Circuit Court Minutes 1821-1828 – for the Madison County TNGenWeb project.
  • Davidson County Wills & Inventories 1795-1804 pt. 1 – I scanned in half of this volume so that I can submit them to the Davidson County TNGenWeb project.  These too were compiled in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration.
  • Vanderbilt University Yearbooks  for 1909, 1910, 1913, 1914, & 1915.  I am currently indexing hundreds of North Carolina yearbooks so am interested in yearbooks these days.  I want to start indexing those from the Nashville area, so what better university to start with than my new alma mater (and place of employment for the past 10 years!).   I focused on capturing the senior class members only for now.   The next school I’d like to do is Fisk so that I can get some much needed African-American representation as well.   This too will be contributed to the Davidson County TNGenWeb project.

I’ve had a busy day don’t ya think?  :-)  This is going to be great material to keep me busy for awhile, but I am trying to get back tomorrow to gather more.

Vanderbilt 1910 Girls Basketball Team - Lamar Ryals (mascot), Eleanor Richardson, Mattie Stocks, Ada Raines (Captain), Rebecca Young, & Stella Katherine Vaughn

Library of Congress Visit

This weekend I traveled to Washington D.C. for a professional conference. My trip was short, but I did get to spend most of the day Friday at the Library of Congress (LOC). I’ve been to LOC before as a visitor/tourist, so I didn’t feel compelled to take many pictures. I’d not been as a user of their collection however.

I’d not prepared for the trip, other than spending a few minutes reading the website, so, I did not have clear cut goals. Because of this, I decided to focus more on seeing what I could find of value for the NCGenWeb project rather than my own personal research.

Upon getting to the library, I went first to get my Reader Identification Card. Good for two years, the card is used to gain entry into the numerous reading rooms and request books from the closed library stacks.

The process for obtaining the card was straightfoward and easy so I was done in less than half an hour. After getting the card I then took the underground tunnel from the Madison Building over to the Jefferson Building to go to the Local History & Genealogy Room.

This is the view from my position in the research room looking towards the front.  The reference desk is hidden behind the atlas. You see those TV screens? They have cameras so they can see what’s going on in all parts of the room.  There is free wireless access which I loved having available!

My first order of business was to request books from the closed stacks.  I knew that this would take approximately 50 minutes for them to be retrieved so I jumped online, identified some books of interest, and then made the request using the paper slips they make available in the room. There is no limit to the number of books you can request to have pulled at one time.

After filling out many of these slips, when I handed them in, I asked the staff person if there were any plans to allow requests to be submitted electronically.  At that time, he gave me instructions on how to do just that! I only wished the staff person who gave me the room orientation had told me this beforehand.

The room has 7,000+ items present so I was able to extract information from some of the North Carolina holdings while I waited for my books to be delivered.   I then spent the next few hours going through the books, taking digital pictures of pages of interest.  I took over 300 pictures with my cell phone of information that I plan to use throughout various NCGenWeb sites for other researchers.   Sweet.  Maybe next time, I can look for particular sources that may help my own individual research.

Following the Local History & Genealogy Room, I then went to the Newspapers & Current Periodicals Room.  My visit here was not as nearly productive.   First of all, the staff person didn’t seem to quite understand my vague request for a newspaper reel from the 1880s that included various NC newspapers.  I guess they are used to people seeking specific titles, but I tried to explain that from the library catalog record I knew that the reel contained multiple newspapers and I just wanted the reel.  He kept insisting that I put a specific title on the request form, but the reel contained about 20 different titles.  Eventually I jotted down one of the titles on the reel and sure enough when the reel was delivered the title was not on there but instead it read “Misc. NC newspapers”.  Yeah.

Now, I was looking forward to using their digital machines.  It is advertised on their homepage that you can bring your USB drive and download images to the microfilm reader.   In addition to all the standard types of microform readers, they have 4 ST-200 machines.

While I was initially excited, my excitement quickly waned.  I do not like this machine.  :-(

It seemed that there was not an easy way to view a readable image of an entire newspaper page nor capture a high-resolution image of an entire page.  Without being able to see the whole page at a sufficient zoom level, it was difficult to know what was on each page.   I was able to zoom in on the page, but then I’d spend a lot of time moving the plate around in order to see different parts of each page.  Cumbersome is not even the word.

I then tried the digital capture and tried to download it to my external harddrive.  Turns out, when they say download to your USB drive, they mean USB drive – it wasn’t compatible with my external harddrive.  Oh well. Not a biggie.  I used a workaround and snapped some more pictures with my phone’s camera.  I guess I could have asked for help, but I was trying to figure it out on my own.

Overall though, if I’d had more time, I’d definitely have requested more rolls of film and relied on the traditional microfilm machines.  I did spend the afternoon regretting that I’d not been interested in genealogy when I lived in DC! I lived there for a year in 1999-2000 and if I’d only have been interested I could have been spending a LOT of time at the Library of Congress.

And you know what else? I found out that the cemetery I lived next to when I did live in DC was the cemetery where F. Scott Fitzgerald was originally buried.  I remember passing that cemetery often too!

All in all, I had a great day though and am very glad I had the opportunity to go visit LOC and see friends.   For more tips on visiting LOC, check out Missy’s blog post.