Winter Project Idea: Researching Your Family Tree

Today’s blog post comes to us from Bill, head of Adult Services.

Have you ever thought about tracing your family history? Family members will likely have some of the answers to get that family tree started, but after that, where do you go to find out more?

 

 

CPL offers access within the library to two family history research resources – Ancestry Library Edition and American Ancestors. Discover your roots at the library!  Begin exploring by searching a surname.  It’s as easy as that.  Anyone can come to the library to search through databases that contain more than a billion names – some that reach as far back as the 1400s.  Ancestry Library Edition is the library equivalent to Ancestry.com.  American Ancestors is the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.  Established in 1845, it features a wealth of data about New England and New York.

To get the most out of your experience, come prepared with a list of ancestors to research.  Make a list of the names of every direct ancestor you can think of.  Census data, birth, marriage, and death records, military records, Social Security death records, and immigration lists are all available for searching.  These records provide clues to the past – places where ancestors lived, names of relatives, birth or death dates – that lead to more information.

You may also find these websites helpful:

 Principles of Family History Research

Getting Started: Tips to Help You on Your Way

Unlocking the mystery to your own family history is a rewarding experience that challenges your research skills and results in answers that have personal meaning.  The pieces of your family puzzle can create a full picture of your family’s story.

 

Call the library’s Reference Department at 203-272-2245, ext. 4, with any questions.

Myth-ing Persons : Heroes of Myth and Legend

January began as one of the last months of year, not the first.  The start of the Roman calendar (and the astrological one) was March. Back then there were only ten months to the year, totaling 304 days. Between was a miasmic 66 monthless days of “winter.” According to legend, Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome (after Romulus himself), added January and February to codify that winter term (along with a catch-up month every other year of 22 days).

Was Numa a real figure? History leans toward yes, born around 753 BC. Both Plutarch and Livy (major Roman writers) wrote about him. He codified Roman laws and religion, so we know he actually lived, but like many legends, there are stories about him that are most likely fable.

Every culture has their grandiose heroes of myth and legend. Some we know are fantasy (Beowulf), while others we know are fact (Jesse James). Let’s look at some famous heroes that history can’t make up its mind about.

Mulan

Disney’s Mulan is based on a Chinese poem called The Ballad of Mulan. She is believed to have lived somewhere between 386 CE and 620 CE (if you’re not up on your history, Common Era has replaced the Anno Domini). She takes her aging father’s place in the army, and serves for twelve years without her fellow soldiers realizing she’s a woman. Depending on the source, her name might be Hua Mulan, Zhu Mulan, or Wei Mulan. Although she’s first mentioned by the 500’s, historians can’t decide if she’s real or just an interesting story.

 

 

 

 

John Henry

The steel-driving African American of song fame who managed to hammer more rock than the new-fangled steam drill before collapsing and dying was likely a real man. In the 1920’s, sociologist Guy Johnson tracked down not only people who claimed to have worked with John Henry, but one man who claimed to have seen the showdown. The front runner for the actual location is during the cutting of the Big Bend Tunnel in Talcott, West Virginia, around 1870, but no one has definitive proof.

 

 

 

 

William Tell

A folk hero of Switzerland, Tell was an expert bowman. When Switzerland fell under control of the Habsburgs, a magistrate put his hat on a pole and demanded all citizens bow before it, or be imprisoned. While in town with his son, Tell refused to bow, was arrested and sentenced to death – though, since he was such a marksman, the Magistrate would let him go if he could shoot an apple off his son’s head. Tell did so, was arrested anyway, escaped, and the people rose up in rebellion, in an act considered the founding of the Swiss Confederacy, around 1307. Some historians believe Tell is merely a new twist on an old Danish fable.

Robin Hood

     The story of Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Prince John, King Richard, and the Band of Merrymen has been told for almost a thousand years. We know King Richard and Prince John are real (Richard took the throne in 1189), but there is debate about Robin Hood. Most likely a yeoman, not a noble, the name Robin was about as common as fleas, and the word Hood (sometimes Wood; the Old English were creative spellers) simply meant a man who made or wore hoods – more common then than hats. History’s been singing about him since the 1300’s, but his true identity isn’t known. If you can, check out the BBC series Robin of Sherwood.

 

 

 

 

 

King Arthur

Oh, Arthur! How we want to believe! Of all legends, yours is perhaps the most influential of any! Your mage Merlin/Myrrdin is the direct ancestor of Gandalf, Dungeons and Dragons, Dumbledore, and more.  “Arthur” (depending on spelling) is believed to have actually been a military leader who fought battles against the Saxons around the end of the 5th century. The earliest possible references to him date to the 600’s, though some discuss a Battle of Badon but give no mention of a king named Arthur.  Geoffrey of Monmouth was the first to give a romanticized version in the 1100’s, then Thomas Malory came along in the 1400’s and standardized the legend. T.H. White called him the Once and Future King, and Lerner and Loewe put it all to music so we could remember it easier. Arthur was probably real, but not quite as mystical as we’ve been made to believe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January’s a harsh month, but 31 days is sure better than 66, so curl up with a legendary figure, real or possibly not, and decide for yourself.

 

5 Legit Ways to Download Free eBooks & Audiobooks

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a reader in possession of a good book, must be in want of another good book. And books are expensive to buy, especially if you burn through them quickly like many of us do. So how can you (legally) keep yourself in reading material without spending a crazy amount of money?

Well, since this is a Library Blog, the #1 answer is obvious: use your public library card! But there are even more ways to get your hands (eyes) on free reading material. In this blog post I’m going to focus on downloadables (ebooks and audiobooks), and ways to legitimately get your electronic reading devices chock full of free stuff.  So many freebies, it’s easy to make “read more” one of your New Year’s resolutions. Thrifty readers rejoice!

1. Use Your Library’s Digital Collection. Free stuff is what libraries all about, and most have at least one e-book borrowing platform that their cardholders can access. At CPL, we have 3 (because we’re awesome like that): OverDrive, RBdigital, and hoopla. Each platform has slightly different borrowing rules, and a different collection of ebooks & audiobooks to choose from.  All you need is a library card and you can start downloading tons of free titles tonight!

2. Check out Open Library and Librivox.  Open Library features hundreds of thousands of scanned books, courtesy of the Internet Archive, offering classic literature, out-of-copyright, public domain works, and many modern titles.  eBooks can either be read page-by-page in a browser (requiring an internet connection), or downloaded to your device and read via the Overdrive Media Console app or a PDF reader. Librivox audiobooks are public domain works read by volunteers from all over the world. They are free for anyone to listen to on a computer, mobile device, or even to burn onto CDs.

3. Become a Reviewer with NetGalley and Edelweiss. Netgalley and Edelweiss  make digital ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of upcoming books available in exchange for honest reviews. In order to gain access to their catalogs of available ebooks, you may be expected to publish regular reviews of what you read, but hey, that’s a small price to pay for free advance copies of books!

4. Promotional Offers & Sales from Major Retailers. Retail sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Google Play all offer free ebooks,  some are permanent freebies and some are for a limited time.  There’s lots of fiction and non-fiction titles, everything from new authors looking to get a sales boost, to established authors promoting their backlists. Check these sites regularly to grab some great deals.

5. And Speaking of Amazon…  Did you know Amazon Prime members have access to a bunch of free ebooks and audiobooks? If you’ve got Prime membership, you can take advantage of a lot of freebies through their Prime Reading program. Most are Kindle ebooks, but there are some audiobooks available through Audible.com, too,  including lots of podcasts from Audible Channels.

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in January

The new year is right around the corner! Start 2019 off right with educational and entertaining programs from Cheshire Library! Here are a few to tempt you:

Scrabble Evenings

Tuesdays (Jan 8, 15, 22, and 29), 6:00 – 8:00PM

The perfect winter pastime – bring your friends & family and join your community in a game of Scrabble every Tuesday night in January. Please bring your up-to-date library card to check out a game board at the Checkout Desk, them meet your fellow players on the newly renovated Upper Level. No registration required.

Bad Art Night

Thursday, January 10, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00PM

Bad Art Night is back! At this laid-back, fun event we encourage you to make the worst piece of art that you can. Bad art and craft supplies will be provided, but you can also bring your own. This even is for adults, because why should kids get to have all the fun? Come join us and have a few laughs while you’re at it! Registration is required.

Survivors Swing Band Concert

Sunday, January 13, 2019, 2:00 – 3:30PM

The Survivors Swing Band are a Connecticut-based 7-piece professional jazz band that play the hot tunes and soothing ballads from the fabulous era of Swing plus many of the wonderful melodies from the two decades that followed. Bring your dancing shoes!

Meditation: a 3-Part Program

Wednesdays, (January 16, 23, and 30), 6:30 – 8:00PM

This is a three week meditation training led by Sue Maisano. It is advisable to stay committed to complete all three parts, because each training session builds upon the previous session. This workshop meets three times: each class builds on the previous ones, it is recommended that you register for all three sessions: January 16, January 23, January 30.

Teen Drop-in Programs:

Anime Club : Friday, January 4, 2019, 3:00 – 4:30PM

Can’t get enough Anime and Manga? Be an “Otaku” and join the Cheshire Anime Club! We’ll meet monthly, read and talk about what’s hot in the world of Manga, and watch some of the latest Anime releases on the big screen! Grades 7 -12.

Yu-Gi-Oh: It’s Time to Duel! : Friday, January 25, 2019, 3:00 – 4:30PM

A Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game tournament here at CPL!   Just bring your cards, and join in the fun!  Grades 7-12.

Abraham Lincoln: the Life of an American President

Thursday, January 17, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00PM

Born in a log cabin, he rose through self-education to the highest office in the land. However, he was considered by many to lack the qualifications needed for the intellectual and political demands of his position. This program will explore the life and personality of this powerful but surprisingly enigmatic figure in our history, including his childhood, professional career and political ambitions. Registration is required.

Documentary Film: The White House Inside Story

Thursday, January 24, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00PM

Celebrate the 200-year history of the White House through the stories of the First Families who have called it home, and through the recollections of workers, historians and members of the press who have spent time within the illustrious building. Registration is appreciated for this adult program.

U.S. Coast Guard Dixieland Jazz Band Concert

Sunday, January 27, 2019, 2:00 – 4:00PM

The United States Coast Guard Dixieland Jazz Band will be performing classic jazz, blues, and rags with a “New Orleans” flavor. The Dixieland Jazz Band has entertained audiences across America, and around the world. Please join us for a very special concert!

UPDATE: The band will not be able to perform if the U.S. government is still in shutdown on January 27. Please check the CPL Event Calendar before the event to see if the concert has been cancelled.

The Geography of Coffee

Monday, January 28, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00PM

This talk will discuss the role of geography in understanding production, movement, and consumption of coffee around the world. Which countries are coffee powerhouses and why? What is the role of sustainability in coffee production? Why was it considered the “devil’s drink” for so long? We will include a tasting and food pairing from three different coffee growing regions of the world. Registration is required.

An Evening with First Lady Dolley Madison

Thursday, January 31, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00PM

“Mrs. Madison” will speak about the founding of our nation,  her husband James Madison’s role as the Father of the American Constitution, and events of the early Republic. Registration is required.

 

 

“Welcome to Marwen” and the power of art therapy

Welcome to Marwen is a film due out on December 21 starring Steve Carell (though, honestly, Jeremy Renner would have been a dead ringer). At first glance it looks like a weird film about a man playing with dolls, but don’t be fooled by that. Marwen is so, so much more than live action mixed with fantasy. It’s a story of loss, recovery, and overcoming disability. And it’s a true story.

 

    A Life Lost

Mark Hogancamp was an artist and photographer, five years in the Navy, five years married, and an alcoholic. In April of 2000, he admitted to being a cross-dresser while drinking in a bar. When he left the bar, five men beat him so badly that he spent nine days in a coma, and forty days in the hospital relearning how to walk, talk, and behave. He had permanent memory loss of everything before the beating, and severe post-traumatic stress. His entire life before that night had been erased. Insurance cut off his therapy after a year, and he could not afford to continue on his own.

Healing Himself

    Instead, Hogancamp turned to fantasy art. Outside his home in New York State, he created Marwencol, a fantastically detailed Belgian town caught up in World War II, and populated it with excruciatingly detailed 1/6-scale figures (that’s Barbie-sized, if you don’t know. Before his injury, he’d painted miniature aircraft as a hobby, but now his hands shook too much) – including both himself and his attackers. In Marwencol, a safe place populated by women, grisly acts do occur (it’s WWII), but women are the heroes. Through the scenes he set up, Hogancamp worked out a lot of his rage and anger by “killing” his attackers over and over, his own form of therapy to deal with the loss of 38 years of memory and the disabilities he’d been left with. He can no longer draw, but he can use a camera, and his artistic photos of his figures caught the eye of the right people. They were published in an art journal, then on to a gallery show, and then a well-received documentary (Marwencol). In 2015, a book was released to critical acclaim (Welcome to Marwencol). Now, Robert Zemeckis has picked up the trail, and turned the story into a wider drama for the holiday season.

Life is Art; Art is Life

    Hogancamp’s photos are a child’s dream: proof that your dolls/action figures are having a rich life when you aren’t looking, a voyeuristic peek into a place where anyone can be the hero, the bad guys always lose, and Mom is there to save the day. His photos are eerie in their realism, down to pen-tip bullet holes and nail-polish blood, a dream gone creepy where department store mannequins have replaced people but you can’t always tell at first glance. Take a look at some of his works here, and if you like them, you can purchase some for yourself here.

    Severe head trauma is no laughing matter. Not everyone emerges from a coma, and fewer still survive them without some form of permanent disability. Trauma has been implicated in everything from brain cancers to seizures to murder, and the road to recovery is long, difficult, fractured, and rarely complete. We think of therapy as being Freudian, or using a walker down a hospital corridor, and dismiss art therapy as wasting time on a hobby, but to some, art therapy may be their very salvation. Hogancamp is still shy, plagued by anxiety and difficulties, his memories will never return, but he’s found his support, and that makes all the difference in the world.

    Check out the movie this Christmas, and read up on these other real-life survivors and their determination to pull themselves through the toughest of times. You might even be inspired to dabble in a little art therapy yourself.

Ghost Boy : The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Proof of Heaven : A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander

The Long Awakening : a Memoir  by Lindsey O’Connor

Overcoming Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-concussion Symptoms by Nigel S. King

The Mindfulness Coloring Book : Anti-stress Art Therapy for Busy People by Emma Farrarons