Thursday, April 30, 2009


Yep, that's right. I put myself in a wiki. There's a genealogy wiki named gene@pedia. They call themselves a "communal information resource directory for the genealogy community that anyone can edit!"

So I did! I was nervous because I'd only done some minimal editing in wikis before for work, I'd never created a page from scratch. But this place had a template so I could create a page on myself, with a list of surnames I'm researching and links to my blog and twitter and so on. Easy-peasy!

Check me out! And make a page for yourself!

Friday, April 24, 2009

COG - Historic King of Prussia Inn

The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is: Local History! As genealogists, we are used to tracing our ancestors and the history of the places they lived. But not all of us live where our ancestors did - do we take the time to see the history all around us? Use some of your investigative skills to research the house, street, or town/city where YOU live. Write about an interesting person, place, or event of local history. The deadline for submissions is May 1st. This edition of the COG will be hosted by Donna at What's Past is Prologue ( Thanks Donna!

I live in Southeastern Pennsylvania. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, it has gently rolling hills, wide valleys, lots of rivers and creeks, and tons of history (at least by American standards). Those of us that live here probably take it for granted; around every corner is another 18th century farmhouse, former tavern, or barn, much of it linked to battles of the American Revolution.

The focus of this blog entry will be the King of Prussia Inn. The major road cutting through the area where I live is Route 202. In the town of King of Prussia, Rt. 202 intersects with several other major roads. During my childhood, we often drove past this particular building. It always caught my attention because it was literally in the middle of a 4-lane highway, they had built the north and south lanes around it, so it was a neglected little island in the midst of traffic, asphalt and mall, with a high fence around it.

Reeseville was originally the name of the town in the area where King of Prussia, PA is now. The town was about a day's journey from Philadelphia in the 18th century, and there are still a lot of former taverns standing alongside older roads in the area.

I didn't find the records for myself, but some believe the inn was first built as a private dwelling in 1719 by the Rees family (namesakes for Reeseville). By 1769 it was licensed as a tavern, and a map dated 1777 refers to the inn “Berry’s,” which was the name of the general manager at that time. However, by 1850 the postal service began recognizing the surrounding town’s name as “King of Prussia.”

Of course it's said that George Washington slept here, where didn't he sleep? However, it is pretty likely that he did, because Valley Forge is just a mile or two away. George is supposed to have stayed at the inn on Thanksgiving Day in 1777.

It's not definite how the King of Prussia Inn got its' name. It's likely the area around it started being called King of Prussia due to the presence of the inn itself. Some think that it was named in honor of the actual King of Prussia, Frederick II, but the reasons why vary and there's no real proof one way or the other.

Several years ago, the plans to widen Route 202 caused many to worry that the historic inn would be demolished. Thankfully, it was decided to move the inn rather than demolish it. In 2000 the inn was moved a short way away. In 2002 it was opened to the public, and now houses the King of Prussia Chamber of Commerce at Valley Forge.

I still think of the house every time I drive over where it used to be!

For those of you interested in architecture and pictures:

1. Artist's rendering of what original inn would have looked like:

2. Photograph from the Library of Congress, taken between 1860-1870. The person taking this picture is standing facing south, on what will be 3 lanes of Route 202 south in 140 years. The original part is the door to the left. The door to the right is in an addition.

3. This photo was taken in 1870, and is also from the Library of Congress; southbound 202 is again under our feet, heading to the right (this might be a good time to mention that in Pennsylvania, north and south mean little. Southbound Route 202 in this area actually heads due west for many miles.):

4. 80 years later, it's now 1960. From the same perspective, looking south. The island has appeared, and the inn lives there for 40 more years:

5. 1960 again, looking the other direction, northbound route 202, finally!!!

6. And last but not least, here's how it looks today, safe over on Gulph Road (too be honest, I kind of miss the whitewash):

LOC link

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

No Longer Drowning, Now Floating Comfortably, Thanks

All right people, so the other day I complained and moaned that I was overwhelmed by blogs I wanted to read and track because they were all over the place, my firefox bookmarks were all overflowing, some blogs were over in Networked Blogs, some were in Blogger, blah blah blah. I was lost!!

Then it occurred to me...there are people out there who gather information for a living, you know, like journalists and stuff, so that means there had to be solutions better than a spreadsheet. Gathering my vast knowledge as a Librarian and Information Scientist (Part Time), I did some searches and came up with.....aggregators! There they were, the whole time!

After that, I had to figure out which one I wanted. First I was trying to find one that was a firefox plug-in, but I just wasn't getting a warm and fuzzy feeling from the one's I found. Finally I settled on Google Reader which was recommended by this site. Normally I satisfy my anti-establishment urges by avoiding google like the plague, but hey, sometimes it just makes sense.

I already had a google account of course, so signing up was easy-peasy. I use my google account to login to blogger, so just by going into the Reader, it pulled all the blogs that I follow in blogger. One step done!

I then created folders for categories that made sense for me, and then one by one, added the blogs that I kept in feed in firefox. Voila!!! I'm organized!!!

Okay, so it's not that easy...but at least this is a good step in the right direction. I think I might keep a spreadsheet list of blogs as a backup, you know, in case google implodes or something.

Bold font shows me which entries are unread, and I guess I can rate things, it's been pretty intuitive to figure out so far. You can make things public or private, and export an OPML file which is a file that contains all your subscriptions. I guess that makes it easy to switch to another aggregator.

So, this is what I'm going to go with for now, hopefully it helps any of you out there sharing my pain in all this tracking of wonderful information.

Good Luck!!!

Wordless Wednesday - 22-Apr-2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Help, I'm drowning in Interesting Information!

Please tell me I'm not the only one that is completely overwhelmed by the cool and interesting blogs that are out there!!!

A few months back I really began paying attention in earnest to all the wonderful genealogy blogs that are out there, and started blogging on genealogy topics myself. Before that my blog was mostly recounts of embarrassing physical mishaps that I caused to myself and LOLcats I found funny.

So then I started finding all these cool blogs out there both on topics relevant to my work (that darn work, always getting in the way), and on genealogy. I've learned so much in just these few months. And I discovered that there is a whole genealogy community online and they all seem to know each other, and I'm starting to get to know them (which is so cool to me!). I even started participating in things like Smile for the Camera and felt so accomplished!

But now I'm starting to drown a little!!! I can't keep up!

Anybody out there have any suggestions on how to handle this? I'm so desperate I'm thinking of actually creating another spreadsheet! :-D

In the meantime, I'm off to go read some blogs, and I'll leave you with a few of my favorites (various topics, not all on genealogy). Enjoy! These are just a small percentage of the one's I keep in my toolbar in Firefox, we haven't even touched the one's in my Networked Blogs account...

Work in the Pharma industry and like to keep up on all the latest gossip? Then this is for you:

I love Mashable to keep me up on the latest in social networking and all that kind of internet-y stuff:

Last year I got my master's in Library and Information Science and I like to keep up with what's happening while I'm not actually in the industry:

Nathaniel Lane Taylor doesn't post often, but when he does I find it fascinating. He's a medieval scholar as well as genealogist:

I'm much better at ordering food than creating it, but there are 2 food blogs I follow and they are just this close to converting me!

This one is a great site that features tidbits of info on genealogy and history; and makes them interesting!

Friday, April 17, 2009

My Genealogy Space

A blog I follow makes suggestions on things to blog about in your own blog (does that make sense???) I am following up on last Saturday's suggestion on taking pictures of, and describing, your genealogy workspace.

Below is my desk, the printer sits on a little table (a night-stand in a previous life) to the left. The desk is actually pretty darn clean at the moment, but that is because the last 2 weeks or so I've been focusing on things other than genealogy. Usually there are piles and piles of paper all over the desk, but don't touch it, because I know exactly where everything is. My scanner is to the right, sitting on top of my computer tower.

To the bottom left of the picture you can see my way-past-its-expiration-date office chair. I've had it for over a decade now, and it's served me well. I never wanted to get rid of it because my cat adored that chair, she would climb up the back as if it were a tree, and the chair never showed any wear from that. No pulls, nothing! How is that possible??? So, I determined it was a magic chair and was the source of all my power.

Now though, sadly, the cat is singing with the Choir Invisible (that's her on the computer screen), and the bolts and nuts in the chair have a disturbing habit of falling out, mostly while I'm sitting in it (ask my sister, she witnessed it once). Also, the right arm-rest spins in a complete circle, sometimes while my arm is resting on it.

So, yes, yes, I know, it needs to be replaced. I'll get right on that, I promise.

The picture below shows the space to the left of my desk, it is my "Bookcase of Genealogy Books". I've collected new and used books over the years, both on genealogies and on the histories of towns and regions I'm interested in. Also, in the bottom right, you can just see some piles of papers and binders. I'm a big piler of paper. I have a system, and you shouldn't mess with my stuff. :-)

The room my desk is in was a spare bedroom, and in the closets I have shelves that I keep my binders on. This is all copied information from the library at salt lake, or other electronic sources that I thought were important enough to keep a paper record of.

I pretty much know where everything is, and can find it quickly. I rely a lot more on my electronic files than paper anymore, unless it's new information. Everything is organized on my computer as well, by type and surname; country and town information is stored as well, and I keep spreadsheets to help me keep track of what surnames belong to what towns and how they migrated over the years. Spreadsheets are my friend, but I do know that using a spreadsheet means you are creating a workaround because something else doesn't work. I wish my family tree software was more flexible with what fields I could export or report on.

I would like to re-do my binders, they were organized a long time ago and could do with a re-fresh. I also have a HUGE backlog of pictures to scan.

So there you have it!!! My space! :-)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Spare me the grim litany of the "realist." Give me the unrealistic aspirations of the optimist any day."

This is an excerpt from an actual conversation I was trapped into hearing witness to this past weekend. The names and some details have been changed to protect the so-called innocent. And to protect me from getting yelled at.


In a car. Driving West. Morning. It's raining. Hard.

Actual Conversation:

Passenger: "Maybe the rain will stop by the time we get there."

Driver: "No, that won't happen, the weather's coming from the south, not the west."

Time passes. It's still pouring.

Passenger: "Hopefully the rain will stop by the time we get there."

Driver: "No, that won't happen, the rain is coming from the south, not the west."

More Time passes. The rain is so loud it drowns out the radio.

Passenger: "Do you think the rain will stop by the time we get there?"

Driver: "AUGH!"

Destination is reached.

It's not raining. The sun is coming out.

Passenger: <grins>

Driver: "Shut up."

Moral of the Story: All you hopeful optimists out there.....just keep doing what you do best, and don't let anybody else rain on your parade (yeah, I know, that was bad!).

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

Wordless Wednesday - 15 April 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Time to Buy the Overalls

Yeah, that's right, I am now an official vegetable farmer:

I can't believe it! It's a future tomato plant. My dream is to have fresh tomato with my hummus and pita later this summer. We'll see how it works out. I planted 4 other seeds but they declined to sprout, so all my hopes are pinned on this little bugger.

Monday, April 6, 2009

"America's Hidden History"

I finished reading a great book the other night called "America's Hidden History" by Kenneth C. Davis. I have a few other books by him on history, but it's probably been about 15 years since I read them (hold up, that can't be right because that would mean I'm OLD and can reference things in decades rather than years....urg).

The reason I'm bringing the book up is that it differed from many history books in that he kept to a small sub-set of stories, and he put a lot of effort into bringing the stories to life. Let's face it, as much as I love history, a lot of the books about it can be, well, dry. And when I say dry, I mean the tumbleweeds blowing, sand in the eyes, while eating saltines with nothing to drink kind of dry. Genealogy is the same way when taken at face value. It takes effort and imagination to bring the dead to life.

I have a bad habit of loving my genealogy data. I like facts, filling in my family database with fact after fact. Birth date, death date, baptism date, joined the military date, list of children. You can export data and graph it, see how many people were born in the spring vs. the fall, see how many people share a given name or a surname, nerdy stuff like that. But it's important to stop once in a while and think about the person whose data you are looking at....they were alive, they laughed, cried, made dumb mistakes, loved, hated and sometimes ate too much for dinner. They skinned their knees as children, and missed their parents after they had passed. And even though they may seem to be a few dates and facts on your computer screen, if you make the effort, you can weave together their story.

What does all this have to do with Davis's book?

Well, he did a great job of weaving together some stories that give you the real flavor of some historical people. He gives us 6 short histories in the book, each focusing on a main historical character, but there are some detours here and there. Interestingly, he begins each story with a couple pages of facts, dates and what happened on that date, that pertain to the subsequent history. He then gives us the real story.

I learned a lot about the very beginning of colonization here in America, Puritan life as it really was, what George Washington was actually like and a lot about the American Revolution and how incredibly disorganized it, and our fledgling government was. Sound dry? Well, some of you won't like it no matter what I say, and really, I can't figure out why you're still even reading this blog posting, but for the rest of you, have a crack at it and learn a little bit. Or not, your choice! :-)