Let’s Talk About: The Final Honor

 In the Summer, 2022, issue of American Ancestors, publication of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, there was an article aimed at Memorial Day. Written by David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogists at NEHGS, the article was titled “The Final Hour: U.S. Military Gravestones.”

Lambert began the article thusly:  “Most American cemeteries include a veterans section. These lots typically feature standard white marble gravestones……which the U.S. government provides at no cost for any honorably discharged veteran…..a tradition that began about a decade after the Civil War.”

“Soldiers from earlier wars had gravestones, of course, but these were placed by families. Not all of the Civil War dead were identifiable and many wooden headboards in military lots are marked as unknown. Some Union or Confederate dead were identified based on their uniforms, buttons or insignia.”

Realizing that the wooden headboards were deteriorating, on March 3, 1873, Congress passed an appropriation of a million dollars ( nearly 28 million today) to replace the wooden headboards with more permanent marble or granite markers.

Lambert ended the article with:  “Nearly 150 years after its original appropriation, the U.S. Veterans Administration continues to assist with marking or re-marking graves of American veterans from the Revolutionary War to the present. For assistance with ordering (or replacing) a gravestone for an honorably discharged U.S. veteran, contact the veterans’ agent in the town or city of burial.’
Websites you might wish to check (Google):
*US Civil War Roll of Honor, 1861-1865*Roll of Honor: names of Soldiers who died in Defense of the American Union*US, Burial Registers for Military Posts, Camps, and Stations, 1768-1921*US Records of Headstones of Deceased Union Veterans, 1879-1903*US Headstone Applications for US Military Veterans, 1925-1949*American Battle Monuments Commission database*Interment.net*Find-A-Grave*Billion Graves

TRIVIA:  Know why Union gravestones have rounded tops and Confederate markers have pointed tops? The “wag” is that the Confederates “wanted no damn Yankees sitting on their graves.”  True? Have no idea. 

Let’s Talk About: Old Newspaper Stories

To a genealogist, nothing is more fun than struggling to read old newspapers…… in great expectation of finding bits and pieces about an ancestor’s life. Consider these; first from The Spokesman Review, 5 Nov 1921:

“A nail two inches long has been removed from the lung of a 15-months-old baby at the Deaconess hospital. The child, who is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Leo Dahlin of Nine Mile, swallowed the nail October 29, and the mother did not discover the trouble until X-rays four days later disclosed the nail. 
At the time the child choked until it was black in the face, but when Mrs. Dahlin was ready to start for town the trouble seemed to depart and the baby appeared normal. Later the lungs of the baby began filing with mucus and the mother brought the child to Dr. T.E. Hoxsey. On October 24 the child’s condition seemed alarming and an operation was decided upon. Dr. O.M. Rott, a throat specialist, assisted Dr. Hoxsey.

An incision was made in the neck through which the windpipe was cut. By inserting a powerful magnet the nail, which was two inches long, was drawn out. The parents of the baby report that it is well on the road to recovery.

POSTSCRIPT:  Our Washington Digital Archives shows a marriage for Leo Dahlin, age 21, born in Minnesota to Swedish parents, marrying Mabel Nason, age 17, born in Spokane, to New Brunswick born parents.   Then on 1 May 1941, Leo Dahlin, Jr, marries Phyllis Wade. Was Leo, Jr., the son who survived this operation???

Let’s Talk About: Genealogy’s Future with Josh Taylor

Josh Taylor was the ZOOM presenter for the Bainbridge Genealogical Society in January, 2023. I virtually attended his talk and these are my notes:

CONTENT – ACCESS – TECHNOLOGY  — 3 points he covered

What’s out there at present? So much! One could spend hours and hours every day and  never run out of places to search.  MAYBE in the future we can ask something like SIRI, “who is my great grandfather?” and expect an answer. Not quite yet today. 

UGC – User Generated Content—– This is all and everything that WE post anywhere on the internet. It’s there “forever.” And not always safe on our own computer. In the future, we’ll have all these good things PLUS MORE.

One new exciting thing—ICR  technology —  Intelligent  Character Reading

Think how this new tech was used to index the 1950 census; no it wasn’t perfect but WOW. Think of the challenges… reading differing handwriting over the years in a record group. But this will only get better! The computer will learn how to read how to do this better and better. They do it by comparing examples with examples. And some languages-records are easier for ICR than are others. And a formulaic record group will be easier to learn.  BUT will they be 100% accurate? No. That’s where WE come in….. we will do the checking. ALSO, the “big players” will be able to utilize this (expensive) technology easier than will be small local societies.

CONSTANT INNOVATION:  Increase accessibility; mobile first; software flexibility-multiple platforms; Data storage; data access; security.  Mobile is where the future is so we must learn how to deliver content to these platforms in a way people can read/use it.

All this technology will be costly, to develop it, tech support it, user friendly software and maintenance and upgrades. These must be considered when thinking about what the future holds.

DATA TRENDS:  Central storage (Amazon, Google, etc),  Universal access, digital images,  cost effective,  permanent storage, retrieval costs.  We will have to learn HOW to deal with this overwhelming amount of data!  Today, smaller libraries/archives are being able to digitize their own records…..cost coming down. Also, the quality of the image is getting better, ie, B&W vs. color. (Color enables more damaged parts of a document to be read, vs. B&W.)

CONVERSOIN & UPGRADES:  What about websites that are not updated? How to “keep” in all aspects, these old websites full of data.  Or, how many groups have data stored in un-accessible media formats (floppies)?  Especially family-saved files on these drives!  WHAT IF Ancestry or FS go belly up? This must be considered in any discussion on data storage. WHAT if your favorite personal program doesn’t upgrade?

LEGISLATION & REGULATION:   At every level (industry, federal, state) there are different rules for privacy. A young person today is going to have a hard time getting records that we old-timers got records.  What about copyright? Digital rights? Orphan works? (Items with no known copyright data?) Who owns the right to YOUR great-grandmother’s diary? Depends on who owns it today………

 COVID:  These (any virus emergency) will create new problems……. Some libraries used that down time to scan records……… some just shut down. And now the request for info overwhelm helpers! (Some archives are going toward the museum aspect which frightens us.)

GEOGRAPHY:  If you geo-code a place it doesn’t matter what it was called then; think how this tech might tell you if an ancestor lives or lived nearby.  Pair a 1920 listing with a geo-coded place. Cool. (Today every time we take a photo on our phone, it’s geo-coded!)

ACCESS VS SEARCH:  It’s easier to scan than to index and make the material usefully available. Think of all the zillions of items that are already digitized…..photos, post cards, etc.

NEW DIGITAL ARCHIVES:  Facebook – Twitter-Linkedin – Intragram – Google+ – Instagram – Flickr – DNA How much of our genealogy have we posted to these sites? What and which should be saved?? (New baby:  good;  breakfast; worthless.) What would happen if Find-A-Grave or Flickr (or any!) decided to quit…what happens to all their images and data???

The Human Face of Big Data, PBS, 2016—— during the first day of a baby’s life, the amount of data generated by humanity is equivalent to 70 times the information held in the Lib of Congress.  So where will this info live?

CONSIDER:  How is big data applied to family history? If we could add all the data from anything and everything pertaining (example) Irish emigration or Irish families? We do this on a tiny level when we do personal research; we look at these records. But imagine if new tech could analyze all these points???!!!   Example:  All city directories, all state censuses, add 1890 vet’s schedule, vital records for time period, census for 1880 and 1900….and you could in theory recreate an 1890 census. Be 100% accurate? No, but good help for clues.  

Some of these are happening (local societies recreating 1890 census for their area) and some are in the future. (Example:  somebody analyzed 100 years of menus for NY City to see what was served where and how often.)

Tools that make family history accessible……………… these tools are getting better and better!

Education becomes critical………. To assist us to interpret and understand the materials.  (Do beginners really understand some of the facts and factoids they find????)

We need opportunities (online and in-person) to learn are vital…… societies are vital!

 Must think of what data we’re keeping today, where we’re keeping it, how we’re keeping it. And will it be available 50 years from now?

Organization and technology helps us to learn and connect.  How do we access and use it?  And who will help us understand what we found???

 “I’m excited and terrified all at once because I know there is so much opportunity out there!”

“For the types of materials we’ll be able to use and the ways we’ll access those materials.”

 “BUT NO MATTER WHAT, we will never be able (nor should we) just click  green leaf and think we’ll find/have everything there is to know right there in one place.”

Let’s Talk About: German POW Camps in Washington

According to Wikipedia, there were 425,000 German prisoners of war housed in 700 camps throughout the United States during World War II. I had no clue…….. until the fact was mentioned in a genealogy program. The map below is fuzzy but you get the idea.

After the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, the British Government requested American help with housing prisoners of war due to a housing shortage in Britain. The U.S. was asked to take 175,000, and reluctantly agreed since we were not prepared to house and care for them. As the war years slipped by, sometimes as many as 30,000 prisoners per month arrived into New York or Virginia where they were processed and distributed to camps. Some 46 of the 48 states hosted camps. 

After the war, the German prisoners were expected to go home immediately, but seeing that their treatment had been good, some 5000 Germans emigrated back to the U.S. Some stayed in other European countries. A national poll found that 74% of Americans solely blamed the German government for the war, not Germans. 

The camps in the U.S. are otherwise what the Associated Press later called an “all but forgotten part of history.” About 860 German POWs remain buried in 43 sites across the U.S. In some local communities which formerly hosted POW camps, local residents often do not know the camps ever existed. 
Washington had two camps:  Fort Lewis and Fort Lawton.  Idaho had two:  Farragut and Camp Rupert.  Oregon had two:  Camp White and Camp Warner.  Montana never had a POW camp. 

If you’d like to know more, Wikipedia has a 13-page article on German Prisoners of War in the United States.

Let’s Talk About: States’ Favorite Foods

 I thought, and was told by locals, that LocoMoco is THE quintessential Hawaiian dish. But according to the American Food Network, Hawaii’s specialty food is Shave Ice. I’ve tried both; they’re both yummy. Have YOU ever tried Loco Moco?

Picture a big blob of cooked white sticky rice. Top that with a quarter-pound lean hamburger patty. Smother is all with brown gravy. Add one or two fried eggs (cooked to order) and onion rings optional. This dish will fill you up for all day and likely has an all-day worth of calories. 

What is Washington’s famous/favorite food? Or the dish we’re most known for? Seafood Chowder, according to the American Food Network list. Idaho’s choice is the Steak-Cheese Loaded Baked Potato.  Marionberry Pie is Oregon’s dish. And Montana? Huckleberry Ice Cream!

How many types of apples are grown in Washington???     Over 30 types!Washington is home to over 30 types of apples that range in flavor, texture, and color. They all have a few things in common. You can count on every Washington apple to be juicy, nutritious, and delicious.  Washington Apple Commission

How many varieties can you name?????

Let’s Talk About: Trivia

 French Fry ice cream. How does that sound to you? Or Ranch Dressing ice cream? These exotic new ice cream flavors are a reality from a Los Angeles company called VanLeeuwen’s. The idea was that many of us in the past have enjoyed dipping our French Fries into our Malted Milkshakes. Well maybe you, but not me never. Would you try it?

In a very old newspaper clipping from an undated, unidentified newspaper, was this bit:
“Abe Kissed 34 Women During His Ceremony.”  Quoting Jewell Casey “in the current issue of The Holy Names Journal,” Honest Abe bussed no fewer than 34 girls at his first inauguration….. one from each state.

The article also stated that George Washington was the only president inaugurated in two cities, New York and Philadelphia. He wore a “made in America brown wool suit made from the wool of American sheep.”

John Adams was so galled over the larger popularity of his successor, Thomas Jefferson, that he left Washington early in the morning to avoid seeing Jefferson sworn into office. Then 28 years later, John’s son, John Quincy Adams, got out of town early, too, so he wouldn’t have to watch Andy Jackson, his bitter rival, succeed him.  

Thomas Jefferson rode to his inaugural on horseback. Warren Harding was the first to arrive in a motor car….but kissed the same Bible “that had known the lips of George Washington.”

Calvin Coolidge was sworn into office by his own father, a justice of the peace, in a simple Vermont farmhouse lit only by a flickering kerosene lamp. No other father has had that privilege. 

Quote from Mark Twain:  “Clothes DO make the man; naked people have little of no influence in society.” 

She: “What’s that lump on your head?”  He:  “Oh, that’s where a thought struck me.” 

Let’s Talk About: FamilySearch Library News

 While attending RootsTech the end of February, I sat in on two classes to learn more for myself and to share with all of you. The two presentations were on the FamilySearch Library Catalog and the FamilySearch WIKI. 

You most likely cannot read that small print, but there are currently 106,000 articles on the WIKI. . “The WIKI is your online genealogy guide which links you to all known records of the entire world.” Did you catch that? “To all KNOWN records of the entire world.” And new free links and websites are constantly being added. The presenter, Danielle Baston, advised us “to search by locality because that’s were things happen.” Some countries, she said, have pages of links and info (like Denmark) but some (like Bulgaria) don’t have as much. “The FamilySearch WIKI is your Researchers’ Golden Ticket,” Danielle quipped. 

Becky Loveridge, another FamilySearch library employee, gave the news that as of Feb 2022 there was a whole new catalog:  libcat.familysearch.org/library . There is a new home page making it much easier to narrow down your search to specifics. Most surname books are now digitized but some are restricted to in-library use. The new catalog integrates with the WIKI. And when you click on a specific book, other books are suggested. I think we all need to take an hour or so away from TV and check out the updated FamilySearch catalog. Treasures await!

I did get to spend two days in the library and did explore something “fun.” On the top bar, just to the right of SEARCH, was MEMORIES. This was fun! I went through my pedigree chart’s brick wall problems to see if anybody, anywhere, had posted something new. And I did find some new leads. But let me make clear: these were items from online trees, Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, American Ancestors, and other similar databases. Which meant, and I recognized this, that they might or might not be correct. If you want to have some careful fun, search for your chart names under Memories….but do remember the old adage of “buyer beware.” 

Let’s Talk About: A Spring Poem

“The little brown bulbs went to sleep in the ground,

In their little brown nighties they slept very sound.

And winter he raged and he roared overhead,

But never a bulb turned over in bed.

But when spring came tip-toeing over the lea,

Her finger on lip, just as still as could be,

The little brown bulbs at the very first tread

All split up their nighties and jumped out of bed.”

This little poem came from a scrapbook kept by Laura Stuart’s mother; John and Laura Stuart are long-time EWGS members but due to age, cannot attend anymore. I recently helped Laura go through some of these scrapbooks………. and this poem, written by a friend of her mother’s, was unimportant to Laura. But not to me!

NOTE TO THE WISE:  Don’t just toss grandma’s scrapbooks until you go through them page by page, watching for treasures. 

Let’s Talk About: WPA Projects…Even in Hawaii

In February, 2023, we were blessed to be in Maui, Hawaii. Walking in downtown Lahaina, I spotted this memorial stone-marker. It really made me pause and think. I knew about Roosevelt’s WPA projects, and the CCC corps, but only thought of it within the 48 states. But no, there were projects in all 50 states!

In Lahaina, it was a WPA project to develop the downtown Banyan Tree Park. Other Maui projects were Lahaina’s  Sea Wall, the highway between Lahaina and Wailuku (and the airport) and the Hala Pa’ahao Prison……. which was first built in the 1850s and restored several times since as a historic site in Lahaina. 

A project many of you will recognize, having driven it perhaps more than once, is the Haleakala Road, built as a WPA project between 1933-1944 at a cost of nearly $500,000 (nearly $12 billion today). This is was a ten-year project as Haleakala summit lies at 10,000 feet and is about a15-mile very serpentine road. 

As you probably know, there were WPA/CCC programs and projects in all 50 states, and it was YOUR ancestors (as young men) who were involved in those programs and projects. Records of the many and various work camps in each state are available; ask Google.

Let’s Talk About: Little, Local Societies

I think most every county in Washington has a genealogical society; some have more than one. Each one of these groups was established for two reasons: to help members with finding their family history, and to keep a library or collection of local resources with which to offer that help.  Do not overlook what can be found locally in a smaller, local society. 

Burlington, in Skagit County, Washington, began as a logging camp in 1882 and was officially incorporated in 1902. That’s a long-time history! The city sits near the Skagit River, which has a history of flooding, but the city bounced back after a terrible flood in 1909 and is a sweet little place to visit today. When I visited with this group, several members told me the stories of how their recent ancestors had moved there from the midwest, lured by lumbering jobs. 

The Skagit Valley Genealogical Society was established in 1987 “to promote and preserve family history,” especially in their area. SVGS maintains an extensive collection of genealogy reference books in the Burlington Public Library. Are you needing research help in Skagit County? Do contact the Skagit Valley Genealogical Society. As a bonus, Burlington is just a tad north of the Skagit Valley tulip explosion; time your trip to enjoy the blooms and visit Burlington and other nearby places in Skagit County. 

After my time with the SVGS group, I took the ferry to Port Angeles to visit family. Thinking of small places as I drove west,  I saw two place-name signs I’d never seen before. One directed folks to turn left for the town of Big….. could find nothing for that town but Big Lake is a designated place in Skagit County. Big, Washington; interesting designation.

Beaver is an unincorporated community in Clallam County on the Olympic Peninsula, settled in the early 1900s. Wikipedia designated it as “one of the wettest places in the contiguous U.S. with an annual rainfall of 121 inches.” Yikes.  Anybody’s ancestor from Beaver, Washington?? I wonder why they left? (smile)
I’ve been to Joyce, in Clallam County. This townlet was founded in 1913 by Joseph Joyce and is 16 miles west of Port Angeles. The historic general store there opened n 1911 and is still offering refreshments to travelers today. Interesting trivia: as there is only one road into town, residents are very aware of  the possibility of a catastrophic earthquake happening (the town sits on the Cascadia subducton zone) and have extensive emergency and survival planning in place. Good for them!