Friday, October 4, 2013

Historical Societies


Genealogy tip for today: Historical Societies

L. S. Van Gorder, my grandfather, died on my birthday, June 9, 1982. In the pursuing years my mother had the task, along with her brothers of settling their estate and distributing their assets. Family had always been important, even to my grandmother. So a couple of years later my mother made the discovery that Grandma had previously written her family history down, going back four generations, in the back of an old, narrow ledger.

I had always had a yen for who was who in our family tree, especially on Mom’s side. Whenever Mom would talk about Aunt Almie, or Cousin Helen, I would always want to figure out how they were related. So my mother was pretty sure I would be interested in this gold mine. She was right! The TV series, Roots, had come out by this time and genealogy was the new buzz.

With all the information she had written down I had a very good start. However, Grandma had written down only 3 of 4 sets of her great grandparents. The fourth set was missing. Well, I thought, this should be a piece of cake!

So began my journey into genealogy. Given that all of my family goes back to New York and Pennsylvania I had to do a lot of my research the “armchair” way – by mail. In the 90’s I was able to make two trips to New York and PA. During this time I discovered that one place was a lot of help; the local historical society.

By law, in New York, each county has to have a county historian and a historical society. The county historian is a government position but I don’t remember for sure if it’s elected or appointed.  I suspect Pennsylvania is the same way as they also have the a similar setup in their counties. Other states have local historical centers, but are not necessarily mandated by law.

Then on a larger scale there are the state archives as well.  I worked for a short time in the Kansas State Historical Society and discovered that you can find information you might not expect in these locations. KSHS has a research library where you can go and use yourself. I suspect they all do. I know of some others who do.

There usually is a nominal fee for doing the research for you, but it is usually quite reasonable and much cheaper than making a trip that far away. I was able to connect with other people researching the same family lines that had contacted the same historical society. I found various types of information on my people; county histories that mentioned my relatives and sometimes even family histories that others had written that included us! On one occasion I found out where my great-great grandfather had bought a pound of nails at the hardware store. That was a neat find as he was a carpenter and here was a sneak peek into his daily life.

If you haven’t tried historical societies yet, look them up. There are several ways to find them. You can search on the state's website you are interested. You could also put in keywords with the name of the state and 'historical' as your search terms. They are another source that could hold information, some of which you might not find anywhere else. Write a short letter, but etiquette requires that you ask them to research only one thing, two at the very most. You don’t want to overwhelm them with a lot of requests in one letter. They may not do it at all, and also, it may be a long time before you will hear back from them if you send more than one request. Always include an SASE – self-addressed stamped envelope. If you don’t know their fees let them know you would be willing to pay for any reasonable charges. Or, research it on the Internet before you write.

Then sit back in your armchair and let the information come to you!

Our Library's Foundation board sponsors every year a Conversation With event, bringing in a well known author. This year's author is Debbie Macomber. It will be held at the Roger's Little Theater on Friday, October 11th. You can go online to or contact the library for your $39 tickets.
Tickets include meeting the author, 1 signed copy of Starry Night (not yet released), appetizers and drinks. Come join us, meet the author and help support our library as well.  

1777 At Germantown, Pa., British General Sir William Howe repels George Washington's last attempt to retake Philadelphia, compelling Washington to spend the winter at Valley Forge.
1795 General Napoleon Bonaparte leads the rout of counterrevolutionaries in the streets of Paris, beginning his rise to power.
1861 The Union ship USS South Carolina captures two Confederate blockade runners outside of New Orleans, La.
1874 Kiowa leader Satanta, known as "the Orator of the Plains," surrenders in Darlington, Texas. He is later sent to the state
penitentiary, where he commits suicide October 11, 1878.
1905 Orville Wright pilots the first flight longer than 30 minutes. The flight lasted 33 minutes, 17 seconds and covered 21 miles.
1914 The first German Zeppelin raids London.
1917 Battle of Broodseinde near Ypres, Flanders, a part of the larger Battle of Passchendaele, between British 2nd and 5th armies and the defenders of German 4th Army; most successful Allied attack of the Passchendaele offensive.
1927 Gutzon Borglum begins sculpting the heads of 4 US presidents on Mount Rushmore.
1940 Germany's Adolf Hitler and Italy's Benito Mussolini meet at the Brenner Pass.
1941 Willie Gillis Jr., a fictional everyman created by illustrator Norman Rockwell, makes his first appearance, on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post; a series of illustrations on several magazines' covers would depict young Gillis throughout World War II.
1943 US captures the Solomon Islands in the Pacific.
1957 Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite, is launched, beginning the "space race." The satellite, built by Valentin Glushko, weighed 184 pounds and was launched by a converted Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Sputnik orbited the earth every 96 minutes at a maximum height of 584 miles. In 1958, it reentered the earth's atmosphere and burned up.
1963 Hurricane Flora storms through the Caribbean, killing 6,000 in Cuba and Haiti.
1965 Pope Paul VI arrives in New York, the first Pope ever to visit the US and the Western hemisphere.
1968 Cambodia admits that the Viet Cong use their country for sanctuary.
1972 Judge John Sirca imposes a gag order on the Watergate break-in case.
1976 In Gregg v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court lifts the ban on the death sentence in murder cases. This restores the legality of capital punishment, which had not been practiced since 1967. The first execution following this ruling was Gary Gilmore in 1977.
1985 Free Software Foundation founded to promote universal freedom to create, distribute and modify computer software.
1992 Mozambique's 16-year civil war ends with the Rome General Peace Accords.
1993 Russia's constitutional crisis over President Boris Yeltsin's attempts to dissolve the legislature: the army violently arrests civilian protesters occupying government buildings.
2004 SpaceShipOne, which had achieved the first privately funded human space flight on June 21, wins the Ansari X Prize for the first non-government organization to successfully launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space.


Birthdays today     

1822 Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th president of the U.S. (1877-1881).
1861 Frederic Remington, Western painter and sculptor.
1862 Edward Stratemeyer, author, creator of the Hardy Boys, Rover Boys, Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins.
1879 Edward Murray East, botanist whose research led to the development of hybrid corn.
1884 Damon Runyon, journalist and short story writer.
1895 Buster (Joseph F.) Keaton, star of silent film comedies including Sherlock, Jr. and The General.
1919 Rene Marques, Puerto Rican playwright and short story writer.
1923 Charlton Heston, American film actor.
1928 Alvin Toffler, writer and futurist.
1934 Sam Huff, pro football player; star of CBS TV special The Violent World of Sam Huff (1961) narrated by Walter Cronkite that is frequently credited with the surge of pro football's popularity in the US.
1937 Jackie Collins, novelist whose books have sold over 500 million copies (Hollywood Wives, Drop Dead Beautiful).
1941 Anne Rice, author of gothic fiction, erotica and Christian literature (Interview with the Vampire, Queen of the Damned, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt); also known by her pen names Anne Rampling and A. N. Roquelaure.
1946 Susan Sarandon, actress; won Academy Award for Dead Man Walking (1995).
1946 Chuck Hagel; current US Secretary of Defense (2013).
1947 Jim Fielder, bassist with the band Blood, Sweat & Tears.
1957 Russell Simmons, businessman; founded Def Jam Hip hop music label and Phat Farm clothing line.






noun: Confession to a priest. Also, penance and absolution that follow confession.

From Old English scrift (confession, penance), from scrifan (to shrive: to impose penance). Ultimately from the Indo-European root skribh- (to cut, separate, or sift) that has resulted in other terms, such as manuscript, scribe, subscribe, scripture, scribble, and describe. Earliest documented use: 897.

The term nowadays is mostly seen in the form "to get short shrift" meaning to receive little consideration or a curt treatment. Originally, short shrift was what condemned criminals received: brief time granted to them for confession and absolution before execution.

"Their schools focus on religious learning: even basic subjects such as maths and English get short shrift."
Talmud and Cheesecake; The Economist (London, UK); Jul 28, 2012.

"Downey's midcareer comeback is also given fair shrift in this absorbing account of one man's amazing triumph over his voracious demons."
Chris Keech; Robert Downey Jr.: The Fall and Rise of the Comeback Kid; The Booklist (Chicago); Dec 15, 2010.

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use. -Emily Post, author and columnist (1872-1960)


Today’s Recipe

Treats, No Tricks!

There is something ghoulishly great about topping your favorite vanilla milk shake with a hauntingly sweet white ghost.

To make, follow these steps:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside.

Coarsely chop desired amount of white chocolate (about 2 ounces). Place in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high about 1 minute or just until melted and smooth, stirring every 20 seconds.

Place melted chocolate in a small reseal-able plastic bag; seal bag. Use kitchen scissors to snip a very small piece off one corner of the bag.

Pipe small ghost shapes on prepared baking sheet. Add two miniature semisweet chocolate pieces to each ghost for eyes. Allow to stand until white chocolate sets. Peel off waxed paper.

Now You Know!