Thursday, January 27, 2011

I've Been Working on the Railroad . . .

Railroads play an important role in the lives of many of our 19th century ancestors (and even 20th century ancestors). A recently distributed government document details many of the cartographic resources relating to railroads that are available in the National Archives. Entitled Records Relating to Railroads in the Cartographic Section of the National Archives and published as Reference Information Paper 116, the 142 page government document describes each collection for researchers. The 2010 edition was compiled by Peter F. Brauer and can be found in most depository libraries under the SUDOC classification AE 1.124:116. Be sure to check an individual library's catalog as there are some libraries which incorporate government documents in Dewey or LC classification numbers.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Clara Barton

There's an interesting government document that should be arriving in most depository libraries entitled The Life of Clara Barton: A Chronology, 1821-1912. It is put out by the Clara Barton National Historic Site which is administered by the George Washington Memorial Parkway as part of the National Park Service publications. It appears to be online at To get to the parts after 1860, you must click on the links at the bottom of the page. While the resource lacks documentation, it is an interesting read and does show how to incorporate other history and social history into a person's life to give a fuller picture of that person and how he or she fits into history.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

San Antonio in the Mid-19th Century

As I was cataloging government documents today, I came across a rather interesting publication entitled The Post at San Antonio, 1845-1879. It was published by the Fort Sam Houston Museum as part of the Historic Neighborhood Awareness Program in 2002, but it has just recently been distributed to federal depository libraries. Its SUDOC classification is D 114.20:77. The publication has many historic photos and maps as well as historic information on this area. If you had ancestors who were in this area during this period, you'll want to take a look at this publication.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

White Nights by Ann Cleeves

Cleeves, Ann. White Nights. New York: Macmillan, 2008.

A local artist Bella Sinclair is hosting a joint exhibition at her home, the Manse, in Biddista, Shetland Islands. A mysterious man shows up at the Manse and when Jimmy Perez, the local policeman, speaks to him, the man is acting rather confused, claiming a case of amnesia. The next morning Jimmy is called to investigate a body that has been found. It turns out to be the man no one claims to know, holding a mask in his hand. Roy Turner from Inverness comes in to help with the investigation. They must determine who the man is and why someone in Biddista would want the man dead. It's an interesting case. There were plenty of options as to whom the murderer might be. I had not completely settled on a suspect in my own mind when the outcome was revealed. I did enjoy this second installment, although I believe I enjoyed the first one slightly more. This review is based on an Advance Readers Copy loaned to me by a friend. 4 stars.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Which Sign Do You Follow?

I'll admit that I've never really followed astrological signs that much but apparently there is a debate about whether one should follow the sidereal or the tropical zodiac. Apparently if we follow the sidereal zodiac of Eastern origin, most of us would be under a different sign than we'd believed we were under all our lives. For example, my sign would no longer be Aquarius but Capricorn.

As I began to think of this, I remembered my first encounter with something of this nature. It arose out of my own genealogical research. I looked at my great grandfather's birth in his family Bible. The entries for each child read something like "Firstname" was born on "date" under the sign "name of sign." It was of course written in German script instead of English, but instead of seeing the standard tropical zodiac sign that I'd expected with his birth date, it gave a different one. As I began to examine the other members in his family, I knew that there was some other zodiac system in place because they all differed. My curiosity was peaked, and I had to do a little research to figure out exactly why all the signs were different. I discovered that the Amish used "moon signs" which were important for planting instead of the traditional astrological ones.

I believe that we'd all discover that we had three different signs if we chose to add the moon ones -- the traditional Tropical Zodiac signs of Western origin, the sidereal signs of Eastern origin, and the moon signs that were important to planting.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Touched by an Angel

Last night I received the news that one of my classmates had died. He was our most famous classmate. You all probably know him better as the "Angel of Death." I first met John Dye back in Kindergarten. Back in those days, kindergartens were private and not everyone went to one, but we both attended Mrs. Murphree's Kindergarten, affectionately known as the Little Red Schoolhouse. The Kindergarten was really in an attachment to her home. We were tracked by ability level all the way through middle school. John and I were in what was the "high" track. Our group of about 30 classmates were pretty close to one another because we pretty much shared the same classes all the time. I remember activities on the playground as well as in the classroom with John. He was a fun person to be around and had the kind of personality that we all enjoyed being around. I remember working on class projects with him outside of class as well. On one occasion, we all had met at another classmate's house. (The classmate was David Stokes. David recently died as well.) We were supposed to come up with some sort of model to accompany a short story we had read in English class. I remember that it was a story about a flatboat because we left at some point to buy modeling clay to build the flatboat. Back then, you could get sheets of modeling clay as well as the play-doh like versions. We knew we could get the brown sheets, and they would look just like the log flatboat that we had envisioned because of the little ridges. However, that project was not so memorable because of the project itself which we did in a short time. It was that we had plenty of extra time to have fun. We took a break at one point, heading up Main Street. We were playing "Truth or Dare" as we walked up the street. This was John's idea, as I recall. There were five or six of us in the group. When it was John's turn, he took the dare. Someone dared him to go into Fred's Dollar Store and ask if Fred was there. Fred's was a chain that had been founded in the Memphis area by Fred Baddour. We all knew that it was unlikely that Fred would be there because we all realized it was a chain. John went in and asked the cashier while we were all out on the sidewalk giggling. He came back and said that Fred wasn't there today. We giggled some more. I think most of us took "Truths" after that because we were afraid of what the others might come up with if we took the dare.

John moved away but then came back during his high school years to live with his grandparents in a nearby town. He no longer went to school with us, but we were able to keep up with him and see him from time to time. By the time we had our 10th year reunion, John was a "star." He'd been in several movies and was portraying a medic on the television program Tour of Duty. By our 20th reunion, John was in the long-running show Touched by an Angel. It's sad that he won't make our 30th reunion later this year. The reunion dynamics are certain to be different without him there.

We'll miss you, John.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Behind as Usual, Snow, and a Book Review

It's already January 10, and I am not doing a very good job of keeping up with the blog. I guess that once you get out of the routine, it's hard to get back into it.

We're having an unusually snowy winter in East Tennessee. We had so much snow and ice at the close of last semester that some of us began to dub it "the semester that never ends." This is the 3rd snow event in about 4 or 5 days for us, and we have another on the way. A friend of mine said he was sending snow our way, and I replied that he could keep it because I'd already shoveled more than my quota for the year!

I participated in a read-a-thon over the weekend. One of the books I read was Francis J. Bremer's Puritanism: A Very Short Introduction. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). I ordered the book from NEHGS recently when the item was on sale. I want to share my review of it with you all because I suspect many of us have early New England ancestors.

Author Francis J. Bremer delivers exactly what is promised by the title of this book -- a brief introduction on Puritan thought. There are a few quotes, mostly in shaded sidebars. While one could tell the author was familiar with primary source writings, she utilized quite a few secondary sources in this overview of the Puritan movement. There are no footnotes, but there are bibliographies which accompany each chapter, leading the reader who wishes to explore the topics more fully to good sources. We learn a bit about the history and theology of the movement, how the Puritan interacted in society, and about personal lifestyle. The weakness of the book is in describing the decline of Puritanism and describing the genealogy of present-day groups claiming some level of origin with the Puritans. This book, however, is well-suited to persons who just want an introductory level of knowledge about Puritan history and theology. 3.5 stars.