Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Cautionary Tale For All Historians

There is an interesting blog posted for oral historians that may be of interest to a variety of family historians and genealogists, as well.

The blog writes of presenting information in false light that could lead to lawsuits and judgements against writers, genealogists, and Family Historians. Be sure to avoid implications of spectacular tales as you write. Although scandal within the family may be interesting, it can also be harmful so we need to use caution as we write our family histories.

And special thanks to the Oral History list-serv for bringing this blog to my attention.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Marriage in the Post-Civil War South

A new and interesting idea has been presented to me in a recent issue of The Journal of Southern History. And, before I start, I need to acknowledge the folks that drew my attention to this article, but I don’t remember who mentioned it to me. So, to the folks who were promoting the February 2010 issue of The Journal of Southern History, thanks.

Now, the neat stuff: an article by J. David Hacker, Libra Hilde, and James Holland Jones, suggests that we need to examine, more closely the marriage patterns of the post-Civil War South. The article is titled: “The Effect of the Civil War on Southern Marriage Patterns.” It presents an interesting proposition. Think about this for a second: somewhere in the neighborhood of 650,000 people were killed in this war (the article says 620,000, pg 39, but I prefer my number). A majority of these deaths were young men between the ages of 15 and 45, in other words marrying age. A significantly large portion of these men were Southerners. The article says twenty percent of white males in the South of marrying age died in the war (pg 39-40). The article goes on to question whether or not this huge number of young dead affected the marriage patterns of the South. Their conclusion is a definite maybe.

From a Genealogy point of view, the bigger question for Southern families is: if my Great-Grandmother married after the Civil War, what were her motives? Did she marry for romantic love, or were there other reasons? Did she marry in the same socio-economic class as herself? Did she marry “beneath her class?” Was the fear of spinsterhood so great that she married an older man? Or, did she marry much younger for the same reason? And we can ask these same or similar questions about our Great-Grandfathers. Did they marry for beauty or money? Or, did they marry for both? Did the shortage of men in the community make Granddad a really “good catch?”

These questions are not meant to disparage any post-Civil War relationship. But, as I have said before, “romantic love” was not generally a consideration in marriage until the 1900s. In the 1800s marriage was a carefully considered negotiation and contract between two parties. And so, the motives from this contract are important considerations. Further, it might give us valuable insight into the lives and characters of our ancestors.

This is all very interesting and worth consideration.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A New Way to Find Graves in Cemeteries is an on-line resource that generates cemetery maps, listing names and other information from the tombstone. In addition, it will tell you who is buried near your ancestors. Read more at the Salt Lake Tribune:

Very cool stuff

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Too Much Information: Not Possible!

We are just finishing closing up my father-in-laws estate. He didn’t have much of value, but his memories and memorials are priceless. He saved the important stuff. He stashed away the news clippings about his children; the photos and slides of family vacations and family reunions; and the records about family births and deaths. The challenge now is going through the material and identifying all of the characters and individuals involved in this man’s life. As the person with experience in Family History and Genealogy, the job becomes mine: to save these records and identify everyone mentioned in them.

The good news is that Mark was an engineer, so he kept some very precise records. Many of his slide collections are labeled. I can identify the summer vacation in Valley Forge and Aunt Jen’s new car. But, who is the young kid playing football with Les and Todd? Is he some unimportant neighbor? Is he a visiting cousin? I need to know, but no one can really tell me. And here lies the difficulty. The secondary players in these scenes are unidentified. Unfortunately, they may never be identified, because we just don’t know.

This essay is evolving into a rant about there never being adequate records to tell a complete story. And, I think this is every historian’s complaint. So, as you create those records and documents those photographs and memories of life, keep in mind that there is no such thing as too much information. Even the most minute details help tell the story. So keep writing those memories and expanding those records. Include everyone in your life history.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Genealogical Tourism Gains in Demand

Genealogical Tourism, the vacation designed to explore and find new details about our ancestors and their lives, has become one of the fastest growing markets of vacation travel. This information is coming from a recent study by Professor Carla Santos and graduate student Grace Yan published in the Journal of Travel Research. Santos explained this growth is happening because “genealogical tourism provides an irreplaceable dimension of material reality.” In other words, nothing can quite replace the emotional euphoria we feel when we visit our Great-Grandfather’s original homestead, or when we step off of the train in the same depot as our grandmother as she migrated from Boston to Nebraska.

Santos and Yan go on to explain that the sense of authenticity provides us with a feeling not felt in most vacations. Visiting a variety of tourist attractions gives us a feeling of false fabrication. In my early career we had the term “farby” to describe this misleading, and clearly fabricated sense of entertainment over authenticity.

In addition, Santos and Yan suggest that transportation that has given recent generations the ability to move across country has diminished our sense of “home.” We are apparently “longing for an authentic connection” to our roots.

The article is an interesting bit of information if you can get beyond the excessive vocabulary of the authors. In spite of the overly expansive wording of the authors, this article points to an exciting, expanding interest in Genealogy and Family History research; an increase that is very encouraging.

And thanks go out to Dick Eastman and the Eastman On-line Newsletter for bringing this article to my attention.