Looking for something fun to read this holiday season? Whether you need reading material for holiday travels or just want to curl up under a blanket at home, here are two great titles I love. I shared these with Lisa in the December episode of the Genealogy Gems podcast–click here to hear our discussion and excerpts!
Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History by Helene Stapinski is one of my favorite published family histories. The author recounts her family’s upbringing in the context of the notoriously corrupt culture of Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A. It’s a page-turner, from the jaw-dropping opening sentence to the author’s final musings about how her own life reflects hand-me-down criminal tendencies. Some of the stories are snickeringly funny and some are sad, and the author keeps just the right distance from the drama. She’s close enough to sympathize with people who are trying to make their way within a culture that rewards dishonesty, greed and violence, yet can laugh at ironies like trying to learn about her grandfather’s petty thefts–when he’s stolen the very newspaper pages about his misdeeds from the library.
Homemade Biography: How to Collect, Record, and Tell the Life Story of Someone You Love This is more than “just” a how-to book for family historians—it’s a story of its own. I re-read it every time I want to be freshly inspired to pursue the stories of my family. New York Times best-selling author and journalist Tom Zoellner weaves stories of his own into fabulous, hard-won advice on interviewing people. He shares insider tips on how to get the best stories out of those we talk to. There’s even a helpful chapter on how to work with the memories of those who have Alzheimer’s!
Tune in next month to learn our next featured book for the first quarter of 2015. Learn more about other books we’ve recommended at the Genealogy Gems Book Club page.
If you’ve ever watched the television show Forensic Files now on HLN, you’ve probably seen forensic anthropologists create a bust of clay from skeletal remains. The time-consuming process provides a way to visualize what the person may have looked like. It’s a tedious task, with a keen understanding of anatomy intertwining with artistic skill.
One episode stands out in my memory. A woman’s remains were found months if not years after her demise. A bust was created and photographs were taken to be distributed as a sort of mug shot. “Do you know this woman” was posted in the newspaper along with the photo, and sure enough a good friend of the woman identified her immediately.
Lisa Louise Cooke with Maureen Taylor (right), the Photo Detective.
So why talk about this on a genealogy blog? Well, in the most recent episode of the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast (#119) published this week, Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective, and I discuss the future of technology and genealogy, which lead to a conversation on 3D printing. Maureen described how she had a bust of herself printed 3D (which I’m sure her long-into-the-future descendants will appreciate! You can see it on the episode show notes page.) and that got me to thinking about the work of the forensic anthropologists. Shortly after our conversation, Maureen sent me a link on Facebook called History’s Mysteries posted by the carrier company UPS.
The UPS Compass webpage features a video documenting the efforts of the Maritime Heritage National Marine Sanctuaries, with the help of UPS, to identify the remains of two sailors from the USS Monitor that sank in 1862 during a storm off the coast of Cape Hatteras. Sure enough, they had clay busts created from the skeletal remains in an effort to make the identification.
(Click the link above to watch the video. Then put your genealogy skills to work and see if you can help them identify the two sailors.)
What role did UPS play? They had the task of transporting the busts from the lab to the unveiling at the military ceremony. Any disruption of the soft clay would dent and alter the bust. I couldn’t help but wonder if 3D printing could have made the task of moving and distributing copies of the busts easier. It’s a fascinating technology. And who knows, perhaps 3D busts of ancestors will be as common place as our old photos are today. Do you think your descendants will want, perhaps even expect, to have 3D printings of you? Share your thoughts on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page.
You can learn more about 3D printing here in the article called A New Industrial Revolution: The Brave New World of 3D Printing.
Guess what? The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania has also been covering Orphan Train as a book club selection!
Their format’s a little different than ours: they have weekly blog posts on the book and members are invited to get together over coffee and chat about it. The blog posts are part plot summary, part personal response, and even part genealogy and history instruction! Check out these posts:
Do you have ancestors who lived in the “Windy City” of Chicago, Illinois (USA)? You should check out Chicago in Maps, a web portal to historic, current and thematic maps.
As the News-Gazette reports, “There are direct links to over three dozen historic maps of Chicago, from 1834 to 1921. The thematic maps include Chicago railroad maps, transit maps and geological maps.”
Of course, there are current maps, too, including a Chicago street guide for 2014. There’s a fascinating set of maps showing the effects of landfill projects. The Sources and Links page directs users to helpful guides to street name changes and house numbers. You’ll find links to surveyors’ maps, too.
From the home page, you can also click to a sister site on Chicago streetcars that includes a 1937 map of streetcar lines. (There’s a second sister site on Chicago bridges.)
Do you have Italian ancestors? Did you recently discover Italian heritage in your DNA ethnicity results? Don’t miss this exclusive interview with Mary Tedesco of Genealogy Roadshow! She’s here to talk about her top tips for Italian genealogy research, as well as share a bit about working on the hit PBS series.
Mary recently published Tracing Your Italian Ancestors, an 84-page guide to researching. There’s a section on using U.S. records to learn essentials about your family, and then a section on researching in Italian records. In this interview, she talks about traveling to Italy to research for others and the importance of using Italian church records in local parish churches or diocesan archives.
If you watch genealogy TV shows like Genealogy Roadshow or Who Do You Think You Are? or Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr, go to our home page and search on the category “Genealogy TV.” See what we’ve blogged about!