Observations from the Tree

Today I did more family tree stuff, inbetween cleaning the house and hitting Home Depot. In doing this, I’ve been seeing how our society has changed. Is it better now? I’ll leave that for you to decide. What have I seen?

  • At least it the families I looked it, which were mostly merchants, almost everyone had one or two servants. In some ways, it was a necessity, as families typically had 6-8 kids, popped out every year or two. Without the servants, mom would be exhausted (and the house would be a mess, as there were none of our modern conveniences). What I wonder is: how did folks pay for it? Were salaries that much more above living expenses back then?
  • Families were closer. I would often find multigenerational families living in the same house, or the brothers and sisters or cousins on the same census page, meaning probably in the same building or the same block. We don’t have that closeness now; we’re typically some form of a drive from our relatives, if not an airplane away. For some of us, that saves our sanity. But what does it do for knowing your family?
  • Immigrants were more accepted, at least European immigrants. I often see immigrants living together in close quarters, and you could see by their jobs how they worked hard to improve themselves. Has the immigrant attitude changed? Has our attitude changed towards immigrants? Is this a good thing? Has the source of the immigrants changed our attitudes? Why?
  • There were family names, names that keep appearing and reappearing in families. Perhaps this is a southern things, since I was looking in Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, and Ohio. But I don’t see folks doing that as much today–now we invent names. What’s happened to the old names, the Hortenses, the Clementines, the Minnas, the Berthas, the Augustus? Is Shiloh a better name than the tried and true?

Well, those are my observations for now. I’ve got a headache from these devil winds, so I think I’ll so sit with my sweetie and watch some TV…


A Jewish Style Thanksgiving and Trees

Well, as everyone else is writing about their Thanksgivings, I might as well add our 2c. Our is, not surprisingly, a Jewish Thanksgiving, in that we’re observing it over two days. Last night we were going to go over to my uncle’s place, but one of the kids was sick and we didn’t want to risk exposure. So, instead we picked up a hunk-o-lamb, invited over ixixlixand her family, and made an evening of it. I went by my uncle’s to drop off some stuff in the afternoon, and they came by in the evening. No turkey (other than what he brought over), but we did have pumpkin seeds on the salad. Today we’re doing Thanksgiving with my wife’s family. That will be more traditional; my wife just put the turkey in the oven.

So what else have I been doing: more and more family tree. For a few days it became an obsession as I was grabbing information on the Weinbaum family line. I’ve learned that a branch of the family may be the basis of the movie Driving Miss Daisy in addition to the previously mentioned Stanley G Weinbaum. There is also a possibily of a connection to Louis Rukeyser of Wall Street Week fame, although I haven’t fully figured out the note yet. This morning I took some time going through old emails and sending out requests for more information. But there is a little burnout: I can only spend so much time investigating old census records on Ancestry, and I still don’t have a good technique to connect from the information in the 1930s to the current generation. Making the census search even more frustrating is when you know that people exist, but they just stubbornly refuse to show up in the census searches. The problem could be variant spellings of names, but I’m not as creative as I used to be. I’ll probably play with it off and on today.

I’m not sure where this post is going: I just know I wanted to write something. I think I need to go get some breakfast…


Entering a Place Name on Mars

As folks know, I’ve been researching my family tree of late. Last night, I uncovered the first, verified, famous connection that is actually blood-line, not marriage. Drum roll please…

It turns out I’m related to (2nd cousin, once removed, if memory serves correct) Stanley Grauman Weinbaum. Stanley’s father was Nathan Weinbaum; Nathan’s father was Solomon Weinbaum, whose brother was Asher. Asher’s daughter, Rosa (Rose) was my great-grandmother.

So who is Stanley Weinbaum, and what’s this about Mars? Stanley G Weinbaum was a famous science fiction writer who burst upon the scene in 1934; he was dead of throat cancer by 1935. In his brief career, he wrote a number of significant items. He is most noted for the groundbreaking SF short story, “A Martian Odyssey”, which presented a sympathetic but decidedly non-human alien, Tweel. Subsequent American science fiction writers who read Weinbaum’s stories considered Stanley to be one of the key shapers of plot, theme, and direction in science fiction’s pulp history. The writer/editor Horace L. Gold claimed that there was anti-semitism among the New York editors and publishing houses in the pre WW II era, forcing the use of pen names for Jewish writers. Gold credited Stanley Weinbaum’s popularity as the major force in breaking down those religious barriers in the pulp fiction industry. In 1973, Stanley G. Weinbaum (along with H. G. Wells & John W. Campbell) was honored by having a crater on Mars named after him.

So, last night, I got to enter a miscellaneous fact about Stanley Weinbaum… with a location of Mars.


Blown Away By The Power of the Internet

The Internet is a wonderful thing. It can be used for bad (witness the folks who get dumped via text messages), but it can also do miraculous things. For example, it has brought me in touch with numerous relatives searching my family tree: I’ve gotten to know whole new branches of my family, and will now be going to Nashville in late June 2007 for a family reunion. I’ve gotten to know more of the Weinbaum clan than I’ve ever thought existed. I know far fewer of my father’s father’s side, although I am in regular touch with a relative on MySpace (those of you in Davis might know him: Erik, who plays the bagpipes).

However, the Internet has just blown me away.

Not many people know that I had a brother, Erick. He was from my father’s first marriage, about 8 years older than me. I never really knew him that well (for how well does a 5 year old know a 13 year old). In 1969, he started school at UCSB (a law degree, I believe). This was the era of the hippies, and he dressed the part, with long stringy hair. Sometime while he was at UCSB, I have distinct memories of visiting him in the dorms, near Isle Vista, not long after the Bank of America burned. During the summer of 1970, while I was at camp, I received word that he had been electrocuted. This is a tragic shock (no pun intended) to our family, and I think changed people in many many ways we didn’t realize for years. Over time, we lost track of Erick’s friends. Some died, some drifted away. But I always wondered what happened to folks like his girlfriend or his college roommate.

About 15 minutes ago, while working on the family tree, I received the following email:

are you the daniel whose father was adrian and brother was erick? if so, i was his roommate at ucsb and have been wondering what happened to you and the rest of your family.

Whoa! Blown away time!

I just got off the phone with Andy, Rick’s roommate. He works at BJE Jewish Community Library in San Francisco. I don’t have the whole story, but evidently my brother was involved in some way in pushing him into religous studies. Amzaing the paths one lives takes. We spoke briefly; we’ll hopefully get together the next time he is LA.

The power of the Internet.


Should I Plant a Tree in a Garden?

As folks know, I’ve recently been working on my family tree. I’ve actually been working on it for years: it started out as a paper exercise in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, I was doing it as a graphic on early Macs. Later, I moved it to a DOS program I don’t even remember now, and then into Family Origins (which then was marketed by Parsons Technology [remember them?]). After Parsons was absorbed into Broderborg, I moved my genealogy database into RootsMagic, which was actually the followon to Family Origins, written by the original authors. The translation of this is that I’ve always had full control of my tree: it has been local on my machine at home.

Later versions of Family Origins/RootsMagic have permitted me to create a webversion. I’ve done this, but I’ve never made the full tree available. To see anything other than the index of names, I’ve required folks to get a password from me. Part of the reason for this is privacy: Family trees are excellent data mining sources for things like mother maiden names, and if you can get to the SSI death records, you can get SSNs for deceased family members.

I now have a membership on Ancestry.Com. Ancestry.Com provides a variety of search sources: census records up to 1930; SSI death indexes, ship registries, US public records, etc. I’ve been able to add a lot to the tree, but I’ve still been keeping it local to my machine. I’ll save the census images to my home machine, and attach them as a multimedia attachment. Most folks don’t do this: they save the trees up on Ancestry.com. This makes it easier to share with other researchers, but doesn’t provide you with ownership of the information, as they currently don’t have an export ability. With respect to privacy, I should note that Ancestry obstensibly restricts access to the tree to paid members of Ancestry.com and those individuals you specifically invite to have access. However, names are available to everyone to entice folks to join. Specifically, their tutorial says:

As you build your tree, we’ll ask if you want to make your tree information publicly viewable. Most members make their tree “public,” which means that other Ancestry members can see their family tree information. (This does NOT INCLUDE information about living individuals. If we believe a person in your tree to be living, we hide that person’s information from others.) When you make your tree public, you help others find information about their ancestors. You also help yourself, as other members may have more information to share back with you.

If you choose to mark your tree as “personal,” others won’t be able to see your tree. When they find a match in your tree, they will only be able to contact you for more information, but can’t see the details and relationships for that person.

They do, however, provide an import ability, whereby you can import a GEDCom file to create a tree. This is the crux of my dilemma. Should I upload the tree I have to make it easier to share with others? They don’t appear to have the ability to update the GEDCom — it appears, based on what I have read, that I would have to delete the old tree and upload a new one. I also have the privacy concern. On the plus side, it will make my tree more accessible to individuals using ancestry to do their genealogy searching, which is more likely than the simple google searches that will find my existing page.

So, those of you in LJ land who are into genealogy: How would you handle this?


Talking ’bout My Generation

We often talk about generations. There’s a generation gap. There’s your parent’s generation, or “the younger generation”. But what do we really mean when we use the word?

As folks know, I’ve started up again working on my family tree. In doing this, I noticed a pattern. “My” generation consisted mostly of people born in the 1955-1965 timeframe; our kids were all born in the 1985-2000 timeframe. My parent’s generation? Born in the 1920s-1930s. Grandparents? All around 1890-1910. Great-grandparents? Around 1860-1870?

See the pattern here? A generation appears to be around 25-35 years, or about 3 generations per century. Your years may differ, but the timespam, I’ll bet, will be about the same. So, putting this in perspective, ellipticcurve (although she thinks I’m old) and I are only about ½ generation apart: our difference in years is only about 15 years. zarchasmpgmr and I are the same generation; we have the same cultural touchstone such as Dr. George and Sheriff John. I’m not sure there is anyone on LJ of my parent’s generation, whose cultural touchstones are WWII and the depression.

So, although a generation gap may be large in terms of culture and references and styles… it isn’t that large in terms of time.


Unintended Consequences: In Praise of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, and Other Odd Names

As folks know, I’ve recently been researching my family tree. Part of this involves going to ancestry.com and doing various searches. In this, I’ve discovered a new appreciation for weird names. After all, doing searches on names like “Charles Meyer” or “Richard Meyer” gives far too much information to narrow things down. On the other hand, there aren’t that many “Hobart Meyer”s or “Julia Powell”s. So, those of you that have weird spellings in your name, take solace in the fact that future genealogists will have an easier time finding you. To that end, I also applaud every woman that retained her maiden name. Again, it is much easier to track your line when you do this; often, when women get married, it becomes difficult to ever find them again.

Of course, if you want to hide, change your name to something generic: John Smith, David Miller, Sam Gold.

P.S.: As this post relates to the unintended benefits of things, I’ll add one more, which was noted by a friend of mine: The whole political silly season has had a positive benefits: at least the political ads have pushed off the Christmas advertising. I expect the Christmas music to start on election day (sigh).