Spam and Genealogy

As genealogists, we are used to spending our days looking at old documents, reading up on events that happened long ago and trying to put our “head” into the times that were so we can better understand when we analyze our findings.
We don’t dwell much on the fact that every day we are all making our own history.
I haven’t read anywhere a recent personal finding I discovered so I’m putting it out here now…
As a blogger I get A LOT of spam,  I’m not talking the pork based product – I don’t do sales pitches! I’m referring to the internet type.  You don’t see it because of the filters I constantly update to insure that the junk doesn’t get through to impact your experience or worse, infect your device.  In a typical pre-pandemic week, I got over a thousand spam hits easily, often closer to two thousand on each of my sites (my website and Blogger).  Since the pandemic, the amount has fluctuated over the months.  
When various countries reopened the spam increased; as they shut down again it decreased.  The majority in the past was from China and Eastern Europe. How do I know that?  Because it wasn’t in English.  I suppose someone who speaks English could have been using Google Translate to fake a hit but I’m not sure how likely that would have been.
Since May, my spam has been two-thirds in English based on my unscientific analysis.  I’m basing the one third on the incorrect English word choices that are being used.  (Hint to Russia and China Spammers:  We really don’t say ‘that cool’ much anymore).
In the past, the spam consisted about half regarding dating, a quarter for obtaining cheap medicines and a quarter claiming my blog was the best ever and directing readers to a link for purchase of a product that had nothing to do with genealogy.  Interestingly, the medical links are now scant.  The dating has turned hardcore and blunt.  The majority is product links.  My take is spammers are focusing on frustrated people and are trying to make a fast buck.  Just like elective medical procedures taking a back seat, so are sales of pharmaceuticals.
Last night I got a late email selling Halloween costumes.  I was flummoxed!  My first thought, was this couldn’t be serious – who is thinking of Halloween when nearly each day of 2020 has been a horror and we’re stuck in a perpetual Ground Hog’s Day. Then I thought, maybe it’s a message of hope to return to what we used to take for granted – normal times.  I don’t know what the motivation was to send an email late on a Friday evening for a holiday that may or maybe not be celebrated in three months but it did give me pause. Based on my spam and email type and amount, we’re a long way from “normal.”
What does this have to do with genealogy?  Everything!  Our times are historical and the stresses we humans are under right now impact the choices and decisions we make.  This data analysis shows insight on the conditions of our times.  
IMHO, with the utter chaos that greets us daily, what should become a priority is responsibility and obligations to community to insure the well being of all. I’m seeing so much of that in the genealogy community and not so much in other groups in which we belong.  History will be the judge of how we, as a society, have handled the numerous crises that have befallen us in the first half of 2020.  I’m looking forward, not to Halloween or Thanksgiving or Christmas, but for a turn around of hearts so that we can move forward together for a better future.  Today, I’m going back to my tree to work on my long dead people who have faced their own tragedies and rose to the occasion. I want to follow in those footstep. Perhaps your ancestors will help guide you in dealing with these troubling times. All the best!

Genealogy, Freedom and Acceptance – Black Lives Do Matter

It’s Independence Day here in the U.S. and this one will be like none I’ve previously spent.  Got a 3 part text from the Surgeon General of our state notifying us to “Avoid the 3 Cs Closed Spaces, Crowded Places & Close-Contact Settings.”  Kind of catchy!  Later that day, the bureaucrats came out stating the typical spin that this will poof be gone so no worries.  The disconnect would be funny if it wasn’t so sad for the millions who are suffering because of the disease or its side effects, such as unemployment, eviction, food shortage, and so on.  We plan on staying home and hubby has ventured out to the grocery store WITH HIS MASK to get our traditional picnic dinner that we usually have with family in the park right before the fireworks display.  This year, we’re eating it for lunch in our backyard on a quilt our daughter made to commemorate the times.  We’ll use the quilt every year from now on and perhaps next year will be different, perhaps not.  Like the immortal lyrics sung by Janis Joplin, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” My family and I realize how privileged we are and this temporary loss of our freedoms to go where we want with no restrictions is a small price to pay to insure our community stays safe.  Others aren’t so fortunate now or in the past.
The past week I have been heavily into researching my Daniel Hollin[g]shead to prove or disprove he was the only Daniel from Leicestershire, England that went to Barbados and became a real estate mogul in the Eastern New Jersey colonies.  I’m at the point I can say I have strong evidence but I want to make sure I haven’t made an error somewhere so I await a few more documents to examine.  Those records – the Bible he brought with him from England, a manuscript donated by family of a Presbyterian minister in South Carolina to an archive in Wisconsin, and a list of military men who died in the Battle of Blenheim in August 1704 would add further support or not.  The “or not” is key to the previous sentence and it’s what I love most about genealogy.  We think we know, we think we’ve found everything, we think we understand until a new document is discovered that throws us for a loop.  
In the past three weeks I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster ride with my findings.  I’ve had to face the facts and process that my gateway ancestor wasn’t the pious Quaker that I always thought of him.  Family legend stated that he was indentured to Barbados, possibly as a tailor, since he was the oldest son and his father, a tax collector, had died.  There was the issue that some of the money collected didn’t get turned in to the King’s treasury.  
I guess my interpretation of that information says a lot about my personality.  I was fine with the religion – I’m pretty much a nonconformist myself.  His “career” choice was okay, too. I love to sew and once had my own costume business so maybe that was how my skill came about. The missing tax money I attributed to an error or the sudden death of Daniel’s father but it all got resolved at the end so life was good.  
I never realized that I tend to make excuses for my ancestors actions and try to rationalize their behavior turning it into a positive explanation.  Until now.
In early June, I took every document I had on Daniel and his purported father, Francis and reviewed them.  I then asked a member of my local genealogy society who is a Brit and experienced with the time period I was working with to examine them for her suggestions.  She pointed out that the son of  a tax collector at the time would not have been indentured as a tailor so that story, with no documents, was probably untrue.  Britain had a rigid class system I hadn’t considered.  There was a Daniel who was a tailor in London but he was of an older generation than the Leicestershire Daniel.  There was also an indenture record for a different Hollingshead line but it was also for a much later time period than Leicestershire Daniel.  Perhaps, she suggested, that the family story got muddled over the past 300 years.  Heck, if we can’t even have our government officials in the same day have the same story, a 300 year time span certainly would have some errors. She suggested I search for more records and then reanalyze the findings.  Great advice!
Now I’ve looked for documents on this family for years and years and I can’t explain why I happened to find so much in just 3 weeks.  What I discovered is disturbing to me and altered my perspective of Daniel’s life and my own.  I still am working through it.
I discovered some conflicting evidence based on bios in old books.  One source stated he was born in Lancashire; the others all stated Leicestershire.  That was the first of my sick to my stomach feelings – I had put out the wrong info and so many other’s trees blindly accepted it as fact.  If that turned out to be correct, I didn’t even know how I could fix the problem.  I took a break, cleared my head and then began to research Hollin[g]sheads in Lancashire and found two families in two different parishes but he wasn’t there.  I examined the citations for the Lancashire book and hunted down the first source, another old book.  That book provided a different source so I searched for it and surprise, the initial source DID NOT HAVE LANCASHIRE – it didn’t name a location.  I’m still waiting to see what the second source states – that’s possibly the documents in Wisconsin.  I’m seeking a manuscript written before 1800 in Charleston, South Carolina.  Daniel never even visited South Carolina (or Wisconsin) so my theory of looking where they never lived seems to be supported again.  I also wanted to find the Bible to see what was recorded there.  Until I found the old bios from the 1800’s I didn’t know it even existed.  The last record of it was October 1882 in Chicago. I’m grateful to a genealogist from the New England Genealogical and Historical Society who provided a look up for me this week.  That immensely helped me move forward with finding the Bible.
The person who owned the Bible never married and had no children.  She predeceased her two brothers.  A sister, ironically, moved to a few miles from where I currently live with her husband and died there in 1939.  She had no children.  I suspect the Bible was given to a cousin from a different line who had received some other family memorabilia.  He was living in Manhattan at the time the Bible owner was and he had three children.  My theory is it was passed down to one of his children.  So I spent a day trying to locate the living of those lines.  I emailed 4 individuals and received a response from one.  Doesn’t say if she has it or not but that, to her knowledge, the Bible never contained genealogical information.  I laughed, that would be my family!  They never notate on photos, keep records, etc.  I’m not giving up hope that the current owner comes forward to verify that.
I also was trying to think of reasons why Daniel would leave Leicestershire.  Several old books mention he, as did several of his brothers, served in the Battle of Blenheim which was in August 1704.  My Brit friend stated that the brother who had died there as a Captain under the Duke of Marlborough (who Winston Churchill is descended from) would have been in the class of a tax collector so that further supports I have the correct Daniel.  She suggested finding proof of their military experience.  The National Archives of Great Britain doesn’t have it.  I’ve reached out to a few military societies in England hoping someone somewhere has the info.  
I then theorized Daniel went to Barbados because he was in the military and I began to read up on the history of that island.  The history is not pretty!  I knew there sugar plantations; his second wife, Thomasine Hasel’s father was an owner of one.  I knew there were slaves but I didn’t think much about them over the years.  I now know a lot and it is relatable to our current times.  
I was astounded to learn that Lord Cromwell placed many Scotts and Irish men into slavery.  How had I missed that?  I never knew how far back slavery went.  I do remember learning in school that the Romans had slaves but I thought they were prisoners of war.  I didn’t know that Africans were taken as slaves because of their religious convictions.  I never thought about the Spanish and Portuguese using and abusing African slaves before settling the “new world.”  I was astounded to read an archaeological  study that explored a former sugar plantation in Barbados and determined that economic power brokers in London had made the decision to exploit so they could become richer.  The evidence was buried in the soil, untouched for 400 years.  
I’m still coming to terms with the picture posted at the top of this blog.  Daniel died intestate in 1730 in Somerset County, New Jersey.  You can see from the inventory that he owned slaves.  I am sickened at the thought.  
My mantra has always been I identify with the underdog as I am one of them. I have been discriminated against because I was the only child in my parochial school whose parents were divorced at a time when divorce was frowned upon.  I was repeatedly called a carpetbagger because I was a northerner who had relocated to the south.  Some of my husband’s family would not accept me because my grandparents were immigrants.  They made negative comments about my religion.  I had a relationship severed by a friend because she hated my religion, too.  
Those experiences and my interpretation of my ancestry made me wrongly believe I was the great grand daughter of an indentured servant of Caribbean. I thought that made me linked in kinship and someone who understood the hardships of African Americans.  Geez, I even grew up in Gary, Indiana so I certainly understood the black experience, right?  WRONG!  
Growing up, even though I was at the lower rungs of the social economic ladder did not take away my white privilege.  I never asked for it but I inherited it.  As I reflect, I could have and should have done more. Coming out about my family’s involvement in slavery is not easy for me to accept but it is necessary. My blog today is my first step in this journey.
Who were “Tippeo, an old negro-man, Jack, Lelia, Jack, a boy, Bellinda and Dido?” What became of them?  Were they related?  I don’t know but intend to try to find out.  
This Independence Day I am reflecting on the past and trying to make plans for the future. My people had freedom and took away others’ freedom so that they could prosper.  I’m not sure how to make amends but I will work it out going forward.  I hope you will join me if you are at the same point in your life that I am.  Being embarrassed, sorry and ashamed isn’t enough.  Black Lives Matter – always have and always will.  It’s time for change and I will be a positive force in that.

Genealogy Food for Thought

Food items in short supply for the last few months seem to be returning to my local grocery store.  For a time, there was no flour, eggs and milk which definitely impacted home made bread and dessert making.  I don’t bake much anymore but I definitely pulled out my old family recipe book to cook up some comfort food while we were home.  

In 2001, as my oldest was about to leave home for college, I compiled a book of our favorite family recipes.  It’s definitely time for a re-do as I’ve acquired many additional ones to add to the old time favorites.  The binding on the old book is also giving out and some of the pages are stained. 

Since I’ve read every book and magazine in my house and on my Kindle, reorganized every closet and drawer, I’m ready to tackle the recipe book as my upcoming summer genealogical project.

You see, I add historical info as background to the cooking instructions.  For example, I tell the story of how Corn Meal Mush came into my grandmother’s go-to recipes when money was tight.  She got the recipe as a young bride from a southern neighbor.  All you need is corn meal and butter – simple and delicious.  

I will definitely be adding a section entitled “Pandemic” and it will contain the improvised methods I had to use when I ran out of staples and couldn’t get to the grocery store.  I don’t want to forget the past weeks – I want to document survival for a future family member.  Whether we’ve turned a corner on covid-19 or not, I can’t say.  What I can say is hope will get us through and I’m really hoping I’ll have this revised recipe collection done so I can give it out as Christmas presents!

The Proof Genealogical Connections Are Closer Than You Think

The sun is out and the weather is cool so I intend to get some fresh air and complete yard work before the next deluge descends.  

Think shelter in place lessens your genealogical connections?  Think again!  This is an awesome article that reminds us we need to sometimes not only think out of the box to discover our heritage, we often don’t need to look far at all!  

The Washington Post’s article – Amid the pandemic, a family learns their neighbors are their long-lost relatives will make you smile, remind you that your family stories are often close but not always 100% accurate and the coincidences that occur while sleuthing can just boggle the mind.  My immediate family has gotten used to my striking up conversations with strangers and discovering our families often had a shared past but this story takes it to a new level.  Enjoy!