Monday, October 20, 2014

Google Maps Street View And A Genealogy Research Project (October 20, 2104)

Recently I had occasion to play around in Google Maps using "Street View."  I was looking to see if I could locate the high school track in Highland Park, NJ where I ran in the 1970 State Track Meet.  I was able to do so and was, of course, struck by how much the track and school had changed in some 40+ years.  This led me to see if I could locate the house I lived in five or six years later when I was in graduate school at Rutgers.  The house, very coincidentally, was right around the corner from the high school track and I and my housemates used to run at the track quite often while we lived in Highland Park during graduate school.  

The photo above is from Google Maps "Street View" showing 509 Raritan Avenue in Highland Park, NJ as of October 2013.  The two shops are in front of a residential home that is accessed by walking down the alleyway to the left of the shop called "Sonic."  When I lived there during graduate school, Sonic was a barber shop.  You can see the peak of the home's roof just above the roof to Sonic and the adjacent Gideon Jewelry store.  I do not know what use the home is put to these days, but it was occupied by students who attended Rutgers University throughout the 1970s.

This little diversion and excursion through Google Maps "Street View" made me think about other uses for "Street View."  For example, could I use it from my desk to explore and find the homes (as they look today) that my wife and I have lived in since we were married -- and could I find them and preserve photos of them before (perhaps) some of them are demolished or changed beyond recognition? Could Google Maps "Street View" be used to research and preserve history of our various abodes over the last several decades?

As the photos below will demonstrate, the answer is "YES" and this post now preserves our residential history for us, our sons and future descendants.  Perhaps this is a simple project that can again serve as a way to "pay it forward" by creating and preserving family history now for our children and later descendants!

I was surprised to see that the so-called "garden apartment" Molly and I had when we were first married is still in existence several decades later. It is looking more than a little worse for the wear, but it is still quite recognizable as the apartment building we lived in while I was still in graduate school at Rutgers. Our little one-bedroom apartment was the garden level white windows seen to the right of the entrance to the building, which was on Hampton Rd. in New Brunswick, NJ.  

For my final year of graduate school, Molly and I moved northwest of New Brunswick to split our commutes and to get a larger and nicer apartment.  We moved to Manville, NJ (named for Johns Manville Corp., which had a large manufacturing operation in Manville for many years). For that final year, I commuted east back to New Brunswick while she commuted west to Flemington in Hunterdon County, NJ where she worked as a Special Education (SPED) teacher. As shown above, the two houses in the photo are identical and at the time both were owned by a Polish-American couple, Mr. and Mrs. Krol. The two apartments in the light green home to the left were rented by the Krols and they lived on the bottom floor of the light yellow home to the right. Our two-bedroom apartment had the entire second floor of the yellow home and the side door to the right led up a staircase to our apartment door. The home is located on N. 7th Street in Manville, NJ.     

In July 1978, Molly and I moved to Washington, DC when I entered law school. We were very lucky to fall into an "English basement" apartment on Capitol Hill as the result of a good friend of Molly's sister moving out to a larger place. We simply met with the landlady and moved in when my sister-in-law's friend moved out. The apartment was a small one-beroom again, but it was conveniently located just off Stanton Park within minutes walking distance of the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court and Congress. It was on Maryland Ave. NE and was a four-story brown stone at the time, though it apparently is now painted the light green as shown above. Our landlady occupied the top three floors where she lived and had a practice as a psychiatric nurse. Our apartment was on the ground floor slightly below ground level again.  The entrance to our apartment was behind the wrought-iron stairs.

For the second half of my time in law school we decided again that we needed more room. Molly was working as a SPED teacher in Langley, VA and so we moved across the Potomac River to a duplex townhouse in Arlington, VA on S. Highland Street. We occupied the left half of the duplex shown above. It was a two-bedroom home with a basement, a driveway, and a yard where we could have a garden. The wooden fencing was not there when we lived there and I wonder if the raised-bed gardens I built still exist behind the fence and gate.

After law school and a few years of working in two different law firms, a law school classmate of mine and a partner from the last firm we worked for all decided to open our own firm. Crazily, Molly and I decided to also buy our first home and we moved about 30 miles west of Arlington to Sterling in Loudoun County, VA. Our first home is the Cape Cod shown above. It was on a long, narrow lot about 1/3 acre in size. It had four bedrooms, two full baths and a long garage that could have fit both our cars end-to-end had we ever actually used it as a garage. This was the first home for both our sons and we built a deck with screened in porch and put in raised bed gardens and a swing set before -- about four years later -- we moved even further west (about 50 miles from DC) to western Loudoun County and our present home on just over seven acres of wooded property. 

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All photos capture via screenshot using Google Maps "Street View."
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Serendipity (October 18, 2014)

The following are a few recommendations for inclusion on your reading list this weekend, but first a needed correction to item #3 of last week's Saturday Serendipity.

Last week I recommended reading James Tanner's post on Genealogy's Star blog for news about enhancements to  In that recommendation I stated that BillionGraves was a subscription service and was available at a price.  This was inaccurate and I regret my inadvertent error. As Mr. Gunn of BillionGraves pointed out in a comment to Saturday Serendipity last week, "BillionGraves website is 100% free to use, search, edit, and contribute." Their new BillionGrave Plus is an optional add-on for those who seek information beyond basic grave site information and, as BillionGraves states, their Plus Program offers "5 amazing features found ONLY on BillionGraves for 1 low price!!" You can, and should, read the original announcement of the BillionGraves enhancements at BillionGraves' posting here

1.  The DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) has announced that it will do away with the entrance fee to use the awesome DAR Library at DAR headquarters in Washington, DC. This is great news for those who are not DAR or SAR members (whose membership waived the entrance fee). Now members of the public can gain access to the wealth of genealogy and history data in the DAR library. Read more and get links at the UpFront With NGS post here -- especially if you plan a trip to DC for research purposes any time soon. And if you do plan a trip to the DAR Library, you must have a look and a read at Diane MacLean Boumenot's DAR Library post on One Rhode Island Family blog here

2.  Are you a Jack Kerouac fan -- or perhaps related to him or his wife in some way? If so and you plan to be On The Road in the vicinity of Lowell, Massachusetts, you should check out Barbara Poole's photo tour at Life From The Roots blog on Kerouac's connection to Lowell (including the gravesite for Jack and his wife Stella) here.   

3.  Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings blog has an informative and useful post about how one can order free photoduplication services for materials contained in the Family History Library of Family Search. There are some limitations on requests and they can take a while to process, but this is a useful service to know about.  Read Randy's explanation with his usual visuals, here.

4.  The Vault posted a map that depicts the status of civil rights laws in the United States in 1949 -- fifteen years before the passage of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. The map is a graphic representation of how divided the country was on the treatment of its citizens in various aspects of life -- and by implication it demonstrates what a monumental shift was accomplished by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. See the map and read more about the history of civil rights among our states here and here. 

5.  Religion is a very influential matter in human history and in genealogy. It affected all our ancestors in one way or another and its effects are affecting us and our world every day. We all have to come to grips with our personal views on religion and religious belief and try to understand the views of others.  To that end, Wait But Why writer Tim Urban has posted some of his thoughts and views on the subject in his piece How Religion Got in the Way. The piece is profane and some of the word choice could offend, but I think it is thought provoking in any event. You can read the first installment of this series of posts about religion, spirituality and science here if the subject interests you. It is the usual unusual take expected at Wait But Why complete with the trademark stick figure illustrations.    

6.  If you love old photographs like I do, you will want to have a look at the ones posted by Elizabeth Handler at From Maine to Kentucky blog.  Her grandfather ventured west to Wyoming in 1917 when he was 17 years old. Elizabeth is sharing his photos and the captions on the back.  Have a look here and here.     

7.  UpFront With NGS also had an interesting and useful post about resources for researching and preserving the history of a house, what Diane Richard coins as the "Genealogy of a House." Check it out here

8.  The Name Game? Nancy at My Ancestors and Me blog has a thoughtful piece on the various ways a relationship to the same person can be described. Read her musings here.  AND, for those of us who have some German ancestors, Nancy has discovered and passed on the link to The German-American Genealogist, a fairly new blog.  The blog offers tips for doing German genealogy research and more. Read Nancy's post and get a link to the blog she discovered here.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Friday, October 17, 2014

An "Opalotype" of Everett and Ruth Carpenter -- Friday Fotos (October 17, 2014)

Among the items just recently discovered by my sister, is an old frame containing the above photograph of our maternal grandfather and his older sister. The photograph is about 8 inches by 10 inches and was held inside a substantial wooden frame with a sheet of thin wood covering the back of the frame rather than paper or cardboard.

I was very curious when my mother showed me the frame and the photograph this past weekend, because her father (the boy at left in the photograph) was born in 1891 and his older sister was born in 1889.  The photograph was larger than any others of early 1890s vintage that I had seen in our family collection and I had a suspicion that it was not a photograph on paper. When I carefully removed the thin wood backing and extracted the photograph, my suspicions were confirmed when we discovered that the photograph was on a thin sheet of milk-white glass rather than paper. This helped to explain why it was secured in the back of the frame by a thin wooden sheet -- it was to protect the portrait-on-glass against breakage.

My grandfather, Everett Shearman Carpenter, is on the left in the photograph.  He was born on February 22, 1891in Albion (Cumberland), Rhode Island.  His older sister, Ruth Ann Carpenter, is on the right and she was born July 21, 1889 in Providence, Rhode Island.

The portrait of my grandfather and his sister is what is known as an "opalotype" or "milk glass positive."  The opalotype technique was patented in 1857 by Glover and Bold of Liverpool, England. It was a known photographic technique into the 1930s, but was almost entirely supplanted by paper photographs by then. It is an "alternative photographic technique" now and, as Wikipedia puts it, the practice  is limited now to "a small number of dedicated artists." 

To learn a little more about "milk glass positives" and opalotypes, read the short Wikipedia stub here and use the links there to see other examples of the technique. You can also see more examples by searching "opalotype" at Google images. 

And finally, talking about serendipity . . . last week UpFront With NGS posted about a free online book for telling the difference among daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. The link to the book proved of timely interest and use when days later I made the discovery of an opalotype in our family photograph collection.  If you have not already checked out the online book, here is the link to the post again.

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Scan from the original opalotype portrait in the author's family collection.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Photographs Across The Generations -- How Far Can You Go? (October 16, 2014)

L to R:  Molly, Eulalie, Doreen and Jonathan (May 19, 1984)

Each week The Weekly Genealogist, newsletter of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), asks a survey question of its readers. This week the question is . . .

"What is the largest number of generations of your family pictured in a single photograph?"

The question led me to the photograph above, which shows four generations from our family in a single photograph. The snapshot was taken on May 19, 1984 -- just one week to the day after the birth of our first child, Jonathan. Pictured are Jonathan's great grandmother, Eulalie Jeffs; his grandmother, Doreen (Jeffs) O'Kane; and his mother, Molly (O'Kane) Tew. This photograph is the most recent of three such four-generation photographs I have been able to locate in our family photograph collection; the others involve earlier generations than depicted here.

On a related matter, this survey question led me to ponder another question, "What is the greatest number of generations back that I can go and still have a photographic depiction of an ancestor?" 

After a little research (and the very recent discovery of the photograph of an ancestor), I have determined that in eight instances our family can presently go back seven generations to photographs of: my sons' 4x great grandparents, Russell Cooke (b. 1810) and his wife Mary Vinal [Otis] Cooke (b. 1806); my sons' 4x great grandmother, Nancy Mason [Bullock] Carpenter (b. 1793); my sons'  4x great grandmother, Abby [Hunt] Miller (b. 1807); my sons' 4x great grandfather, William Wood (b. circa 1820); my sons' 4x great grandfather, Nathan Walker (b. 1808); and my sons' 4x great grandparents, John Bowen Shearman (b. 1799) and his wife Ann Eliza [Patt] Shearman (b. 1803). *
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Scan of the original snapshot in the family collection. 

*  And with the birth of our first grandchild within the next three weeks or so, the photographs of the named ancestors above will soon be extended back eight generations!
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wordless Wednesday (October 15, 2014) -- Happy Birthday Grandpa Tew!

Arnold G. Tew, Sr. (October 15, 1896 - February 28, 1958)

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The photograph above is a newly discovered portrait of my paternal grandfather, Arnold G. Tew, Sr. It is now in the personal collection of the author. The date of the portrait is unknown, but today -- the 118th anniversary of my grandfather's birth -- is a most appropriate day to post it for the first time.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Story Of "Penny" -- The First Dog I Ever Knew (October 14, 2014)

Try to ignore the period hat that my maternal grandmother is wearing in this newly discovered photo and focus instead on Penny, the dog who is taking her leisure with Grandma Ruth. The exact date of this snapshot is unknown, but is probably from the 1940s.  Penny was the first dog my sister and I ever knew and that would have been in the early 1950s. What I never knew until this past weekend when perusing with my mother snapshots showing Penny, is the story of how my mother's family came to be Penny's family.

As my mother recalled this past weekend, sometime in the 1940s a dog suddenly appeared in the yard of my grandparents at 551 High Street in Cumberland, Rhode Island. The dog was injured and obviously limping on a bleeding paw that was cut by glass or some sharp object. She was taken in and her paw was tended to.  As she healed, it became apparent that she was pregnant and not too far from delivering her litter -- and so she was cared for until the event occurred.

My mother is not sure of precisely how many puppies were born, but the photographic evidence we received last weekend indicates there were at least three.

Ruth Carpenter with two puppies from the litter. [Notice the white muzzles and white up through the brows.] 

Ruth Carpenter holding Penny as a puppy. [Notice the dark muzzle.]

My mother with Penny as an older puppy.

The other puppies were given to other families and the mother was given into the care of the local ASPCA as my mother recalls.  Penny lived a long and happy life at 551 High Street and was always a very calm and friendly dog to my sister and to me. We always looked forward to visiting and seeing Penny!

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Scans from original snapshots in the family collection.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Monday, October 13, 2014

Military Monday (October 13, 2014) -- Everett S. Carpenter in his Rhode Island State Guard uniform

This past weekend while visiting family in Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to peruse boxes of family photographs and snapshots that my sister discovered after they had been stored away and forgotten for many years.  I spent several hours sorting and looking through them with my parents and siblings and my wife.  I now have a shoe box full of photos to begin scanning and preserving.  The result of these these efforts will undoubtedly be material for The Prism for some time to come, but today is the first reveal of many previously forgotten and undiscovered photographic treasures.

As posted here during some Military Mondays in September, my maternal grandfather, Everett Shearman Carpenter, served in World War I and then joined the Rhode Island Militia where he served for several years in a provisional company of the Rhode Island State Guard Reserve. He was promoted to the rank of Captain in the Militia/State Guard Reserve on June 3, 1943. In the recently discovered photograph shown above, Everett is seen in his Militia/State Guard uniform bearing on his left shoulder the insignia of the Rhode Island State Guard Reserve.  He also has the rank insignia of Captain. The original snapshot is dated June 20, 1944 on the back -- fifteen months before my grandfather was promoted to the rank of Major and nineteen months before he was honorably discharged on January 19, 1946.

Insignia of the Rhode Island State Guard
used from 1941 - 1947

The snapshot was taken in the backyard of what was then 551 High Street in Cumberland, Rhode Island, my grandfather's life-long home.  He is shown standing beside his Packard.

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Scan from the original snapshot in the family collection.

Image of the Rhode Island State Guard shoulder insignia from
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Serendipity ( October 11, 2014)

The following are a few recommendations for inclusion on your reading list this weekend: 

 1.  Judy Russell, of The Legal Genealogist blog, has a post about the coming changes to AncestryDNA.  With all the controversy surrounding the Ancestry venture into DNA testing, this post is worth reading for some good news about AncestryDNA if you should happen to use it.  Read the post here.

2.  It is not often you can get a free book that provides a useful tool for genealogists (amateur and professional alike).  UpFront With NGS provides the background and link to a free book you can download that will assist you in dating daguerreotypes, ambrtoypes and tintypes you might have or come across.  Read about the book and get a link to where you can download it FOR FREE here.

3.  I admit I am not familiar with and I have never used it -- but James Tanner at Genealogy's Star blog had a post on Wednesday about enhancements to this competitor of the free  Find-A-Grave.  Mr. Tanner's review makes BillionGraves sound interesting even though it comes with a price as a subscription service.  Read about the enhancements here and see what you think.

4.  Those who regularly read Heather Rojo's blog, Nutfield Genealogy, know that every Wednesday she features photographs of weather vanes she has spotted around New England.  The collections is quite amazing and growing weekly.  I particularly liked the one from this week not just because it shows a very artistic running horse, but even more for the story behind it.  Read the story and see the horse here.

5.  What more can one say . . . October in New England!  SEE it here at Bill West's blog, West in New England.

6.  Jana Last of Jana's Genealogy and Family History blog is also a WikiTreer and she was interviewed for WikiTree.  Read the interview and learn more about Jana here.

7.  You never know where you might find bits of history or genealogy.  NEHGS has an interesting link to items that people have found when doing renovations to homes.  Have a look at the article from This Old House magazine here.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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