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I am always interested in Benson Lossing, as he lived in my home town of Dover, Dutchess, NY.  He authored a small pamphlet about the Dover Stone Church including the story of Pequot Sachem Sassacus that I imagine he heard from Eunice Mauwee, granddaughter of Schaghticoke Sachem Gideon Mauwee, as she was then a frequent visitor to the Lossing home.  Recently searching for a list of his works I came across this article that shows his role as preservationist and cultural heritage tourist.  This review shows Lossing as a spokesperson for the value of historic preservation and demonstrates how his work helped preserve history through sketches and stories.  I only repeated a few paragraphs here…the full review is definitely worth a read.

Traveling in the early 1840s, Lossing became concerned with the relative apathy of the nation in remembrance of the Revolution and lack of conservation of the structures, land, and monuments of the conflict. In his archaic prose he lamented the loss of the original sites associated with the Revolution: “For years a strong desire was felt to embalm those precious things of our cherished household, that they might be preserved for the admiration and reverence of remote posterity.”[i] In 1848, Lossing decided to write a history of the American Revolution from the novel perspective of a traveler visiting the scenes of the various events. He traveled over 8,000 miles throughout Canada and the United States visiting nearly every site of importance, and many relatively unknown sites, associated with the Revolution.

Lossing intertwines the history of the areas he visits with his search for Revolutionary War stories. While visiting Connecticut to chronicle battles such as that around Danbury, he throws in the tale of the three judges who fled from England after condemning Charles I to death and settling in New Haven. Anecdotes of French and Indian War encounters or the first colonists of Canada enrich the tales of the Revolution and provide background to the contemporary locations. He details which buildings remain from the colonial period, complaining of the changes brought by progress and the poor stewardship of those original sites.

An important part of Lossing’s tour through America is the wonderful portrait he paints of the people and places of the United States in the mid-1800s as he travels. The buildings and streets that he describes when telling about the post-Revolutionary construction give a valuable look at towns and cities of antebellum America. His use of early railroads, canal boats, coaches and other contemporary transportation allow a glimpse of a slower, less advanced time.  His worries about changes in technology sound familiar to us.  He complains about a train ride near Albany: “Sweeping down the valley at the rate of twenty miles an hour… the traveler has very little opportunity to estimate the character of the region through which he is passing.”[iii] Ominously, his dark portrayal of the transition as he travels from the bustling, energetic country north of the Mason-Dixon line into the slow, primitive culture of the South sheds a light on the deep sectional differences caused by the blight of slavery.

In the fast paced world of retail and commercial construction project management results are measured by deadlines and budgets. At the end of the day no one wants to hear about how hard you worked, what you did or how many obstacles were thrown at you…did you or did you not achieve the desired result on time? That is what counts. If, for example, a fashion retail store has its grand opening scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving, no amount of hard work will give you a pass for not getting the job done until Saturday. I have spent years with terms such as pro-activity, get in front of it, drop dead date. It is all very black and white. Either the artwork was installed on time or it wasn’t. The lighting fixtures either came in on budget or they didn’t.

And so it is these past few years I have been struggling to transition from part to full-time professional genealogist. I do understand that there are no guarantees that a land sale will exist for a certain individual, and, if it does exist there is no guarantee that it will be found in a certain repository, or even sometimes at all. So, I understand the concept of charging an hourly rate for a search that bears no fruit. Or, that is to say, I get the concept. But…I am programmed to deliver results at the end of each day. So if that day yields no results, then I spend time trying to figure out what to do to produce results that I feel comfortable charging for. I have tried giving myself pep talks and comparing these task to other tasks that involve paid work for no results. But still I am resistant. This has been the main challenge for me in changing careers.

On the flip side, I have used my former project management and data crunching hats to create some excellent time-saving tools. I just added time line and log modules to my custom genealogy database. The time line module lets me quickly enter data that may or may not apply in the early stages of the project to yield a report to take with me into the field. It is also helpful to spot anomalies. As more work is done, only the relevant items need be put into more formal language. The log helps me track my back and forth contacts with clients, prospective clients and volunteer projects so that I can stay on top of who has been waiting too long for an answer, research proposal, status update, project report.

Right now I am hot on the trail of someone’s illusive Huguenot ancestor and thus there are a few too many individuals that have been waiting too long to hear back from me. And so, I had best get cracking!

Recently as I was looking into the family of Abel Peters of Dutchess County, NY I came across a strange new name… “Whereas Ahasuerus Ellsworth my present husband, by his bond dated 10 Sept 1794 did bind himself and his heirs to my son Abel Peters now dcd….My last will: Sarah Ellsworth of Town of Washington, County of Dutchess….” I had never heard this name before, and at first thought it to be a bad transcription. However, an ancestry search using only the given name and New York as location did turn up others. And so of course I became curious…how would you pronounce it? Is there a shorter version?

I goggled the name and learned that it was a Biblical name for a Persian king. The Bible dictionary and concordance gives the following synopsis from the Old Testament Book of Esther:

In the Bible Ahasuerus is said to have ruled over 127 provinces “from India to Ethiopia” (Est 1:1-2).

In the third year of his reign he gave a sumptuous banquet for the heads of his provinces and court officials and ordered his wife, the beautiful Queen Vashti, to present herself at the banquet. Upon her refusal to obey his order, he dismissed her as his wife (Est 1:3-8, 10-19), and chose Esther, a Jewess, to replace her (Est 2:1-4, 17). At the instigation of his chief minister Haman, a decree was issued for the annihilation of all the Jews living in the empire (Est 3:1-15). This scheme was thwarted by Esther and her cousin Mordecai. Haman was hanged and a new decree was issued by Ahasuerus allowing the Jews the right to kill their enemies (Est 8:3-14, 9:5-10, 13-14).

One can just picture the intrigue going on behind the scenes as this plot was hatched and thwarted. Though interesting, the story sheds little light on why in the world would someone name their son Ahasuerus? Pronunciation options varied widely depending on the answering web site. Perhaps there is no one left today who owns this name and can tell us for sure. And, I am left still wondering what the nickname would be…would the full name be used, or did his friends just call him Aha?

Tuskegee Airmen

This came via email from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Visit their website and the Tuskegee Airmen blog to learn how you can support this museum.

Lonnie Bunch, museum director, historian, lecturer, and author, is proud to present A Page from Our American Story, a regular on-line series for Museum supporters. It will showcase individuals and events in the African American experience, placing these stories in the context of a larger story — our American story.
A Page From Our American Story
Tuskegee Airmen Circa May 1942 to Aug 1943
Members of the Tuskegee Airmen
Circa May 1942 to Aug 1943
Location unknown, likely Southern Italy or North Africa

Not many people know the entire story of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is going to change that. The Tuskegee Airmen epitomize courage and heroism. Their story, however, is more than just their legendary success escorting American bombers over Nazi Germany.

Monday, February 6, 2012

7:00-9:00 pm

National Museum of Natural History

Baird Auditorium

10th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW

Metro: Smithsonian/Federal Triangle

NPR’s Tell Me More host Michel Martin and Prof. Annette Gordon-Reed, Prof. of Law, Harvard University, and Pulitzer Prize-Winning author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family will discuss the lives of six slave families living at Monticello alongside Jefferson and his family. They will also explore ideas about how Thomas Jefferson and the 11 other American Presidents who owned slaves could have used the power of their office to end slavery and improve the lives of free black communities across the U.S., and chose not to. This program is based on the exhibition, Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty. Copies of The Hemingses of Monticello, and Andrew Johnson will be available for sale and signing. The event is free and open to the public on a first come-first seated basis. Please call 202/633-0070 for more information.

via NMAAHC – Home Page.

Visual Thinking: Not Just About Pictures | Visual Thinking Magic, written by Adam Sicinski on January 26, 2012 ·

While working through the process of visual thinking, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that visual thinking is predominantly about drawing pictures. While this is true to a certain degree, I would like to however broaden the idea of what a picture is — at least in terms of how it relates to visual thinking.

A picture is any type of graphical or organizational tool you use that helps you to represent your thoughts and ideas in a visual way.

via Visual Thinking: Not Just About Pictures | Visual Thinking Magic.

…the more they stay the same.

“…After the…bubble burst…they were eager to go wherever new opportunities presented themselves.  The biggest losers were the newcomers and the chronic poor who had tried to get rich quick.  Speculation…had driven the price up so fast that houses and businesses were mortgaged to the hilt…when the craze stopped abruptly and paralyzed commerce…”

What does it sound like we are talking about here?  Can you fill in the missing words?  Does it in part sound rather like events you yourself might have witnessed in recent years?

A tulip, known as “the Viceroy”, displayed in a 1637 Dutch catalog, cost a minimum of ten times the annual earnings of a skilled craftsman.

The year?  1637.  The place?  Netherlands.  The passage is from Our New Netherlands Immigrant Ancestors by Virginia Carpenter Jansen,[1]talking about tulip mania’s effect on Dutch immigrants: “Our New Netherlands immigrants that came to America were from Belgium, Germany and Norway as well as from Holland and other Dutch provinces. Most went to the booming city of Amsterdam to find work or to escape religious persecution. They lived there less than a generation before they moved again to the New World during the period 1632 to 1665.  After the bubble burst they were eager to go wherever new opportunities presented themselves…”

[1] Jansen, Virginia Carpenter. “Chapter 27. Westfall Ancestry of the Jansen Daughters.” Westfall Emigrants to America. webpages.charter.net/gjansen/famwes.htm (accessed April 4, 2011).

From the Irish Civil War to the American Revolution, and from the African nation of Cameroon to the Republic of Bulgaria, Season 3 of Who Do You Think You Are? will take you all over the world and inside the fascinating family histories of 12 celebrities.

Learn more on NBC.com

Watch a preview

Whose stories will you discover this season?

[Above from an email release by Ancestry.com]

This year I again helped to research an episode.  The details of each story remain a secret until the episode airs.  However, even knowing the details of my own research last year, I could not tell which episode I had worked on until I watched it…what fun…how we genealogists love a mystery!   So, this season I will again be following every episode with the same anticipation as everyone else…or perhaps with even greater anticipation…waiting to see into whose ancestry my piece of the story fits!

I intended for this blog to be a repository for my genealogy tips, thoughts and reflections that were too lengthy to for wall posts.  The past few months have been so busy I have yet to get back to it.  But now I resolve to post more regularly.

This June I traveled with my siblings to Sweden where we visited my mother’s ancestral home.  In Lycksele and Vägsele we saw my grandparents’ birthplaces.  We visited churches and historic sites in Göteborg, Stockholm, the High Coast, Umeå, Lycksele, Tärnaby and Östersund, hiking many miles each day sightseeing both cities and mountain wilderness. I met my genealogist cousin with whom I had corresponded for several years, and his parents who had originally helped my parents research my mother’s ancestry.  We shared some wonderful times with this family and stored up memories to last a lifetime.  After I returned I discovered through a Facebook post that a local friend shares my ancestry.  She connected me with another Swedish cousin who sent me this photo of my ancestors, John Philipson Hilduinen and his wife Hildur, who walked from northern Finland ca 1670 and built the first settlement in Lycksele parish, Örträsk.

In July I gave a talk to the New York Chapter of the Wing Family of America for their annual reunion, this year held at the picturesque and historic  Inn at Dover Furnace.  My presentation included a virtual tour of nearby Wing family related sites: Old Drovers Inn, also the first town hall for the Town of Dover; the Benson Lossing home; and Wing Post Office and Store on Chestnut Ridge.  

Following the meeting we toured, in person, the Tabor-Wing House in Dover Plains (above). Some reunion goers then hiked to the Dover Stone Church (above) where Pequot Sachem Sassacus is thought to have sought refuge when pursued by the English soldiers in 1637.  Though the afternoon was exceptionally hot even for July, those who took the hike wrote to say they were very pleased to have made the effort and intended to return with other family members.  Still others drove to Pawling to visit the Oblong Meeting House and Mehitable Wing Monument on Quaker Hill, and were pleasantly surprised to find the Meeting House open for visitors.

August was a busy month!  I continued updating the web site for the National Association of Leavitt Families and collected material for our quarterly newsletter Leavitt Leaves.  Lots of work this time adding reunion photos and news….this year the reunion was in Turner, ME, and I was very sorry to have missed it while traveling in Sweden.  The Dutchess County Genealogical Society had a booth at the Dutchess County Fair. Our VP of Education, Mary Ann Zatlukal did an excellent job of setting up the volunteer schedule and the displays for this event…as President I did not really have to do much except show up for my shift!  Our County Clerk joined us on opening day to help greet guests and discuss how the Courthouse records can help researchers.  

But…by far for me the most exciting family history event in August was an addition to my own family tree…the arrival of my first grandson, in New York City…he made his appearance in the midst of hectic times, but safely, just before Hurricane Irene.