Guest Blogger on Worldcat.org!

Guess what? I’m featured as a guest blogger on the Worldcat.org blog!  While I have not yet participated in the 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy series yet this year, I was particularly interested in the goal of Week 5 – to explore Worldcat.org.  As a librarian, I’ve been familiar with Worldcat for many years and since the Worldcat.org site launched have been an avid user.   Just as Week 5 was coming to an end I emailed WorldCat to let them know that many genealogists were exploring the site and posting their experiences with it and that they may be interested in this user perspective.

Then, one the marketing directors, Alice,  emailed me back saying that she had indeed been aware of the series and even invited me to guest blog about it!  So, my post went live today.

On top of this, I also inquired about WorldCat’s possibility of more extensively linking to books that are available full-text online (for example, through Google Books or the Internet Archive).   As a user of WorldCat, I’ve recently seen a potential value as I’ve been closely monitoring books uploaded to  Internet Archive.  Alice reminded me that they do indeed already have an integration with Google Books and are exploring how to do this with the Internet Archive.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could also know of full-text of books from the WorldCat item record?  I’ve been very pleased with how responsive WorldCat has been to suggestions & feedback.  I think I’ll have to consider this as my post for Week 5 now, even though it’s about two weeks late :-)

New Updates Icons

Taking a tip from a blog I follow for professional purposes, I’ve added a new series of icons to the right sidebar of my blog.  If you read this through a feed reader,  here is an image of it just for you.

Through the icons you can follow my RSS feed, get email updates, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Google Buzz, or find me on Facebook.  Isn’t this cool? :-)  I’ve been wanting to do something like this for awhile now, so finding this setup was perfect.   Now I just need to add this on all my other blogs!

Tombstone Tuesday: Balthazaar “Balthus” Faith

This Tombstone Tuesday post is not for someone in my family, but rather that of a co-worker.  The furthest back I’ve traced her Faith lineage is to the mother of this ancestor, Balthazaar “Balthus” Faith.

This image of his tombstone is courtesy of an upload from a FindAGrave volunteer at his gravesite in the Calvary Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.   Balthazaar was born in April 11, 1811 in Germany, emigrating to this country from Berne, Bavaria.   His father died in Germany, but his mother, Mary, came over to this county with him and they settled in Maryland.  While in Maryland, Balthus married Emily Gordon and together they would have at least 5 children (that I know of).  My coworker is descended from their son Joseph Faith.    The family moved to Springfield in 1867.

Black Book

Even though it’s many weeks later, I wanted to share what Kalonji got for me as one of my Christmas presents in December, for I think it is a beautiful thing indeed.  It is Toni Morrison’s The Black Book. It was first published in 1974, in 2009 they published a 35th anniversary ediiton. You can read more about the book at Amazon, but I know I am going to learn each time I pick it up to browse its pages. I would only have asked one thing of the publishers – an index please?  Though, I am pleased that it is searcheable in Google Books.

This excerpt from Bill Cosby’s original introduction describes it aptly.

Suppose a three-hundred-year-old black man had decided, oh say, when he was about ten, to keep a scrapbook – a record of what it was like for himself and his people in these United States. He would newspaper articles that interested him , old family photos, trading cards, advertisements, letters, handbills, dreambooks, and posters – all sorts of stuff.

He would remember things too, and put those in: stories he’d heard, rumors, dates. He’d remember the first March on Washington, how John Quincy Adams defended Joseph Cinque, the black slaveship rebel — and won; the Jewish Hospital that opened its doors to the wounded during the Civil War Draft Riots.

He would know about black goldminers, and pirates and factory owners and inventors. And, he would keep records of blacks who owned slaves, lyrics of songs he’d sung, voodoo recipes he’d tried — all of that he would put in his book.

And he would end up with a folk journey of Black America a book just like this one – beautiful, haunting, curious, informative, and human. — Bill Cosby, September 1973

Faces of America: Episode 1

Last night I eagerly watched the first episode in the new PBS Series, Faces of America, facilitated by Henry Louis Gates.   There’s been a lot of buzz in the genealogy community in anticipation of the show.  It comes at the heels of Gates’ popular African-American Lives & African-American Lives 2 series. After the show, I then participated in a fun post-show chat hosted over at Geneabloggers to talk about our perceptions and thoughts.

Thomas has put together a RSS feed to see the geneablogsphere reactions to the show that are all interesting to read.   Here are my thoughts:

  • Many have commented on the desire to have seen more of the research process explained in the show.  I understand the show producers may have wanted to focus more on the emotional connections for the show, but in the books that have been written to compliment the African American Lives series and the Finding Oprah’s Roots show, there is more detail and emphasis on the research process.  I have both books, In Search of Our Roots & Finding Oprah’s Roots and even learned a few tips and strategies while reading them.   The benefit of the show is that in can increase the awareness among the general population and I am hopeful that those that are more serious will take the time to read the books by either looking for them at their local public library or by purchasing outright.  I would like to see a companion book published for Faces of America as well.
  • I’m a big proponent of the social web.  I’ve posted before on this topic, but I’ll say it again – I do think there is a missed opportunity from the show producers to leverage the interest and use it for greater genealogical good. With African-American Lives 2, they did establish an online forum for users to share their personal stories and used tagging to help structure the stories that were being shared. But, can you imagine the database that could be built if they also asked people to fill in 3 or 4 generation ancestor charts?  They could have an online “facilitator” to help answer people’s questions and guide them to well-established resources, or host their own chat sessions for interested parties.  With 4 episodes to air, this could have been a several weeks long endeavor and really capitalize on the generated interest (the website pretty much crashed last night; there was interest!). Many of the stories presented on the older show sites have details, but much of it is unstructured. As a knowledge management and information professional I highly encourage structure.
  • After watching the show last night, I began to think about the upcoming Who Do You Think You Are series.  I’ve never seen the UK show, so off to YouTube I went in search of episodes.  I watched two last night – that of actor David Suchet and also that of Zoe Wannamaker.  They were excellent!  It was cool to see David Suchet b/c he’s known for playing the Agatha Christie character Hercule Poirot. I’ve not seen the British shows with him, but I have read many a Hercule Poirot mystery. I think I have found a new television series to watch and I posted part 1 of his episode as my Featured Video in the sidebar on the right. I am eager to see the NBC show even more now after watching these episodes.
  • Did you promote the show among your friends and family? I certainly did! I have some coworkers who I dabble in their family trees every now and then and so I told them all and sent them each a little extra piece of family history  — one of them is a descendant of long lineage associated with eastern tennessee whom I recently found a book in the Internet Archive with information about the emigrating ancestor that was written in the 1920s; another has ties to Hawaii and I shared with her a new website/blog focusing on Hawaiian genealogy that could be a useful resource moving forward; and the third I was able to send pictures of her ancestors headstones that were just added to FindAGrave within the past two months. Just a little bit to keep the motivation going :-)

So, I’m excited at the prospects and do still look forward to the additional episodes.  It had its strenghts and weaknesses, but overall I am glad for this opportunity to promote the need for us all to more closely study and understand our family histories.   If you missed it, you can watch in online.

He Was the 7th Son

Today is my grandfather’s birthday – Herman Robinson.  He died in 1986, but had he lived he would have been 84 years old today – born February 5, 1926 to Lewis “Christopher Columbus” Robinson & Lucinda Lennon in New York, New York.

Taken in 1975 at my parents' wedding.

Herman was the 7th son of his parents; no children born in between them and his two sisters were the 1st and 8th children.   In many cultures, there is a special significance tied to the 7th son; the number 7 in general has a long history of having mystical and religious signficance.   I wonder what he would have to say about that?

Herman was a very practical man. One of the most interesting stories my mother has told me about him is that he and his father-in-law never met.  Abraham (his father-in-law), being from the South, never had any interest in going up north to New York.  Herman on the other hand, having grown up in New York, certainly never had an interest in coming down south either given the ongoing racial tensions.  My parents moved from New York in 1978 and Herman finally came down south – once – for a visit that lasted about 36 hours.  In fact, we were living in the house I recently posted about when he visited.

Happy Birthday Herman!  Now, it is also my stepmother’s birthday! For privacy reasons,  I won’t give you details, but I wanted to at least wish her a very happy birthday indeed. :-)  She’ll have to watch out though, she may be online soon enough. Her alma mater, UNC_Greensboro’s yearbooks are currently being put online by the University of North Carolina – her year looks like it will be added within the next few weeks at the rate their going!

UNC Yearbooks Available Online 1894-1960

As a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I feel urged to share this news as widely as possible – the UNC Libraries are adding old issues of the school yearbook, the Yackety Yack (formerly the Hellenian), online to the Internet Archive.   I find some irony in the fact that I graduated from there, seeing as how the Kemp P. Battle, former University president from 1876-1891 was my ancestors’ slaveowner, but oh well.  (Kalonji tells me I should seek retribution :-)).

For anyone with persons of interest who went there during this time span it is definitely worth checking out! Read more on the NCGenWeb Blog.

New Year, New Blog Design

We are just about one month into 2010 and with the new year comes a new design for my blog.  If you read my posts through a feed reader, be sure to stop by for a visit and see the new look.  My previous design had an Asian theme, but I went for a more “clean” design for this year.  I plan to update my design each year, so who knows what will happen next year.

With this new design, I have more space, so here is what you’ll find on my sidebars now

  • my cartoon avatar — looks very much like me if I can say so myself!
  • connect w/ me – find me @ Ancestry, Footnote, Twitter, my “normal” family site & my genealogy database
  • RSS feed of ALL my blog posts — I have multiple blogs, so created a feed to show my posts from across them all
  • My USGenWeb site – I administer 6 sites in the USGenWeb project.  Maybe  you have research in these areas?
  • Genealogy Tweets – see real-time view of genealogy tweets on Twitter
  • Featured Video – i’ll try to regularly rotate a genealogy-related video

There is some quirkiness going on; for example, some of my embedded videos and pics are wider than the space allocated for blog posts, but I’ll fix that later.

Hope you like the new look.  And remember, my blog is mobile phone compatible, so don’t be shy to visit me on your smartphone. :-)

Finding My Way Back to the Cemetery

After talking to my mother for this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post, we began to talk about other things from the past and I asked her a question about one of the houses we used to live in when I was a child.  I remembered this house particularly because it was next to a cemetery.

The house was in Greensboro, North Carolina and with the help of Google Maps, we were able to locate it after *walking* up and down the street w/ the little orange man on Street View.  This is a picture of 1901 Armhurst Rd, Greensboro, NC where we lived at in 1981/1982.

After seeing the house online, I went back to a photo album of old pictures and found several pictures we’d taken in the yard.  My scanner is not working correctly right now, so the pictures will have to wait another day, but I was glad we found the house!

The next step was figuring out the cemetery.  We switched our view of the area from Street View to Satellite View and was able to see the land behind the house.  At first, we weren’t sure that it was still a cemetery, but then I noticed little white specks that looked like they could be headstones.

Wonderful! We’d confirmed it. Now, my mother remembered that at one end the cemetery dumped out onto the major road leading to our neighborhood, so back to Street View we went, dragging our little man over to the right spot.  At this level, it was much easier to see that it was indeed a cemetery.

Now, how would we find out the name? Google to the rescue! Literally 2 minutes later, my mom found a newspaper article about the cemetery after searching Google by entering the search string “cemetery phillips avenue greensboro”.  That led us to this article from October 9, 1907 about the disrepair the cemetery had fallen into over the years and it provided the name, Proximity Cemetery.   It started in 1895 as a burial ground for employees of nearby Cone Mills and about 2000 people are buried there; many though without identification.  It really was quite sad to read about how it had fared.  A little ironic that I started searching for it because of our proximity to it!

Now that I had a name, I went to the USGenWeb site for Guilford County, NC  site to see if it was listed there and it is, along with a link to it’s FindAGrave listing. On FindAGrave, I clicked on the first person that had a tombstone icon next to their name and wouldn’t you know that I knew the person who’d submitted it! His name is David and he’d uploaded a picture for me of Andrew Dennis McBride, father of author James McBride.  I’ve been working on James’ genealogy for a couple of years now and recenlty blogged about the death of his mother, the subject of his best-selling book, The Color of Water.  It was actually uncanny because I’d planned to email David earlier today to let him know of her passing.

It was nice to take this trip back in time to find and learn more about this cemetery.  I wish to find out more about the people who are buried there, so I have more research to do.  I feel like they are a part of my childhood too in some ways for of all the things I could remember about living in that house, the cemetery stands our first and foremost.  And I was 5 years old.