Sunday, April 15, 2018

Potentially bad news for history and genealogy

Tara Calishain, indefatigable creator and maintainer of ResearchBuzz, reports:

BetaNews: Google loses big ‘right to be forgotten’ case — and it could set an important precedent. “A businessman with an historic criminal conviction has won his case against Google in a ‘right to be forgotten’ lawsuit seeking to remove information about his conviction from search results. The case, heard today in London, could set a precedent and lead to a series of similar cases from other people with spent convictions. The anonymous businessman — known only as NT2 — has a conviction for conspiracy to intercept communications from more than a decade ago and spent six months in prison for the crime.”

I totally recommend that you subscribe, even if (like me) you don't have time to read it all. It's free.

Last year in a luncheon talk I speculated on what genealogy might be like in 2117. It was mostly not a very pretty picture, and so far -- just one year in! -- the following piece of that talk seems to be on target. I suggested that . . .



Profit-driven corporations will fight the good fight against those who claim a “right to be forgotten.” Perhaps the decisive court case will involve Googlecestry vs. the North American Union, when those who advocate such a right to be forgotten will sue to have their role in that fight itself forgotten.

If that case is resolved wrongly, then genealogy could even become an illegal conspiracy. The use of cursive writing could become a code furthering said conspiracy. Somewhere deep in the suburban slums, history books would be furtively traded for images of the “forgotten” presidents. I’m still just enough of a 20th-century person to think that this might not happen.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

You want a desecrated cemetery? I'll show you a desecrated cemetery!

Thanks to Dick Eastman for picking up the ongoing saga of the casual burial and unburial of deceased paupers and mental patients on the northwest side of Chicago in the Dunning neighborhood.

Those looking for more details (and indications that Chicago's standards may have declined over the last 30 years) can find my lengthy article, "Grave Mistake," in the archives of the Chicago Reader, 21 September 1989.  At that time it was a housing development; now it's a school. A lot has happened since then, but you get the idea.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Two New 2018 Publications



Not everyone gets to be named Alissomon. She was the sister of my wife's 3-great grandfather Henry Mozley; their families emigrated together from Nottinghamshire, England, to Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1833. The Mozleys eventually spread out from Erie in many directions; Alissomon married shoemaker Joseph Harrison and their offspring stayed closer to the Great Lakes. 

My article follows them downstream in the current OGS quarterly. Ohio will have its annual conference later this week in Columbus -- it's not too late!

Working downstream in time has its benefits. Because I was also researching the more populous Mozley side, I discovered a letter from a Mozley relative briefly describing her visit to three Harrison cousins in Cleveland around 1910.

New York and Ohio members can read the new issues of their respective quarterlies on line, and not have to wait for the mail.

(Soon to come: revealing the life of a practiced deceiver.)


“Alissomon Mozley Harrison and Her Descendants in Erie and Cleveland,” Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly 58(1), 2018:49-61.

Review of  American Settlements and Migrations: A Primer for Genealogists and Family Historians by Lloyd Bockstruck, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 14(2), April 2018: 156-57.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

"The Republic for Which It Stands"

All four of my grandparents were born in the "Gilded Age," between 1874 and 1887, and genealogy sometimes makes me more at home in the 19th century than the 21st. Now that I am almost one-quarter through Richard White's The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896, I can say it has enhanced my understanding of that time period more than any other single book.

Yes, this same guy also produced The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. IMO, any normal person would happily rest on the laurels of either work.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

History as Quicksilver

From the fictional 98-year-old narrator of a novel:

"Wars  make history seem deceptively simple. They provide clear turning points, easy distinctions: before and after, winner and loser, right and wrong. True history, the past, is not like that. It isn't flat or linear. It has no outline It is slippery, like liquid; infinite and unknowable, like space. And it is changeable: just when you think you see a pattern, perspective shifts, an alternative version is proffered, a long-forgotten memory resurfaces."

Kate Morton, The House at Riverton (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Widow's Tale in MGSJ


Civil War pension files tell tales that are not necessarily about the soldiers. Sometimes the thanks of a grateful nation came with strings attached, making otherwise private matters public, especially when the nation required soldiers' widows to disprove anonymous accusations. In this case the soon-to-be-ex-pensioner was Ella (Bartlett) (Middlekauf) (Crandall) Haley of Baltimore. Her Crandall husband was my great-great grandfather-in-law. So often the best stories happen out on the far end of the branches of the tree!

This article's publication had its genesis at the 2016 Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Management Conference in Fort Wayne [CORRECTION -- IT WAS 2017 NGS IN MAY!], when incoming Maryland Genealogical Society Journal managing editor Malissa Ruffner was working the room, asking folks if they had any Maryland-related articles in mind. I didn't . . . and then I remembered that I did. (Moral: always think twice before telling an editor "no"!) 

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to reading the lead article in this issue . . . about Babe Ruth's paternal-line ancestors!



“The Widow’s Tale: Ella A. (Bartlett) (Middlekauf ) (Crandall) Haley and Her Baltimore Neighbors,” Maryland Genealogical Society Journal 58(3), 2017: 411–26.