These 1886 craftsman - some of them in their 60s (or older) - posed with handiwork and tools at their workplace, the Springfield Armory in MA (active 1777-1968.) Especially in wartime, the federal government was a major purchaser of certain staple items - clothing, shoes, paper, -- and weapons. Industrial productivity in the infant U.S. got a huge boost from technological advances in the early-mid 1800s, aka "The Black Hole of Genealogy." (See the "American System of Manufacturing" entry on wikipedia.) Small mill towns in the Connecticut River Valley, southeastern MA, and RI became significant population centers as rural men and women gave up farming and moved to other towns, counties, and even states to seek paid employment in the bustling new factories. Such cash-economy workers generated different/fewer land records and their major life events (marriage, birth of children, & deaths) took place in places you might not think to look. The Springfield Armory (and federal armory at Harper's Ferry, WV) were under the control of the military. As civilian employees of the military, records of individual workers may be part of any employment records now at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). If you have an ancestor listed as an "operative," "mechanic," or a specific industrial trade and think he/she might have worked at a federal facility, submit a signed, dated, written request (no phone or email) to: National Personnel Records Center (Civilian Personnel Records) 111 Winnebago St., St. Louis, MO 63118-4126. Provide as much detail as you can about your ancestor (full name, date of birth, federal agency employing him/her, approximate dates) and they will search for you. NARA can only provide name, position titles, grades, salaries, and duty stations, but these are particularly useful in differentiating between people of the same name living in the same city, confirming residency, indicating likely socioeconomic status, verifying that someone who abandoned his/her family was still alive and where, or writing an analysis or genealogical argument for a lineage society. NARA will field questions about the process by phone (314) 801-9250, fax (314) 801-9269, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm going to try it out on a stray great grandfather from MA thought to be dead but who recently turned up on a WWI draft card working at a federal facility in OH. Hmmmmm....
Attention: Members of the National Society Daughters of Colonial Wars (NSDCW) and potential members of same. The latest national newsletter contains an announcement that the President's Project will be the wall covering restoration and the preservation of the gallery section of the 120-year-old structure newly renamed the National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse. The General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD, aka The Mayflower Society) bought it recently, as it is on the site of the actual meetinghouse built by the Mayflower passengers who arrived there in 1620. Qualifications include being a female and having an ancestor somewhere in the 13 Colonies between Jamestown (VA, 1607) and the Battle of Lexington (MA) in 1775 - AND who served in the military or held a civic office during one of the many battles that went on. (There are more of them than you'd think.) If you are reading this and are a female, the chances are excellent that you qualify.
If you are a member of Plimoth Plantation you should have gotten word that the Mayflower II - after several years of restoration work - will be relaunched at a ceremony at Mystic Seaport in CT on Sep. 7th. That's where the restoration has been going on. Mystic's site has more information on when you would actually be able to see the Mayflower II underway and when (starting May 2020 in Boston & Plymouth.) Plimoth Plantation is hosting an event revolving around casting a new ship's bell for the Mayflower II from Aug. 31 to Sep. 1st, called Let History Ring: Casting a New Ship's Bell. If you can make it to either event, I would be happy to post your photos here.
Congratulations, Cookes, you have hit the coveted 200 mark. That means 200 unique Cooke descendants have photos and write-ups giving their lineage in the Cooke section. In other encouraging news, yesterday google adsense counted 1,143 unique visitors to this website over the previous 7 days, with 15,732 page views. Thank you, and keep up the good work!
Travels in Wisconsin and Iowa recently led me to two immigrant experience museums that had vaccination documents on display. Both focused on Norway, which, I was told, was second only to Ireland in the percentage of its population that left their homeland in the 1800s for North America. I do not know if Norway had a higher vaccination rate than other countries, or was better at documenting inoculations, or just had more people that thought to bring their medical records with them. I have never seen proof of smallpox shots displayed in a museum before. One set was on the wall at Vesterheim, the National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center in Decorah, Iowa and the one below was at one of the two Norskedalen museums in Vernon County, Wisconsin. (I tweeted - @DoctorMaura - when we visited.) I did not get to use the research library at any of these sites but it is worth asking at any local or ethnic museums whether they have such documents in their collection. If so, make the archivist's day and ask if your people's records are there. Below is a picture I took, so you'll know what such a document looks like. On this one it says the child was inoculated against cowpox (koekopper) possibly because that was the virus used. (It's what Edward Jenner used.) This one tells you that Johana Peder Datter, whose parents (foreldrene) were Peder and Lilbut, was inoculated 23 July 1831, when she was half a year old (1/2 ar gammel.) It might say where in Norway and give other information. If you've studied any related language to the one your document is in, you can at least get the general idea with a pocket translating dictionary. These research libraries sometimes provide formal translation services, too.
Photo @Maura Mackowski, 2019.
Vesterheim, the National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center in Decorah, Iowa is hosting an interesting exhibit through April 26, 2020 called "Tattoo: Identity Through Ink." The shirtless gentleman below (King Frederick IX of Denmark) was featured prominently, and coincidentally in another part of the museum was a picture of his fully-clothed father (Christian X), whom he greatly resembled. The caption below Frederick's photo explains why it was deemed display-worthy. It seems the king had posed for Life magazine, a major mid-20th century publication known for its photography, and kicked off a tattoo craze in his native country. (Photo credit below the blue line in the picture.)
So how can old photos of YOUR tattooed relatives help your genealogical research? Aside from telling two kings apart, how about: Identifying possible clan or tribal membership? Revealing occupation, religion, military service, or fraternal organization membership? Seeing where he or she might have traveled? Finding out about past prison terms - or past loves? Indicating socioeconomic status or national origin? Knowing such things can give you ideas for new places to look for documents that will reveal your ancestor's story. Has someone's tattoo helped you in your family history research?
I am rapidly losing count of the interesting genealogical data sources you can find doing field research vs reading the internet. Today, as part of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War (DUVCW) annual convention we toured Andersonville National Historic Site, commonly referred to as just "Andersonville," the most notorious of the Civil War POW camps. Nowadays it is also the National POW Museum and a national cemetery where burials still take place. It is run by the National Park Service, which separately has a searchable Soldiers and Sailors Database of both Union and Confederate combatants. We learned the amazing story of CT POW Dorence Atwater, a 20-year-old private assigned to the "Dead House," where bodies of soldiers were stacked until there were enough to fill a trench, shoulder to shoulder. His job was to record the name & basic data of each Union soldier who died. Fearing the list would disappear in the event of Confederate defeat, which seemed likely in 1864, he made a duplicate record of the more than 12,000 corpses he processed (in just 9 months.) He smuggled it out so families could learn the fate of soldiers Missing In Action. Atwater's list, published in 1866 thanks to the intervention of Clara Barton, can be downloaded from Internet Archive. It has been my experience that the deaths of Civil War soldiers known at the time to have died were usually reported in MA town records. In spot checking a few of the MA POW graves I saw, though, none were so recorded, probably because there was no such "vital record" category. And if he left no dependents, there might be no pension to claim, plus it's not clear that POWs were necessarily eligible for pensions. Near state borders, a man might enlist in another state, too. Various factors like this can combine to leave you with a hole in your family tree you don't even know you had. For example, gravestone #939, H.B. Freelove of RI, when compared to Atwater's list, is revealed to have served in Co. H, 1st RI Cavalry, deceased 7 May 1864 of diarrhea, no occupation given. Being there in person gives you his full name (see the photo below of the RI state marker.) Judicious guesswork, the NEHGS (americanancestors.org) databases, your favorite state & federal census sources, and fold3.com for military records reveal Pvt. Freelove's parents, siblings, occupation, probable economic status, and more. Give it a try, and post your best guess in the comments section and I'll share my conclusions.
All photos © Maura Mackowski 2019.
In addition to having a great Swiss genealogy & history library AND being within a 3-5 hour drive of significant Norwegian, Danish, Cornish, and Polish genealogy research centers, New Glarus, Wisconsin also turned out to be a (relative) hotbed of Manx genealogy. The North American Manx Association is active here and their web site is advertising Hotel 1620 at Plymouth, MA as the site of their 2020 Annual Convention, August 7-9, 2020. If you are a Standish descendant, you know that he was a Manxman, which makes you eligible to join and take part in the celebration. The event is on top of the GSMD's triennial Congress festivity the following month, in September. The Society of Myles Standish Descendants meets on a biennial basis, and their next event is not until 2021, unfortunately. So, if you can't make it to Plymouth, MA in September and are lucky enough to be a Standish descendant, you can still have a great time celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim's landing with the Manx cats of the NAMA (pun intended.) If you are interested, this group also has an active facebook page. (Not sure if you have any ancestors from the Isle of Man? NAMA has a list of Manx surnames here. You don't have to be a Standish descendant to join.)
To find out, you'll have to pull yourself away from your computer and go to Monroe, WI's National Historic Cheesemaking Center. Yes, they have a website and it has a link to cheesemaker oral history interviews (on their YouTube site) plus a "History of Cheese" recap. The interviews might be useful for Swiss/Wisconsin family lore that would give you some ideas, but the earliest interviews I saw dated to 2018. What the actual venue in Monroe - just outside the town square - offers is the chance to physically locate your family's farm and see who & what they lived near, whether they were in the town or off in the wilderness, what natural resources and avenues of transportation they had (navigable waterways, roads), etc. All of these matter, particularly when there is more than one person in the town with your ancestor's name and you need to figure out which one married your other ancestor and ultimately produced YOU. Especially if you have to do a written analysis, you will need to be able to show how the couple could ever have possibly met and the map is your ally in that case. In the photo below, taken at the National Historic Cheesemaking Center (© Maura Mackowski 2019), you will see a notebook, wall map, and photo display. Look up your ancestor in the notebook, see a photo of their farm on the left, and find their farm on the wall map. In this example, the Flannagan, Olson, and Geigel cheesemaking operations are pictured and the map to the right should give you an idea of how two of them became "Flannagan-Olson." The moral of the story is, you will miss a lot, sometimes the most important clues, by just looking at records. Find out what your ancestors did for a living, look for museums & historical organizations dedicated to that craft, and visit the local museums in their town.
Photo © Maura Mackowski 2019
Mineral Point, Iowa County, WI in the "driftless" section (look it up) of the southwestern part of the state, is the place to go for Cornish genealogy. A great many of the European settlers in the area during the 1840s were Cornish miners there and you can today visit Pendarvis, essentially a recreated Cornish "village," eat pasties at the local restaurant, ask about their sister city (Redruth, Cornwall), and join the Southwest Wisconsin Cornish Society. It aims to promote Cornish culture, especially among people in North America of Cornish descent and to do so they offer a newsletter, meetings (if you are in the vicinity), links to other Cornish cultural organizations, and access to their Cornish collection at the public library in Darlington, WI. They want to help you with your Cornish genealogical research, and the group's facebook page is advertising a free year of membership (or one year's free renewal if you are already a member). That offer expires July 31, 2019, but if you join after that, the dues are only $10. Not sure if you're Cornish? Surnames like Cornish/Cornwall/Cornys/Cornewallis or with prefixes such as Tre, Pen, or Nan, or occupational names such as "Dyer" (thatcher), "Bligh" (wolf, possibly for a hunter), or characteristics such as "gwynn" (white) or "teague" (beautiful) are often Cornish. Particularly if your ancestors first appeared in an area associated with mining, look for possible Cornish heritage.
Dr. Maura Mackowski is an Arizona research historian who enjoys the challenge of looking for Mayflower descendants, hers and anyone else's.
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