An Extracted Scot Finds Himself in Hungary: How to Get Started with

By Stephen McClain, Reference Departmentancestry_logo

Did you know that Williamson County Public Library patrons can access for free while in the library? Neither did I – and I am guessing that many other people in Williamson County don’t know either. Like many people in the United States, I have a multicultural background, but have never been absolutely certain what my ethnicity truly is. I have long been interested in tracing my roots and wondered when my ancestors first arrived on this continent, but without access to the proper resources, I never really looked into it. My surname suggests that I am Scottish and I have always celebrated that part of my lineage without really knowing the percentage or who first emigrated from the land of bagpipes and single malt whisky. Also, I have been told that my maternal side is of German or Austrian descent, but no one is really sure.

Census Records, Birth and Death Certificates and Marriage Recordsancestry1

When I first started searching for information on my grandparents, the most readily available data that I found was census records. The search tab at the top left side of the home page provides users with a number of search options, but the easiest way to get started is to simply click the green “Begin Searching” button in the middle of the page. Though I was too young to remember meeting him, I know my paternal great grandfather’s full name and where he lived. By searching his name and town of residence, I was able to locate his father’s name via a combination of census, birth and death records. I repeated this process several times, and through the historical mist, I was able to find that my fifth great grandfather was born in Scotland in 1681 and arrived in what would become the United States in 1766. My family name has apparently been in this country for a very long time and the reveal of this information somewhat diminished my feelings of a connection with the Scottish homeland. I am not going to stop enjoying single malt Scotch whisky or listening to the pipes, but maybe I shouldn’t have gotten married in a kilt…either way, I had another side of my family to research.

ancestry3The maternal side of my lineage has always been somewhat of a mystery. No one in the family seems to know where the names come from. The names of my maternal grandparents both suggest German, Austrian, Slovak or Hungarian lineage. I searched my grandfather’s name and with very little effort, found out that his father was Hungarian. The 1920 U.S. Census records show that he was born in Hungary and his native tongue was Slavish. While his mother was born in Pennsylvania, her parents were born in Hungary as well, with the same linguistic details. I am 3rd generation Hungarian and never knew it! Maybe that’s why I like stuffed cabbage and lekvar pierogis so much? I don’t know. Regardless, I was excited to know that I had found a relatively recent connection to my European past. And because in many cases, provides users with an actual scanned copy of the documents, I was able to see that this area in Pennsylvania was a true ethnic community. The birthplaces of the majority of the people (or the birthplaces of their parents) listed on the census record were Eastern European; Austria, Hungary, and Russia. How could my mother and her siblings have grown up not knowing that their grandparents were from Hungary? The reason is probably because so many European migrants of that time wished to disassociate themselves from their past and start a new life in America. They were struggling to make a new start while making a living in a brand new country, most often doing very difficult factory work. Maintaining and passing on a cultural identity was probably not on their list of important things to do.

When I was younger, I remember being told to be careful what you look for, you might find something you didn’t want to know. I grew up knowing most of my great aunts and uncles on my mother’s side of the family. There was only one uncle that I never met, who was killed in WW II…or so I thought he was the only one. Upon examining some census data that listed the household members at my great grandparents’ residence, I read a name listed that I had never heard before. A female child that was unknown to me. This mystery aunt was 2 years older than my oldest great aunt, of whom I grew up visiting on a regular basis. Who was this person? Was she the black sheep of the family that was shunned and disowned? Was she a convicted criminal that the family was keeping hidden? Maybe she was busted for making bathtub gin during Prohibition. I hoped so. That would be so cool. I was both eager and afraid to find out. I had to know who this person was and I could only hope that there was some guarded, veiled story to go along with this ghost on the census form. With anxious trepidation, I called my aunt and asked if she knew the identity of this missing relative. Without hesitation, she said, “That was grandma’s sister who died.” Mystery solved, though, too abruptly for my apprehensive curiosity. But what happened to her and why was she never mentioned? I was told that she died from a common complication after childbirth simply because she didn’t have access to the necessary medication and treatment. Wow. It had happened so long ago that she was never mentioned in my time. No romantic tales of rebellion, crime or calamity, but a somber reminder of harder times, to say the least.

Phone and Street Directories

My searches also produced a large number of scanned city phone directories dating back to the 1920s. When searching for a name on, users are given categories on the left of the page. One of those choices is “Schools, Directories and Church Histories.” Though it was never mentioned in any family stories, I now know that the likely reason my maternal grandparents met is because their families lived on the same street. These old phone directories most often show not only telephone numbers and addresses, but also the name of individuals who were living at that address, i.e. another relative or a boarder. This is a great tool in locating exactly where a relative may have lived. And if nothing else, it is intriguing to see telephone numbers such as “WAlbridge 1154 and BLackstone 2311.”

Military Recordsancestry2

My paternal grandfather and many of my maternal great uncles were in World War Two. I was able to locate the muster rolls that listed my grandfather’s name and the ship he was on. (Yeah, I never heard the term “muster roll” either. It is the register of the officers and men in a military unit or on a ship. Thanks, Wikipedia.) I also found out that my maternal great uncle was killed at Pearl Harbor and I located a detailed photograph of the monument that lists his name. Additionally in the military records, I was able to find the scanned copies of WW I and WWII draft registration cards for both of my great grandfathers. The documents are hand written and include the signatures of the men. To locate documents such as these, simply type in the name of the person that you are searching and after clicking “Search”, you will see all of the results for that name. To the left of the page, there is a listing of categories, such as “Census and Voter Lists” and “Birth, Marriage and Death.” The third category is “Military.” This option will produce information on draft registration, enlistment, casualties, and gravesites, just to name a few. There is also a great deal of information on Civil War soldiers and the American Revolution.


This is just a sample of the information available at and a bit of my personal experience in looking for my roots. It was great fun for me searching through my relative’s collective pasts and getting just a glimpse of their lives well before I was a twinkle in someone’s eye. Whenever you are ready to do your own searching, come to the second floor of the Williamson County Public Library and log on to a computer or visit one of the staff in the Special Collections department and they will help you with your queries. Access to is only available to patrons while they are physically in the library. On the library’s website, move the mouse over Special Collections on the left of the page and click on Digital Genealogy. From there, click on Access Ancestry Library while visiting the library. The Williamson County Public Library also offers free classes on Introduction to once a month.


But be advised, you may find something you didn’t expect…

Robert Louis Stevenson

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department


Robert Louis Stevenson

The well-known author and poet Robert Louis Stevenson was born 165 years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland on November 13. We are very lucky that he didn’t go into the family business of building lighthouses!! He left us with children’s poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses, many other lyric poems, and of course, his novels, Kidnapped, Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Louis (he was never really called Robert) was sickly as a child, and continued to struggle with ill health all his life. His mother and father had lung problems and he inherited his breathing problems from them both. His family often moved to warmer climates during the colder weather, which he and his family continued later on in his life. His parents were well-off and well-read and moderate Presbyterians. His nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) was fervent in her beliefs and scared young Louis out of sound sleep many nights with her scary stories of sinners going to hell, and supernatural beings coming to get him. It’s no wonder he had such a great imagination!


Fannie van der Grift Osbourne

He was tutored at home often, attending school sporadically, because of his ill health, and only liking playing games at recess. He wrote stories throughout his childhood, but his father determined he needed to have a career, so he was sent to Edinburgh University to become a lawyer. He did pass the bar, but never practiced. His father came to understand that Louis would have to be a writer, and continued to support him from time to time until his death. Louis travelled and wrote about his travels. He traveled and met people, most of them ended up helping him with publishing or editing his works. When he was 26, he met an American woman, Fannie van der Grift Osbourne, while they were staying at a hostel in France. He fell in love but she was still married (with two surviving children) and unsure about her feelings. She returned to America to gain a divorce and Louis, desperate to see her again, sailed across the ocean in steerage, and then traveled across county to Monterey, California. He nearly died- his health was never very good after this trip. They married and began to try to find the best places for his health to live. It was while happily married with Fanny that he wrote his most famous books. Lloyd, Fanny’s son helped him with Treasure Island. He was a teen at the time and found the story involving. He helped make the map.

The Stevensons found the best place for Louis’ health were the South Sea Islands and ended up living in Samoa. Louis became involved in his adopted country and wrote a book about the history of the Islands that was well received. The natives called him Tusitala (Teller of Tales). He died in Samoa at the age of 44, after a massive brain hemorrhage in 1894. He wrote his own epitaph, his poem Requiem.

For bit a of levity, Nancy Horan, who recently wrote a fictionalized biography about Stevenson’s wife, Fanny, wrote an article for the Huffington Post about things you never knew about Robert Louis Stevenson.

  1. 9780486266886_custom-de4c7597f325d5e33e1fa15b18393c9e335c34a5-s400-c85He invented the sleeping bag – too bad he never got to see one for sale in a store. Wonder who saw his and went on to invent a better version?
  2. He wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in eight days, while bedridden and recovering from a bout of illness.
  3. He used a pseudonym when he published Treasure Island in monthly chapters in a children’s magazine. He probably thought Captain George North would be more seaman-like.
  4. He gave away his birthday to a twelve-year old girl. They were talking and she said she’d never had a birthday since she was born on Christmas Day. He was appalled that she’d never had an actual birthday and wrote a legal letter giving her his birthday. (This makes me think he must have been a fun person to be with!)




Uprooted by Naomi Novik


In Uprooted, Novik turns to her Polish heritage for a change of pace from the world of Temeraire. Don’t worry, though, another book in that world is due out next year.

Agnieszka grew up in a valley that borders The Wood. Every ten year, the Wizard Dragon picks a young girl as the price for keeping the valley safe from The Wood, which is corrupted, dangerous and unpredictable. Things that go in The Wood don’t come out, or come out changed and mad (insane, not angry.) Agnieszka’s best friend Kasia is perfect at all she does. Everyone assumes that Kasia will be chosen by Dragon. Nieshka can’t keep clean, she can’t cook, plus since she knows she won’t be chosen, she didn’t bother to learn to cook or sew. She’s totally unprepared. But when the time comes, Dragon does choose Agnieszka, no Kasia.

For several months Nieshka is terrified and lonely. Dragon is brusque and either ignores her or complains about her messiness. Then Kasia’s mother frantically asks for her help; Kasia has been abducted by beings from The Wood. Nieshka runs to rescue her friend, learns that she has magic herself, and meets the prince determined to free his mother from The Wood. The Queen was taken twenty years ago – no one believes it possible to rescue anyone from The Wood.

Can Nieshka succeed?? What will the Wood do if she and Dragon can free the queen?

I listened to Temeraire, but never read the rest of the books about fighting on dragons during the Napoleonic Wars. But this book, I fell right in. It took me a while to realize that Jaga, who Agnieszka was most like, was Baba Yaga, a witch from Slavic mythology. Her mobile house walks around on three chicken legs… When talking with a friend, we both agreed it will make a great movie. Let’s see if someone makes an option on the book to make a movie.

Boris Pasternak’s Elusive Nobel Prize

pasternakBy Lance Hickerson, Reference Department

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (1890-1960) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition.” The Prize was prompted by his crowning achievement, Doctor Zhivago, an epic novel that concludes with a cycle of poetry by the main character weaving together the seasons of nature, love, redemption, and the life of Christ. While Pasternak was “infinitely grateful, touched, proud, surprised, [and] overwhelmed,” at the award, six days later he declined the prize in a telegram: “Due to the resonance caused by my award in the society I belong to, I have to decline the Prize; don’t consider my voluntary refusal an insult.”

Pasternak reflected on this moment in a poem entitled “The Nobel Prize,” which asks, “What sort of dirty trick I’ve done, am I a murderer, a villain? I, who made the whole world crying of my homeland’s beauty.”

Pasternak was neither murderer nor villain; however, his book challenged the presiding Russian-Soviet ideological vision of the world. He was given a strong indication of how Doctor Zhivago would be taken when he received a 10,000 word rejection letter by the Russian magazine New World saying that “the spirit of [the] novel [was] that of non-acceptance of the socialist revolution.” Explaining further, the magazine felt the novel’s main character, Dr. Yuri Zhivago, to be “an essentially immoral man who refuses to do his duty by the people and who is interested only in his own rights, including the alleged privilege of a superman to betray with impunity.”

It is at least obvious that the editorial board read his book. Following are some not so subtle statements that Pasternak made through his main character about those of whom it could be said, “We are the children of Russia’s terrible years”:

  • “It turns out that those who inspired the revolution aren’t at home in anything except change and turmoil: that’s their native element.”
  • “And do you know why there is this incessant whirl of never-ending preparations? It’s because they haven’t any real capacities, they are ungifted. Man is born to live, not to prepare for life. Life itself – the gift of life – is such a breathtakingly serious thing!”
  • “They always talk of ‘remaking life,’ but “people who can talk in this way,” claims Zhivago, “have never known life at all, have never felt its spirit, its soul. For them human existence is a lump of raw material which has not been ennobled by their touch.”
  • To Yuri, life “is always out of reach of our stupid theories.”
  • “They are so anxious to establish the myth of their infallibility, that they do their utmost to ignore the truth.” Yet, “They had the boastful, dead eternity of bronze monuments and marble columns.” (Series of quotations from the poetry foundation and Geoffrey Hosking)

Pasternak was just as clear in his own poem, “After the Storm.” He closed with this stanza: It is not revolutions and upheavals / which clear the way to a new life / But the revelations, storms and bounties / Of someone’s spirit on fire.

Like other intellectuals at the time of his country’s Revolution, Pasternak held high hopes that change would work for a new and better Russia. But life 40 years “after the storm” gave him such extended and overwhelming evidence against the socialist utopia, that he went from disappointment to disillusionment to a “new birth” of sorts that included his taking seriously once again his Christianity. Pasternak was part of the intellectuals who could be called “pre-Soviet; post-Marxist.” This helps make sense of two statements Pasternak made during the Doctor Zhivago controversy when he requested his closest loved one to write “that I was born not in the Soviet Union, but in Russia,” while he wrote Premier Krushchev to avoid deportation, with this explanation: “Leaving the motherland will equal death for me. I am tied to Russia by birth, by life and work.”

“I won the Nobel Prize for Literature, what’s your crime?” Cartoonist Bill Maudlin / Published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct. 30, 1958. Bill Maudlin received the 1959 Pulitzer Prize for cartooning this cartoon.

While Doctor Zhivago was censured in the former Soviet Union, the novel escaped to the West in 1957 through a publisher in Milan, Italy, who refused to return the book “for revisions.” By the next year the novel had been translated into 18 languages, including English.

Meanwhile, The Union of Soviet Writers (of which Pasternak was one of the some 800 members) took swift action. It is important to understand that the Writer’s Union was indoctrinated and in full concert with Soviet Socialist Realism. “Socialist Realism is the officially sanctioned style of art that dominated Soviet painting for 50 years from the early 1930s. The style and content was laid down by the state with the purpose of furthering the goals of socialism and communism. The result was a huge body of work by thousands of artists, the majority of which is stultifyingly boring and which has been mocked in the West ever since as “Girl meets tractor”. (This description of Socialist Realism and policy quote below from

Applying Socialist Realism to literature, The Union of Soviet Writers stated in 1934 that “Socialist Realism is the basic method of Soviet literature and literary criticism. It demands of the artist the truthful, historically concrete representation of reality in its revolutionary development. Moreover, the truthfulness and historical concreteness of the artistic representation of reality must be linked with the task of ideological transformation and education of workers in the spirit of socialism.”

Olga_IvinskaiaIt is hardly surprising that Doctor Zhivago inspired hostility from those committed to the spirit of socialism. One Union representative called Pasternak, “a literary whore, hired and kept in America’s anti-Soviet brothel,” while a government official called him “a pig who has fouled the spot where he eats and cast filth on those by whose labor he lives and breathes.” Not only was Pasternak excommunicated from the Union of Soviet Writers, but some demanded that he be banished from Russia altogether.

Pasternak did not have to leave Russia; however, his being cut off from the Union of Soviet Writers meant that his many translations of the classics into Russian could no longer be published. This made it impossible for him to make a living as a writer. The love of Pasternak’s life, Olga Ivinskaya, said “The easiest way of dealing with intellectuals like us was simply to starve us into submission.” Ironically this did not silence Pasternak, and neither Ivinskaya. Another way of getting to Pasternak, however, was pressuring Ivinskaya. She was taken away to prison in 1950 while pregnant with Pasternak’s child. While there she experienced a miscarriage.

As Pasternak completed the translation of many tragedies of Shakespeare, it seemed his real life was just as tragic. Pasternak’s reaction to times of suffering is formulated, naturally, in poetic verse:

The order of the acts has been schemed and plotted / And nothing can avert the final curtain’s fall / I stand alone / All else is swamped by Pharisaism / To live life to the end is not a childish task.

Yet, Pasternak’s determination to stay the course, is neither simple defiance nor resignation. He expressed, “If there is suffering anywhere, why should not my art suffer and myself with it? I am speaking of the most artistic in the artist . . . of the sacrifice without which art becomes unnecessary.”

The insight of literary critic Mitzi Brunsdale is surely significant here. Explaining the novel’s point of view, she writes:

“Zhivago” itself derives from the Russian verb “to live,” lending irony to the opening scene of the novel, the funeral of Zhivago’s mother: “’Who’s being buried?’ – ‘Zhivago’ [the living one].” The name also has a wealth of religious connotations stemming from the risen Christ’s question in the Orthodox Easter liturgy, “Why seek you the living [zhivago] among the dead?” In his search for truth, the thinking man Yuri Zhivago at first naively embraces revolution as the natural result of the czarist repression of the people, only gradually realizing that enforced collectivization under the Soviets means the spiritual slavery of the very souls it falsely purported to free. The truth at which Yuri Zhivago at last arrives, after his long journey through the revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the savagery of World War I and the Civil War, and the struggle for survival that faced his people during the 1920s, is the old truth of humanity’s youth – that an individual can be fulfilled only by free choice in pursuing his own creativity, his own love, unhampered by political or social stricture.” (from the Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Volume 6, pp. 3464-3465)

41XBNR5FSSLPasternak, “presented Zhivago’s inability to influence his own fate not as a fault, but as a sign that he was destined to become an artistic witness to the tragedy of his age. The author closely identified Zhivago’s predicament with that of the suffering Christ.” (

Professor Brunsdale ends her critical consideration of Pasternak by refusing to ignore the strong religious aspect of Pasternak’s work. The cycle of poetry concluding Doctor Zhivago speaks not only of nature and love, but also the meaning of life and the life of Christ. She explains: “Pasternak exercised . . . intense awareness of all cosmic and human reality as ‘life in Christ,’ and the consequent plunge into love as the only dynamic and creative force which really honors this ‘Life’ by creating itself anew in Life’s – Christ’s – image. In the glorious healing lesson of Doctor Zhivago, that modern man’s renewal lies in identification of his sufferings with those of his Savior, undistracted by selfish materialistic desire, the poet of Doctor Zhivago thus is “the living one” against whom godless history cannot prevail.”

In 1987 Pasternak was posthumously reinstated to the Soviet Writer’s Union. In 1988, thirty years after its censure, Doctor Zhivago was published in Russia. The New World, which had rejected Doctor Zhivago, went on to publish Solzhenitsyn. Pasternak’s house was made into a museum. In 1989, Pasternak’s son accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of his father.

Geoffrey Hosking (from The Cambridge History of Russian Literature), observes, Pasternak’s “novel and its accompanying poems . . . were to be very influential, for they helped to revive a concern with the human personality, with morality and with religion, which had been largely submerged within the majestic state sponsored collective certainties of the Soviet era.”

It is only appropriate to let Pasternak conclude with his poetry, the last three stanzas of HOLY WEEK from the “Poems of Yuri Zhivago.” Pasternak became the suffering artist he had mentioned, with a profound artistic message for his Motherland. His message neither suppressed nor submerged the suffering, but rather offered the highest social realism, transformation, and hope for the Russian people he loved so much.

March scatters handfuls of the snow; Like alms among the lame,
As though a man had carried out
The holy Ark outside the church,
And gave its all unto the poor.
They sing until the sunrise hour.

Then, having wept their fill,
Their chants of the Psalms and Acts
Flow with an air serene
Into an empty lamplit street.

All creatures hear the voice of spring
In the still of night, believing
That when good weather comes
Death itself shall be destroyed
By the travail of the Resurrection.


Happy Halloween!

Halloween at the Williamson County Public Library


WCPLtn Halloween

War of the Worlds (We’re all gonna die.)

By Jessica Dunkel, Reference Department

It’s the evening before Halloween, October 30th, 1938, a Sunday. If you were alive on that particular Sunday in 1938 and were fortunate enough to have a radio set, you’d probably be gathered around listening to either one radio channel or the other; there were only two. You’d have taken your pick between a light comedy series or a dramatic play. Perhaps you tuned in to the play a little late at 8:12pm, switching channels after the comedy musings of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen ended, and missed the broadcaster’s announcement that the program you were about to hear was a fictional play put on by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre.

wow3Orson Welles, age 23 at the time, was an unknown actor and writer who had been on the radio for several years as the voice of “The Shadow”, a popular mystery program. Later, some would speculate that the Halloween Eve broadcast is what launched Welles’ career out of obscurity and into a Hollywood studio where he would produce, co-write, direct, and star in what many call the greatest American film ever made, Citizen Kane. But for now, Welles is still an obscure voice actor, standing in front of a microphone with his other actors and sound effects men, on the verge of terrifying a nation.

That night, Welles and his Mercury Theater Company were presenting an updated radio version of H.G. Wells’ (no relation) War of the Worlds – a science fiction novel published in 1898. After the Mercury Players were announced, however, the listeners did not hear the opening lines of a play as they might have expected. Instead, several minutes of Spanish tango music played before a series of unsettling, although dramatized, news-flashes:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News.”

The news flashes weaved in and out of the musical program to keep listeners up-to-date on the recent gas explosions on Mars. Listeners were taken to the Princeton Observatory where the (fictitious) world-famous Professor Pierson relayed breaking news as he gazed through the lens of his giant microscope. Although the professor could not account for the sudden eruptions on the red planet, the announcer assured everyone that Mars was “a safe enough distance” at 40 million miles away. Professor Pierson was then handed a special news bulletin:

“…Seismograph registered shock of almost earthquake intensity occurring within a radius of twenty miles of Princeton. Please investigate.”

Professor Pierson dismissed this as a coincidental meteorite of an unusually large size that had nothing to do with the Mars explosions. After another round of musical entertainment, however, a breaking news bulletin confirms – the object was no meteorite. Our announcer, now at the scene, describes the strange object:

“Yes, I guess that’s the . . . thing, directly in front of me, half buried in a vast pit. Must have struck with terrific force. …Doesn’t look very much like a meteor… It looks more like a huge cylinder.”

According to the announcer, a crowd begins to form near the yellow-white object made of strange metal. The police attempt to push the mounting crowd back. And then, an unnamable noise is heard from inside of the object. Is it scraping? No one seems to know, until:

“She’s movin’! Look, the darn thing’s unscrewing! … Good heavens, something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now it’s another one, and another. They look like tentacles to me. There, I can see the thing’s body. It’s large, large as a bear and it glistens like wet leather. But that face, it . . . Ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate.”

It is difficult to say at which point the radio audience, thousands of them across the country, started to panic. Weather they’d forgotten this was a dramatization or missed the opening announcements altogether, the bombardment of realistic “news flashes” were taken seriously and grew more terrifying by the minute:

“A humped shape is rising out of the pit. I can make out a small beam of light against a mirror. What’s that? There’s a jet of flame springing from the mirror, and it leaps right at the advancing men. It strikes them head on! Good Lord, they’re turning into flame!”
“Now the whole field’s caught fire. (EXPLOSION) The woods . . . the barns . . . the gas tanks of automobiles . . . it’s spreading everywhere.”

Firefighters rush to the scene. Fortunately the monster has gone back into its cylinder. With forty dead, New Jersey under martial law, and our faithful announcer lying charred in a nearby hospital, a second announcer informs us that it’s “all quiet in the pit”. The media decides to dedicate all radio coverage to the event, and in a statement that will later ring with irony, exclaims:

“In view of the gravity of the situation, and believing that radio has a responsibility to serve in the public interest at all times, we are turning over our facilities to the state militia at Trenton.”

wowWe are taken back to the landing site, where seven thousand men armed with rifles and machine guns have surrounded the cylinder. A solid metal monster rises from the ship, an impenetrable shield on legs taller than trees. The announcer concludes that the gas explosions were no coincidence. A Martian army has invaded planet Earth. He leaves little room for hope, exclaiming:

“The battle… has ended in one of the most startling defeats ever suffered by any army in modern times; seven thousand men armed with rifles and machine guns pitted against a single fighting machine of the invaders from Mars. One hundred and twenty known survivors. The rest strewn over the battle area…, crushed and trampled to death under the metal feet of the monster, or burned to cinders by its heat ray. The monster is now in control of the middle section of New Jersey and has effectively cut the state through its center… By morning the fugitives will have swelled Philadelphia, Camden, and Trenton, it is estimated, to twice their normal population… We take you now to Washington for a special broadcast on the National Emergency…”

Back in reality, the news of a Martian invasion was spreading through telephones and streets. Weeping, frantic women called police stations, cars packed full of children and luggage clogged the roads. An Indianapolis woman barged into a church service, screaming, “New York destroyed; it’s the end of the world. You might as well go home to die. I just heard it on the radio.” And on the radio, the Martians kept coming. New ships were spotted in the air and discovered on land while the gas explosions on Mars continued.

“They seem to be making conscious effort to avoid destruction of cities and countryside. However, they stop to uproot power lines, bridges, and railroad tracks. Their apparent objective is to crush resistance, paralyze communication, and disorganize human society.”

By that time the fictional war was in full swing. An officer shouted coordinates. The audience heard gun shots, coughing, and voices muffled by gas masks. The Martian’s heat rays sprayed over the troops. Their poisonous black gas, undeterred by the masks, poured through the streets of New Jersey. They effectively destroyed the entire army. Frantic, the announcer relayed the final news:

“This is the end now. Smoke comes out . . . black smoke, drifting over the city. People in the streets see it now . . . thousands of them, dropping in like rats. Now the smoke’s spreading faster. It’s reached Times Square. People trying to run away from it, but it’s no use. They’re falling like flies. Now the smoke’s crossing Sixth Avenue . . . Fifth Avenue . . . one hundred yards away . . . it’s fifty feet . . .”
OPERATOR: “2X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . New York. Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone . . . 2X2L”

With the announcer dead, it was time for intermission.

If you weren’t already shouting warnings in the streets, moving your living room furniture in preparation for an alien ambush, running on foot to a nearby park, preparing to poison yourself, rushing to your nearest church for some last-minute saving, or flooding radio and police stations with questions about evacuation procedures (all of which really happened), and were still listening to your radio, this intermission may have assured you that the hysteria was all fiction.wow2

But the reaction was so overwhelming that the Associated Press sent out a news bulletin at 8:48 PM informing everyone that this was “a studio dramatization”. As soon as news of the hysteria reached Orson Welles in the studio, he was said to have broken character and to also reassure listeners that this was a fictional event.

After the public had been informed that the play was intended for nothing more than Halloween entertainment, people were infuriated. Some speculated that Orson Welles was trying to create hysteria, but his reaction suggests otherwise. In his own words he was “just stunned” by the audience’s panic, stating, “Everything seems like a dream”.
Thomas Doherty, Professor of American studies, considers the event to be “… among the top five mass-communications events in history — along with the Kennedy assassination, Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.” We may overlook this mass-communication event because in this case, there was no event. Panic was created by smoke, mirrors, and what this author assumes to be the most talented voice actors and sound effects men of all time.

In order to understand the reaction, Doherty reminds us to first understand the audience. The people of 1938 were anticipating a German invasion. They were becoming uncomfortably familiar with the sound of breaking news broadcasts, which the Mercury Theater duplicated in detail, including reporters fumbling over words, crackling static, and the buzzes of short-wave radio.

Now-a-days we have Google, which makes it unlikely for an event of this type and magnitude to happen again. But you have to admit, although unintended to cause such chaos, it must be one of the most successful Halloween “pranks” of all time. And in the spirit of Halloween, I leave you with Orson Welles’ final words in the play that horrified a nation:

“So goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian. . .it’s Hallowe’en.”


Binge Writers, Unite! NaNoWriMo 2015 is Here

By Jessica Dunkel, Reference DepartmentNaNoLogo

NaNoWriMo. It’s pronounced exactly how it looks – weird. So, what is it? Aspiring writers, fasten your pen caps; this just might be the nudge you need to finish the novel you haven’t even started yet.

What is it?

NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month”. That’s right, MONTH. Participants have 30 days to begin and complete a novel of at least 50,000 words. Writing starts November 1st and ends at 11:59 PM on November 30th.

Wait, why? Some history…

It began in the summer of 1999 when a group of 20-somethings got together for the month of July to write novels. They had no concrete motives, or real experience for that matter. They simply wanted to do something with their time that was different from what everyone else was doing, and so they wrote novels. A quote from one of the founders explains why people across the nation are now dedicating their Novembers to this unique way of writing:

“We had taken the cloistered, agonized novel-writing process and transformed it into something that was half literary marathon and half block party.

We called it noveling. And after the noveling ended on August 1, my sense of what was possible for myself, and those around me, was forever changed. If my friends and I could write passable novels in a month, I knew, anyone could do it.”

Should I Participate?

The short answer is, YES.

Anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel is encouraged to do so, novices and novelists alike. And even if you don’t reach the goal of 50,000 words, you’ll have at least jumpstarted your writing project!

The official NaNoWriMo website allows anyone older than 13 to participate. Teens ages 13 to 17 can participate in their Young Writers Program. (Click here for their website).

2015_nano_calendar___tardis_by_margie22-d98fgllHow does it work?

These steps will get you started. For detailed info, we’ve provided the official NaNoWriMo website below:

  1. Go to and create your profile.
  2. Find an organization near you that will be hosting NaNoWriMo events (yes, Williamson County Library is one of them!). Writing alongside other NaNoWriMo authors gives you inspiration and an uninterrupted timeslot to crank out those beautiful words! Also, there could be free coffee.
  3. Start writing your novel! Writing officially begins on November 1st, but if you have something you’ve already outlined or started to write, there are no rules against continuing your work.

And after I write my novel?

As of November 20th participants can paste their novel to the official NaNoWriMo website. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you completed your 50,000 words and you may win some prizes along the way! The NaNoWriMo Non-Profit organization also supports the process of revision and publishing.

Previous writers have gone on to publish their novels themselves or traditionally. Famous NaNoWriMo novels include: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Wool by Hugh Howey, The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough, and Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress by Marissa Meyer.

Even if you don’t produce an instant bestseller, you’ll still have written your very own novel in one month!

So sign up, start writing, and don’t forget to join us at the Williamson County Library for our local NaNoWriMo events!NaNoWriMo Books


Comics and Graphic Novels 101

By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department

Comics and graphic novels. When I say those magic words, there are typically some pretty strong feelings evoked: I either receive rants and raves or wailing and gnashing of teeth. I’m here for those of you who may fall into the latter category. Maybe you hate them because you feel they aren’t “real” literature, because there’s absolutely no way cartoons can contain value. Maybe you hate them because your kid won’t read anything else. Or maybe you just hate them because you don’t know anything about them. So I’m here to provide you with a crash course in comics and graphic novels with the hope that hating them will no longer be your first reaction.walking dead

Comics vs. Graphic Novels: What’s the Difference?

Comic books are periodicals that contain a single story or a collection of stories, often featuring a continuing set of characters. Comic books are a form of sequential art, following a left-to-right, panel-to-panel reading convention and containing textual devices such as speech bubbles, captions, and onomatopoeia to convey dialogue, narration, and sound. Many American comic books involve adventure stories that incorporate elements of fantasy and science fiction. Superhero characters in comic books are especially popular. Some comic series have been merged into giant collections, like The Walking Dead, so they read more like a graphic novel.

A graphic novel is a book-length story that combines pictures and text. Graphic novels do resemble comic books, but they’re typically much longer than comic books with more serious subject matter. Many graphic novels do explore adult themes, but there are just as many graphic novels created specifically for children and young adults. Graphic novels are not necessarily novels—the format includes fictional stories, informational text, essays, reports, memoirs, biographies, and even poetry told using a combination of text and images following the panel-to-panel conventions of comics.

happy happy cloverWhere Does Manga Fit?

Manga are Japanese comics. The panels and text are read from right to left, and the reader turns the page in a right-to-left fashion as well. This can catch many readers off guard, but trust me, once you start, it’s easy to catch on. The art style of manga, however, differs drastically from its American counterpart. Manga characters are hyper-stylized, typically drawn with large eyes, small mouths, and giant heads of brightly colored hair. Emotions are exaggerated and can take over a character’s entire body.

Why Should We Read Them?

  • The first reason is obvious: Comics and graphic novels are fun! Why should reading be boring and miserable? It shouldn’t. Letting kids read something fun of their choosing gives them a sense of initiative and responsibility towards their own reading, and they’re less likely to view reading as a chore.
  • We live in a hyper-visual culture, and the visual sequences in comics and graphic novels just make sense to kids.
  • Kids use complex reading strategies when comic books and graphic novels. Readers must rely on dialogue and visual cues to infer what is not explicitly stated by a narrator, and they develop multiple literacies through the combination of pictures and text.
  • Comics and graphic novels are GREAT for reluctant readers. For kids who are intimidated by large amounts of text, the combination of text and images makes the book seem more accessible.
  • Personally, I read them when I want a more immersive, inclusive reading experience. I’ve found that some stories are just told better through a visual medium.

Which Ones Should I Read?

I’m glad you asked. If you’d like to know more about comics as a genre, Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (call number YA 741.5 MACC) is a wonderful resource. Often used as a textbook in literature classes (I needed it a total of three times during my undergrad and graduate work. Three!), McCloud delves into nearly every historical and perceptual aspect of comics. As far as good comics and graphic novels to read, here is a basic list of some of my personal favorites for each age group that we have available here at WCPL.

Grades 2-4:lunch lady
Babymouse: Queen of the World! (J 741.5 HOL)
Squish: Super Amoeba (J 741.5 HOL)
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute (J 741.5 KRO)
Chi’s Sweet Home (J 741.5952 KON)

Grades 5-6:amulet
Zebrafish (J 741.5 EME)
Roller Girl (J 741.5973 JAM)
Amulet: The Stonekeeper (J 741.5973 KIB)
Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity (J 741.5973 ROM)

Grades 7-8:battling boy
Brain Camp (J 741.5 KIM, 7th and 8th shelf)
Chiggers (YA F LAR)
Battling Boy (J 741.5 POP, 7th and 8th shelf)
Drama (YA F TEL)

Grades 9-12:runaways
In Real Life (YA F DOC)
Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life (YA F OMA)
This One Summer (YA F TAM)
Runaways (YA F VAU)
The Shadow Hero (YA F YAN)

Fun Home: An American Tragicomic (741.5973 PEC)
Over Easy (741.5973 PON)
Saga (741.5973 VAU)
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (92 CHA)
Blankets (F THO)


Get Away With Teen Read Week

By Erin Holt and Howard Shirley, Teen Department

Teen Read week is here! Sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association, Teen Read Week highlights books and reading for teens and young adults. This year’s theme is “Get Away at Your Local Library,” and we’ve compiled a list of new books to help teen readers do just that. We’ve recently added all of these books (and many more) to our collection at the Franklin Teen Room, so come by, grab a book, and get away!

Get Away to Another Time: Capture the experience of the past, whether long ago or even simply a few decades, with these recent works of historical fiction:25163300

  • Audacity by Melanie Crowder, YA F CROWDER: A historical novel in verse about Clara Lemlich, a real life heroine in the fight for women’s labor rights at the turn of the century.
  • The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz, YA F SCHLITZ: Be taken back to 1911 with Joan, a fourteen year old who just wants her life to turn out like the books she reads and loves. This novel explores feminism, the role of women in history, and how dreams aren’t as far out of reach as we think.

Get Away to Another Planet: Soar away with new science fiction adventures:Avalon

  • Avalon and Polaris by Mindee Arnett, YA F ARNETT: A teenage boy fights for freedom in his family’s aging spaceship in this future space adventure series.
  • Serenity, Firefly Class 03-K64: Leaves on the Wind by Zack Whedon, YA F WHEDON: Fans of the short-lived science fiction television series Firefly can recapture the adventure with this graphic novel, set in the time immediately following the events of the movie Serenity. (Suitable for older teens.)

Get Away to Another Life: Stay in the present (and near future) with these new contemporary adventures:Mosquitoland-314x475

  • We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach, YA F WALLACH Go on a journey with 4 high school teenagers as they face themselves, each other, and their inner demons as they await a meteor to hit Earth. This stunning debut is best suited for older teens.
  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold F YA ARN: Combine a road trip, a romance, a homeless man, and a cast of quirky character and you’ve got a surefire hit with this awesome debut novel.

Get Away to Another World: Fantasy: Get whisked away into a world like you’ve never known in these fantasy novels.

  • 23569428Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman, YA F HERMAN: The first installment of the brand new Blood of Gods of Royals series, this book will leave you wanting more! Join main character Katerina as she embarks on a royal mission, involving murder and a love triangle!
  • The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, YA F YAN: This graphic novel tells the story of an American Chinese teen in the time leading up to World War II, whose mother vows to turn him into a superhero. Based on an actual pre-war comic book hero created by a Chinese-American artist, the book is pure fantasy, but also a revealing look at the American Chinese culture of the time.

Get Away with Girl Power:Looking for a strong and confident main character who is a girl? These books are for you!24957546

  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, YA F MUR Willowdean is fat, and okay with it. When a beauty pageant opportunity arises, it’s her big chance to prove how beauty comes from this inside as well as the outside, regardless of size.
  • Queen of Shadows by Sara J. Maas YA F MAAS If you love the THRONE OF GLASS series, get in line for the next installment in this awesome series about assassins, espionage and more as you follow the path of the strong and awesome Celaena Sardothien! A combination of fantasy and girl power all rolled into one!

Leif Erikson Day

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Departmentimages

It’s Leif Erikson Day! Hinga Dinga Durgen Everyone! Turns out this what Spongebob Squarepants wishes everyone on Leif Erikson Day. It’s his second favorite holiday, after April Fool’s… He even has a costume!

Leif Erikson (pronounced Layf, like some of us of a certain age remember the actor Leif Garrett) was a Norwegian traveler, voyager, explorer and sailor who is considered the leader of the first boat of explorers to visit North America. It’s generally considered that he landed at Newfoundland and later Labrador. Leif had a very adventurous father, Erik the Red, who established a colony on Greenland, after being kicked out of Iceland—but that’s another story.

cPMaA9b68CKpHW3LzRXGywdHThere was no place for Leif there, since Erik the Red was a larger than life person himself, so he set his eyes on the West. There had been rumors of a far-away land full of wonders, (specifically from Bjarni Herjólfsson, another Viking explorer who some believe is the true first discover of North America.) He decided to go exploring, heading west across a great body of water. Artifacts excavated at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland have been dated to around 1000 A.D., which is considered the only confirmed Viking settlement in North America. According to sagas, the Norse called the area Vinland, because they found grapes growing there.

It wasn’t until 1924 that President Calvin Coolidge, after learning of the research done by Norwegian-American researchers, recognized Erikson as the “Discoverer of America,” even though the first book written about the Norse having discovered America was published in the late 1800s. Wisconsin was the first state to make Leif Erikson day an official holiday—not surprising since it was mostly settled by Scandinavians. Over the years, other states made the day an official holiday. In 1963, a U. S. Congressman from Duluth introduced a bill to observe Leif Erikson day across the nation. In 1964, L B J started the tradition of proclaiming October the 9th as Leif Erikson Day. Every year, it’s at least one thing Congress can agree on!

Why is it October 9? Since there were no records available from the Viking visitation in 1000, any date could have been chosen for Leif Erikson Day. How was October 9th chosen? The Norwegian ship Restauration, bearing the first official waive of Norwegian immigrants, arrived in New York on October 9, 1825.

So have a happy holiday, and remember that it’s because of Leif Erikson and the Restauration that Congress is actually agreeing once a year.  Hinga Dinga Durgen Everyone!

(As always, the opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and in no way reflect upon the beliefs and principles of Williamson County Public Library, its employees, or the Norwegians.)



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