26 September 2010

Proof Reading: It's Never Enough

I recently finished an essay for a big project. Several times during the months I worked on the essay, I printed it and carefully proof read. I know I find more errors in print than on a computer screen. At the end, I let the essay sit for a week then proof read it again. As expected, I found more errors and corrected them. I read the narrative out loud and corrected more errors.

I submitted the essay thinking I had done due diligence on proof reading. Of course, days after submission I found more errors in the essay. Not just typos, but I left the name of the state off of a census citation. One citation used the name of the city where a person lived at the time of death instead of the name of the state capitol where the death record is archived. There were other errors I don't want to admit to in public.

I need more proof reading tricks. Letting someone else read an essay is a great way to find typos and sentences that need to be reworded. Because my essay was essentially a test, I could not ask one of my friends to proof read it for me. I learned one week is not enough cooling-off time for a project I have been working on intensely for months and years. I need to let the essay sit longer before the final reading. Next time I will read the citations out loud as well as the narrative. Another proof reading tip is to read your essay backwards. My mind balks at reading backwards. I think I am going to have to practice this.

If you need a demonstration of how your mind "fills in" what it wants to see check out eChalk optical illusions. Scroll down to "Jumbled Words" and click on it. You may be surprised at how your mind works as you read the paragraph. This is a great demonstration of why proof reading is so important.

© 2010, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

14 September 2010

Results: Glasses in the Cupboard Rim Up or Down

Asking an open-ended question of genealogists always brings out some wonderful family stories. My recent question about storage of drinking glasses caused several of us to spend some time with fond memories of moms and grandmothers. A few of us were spurred to phone home. Some of us commented on differences between mothers and daughters and others on how we do things like mom without knowing why. I enjoyed all of the responses. Thank you.

I heard someone state once that rim-side down glass storage was a result of the Dust Bowl in the U.S. I could see how those in the Dust Bowl might start storing glasses rim-side down, but there had to be other reasons in other areas. So I asked. Here are the survey results on whether glasses are stored rim-side up or down and why in different locales.

One responder had two family lines in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. One family stored glasses rim-side up and the other family stored them down. This story emphasizes the conclusion supported by the other responses. Even if the Dust Bowl caused some families to store their glasses rim-side down, dust and bugs exist everywhere. And there are other reasons that might cause a homemaker to choose one storage plan over another.

Thirty families are represented in this informal, unscientific survey. Twenty-six store glasses rim-side down, two rim-side up, two alternate glasses up and down.

Of those who store glasses rim-side down, eight blamed bugs and critters. Most of those were located on the east coast (New York, Maryland), the south (Kentucky, Georgia, Texas, unspecified), Hawaii, and multiple areas for a family who made frequent moves to different Army posts. Three responders from New York and central Canada blamed both critters and dust. Five responders from Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, and New England blamed dust. Four families placed the glasses upside down to dry completely. Four did not specify. One person pointed out it is easier to dry dust off the outside of a glass than to clean the inside if you have big hands. Another pointed out that stability often determines how we stack and store dishes. (A very interesting analysis I would bet comes from someone with an engineering frame of mind. Thanks.)

No reason was given for the rim-side up storage in Pennsylvania although other families in the same area stored rim-side down. Dust covered all the dishes no matter how they were stored in Oklahoma and Kansas. Maybe if you had to wash the dishes again before use it didn't matter much which way they were stored.

Both homemakers who alternate glasses up and down do it to save space.

I also learned something new. One family stored everyday glasses rim-side down. When crystal glasses were purchased the manufacturer recommended they be stored rim-side up to prevent the fragile glass from chipping. Interestingly, several responders mentioned they or their daughters don't follow mom's methods.

Thank you all for sharing your stories.

© 2010, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

08 September 2010

Wisdom Wednesday: Glasses in the Cupboard Rim Up or Down

So, this is my first blog theme post and I'm probably bending the rules. I am going to share Big Mama's wisdom, but also ask if others were taught this same habit. Big Mama was my mother's mother. Grandma, Granny, Meema, and Nana were names already used for other grandmothers in the family by the time Big Mama's first grandchild (me) came along. But I digress.

One of Big Mama's cardinal rules was that glasses and cups were placed rim-side down in the cabinets. I never thought of questioning this. It was just the way things were done. When I met my husband I had to teach him proper dish placement. His mother had not taught him this kitchen imperative.

A few years ago I heard a presentation about the Dust Bowl. The speaker said the habit of placing dishes upside down in the cupboard came about during those years when dirt and dust blew in through every little crack and settled into everything in the house. She didn't explain why only glasses and cups were placed upside down. The image of teetering stacks of upside down plates and bowls seems to clearly indicate why this rule didn't apply to those dishes. And she didn't have a source for linking this habit to the Dust Bowl other than her family lore. We all know how dependable that can be.

My husband's family was in Buffalo, New York, at the time of the Dust Bowl. My family, practicing this rule, was in Texas during the Dust Bowl years, but not the panhandle area where the Dust Bowl hit hardest. In the East Texas piney woods the rim-down habit could have easily been instituted due to bugs or plain old dust — unrelated to the wind whipping over the plains that had been stripped of the grasses that kept the soil from becoming airborne dust.

This is much too small a group to make a sweeping generalization. If you reply to this blog post, please tell me whether your family is of the rim-down or rim-up variety and where they lived during the 1930s. If I get enough responses maybe we can figure out where this habit comes from.

By the way, I devoured Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (Boston: Mariner / Houghton Mifflin, 2006). Even though he did not answer my critical social history dish storage question, his book is a great read. He interviewed many survivors of the Dust Bowl. His book includes the personal stories as well as the government policies that contributed to this American disaster.

© 2010, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

04 September 2010

Genealogy in University Archives: Digital Legal Case Files

I have not yet "succumbed to the lure" of Facebook and Twitter. But I love the interesting tidbits of life being placed online nowadays. I can learn so much from bloggers in different fields telling of online discoveries. Although, some governmental entities are slow to put historical documents online, universities are leading the way. I suspect all of that enthusiasm and free labor from students helps.

Helen F. M. Leary and Elizabeth Shown Mills taught me why genealogists should be concerned about the law in a class at IGHR back in 2003. Benjamin B. Spratling III, Ann Carter Fleming, and Kay Haviland Freilich added to that knowledge in another IGHR course a few years later. They made me aware of Black's Law Dictionary1 and The History of American Law.2 A while back I discovered Law Librarian Blog and Legal History Blog. Both have posts of interest to historians and genealogists. All great resources for genealogists trying to learn more about the law.

The Law Librarian article Texas Tech Law Library Launches Digital Repository piqued my interest with a statement that there is "a complete collection of our publications faculty produced while at Texas Tech." So I browsed the collection. In addition to some great resources for learning about the law, the collection includes Executive Orders of Texas governors and personal papers of some professors.

Professor Daniel H. Benson was involved in an eight-year case against the City of Lubbock regarding the election system. One of the documents is a long list of exhibits and witnesses for the defense. Hand-written notes and lined-through sections on the typed documents could provide clues to the workings of a legal mind. But the best part is the deposition of one witness, maybe used during witness-prep. All of the questions and answers are there along with some directions like "you can elaborate on this."

Imagine the excitement of a genealogist in the future looking for her ancestor and finding his deposition where the first twenty-plus questions cover his background. How old are you? Where are you from? Where did you go to school? Where did you work? What have you published. Even a question similar to one that sparked a news controversy two years ago: "And do you regularly read and keep up with the journals and professional literature published by these associations and in your field of political science generally?"

Now I am hoping all of my ancestors were involved in massive law suits where the lawyer was also a university professor. University archives — when the courthouse burned or flooded — are an alternative repository for a "reasonably exhaustive search" (or compulsively unreasonable for those of us who don't know when to stop). The case number is on the digital documents so that future genealogist can also go to the courthouse and see the entire case file if the courthouse didn't burn or the files were saved from the fire or flood.

Thank you to all of the repositories making it easier for us to locate historical documents without leaving home.

Bryan A. Garner, Black's Law Dictionary, 8th ed. (St Paul, Minnesota: Thompson/West, 2004). [4th ed. recommended as best for genealogists when can find used version. Earlier editions now available on CD from Archive CD Books.] Digitized version of 1910 Black's Law Dictionary at http://www.constitution.org/dict/blacks_2nd.pdf.

Lawrence M. Friedman, A History of American Law, 3d ed. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005).

© 2010, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved