22 December 2010

New Book: Proving Up: Domesticating Land in U.S. History

Like most genealogists my "to read" list grows faster than my "have read" list. My husband's only flaw is that he is not independently wealthy allowing me to buy every book I want. Of course, if I could buy all the books I want I'd also need a bigger house.

For years I focused on how-to books to learn the discipline of genealogical research. Then I started focusing more on historical essays trying to understand why my ancestors did certain things and what their life was like. I just read a review by Michelle Mart of a book by Lisi Krall titled Proving Up: Domesticating Land in U.S. History. The review made me add this book to my read soon list:
The mythic power of western land has long dominated narratives of American history. Lisi Krall seeks to challenge this myth, untangling the narratives into their component parts of philosophy, economic systems, political decision making, and spiritual awe. Her slim volume, Proving Up: Domesticating Land in U.S. History, successfully argues that the frontier myth was constructed foremost from a capitalist imperative superimposed on material circumstances. (See more of the review here.)
The SUNY Press page for the book has a button that allows you to download the introduction and another button to preview some pages of the book. The hardcover is pricy for a genealogist's budget, but there is a link to "Direct Text" that allows a PDF to be downloaded. I haven't used "Direct Text" before. The link indicates you have online access to the book for 180 days for about 1/3 the price of the hardcover. A paperback version can be pre-ordered for almost the same price as the PDF. I'd much rather have a PDF version, but not if I can only access it for 180 days.

While trying to determine if the PDF file is locked after 180 days I found this 2008 article from The Exchange Online: The Newsletter of the Association of American University Presses. This article seems to indicate the 180 day limit is for online access, but that you can download a PDF that might not have a time limit. I definitely need to learn more about this before I order a "Direct Text" book.

It would be great if all of the university presses made PDF versions of books available. Many of the books published by university presses offer exactly the kind of historical information a good genealogist needs to better understand family history. In addition to dollars, shelf space also limits how many books I can own. Electronic books solve the space issue.

If you have experience with a "Direct Text" book and know whether or not the PDF file is locked after 180 days please leave a comment so we will all know. I'm all for electronic books and saving trees but not so big on tying myself to one e-book reader. I prefer an open format such as PDF that I can read on my computer or any reader I decide to buy in the future.

© 2010, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

13 December 2010

1860 Map of U.S. Slave States

The Map Room is one of my favorite blogs. Mapping American Slavery is a recent post with a link to a very detailed map of the American slave states showing slave and free populations and an article by Susan Schulten. Schulten states the map was even included in a portrait of Lincoln with his cabinet. The image of the portrait in her article is interactive—be sure to move your mouse over the image. I had not heard of Schulten before, but now her book The Geographical Imagination in America, 1880-1950 (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2002) is on my wish list.

This map (almost 30MB in size) can be extremely useful to genealogists and historians researching the southern states.

© 2010, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

11 December 2010

From Deep Web to Deep Dust

Genealogical research has been revolutionized by the Web. We may look for the same records as before we had the internet, but many records are so much easier to access today. Search engines help locate information we might have never located in pre-internet days. Search engines read a Web page and follow the hyperlinks to other pages, indexing along the way. But there is also a side of the Web that is hidden to search engines—the invisible or Deep Web.

A lot of the best genealogical information is behind the wall of the Deep Web. Searches don't turn up most records on Ancestry.com, Footnote.com, GenealogyBank.com, or your county clerk's office because those records are hidden behind a wall. The information on those sites is usually stored in a database with pages created dynamically, on the fly. Those dynamic pages don't exist so can't be indexed by search engines without some intervention.

Newbie genealogists often start with Web research, finding the RootsWeb and personal pages that are indexed by search engines. Some of these pages may have source citations, but most don't. The publicity associated with "Who Do You Think You Are?" may bring the newbie quickly to Ancestry.com and other subscription sites. A lot of bad information may be copied into a database and files before the newbie learns to be more discerning about "genealogical research" as opposed to "name collection."

The experienced researcher spends more time on the original record images than in the unsourced trees and quickly learns to use the database indexes as clues to find the original records. Texas researchers soon learn about TexShare databases—available through most Texas libraries by obtaining a library card. With a login from the library the TexShare databases can also be accessed from home. Some of these same databases are also available in other states—check with local librarians.

But that still leaves the vast majority of the Web hidden from a researcher. There are some tools to help in finding useful items in the Deep Web and more of them are available every day. You might not realize you already use some of these tools. Google Scholar searches some sites that are usually hidden. Learn more about Deep Web Searching at:

The Deep Web

100 Useful Tips and Tools to Research the Deep Web

10 Search Engines to Explore the Invisible web

Don't get too complacent about the Deep Web, though. The vast majority of the records needed by genealogists aren't anywhere at all on the Web, deep or not. Most of them haven't even been microfilmed yet. Those records are sitting on the dusty shelves of court clerks, archivists, and librarians. Most of the problems we see as brick walls are solvable with that information that may be harder to access but does exist.

© 2010, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

08 December 2010

Old and New: Time Marches On

Last week a scene in West Texas brought rushing thoughts about the link between old and new—technologies, families, traditions. Two months is a long time between blog posts. In my defense, these last two months have been packed with genealogical volunteer commitments, three conferences in three consecutive weekends, and some well-earned time off to visit family during the holidays. That family visit started with a 1,000 mile trip from the piney woods of East Texas to the Sonoran desert of Arizona. A drive through West Texas is usually a long, mindless trek without much to look at. I appreciate the stark beauty of the plains, but 400 miles of it with few breaks can allow the mind of even a true plains lover to wander.

Approaching Abilene we started seeing many more modern windmills than on our last trip four years ago. The towering windmills with long, swooping arms have a graceful beauty I find soothing. No new technology comes without drawbacks, but the windmills appeal to me. I bet lots of citizens complained about electrical poles and wires being erected across our lands back in the early nineteenth century as some do today about the windmills. If it helps us use less oil it can't be all bad.

We stopped and I took a few photos of the windmills. A few miles further down the interstate I saw an image that made me suck in my breath. My patient husband got off the interstate and drove several miles on the service road so I could take another photo. The framing isn't as exquisite as the view from the interstate was, but I wasn't willing to risk death for the perfect photo.
Old and new, side by side, sharing the wide open spaces. Of course, the image doesn't show the true size of the modern windmills which are much farther away than the old-fashioned windmill is. My husband's store of patience isn't enough to drive around the backroads for hours looking for the perfect photo, but I'll settle for this.

The old and new were evident in our holiday celebration, too. Daughters cooked all the dishes. I wasn't allowed in the kitchen. The dressing wasn't from my grandmother's recipe or even my mother-in-law's oyster dressing I learned to love as an adult. New traditions and dishes were introduced. When my last maternal aunt died a few years ago I bemoaned the fact I was now the family matriarch. Now I'm thinking that may not be all bad. Of course, by the time the dinner was done my daughter who hosted the dinner was exhausted so she did let me and my other daughter clean the kitchen. Too bad that matriarch thing didn't carry through the cleaning part of the day.

© 2010, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved