24 September 2006

A Vacation That's Off the (Pedigree) Chart

We are off on a strange adventure. For the first time in a bazillion years we are taking a trip to a place where we have neither descendants nor ancestors. I have no idea what to do there.

All our vacations are to either visit kids or explore ancestral homelands. These extremeties of the family tree have taken us to such exotic locales as Queens, New York; Bluffton, Ohio; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Cambridge, England; and Seoul, Korea.

But on this vacation there's not even a slightly-out-of-the-way place to go when that overwhelming urge to do some genealogy strikes. Like last summer's "Here we are in Yellowstone, we might as well swing by Ft. Morgan, Colorado to see where your great-grandfather got hit by the train." Or like a few years ago with my sister in Southern France: "Let's just zip across Northern Italy to see if we can find the coal hut in Austria where Mom's grandpa was born."

Not this trip. We'll be stuck on an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean. No ancestors. No kids. Just the two of us with nothing to do but sit in a hammock all day and sip Mai Tais.

See you when we get home in a week when I'll at least have broadband again. Meanwhile, Randy Seaver blogs about the kind of trip we usually take and suggests there will soon be more at Jasia's Creative Gene via Blog Carnival.

20 September 2006

Last Word on Annie Moore

Megan Smolenyak is probably exhausted from her whirlwind celebrity tour of New York, so while we wait to see more of what she and Brian have on Annie, I've updated my web site with what I came up with in my own research.

I have posted records that ID her brother Philip and her parents Matthew and Julia. I've also put up some records for Annie Schayer that I found after Megan identified her on Friday.

Now that Annie has been found, I can focus on important things. Like the latest celebrities to lie about their age or be confused about their ancestry. Easy pickin's compared to lost girls from the Lower East Side.

07 September 2006

Ellis Island on Ancestry.com

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Walter Mossberg evaluated the upgraded tools at Ancestry.com for building a family tree. I found it interesting that, according to Walt:
The company says the Ellis Island data are coming within months.
A while back, Ellis Island disallowed downloading of manifests. Will Ancestry be making them available for downloading or storing? That would be much better than the tacked-together-screenshot method I am currently using.

Walt's columns on technology are always open about the pros and cons of a product and clearly detailed. He writes about the tools he reviews as if he were a novice. Indeed - he was impressed by the "Family Facts" that appeared while he was searching on Ancestry. He summed up his experience thusly:

Ancestry.com is a rich site that uses a sensible layout and encourages

Check out the tree-building tools yourself at Ancestry Ancestry.com

04 September 2006

Mod Jobs

Looking back at the 1880 census, Family History Circle (via Genealogue) lists the most popular jobs of the time, including many quaint occupations -- such as saloon keeper, corset maker, and blacksmith -- that harken back to olden days and remind us how far we've come.

But 1880 was a year just brimming with opportunity and invention and the people then were as eager as people are today to adopt the latest technology.

  • The telephone had been invented just a couple years earlier but already over 1700 telephone workers were on the job. A good number of them were operators, mostly male, and a dozen telephone repairers had found their calling.
  • The phonograph, slower to catch on than the phone though invented around the same time, was supported in 1880 by 83 "phonographers."
  • Thomas Edison had patented the incandescent light just a few months before the census was taken when there were 49 men working with electric light. A thousand electricians were already on the job.
  • The development of the dry-plate process in 1878 revolutionized photography and opened the doors for over 9000 photographers by 1880.
  • The first typewriter was introduced commercially in 1873. By 1880 there were over a hundred "typists" or "type writers" using the machines. Many of the 900 stenographers were probably also using the device.

You can see a glimmer of today's coolest pastimes in the 1880 census: There were over 50 baseball players, six genealogists, a handful of balloonists -- including one woman -- and, as a possible forerunner of new-age color therapy, one "pyschromatic healer."

In a few years, the people of the 1880 census became eager adopters of motion pictures, automobiles, aeroplanes, and pop-up toasters. No wonder: in 1880 there were 782 inventors working in America.

You can search the 1880 census by occupation at Ancestry Ancestry.com

02 September 2006

Days of Wine and Ruses

William Ingraham Koch, yachtsman and art collector, bought some wine a few years ago that was purported to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson. Turns out it probably wasn't.

Koch spent more on finding out that the story was bogus than he did on the wine itself but there's more millions where that came from and, not to worry, Koch can still go on with his collecting. Some of Koch's collection was on exhibit last year at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which said:

At the core of the collection is Koch’s ancestor, Captain James Lawrence, a naval hero of the War of 1812. Captain Lawrence’s bravado expressed in his dying words “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” later became the motto of the United States Navy. The Koch collection of marines includes several paintings devoted to Lawrence.

Maybe the person who sold Koch the wine is the same person who sold him the story about James Lawrence being his ancestor. James Lawrence was survived by one daughter, Mary, who was born about 1811. She married Lt. William Griffin in 1838.

Tracing Koch's ancestry back to the early 1800s lookng for Griffins or Lawrences turned up Koch's great-great-grandmother Marie, who was born in 1812 to Isaac Lawrence, and who married William Ingraham Kip.

Turns out Isaac Lawrence and Captain James Lawrence both had ancestors who came to Long Island from Hertfordshire, England in the 1630s. I would not be surprised if the two Lawrence guys from Hertforshire are related. But even if they were brothers, that would make William Koch something like 10th cousin, 4 times removed to Captain Lawrence. Hardly an ancestor.

I am more closely related to Madonna than Koch is related to Captain Lawrence and there is not a single portrait of her in my collection.

Nor any bogus wine.