Thursday, November 15, 2018

Joel Thrall is back . . .

. . . in the fall issue of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register for the second and concluding installment, now visible to NEHGS members on line at American Ancestors and to patrons of good genealogy libraries.

His unlikely trajectory -- from pioneer/fugitive from justice to farmer to teacher to doctor to an early death in 1827 -- is not quite complete yet. His great-grandchildren scattered across the continent, but they had to be cut from the journal for space reasons. They will appear, most likely on line, in good time -- as will Joel's dozens of nieces and nephews. He was the oldest of ten children, all of whom have multiple descendants.


" 'Faultless Could I Love Him Less?' Joel S. Thrall and His Descendants in Vermont, Quebec, Ohio, and Texas," parts 1 and 2, New England Historical and Genealogical Register 172, Summer 2018:248-56, Fall 2018:341-52.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Finding a pensive genealogist in "The Witch Elm"

It had to happen. My all-time favorite (living) fiction writer, Tana French, has a genealogist in the cast of characters in her new title, The Witch Elm. His findings are not as friendly as they used to be:


"People are coming to me because their analysis didn't turn out the way they expected . . . . They're unsettled and they're frightened, and what they want from me isn't the lovely presents, any more; it goes much deeper. They're afraid that they're not who they always thought they were, and they want me to find them reassurance. And we both know it might not turn out that way. I'm not the fairy godfather any more; now I'm some dark arbiter, probing through their hidden places to decide their fate. And I'm not nearly as comfortable in that role."

(FYI: The genealogy is Irish, not my forte; but it appears that the author did her homework. Don't pick it up for the genealogy -- it's scattered lightly through the 509 pages -- pick it up for what Stephen King calls its "incandescent" prose. )


Tana French, The Witch Elm (New York: Viking, 2018), 132

Monday, October 15, 2018

"Everybody is about to be under genetic surveillance one way or another"

That's the gist from computational biologists quoted in yesterday's Wired article by Megan Molteni: "GENOME HACKERS SHOW NO ONE'S DNA IS ANONYMOUS ANYMORE." Well, almost no one. And depending on what role state or national governments may take.

Read the whole thing, it's not long. If you have reason to think it's bogus or overstated, reply in the comments (or take it up in a DNA forum).

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

What Aaron Goodwin Just Said

The brand-new NGS Monthly for September leads with editor Aaron Goodwin on writing. He puts the arrow right in the bull's eye. 

You'll need to join the National Genealogical Society to read the whole thing, but even the public part makes the point clear: are we trying to create something for posterity, or are we just fooling around?

Friday, September 28, 2018

Winning Women's Suffrage in the Upper Midwest

A new book has been reviewed on H-Net (Humanities and social sciences online) that may be of interest to genealogists:

Woman Suffrage and Citizenship in the Midwest, 1870-1920 (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2018) by Sara Egge (who teaches history at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky) has an interesting review at H-Net. The book focuses on the upper Midwest -- Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota. I haven't seen the book but those researching folks in those states may be interested in the resources Egge drew on.

There's also an overarching lesson -- one that historians know and that genealogists, including me, may need to be reminded of -- not all things that we might consider good ideas run together. Especially after the U.S. joined World War I, women often promoted their right to vote by endorsing both the war and anti-immigrant nativism. Another interesting angle is that the book discusses the many failures of suffrage activism prior to its eventual success.

The book is widely available in top libraries (including Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne) according to WorldCat. The summary there notes that the author focused on Clay County, Iowa; Lyon County, Minnesota; and Yankton County, South Dakota. There is also a link to a Google preview.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Potentially bad news for genealogists: privacy rights for the dead?

Law professor Michael D. Breidenbach argues for privacy for the deceased.

"If society is a partnership among the living, dead and unborn, then historians should interpret figures from the past, even those with mortal failings, with as much justice and charity as we ought to extend to the living. History is not gossip about dead people." (Washington Post, 6 September 2018)

If this isn't the "right to be forgotten," it's a close cousin.



Thursday, August 16, 2018

Did your ancestor get sent off with a 35-line memorial poem?

My great-grandfather's oldest brother, Joel Thrall (1792-1827), went from Vermont to Quebec to Ohio, where he died outside of Columbus, leaving behind him a mysterious widow (wife #3), a trail of bad debts, a skeleton (in addition to his own), and a 35-line memorial mourning poem.

I knew nothing of this when I set out to write him up. (Beware those dull-seeming relatives!)

The first part of his story is now out in the summer issue of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, AKA The Journal of American Genealogy. The second and last part (scheduled for fall) follows Joel's son Homer (with wife #1), who became a Methodist missionary in Texas and a Confederate apologist, and his daughter Rachel (with wife #2), whose grandchildren are scattered across Canada and the U.S. She is the source of all of Joel's living descendants, but he was not present at her christening. It seems unlikely that she knew him, but she and half-brother Homer probably met when he paid a flying visit to Quebec in later life (1884).

FYI would-be writers: The Register is not all New England all the time; it is interested in out-migrations as well.