Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quilting For The Underground Railroad

Here is an interesting idea that is worth repeating and exploring. African-American quilters in the 1800s were actually creating and passing on a coded map of the paths to freedom for slaves escaping the South.

This is a hotly debated theory. A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer took up the issue. One point in the article is worth noting: these coded maps were handed down through families. Don't we all have some type of coded language that is familiar only to the family? I know in my family, we can all understand some hand signals from the railroad simply because Dad worked for the Union Pacific Railroad, and he taught us some of the hand signals.

Here is the article from the newspaper. You can decide for yourselves. Personally, I think this is a theory that holds some value.

Regardless of what you think, it is an idea worth considering.

I need to thank the NEHGS e-zine newsletter for bringing this article to my attention.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Marriage: An Interesting Consideration

Just the other night I was reading a general history book when an interesting idea was presented. It occurred to me the ramifications of this idea might have a huge impact on Genealogists and (especially) Family Historians. Consider this historical detail: companionate marriage, or marriage for love and companionship, was not the norm until late in the 1920s or early 1930s.

If you think about that, that is an interesting concept. Before the 1920s most marriages were the result of political alliances, business or family arrangements; or some other more pragmatic reason than love. Maybe the recent Valentine’s Day celebration is having an effect on my brain, but just two generations back our Grandparents and Great-Grandparents were entering into the “bonds of matrimony” for very logical and practical reasons! Investigating the reasons for marriage can put a whole new spin on interpreting family history.

As I think about my own grandparents, I know that Grandpa lived on an isolated ranch in Nebraska. The area was so desolate that the family built their own schoolhouse and hired a teacher. Grandma was one of those teachers. Consider the “why” of marriage. Maybe Grandpa married Grandma because she was the only, non-related woman living in the county! Maybe Grandpa was the only eligible bachelor in the area!

Is it possible that they both settled for marriage? They were expected to get married sometime, to someone, and they found the nearest available prospect.

None of this is intended to besmirch the relationship of my Grandparents. I have no doubt they loved each other. But, if love is taken out of the equation of marriage; the question of “why” does one enter into a marriage becomes an interesting and important consideration in writing our family history.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Genealogy goes Prime Time!

Just as a reminder, two new programs are airing on television with central themes of Genealogy and Family History.

"Faces of America with Henry Lewis Gates, Jr." started airing on PBS last night. I haven't yet seen it, but this series is supposed to be excellent, entertaining, and informative.

Even more exciting, because a major network is scheduling this, "Who Do You Think You Are?" is scheduled to begin airing on March 5 on NBC. The previews of this show suggest an exciting and interesting program.

Be sure to check these out.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Alternative Newspapers May Be A Valuable Resource

With the beginning of Black History Month it has occurred to me that some underutilized resources for research maybe the many African American newspapers published in the past century. There are a multitude of newspapers that have devoted their attention to the African-American community. In Atlanta, Georgia, the resources published by the African-American press in the past century provide a tremendous opportunity to obtain new perspective and new ideas about the local history. The best known of the African American newspapers published in Atlanta in the 1900s were The Atlanta Daily World and The Atlanta Tribune and The Atlanta Voice. Yet, as early as 1904, The Atlanta Independent and The Voice of the Negro were both publishing information exclusive to the African-American communities throughout Georgia and the South.

These newspapers have the potential of adding new perspective on major events. We could ask and answer a number of interesting questions that might put a new interpretation on local and national history. How did these journals report on World War One of World War Two? What were the opinions of these newspapers and their editors? What impact did the Great Depression have on the African-American communities of Georgia? What was their position on Viet Nam?

African-American newspapers may provide a unique perspective on family and local history. We need to think about this and remember these papers as we explore our family history.

Collage and Scrap Booking: Are They The Same?

Here is a recent article published in the New York Times. After reading it, I am wondering if scrap booking is the same as creating a collage? Scrap booking is simply a more personalized art form.

Read more if you like:

I am just wondering.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When Are Private Papers Not Private Papers?

The answer is: when you are the "private secretary" of the President of the United States. Here is an interesting article about the latest dispute over papers from the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt.

Interesting information.