Blog Caroling with footnoteMaven

BlogSongBookI may be nursing a cold, but that just gives me an unusual amount of time before Christmas to contemplate the blog caroling tradition from the fabulous footnoteMaven.

Of course, I have a favorite. Though my tastes tends toward secularism with a dash of iconoclasm,  there has always been a special place in my heart for the 18th century English hymn, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

So why this song? Sure, Silent Night is haunting. My snow hating self dreams of a White Christmas when Bing espouses its virtues. And Jingle Bells is downright jubilant. But I’ve never bought a Christmas Album which didn’t include “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen.”

The cadence has always been the biggest draw. So few songs I heard growing up had both reverence and energy. Of course, there has to be a little controversy, which Wikipedia details. Apparently, I learned the more modern adaptation, with “ye” rather “you,” making it sound more archaic than it was when originally published.

Plus, it’s cool that a hymn can inspire such varied musicians as Annie Lenox and Dio:

Epic, eh?

Definitely, but I think I’ll stick with this one….

Clearly I haven’t shaken my iconoclasm.

See you in the new year. Till then, I’m wishing you a joyous holiday season.

O tidings of comfort and joy…

Facebook and Genealogy

Social Media icons on a smartphone
So many networks, so many family members.

Any discussion among genealogists nowadays will eventually lead to social media, and more specifically, Facebook. They may not be discussing it as a venue for serious research or a way to find that crucial elusive record to break through a brick wall, but Facebook is neither a search engine nor a research focused medium, so though it may be tempting to want something out of FB that it is not intended or suited for, it  would be foolish to consider it that sort of venue. But what it does, it does well.

What Facebook (and Twitter) does provide is a way to interact with contemporaries — family members and other genealogists.  I’ve posted interesting research discoveries and started conversations with my siblings and cousins who generally show little genealogical interest.  The presentation of small doses of background on one 19th century ancestor allows my sisters to take in a bit without being overwhelmed by the onslaught of info I might present when I have a captive audience.  Our exuberance to share the passion of genealogy with family can make it overwhelming leading to the dreaded eyes-glazing-over.  Facebook allows this information to be shared in discrete nuggets, which may capture family’s attention or pass them by if they’d prefer.

I’ve searched for distant cousins and found them on FB, along with other information like their siblings and the names and birth dates of their children allowing me to fill out my tree whether or not I contacted them (though I do suggest caution with this method — who knows if a child is adopted or someone is lying about their own birthdate as many do).  In one instance, a cousin’s mugshot as a profile picture made me question whether I even wanted to get in touch.  Facebook gives a snapshot of someone’s life as it is now, or at least, how they present themselves now.

Despite its attempt to be the sole destination for everyone on the Internet, Facebook’s lack of quality archive capabilities means they will not completely replace boards like rootsweb. Inquiries will have a more limited time to be viewed.  I contacted someone based on a rootsweb board posting from 2002, nearly a decade ago.  On FB, on the other hand, I can’t look at status messages more than three days old unless I go into the individual’s “wall.”  Facebook isn’t about archiving information, but rather about being in the moment.

Recently, the “groups” function of Facebook has provided a newer method for genealogists to come together to share techniques, as proven by the growth of groups like “Social Media for Genealogy” or “Technology for Genealogists.” And due to it’s appeal to commercial interests, Facebook gives everyone a ripe target to applaud or complain about the policies of our favorite (or least favorite) genealogy website.

You wouldn’t look to a marriage record for a death date, nor a city directory for a probate record.  Equally, Facebook is unlikely to be considered a source for intense genealogy records, but rather a way to keep in contact with other members of the family who are living.

So when considering what place Facebook has in your genealogy, keep in mind what it does well.  Resist the temptation to consider any website for something for which it is not suited.  Social media is not everything.  But what it does, it does well, and I would encourage using it.

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Two teepees at the Crow Fair and Powwow, Crow Agency, Montana. Copyright 2013, Kim Cotton.
Two teepees at the Crow Fair and Powwow, Crow Agency, Montana. Copyright 2013, Kim Cotton.

Today, most of the United States is celebrating Columbus Day by shopping sales or getting other errands done if they are lucky enough to work someplace that still takes the day off.  For some, it’s just another day, or if one is Italian, there might be a parade or family gathering to celebrate their heritage in the name of a famous Italian.

However, in my neck of the woods, many choose to honor the people that lived in the Americas long before Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 (and I’m not talking about the Vikings).  The movement started in Berkeley, the city just north of my own home base, which is well-known for their, shall we say, radical political leanings.  In 1992 the Berkeley City Council approved a city wide holiday to coincide with the federal holiday of Columbus Day, naming it Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  Wikipedia can give you more of the scoop. In recent years, other cities have joined in such a name change. We welcome Minneapolis and Seattle to the list of those who celebrate the cultures that were here before Columbus even set foot in the Americas.

Personally, I’ve been tickled to see the worthy albeit slow transition toward the better understanding of the contributions of Native Americans and rejection of Columbus as our national hero. Having studied Native American art, history, and culture in college and beyond, I’m grateful to see others appreciate the history of those who existed on this land before it was “discovered.” Though the classic genealogical tall-tale of a Cherokee Princess never existed in my own family, my DNA results actually does show some connection to Native Americans. However, the paper trail  does not yet support those results, and I make no claim to be anything other than respectful.

To those who grasp on to the Columbus Day as a celebration of Italian heritage, may I nominate April 15th as Leonardo Day. As a nation, we need another focus for our attention on that day each year, but as a civilization, we can all support the contributions of Leonardo Da Vinci. I’d applaud such a symbol of Italian heritage.

But I am not so delusional as to think that anyone will dismiss Columbus Day without local support, nor do I believe we are likely to see a significant movement to rename this day on a national level any time soon. But as you go on about your day, please take time to honor the first residents of the land we love.