Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Interesting Movies, Online and Offline

Old movies can make a little window into the times of our ancestors.  Even if your ancestors themselves aren't in the movie, it can let you see what they saw and give a perspective from that time.

Have you ever taken a little day trip to Tijuana?  Someone in the mid-1930's made a 16 mm home movie of sorts of a trip to Tijuana and Agua Caliente.  That movie somehow ended up at the University of Washington at Seattle, which in 1975 gave the movie to the California Historical Society (CHS).  Now CHS has had the movie digitized and made it available online for free.  The people in the movie appear to have had some money, because they're all fashionably dressed.  I have to wonder if part of the reason for the trip was a divorce, because the person holding the camera kept going back to that sign.  Because I have two birds of my own, I really liked the street huckster with two macaws and a cockatoo (starting at about the 2:00 mark).

The digitization was done by the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP).  Examples of some other films that have been digitized through this project include footage of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition; the 1933 Long Beach, California earthquake; and events at the Ontario, California Motor Speedway (my father watched a race there but didn't participate). 

But as I tell people in my newspaper classes, not everything is online.  The Tablet recently had an interesting article about Soviet Holocaust films.  Some films were made before the nonaggression agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union signed in 1939, while others were made after World War II.  They were suppressed and largely forgotten, however, due to the official Soviet policy of not acknowledging the Holocaust as targeting Jews.  Now they are being revived thanks to Professor Olga Gershenson of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Some of them are now being shown at film festivals (hence the comment about offline). Short clips from two movies, Professor Mamlock (1938) and The Unvanquished (1945), are posted online with the article.  The Soviet films are particularly interesting because they show a different perspective on the Holocaust.  The early films are also some of the first that made clear the Nazi persecution of Jews.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Article about Me in "The J"

My mother, me, and
my siblings
"The J", the weekly Jewish newspaper that covers the San Francisco Bay area, published a lovely article about me and my genealogy business!  It was posted online Thursday (and Thomas Macentee found it before I did!).  And there are some good plugs for the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, Oakland FamilySearch Library, JewishGen, and Association of Professional Genealogists as resources for people to turn to for help with their research.  If anyone has a spare copy of the printed issue, I would really appreciate it!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The First "Chinese American"

The Chinese Historical Society of America will host a reading this Thursday, June 20, by Scott D. Seligman, a historian and genealogist, and author of a new book about Wong Chin Foo (1847–1898).  The book, The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo, discusses Wong's life and campaigns for racial equality in the 19th century.  Wong founded the first association of Chinese voters and testified before Congress to have Chinese exclusion laws repealed.

The talk will be held at the Chinese Historical Society of America, 965 Clay Street, San Francisco, California from 5:30–7:30 p.m.  The talk is cosponsored by the California Historical Society.  More information and a link to RSVP on Facebook can be found here.

This sounds really interesting.  I wish I could attend, but there is no way I can get there in time from work in Dublin!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Things I Learned from My Father

Both of your parents influence and teach you, but you learn different things from each of them.  I know that some of what I learned growing up came from both parents, but some definitely came from my father.

My father probably never met a vehicle he didn't like.  He was racing cars when he was a teenager in New Jersey and won trophies there and in California, Texas, and Australia.  He also raced motorcycles and won with them.  I grew up hanging around cars, motorcycles, boats, garages, and racetracks.  I used to hang over the engine compartment when my father was working on a car and knew the names of most of the engine parts and tools (I'm a little out of practice now!).  I started riding behind my father on motorcycles when I was about 3 years old and got my first bike at about 13, a little 75cc Yamahauler (which my 6'1" father also used to ride around, which looked pretty silly).  I'm still hooked on driving; since I've been able to afford a vehicle, I think the longest I've gone without one is a week.  The smell of a garage takes me back to my childhood.  And one of these days I've got to get another motorcycle.

My dad was (and is) very talented musically.  He used to play piano and guitar (unfortunately, he can't anymore due to arthritis).  He would play and sing songs to us children.  When we were really little he would do the whole songs, but as we got older he would sometimes try to skip a verse.  Of course, we, being smart-alecks, always noticed and told him he had to sing the entire song.  I know I got my love of music from him (especially since my mother couldn't carry a tune in a bucket).

I learned to appreciate spicy food from my father.  When I was young he especially liked spicy chili.  Even though it bothered his stomach, he would tell my mom to make it really spicy.  Then, after dinner, he would ask (okay, yell) for bicarb (bicarbonate of soda) to help settle his stomach.  I've never had to use the bicarb, but I love my chilis.  I put them in almost everything.

I'm not saying my father is egotistical, but he taught me two great phrases about self-promotion:  "If you got it, flaunt it", and "I'm not conceited, I'm convinced."  I'm not sure how much of that I've taken to heart, but at least I remember the lesson.

Both of my parents were openminded and nonracist, which they passed on to us, but I didn't know just how color-blind my father was until I tried to track down a copy of a talent show on which he had appeared.  He had told us for years that he had been on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour with a band and that they had come in second to "a female singer."  That was all he remembered about her.  After several years of research, I spoke with the curator of the Amateur Hour collection (now housed at the Library of Congress).  He has an extensive index of the acts that had competed on the show.  He found my father's band (the Court Jesters) and was absolutely positive that no recording of that episode existed, as he himself had been trying to find one for many years -- it was the first televised appearance of Gladys Knight, who won that night.  And my father had no recollection that the winner had been black.  For 1952, that's pretty impressive.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Diarna Project

Diarna ("our homes" in Judeo-Arabic) is an online museum dedicated to preserving and providing access to information about the sites (cemeteries, schools, synagogues) and memories of Jewish life in the Middle East.  Many former Jewish locations in this area are in danger of disappearing or are already gone.  Diarna uses modern technology (Google Earth, multimedia presentations), photographs, recordings, and more to create exhibitions about these vanishing communities.  Exhibits currently available are on Jewish Algeria, Morocco, and Iraqi Kurdistan.  The Morocco exhibit includes information on the area's World War II-era Vichy camps.

Alessandra Saluti, a research intern in the Jewish Studies Program at Wellesley College, is interviewing people who have lived in Jewish communities (excluding Israel) in the Middle East, to add to Diarna's online collection of information.  If you would like to be interviewed or know someone who might, contact Alessandra at asaluti@wellesley.edu.

Getting a Jump on the 1950 U.S. Census

Wait!  What's that?  We just got access to the 1940 census last year; I couldn't possibly be talking about the 1950 census already, could I?

Oh, yes, I can!  Remember the great finding aids that were available on the One-Step Website for the 1940 census before Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, and others created searchable indices?  Well, Joel Weintraub has announced the opening of the "One-Step 1950 Census Locational Tool Project."

"Project 1950" will prepare searchable Enumeration Distriction (ED) definitions and street indices in preparation for the opening of the 1950 census in April 2022.  It took about 125 volunteers to produce the tools for the 1940 census.

The work for the 1950 census will be in two phases.  Phase I will be the transcription of the ED definitions, and Phase II will create urban area street indices.  An explanation of the two phases and the work to be done is at http://www.stevemorse.org/census/project1950intro.html.  Joel said, "It may seem too early to be doing this, but it took us over seven years to produce the 1940 tools that were used by the National Archives, the New York Public Library, Ancestry.com, and millions of researchers."

Joel said they don't need "too many" volunteers, just enough dedicated ones.  If you are interested in helping, first read the information about the work to be done, then contact Joel at the e-mail address listed on the above page.

The 1950 census can't get here soon enough for me.  My mother was born in November 1940 so missed showing up, and my father's family moved around too much that year and were missed.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

British Oral History Project

Niamh Dillon, a British Library staff member, is researching a Ph.D. thesis at Goldsmiths College, University of London, on migration within the British Empire in the 20th century, and particularly on the lives of British people living in India in the period leading up to independence from Britain. She hopes to record interviews with people who experienced life in India before independence, and their subsequent experiences after moving to Britain post-independence.

If you or someone you know is willing to help her with a recorded interview, please contact Dillon by e-mail at n.dillon@gold.ac.uk or niamhdillon@hotmail.com, or by post to Niamh Dillon, National Life Stories, British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB.

All recordings will be conducted in accordance with the ethical principles laid down by the Oral History Society. With the interviewee's consent, the recordings will be archived at the British Library, where Dillon has been managing oral history projects since 2003.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

World War I Memorial Discovered in Clearwater, Florida

While renovating a theater built in 1924 in Clearwater, workers discovered a memorial to local World War I soldiers hand-painted on an interior wall.  An article about the discovery doesn't mention that any damage was done to the wall, so it seems that everything has been saved so far.  When the article was published on April 10 only the names from J–Z had been exposed.  The only name mentioned in the article is McMullen, but I can see Carroll, Grover, and Lee in one of the photos.  What to do with the wall is still being discussed.  Though preserving and displaying it seem to be desired, a later article suggests that prospects are not looking good due to the deteriorated condition of the brick wall.  This second article also explains that the wall was formerly an exterior wall for the Clearwater Evening Sun and would have been prominently visible in town.  I hope that at a minimum a list of the names is created and posted online, like maybe on the USGenWeb site for Pinellas County?