29 September 2010

California Quotes: Eggs in the Early Days

"And yet eggs in the early days were very dear; and it would have seemed as if there was great encouragement to produce them. The clipper ship John Bertram, said to be the first clipper expressly built for the California trade, arrived on its first voyage in the summer of 1851 and among other things brought out ten thousand dozen eggs, which sold for ten thousand dollars."

From: History of California, 1898, Volume 3, p. 882

28 September 2010

Tribune Tuesday: Persistent Youth

Persistent Youth Annoys Young Woman

From: The Oakland Tribune, 22 May 1906

The persistence of Fera Pavero, a nineteen-year-old youth, in annoying Miss May Kammeler, of West Oakland, resulted in his arrest late last night on a charge of disturbing the peace. He went to the young woman's home at Seventh and Wood streets, it is alleged, and created such a disturbance that she called the Policeman Fenton and had his arrested.

22 September 2010

California Quotes: Clear Brandy of San Jose'

All the woolen goods made were coarse and suited to the necessities of the time, for in the early days of the country the government tolerated no display of luxury. Father Duran well understood how to make wine and aguardiente; clear brandy of San Jose' which came out with the appearance of clear water, was colored with a sirup [sic] made with burnt sugar. The color was then a light yellow. The brandy was double-distilled, and therefore very strong.

From: California Pastoral, 1888, p. 449

21 September 2010

Tribune Tuesday: Petty Offenses

Petty Offenses Reported to Police

From: The Oakland Tribune, 15 May 1906

The record of petty offenses committed yesterday and within the last few days and formally announced today by Chief Wilson is considerably in excess of that made known yesterday and on preceding days.

JB Butter reported the theft of a dress-suit case and contents

JA Gonigle of the WUTC lost a watch chain and charm

D Robbins colored who resides at 811 Center street was fleeced while asleep in a card room in a cigar store on Seventh street between Willow and Wood streets, of $5

MP Connolly of 1065 Thirtieth street was relieved of a watch

George Ruth, a boy, was deprived of 75 cents

ER Horsewell of 154 Eighth street had his pockets picked on Broadway

William F. Gartelmeyer of Livermore was relieved of a suit case near First street and Broadway

John Beal and Richard O'Day are now going without bicycles which others have appropriated

The police are endeavoring to run down the lawbreakers.

17 September 2010

The Not-So-Secret Vital Records of Mrs. Beeton

I re-watched the BBC drama "The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton" last night (on Masterpiece Theater). The movie is about the original Martha Stewart who published "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management" in 1861, a book that became a manifesto to a burgeoning middle class and the women who ran their households. The BBC drama is an oddly-mixed humor and tragedy story about the Beetons, and the supposed syphilitic condition of her husband which resulted in the sad deaths of three children in the early years of their marriage. Isabella (Mayson) Beeton died shortly after childbirth from puerperal fever, when she was 28.

I decided to take to the intertubes to see what I could find of the Beetons in vital records, since the story was an interesting one, and hey--who needs an excuse to do some people hunting? My search was particularly fruitful!

Young Isabella
Isabella was baptised 20 April 1836 at Saint Mary, Bryanston Square, in Westminster; she was the daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth Mayson. From the baptismal book:

Isabella's father, Benjamin, passed away on the 28th of July, 1840 (from the Register of Burials for Guildhall, St Botolph Bishopsgate):

As of the 1841 census, Isabella is living with her grandfather, John Mayson, in Orton, Cumberland:

On 27th March, 1843, Elizabeth Mayson remarried, this time wedding Henry Dorling, a prosperous widowed businessman (from the Saint Mary, Islington, Register of Marriages):

In 1851, Isabella is residing in Surrey with her mother and step-father, Elizabeth and Henry Dorling:

Introducing Samuel Beeton
According to the drama, Samuel Orchart Beeton was a swaggering young man, known for gambling and the enjoyment of women; the photo to the left shows the young man in 1854. A braggart entrepreneur, he was brash and a risk-taker. Apparently, Isabella's father-in-law initially forbade the marriage; even when the nuptials did finally take place in 1856, he refused to attend the ceremony. The marriage was registered in the 3rd quarter of 1856.

By the time of the 1861 England census, Samuel and Isabella were residing in Harrow, Middlesex, along with their household help and their young son, Samuel (the second Samuel; the first had died at 3 months old in 1857). It was at the time of this census that Samuel and Isabella were working on the Beeton Housekeeping Book:

The second Samuel Orchart Beeton's death was recorded in the 1st quarter of 1863; according to Wikipedia, he died from scarlet fever on New Year's Eve, 1862, while the family was on vacation in Brighton:

After Isabella's Death
Isabella died shortly after giving birth to her fourth son, Mayson; she was buried 11 February 1865, in Norwood Cemetery, Lambeth, Surrey:

In 1871, the widowed Samuel Beeton, along with sons Orchart and Mayson, resided in Swanscombe, Kent, in the home of Charles and Matilda Brown. Matilda, who had begun writing for the Ladies' magazine published by the Beetons prior to Isabella's death, became an editor of the magazine after Isabella passed away. (I love that in 1861, Isabella, who wrote a huge portion of the book bearing her name, was just the wife of a publisher, but by 1871, Matilda Brown is clearly an editor unto her own!):

Samuel Orchart Beeton died 06 June 1877 (from the National Probate Calendar):

A photo of the couple's headstone at Norwood Cemetery can be seen on Findagrave.

15 September 2010

California Quotes: The Teeth of California

It is universally acknowledged by not only dental surgeons but medical men generally, that the teeth of the human family in California are in a much worse condition than in any other State. And from parents to children this lamentable condition of those important organs increases as it is entailed, until it has become with many scientific gentlemen a serious questions: "Shall an approaching generation in California be toothless?"

From: California State Agricultural Society Report, 1876, p. 92

California Quotes: Coyote Diggings

Coyote Diggings: Small shafts sunk by the gold miners in California, so called from their resemblance to the holes dug or occupied by the coyote. This animal lives in cracks and crevices made in the plains by the intense summer heat.

The coyote diggings require to be very rich to pay, from the great amount of labor necessary before any pay-dirt can be obtained.- Borthwick's California, p. 138

From: Dictionary of Americanisms, 1889, p. 156.

14 September 2010

Tribune Tuesday: Made Insane By Loss of Son

Made Insane By Loss of Son

From: The Oakland Tribune, 08 May 1906

Crazed by grief over the loss of her son, who is supposed to have perished in the San Francisco fire, Mrs. Anna Kelly of that city has sat and moaned at the Providence Hospital, refusing food or relief in sleep, until she has become a raving lunatic.

She is now confined at the Receiving Hospital, but this evening she will be taken to the Stockton Asylum for the Insane.

Mrs. Kelly, who is a native of Ireland, 50 years old, went to Providence Hospital soon after the earthquake and has since been treated by Dr. Reinle. It as at first thought that she was suffering from nervous prostration, but all efforts to induce her to sleep or eat proved futile and her mind rapidly gave way until she became so violent that it was deemed necessary to confine her in the State hospital.

09 September 2010

New Google Instant Search

I was going to write a post on Instant Search which Google rolled out yesterday, but as usual, ResearchBuzz has gotten to it first, and done it better. I highly recommend the following article for in-depth exploration of the new instant search, tips on searching, complaints about the new feature, and how to turn it off, if you hate it:

Google Instant: Breaking It, Gaming It, and The Future, from ResearchBuzz

08 September 2010

California Quotes: A Perch For Instance

"At four PM, on board the "New World" steamer for Sacramento, en route to the mountains. A great crowd on board, smoking and spitting everywhere-one cannot walk in the saloon without kicking over "spittoons" as the receiver is called, the very sight of which invites a discharge from an American mouth. Supper on board--tea, coffee, cakes and bread; a steak at one end of the table, innumerable small dishes up and down the sides, holding--some one meat-chop, some a small fish each, a perch for instance, others contain one slice of ham, others again two baked potatoes, and so on; these dishes are cleared with a very natural rapidity, and the less energetic gentleman must be contented with bread and butter; for this, one dollar and a half is paid."

From: California: Its Gold and Its Inhabitants, Volume I, pp. 37-38

07 September 2010

Tribune Tuesday: Cut By Trunk


From: The Oakland Tribune, 01 May 1906

D. J. Crowley, baggageman at the station of the Southern Pacific at First and Broadway was struck in the face by the corner of a trunk, in a passings [sic] truck load yesterday morning, and a right angled gash an inch or more long each way from the corner cut in his face just under the eye. The cut laid the flesh open to the bone. Steward Harry Borchert at the receiving hospital stitched the wound up.

01 September 2010

Online Family Trees- Good, Bad or Ugly? Or, a Rant in D-Minor.

I'm still thinking about Lynn's post from July about the worth (or problems) of online family trees. Her summation that the situation represents information chaos is a pretty acute one, but as I said in a comment to her post, I've fallen on the "what can I do?" side of the argument, and have decided to keep my tree online, despite the drawbacks. Her discussion was more about what happens when bad data goes viral via sloppy family trees, but I thought I would consider the issue in a more personal way in this post, since that's how I've been thinking about it. My experiences with online trees, both my own1 and others, have been all over the map, and I've seen the good, the bad, and the rather ugly.

The Good

I have certainly been guided gently through the research process by a few outstanding, detailed and well-sourced trees. These are few and far between, I know, but they do exist, and I am grateful to these people for putting what they have found online, to keep me from having to recreate the wheel. I like to think that by putting my tree online, I can or will save another researcher a few years by sharing the things I've learned. I get caught up in elaborate daydreams where we join research forces and push through the family tree with the power of multiple researchers, each utilizing their own skills and geographic resources to get to the truth! In short, I fantasize that my online tree will spawn a group of genealogical superheroes. Needless to say, this dream has yet to materialize.

The Bad

Of course, it can be disheartening to page through a site like Rootsweb, and see page after page of Broderbund, "WFT est.", or no citations at all. At all! I would much rather see a reference to IGI or Ancestral File, which would at least tell me that the author of that tree is as clueless as myself on the matter, but seems to know it. Yet when I see a tree with no citations, I still wonder: Does this person know something I don't know? The void in the Sources section is sometimes more suggestive than it ought to be.

And if you should email some of these researchers... so much the worse! How does one ask, nicely of course, "How do you know what you know?" without it seeming like "Hey moron, what kind of crap is this in your tree?" Typically, queries to people with no sources result in no response. I never hear back what I am hoping to hear: "Great-Grandmas's twelve page memoir" or "The old family bible from 1835!". I get, instead, a harsh and cricket-filled silence2.

Worse yet, they may well respond, but in a fashion that makes me more frustrated than ever. I've had this email exchange many a time:

Me: "Would you mind sharing your source for the death date of Joe Schmoe?"

Them: "It's in my files somewhere, let me get back to you."

Followed, of course, by the ubiquitous, soul-benumbing crickets.

Now these issues aren't issues with online trees per se, but they do present a frustration with the whole supposed-good about online trees, namely that they bring researchers together, and then we all morph into a highly-efficient cyborg-like research machine. So far it seems more "lone-wolf" than "hive of bees".

The Ugly

There are, alas, more egregious things than a lack of etiquette-in-discourse. If, for one instant, I was imbued with the power of the aforementioned Genealogical Superheroes, and could wave my magic wand over all those researchers languishing in Genea-La-La Land, I would immediately and without remorse revoke their right to GEDCOM download!

If I come across one more person who has simply downloaded a section of my tree and added it to their own, I shall scream. What, pray tell, does this download accomplish? Is the research so tedious, so unworth your while that you must depend on importing my work into your database in order to accomplish this hobby of yours which, I would have thought, was to research your family tree??? That item that you now have as a source on one of those imported people, how about that? You know, the one that refers to a piece of paper that my cousin sent me, and which I can guarantee that you have never seen, nor have ever asked for a copy of? Don't you see the ridiculousness in you having that there? And when you import all of my notes? My lord! I feel faint. This must be the genealogical equivalent of stuffing your pants. 'Tis a sham, and I won't stand for it!

The Denouement

In response to Lynn's post I wrote the following comment:

If someone wants to take some random online tree as gospel, they have much larger research-practice problems than the fact that any given piece of information is online or not. At least that's what I figure.

I'm not a nanny, and can't help tree-snatchers become better genealogists or more competent researchers. I know I benefit so much from the well-sourced trees (as sparse as they are) that I can't help but keep mine up as an offering to others who may use it properly: to locate articles, order records, make connections, etc.

I think the impulse to control information is an impossible one to sate, and the internet demands a way of thinking about data management that is less traditional. But that's another discussion for another time, I guess.

Apparently, I was feeling more generous to the online world that day. It goes to show that the ambivalence that Lynn refers to--the pure desire for things to work a particular way, but the helplessness you feel when they don't--it is alive and well, at least in the breast of this genealogist. In the meantime, I leave my tree up, but I do admit, it is getting harder and harder every day.

1. I first put my tree online about seven years ago, as a convenience to my own research. I was working at the time, and tended to spend lunch hours at my desk doing background reading and research, and it was handy to me to have dates and names online to reference while I worked, since my files and my database were at home.

2. Can you have silence filled with the sounds of crickets? Or is that just cricket-noise? Sounds less poetic. Let's stick with what I've got.

California Quotes: Hard Drinking

"The Recorder's Court often affords much amusement to the idle vagabonds who are fortunate enough to avoid its jurisdiction. The following are specimens of cases before the "Honourable" the Recorder, who bears a title in spite of the republican repudiation of such things.


Honourable G. W. Baker, Recorder.

JH Burke, hard drinking, five dollars.

Thomas Donahue, drunk for a week, beat his wife, pulled her out of bed, threw dishes at her, tore her clothes off, and was very riotous. Sent to City Prison for sixty days.

Frank Weisic, D. D., City Prison two days.

Jerry McCarty, drunk again, beat his wife, broke the window, and got nabbed by an officer. Jerry said his wife got drunk and gave him no peace of his life, and he had to get drunk to keep even. The Recorder evidently did not believe him, and he was sent down stairs for thirty days."

From: California: Its Gold and Its Inhabitants, Volume II, 1856, pp. 192-193