Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Ten Posts of 2011

Seems like many bloggers are doing a Top Ten list, like many other people.  Since I've been blogging for just a few days shy of a full year now, I decided to take a look at my own blog's top ten posts by page views.  I must admit to being a little surprised at some of these.

#10: Week #1 – New Year’s Memories - One of my very first posts made the top ten.  I'm not sure why.  You'd think, being an early post, that it might be rough.  It might have been that some early publicity generated a spike in traffic back when I had relatively few posts in the can, which might have artificially inflated this.

#9: How Do You Follow Blogs? - An interesting question, to be sure, but I was looking to better understand my audience and how they were receiving my blog.  If there was one thing I was looking for from this post, it was more feedback.  It didn't generate anywhere near as many comments as page views.

#8: A Brick Wall In My Tree - A perpetually interesting subject for genealogy folks!  I posted this hoping for someone to come forward with information I don't have.  It hasn't happened yet.

#7: Dropbox Warning! - Everybody and their brother are singing the praises of Dropbox, and I'll agree, the concept is brilliant and very useful.  But no one is talking about the downsides, and so I did.

#6: Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - This was the one where You Might Be A Genealogist If...  And apparently I came up with a few that people liked.  Much thanks to Randy Seaver for running his SNGF meme!

#5: Tech Tuesday - Digitizing With Cameras, Part I - This one didn't surprise me much, as I knew it had generated a lot of traffic.  What surprises me more is that Part II didn't make the Top Ten.  People are very interested in ways to digitize their hard copy records and artifacts.

#4: Genealogy Software Devs: It's MY Data! - This one arose from the flap over some of the changes genealogy software and site vendors were making, plus the issue of how they handle the GEDCOM "standard".  I still believe vendors need to be more cognizant that the data I put in their products is MY data, and I should be able to dictate who has access and what happens to it.

#3: Cloud Genealogy - On the same lines as my Dropbox post is an earlier post about Cloud Computing in general, with a discussion about what the Cloud is and how it works.  This one was right after a major Blogger outage, when a bunch of geneabloggers were griping about that.

#2: Maritime Monday - Aboard Ship - An anomaly!  This is the only non-verbose post to make the list.  This one was just a picture of my paternal grandfather on board his ship, and a brief caption.

And finally we reach...

#1: Open Thread Thursday - Copyright - Who would have thought?  This was a major issue at the time, thus the Open Thread.  I'm not a copyright expert, nor a lawyer like James Tanner, but as a photographer I've had some experience dealing with copyright both from a content producer and a content consumer perspective.  Hopefully it was helpful to someone!

Thank you, dear readers, for sticking with me through my first year of blogging!  I plan to continue for the foreseeable future, and I hope you'll come along for the ride.  If there's anything you'd like to see me cover, let me know in the comments or via e-mail, and I will do my best to provide information and insight.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Weddings

Week 35: Weddings. Tell us about your wedding. You may also talk about your future wedding, the wedding of a relative or shape this question to fit your own life experience.

Wow.  I started this, then got sidetracked.  Then decided I wanted to do a bit more with it than just write a brief narrative.  Then got sidetracked some more.  Now it's the end of the year, and this is the last of the 52 Weeks series I have not done. 

I was married in July of 1987.  July 3rd, to be specific.  My fiance and I had been dating for about four and a half years at that point, and got engaged the previous winter, at Christmas time.  In fact, we got her ring the same night I went and spoke to the Navy recruiters about the possibility of enlisting.  I told them I was holding out for a particular job specialty, Photographer's Mate, that was relatively small and hard to get into.  They said they'd let me know if anything came along, but they weren't optimistic.

Funny, but they called me back within a couple of months, and things worked fast, causing me to enlist and go to Boot Camp in February, well before we were ready to get married.  We knew we were aiming at summer of 1987, moving it up to February wasn't going to happen.  So I left for Boot Camp, and she continued to plan the wedding.

Mom and Me, Boot Camp graduation  Apr 1987, Orlando, FL
Boot Camp graduation was in mid-April.  She came to see me graduate, with my mother.  That was followed by more time in Photography School in Pensacola, Florida.  Now, when you're enlisted, you are required to get permission to get married.  This involves a series of interviews and discussions with your chain of command, getting a signature from each in turn.  It's really a formality, but each one tries to give you a realistic picture of being married while in the military, which has a much higher divorce rate than the rest of society.  It's hard. 

Needless to say, while I was taking care of this, my fiance was planning the wedding details.  Communication during Boot Camp was very limited - a few phone calls and occasional mail.  "A" School in Pensacola was better - I could phone home daily, if desired - but she was still left with the bulk of the work and planning.

I graduated from that school on, if memory serves, July 1st.  Our wedding was planned for July 3rd.  I flew home to a whirlwind of final preparations.  One thing that made it easier, we were planning to hold our ceremony in a local city park on the bank of the Mississippi River.  A little last minute decorating on the morning of, and we were set on that score.  Our officiant, a friend of my parents who is an ordained minister, was set to do the ceremony, and had arrived.  We were holding our reception in a restaurant downtown, so some last minute decorating was in order there, as well.  One of my future sisters-in-law made the cake. 

To make an already long story a bit shorter, the Day came, the weather was (thankfully!) beautiful, and a wedding happened in the park. After the ceremony, we were whisked off to our downtown reception via horse-drawn carriage, to a restaurant that is one of the historic buildings and business establishments for the city, having been in existence since the 1880's.  We couldn't have asked for a better day, everything came together as if it were just meant to be.  As we're still married, I think it might have been...

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Monday, December 26, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Advice

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History by Amy Coffin is a series of weekly blogging prompts (one for each week of 2011) that invite genealogists and others to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants. You do not have to be a blogger to participate. If you do not have a genealogy blog, write down your memories on your computer, or simply record them on paper and keep them with your files.
  • Week 52. Advice. Do you have any advice for future generations who may be researching your family? For example, was there a name change or a significant relocation in your past? This is intended to be a very flexible question. Answer it any way you wish.

 And here we are at the last week of the year.  My first whole year of blogging, I started (a few days late) with the 52 Weeks series and made every entry save one, and I'll try to get that one out this week as well. 

Advice for future generations looking back on this family?  Perseverance.  Keep looking.  Even if it's not a constant active search.  Perhaps especially not a constant active search, you'll get tired and burned out.  Things will come to you when you least expect it.  Put out lots of feelers and wait for a hit, sort of like fishing.  Hopefully it will be easier for you, as more records get digitized and become more easily searchable.  Hopefully they get digitized before they get lost.

I started doing this in the very early 1990's, and got a kickstart from my grandmother, Alta May (Day) Dillman.  She handed me the information she had, and some hints of where she might look.  This was pre-Internet, almost nothing was digitized.  You had to visit courthouses and other records repositories in person, or at the very least contact them by postal mail, a lengthy process.  There were computer Bulletin Board Services (BBS) that a savvy person with a computer and a modem could dial into, and leave messages for other users.  I was an early adopter of those, and made some early genealogy contacts that way, but the vast majority of my data waited until after the Internet became strong before it became accessible to me.

If you're my descendant and you're reading this and interested in genealogy, I'm going to assume you got your kickstart from me, since no one else is very active with our family history right now.  What I've left you is just a smattering, far too much of it is undocumented, or under-documented.  It is correct, to the best of my knowledge, but there are a bunch of assumptions which may prove over time to be false.  I'm not finished, I will keep working on documenting the data, and working on citation so you can spot check me to be sure I've got it right.  I'd also like to get more medical history information in there.  As we learn more about such things, we find family history and genetics playing a major role in our overall health.  If you don't know your history, you can't be sure of your future...

Keep working on it, keep adding to the data, correcting it where you find error.  And you will find errors!  But most of all, have fun with it!  It's the sort of thing that can become dreadfully dull if you're not enjoying it.  Don't lose your sense of wonder at what our ancestors went through to get our family to this point.  If it helps, think of it as an ongoing story, not just dead history full of names and dates and places.  Who were those ancestors, and what did they have to do to survive?  How was their life different from yours, even if they had a similar occupation?  Most people were farmers, but farming has changed considerably in the last 150 years.  I'm a computer technician, but computers change even faster than farming methods.  Your idea of an IT technician may be radically different from what I do now.

I hope that wasn't too long-winded.  Do the best you can, but DO it.  It doesn't have to be perfect, it never will be.  This is one thing where "good enough" will have to be good enough.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 24 - Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

How did you, your family or your ancestors spend Christmas Eve?

My family sometimes spent Christmas Eve at a church service.  Sometimes it was spent at home.  Often we kids were allowed to open one gift of my parents' choosing to try to blunt the curiosity enough so we didn't peek or pry at the rest until Christmas morning.  It wasn't formal or anything, and I remember us usually having some sort of Christmas goodies, whether it was cookies or whatever.

Tonight will be spent in a similar way at my house.  I hope you all enjoy your Christmas Eve as much as we do!

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Friday, December 23, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 23 - Christmas Sweetheart Memories

Christmas Sweetheart Memories

Do you have a special memory of a first Christmas present from a sweetheart? How did you spend your first Christmas together?

I don't remember what she gave me that year.  I do remember that I gave her a stuffed bear.  She still has it, a little worse for wear.  This was 29 years ago, so forgive my poor memory. 

My small family had a quiet, reflective Christmas.  Not so, her large extended family!  She's the middle of seven children, some of whom had started their own families by the time I showed up.  Everyone gathers in the living room in the mid-afternoon.  A couple of people start handing out gifts from under and around the tree (they never all fit under, no even close.)  As soon as you get a gift, you can start opening, and all is chaos for the next half hour or more as people continue to get gifts handed to them.  Wadded up wrapping paper frequently  gets tossed around.  It's noisy fun time.  Over time, the family has grown as our generation has added children to the family, and only a few of the older folks have passed on.  We usually have over 40 people in the house all opening gifts at the same time, talking back and forth, thanking each other, and so on.  Can you picture the chaos?

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 22 - Christmas & Deceased Relatives

Christmas and Deceased Relatives

Did your family visit the cemetery at Christmas? How did your family honor deceased family members at Christmas?

To my knowledge, we have never visited a cemetery at Christmas.  First, we live in the frigid north, and cemeteries are frequently buried in snow by this time of year.  Second, none of our relatives are buried closer than about a four hour drive away.  We focus on the reason for the season, and those relatives who are still with us, that we can share the good times with.  

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 21 - Christmas Music

Christmas Music

What songs did your family listen to during Christmas? Did you ever go caroling? Did you have a favorite song?

Growing up, my family listened to traditional and church music for the Christmas season.  There's usually a radio station or two around that switch to an all-Christmas format for the season.  By preference, I tended to like the novelty songs, like I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas, or the Chipmunks Song.  I still like those.

As I got a little older and developed my own tastes in music, I came to like some more contemporary Christmas music, such as the Mannheim Steamroller offerings, and Amy Grant and the Oak Ridge Boys.  Now, I'm not ever a fan of country music, but for some reason, the Oak Ridge Boys have a couple of albums I can handle.  Mannheim Steamroller I actually saw in concert for their Christmas 1986 tour, where they played many of the songs on their first Christmas album.  That disc was the first CD I ever purchased.

This is not to say I don't like the traditional renditions.  I like hearing Bing singing White Christmas as much as the next guy.  But for my preference, I'll start with Mannhein Steamroller or Trans Siberian Orchestra.

The odd thing is, by the time I remember to throw some music in the players, it's almost too late.  I have yet to put in an album this year!

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 20 - Religious Services

Religious Services

Did your family attend religious services during the Christmas season? What were the customs and traditions involved?

My family did attend some sort of church service as a rule, if they were held.  Sometimes they were on Christmas Eve, sometimes Christmas Day.  I don't remember it being a Midnight Mass kind of thing, more of an early evening time.  Not being Catholic, it wouldn't have been a Mass, anyway.

As I don't currently have a church home, I tend to not go to Christmas services.  It would feel wrong to just go for Christmas an Easter.  If you're going to go, I feel you should go regularly.  I do try to spend some time reflecting on the reason for the season, reading the Nativity story, etc.  Just because I don't go, doesn't mean I don't believe.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 19 - Christmas Shopping

Christmas Shopping

How did your family handle Christmas Shopping? Did anyone finish early or did anyone start on Christmas Eve?

When I was a kid, my parents did their Christmas shopping fairly early - no last minute rush, or only one or two items left for late.  In fact, the early shopping was a problem more than once, as we kids either peeked, or inadvertently discovered a hiding place.  

These days, my wife does more of the shopping, and it can start as early as September, and can go as late as Dec. 24th.  Any shopping I do is concentrated at online sources.  And as my kids follow in my tech/gadget freak footsteps, more of the shopping seems to be done this way, as the best deals on that sort of gifts are almost always online.  As a rule, I refuse to set foot in the mall anytime after Thanksgiving, although it has happened on a couple of occasions.  It's also rare for me to visit any retail establishments, though not as rare as a visit to the mall.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 18 - Christmas Stockings

Christmas Stockings

Did you have one? Where did you hang it? What did you get in it?

I'm sure we did have them as kids, though I don't remember what mine looked like.  We got the usual kinds of things - candy, small toys or other trinkets.  We didn't have a bannister or a hearth, so we hung them on a short section of wall between the living room and kitchen.

When I started dating the girl who would become my wife, I was gifted with a stocking made by her great aunt Sally.  It's a hand-knitted heirloom quality stocking, and all of her family has them.  This is mine in the photo.  I still have it, it gets hung up every year, on the bannister I have in my current house.  My wife's gets hung there as well, and all of my kids.  Each got their stocking in turn, and as they move out, they will take them along. 

We also get the usual sorts of things in them - candy and small toys or other useful gifts.  One unusual tradition we've started and maintained is to also include a can of silly string in each one.  Then, on Christmas morning, we each empty our stockings and have a massive silly string fight in the living room.  It's great fun, but really kind of a pain to clean up, as the silly string goes everywhere, and gets into everything.  We sometimes find bits of it weeks later!

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Genealogy Oriented Gifts

It's Saturday Night, and time once again for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!

Are you done Christmas shopping yet?  Put the wrapping paper down, and step up to your keyboard.  It's Saturday Night, and time for some Genealogy Fun!!

Rev up the olde thynking cap and cue up the Mission Impossible music - your mission should you decide to accept it - keeping with the Christmas theme - is:

1) Pick out a genealogy-oriented gift for someone you know, admire, appreciate or love. It could be for a family member, someone in the genealogy community, or a friend or colleague. Describe your genealogy gift to them? [Note: you don't have to actually gift them, although it would be a nice thing to do!]

2) Tell us about it in a blog post on your own blog, in a comment to this blog post, or in a comment on Facebook or Google Plus.

 Randy chose to gift the Spirit of Genealogy to his recipient.  I think almost every genealogy nut would choose the same!  We'd all like to have someone we can pass our research and data to when we're gone.  We'd all like some help with the research while we're still here! 

But duplicating his choice would be too easy...  So, I would choose to gift to my parents, each and separately, a well-produced volume of family history and genealogy data for their lines. 

My father's mother is the one who gave me the genealogy bug.  Her patrilineal line is well documented in a book published back in the early part of the 20th century.  Her matrilineal side is not as well documented, but still fairly well fleshed out.  My father's father's line is a different story.  I've broken several brick walls in it, but I'd really like to get it better documented and cited.

My mother's side is altogether different.  Due to a number of factors, the documentation on her lines is sparse.  Some of the family was moving fairly often, and things like documentation and photographs get lost in moves.  Some were just too busy living to keep records and such.  I still have a number of brick walls on that side.

But if we're talking what would I like to give, that would be a great choice!

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Holiday Events

Week #51 – Holiday Events

Week 51. Holiday Events. Where did your family gather for the Christmas or Hanukkah as a child? Which family members and friends attended the event?
This challenge runs from Saturday, December 17, 2011 through Friday, December 23, 2011.

 Wow, can you believe we're already at week #51?! 

My family mostly stayed at home for the holidays.  We mostly gathered at the house, which was small, so it was a good thing our family wasn't large.  I have only two brothers, both younger than me, so it was just five of us (and the dog).  We did go to my paternal grandparents' house in Yankton, South Dakota, for Christmas a couple of times, I think only before my youngest brother was born.  Their house wasn't much bigger, but it was neater with just my grandparents living there, so it felt roomier.

Once we started finding girlfriends, things got a bit more crowded at home, but it never got overcrowded until all of us boys got married and started having kids.  Now, it's hard to do, with the five of us, plus my three kids, plus my brother's seven kids.  That house really isn't set up for that many people, especially when half of them are rambunctious youngsters.

I do recall having a couple of holidays at a nearby hotel, but I think those might have been Thanksgivings. 

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

My Rooted Technology Meme

If you want to join in the fun and show off your own tech cred, here are the rules for the My Rooted Technology meme:
  • Technology you already use: bold face type
  • Technology you would like to use or learn more about: italicize (color optional)
  • Technology you don’t use, have no interest in using or no longer use: plain type
  • Explain or give opinions in brackets [     ] at the end of each bullet point
  1. I have a tablet computer such as an iPad that I use for genealogy [Not currently, but like most technology professionals, I'm a bit of a gadget freak, and this will eventually happen.]
  2. I have downloaded one or more apps to a Smart Phone or similar device.
  3. I belong to a genealogy society that uses social media. [Despite the recommendation of many genealogy bloggers, I currently have little to no interest in joining a society.].
  4. I use GEDCOM files and understand the various compatibility issues involved.
  5. I have added metadata to some of my files and digital photos.
  6. I have utilized an API from a genealogy-related application or website.
  7. I have taken a DNA test related to my genealogy research.
  8. I have used the FamilySearch Research Wiki. [A little, and not very recently.]
  9. I have a Facebook account and use it regularly for genealogy. [I have one, but use it only lightly for genealogy.]
  10. I use tech tools to help me cite my sources in genealogy research.
  11. I have developed a genealogy-related app for a Smart Phone or similar device.
  12. I use a genealogy database program (Family Tree Maker, Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic etc.) [I own current copies of MyHeritage Family Tree Builder, Legacy 7.5 and RootsMagic 5.]
  13. I use cloud computer resources to store my genealogy data. [In the Cloud is Out of my Control! Cloud is bad, despite all of the hype.]
  14. I have made one or more contributions to the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
  15. I have attended a genealogy webinar.
  16. I have organized and administered a DNA testing group related to my genealogy. [There is already one organized by someone else.]
  17. I use apps involving GPS and Geo-caching for my genealogy research. [Trying to, anyway! Many cemeteries are out of cell reception range, and that can be a problem for these apps.]
  18. I have a Google+ account and use it regularly for genealogy. [Have one, many of my G+ contacts are genealogy folk, but I haven't worked it very hard.]
  19. I have created and published a family history e-book. 
  20. I have create a wiki related to my genealogy research.
  21. I have conducted a genealogy webinar as a presenter. 
  22. I read genealogy-related blogs to help improve my own research.
  23. I have one or more genealogy-related blogs to help improve my own research.
  24. I have a Twitter account and use it regularly for genealogy. [Have one, yes, use it much? No.]
  25. I have one or more genealogy-related websites which I run and administer. [Assuming this does NOT include blogs, which were covered above.]
  26. I have created a screencast or video related to genealogy and posted it at a video sharing site (Vimeo, YouTube, etc.). 
  27. I use one or more digital tools to capture and record my family history. [I'd be paperless if I could figure a way to make it happen.]

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 16th, Christmas at School

December 16 – Christmas at School
What did you or your ancestors do to celebrate Christmas at school? Were you ever in a Christmas Pageant?

I don't recall any pageants, as such, no major over-arching production.  However, there was always some sort of Christmas Concert, whether it was the kids singing in earlier years, or for Band or Choir or Orchestra for later years.  Of course, family would be invited, and cookies served, and we often did some sort of skit or other.

Lately, everything seems to be "holidays" themed, and not Christmas.  Especially here, as we've had one of the larger immigrant populations of Somalis in the United States grow up within the last few years.  I can see where school administrators would have problems forcing one holiday over others, but I think making it generic hurts all of them.  They like to celebrate diversity, or so they say, so why not celebrate all of the holidays by having those who follow them do what they do for their particular holiday?

I must be getting cantankerous in my old age...

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 15th, Holiday Happenings!

December 15 – The Holiday Happenings!
Often times December to mid-January birthdays and anniversaries get over shadowed by the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year holidays. So we’re going to shine a spotlight on those family members and ancestors this time around. Select one or more December to mid-January birthdays and/or anniversaries on your family tree. Write a short tribute to or memory of those birthday guys and gals and write a toast to the anniversary couples.

As I go through my tree I see quite a few people with birthdays and even some anniversaries during the December - January time frame.  One of my kids falls into that, with a December birthday.  I also have a friend whose birthday is ON Christmas Day.  A new baby might be a neat Christmas surprise for a family, but I've gotta think it's a lousy day to have a birthday, growing up.  Never at school to bring treats and have a party, always overshadowed by the holiday itself.  Only one special gift day every year, rather than two, even if you might get extra gifts on that day.

For my son we do go out of the way to make an extra celebration for his birthday, and don't let it get blended into the holidays.  He's always had a separate birthday party with guests and cake and people visiting.

So, to my middle child, a toast!  You are special!  We remember your birthday, and refuse to let it get lost in the shuffle.  May you always have friends and family who share your special day with you.  Your patience is rewarded with a double-whammy of good times at the end of the year. 

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 14th, Fruitcake - Friend or Foe?

December 14 – Fruitcake – Friend or Foe?
Did you like fruitcake? Did your family receive fruitcakes? Have you ever re-gifted fruitcake? Have you ever devised creative uses for fruitcake?

I've never seen what all of the hoopla is about fruitcakes.  Either pro or con.  I've seen some of them, and even had a little bit at times.  I don't recall being either thrilled with them or disgusted by them.  I believe I mentioned in an earlier Advent post that I'm not real big on baked desserts, and I guess fruitcake fits into that. Different people have different recipes, and I can see where some might be better or worse than others.

I've never gifted a fruitcake to anyone, nor been given one as a gift, although I'm pretty sure my family got one on at least one occasion.  I'm not sure if it was a "gift" or just given to us.  I would never re-gift one if I got one.

I think I'm too young for this particular craze, as I don't remember it being a thing later in my life, and mostly older people talk and joke about them.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 13th, Holiday Travel

December 13 – Holiday Travel
Did you or your ancestors travel anywhere for Christmas? How did you travel and who traveled with you? Do you remember any special trips?

Living in Minnesota, it's always chancy traveling during the winter months.  Snow and ice can be treacherous for driving, and the cold is dangerous if your car breaks down.  As I was growing up, flying was an unaffordable luxury for my family, so most years we stayed home.  I do remember on a few occasions going to my grandparents' house in Yankton, South Dakota.  That was about a four hour drive. 

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Monday, December 12, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 12, Charitable Work

December 12 – Charitable/Volunteer Work
Did your family ever volunteer with a charity such as a soup kitchen, homeless or battered women’s shelter during the holidays? Or perhaps were your ancestors involved with church groups that assisted others during the holiday?

I don't recall my family doing anything like charitable or volunteer work.  They would help out at church for the annual party, but nothing like soup kitchens or even ringing bells for the Salvation Army.  Some years we were poor enough we might have been on the receiving end of the charity, had we been the sort to ask.

The last few years, I've spent a day working with my wife helping Catholic Charities hand out gifts for families in need in this area in their Share the Spirit event.  It's most of a day of loading shopping carts with pre-selected, wrapped gifts for each family that has applied and comes to pick them up, pushing the carts out to their cars and helping them load the packages in.  We get lots of thanks and smiles from families who otherwise might have little to nothing in the way of presents.  The last couple of years, I was unemployed and just gave my time; this year I've actually had to take a day of vacation to participate, but I consider it to be well worthwhile.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 11, Other Traditions

December 11 – Other Traditions
Did your family or friends also celebrate other traditions during the holidays such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa?  Did your immigrant ancestors have holiday traditions from their native country which they retained or perhaps abandoned?

I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household, so there were no other traditions.  In fact, every year, we read the nativity story from the Bible before we opened gifts.  We also went to a church service many years.  I'm interested in the Hanukkah tradition out of curiosity, but have  no interest in Kwanzaa whatsoever.

As for my ancestors, they left me no information about their traditions and feelings about the Christmas holiday.  I have to reply on literature of their times to try to get some idea of how they might have celebrated.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 10, Christmas Gifts

December 10 – Christmas Gifts
What were your favorite gifts, both to receive and to give? Are there specific gift-giving traditions among your family or ancestors?

I don't recall having a favorite gift in either direction.  My philosophy on gifts is that it should be something the person wants, not necessarily something they need.  This means a vacuum cleaner is probably not a gift, but a snowblower might be.  A razor is probably not a gift, but a scanner or tablet computer might be.  An exception to this rule might be for wedding gifts, where the gift is probably best if it's both a want and a need.

My in-laws have a tradition where a random gift will show up with someone's name on it from "The Elf".  It might be a gag gift, and in fact often is, but it's usually something that is also useful or decorative.  The trick is, then, to try to guess who The Elf is.  Not everyone gets a gift from The Elf, usually only one or two per year are found. 

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 8, Christmas Cookies

December 8 – Christmas Cookies
Did your family or ancestors make Christmas Cookies? How did you help? Did you have a favorite cookie?

Everyone seems to love their Christmas cookies.  Except me.  Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I really generally only like chocolate chip cookies, and then only on occasion.  The annual flood of Christmas cookies just doesn't appeal greatly to me.  I might have one or two over the season, but more than that would be very unusual.

I remember making them when I was young.  We did the cutting out and baking, my mother had a set of Chirstmas cookie cutters.  That much was fun, as a kid.  Decorating and frosting them was also good. 

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 7, Holiday Parties

December 7 – Holiday Parties
Did your family throw a holiday party each year? Do you remember attending any holiday parties?

My family was never big on throwing parties.  We might attend a church party at Christmas time, but that was usually it.  I do remember a couple of occasions when we attended other Christmas parties, but that was not the norm as I recall.  
Even now, I'm not one to attend a lot of parties for any reason.  I'd rather have a small family gathering or a group of friends for an informal visit than a formal party.  I'm definitely an introvert that way.


This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 6, Santa Claus

December 6 – Santa Claus
Did you ever send a letter to Santa? Did you ever visit Santa and “make a list?” Do you still believe in Santa Claus?

I don't recall ever believing in Santa Claus.  Not only that, I was a very curious child who never wanted to wait for the surprise on Christmas morning, and got in trouble more than once for peeking.  I'm sure my parents took me to visit mall Santas or similar when I was quite young, but I don't remember ever wanting it on my own behalf.  Likewise, if I ever made a list for "Santa", I must have been very young.

In fact, had it been up to me, I would never have done the Santa thing with my own kids.  I find the whole thing to be contrary to the real reason for the holiday, and an intentional deception to my kids.  In the end, I chose to not fight that battle, and just kept my mouth shut.  I still regret that on occasion.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 5, Outdoor Decorations

December 5 – Outdoor Decorations
Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights? Did some people really go “all out” when decorating? Any stories involving your ancestors and decorations?

Some of the neighborhood folks put up some lights, and we did a little bit of that.  But no one in our neighborhood was a "Griswold" (referring to a movie called National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase, in which he goes hog wild overdecorating his house.)  Mostly it was a few strings of lights.  There were other neighborhoods that were known for their displays, and we would drive around and look at them each year.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Christmas Wish List

 Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings has another SNGF challenge, for which I am again late to the party.  Well, as they say, better late than never!
Come on, everybody, join in and accept the mission and execute it with precision. Here's your chance to sit on Genea-Santa's lap (virtually) and tell him your Christmas genealogy-oriented dreams:

1) Write your Genea-Santa letter. Have you been a good genealogy girl or boy? What genealogy-oriented items are on your Christmas wish list? They could be family history items, technology items, or things that you want to pursue your ancestral quest.

2) Tell us about them in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook status or Google Stream post.

As anyone in my family can attest, I've never been big on the whole Santa Claus mythos.  That said, I still like Christmas gifts as much as the next person!  I think I've been a pretty good genealogy boy.  My goal has been to better document my tree with source material, preferably properly cited.  This is the part of genealogy, in my opinion, that makes it hard.  Anyone can collect a string of names and dates, but proving them correct and citing your evidence is akin to working on a college thesis!

I have a few items for my wish list, and reasons why those things made my list:
  • Flip-pal Scanner - For obvious reasons, a portable scanner would be handy in all sorts of genealogy field trip ways!  Plus, as a technical sort, it appeals to the gadget freak in me.
  • subscription - I've never had one.  That's right, I've been doing genealogy since about 1992, and never had one.  I've taken advantage of their occasional freebie weeks, but that's it.  I've always thought them overpriced.  I still do, but it would be nice to have access to all of those digitized sources.
  • Evidence Explained - This ties in with my goal above of properly documenting and citing my tree.  This is THE book that is the agreed-upon standard of how we want to do this in the genealogical community.
  • An elf to help me break my McMurry wall - all roads end in Arkansas about 1870.  Family rumors hint at some sort of family schism, probably during the Civil War, with this line breaking off from the rest of the family.  I'm having great difficulty finding any solid documentation.  Maybe Ancestry will have something more?
Did you make out your list?  What was on it? Why those things?

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Advent Calendar - December 4, Christmas Cards

December 4 – Christmas Cards
Did your family send cards? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards? Do you have any cards from your ancestors?

My family sent and received Christmas cards from various friends and family members for a long time.  My grandmother was a great one for any sort of correspondence.  I don't know if I still have a card from her or not, but I'm pretty sure I have a letter from her on holiday stationery.  The cards we sent were generally store-bought greeting cards.  We displayed cards we received about as long as we kept the decorations us.

I haven't sent any cards in a number of years.  I never was very good at that sort of thing, being more inclined toward electronic communications, and not for particular occasions.  I did try to take up that practice, and sent cards to people for about three years, but it just didn't catch on with me.  About the time I started to get people sending them back, I fell out of the habit.  I just don't have the time, the inclination or the legible handwriting to do those, and people seem to frown on anything that doesn't have at least some hand-written stuff as being too impersonal.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Historical Events

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History by Amy Coffin is a series of weekly blogging prompts (one for each week of 2011) that invite genealogists and others to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants. You do not have to be a blogger to participate. If you do not have a genealogy blog, write down your memories on your computer, or simply record them on paper and keep them with your files.
  • Week 49. Historical Events. Describe a memorable national historical event from your childhood. How old were you and how did you process this event? How did it affect your family?

The hard part of this will be for me to pick just one event.  I'm young enough to have missed John F. Kennedy's assassination, just young enough I don't remember Robert Kennedy's assassination either.  I do vaguely recall Richard Nixon resigning and flying off in a helicopter.  I would have been about 8 years old.  I vaguely recall thinking it was a good thing he was resigning, but I'm not sure I had a real good understanding of why it was happening.  I do remember Watergate being in the news a lot, and thinking Watergate was an odd name.  I don't remember there being any direct effect on my family, though my parents didn't really talk about politics with me at the time.

More of my remembrances deal with the space program.  I remember some of the later lunar landings in the Apollo program, and I remember Skylab being manned.  I was about 9 years old at that time.  And I also remember it falling back to Earth.  I really remember the Viking probes landing on Mars, and the full-color supplements in the newspaper with color pictures from the Red Planet.  I was 10 years old when they landed.  I remember the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission with the Russians, and the special docking module they had to use to join the spacecraft.  It was a major milestone, being done during the Soviet era, between two normally competing space programs.  When I was this age, I really planned on a career as an astronaut.  I don't think my parents cared one way or another about anything in the space program, but it was quite important to me.  Later, I remember being shocked by the Challenger tragedy, and still later by the loss of Columbia.  Fourteen astronauts died in those two accidents.

I remember the hostage crisis in Iran, and how every day the Days counter on the news programs would increment by one.  I remember it dragging on and on, and finally coming to an end after Ronald Reagan got elected President.  Was Iran afraid of what President Reagan was going to do to them if they didn't release our people, or was the timing coincidental? 

I remember hearing about the terrorist bombing of US Marines barracks in Lebanon.  

I remember the first gulf war, Operation Desert Shield, later Operation Desert Storm.  I remember this one very well, because I was on active duty at the time in the US Navy.  In fact, I was in VF-32, a squadron of F-14 fighter jets assigned to USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), and our battle group was the one tagged to go over first.  At that time, I was preparing to transfer to shore duty, and I wasn't sure if they would drag me overseas and send me back at some later time, or if they would leave me behind to transfer on time.  It ended up the latter.  I transferred to the Photo Lab on the base I lived near about a month after the squadron left for the Gulf.  That month I spent standing watches in an empty hangar full of the files and equipment they hadn't taken along, cleaning and basically just waiting for my transfer.  I remember watching on CNN as the reporters filmed and described the night time attacks with tracer fire looking like fireworks.  I was glad I wasn't over there, as we had no idea of Saddam Hussein's capabilities and whether we would have been in danger (turns out the ship was safe enough), but was concerned for the well-being of my former squadron mates.

A bit later, I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I was about 23 when it happened, and I remember being stunned that it actually happened, and watching people on CNN with sledgehammers breaking down parts of it.  Of course, any time prior to this, people would have been shot for doing that.  I remember when the Soviet Union collapsed, with a similar sense that it wasn't real somehow, that we would always have our communist rivals. 

I remember again watching CNN as a white Ford Bronco made its way slowly down an abandoned freeway followed by a lot of police cars as O.J. Simpson ran from them.  I remember watching more of his trial as well.  CNN figures prominently in my memories, as it seems I caught a number of major events as they happened that way.

As I watch world events today, I wonder which ones we will remember in years to come as being the major, pivotal events that changed history.  Will the Occupy movement make a real difference?  Will Iran get nuclear power, or weapons?  Will they use them if they do?  Will we ever finish the War on Terror?  The War on Drugs?  Any of the other "wars" we're fighting?  Will our leaders manage to fix our country and economy before we go down the tubes?  Will global warming actually come about, or will we do something to mitigate it?  The problem with historical events is that by the time you realize what events were really important, and what effects they had, you're past where that knowledge can be of any real use to you.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 3, Christmas Tree Ornaments

December 3 – Christmas Tree Ornaments
Did your family have heirloom or cherished ornaments? Did you ever string popcorn and cranberries? Did your family or ancestors make Christmas ornaments?

We had a number of ornaments that had been around forever, from my point of view, but I don't recall any that were handed down as heirlooms.  There were some that we made sure got on the tree every year, and some that didn't always get used.  I remember occasions when we did string popcorn, or cheerios, but not cranberries.  I don't know why we never did cranberries.  And the strings usually got pretty beat up, resulting in a mess, so we didn't usually do those in consecutive years.

We didn't make ornaments as a rule, although there were always the ones we kids made at school and church that got put on the trees.  Some of those lasted a number of years before falling apart.  

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 2, Holiday Foods

December 2 – Holiday Foods
Did your family or ancestors serve traditional dishes for the holidays? Was there one dish that was unusual?

My brothers and I were rather picky eaters, and I was quite stubborn about what I would eat.   On more than one occasion, I outlasted my mother's willpower in refusing to eat things I didn't want.  For that reason, we had a fairly limited repertoire of foods that we had on a regular basis. 

I really don't remember if we had a particular meal every Christmas.  I know we had turkey dinners more than once, and probably beef roast or ham other years.  Usually that was accompanied by mashed potatoes or white rice, gravy, corn and bread or buns of some sort.  On several occasions, there was also stuffing and sweet potatoes and such, which I never paid attention to, as I did not like those. There were usually cookies and pie for desserts.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 1, The Christmas Tree

December 1 – The Christmas Tree
Did you have a real tree or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree? What types of Christmas trees did your ancestors have?

We usually had an artificial tree, although I seem to remember having a real tree on more than one occasion.  They were all about 5-6 feet tall, since our house was small and had fairly low ceilings.  We all decorated as a family.  Decorations consisted of numerous glass ball ornaments (fewer each year, as one or more would inadvertently get broken over the season), other miscellaneous ornaments, garland (usually tinselly or other sparkly material, not the pine-looking stuff), and lights.  We sometimes had strings of popcorn, but not every year.

When I was young, the strings of lights had the larger, hot incandescent bulbs that you had to be careful not to touch after they'd been on any length of time.  Later, it became the smaller incandescent bulbs that were cooler, but if one blew out, the whole string died and you had to hunt for which one was dead by replacing one bulb at a time until the string lit up again.

The only ancestors I recall spending Christmas with were my paternal grandparents, Estel and Alta Dillman.  We went to their house in Yankton, South Dakota.  I don't recall for sure if their tree was real or artificial, but my memory says "real".  I don't have any idea what other ancestors did for their decorations.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman