About Me

My photo
Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Where, oh where, has that little blog gone?

I know, I know . . . I have been lax in posting on the blog. Let me explain briefly: On Wednesday I got a phone call to serve as an expert genealogy witness (after all, I am a Board Certified genealogist, and one of very in the Southern Calif. area) in an upcoming trial. As you can well imagine, I have been up to my neck in materials to prepare for this unique experience; so much so that I have not even been able to sing a song or two! (OK, I did sing one on Monday night.) But this should all be behind me in a few days and I hope to get back into the swing of things. I promise that I will continue the NARA Postmaster lists in the weeks ahead, as well as enter some music experiences. Meanwhile, wish me luck (and, yes, I'll tell more about it once this episode of my life is behind me).

And while you're waiting, I have 2 articles that have been published in the latest Family Chronicle: One on doing genealogy with the aid of RV travel and the other on The Engineers of the Civil War. Check them out if you get a chance.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Singalong with Circlemending - Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday. Its religious significance in the Christian community is sacred and special. I remember, as a child, recreating the Bible story of the events of the day. Of course, I grew up in Illinois and had never seen a palm tree nor understood the types of leaves (fronds) that came from them (other than what I saw in pictures). When I first visited California and saw the tall, tall trees with the umbrella-type leaves that gave little shade since they were so far off the ground, I almost thought they were fake - how could such a plant grow like that?! Today I live in Southern California and think nothing of the towering trees all around me and laugh when visitors express awe when they see them for the first time.

So as spring coaxes leaves back to the trees in the yards of those in the eastern US, what about songs dealing with trees? There are so many (until you try to think of one). One of my favorites is a very sad one, dealing with the tragic disease, Alzheimer's. It was written by Susan Graham White and Tom Paxton and is a song that will likely bring sad memories of someone most of us knew at some time (I think of my grand aunt, Mary Eva - Aunt Mamie - Hollander) who lost all recollection of who her sisters and other family members were. She had been a lover of nature and I would suspect that the lyrics of this song would describe her circumstances perfectly.

The song deals with a man who is suffering from the disease, but has not yet disappeared completely into the mists of the affliction:
"There are days when he'll recall the forest in the fall,
When we can walk for hours together, and he's fine
There are precious days like that when he can name them all;
The ash, the elm, the beech, the oak, the pine.
He's forgotten the names of trees . . ."

Do you have a favorite tree song? Share it - the lyrics, the title, a link to an MP3 or YouTube video. Maybe if we sing enough tree songs today we can help sing away the snows that are still visiting my friends in Minnesota and other northern areas.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

NARA microfilms: Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-September 30, 1971

In the past we've examined microfilm documents from the Letters of Application and Recommendation for the different Presidential Administrations. My daughter, the Postmaster for the Heber-Overgaard Post Office in Arizona, commented that she wondered what information NARA microfilms had about her. So I decided to check - at least in general.

I hit pay-dirt, with the help of Kerry Bartels of the Pacific Region of the National Archives in Riverside County, California, that is. Here is the title of the next microfilm collection I will be examining:
"Record of Apppointment of Postmasters, 1832-September 30, 1971." There are 145 rolls of film and the Record Group (RG) number is 28. The publication is number M841 with a publication date of 1977.

These films are available for viewing in the following regional Archives:
Pacific Alaska Region (Anchorage)
Pacific Region (Riverside County, CA)
Pacific Region (San Bruno, CA)
Rocky Mountain Region (Denver, CO)
Southeast Region (Atlanta, GA)
Great Lakes Region (Chicago, IL)
Northeast Region (Pittsfield, MA)
Northeast Region (Boston, MA)
Kansas City
Northeast Region (New York City, NY)
Mid-Atlantic Region (Philadelphia, PA)
Southwest Region (Fort Worth, TX)
Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle, WA)
and, of course, 
National Archives I (Washington, DC)

Before heading to the local NARA facility (listed above) to view these, remember to check the "Finding Aid" (the PDF Information Document) that is linked on the descriptive page from the catalog (follow earlier instructions on how to access the microfilm catalog, then enter "M841" in the Search box; click on the link for the publication that appears in the results). This publication information tells us that the collection here is just a part of Records of the Post Office Department, RG 28 (yup, there's even more):
"This record was prepared in the office of the Junior Assistant to the Postmaster General from 1832 to January 2, 1835; Second Assistant Postmaster General from July 2, 1836, to 1851; First Assistant Postmaster General from 1851 to 1950; and the Bureau of Post Office Operations from 1950 to September 30, 1971" (Publication Number: M-841, Washington, DC: NARA, 1977, page 1).

There are a number of factors that make this collection potentially useful to genealogists:

1)  If your ancestor served as a Postmaster (or was rumored to have been such) his/her service dates and location(s) of service can easily be tracked.

2)  Because Post Offices were not static, sometimes facilities closed down, were subsumed by others, or had their territory expanded. These changes are noted on the filmed documents and may help with tracking ancestors in those various areas.

3)  Specific information regarding other aspects of the people, offices, and regions are often included, adding historical perspective to the lives of those living within the various boundaries and the cities, towns, and outposts listed.

More specifics on how the records are organized can be found on the seven-page document referenced above. That document also contains a list of abbreviations or notations commonly found on the filmed records. I would recommend printing that out to have available for reference when viewing the films or you might miss the significance of "C.H." (Courthouse - county seat), "Dis" (discontinued), or "P" (Appointed by the President). (Note: those abbreviations are also provided at the beginning of each film but can be cumbersome to reference when the researcher is viewing the end of the film.)

Pages three through seven of the PDF Finding Aid lists the rolls of film (beginning with "Alabana; Autauga - Dale" and ending with "Wyoming; Albany - Yellowstone National Park"). Because there was U.S. Postal Service to areas other than the contiguous United States, some unexpected regions include:
Caroline Islands
Marshall Islands
Puerto Rico
Virgin Islands
and more (see the Finding Aid for a complete list).

So if your ancestors were from any of those areas and may have worked for the Post Office (as a Postmaster, even on temporary assignment as such), these would certainly be documents to check. Even if ancestors did not work for the Post Office, if they came from, say, Cuba, this record collection might shed light on some of the history of the area (I'll illustrate this in a future blog on this topic).

So there's the preliminary information on this unusual collection. Your "homework," for those who wish to follow up or further research the potential of these films, is to go to the link given above and follow the directions to pull up the PDF of the "Publication Details" (AKA the "Finding Aid" or "Information Document") and check it for yourself. Oh, and share this information with others - let's not keep this collection a secret any longer!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Singalong with Circlemending: Rodents

OK, I know this sounds like an odd theme, but it comes to mind after watching repeated trailers for the movie Hop. I have to say that it looks like a cute movie - after all, it's about a cute bunny. Bunnies are automatically cute, right? Well, where we live, rabbits are rodents. (Why is it that the word "rabbit" conjures up positive connotations while the word "rodent" brings up negative ones?) Anyway, out in my territory, the properties are ravaged by bunny-rabbits every day, eating everything (except weeds), including garden growth, flowers, grasses, and even small trees. But because we live in the country, we are also host to other rodents, including squirrels, rats, and mice. Most efforts are focused on keeping the rats out of the house and intimidating the mice to keep them from making as few home visits as possible. Anyone who has left dog or cat food out, has horses, feeds the birds, or has a garbage can is subject to rodent visits. We actually get sort of used to it and when we get together as neighbors the talk often turns to "the best rat story."

So I started thinking about songs dealing with some of these furry creatures (some cute, some a little less than that). I can come up with probably a half dozen rabbit songs, but will leave those to others. Instead, let me share my favorite mouse song - from deep in the deepest recessed of my childhood:

M - I - C K - E - Y M - O - U - S -E (everybody sing!)
Mickey Mouse (Donald Duck), Mickey Mouse (Donald Duck)
Forever let us hold our banner high (high, high, high)
M - I - C K - E - Y M - O - U - S -E

See - not every rodent is an unwelcome home invader!

When I was about 5 we got our first television (1956). Every day after kindergarten, my best friend, Liz Thompson, and I would sit in front of the TV to watch the Mickey Mouse Club. We had our favorites (mine were Karen & Cubby) and cartoons we thought were dumb and ones we enjoyed. But we liked the singing part best, when Jimmy Dodd would take out his Mickey Mouse guitar and sing songs that carried special lessons. (No, I did not decide at that time to play guitar; that decision was made about 4 years later.) And then was the sad part when they would all sing (and appear so sad and almost ready to cry):

Now it's time to say good-bye to all our family
M - I - C (see you real soon) K - E - Y (Why? Because we like you!) M - O - U - S -E

To keep the Mickey Mouse Club alive in my life from one day to the next I had a Mickey Mouse tee-shirt. I even got to see the Club live at the 4th of July Fireworks Program at Dyche Stadium in Evanston, Illinois one year (my grandfather took me). It was a memorable experience, to say the least.

So there's my rodent song and why it is special to me. Got a rodent song? Share it here - the lyrics, MP3 or YouTube on-line, or just the title. And does it have a special meaning to you?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Letters of Application and Recommendation During the Administration of Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-1877, Microfilm Collection, NARA Riverside-Gallaudet

In 1864, Edward Miner Gallaudet (1837-1917) formed the first school for the "deaf and dumb," named "Gallaudet University," in honor of his father, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Both father and son were instrumental in advancing communication means for those who could not hear or speak and the University continues today to educate those afflicted in these manners. The University, located in the District of Columbia, is still operational and is the product of much research. The elder Gallaudet traveled all over the world to gain knowledge in order to properly serve those who needed his help. Besides educating at the college level, Gallaudet School for the Deaf also has elementary and high school level courses, teaching the hearing impaired life skills as well as the basics in education.

Edward began his teaching experiences in Washington, D.C. and was instrumental in organizing educational opportunities for the deaf in that location. This brings us to the relevance of that information to the next (and last) post re: the Letters of Application and Recommendation During the Administration of Ulysses S. Grant. In 1873, in preparation for the Vienna World Exposition (mentioned briefly in a previous blog), it was hoped that all aspects of American Culture would be properly represented; this would include the advancements in the education of the deaf. After letters were sent on his behalf, Gallaudet the younger did attend the Exposition. But, while the history of the father and the son can be located on many Internet sites, the actual letters that clarified Edward's eligibility to represent the US are not. Those can be located on microfilm at a number of different National Archives facilities, including the one at 23123 Cajalco Rd. in Riverside County. Here's what the researcher can view there:

(From Edward A. Fry, Acting Priest, to the Secretary of State)

(The same, addressed to the President)

If you are a descendant of this distinguished family, a member of the deaf community, interested in the history of specialized schools in America, researching the history of the Vienna Exposition, or interested in the Grant administration, these letters would be of particular value.

There is more in the Pacific Region (Riverside) National Archives than just records of California, Arizona, and parts of Nevada. Check out the catalog (mentioned in earlier blogs) and see if something you are studying just may be lurking in the holdings there.

This concludes my series on the Letters of Application and Recommendation . . . my next topic will deal with Postmasters of the United States. Check back soon to learn about these folks.