20    Jan 20104 comments

Happy, Sad: sharing family history

FlowersOur family has experienced two recent events in the circle of life.

When family historians and genealogists speak about sharing family history at life cycle events, we generally mean life's happy occasions: births, engagements, marriages, graduations, birthdays and anniversaries.

We don't often think about the sad events, which occur just as frequently, such as the deaths of family members.

As I have often shared, in addition to a traditional gift for a happy occasion, I also add a printout of the family history, a chart and a list of ancestors to a young couple getting married (with their names already entered), for the birth of a baby (with the baby's name already entered), anniversaries and at other occasions.

At the recent wedding of a cousin from Switzerland, the family history envelope handed to the bride's mother elicited immediate conversation with the guests surrounding her. I answered many questions and met several new and interesting distant relatives who had traveled for the wedding. Everyone was interested in the material and wondered how I had gathered it.

Happy occasions are very simple. Funerals are something else.
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13    Jan 20100 comments

ResearchBuzz: A resource for resources

Genealogists love resources. Even better, are resources that list even more resources!

One such site is ResearchBuzz.com, established in1998. It covers the world of search engines, databases and other online information collections.

Put tooltip here

Tara Calishain is, in her own words, "crazy about search engines and Internet searching for years." She writes and edits nearly daily updates on search engines, new data managing software, browser technology, large compendiums of information, Web directories whatever.

The bottom line for this site is whether a reference librarian would find it useful. Yes? Then Tara will write about it. She really makes an effort to build tools relevant to researchers and make them available on the site.

She's authored several books: Official Netscape Guide to Internet Research (1996,1968); Information Trapping (2006); Web Search Garage (2004), etc.

Among her most recent posts:

Thousands of Vintage Ads

Hats 1900Want to see more about the times your ancestors experienced? What they wore (like these great hats from the Paris 1900 Exposition Universalle)?

In the clothing and fashion category (from 1790-1900), find early text ads, drawings of items from the 1870s forward, fabrics, shoes, women's wear, custom shirts, wet weather footwear and sales, mens' clothing, cosmetics, hats, bathing suits, and much more - all organized by decade of publication.

There's a similar range for furniture.

Under transportation, see huge bicycles of the 1860s and the grand opening of an arena especially for bicycle riders! Bikes, motorcycles, trains, steam ships, early cars, cruises and trucks feature in some elegant advertisements.

Check out the food: bakeries, butchers, soups, kitchen appliances, chocolate, ketchup, cereal and other products, such as cleansers and maple syrup.

The ads come from various sources such as the Library of Congress, university collections, Flickr, and other sites.
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3    Jan 20105 comments

India: Inscribing the past

IndiaIn some communities, the past is inscribed on copper plates that have lasted for a thousand years or more. Other records are kept in huge handwritten registers by Hindu priests in the holy city of Haridwar.

For those of Indian ancestry who have migrated around the world, the handwritten registers may be the most valuable records for their families.

Read on for more information on both types of records, with photos of both.

There's a set of 31 copper plates, joined by a round copper seal bearing a royal dynasty emblem, dating from the reign of Emperor Rajendra Chola (1012-1044 CE). The first 10 plates provide information about the Chola genealogy, written in Sanskrit. The other plates include the history of the Emperor donating a village to a temple, as well as the village's boundaries at the time.

This story in The Hindu covered the experience of Dr. R. Nagaswamy, the former director of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department (TNAD), as he saw the plates for the first time in 50 years.

Here's a photo of what this set look like.

Chola Plate

The earliest known plate, in both Sanskrit and Tamil, dates from the 6th century CE, when the Pallava King Simhavishnuvarman (who reigned c550-580 CE) gave a gift to the Jaina temple. According to the story, the Sanskrit plate gave details of the queen's village grant to a priest. From the 6th century CE, the copper plates were bilingual, in both Sanskrit and Tamil.

The article offered two theories of why man chose to write on metal. According to Nagaswamy, one was man's belief that if he inscribed mystical figures on metal, he would acquire spiritual powers. The other reason was to prepare documents. The copper plates offer historical facts and genealogies that have benefited historians and archaelogists.

Nearly all the royal dynasties produced such plates, which have been found by chance during history, while farmers ploughed fields, kept in abandoned houses or in locked rooms.

The plates begin with verses of praise to the gods, in Sanskrit, and then offer the genealogy of the king who issued the plate, describe the land grant in detail, name of the donor and details about the person's family. The plates offer many details about villages, taxes, irrigation, administration and other issues.

Hindu Genealogy

In Hindi, the word "gotra" means family tree, representing a clan, group of families or a lineage back to a common ancestor. It is very important and Hindu ceremonies require a statement of the tree. At weddings, the wedding couple's gotra are read establish that they are not from the same family, which is forbidden (for genetic reasons).

There are 49 official Hindu gotras. Members of each supposedly have certain common traits (personal or occupation). Each gotra descends from a famous sage.

Here's what the registers look like:

Hindu family tree

Genealogy registers of Hindu families are maintained by priests (Brahim Pandits, also called Pandas) - who are genealogists - in the holy city of Haridwar. Called Vahi or Bahi, they have been used to settle legal cases and to trace ancestry for more than 20 generations.

The city of Haridwar is a site for death rites (cremation) and pilgrimage. It became the custom for families making these trips to visit family priests to record the visit and update the family tree (with marriages, births and deaths). The visiting relative must personally sign the register after the update is written. Others accompanying the reporting family member may be asked to sign as witnesses.

Records are organized by original districts and villages, and special priestly families are in charge of those district registers. This is still true even for those geographical locations today in Pakistan.
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