November 25, 2014

Free App, E-Book Celebrate Constitution Day

holding_us_flag_stick_figure_pc_400_wht_2690Today the United States celebrates Constitution Day! On this date in 1787–225 years ago–delegates finalized and signed the historic document that became the U.S. Constitution.

In celebration, the National Archives Center for Legislative Archives has launched a free mobile app, e-book and even companion tools for teachers: lesson plans and teaching activities.

“Congress Creates the Bill of Rights” is described at the National Archives website, where you can download the e-book and teaching resources. The e-book is also available in iTunes and the iBookstore for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The app is available for download on iPad at the App Store.

A press release describes the app as “an interactive learning tool for tablets that lets the user experience the proposals, debates, and revisions that shaped the Bill of Rights in the First Congress. Its menu-based organization presents a historic overview, a one-stop source that includes the evolving language of each proposed amendment as it was shaped in the House and the Senate, a close-up look at essential documents, a ‘time-lapse’ display of the creation of the First Amendment, and more.

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBook presents a historic narrative focusing on James Madison’s leadership role in creating the Bill of Rights and effectively completing the Constitution. Starting with the crises facing the nation in the 1780s, the narrative traces the call for constitutional amendments from the state ratification conventions, and takes the reader inside Congress as the House and the Senate worked to formulate a set of amendments to send to the states.”

Did you have ancestors who were at the Constitutional Convention? Contribute what you know at the Signers of the U.S. Constitution Project at Geni.com. The goal of this project is to build “single, documented profiles” of those who signed.

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What I Believe We Must Do as Family Historians Today

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Santayana in The Life of Reason, 1905

One of the most important jobs we will have as family historians is passing on to the next generation our memories of September 11, 2001.

I’ll never forget my daughter Lacey calling me from the top of the stairs on that morning. She was listening to the radio as she prepared for school. “Mom,” she said, “I think you better turn on the TV. Something is happening.”

And like so many in America and around the world, I turned on the TV only to be glued to it into the wee hours of that night, devastated by the evil appearing on the screen.

The quote at the beginning of this article is often mistakenly attributed to Winston Churchill, but in fact, his statement to the House of Commons on May 2, 1935 after the Stresa Conference was even more thorough and extremely compelling:

SNAG_Program-0286

“When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothing new in the story. It is as old as the sibylline books. It falls into that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong-these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”

Learning from history and passing it on is key to our survival, as families, and as freedom-loving countries.

On this September 11 let’s pull our children and grandchildren close and be brave enough to share the reality of our experience. We, and future generations, need to remember.

God Bless America,
Lisa

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Living in the past? This woman is–1938, to be exact

living in the pastJust when you thought a claw-foot tub was the epitome of living in the past….

A historical consultant in Amsterdam is living in the past. To be more precise, she’s chosen to live like it’s 1938. Her apartment (except for the computer and the refrigerator) is entirely outfitted as if it’s 1938. She doesn’t have a television, she vacuums with a 1920s machine and she washes her clothes by hand.

She’s profiled here on Yahoo! Homes, where you can check out a slide show of her apartment.

What do you think about living in the past? If you could surround yourself with the trappings of an earlier decade, what would it be? What modern conveniences could you not live without?

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Got 10 Minutes? Here’s 100 Years of History

Can 100 years be packed into 10 minutes? This YouTube video attempts to do it!
(Warning: contains some graphic images)

The video also illustrates how the movie camera has captured our triumphs and tragedies for over 100 years.

Do you have old family movies? Consider posting them on YouTube with relevant descriptions that will help others find and watch them. Just like old photos, old film can play a TV animatedsignificant role in our family history, and the Internet provides a forum for sharing them. If you have a free Google account (perhaps you use Gmail or another Google service) then you can use that account to activate your own YouTube channel.

You can learn how to get your free YouTube channel up and running at my upcoming class at RootsTech2014 called How to Use YouTube for Family History: Setting Up Your Own YouTube Channel (RT1508) Thursday, February 6 at 10:30 AM in Room: Ballroom H

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Newsboys: Colorful Figures of the Past

Newsboy. Little Fattie. Less than 40 inches high, 6 years old. Been at it one year. May 9th, 1910. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. Wikimedia Commons image, original at Library of Congress.

Newsboy. Little Fattie. Less than 40 inches high, 6 years old. Been at it one year. May 9th, 1910. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. Wikimedia Commons image, original at Library of Congress

Newsboys or “newsies” used to sell the news. But for a time in American history, they were the news!

You’d know them by their common call: “Read all about it!” It was their job to sell stacks of inexpensive newspapers on every street corner that would support them. The Library of Congress has posted a fascinating page about the history of newsies, including their own appearance in the papers.

In 1899, newspaper prices rose–and that cut into the profit margins of boys who had very little  profit to begin with. In New York City, many newsboys refused to sell papers published by Pulitzer and Hearst. Over the next few years, the newsboys didn’t exactly unionize, but they did organize. Eventually they formed the National Newsboys’ Association, which evolved into today’s Boys Club and Girls Club.

It’s interesting to read how the newspapers reported the doings of the boys who were essentially their salespeople. I bet it was a tricky place to be caught: a newspaper couldn’t afford to totally alienate their own best salesmen. Those salesmen were actually children, whom nobody wants to be accused of targeting. But their activities were aimed at driving down prices. In some cases, you see newspapers taking “the high road” and reporting charitable efforts to help these boys, like this story from the 1909 Washington Herald:

Newsies article

Click here to read this full story on Chronicling America. And click here to “read all about” newsboys and their role in American newspaper life.

Remember, stories like these are the kind that shaped our ancestors’ lives. Whether we find our relatives mentioned directly in the paper or we just see what life was like around them, we can learn so much from reading the same newspapers they did. Learn more from my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers–and Genealogy Gems Premium Subscribers can check out “Getting the Scoop on Your Ancestors in Newspapers” in the Premium Videos section.

 

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Follow Your Commuter Ancestors in NYC Subway Maps

New York City Subway HistoryIf your ancestors lived or worked in New York City, did you know you can follow them home from work? At least virtually.

David Pirmann runs a website dedicated to the history of the New York City subway system. NYCSubway.org includes great historical background, photos, maps and other documents.

Start by reading about elevated rail service that began in the 1860s and the development of the transit system since then. Then consult route maps for several time periods, either in the Historical Maps section or the Line by Line Guide (both under the Maps and Stations tab).

The fun part is browsing the rest of the site: learn how “The Great White Hurricane” snowstorm of 1888 paralyzed the city, or how things have worked behind the scenes (fares, power, signals, etc). You can even check out images of abandoned stations and old cars.

Thanks to Gizmodo.com for an article that pointed me to this fun resource.

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71,000 pages of Canadian Genealogy and History Now Online

canada_flag_perspective_anim_150_clr_2301If you have Canadian roots, you’ll want to know about a rich new resource now at Findmypast.com. It’s the Canadian Books collection, with 71,000 pages of keyword-searchable histories, vital records, directories, published genealogies and more.

“Dating back to the 1600s, the Canadian Books boast 71,000 pages of items such as military, religious, occupational and immigration records, business directories, published genealogies and BMDs [births, marriages and deaths],” states a Findmypast.com press release. “The books feature a sizeable amount of military records with various nominal rolls and rolls of honour relating mostly to the First World War, such as The Royal Montreal Regiment, 14th Battalion, University of Toronto Roll of Service 1914-1918 and 31st Canadian Infantry CEF 1914-1919.”

Though the core content is Canada, the reach of this 200-volume collection extends outside Canada’s boundaries. “With titles such as Sketches of Irish soldiers, The Scotch-Irish of California, and German-Canadian Folklore, the collection is valuable for people with Canadian ancestry and those who can trace their origins back to the UK or Europe.”

This collection comes from the Archive CD Books Canada Project, which has gathered, renovated and reproduced Canadian historical books, documents and maps for over a decade. The 200 volumes are searchable through all Findmypast international sites with a World Subscription and in the U.S. and Canada resources at Findmypast.com.

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100-Year Old Time Capsule Opens

Exactly one hundred years ago on April 22, a time capsule was buried in the basement of the First English Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.A. During a ceremony this April 22, a crowd that included the governor oversaw the opening of the “Century Chest.”

The entire ceremony was captured on video. Skip ahead to the good part, where they start opening the packages in the enormous box, at about 1 hour and 10 minutes into the video. You’ll see a prize-winning plate from the state fair, an old desk telephone with its bright green cord still wrapped around it, an Edison phonograph machine, artwork, photos, newspaper articles, clothing, a pen used by U.S. President McKinley to sign the Free Homes Bill and more!

My question for you: what would YOU put in a 100-year time capsule? Leave your comments.

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The Wild West of Sound Today and in the 19th Century

When I started podcasting back in early 2007, it was still sort of the Wild West of podcasting. The medium had only been invented and gone public in 2005. It has been exciting to be part of a new frontier of sound and to reach people around the world interested in genealogy through mp3 files online.  And the podcast has been far reaching, having recently celebrated 1,000,000 downloads!

Back in 1878 Thomas Edison was experiencing the first “Wild West” of sound when he created the first recording of the human voice with his phonograph invention. Today, historians are working diligently to meticulously capture and preserve those earliest recordings as this short video explains.

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Texting fave OMG! has Roots Back to World War I

If you have teens in your family then chances are you have heard the phrase OMG which stands for oh my God. But have you ever wondered who started it? You may have thought it was Alicia Silverstone in the 1995 movie Clueless, but actually you have to dig much further back in history to find its origins. All the way back to 1917 in fact.

George Mason’s University’s History News Network website says that the folks at the Oxford English Dictionary discovered a use of “OMG” from 1917. It comes in a letter by British Admiral John”Jacky” Fisher, who wrote and I quote:

“I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis—O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)—Shower it on the Admiralty!”

According to the site “Fisher was famous for being the driving force behind the creation of the HMS Dreadnought, an advanced capital ship which, when it was launched in 1906, seemed revolutionary. This, the world navies agreed, made all other capital ships obsolete, but, distressingly to the British, destroyed their long-standing lead in naval power, if temporarily. The result was an enormously expensive Anglo-German naval race, which did much to bring on World War I.”

The letter was published in his book  Memories, published in 1919 (below in Google Books. Enter OMG into the search box to see it for yourself)

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