Author Archives: WCPLtn

Urban Legends: Fact or Fiction?

By Savannah, Reference Department

Urban legends, like most things in the modern world, have evolved. In the past, they were spread by word of mouth. Though detailed, there was always something in the story that made it …unreachable.  They were never firsthand. Someone might tell you a story that happened to a friend of their cousin. Later, you may hear the same story from somebody else, finding it had shifted. It wasn’t the friend’s cousin. It was her brother. Or was it her boyfriend?  However, there was always just enough detail to make it believable.

I remember personally being duped by an urban legend.  My friend said he heard about a college student in Florida. After a kiss from a date, she developed a rash. Almost immediately, she received calls from her doctor and local law enforcement. Her rash was caused by a bacteria found on decomposing corpses. She had been on a date with a cannibal.  I told several friends.  They were eager to spread the story to theirs as well.  I googled the story, assuming it must be all over the news . I found it…just not in the way I expected. I found multiple versions of the story all over the web.  The college, state, and other minor details changed to fit the teller’s narration. It was an URBAN LEGEND spreading like wildfire. I myself had spread it to half a dozen people.

Urban legends are more popular than ever. They are thriving online.  We now call them “Creepypastas” (creepy +‎ pasta, after the pattern of copypasta, itself an alteration of copy and paste).  Creepypastas are online tales that are often blatantly presented as fiction.  But are they really? Even if they start as fiction, these stories develop such a following, parts of them do become real.  Often in frightening ways.  The website makes it easy to find a pasta about anything you desire.  There are pastas about dolls, stalkers, devilish pets…you name it!  I also highly recommend listening to the pastas being narrated on YouTube.  I like to listen to them while I get ready in the morning.

Slenderman is one of the most prolific Creepypasta.   The story tells of a tall humanoid creature with a featureless, white face. The creature wears a black suit and has disproportionately long limbs.  He haunts and traumatizes his victims, which are often children. The stories of Slenderman are led to real-life tragedy.

In 2014, two Wisconsin teenage girls stabbed their friend.  The girl barely survived. Her friends cited their reason for stabbing the girl was Slenderman.  They believed killing their friend would prove their loyalty to the monster.  The crime caused hysteria among parents everywhere.  Slenderman, only gained more of an audience. Russell Jack, the police chief of Waukesha, Wisconsin, made a powerful statement. ” The Internet has changed the way we live. It is full of information and wonderful sites that teach and entertain. The Internet can also be full of dark and wicked things.”

Urban Legends prove one thing: our words have meaning. Sometimes if believed enough, they can bring our worst nightmares to life.

If you are up for a scare, here are a few good places to start. These are not bedtime stories.

READER DISCRESTION IS ADVISED. Read the rest of this entry

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Family Literacy and Tumblebooks

By Amy Shropshire, Reference Department

Parents tend to want the best advantages for their children, and early literacy is one excellent advantage. That’s the idea, but getting a squirming toddler to sit still long enough to read a picture book demonstrates the difficulties involved. Even the best behaved children tend to struggle at some point with early literacy skills. Learning new skills is always difficult. The library is here to help.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, literacy is intergenerational. Parental involvement and expectations are directly linked to a student’s success in school. Family literacy programs often focus on building literacy skills in both parents and children. Parents that read regularly are more likely to have children with an interest in reading, since children like to emulate what their parents do. However, before a child can begin picking up a book, they need to gain pre-literacy skills, and be exposed to concepts that help develop literary skills.

We tend to think of reading as a singular activity, but in reality it’s a skill developed from assorted other skills as a child grows. Focusing on the little squiggly symbols we call letters is a step just as much as understanding how language works is. Learning to verbalize and consider abstract concepts through imaginative play and frequent communication are important building blocks to figuring out that squiggly symbols represent words. The more a child interacts and plays and expands their overall mental abilities, the quicker they will likely learn to read especially if play is already associated with words.

More than that, associating play with words is more likely to make a child enjoy reading (and want to learn more). Play is serious business for children. It may seem contradictory to learn using resources that don’t seem precisely educational, but the more fun the activity is the more information a child will absorb. Educators use a variety of resources to help children learn through play. One such resource is Tumblebooks. The library subscribes to this resource so that parents can log in and give their children access to a wide variety of books and games to aid in literacy development.

Many of the books on Tumblebooks play videos, sing songs, or animate highlighted words to allow children to follow along with the story on the screen. It may seem counter intuitive, but a child’s attention is often better with learning how to read by watching a video rather than simply reading a story, which develops early pre-literacy skills. The resources grow with the child using quizzes, book reports, and games for more developed readers, and even lesson plans for teachers and parents alike. There are also playlists of various lengths and subject areas to keep a child intrigued and entertained in a way that’s educational.

Tumblebooks is excellent for helping the youngest child gain early literacy skills before learning how to read. The library has multiple similar resources for various ages and literacy levels available in our collection databases. To access these resources, simply go to http://wcpltn.org/  Tumblebooks can be found in “Children’s Electronic Resources” which is located in the Children’s Department section under the “Main Library” tab on the website. If you can’t find it, just ask a librarian at (615) 794-3105. Tumblebooks does require a username and password to sign in. If you have any questions, call the library and we will gladly help you.

Resources:

https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/AdultEd/f14.html

https://www.tumblebooklibrary.com/Default.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2f

Library-based family literacy projects R 027.6 MON

Early literacy storytimes @ your library: partnering with caregivers for success 027.6251 GHO

Growing a reader from birth: your child’s path from language to literacy 372.4 MACG

Art across the alphabet: over 100 art experiences that enrich early literacy 372.5 CAM

The garden classroom: hands-on activities in math, science, literacy, and art 635.083 JAM

 

U.S.: United States, or Uncle Sam??

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Originally published September 7, 2018

Most of us remember seeing the poster, somewhere, at some time stating that “Uncle Sam Wants You….”  Did you ever wonder why it is everywhere, and why this United States mascot is called Uncle Sam??  Prepare to be informed…

During the War of 1812, Sam Wilson (Marvel’s Falcon was aptly named), a meat packer in Troy, New York delivered meat for the soldiers fighting the battles of the war.  There was a directive from the government that all supplies sent to the troops be stamped with the name and location of the supplier.  He stamped the barrels with a U.S. which actually stood for United States.  Sam was locally called Uncle Sam; when the barrels were delivered to the troops, soldiers from Troy knew Sam Wilson and called him Uncle Sam to other soldiers.  Word spread and hearing the story, more and more soldiers began saying that the meat came from “Uncle Sam.”    The soldiers began calling themselves Uncle Sam’s soldiers.  By the end of the War of 1812, Uncle Sam was considered a new nickname for the United States.

Original design for the “Be Patriotic” poster by Paul Stahr, ca. 1917-18

The United States of America had also been called Columbia, shown as a classical Greek statue of a woman, sometimes holding a flag – dos the song “Columbia the Gem of the Ocean” ring any bells?  The name Columbia was based on Columbus, since he discovered America (but maybe not the first discoverer any more…)

So now we know how the name Uncle Sam became associated with our armed forces.  But what about the picture?  We have to go back earlier than you might think. Thomas Nast was the first artist to create a picture of Uncle Sam.  He’s the same artist who made Santa Claus into the character we see today.  He created his image in the 1870s and 80s, and then continued to refine the image; he was the first artists to give Sam a white goatee, top hat and a suit of stars and stripes.

We’re probably all familiar with the poster Uncle Sam Wants You!  Artist James Montgomery Flagg (truly, his last name is Flagg!) designed over 40 recruitment post for the United States as it entered World War I.  Flagg was under a deadline; he didn’t have enough time to find a model for the poster.  He looked in the mirror and used his own face for inspiration for Uncle Sam.  He had a long face, with bushy white eyebrow and full beard.  So he had the image he wanted for the poster.  Flagg also had illustrations in “Photoplay,” “McClure’s Magazine,” “Colliers Weekly,” “Ladies Home Journal,” “Saturday Evening Post” and “Harper’s Weekly.”

J. M. Flagg’s 1917 poster was based on the original British Lord Kitchener poster of three years earlier. It was used to recruit soldiers for both World War I and World War II. Flagg used a modified version of his own face for Uncle Sam,[1] and veteran Walter Botts provided the pose.

Now…, to find the message.  He remembered seeing a poster of Lord Kitchener, the British Secretary of War, asking the British to “Join Your Country’s Army – Lord Kitchener Wants YOU.”  Inspiration!  He created the poster with the soon to be iconic image of Uncle Sam with the caption Uncle Sam Wants You To Join the Army.  It was this image more than any other that set the appearance of Uncle Sam as the elderly man with white hair and a goatee wearing a white top hat with white stars on a blue band, a blue tail coat and red and white striped trousers, and his pointing finger.  Flagg’s Uncle Sam first appearance is generally believed to be on the cover of the magazine Leslie’s Weekly, on July 6, 1916.  Also on the cover was the title “What Are You Doing For Preparedness.”  A poster of the image was also created, using the now famous phrase I wan You for the US Army.  More than four million copies of this cover image were printed between 1917 and 1918.  When Flagg was asked to update his famous image, he hired Indianan veteran Walter Botts as a model.  Family lore has it that he was chosen because he had long arms, a long nose and extremely bushy eyebrows.

In 1961 the U.S. Congress recognized that Sam Wilson “Uncle Sam” as the progenitor of America’s national symbol.   Wilson died in 1854, and is buried in Troy, New York, which rightly calls itself “The Home of Uncle Sam.”

Read the rest of this entry

In Memory of 9-11

Happy Grandparents’ Day!

Happy Labor Day!

The Colonial postage experience and the founding of the US Postal Service

By Steve Spann, Reference Department

Some institutions are so woven into the fabric of life that they are taken for granted. One such institution is the United States Postal Service (USPS). However, an examination of the history of the American colonies shows that reliable postage was an identifiable need, except not for the reason you might expect. After independence from England, the USPS was established, and it has been an integral part of our daily lives ever since.

Colonial Postage

Seal of the United States Department of the Post Office

The American colonies were mainly coastal settlements, separated by dense forests. The colonists were less interested in news from other colonies than they were for news from back home. However, the English government needed reliable delivery service between colonies in order to deliver official communications to and from the colonial governors.

There were informal and independently run postal routes for colonists in Boston as early as 1639. Then, in 1673, Governor Francis Lovelace of New York set up a monthly post between New York and Boston. The service was short-lived, but the post rider’s trail became known as the Old Boston Post Road and today it is part of U.S. Route 1.

Governor William Penn established Pennsylvania’s first Post Office in 1683. In the South, private messengers, usually slaves, connected the huge plantations; a hogshead (a barrel 43 inches high and 26 inches in diameter) of tobacco was the penalty for failing to relay mail to the next plantation. As plantations expanded inland from port regions, so did the communications network.

Centralized postal organization began in 1692, when the English sovereigns William and Mary granted a royal patent to Englishman Thomas Neale to operate a colonial postal system for 21 years. Neale, who never set foot in North America, appointed New Jersey colonial governor Andrew Hamilton as his deputy. Hamilton then appointed postmasters in every British colony.

On May 1, 1693, the Internal Colonial Postal Union began weekly service between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Williamsburg, Virginia.  The ICPU established post offices, consulted with colonial assemblies about postal rates, and, perhaps as a harbinger of things to come, did not make any money. Mail to the North American colonies was left at places like taverns and inns, as there were no post office buildings to receive the correspondence and door to door delivery came much later.

Hamilton died in debt in 1699 and assigned his patent to an heir, who in turn sold the rights back to the English in 1707. The government then appointed Hamilton’s son John as deputy postmaster general of America. He served until 1721, when he was succeeded by John Lloyd of Charleston, South Carolina. (United, n.d.). In 1730, Alexander Spotswood, a former lieutenant governor of Virginia, became deputy postmaster general of America.

Benjamin Franklin

Patriot, inventor, and postmaster Ben Franklin.

The appointment of Benjamin Franklin as postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737 may have been Spotswood’s most notable achievement. Franklin, only 31 years old at the time, was a successful printer, publisher, and civic leader, who would go on to become one of the most accomplished and popular men of his time.

In 1753, Benjamin Franklin and William Hunter, postmaster of Williamsburg, were named by the English as joint Deputy Postmaster General of the American colonies.  (United, n.d.). Franklin moved quickly, as you might expect he would, making a 1,600-mile inspection of post offices.  He also organized a weekly mail wagon between Philadelphia and Boston. Franklin’s postal riders traveled day and night by horseback in relays, using lanterns to light their way. The service cut mail delivery time between the cities in half, making the colonial post both efficient for colonists and profitable for the Crown.

The colonial posts in North America registered their first profit in 1760. When Franklin left office, post roads operated from Maine to Florida and from New York to Canada.

In 1774, as tension grew between the colonists and England, the Crown dismissed Franklin from his position because of his revolutionary activities.

William Goddard

William Goddard. Patriot, publisher, and inventor of the American postage system.

William Goddard formed a partnership with Benjamin Franklin to publish the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper sympathetic to the revolutionary cause. Savvy publishers like Goddard and Franklin used private carriers to get their news past the suspicious eyes of the Crown post, which would have confiscated and destroyed any mail or news it deemed unsuitable for the Crown. Goddard and Franklin were using the Chronicle to report on controversial topics.  The Chronicle was subsequently driven out of business when the Crown post refused to accept it in the mails. Goddard responded by creating a new postal system, that is the basis for our current USPS system. The new system was based upon some values that we now take for granted, but that were revolutionary at the time. The values included open communication, freedom from governmental interference, and the free exchange of ideas. The plan also included the creation of the position of Postmaster.

Soon after Franklin had been removed from office, Goddard set up the Constitutional Post for intercolonial mail service. Colonies paid subscriptions and net revenues were used to improve mail service. Goddard presented a plan for the new postage system to Congress on October 5, 1774. Congress waited to act until after the battles of Lexington and Concord in the Spring of 1775. By 1775, when the Continental Congress met at Philadelphia, Goddard’s post was flourishing, and 30 Post Offices operated between Williamsburg and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

However, after the colonists won victories in those battles, Goddard’s “Constitutional Post” was adopted on July 26, 1775, by the Second Continental Congress.  Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin Postmaster General of the United Colonies. Goddard was disappointed at being passed over for the position of Postmaster, but Franklin named him Riding Surveyor.

This independent postal service was significant because it kept the colonial population informed about events during the American Revolution and allowed for communication by and between patriots from different colonies. The revolutionary post became so popular among colonists that it forced the Crown post out of business. The Crown post folded on Christmas day, 1775.

The colonies became the United States on July 4, 1776, and as the states began to create their new government in the late 1780s, postal issues were among the issues that were debated and not resolved. In June 1788, the ninth state ratified the Constitution, which gave Congress the power “To establish Post Offices and post Roads” in Article I, Section 8. A year later, the Act of September 22, 1789, continued the Post Office and made the Postmaster General subject to the direction of the President. Four days later, President Washington appointed Samuel Osgood as the first Postmaster General under the Constitution. A population of almost four million was served by 75 Post Offices and about 2,400 miles of post roads.

The Post Office received two one-year extensions by the Acts of August 4, 1790, and March 3, 1791.

The 1792 Postal Act

This document signed by Franklin gave Goddard permission and authority to travel as necessary in his role as Riding Surveyor.

Congressional debate considered issues of a free press, personal privacy, and national growth. Finally, the Postal Act of February 20, 1792, defined the Post Office Department. Under the act, newspapers would be allowed in the mails at low rates, in order to promote the spread of information across the several states.

To ensure privacy, postal officials were forbidden to open any letters unless they were undeliverable.  Finally, Congress assumed responsibility for the creation of postal routes, ensuring that mail routes would not only serve existing settlements but also promote expansion into new territories.

The Act let newspaper editors exchange their newspapers by mail without any fee, so that each could more easily print the other’s news. The idea was to promote the free exchange of information. By 1825, newspapers circulated in-state or within 100 miles of publication were charged a fee of 1 cent for delivery, while the charge was for 1-1/2 cents if delivery went outside that range. Today newspapers and magazines still enjoy such special rates.

Later legislation enlarged the duties of the Post Office, strengthened and unified its organization, and provided rules for its development.  The Act of May 8, 1794, continued the Post Office indefinitely.

The Post Office moved from Philadelphia in 1800 when Washington, D.C., became the seat of government. Two horse-drawn wagons carried all postal records, furniture, and supplies. Read the rest of this entry

In the Future, the Year 2000… :Thoughts on Science Fiction

By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

Originally posted September 14, 2018

Can you believe we’re living in The Future? For decades, the year 2000 seemed impossibly far away. Folks imagined that, by now, we’d have robot teachers and colonies on Mars, and the end of all disease. Companies would add the number “2000” after model numbers to connote cutting-edge technology from the bright, distant horizon. Marty McFly’s 2015 was a land of flying cars, expanding pizza, and self-tying shoes. (And fax machines. Fax machines were everywhere.)

Some of those visions for the future were spot on; others now seem charmingly out-of-date; and we’re still waiting for many of the rest to be invented. But isn’t it fantastic how often we hear about inventions that were inspired by Science Fiction? If “[science] is magic that works,” as Kurt Vonnegut says in Cat’s Cradle, then Science Fiction is the root of much of that magic. Imagination becomes ideas, which in turn become experiments. Experiments lead to discoveries, then inventions, and ultimately to the commonplace wonders we take for granted: such as the submarine (Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), the cell phone (the direct descendent of the “communicator” from the original Star Trek series), and even nuclear power (H.G. Wells’ The World Set Free). [1]

Wait. A fiction writer born in the 1800s gave the world the idea for nuclear power? It’s true! Decades after its publication, a scientist named Leo Szilard “read [The World Set Free] and was immediately inspired to create what Wells had dreamed up” – for better or for worse. [2] And when a teenaged Robert H. Goddard read Wells’ The War of the Worlds, it set him on a path of “research [that] culminated with the Apollo program, and man’s landing on the moon.” [3] So there’s an undeniable link between the Science Fiction genre and humanity’s incredible achievements. Keep that in mind the next time your friends give you a hard time for being a sci-fi geek!

Another cool thing about the sci-fi genre is that it often combines elements of many other genres, as well. There’s sci-fi horror, sci-fi thriller, sci-fi mystery, sci-fi romance… You get it. So, without further ado, I’m going to leave you with a great list of Science Fiction authors (many of them you’ll find on our genre bookmarks in the library), titles of some of their works, and sometimes the additional genres that come into play. (For example, when you see “humor,” think of it as “sci-fi + humor,” and so on.)

AUTHORS

  • Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (humor)
  • A. American – Survivalist series (pulpy but fun)
  • Charlie Jane Anders – All the Birds in the Sky
  • Hiromu Arakawa – Fullmetal Alchemist (manga)
  • Catherine Asaro – Quantum Rose
  • Isaac Asimov – Foundation series; Galactic Empire series; Robot series
  • Gertrude Barrows Bennett – Citadel of Fear (under pseudonym “Francis Stevens”)
  • Alfred Bester – The Stars My Destination (cyberpunk); The Demolished Man
  • Leigh Brackett – The Long Tomorrow
  • Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles; The Veldt (short story)
  • Octavia E. Butler – Xenogenesis series
  • Pat Cadigan – Synners (cyberpunk)
  • Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game series (YA)
  • Margaret Cavendish – The Blazing World (published in 1666!)
  • Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit
  • C. L. Cherryh – Downbelow Station
  • Arthur C. Clarke – 2001: A Space Odyssey (there are four books in the series); Childhood’s End
  • Ernest Cline – Ready Player One; Armada
  • Peter Clines – 14 (mystery, horror, paranormal); The Fold (thriller)
  • Michael Crichton – Sphere (psychological thriller); Jurassic Park; Prey
  • Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Ubik; A Scanner Darkly (police procedural)
  • William Gibson – Neuromancer (cyberpunk); The Difference Engine (written with Bruce Sterling) (steampunk); Virtual Light (dark humor, detective)
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Herland
  • Joe Haldeman – The Forever War series; The Accidental Time Machine
  • Frank Herbert – Dune saga
  • Hugh Howey – Silo series (post-apocalyptic)
  • Kameron Hurley – The Stars Are Legion
  • Aldous Huxley – Brave New World; Ape and Essence
  • P. D. James – Children of Men
  • Nancy Kress – Beggars in Spain
  • Larissa Lai – Salt Fish Girl
  • Ursula K. Le Guin – Hainish Cycle; The Eye of the Heron; The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Madeleine L’Engle – Kairos cycle (beginning with A Wrinkle in Time) (children’s, “science fantasy”)
  • Cixin Liu – Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (hard science fiction)
  • Katherine MacLean – Pictures Don’t Lie (stories)
  • Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven
  • George R. R. Martin – Tuf Voyaging; the Wildcards universe
  • Robert Masello – The Einstein Prophecy (historical fiction, mystery, thriller)
  • Julian May – Pliocene Exile series (high fantasy)
  • Anne McCaffrey – The Ship Who Sang
  • Seanan McGuire – Parasitology Trilogy series (sociological, under pseudonym “Mira Grant”)
  • Maureen F. McHugh – China Mountain Zhang
  • Judith Merril – The Tomorrow People
  • Elizabeth Moon – The Speed of Dark
  • Larry Niven – Tales of Known Space series; Ringworld and the Fleet of Worlds series
  • Alice Norton – The Time Traders (under pseudonym “Andre Norton”)
  • Christopher Nuttall – The Oncoming Storm (military, space opera); The Royal Sorceress (steampunk, alternate history)
  • Nnedi Okorafor – Who Fears Death
  • Malka Older – Infomocracy
  • George Orwell – 1984 (speculative, “social science fiction”)
  • Frederik Pohl – The Coming of the Quantum Cats; the Heechee saga (space opera)
  • Kim Stanley Robinson – Mars trilogy (literary)
  • Joanna Russ – The Female Man (experimental and not what you think)
  • Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow
  • Carl Sagan – Contact
  • John Scalzi – Redshirts; Old Man’s War series
  • Alice Bradley Sheldon – Her Smoke Rose up Forever (stories, under pseudonym “James Tiptree, Jr.”)
  • Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
  • Dan Simmons – Ilium series (fantasy); Hyperion Cantos series (fantasy)
  • Neal Stephenson – Cryptonomicon (historical fiction); Snow Crash (cyberpunk)
  • Karin Tidbek – Amatka
  • Jules Verne – Journey to the Center of the Earth (adventure)
  • Thea von Harbou – Metropolis
  • Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle; Slaughterhouse Five; The Sirens of Titan (all conceptual/unconventional)
  • Sabrina Vourvoulias – Ink
  • David Weber – Honor Harrington series (military); The Apocalypse Troll
  • Andy Weir – The Martian; Artemis
  • H. G. Wells – The Time Machine; The Island of Doctor Moreau; The Invisible Man; The War of the Worlds
  • Martha Wells – The Murderbot Diaries series (described as a fun read!)
  • Connie Willis – To Say Nothing of the Dog (historical fiction, rom-com, humor, time travel)

 

That’s enough to get you started, right? Remember, if we don’t have a book at the Williamson County Public Library, we’ll try to locate it with Inter-Library Loan. Enjoy – and be inspired!

 


Sources:

 

I sourced most of the woman authors and their works from this excellent list: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/50-sci-fi-must-reads-by-women

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

By Stephen McClain, Reference Department

Originally posted November 20, 2015ancestry_logo

Did you know that Williamson County Public Library patrons can access Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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, Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com, 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com once a month.

 

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

Did you know…that July is National Ice-Cream Month?!

1By Lisa Lombard, Reference Department

Originally posted on July 17, 2015

You read it correctly; July is National Ice-Cream Month! In addition to celebrating the Fourth of July, we have a month long celebration of ice-cream! Does that not sound awesome? Who does not love an excuse to eat ice-cream (or anything you normally would not have)? On those days when you don’t want to leave the house, want an extra special treat for a birthday party, the Fourth of July, a bar-b-q, or any other type of party homemade ice-cream will be a crowd pleaser! The two following recipes are for vanilla ice-cream, to keep it simple especially if this is your first time making homemade ice-cream. The first recipe you will need an electric ice-cream maker and the second recipe is one sure to get family and friends involved (or a good arm workout for yourself!) and does not require any type of electricity, just good ole fashioned elbow grease! Happy ice-cream making and enjoy the scrumptious summertime treat!

Recipe #1 (This is a Paula Dean Recipe from the FoodNetwork)
Total Time: 3 hr 10 min Prep: 10 min Inactive: 3 hr2
Yield: approximately 1 gallon

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Whole milk

Directions:

  1. With an electric mixer, cream eggs and sugar. Add evaporated milk, condensed milk, and vanilla. Beat well.
  2. Pour into an electric ice cream churn. Add whole milk to fill line. Insert dasher.
  3. Pack cooler 1/3 full with ice. Add a layer of rock salt. Repeat layering with ice and salt until full. Note: be careful not to overfill, spilling salt into the churn.
  4. When machine starts to labor or shut off, remove the dasher and drain water. Fill with more ice and salt.
  5. Cover with a towel and let harden.

Recipe #2 (This recipe was found at the blog, 2 little hooligans)
Ingredients and supplies:

  • 2 TBL sugar
  • 1 cup half & half (or light cream)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coarse salt or table salt
  • ice
  • gallon-sized Ziploc bag3
  • pint-sized Ziploc bag

Directions:

  1. Mix the sugar, half & half and vanilla extract together. Pour into a pint-sized Ziploc baggie. Make sure it seals tightly.
  2. Now take the gallon-sized Ziploc bag and fill it up halfway with ice and pour the salt over the ice. Now place the cream filled bag into the ice filled bag and seal.
  3. Make sure it is sealed tightly and start shaking. Shake for about 5 minutes (or 8 minutes if you use heavy cream).
  4. Open the gallon-sized bag and check to see if the ice cream is hard, if not keep shaking. Once the ice cream is finished, quickly run the closed pint-sized baggie under cold water to quickly clean the salt off the baggie. You are now ready to dig in and enjoy!

There you have it, two ways to make homemade ice-cream in celebration of National Ice-Cream month! Do not forget to keep some fun and tasty toppings on hand for those who want to jazz up their classic vanilla ice-cream, enjoy!

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