Saturday, June 30, 2012

Twain's Feast by Andrew Beahrs (Book Review)

Beahrs, Andrew. Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens. New York: Penguin Group USA, 2011.

Author Andrew Beahrs scoured Twain's books for food references. He then set out to investigate the foods as they came to be part of the American landscape of eating, how they were in Twain's era, and how they are in today's landscape if they still exist or why they are not as important if they are gone or less significant. He includes recipes from 19th century cookbooks as well. The book had an interesting premise, and the author did a good job in parts of the narrative. In other parts, he droned on a bit too long and failed to keep the reader interested. No numbered or asterisked citations were given but there were end notes with page numbers, a few words from the line, and references. This did not follow any acceptable method of citation. I found it totally unacceptable and lowered my rating by 1/2 star to reflect this major flaw. (2.5 of 5 stars)

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Museum in Fort Lauderdale

The museum at the Old Fort Lauderdale Village managed by the historical society was originally built in 1905 as the New River Inn. Visitors can choose a tour with a guide when one is available or take a self-guided tour. It is really not a problem because many of the exhibits feature interactive recordings that provide a background for the items in that part of the room. One of the things I learned through the film was that the original fort was built by 200 Tennessee Volunteers who had come to the area in the Seminole Wars in 1838.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Body Surrounded by Water by Eric Wright (Book Review)

Wright, Eric. A Body Surrounded by Water. Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, 1988.

Charlie Salter is vacationing on Prince Edward Island where several burglaries have taken place. A body is found, and Salter's father-in-law tells Charlie about the purchase of a seal in which he, the deceased, and one other individual had been involved. The deceased had recently been to Toronto to pick up their purchase, but it is not found in his home. Are the burglaries and homicide related? Charlie assists the local Mounties in their investigation. This would a good way to pass two or three hours. The book is relatively short, and the mystery is not very complex. I enjoyed the PEI setting.   (3 of 5 stars)

Several people have told me this is Wright's weakest in the series.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fort Lauderdale Historical Society

Recently when a friend and I went to Florida for a library conference, we had a little time before we could check into the hotel where we were spending the evening. We took advantage of the time to visit the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and its nearby museum. The city of Fort Lauderdale is a relatively new city, although the fort dates to the Seminole Wars.

This is the building that houses the society's research facility. They have a small research library at the facility, some Sanborn maps, manuscript collections, photographs, and history files. There is a database to aid in property research.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Endangered Species by Nevada Barr (Book Review)

Barr, Nevada. Endangered Species. New York: Avon, 1998.

Anna is on fire watch (a temporary assignment) at the Cumberland Island National Seashore when a plane goes down. It isn't long until foul play is suspected. In the mean time, Anna's sister, a psychiatrist in New York City, is receiving threats. Anna sends her boyfriend FBI agent Frederick Stanton to investigate. I have read several books in which loggerhead turtles have played a part in the story, and I'm always amazed at the work the volunteers do to help the species survive. I enjoyed the national park setting more than the mystery itself in this one. There are a few amusing scenes as well. It wasn't a bad installment, but it wasn't my favorite either.   (3.5 of 5 stars)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

One Bad Apple by Sheila Connolly (Book Review)

Connolly, Sheila. One Bad Apple. New York: Berkley, 2008.

Meg Corey lost her Boston banking job through a corporate merger and downsizing. She moves to western Massachusetts to renovate an inherited property in Granford so that she and her mother can sell it. She's only been there a few weeks when a body of someone she knew very well ends up in her newly installed septic tank. With herself and the plumber Seth as the chief suspects in a community that does not know her well, she knows that she needs to find the real murderer and clear her name. I loved the characters and setting of this one, and I'm looking forward to future installments. There are recipes in the back, and I intend to try one or two of them. (4 of 5 stars)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Murder Makes Waves by Anne George (Book Review)

George, Anne. Murder Makes Waves. New York: Avon Twilight, 1999, c1997.

Mary Alice and Patricia Ann are sisters living in the Birmingham, Alabama area. They need a break and head with Patricia Ann's daughter Haley and friend Frances to Mary Alice's condo in Destin, Florida. Mary Alice is actually attending a writer's conference. It isn't long until they stumble across the body of a friend on the beach. The discover a second body a bit later. This is a thoroughly Southern mystery. It's as much about the Southern friendships and conversation as it is about the mystery. They don't really put themselves in a lot of dangerous situations and leave most of the investigation to the proper authorities. What nosing about they do is just natural Southern gossip that turns up clues. It was a fun mystery for a change of pace and perfect for a beach read. (3.5 of 5 stars)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Green Acres is the place to be . . .

Well, farm living may not be the life for me, but it was for most of my ancestors. I remember when I first started doing genealogy that I would go -- "oh, no, another farmer!" I became quickly excited when I found my first "lawyer" (which ended up being a sawyer, but I was inexperienced with those old s's at the time). Incidentally, that one was a mechanic on the next census after my direct line ancestor had married. Now, I'm proud of those farmers, and what I once thought of as boring, I see as essential and yes, even interesting, thanks to lots of sources that are available that help one understand what it was like for farmers in different periods of time.

One such resource is the Farmers Bulletin which was put out by the United States Department of Agriculture. While these bulletins only go back to 1889, they are useful for understanding life on the farm. Fortunately for us, these government publications are available in many federal depository libraries and online thanks to the University of North Texas' digitization project.

You will find  information on all sorts of crops, plant diseases, animals, marketing, the experiment stations, and much more. Even though genealogy is not the purpose of the blog, the blogger at Seven Trees Farm in Washington has put together a couple of posts that will show genealogists some of what can be gleaned through the use of these documents.  The first is Rainy Season, and Thoughts Turn to Planning . . . ; the second is Farm Home Conveniences.

Have fun exploring, and be sure to post your own finds to your blog or as a comment here!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blood of the Prodigal by P. L. Gaus (Book Review)

Gaus, P. L. Blood of the Prodigal. New York: Plume, 2010.

This is a fascinating glance at Ohio's Amish country with far less romanticism of the culture than one finds in most books that are sometimes labeled Amish fiction. Bishop Miller's grandson has gone missing, but the Bishop knows his son has taken them. He reluctantly enlists the aid of an "English" pastor (Troyer) and a professor (Branden) who has a reputation for solving crimes during his summer breaks. While Branden's wife wants him to call on the sheriff to assist, Branden honors his promise to the Bishop for discretion. It isn't long until the sheriff is involved in cases related to the original matter. I enjoyed this first installment, but I felt that some of the characters were not as developed as they needed to be. We know that Branden has been involved in helping the police solve crimes in the past from conversations in the book, but we are never enlightened as to what these are. Most mystery series start with the first involvement of the amateur sleuth instead of leaving it to the reader's imagination to fill the void. I have Amish ancestry with lines who lived in Holmes and Wayne County in the first half of the 19th century (before moving westward). I was quite familiar with area being portrayed, and like some of the characters in the book, I lament the commercialization that continues to take place in the area. I did enjoy the mystery, and I found the local sheriff, the two deputies with whom we became most acquainted, and the professor and his wife quite likeable. I hope to be able to continue with this series.   (3.5 of 5 stars)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Older Book on Land Research

Today as I was cataloging some gift books that we received last month, I came across an interesting book that a lot of genealogists may want to locate. It's a book of papers presented at the 3rd Indiana American Revolution Bicentennial Symposium in 1978 at Purdue University and is entitled This Land of Ours: The Acquisition and Disposition of the Public Domain. It was published by the Indiana Historical Society that same year. There are a total of five papers included in the volume.

The first paper is "Perceptions and Illustrations of the American Landscape in the Ohio Valley and the Midwest" by Hildegard Binder Johnson. It contains many illustrations and the narrative focuses on what the landscape was like for the early settlers. It contains some great tips on finding atlases and topographical sources.

The next paper is "The Land Office Business in Indiana, 1800-1840" by Malcolm J. Rohrbough. Anyone with an early Indiana ancestor who did business with the land office will want to read this.

The next paper is "Changing Images of the Public Domain: Historians and the Shaping of Midwest Frontiers" by Reginald Horsman. The article focuses on how writing about the public domain lands has changed over the years.

Next is "The Land Cession Treaty: A Valid Instrument of Transfer of Indian Title" by Dwight L. Smith. This article focuses on Indian land tenure and the methods by which title was transferred.

The final paper is "The Nationalizing Influence of the Public Lands: Indiana" by Paul W. Gates. This article contrasts the way land was viewed before public lands and after.

While I didn't have time to read it while I was cataloging it (and it has to go through processing before I can check it out), it does appear to be a book that offers a great deal of useful information for genealogists in regards to land records, particularly in Indiana.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Uneasy Relations by Aaron J. Elkins (Book Review)

Elkins, Aaron J. Uneasy Relations. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2008.

Gideon Oliver is returning to Gibraltar for a reunion of those who worked on the Gibraltar Woman excavation five years earlier. Journalists have taken remarks intended for pun as truth and have stated that Gideon will be talking about something of greater import to anthropology fraud than Piltdown Man. It's not long before there are a couple of possible attempts on Gideon's life -- or were they just accidents? Two years earlier, one of their colleagues, died in a landslide on the site of their original dig cave. Another member of the group is soon dead. Gideon must convince Gibraltar's chief inspector that a crime has been committed, but it's Gideon's knowledge of forensic anthropology that will solve the case. It took me awhile to become engaged, but once the focus of the book was more on the mystery and less on anthropology with scientific discussions in the mix, I was able to care more about investigation. I have never read earlier installments in the series, and this was the 15th, so it is possible that I might have enjoyed the first part more if I'd had a better knowledge of the main characters. I do think that it works reasonably well as a stand-alone as most of the characters were developed sufficiently in the book. (3 of 5 stars)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline WInspear (Book Review)

Winspear, Jacqueline. Messenger of Truth. New York: Henry Holt, 2006.

Maisie sets out to investigate the death of an artist (Nick Bassington-Hope) when his twin has a feeling that there may have been more to the event than the accidental death ruled by the police investigation. Her assistant Billy's daughter is fighting an illness. Maisie recognizes the need to get out of her relationship with Andrew Dene. The investigation leads them to Nick's converted railroad car properties in Dungeness as well as to the London nightlife and art world. This installment resonated more with me than previous installments in the series. I found myself wishing that I could actually see an exhibit of the fictitious artist's work! (4 of 5 stars)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn (Book Review)

Mendelsohn, Daniel. The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. New York: HarperPerennial, 2007, c2006.

This is the story of Daniel Mendelsohn's search for his maternal grandfather's brother, Shmiel Jager. His grandfather had told him stories of the family, but he became interested in learning more. His search led him to many countries and to the ancestral hometown of Bolekhiv, Ukraine on numerous occasions. Gradually through bits and pieces from different individuals who knew Shmiel's family, he is able to piece together the story. I was somewhat disappointed in the story. It's more about the search than it is about the lives of those he was researching. As a genealogist, I would have preferred to read the account of his family as it had been synthesized and pieced together (with footnotes attributing each piece to the proper source and noting discrepancies and how they were resolved). This, however, was not the direction in which the author chose to go. I found that I was constantly trying to remember what he'd learned 100 or 200 pages back that had bearing on what he was learning from his current interviewee. I felt that the book was a lot longer than it needed to be, but much of this may have had to do with my perspective on how the book should have been written. There is a lot of information here, and while I am not as happy about how he chose to present it as some others are, I am happy that he did put his family's story in print. I enjoyed the pieces of commentary on Genesis which were often based on the Jewish commentary that Friedman wrote. (3 of 5 stars)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom (Book Review)

Sansom, C. J. Dark Fire. New York: Penguin, 2006, c2004.

Matthew Shardlake takes on a case of a girl accused of killing her cousin. Although the judge sentences the girl to be pressed for her refusal to plead, Cromwell assists in a 12-day reprieve because he needs Shardlake to locate a mysterious substance known as "Greek fire" (often called "Dark Fire" because of its dark color). It is able to burn things and even works on water. Cromwell wants it for its potential use in naval warfare. Shardlake does not really want to do Cromwell's bidding, but he has no choice because of the time he has been bought on the case of young Elizabeth. Cromwell lends Shardlake a man named Barak to assist in his inquiries. A recurring character from the previous installment is Guy, the former monastic doctor who is now working as an apothecary in London. It's another great installment in one of my new favorite series. It gives me a glimpse into some of the reasons some of my ancestors migrated to America during this period. (4 of 5 stars.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cumberland Gap Genealogy Jamboree 2012: A Look Back

This past weekend, I attended the last two days of the Cumberland Gap Genealogy Jamboree. They had speakers in the visitor's center for the national park as well as in the town of Cumberland Gap.  I will only mention a few of the speakers--Mark Lowe, Randall Jones, Carrie Eldridge, Connie Conrad, and Ann Blomquist. Most of my readers have heard Mark speak. Jones is a historian/storyteller. His account of Daniel Boone's life was quite entertaining.  Carrie Eldridge has provided genealogists with many trail maps over the years showing our ancestors' migration paths, and this is the topic on which she spoke. Connie Conrad is from the Evansville, Indiana area. Ann Blomquist conducts beginners workshops for East Tennessee Historical Society. I don't know if attendance was down this year or not, but I do know that many of the vendors were happy with their sales. The vendors were set up in the town of Cumberland Gap under canopy-style tents. Vendors came from as far away as Evansville, Indiana and Columbus, Ohio. There were a couple of vendors that I had expected to be present who were not. Their books would have sold well based on the inquiries I heard from people asking other vendors about specific areas. Although it isn't very far from the visitor center to the town, it's a bit of a distance. It's a shame that the entire event could not be held in one location or the other. My understanding is that Lincoln Memorial University's purchase of some key buildings in the town have prevented that from happening. It would be nice to see events like this grow in the East Tennessee area. The East Tennessee Historical Society tends to only offer a few basic topics that are repeated over and over again with the same speakers. No one seems to bring in outside speakers. Although the timing of the event is not ideal for the genealogy community since it conflicts with the Southern California Jamboree and is right before Samford, it deserves a little more recognition that it receives. (It is right before a library conference that I attend as well.) It would be a nice stop for those en route to Samford via automobile, especially for those whose ancestors came through the Gap. Next year's Jamboree is June 6, 7, and 8, 2013. Mark your calendars now!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander (Book Review)

Alexander, Bruce. Blind Justice. New York: Berkley Books, 1995, c1994.

Young Jeremy Proctor flees to London after his father is murdered in the village where they run a printing shop. After being falsely accused of theft, he ends up in the court of the blind Sir John Fielding. Fielding takes the boy under his wings until he can find a suitable placement for Jeremy in the printing trade. Before long, Fielding is called to conduct an enquiry at the home of Lord Goodhope. A man has been shot in the library which was locked at the time. In spite of his blindness, Fielding is an excellent investigator, and Jeremy proves to be valuable to him as his "eyes." An autopsy reveals that there was another possible cause of death. An excellent historical mystery. I look forward to continuing with this series.  (4.5 of 5 stars)

Friday, June 08, 2012

Salem Witch Judge by Eve LaPlante (Book Review)

LaPlante, Eve. Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall. New York: HarperOne, 2008, c2007.

LaPlante, a descendant of Judge Samuel Sewall, studied his life in an effort to understand more of the man who was her ancestor. She begins with his marriage and the life which eventually led to his being selected to sit on the court as one of the judges for the Salem trials. She does a great job presenting his family life and the struggles he had with Puritanism and his own family's misfortunes. She shows his repentance of his involvement in the trials and his subsequent life. The reader is given a glimpse into what it was like to live in New England in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Drawing from Sewall's own journals as well as other primary and secondary sources, the author has successfully painted a portrait of her ancestor that will be studied for years to come. (4 of 5 stars)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

My Mysterious Phillips Family

Have you ever wished that one of your ancestors was still alive so that they could tell you more about one of their ancestors? My paternal grandmother, Nona Josiah "Jodie" Fowlkes Thornton, died when I was ten (almost eleven). She insisted that we call her "Grandmother," so that is how I will refer to her through the remainder of this post. I can remember her telling me about how people were related, but of course, I didn't pay much attention to it at that age. My older brothers, father, and cousins have told me that she could tell you the exact degree of relation persons had to you--"Oh, that's your first cousin three times removed" or "he's your second cousin twice removed."

Well, when it comes to researching her mother's ancestral paternal family, that kind of knowledge would come in quite handy. Unfortunately, my dad and uncle have long since forgotten what she may have told them.

Grandmother's mother was Lucinda Virginia "Jennie" Phillips Fowlkes Howell. Jennie's first husband was Josiah Fowlkes. They had five children:

Martha Matilda "Mattie" Fowlkes (1885-1919)
William Daniel "Dee" Fowlkes (1887-1933)
Lera Belle Fowlkes (1888-1928)
Norma J. Fowlkes (b. 1892)
Nona Josiah "Jodie" Fowlkes (1894-1974)

Her husband Josiah died the day before Grandmother was born in 1894. She then married John Howell who already had a family of five children from his previous marriage to Martha Caroline Chism. These five children were:

Jessie William Howell (1880-1954)
Ida Pearla Howell (1886-1977)
Mary Lee Howell (1888-1969)
Ollie Howell (1894-1918)
Auzzie Green Howell (1896-1961)

Jennie and John had five more children:

Dewey Rosco Howell (1898-1966)
Lonie Adeline Howell (1900-1968)
John Roman Howell (1902-1970)
George Rubel Howell (1904-1972)
Vera Mae Howell (1909-1951)

The groups of the children became known among my family as "my children," "his children," and "our children." I'm sure his children identified what we called "my children" as "her children."

This is a photo of Jennie in her later years.

Lucinda Virginia "Jennie" Phillips Fowlkes Howell
Now to move back another generation . . .

Jennie's father was W. D. Phillips. There is some debate over whether his name was William Daniel Phillips as suggested by his grandson's name or William David Phillips. I personally think his middle name was probably Daniel, but I can't really prove it.

W. D. Phillips married Mary Elizabeth Fowlkes on 3 Jan 1861 in Monroe County, Mississippi. (One of the databases give 2 Jan 1861, but that was the date the license was issued, not the day the marriage was performed.)

Census records don't add a lot to our knowledge of him. In the 1860 census, he is age 24, born in Alabama, and living with his future in-laws. (It is spelled Philips in this census.) This is the only positive identification I have made of him.

There is a William Phillips (age 14) in the household of Nancy Phillips in the 1850 census for Wilcox County, Alabama. This is a bit further south in Alabama than usual migration patterns to Monroe County, Mississippi, and further efforts in researching this line have not produced results.  There is a William Phillips (age 14) in the Madison County, Alabama census of 1850 who is in the household of Thomas, but I've been unable to have success in identifying him as W. D.

I've looked at other records in Mississippi for Phillips families in Monroe and Itawamba Counties including some huge chancery files on which I spent a great deal of money photocopying. I thought I was getting close, but then I came up with negative evidence.

By the way, Jennie who was born 16 March 1865 is apparently the only daughter of W. D. Phillips and Mary Elizabeth Fowlkes. The family does not appear on the 1870 census. The 1920 census shows that Jennie's mother had remarried. She is listed as Elisabeth Curry, age 79, and widowed. (The marriage took place in Lee County, Mississippi on 23 May 1877.) There is also an entry in the Isaac J. Curry family of 1880 in Monroe County, Mississippi for Jessie L. Phillips, a step-daughter, age 15, which appears to be Jennie. (There is a Jennie, age 18, listed as a servant in the George Tubb family in the same county.) Her father did not die in the war because she has a younger sibling Sarah R. listed in the 1880 census for the Curry family.

One of these days, I'll get back to researching this line and make a breakthrough!