26 January 2012

Cooke-ing at the Arizona Family History Expo, 20-21 Jan 2012

My short trip to Mesa, Arizona this past weekend afforded me the opportunity for some genealogy rock star worship.  I saw Lisa Louise Cooke in action. She gave three presentations at the Arizona Family History Expo 2012 and I sat in on two of them: “How the genealogist can remember everything with Evernote!” and “Common surname Google search strategies.”

Other genealogists have provided talks, webinars and articles regarding problems with researching those with common surnames, but Lisa’s talk is Google-centric and rich in search strategies. She also keeps things fresh with updates on changes in Google searches, specifically the demise of the “+” symbol as a search tool and the use of alternative tools.  Lisa’s presentation focused on using effective Google search to extract the best results, not the most results.  This is certainly a welcome strategy considering how easy it is to get overwhelmed with results.

I have been interested in Evernote for a while. After all, what genealogist overwhelmed with data can resist the promise of easy note-taking on your computer and among your electronic devices.  Lisa’s talk about Evernote as a genealogical tool for capturing and tagging information for easy retrieval was welcome.  This was her first run on this presentation, apparently, so one may expect improvement in the flow next time.  But, I have no complaints – having received what I came for: an understanding of the power of the application and how I may employ it to help my research.  I am particularly intrigued by the possibilities of sharing information and collaborating with others through Evernote.

I must say I have been an unabashed fan of Lisa Louise Cooke since last January’s Arizona Family History Expo 2011 when she delivered a tour de force presentation using Google Earth.  I had the feeling everyone in the room wanted to run off right then and there and use kmz files.  Since then, I have listened to all of her free Family History Made Easy (beginning genealogy) and Genealogy Gems podcast series and the past year of the FamilyTree Magazine podcasts. I have also subscribed and listened to her paid subscription podcast Genealogy Gems Premium.  With my iPod loaded with Lisa, my walks around the neighborhood have flown by. And I have used my exercise time to improve my genealogy research (if not my BMI). She is far and away the best interviewer in genealogy cyberspace.  One only has to listen to her November podcasts with Annie’s Ghosts author Steve Luxenberg to appreciate her perceptive questions and conversational skills.

Find her at Genealogygems.tv or subscribe to her podcasts via iTunes.  She also has a new book out: Everything you Need to Know About…How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. I purchased one of the first available and got it signed(!).  More on the book later.

I wonder if she plays heir guitar?

03 January 2012

Cream Puff Daze

Hoda Epstein Wilson, ca 1866-1930
None of us now living had ever heard this story from any of our Wilson family.  It was first published in The Sun (New York, New York). Hoda Epstein Wilensky had been through a great deal.  On 19 May 1897, more than six years after her husband Zelig (Saul) had left for the United States, she accompanied her three children from their home town of Kazan (today Kozyany, Belarus) to Hamburg. From there they embarked on the Pisa and landed at Ellis Island on 1 June 1897. By the time my great grandmother Hoda Wilson moved to New York City in about 1906, she'd already lived in Hudson, NY and Albany. 

She must have been one formidable woman.  For some reason, I do not associate tenement life with cream puffs, literally or figuratively.  But, one does not live on bread alone. Frank Carrigan definitely got more than he'd bargain for.


Intruder Leaps Eight Foot Gap on Housetops Fleeing From Woman

When Mrs. Hoda Wilson, who lives on the third floor of the apartment house at 10 West 116th street, put on her hat and coat late yesterday afternoon and went to the corner delicatessen store she forgot to lock her apartment door.

A few minutes later Solomon Wilson, her husband, came home and found both doors leading to the apartment locked.  He returned to the sidewalk just as Mrs. Wilson was coming in with a bag of cream puffs.

“That’s strange!” exclaimed Mrs. Wilson and they rushed up stairs to investigate.  As Mr. Wilson began kicking on the kitchen door it suddenly flew open and a young man rushed out.

“Thief!” cried Mrs. Wilson as she struck the young man squarely across the face with the bag of cream puffs.  The intruder swallowed hard a few times, then began to descend the stairs four at a time.  He came out in a court back of the building, grabbed a fire escape ladder and climbed to the roof of 8 West 116th street, while Mr. and Mrs. Wilson startled the neighbors by shouting “Stop thief!”

From the roof of No. 8 the young man made an eight foot leap to the roof of the adjoining building at No. 6.  There he was trapped for he could not climb back and could not go on to the next building, there being none.

It was at this juncture that the desk sergeant at the Lenox avenue police station heard over the telephone that a burglar has been trapped on a roof in his precinct.  Detectives Barnett and Curtayne were dispatched to the scene and captured the young man while he was still licking cream puffs off his chops.

At the station he said he was Frank Carrigan, 20 years old, of 247 West 144th street, and then the police discovered that he was wanted in Rochester, N.Y. on a charge of having robbed his uncle, Joseph Carrigan, 228 Fremont street, that city, of $150 in cash and some diamonds.  Carrigan was locked up on a charge of burglary.

Later he confessed that he had robbed a house somewhere in West 146th street a week ago.  He couldn’t remember the exact address, but guessed he could point the house out.  When the money from that last robbery had gone he planned yesterday’s unfortunate burglary. #

The Sun (New York, NY), Sunday, 5 January 1913, page [unknown], column 2; digital images, Old Fulton, New York Postcards (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 2 January 2012).

02 January 2012

Today is the beginning

--> The solution to the “Celebrity Cipher” puzzle in this morning’s newspaper is appropriate as a lead for my first blog post:

“The beginning is always today.” -- Mary W. Shelley
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca

During my four+ years of obsessive study and research into my family history, I’ve steadily built a mailing list of cousins, colleagues, and landsman. Initially the sharing was frequent. Now, less so as the “discoveries” have taken more blood, sweat and tears time and are, while exciting for me, perhaps a bit boring esoteric for all but the most genealogically inclined (perhaps the play-by-play of how I located the woman who traveled to Ellis Island with my great grandfather is more than one bargained for). The fact is that my research has produced ever so much more than that nicely colored .pdf family tree (don’t you want to know how my great grandmother used pastry as a weapon?). Email has not been the best venue for sharing.

I spend all of my a great deal of time in front of my computer or, when time and travel allows, out in court houses, archives or cemeteries.  But, collaboration with the living has been one of the most satisfying and fruitful methods of advancement for my family research. I have sought out contacts with close and far-flung relations that have added appreciably to my knowledge of family. I believe, from how open and welcoming most of these cold-call relations have been, that both sides have appreciated this newly shared knowledge.

My research has benefited from the helping hands and ideas of colleagues whose only interest is in sharing the joy of discovery. I have also found that lending a hand and sharing my developed and developing skills as a researcher brings me great satisfaction (if not for working on another’s tree, I never would have ventured into pre-1900 federal census records; it reinvigorates my research when I can be reminded how easy it often was early on in my research to find records).

Other researchers have found me via posted family trees or my shtetl webpage: http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/yurovshchina/index.html
This has helped build my knowledge of Lubin/Labun/Yurovshchina – my father’s family town.

That brings me to the name of this blog:  (going) The Extra Yad.  This play on English and Hebrew* words reflects the several realities of my involvement with family history: 
·      my desire to lend a hand and share knowledge and skills,
·      my realization that one cannot do this kind of research in isolation, without the helping hands of others, and
·      my personal problem strength (I will stick with a problem over the long-haul, turning it upside down and inside out, in an effort to solve it, i.e., “going the extra yard”).

Today is the beginning: blogging. My hope is to encourage dialogue and sharing. If something I post strikes a chord, elicits a memory, makes you smile, please share: post a response or send me an email.  Please add to the discussion.

* “Yad” in Hebrew means hand.  It is the name of the pointer used while reading from the Torah scroll.