31 August 2010

Tribune Tuesday: Refugee Is Insane

From: The Oakland Tribune, 26 April 1906


BERKELEY, April 26.-Wildly tearing her hair and shouting at the top of her voice, Mrs. Jordan, a fire refugee from San Francisco, went temporarily insane at the North Berkeley Hotel last night during dinner hours. The loss of her pretty home in San Francisco and the hardships she underwent in fleeing from the burning city was too much for her tired brain, and the result was a total collapse.

Just before dinner, Mrs. Jordan took some headache powders to ease the pain in her brain. But the powders had a contrary effect and the unfortunate woman went wildly insane.

Dr. Kelsey was called and diagnosed the case as one of temporary insanity and the patient was at once removed to the Alto [sic] Bates Sanatorium on Dwight way. It will be some months before the woman recovers from the shock.

25 August 2010

California Quotes: A Sort of Aquatic Temple-bar

"Opposite the Bay of Sausolito [sic], in a north-easterly direction, lies the island of De los Angelos, much the largest in the Bay of San Francisco. Its shores are bold around, but on the south and west rise abruptly to a giddy height. It is covered with fine pasture, possesses good water, and a sufficiency of firewood; but as yet has not tempted a wooer to its angelic embrace. Were I to remain in California, I should choose it as my head-quarters, for, over and above the properties I have mentioned, its picturesque situation is pre-eminently attractive, reposing under the shelter of the coast range, and commanding a most expansive view of the bay; from its south-east cliffs you see through the gullet of the harbour the undulating bosom of the broad Pacific; immediately opposite, the more elevated terraces of the city sweetly challenges the view; and beyond its jutting extremes the southern portion of the bay stretches beyond the limits of vision, to receive the waters of the Santa Clara, on which stands the embarcadero of the capital of San Jose'; while towards the northward is discernible the great entrance to the Strait of Carquines, with the city of Benicio [sic] on its shores--a sort of aquatic Temple-bar, where vessels, boats, and barges are jostling agains each other as they pass and repass in crowded throngs through this narrow thoroughfare."

From: An Excursion to California, Volume II, 1851, p. 266. Photo by Telstar Logistics, available via Creative Commons for non-commercial usage.

24 August 2010

Tribune Tuesday: Five Are Killed

From: The Oakland Tribune, 18 April 1906:


Five people were killed in the Empire Building on Twelfth Street, near Broadway.

The dead are:

Otto Wisher, forty-five years of age

Amelia Wisher, thirteen years of age

Edward Marney, about twenty-five years of age

Mrs. Edward Marney, twenty-five years old

Unknown man, about twenty-five years of age

John Judd, dropped dead of heart disease

Scripophily- Your Friendly Neighborhood Collecting Craze

If you are looking for an interesting browse on the stranger side of the historical, check out Scripophily.net, or Oldstocks.com. Defined as the study and collection of stocks and bonds, scripophily is an interesting trip into the business successes and failures of yesteryear. Take, for instance, the New England Breeders' Club (illegal horse-racing anyone?). And many of the certificates are beautiful!

Ah collecting. I have to say that I had no idea that people collected old stock and bond certificates. What's next... collecting the names of dead people and putting them in a database?

18 August 2010

California Quotes: These Learned Statesmen

"The farmers have set up a wail here and described the difficulties they have had down in these valleys in establishing homes. The miners themselves, many of them, have sailed clear around the horn, and many of them have been balanced upon the point of a horn ever since, in an honest endeavor all the time to find something that would add to the wealth of the State, and certainly they have succeeded, because I see that during the year eighteen hundred and seventy-seven they have produced nearly nineteen million of dollars; and yet these learned statesmen want to go to work and impose this onerous tax upon the men who are endeavoring to bring this wealth to the surface. It is the only industry to-day in this State which pays to the laboring men three dollars and four dollars a day. In my county the ruling rate is four dollars a day for miners. Now the laboring men cut up so about wages down in San Francisco that they have got the wages down to nothing. The only men who pay them full wages in this State are the miners, and yet the Workingmen stand up here and vote to tax them out of existence, and prevent the organization of companies which will pay them better wages than they can get in any other place."

From: Debates and proceedings of the [California] Constitutional convention, Volume II, 1881, p. 911

17 August 2010

Tribune Tuesday: Prefers Whisky To Wife

From: The Oakland Tribune, 31 January 1906, p. 1

This Woman Gets a Divorce For Her Hubby's Habits

Two bits worth of whisky before breakfast, two bits more for a "chaser" after breakfast; two bits worth of beer for lunch and two bits for whisky in the evening--$1 a day for liquor for 365 by actual count was the record of Peter Keogh, according to the testimony of Julia Keogh in her divorce action in which she was granted an interlocutory decree this morning by Judge Ellsworth on the ground of Keogh's habitual intemperance.

They are an aged couple and have made their home at Seventh and Adeline streets where Mrs. Keogh conducted a little store. She is 72 years of age and he is 74, but she says he made life so unbearable for her finally that she had to leave him.


During the last five years, she testified he had hardly been sober a day and when she refused to give him money for liquor she says he would beat her.

She said that she had to stay out in the street much of the time to get away from him and at night she used to have to sit up. She said she did not go to her neighbors because she hated to let them know of her troubles. Six months ago she says she left him.

15 August 2010

Around the Web Today

* New digitization of the Domesday Book from King's College in London.

* The Quilt Index (a collaboration from Michigan State University and other institutions) has photos, provenance, and maker information on quilts from a number of states.

* Whole lotta Mathew Brady photos online from NARA... now with geotagging!

* Mark Kleiman at The Atlantic talks about the use and origins of you, thee and thou and legacies of class distinction.

12 August 2010

In Defense of Google Books

Martin Hollick over at Slovak Yankee had a post recently expressing his frustration with Google Books, which had me thinking about the nature of Google Books and what it can and can't do for us as researchers. I am, after all, one of those blogging internet genealogists who raves about Google Books. That doesn't mean, however, that I am unaware of its limitations; merely that I find its benefits outweigh its deficiencies, making it a useful site despite the shortcomings.

Complicated Searching

Martin's complaint, as I read it, was twofold: 1) A public domain work which he was searching for was not available on Google Books, and 2) Navigation within Google Books is unnecessarily opaque.

On point two, I believe Martin is undoubtedly correct. It is a run around chore to find out what, exactly, Google Books has online in what sort of view (full, snippet, partial, no), in which edition, and which volume. I wonder at times why Google has invested the time, money and effort of their own company (as well as that of libraries around the world) to create this resource, which is then handicapped by a sub-par search interface and a complete lack of taxonomical organization. Even using Google Books' Advanced Search to cut through the clicks, it recently took me almost two hours to wade through search results and editions information to compile a list of Hubert Howe Bancroft's works that are available on the site.

In an echo of Martin's experience, I was frustrated to find that of the thirty-nine volumes of Bancroft's collected works, three of the ones I am most interested in are (yet?) to be released in full-view, despite the fact that they are in the public domain. It also leaves what could be a valuable reference resource (a full volume-set of Bancroft's works) full of holes. This, of course, leads to questions: Why should some volumes of Bancroft's collected works not be available, when other volumes of the work (all in the same edition) are presented not once, not twice, but three times under different ID numbers, and therefore as separate results in a given search? Where is the redundancy control? Is anyone anywhere within the digitization effort trying to ensure that complete sets of works get digitized? What is the system for prioritizing the volumes to be digitized, and if, as I assume, it resides with the libraries, is there any centralization to ensure that duplication is not taking up valuable digitization resources?

It is this--the sometimes chaotic and seemingly untamed sprawl of Google Books--which renders it vast but wild, and sometimes frustrating to use. On these points, Martin's criticisms seem, to me, appropriate.

Better Use

Of course, with such a plethora of information, it is easy to expect Google Books to have everything, especially what we are looking for, whenever we want it. The thrust and thrill of research demands optimism that what we set out to find will yield in the end. Yet experience shows that even as digitization efforts continue, Google Books isn't always the best choice when our research directs us to a particular work (or even a particular edition of a particular work), since it is not yet the broad clearinghouse of human publishing history that it aims to be. Often, as Martin invokes, a visit to a flesh and blood library is mandated.

To assume that Google Books replaces a library is as incorrect as assuming that Google Books has set out to BE a library in the first place. The ends and means--and even usage--of Google Books can be completely different than that of a library, as the cascade of interactions with both entities, though beginning in the same place (the need for information), succeed in different ways and toward different satisfactory endings. Google Book's strength lies not in emulating a library, but in altering the interaction with information that is found in books.

In a library: What I require is a way to find the volume I need, have it sent via ILL to my local branch (if necessary), then check it out and read it. The library's purpose is to either house the volume or provide a conduit of service which will allow me to access another institution's copy. They have to provide a searchable interface for their own collection that allows me to find what they have available. And they provide the invaluable service of librarians who can augment my research with suggestions for other resources. Beyond that, my interaction with the information I need, in the book I want, is a straight-forward one, wherein the search leads to a nose-in-book ending.

On Google Books: The mode of interaction here can replicate that of a library, if I locate the volume I want, then download it and read it on my Kindle, (which is one way I use Google Books). In this way, the site has served dually as a library by housing the volume and providing a (perhaps poorly organized) catalog, and is little more than digital delivery service.

The difference--and the strength--of Google Books is that it allows interaction beyond this traditional library > catalog > user triptych by presenting the information within books in a more multi-dimensional way. In this sense, Google Books serves not as an electronic bookshelf, but as a true spinoff of its greater search cousin: a database of published information that breaks out of the traditional bindings of books.

Fruits of the Search

In my search for Volume VI of Bancroft's History of California, Google Books fell short. All I wanted, in this case, was to have the complete volume to read. In other situations, where my search is more general, I have found the ability to search "outside of the binding" to be invaluable, in that it allows me to find information in places I almost never would have thought to look, or in books which I would have had myriad problems obtaining. (This holds true particularly for 19th-century research, for which Google Books holds a wealth of public domain works). Examples of items I have found include:

* A beautiful illustrated advertisement for a GGG-Grandfather's architectural offices, found in a Catholic Laity Almanac.

* Information on a letter written by the same GGG-Grandfather which was at the root of a Supreme Court case in 1858; this was in a rather arcane publication about the railroad involved in the suit.

* A letter written by a G-Grandfather about his son's WWI service in France was read aloud at a Congressional hearing in 1923. Google Books had a snippet view result showing his name and residence, which allowed me to order the book through ILL and obtain the full testimony read before the committee.

* Various South Carolina governmental reports, as well as post-Civil War shipping industry publications have allowed me to piece together a list of vessels captained by a GGG-Grandfather.


Certainly I could have found many of these books independently of the internet, if I had wandered into a repository which housed them, thought of pulling them off the shelf, then sat down and paged through them, page after page after page. Realistically, though, most of these items were nuggets residing silently within the pages of books I never would have dreamed of touching or books which are in places I may never be lucky enough to go. The digital database that is Google Books makes discoveries like this possible, enhancing my research and my understanding of the individuals I am pursuing.

11 August 2010

California Quotes: Crammers of Wheat

"It may be well in this place to say something briefly of country life in California. And the thing first to be said is that there is not another State in the Union where everything outside of city limits is so unrural, so contractor-like, so temporizing, so devoid of whatever is poetical, romantic and snug in the old farmer-life of our East. I did not see ten honest, hard-fisted farmers in my whole journey. There are plenty of city-haunting old bachelors and libertines who own great ranchos and lease them; and there are enough crammers of wheat, crammers of beans, crammers of mulberries, crammers of anything that will make their fortune in a year or two, and permit them to go and live and die in "Frisco". Then, for laborers, there are runaway sailors; reformed street thieves; bankrupt German scene-painters, who carry sixty pounds of blankets; old soldiers, who drink their employer's whiskey in his absence, and then fall into the ditch which they dug for a fence-row; all looking for "jobs" or "little jobs" but never for steady work."

From: Afoot and Alone: A Walk from Sea to Sea by the Southern Route, by Stephen Powers

10 August 2010

Tribune Tuesday: Fishing and Whiskey

From: The Oakland Tribune, 22 January 1906, p. 1

Went Fishing on Sundays and Took Whisky With Him

"When I went to pray at night my husband would mock me and roll and toss on the bed and blow like an old gander," was the graphic description given by Mrs. Louise P. Hinton, of 1259 Campbell street, a member of the Holy Roller sect, in her testimony against Roger B. Hinton, from whom she was granted an interlocutory decree of divorce this morning by Judge Waste on the ground of cruelty.

Mrs. Hinton, it is alleged, was the victim of a cruel husband, who viewed with aversion her alligning [sic] herself with the forces striving to gain an eternal salvation in another world by a course of action in this, and in her testimony before Court Commissioner Crowell she recited his various acts of cruelty and said:

"After I got saved he tried to lure me onto the devil's side. When I tried to sing a hymn he would clap his hand over my mouth and try and stop me."

Her effort to practice her religion according to the interpretation of the peculiar sect with whom she had associated herself, met with vigorous protest on his part, and she further testified that he went to drinking harder than ever, and would go fishing on Sundays with men who took drink along with them, and that he would come home in an intoxicated condition. He then would abuse her, and she says finally in her extremity she left him.

He had threatened to hill her on several occasions, and she left the state of Georgia, and went to Teas, and her husband followed her there. She then went to Texarkana and finally came to Oakland, where she has been at peace. She states that she was married to Hinton at Atlanta, Ga., in 1895, and that she left him in 1903.

Her husband followed her to Oakland, but she would not see him.

09 August 2010

Anatomy of an Internet Genealogist

It is genuine curiosity that leads me to the question: What is an "internet genealogist"? Used by some as a descriptive term ("I happen to do my genealogy research on the internet"), a badge of honor ("I've adopted technology!") or a term of disdain ("Internet genealogists vs. real(?) genealogists?"), it seems like the term is all over the place, and time and time again I am unsure what it really means, whether it describes a type, subset or defect in genealogy, and whether, in the end, it really matters at all.

From what I can tell, usage of this term breaks down into the following seven categories:

The Accidental Internet Genealogist- Has been researching in genealogy say five years or less. In this time, digitization of records has increased to the point where much of the basic tree building going on in beginning genealogical research can be accomplished online. This person has neither adopted nor despised traditional modes of research via libraries, government offices, repositories, etc., they simply haven't advanced their own research and/or research skills to the point where going offline for research has been very necessary.

The Adamant Internet Genealogist- Perhaps started as an Accidental Internet Genealogist, but has not progressed to the point where they have started using offline sources for the advancement of their research. Lack of digitized records online confuses and dismays them, and they are often found lambasting the "lack of information online" on message boards and list-servs.

The Tree-Grafting Internet Genealogist- When Accidental and Adamant Internet Genealogists go wrong, they go here. Stymied by a lack of primary sources online, and unwilling to explore (or unaware of) offline resources, they engage in unsafe tree-grafting practices, mashing up the ancestry of humanity into completely fictitious, if fanciful, forms. GEDCOM download is their primary mode of research, and they have been known to be completely unaware of who or what is in their own tree.

The Researching Internet Genealogist- Probably 90% of everyone engaging in genealogy falls into this category. They are on the internet often in the course of their research, either to find offline sources via indices and catalogs, or using online data sources like ancestry.com or familysearch. They acknowledge that the internet is a tool, a means to an end, but not the end-all-be-all. Their research is a hearty blend of digital and paper, face-to-face and email. They are intelligent, altruistic, unusually handsome, have glowing skin, always use their turn signal, are always regular, and never swear.

The Anti-Internet Genealogist- Takes the stance that the internet is the reason for the downfall of genealogy, and that it is a runaway train of amateurish misinformation bound to destroy us all. The Anti-Internet Genealogist believes that the novice and ill-skilled genealogists one finds online are typical of a growing trend of lazy research and shoddy intellectual reasoning. Strangely, they are often found espousing this opinion on the internet.

The Homebound Internet Genealogist- Mothers with young kids, people with mobility issues, people with pocketbook issues...pretty much anyone who has ever uttered the phrase "When I finally take that research trip". This group is well aware of the value of the FHL, the regional FHC, Allen County Library, the small dusty Recorder's office, the basement of the County Clerk... without the time or money to get there. Often seen building "dream itineraries" on their blogs and mapping out driving times between places they may never visit. Identifiable by the wistful look in their eyes and the callouses on their thumbs from excessive space-bar usage.

And lastly,

The Internet Genealogist- A generic creature without identifiable shape or form, often invoked with disdain by people with vague issues of discomfort regarding the encroachment of technology on their heart's passion. Often a stand-in for general dismay with the research practices of others, but sometimes just a blind swipe at the calamitous nature of online information and resources. Can be construed as an entity built of derision or intellectual elitism, but more often just a sign that change is in the air. See also, "boogey man".

05 August 2010

The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft

Prolific writer Hubert Howe Bancroft was a master historian of the West, and many of his works are on Google Books. Trying to ascertain what, exactly, is online, can be very confusing, so I took the time to compile the following list. Six volumes of the complete works are not yet online; amazingly, three of those are from the seven-volume set of California histories. (Update 2013: The remaining volumes are now online, and have been linked below. Thanks to Jeff of Comstock House History!)

(Incidentally, anyone reading the series on California would be interested in "Misrepresentations of Early California History Corrected", published by the Society of California Pioneers. The book stems from their 1893 effort to oust Bancroft as an honorary member of the society, and outlines some supposedly grievous character assassinations committed in his works. It also gives an interesting glimpse into the difference between the first and second editions of some of Bancroft's California histories, in which major changes are made in text about some of the major figures discussed.)

The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft:

Volume I: The Native Races, Volume I
Volume II: The Native Races, Volume II (Civilized Nations)
Volume III: The Native Races, Volume III
Volume IV: The Native Races, Volume IV (Antiquities)
Volume V: The Native Races, Volume V (Primitive History)

Volume VI: History of Central America, Volume I (1500-1530)
Volume VII: History of Central America, Volume II (1530-1800)
Volume VIII: History of Central America, Volume III (1801-1887)

Volume IX: History of Mexico, Volume I
Volume X: History of Mexico, Volume II
Volume XI: History of Mexico, Volume III
Volume XII: History of Mexico, Volume IV (1804-1824)
Volume XIII: History of Mexico, Volume V
Volume XIV: History of Mexico, Volume VI (1861-1887)

Volume XV: History of the North Mexican States and Texas, Volume I (1531-1800)
Volume XVI: History of the North Mexican States and Texas, Volume II (1801-1889)

Volume XVII: History of Arizona and New Mexico (1530-1888)

Volume XVIII: History of California, Volume I
Volume XIX: History of California, Volume II (1801-1824)
Volume XX: History of California, Volume III
Volume XXI: History of California, Volume IV (1840-1845)
Volume XXII: History of California, Volume V (1846-1848)
Volume XXIII: History of California, Volume VI (available at archive.org)
Volume XXIV: History of California, Volume VII (1860-1890)

Volume XXV: History of Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming (1540-1888)
Volume XXVI: History of Utah (1540-1886)

Volume XXVII: History of the Northwest Coast, Volume I (1543-1800)
Volume XXVIII: History of the Northwest Coast, Volume II (1800-1846)

Volume XXIX: History of Oregon, Volume I
Volume XXX: History of Oregon, Volume II (1848-1888)

Volume XXXI: History of Washington, Idaho and Montana (1845-1889)
Volume XXXII: History of British Columbia (1792-1887)
Volume XXXIII: History of Alaska
Volume XXXIV: California Pastoral, 1769-1848
Volume XXXV: California InterPocula
Volume XXXVI: Popular Tribunals, Volume I
Volume XXXVII: Popular Tribunals, Volume II
Volume XXXVIII: Essays and Miscellany
Volume XXXIX: Literary Industries: A Memoir

04 August 2010

California Quotes: Bothersome or Unmanly

"In the warm hospitable Sierra, shepherds and mountain men in general, as far as I have seen, are easily satisfied as to food supplies and bedding. Most of them are heartily content to "rough it", ignoring Nature's fineness as bothersome or unmanly. The shepherd's bed is often only the bare ground and a pair of blankets, with a stone, a piece of wood, or a pack-saddle for a pillow. In choosing the spot, he shows less care than the dogs, for they usually deliberate before making up their minds in so imporant an affair, going from place to place, scraping away loose sticks and pebbles, and trying for comfort by making many changes, while the shepherd casts himself down anywhere, seeming the least skilled of all rest seekers.

His food, too, even when he has all he wants, is usually far from delicate, either in kind or cooking. Beans, bread of any sort, bacon, mutton, dried peaches, and sometimes potatoes and onions, make up his bill-of-fare, the two latter articles being regarded as luxuries on account of their weight as compared with the nourishment they contain; a half-sack or so of each may be put into the pack in setting out from the home ranch and in a few days they are done."

From: My First Summer in the Sierra, by John Muir, pp. 106-108.

03 August 2010

Tribune Tuesday: A Hungry Stranger

From: The Oakland Tribune, 17 January 1906, p. 2:


John Hockins, a youth of seventeen years who states he came from San Jose to this city looking for work, was arrested at 8 o'clock this morning while standing in the doorway of a saloon at the corner of Fourteenth and Broadway. Hockins stated that he was "broke" and hungry. He had in his pockets several pieces of food, which he acknowledged taking from the "free lunch" counter several hours before. He said he had remained in the saloon until 12 o'clock. The police will probably allow the young man to go as there was nothing criminal in his actions.