Saturday, November 25, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Are You Writing Your Personal History?

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver didn't resonate with me, so I'm doing the one from November 4 instead, which I wasn't able to do at that time.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

1.  Are you writing about your own personal history?  What are you including?  How are you doing with it?  Who will you distribute it to?

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

I am writing about my personal history, but not in a really organized way, I guess.

The primary method I am using to write is this blog.  I follow a couple of established memes (Wordless Wednesday and Saturday Night Genealogy Fun) to help me generate posts, a lot of which are directly related to me.

I also look for inspiration for posts in lists of "National Day of . . ." (such as National Day Calendar).  I try to tie these national days to events in my family and my own life.

I created one tag (family events) to post about the life events (births, marriages, and deaths) in my family (and want to wrap that up by restarting where I last left off to finish the calendar year).  Most of those events are not about me, though, so not really my personal history, but there are connections to my history.

What am I including?  That's part of where I'm not really approaching it in an organized way.  I don't have an overall plan; I kind of go with whatever topic is presented to me if it makes me think of something to write.

I'm doing . . . okay with it.  After surgery a few years ago and then the disruption of COVID, I have had a lot of trouble getting myself back into a regular writing routine.  I'm doing better with this restart than the previous times, so I'm feeling cautiously optimistic.  And if I backslide again, I'll just pick myself up and start over (again).

Because it's a blog, I am distributing it to the world at large simply by it being there, and I have had relatives find me that way.  I also routinely tag relatives who are mentioned in my stories or who I think are interested in the stories so they can see the posts.  I have learned that some of those relatives semiregularly read the blog on their own, which was a pleasant surprise.

I have been blogging for almost 13 years now, with a total of a little more than 2,000 posts.  I'm amazed that Randy has close to 17,000 posts.  I always say that I'm not really a writer at heart.  I have downloaded the entire contents of my blog a few times to preserve my work, and I have thought about creating some sort of "book" with the material.  If I eventually do something like that, I'll probably give copies to my siblings and maybe my closer cousins.  I don't really know who else beyond that would be interested, if even those individuals are.

I did create one photo book specifically about me, but it's me with my furry and feathered children.  I'm guessing most people wouldn't really say that's my personal history.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Today in the United States it is Thanksgiving, a national nondenominational day to gather with friends and family and give thanks in appreciation of what we have.  I hope you are having a good and happy Thanksgiving and are able to spend it with people you care about.

Tomorrow is The Great Thanksgiving Listen, launched by StoryCorps in 2008 (originally called the National Day of Listening).  It was deliberately scheduled on the same day as the (now infamous, as far as I am concerned) Black Friday, a day of rampant commercialism that officially used to kick off the pre-Christmas spending season (but that seems to have crept all the way into August at this point).

The Great Thanksgiving Listen, or just The Great Listen for short (#TheGreatListen), is a day when you are encouraged to talk with family, friends, and community members and record their stories.  An old proverb, attributed to multiple cultures, says that when an elder dies, a library turns to the ground.  If we don't record people's stories and share them, those stories disappear when the person passes away.

So set aside some time tomorrow to interview a relative or friend and record that person's story.  Use a mobile phone, digital camera, videocamera, cassette tape, the StoryCorps app, or whatever you have handy.  Write it down if you have to!  (StoryCorps does have recommendations for questions, equipment, and resources for people to conduct their own interviews.)  If you are with more than one family member, make it a family event and have multiple interviews.  Save those family stories and share them with other family members.  If you interview a community member, share the stories with that person's family and maybe the local library.  Make sure your family's and friends' stories are not forgotten.

StoryCorps has several specific "initiatives" focused on oral histories from particular segments of the population.  Visit the site to learn about the Stonewall Outloud (LGBTQ), Memory Loss, Military Voices (service members), and Griot (Black Americans) initiatives, in addition to others.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Have You Written/Made Genealogy Books?

I think the answer to Randy's question tonight for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun can be interpreted in more than one way.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

1.   Have you written or made a genealogy or family history book for your family, for eBooks, or for book publication?  How did you do it?

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

So I suspect most people when reading Randy's question are going to think of something written/text-based, such as a narrative history, some sort of family tree or descendant report, or something along those lines.  But I have created several photo-based books and shared them with family members.  And those count as family history books!

I wrote about my photo book projects way back in July 2020 (wow, during the early part of the COVID pandemic, when we were all newly stuck at home!).  I had designed fourteen different books at that time.  I don't think I've created any new ones since then, so I guess I'm still at fourteen.

I haven't put anything else together as "books", but for the holiday season every year (Chanukah and Christmas), I used to print out descendant reports for all of my family lines and send copies of the relevant lines to every relative I was in contact with.  I routinely mailed about 50 fat manila envelopes during November and December.  No, not the same as writing a book, but I was sharing the family history regularly with siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.  And I had relatives contact me because they had found out I was doing the family history, so it was an effective method of communication.

Maybe one year I'll do a "real" book.  Maybe.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Smoking versus Not Smoking

Image by Alexas_Fotos

Today, November 16, is the 2023 observation of the Great American Smokeout, observed on the third Thursday of November, one week before Thanksgiving.  The day is meant to get tobacco smokers to quit smoking, either by quitting that day, not smoking for just that day (as a first step), or making plans to quit.  (And when will we start trying to get pot smokers to stop that smoking????)

I grew up with smokers.  Both of my parents smoked, and my mother's best friend, Aunt Sam, also smoked.  I remember at least one or two years that my mother asked my brother, my sister, and me what we wanted for Christmas, and we responded, "We want you and Daddy to quit smoking!"  To which my mother replied, "Yeah, what do you really want?"  So even when we were very young, well under 10 years old, we knew smoking wasn't good for people.

Yet sometimes you get what you wish for.

Shortly after my family moved to Australia in 1971, my mother and father made a bet with each other about who could quit smoking longer.  I have absolutely no memory of what prompted their bet.  Maybe cigarettes cost significantly more in Australia and they wanted to save money?  Whatever the reason, they made the bet.

My father gave up after three days.

My mother, even though she had already won the bet, continued not to smoke.

And became more and more irritable and unpleasant to be around.

To the point that we children actually begged her to start smoking again.

Which she finally did.  And became our regular mother again.

And there was great rejoicing.

Don't get me wrong.  I know smoking is bad for people.  It's better for your health to stop, sooner rather than later.

But sometimes there are extenuating circumstances.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Calendar Coincidence

A couple of days ago, on November 9, I picked up a photo of my great-great-grandparents' tombstone which was sitting on my desk.  They are buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens.  And I saw that my great-great-grandmother had died on that exact date, November 9, in 1934.

Maybe she was calling to me?

November 9, 1934 on the Hebrew calendar was 2 Kislev 5695.  So my great-great-grandmother's yahrzeit (date of commemoration of her death) is 2 Kislev.

On the 2023 secular calendar, 2 Kislev will fall on November 15.

So even though I blew it by not posting this on November 9, I'm ahead of schedule for the yahrzeit.

And thank you to Steve Morse for the handy calendar conversion tool.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: A Photo of You with a Grandparent

I really should have more (and probably do), but at least I was able to find one photo for tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver!

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

1.  Do you have a photograph of yourself with one or more of your grandparents?  How about your great-grandparents?  Show us what you have, and tell us your grandparents' names.

2)  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

As I noted above, I should have more photographs of me with grandparents, but I was able to come up with one because of the recent photo bonanza I received from my sister.

This photo is of (back row) my mother, Myra, and her parents, Lily and Abe, and (front row) me, my sister, and my brother.  It was taken in Australia, probably late 1971 or early 1972.  I'm pretty sure Bubbie and Zadie (Yiddish for grandmother and grandfather) visited us there during summer.

I wish there were a photo of me with a great-grandparent.  The only great-grandparent who was still alive when I was born was Sarah, the mother of my grandmother pictured above.  My mother used to tell me that she took me to Florida when I was just a little bitty baby, and my father even remembered her doing so.  I was my mother's first child, so it makes sense that she wanted to show me off to her parents and grandmother.  But my grandfather, who took photos of so many other family events, somehow missed a photo of four generations of women in the family.  As far as I know, no such photo exists.

Friday, November 3, 2023

There's a National Subway Day, You Say?

Novoslobodskaya Station, Russian Metro
by Alex 'Florstein' Fedorov, CC BY-SA 4.0,

I was talking with a friend a couple of months ago and we started comparing notes on which subway systems we had each traveled on.  Somehow my mind went from that to thinking that could be a fun subject to blog about, then to wondering whether there was any sort of official "national subway day."  I Googled it and found that yes, indeed, someone had declared a National Subway Day on November 3, 2015.  That also seems to have been the only day it was celebrated, but I took it as an excuse to blog on the topic anyway.

I'm not sure that subways are my favorite form of transportation, but I don't mind using them, and I've been on several.  In no particular order:

Moscow, Russia Metro, 1982:  At the time I was there, it was still the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic, one constituent member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  And the Metro (pronounced mye-tro) was beautiful.  Each station was a work of art, and we were told that was the intention.  I don't recall that it ran late.  One incident that happened to me when using the system was when a friend and I were leaving the station and standing on the escalator as it gently took us back to fresh air.  For some reason I had my friend's passport in my hand and was looking at it in detail, when one of the people ahead of us, who appeared to have been drinking heavily, suddenly stumbled backward and fell onto me.  Not only did I catch him and not fall myself, I didn't even drop the passport.  But my friend and I took a few steps backward, just in case it should happen again (it didn't).

Paris, France Métro, 1983:  I don't remember as much detail about the Métro in Paris, probably because whlie I was there I was dead broke and walked almost everywhere rather than pay for transportation.  But I did ride it a couple of times.  I don't recall that it was awful or great, just kind of there.

London, England Underground, 1996:  The Tube, as it is commonly called, has a reputation all its own.  People ride it just to say they've done so.  I rode it to get from one point to another, but I did notice the signs saying, "Mind the Gap," which are well known.  When I was going from the Prime Meridian to the Tower of London, I should have taken the Tube, but I didn't realize how far I was going to have to walk.  By the time I got to the Tower, it was closing for the day, and all I did was walk around it.  So that was one time I really blew it by not taking the subway.

New York City Subway, 1997 and 2005:  Another transportation system famous in its own way, the New York City Subway has the most stations and is one of the busiest and longest in the world.  In 2005 I wanted to visit a cousin who lived in the heart of Manhattan, and she convinced me not to even think of driving but to take the subway instead.  So I did.  It was a nice trip there and back.  I also took it once with my sister when I was visiting her in New Jersey, because she found out I had never been on it.  So we rode into The City and walked around for a while.  We somehow fortuitously ended up on 57th Avenue and I was able to show her around The Compleat Strategist, an adventure games store that carried products from the company I was working for at the time (this was in 1997).  She is still the only family member who actually got excited to see my name in print, jumping up and down in the store.

Washington, D.C. Metro, 2000 and 2011:  The outstanding feature of the Metro in DC is how huge the tunnels are.  They are absolutely cavernous.  I was told that the reason for their ridiculous size is that they're supposed to be emergency shelters for people if something really horrible happens outside.  But that doesn't make sense, unless the people are supposed to stand on each others' shoulders, because most of the space is up.  So I suspect the real reason is something else entirely.  But it's a nice system, and I definitely enjoyed riding it.

Montreal, Quebec Metro, about 1999:  I traveled to Montreal once for work, and while there I learned about the underground transportation systems.  Not only is there a subway, but there are underground walkways between buildings so that people can move around in the dead of winter.  I thought that was pretty smart of them.  I don't remember anything in particular about the Metro, so it couldn't have been bad.

Boston, Massachusetts Subway, 1991, 1992, 1993:  The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) looks and feels ancient, or at least it did when I was using it.  I used to go to Boston at least once a year and took the subway a lot.  The cars always felt rickety, and when they careened around curves you worried whether you were going to go airborne.  The cars seem to just barely fit in the tunnels.  I heard rumors (never substantiated) that some people who were working had been crushed.  Not a friendly system.  I have one friend who knew the system inside out, backward and forward, to the extent that he could figure out in his head that if we went two stops past where we wanted and then came back one stop, we could walk far fewer stairs to get to the street.  He was amazing.

San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit:  The subway system with which I am most familiar is BART (I love acronyms!).  Not only did I live in the Bay Area for 28 years, but I worked as a train operator at BART.  I have to admit, I loved riding BART around, especially in San Francisco, because I hated driving in San Francisco.  BART is a great system.  I even wrote two blog posts about using BART to get to genealogically important research sites (in San Francisco and in the East Bay)!

So that comes to eight systems.  Hmm, I thought it was more than that.  I guess I need to get out there and ride a few more!