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.

 

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.

 

 

The Cheshire Newspaper Articles Collection (1756 – 1922)

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

Cheshire was a farming community for most of its history and from its settlement in 1694.  Until 1953, there was no long-established local newspaper.  As a result, today there is no ‘paper of record’ to consult for the day-to-day events that occurred in the distant past.  The Cheshire Newspaper Articles Collection was developed by the Cheshire Library in an effort to partially fill this archival gap.

The collection is drawn from various state and national newspaper sources that occasionally printed articles about Cheshire and its residents over the years.  Many articles are very brief or are legal notices that include residents’ names.  Other articles’ subjects include the Academy, Crime and Punishment, the Farmington Canal, Fires and Disasters, Railroads, the Reformatory, and Town events. Though the Cheshire Newspaper Articles Collection does not include all events that occurred in town, (and in some cases there are gaps of many years between articles), genealogists will find these articles valuable because they can place an ancestor in a location at a certain time. History lovers will be interested in learning about long forgotten episodes that took place in town.

The Collection consists of seven binders of newspaper articles.  The articles are located on the library’s Lower Level and are available for public use. You may access our online index to the Articles Collection on the CPL website.  Go to the eResources page and select Cheshire HistoryCopies of the articles may be requested by email through a form on the Cheshire History page.

Cheshire was originally know as “Ye Fresh Meadows”

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

 

Devil in the White City

NOTE: This post deals with a difficult subject matter, serial killers, so if you’re easily disturbed, you might not want to read any further.

A book kept passing through my hands and it seemed intriguing – psychopath, history, award-winning – probably good, and I read it at last. The Devil in the White City  by Erik Larson tells the true story of the great Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, a celebration of Columbus’s 400th anniversary of discovering the new world and an attempt to outdo the 1887 Paris World’s Fair, which amazed the world with the new Eiffel Tower, the tallest structure in the world. The fair covered more than 600 acres – almost six times the size of Disney’s Magic Kingdom – and attracted more than 27 million visitors in its 6 month-run (versus 20 million visitors to Magic Kingdom in 2016). It also chose Tesla’s AC electric current to power it because it was cheaper than Edison’s DC current, cementing the road for America’s future electrical grid.

Chicago was no charming city, known for stink (stockyards), grime (trains and soot), crimes and vice. And in this mix lurked a serial killer, H.H. Holmes. Holmes’s background was a perfect mix of known factors of psychopathic development – strict, cold, abusive parents with severe religious obsession. By the age of 6, Holmes liked to dismember animals, and by his teens was implicated in the death of a young boy but cleared due to the pitiful state of investigations. He fled to Chicago, where he became a con artist, bilking insurance companies, furniture companies, and drug supply stores. He also charmed single ladies, killed them, reduced them to skeletons, and sold them as medical supplies. He built an elaborate hotel nicknamed “The Castle,” complete with gas jets in the rooms, soundproof rooms, and a personal crematorium in his basement. When finally cornered for killing his long-time assistant, Holmes confessed to 29 killings, though only 9 could be proven, but his total might have been as high as 200. He was hung for his crimes. Leonardo DiCaprio bought the film rights to the book, and a film is in production with Martin Scorsese as director (it had a tentative 2017 date, but is still in process).

Serial killers – those that kill large numbers of victims over time – are rare as far as murder goes, but the extent of their crimes garners a lot of press. Connecticut has its own serial killer in Amy Archer Gilligan of Windsor, who killed as many as 48 of her nursing-home patients for insurance claims between 1885 and 1917. Some of the more notorious American serial killers include:

Jeffery Dahmer (1991), who killed (and ate) at least 16 young men and boys. Not a high count for a serial killer,  it was the cannibalism that made him famous. He was beaten to death in prison not long after his conviction. Some things scare even murderers.

John Wayne Gacy (1978), who dressed as a clown for kids’ birthday parties and killed more than 33 men.  Stephen King said “It” was fiction.

Charles Cullen (2003), convicted of 40 murders while he was a nurse, but possibly responsible for up to 400, making him the most prolific not only in New Jersey, but the USA. Carl Watts (1982) was also a nurse, convicted of six murders but possibly as many as 130.

Ted Bundy (1975), one of the most famous and perhaps sickest, who killed more than 30. He decapitated at least 12 victims and kept the heads in his apartment, and often performed sex acts on rotting corpses (I warned you). He was executed in Florida.

Gary Ridgeway (2001)  the “Green River Killer”, with 49 proven deaths, 71 confessions, with a probable total closer to 90.

Ed Gein (1957)– Gein was convicted of only two murders, but if you’re looking at psychopaths, Gein is King. Gein had a bizarre attachment to his mother (back to that cold/abuse/super-religious thing), and would go to graves and dig up women’s bodies, skin them, and save parts attempting to wear his mother. Gein was the inspiration for Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Silence of the Lambs. He was diagnosed as schizophrenic, incompetent, and died in a mental facility.

What predicts a serial killer? Most professionals look for early abuse, neglect, brutality, bullying, and mental illness. Animal cruelty, especially in young children, is a warning sign. Killers are often charismatic (Holmes, Bundy, Jim Jones, too) and manipulative, gaining friendship and trust.  Lack of empathy for their victims is  always present. Some do it for attention, especially media attention. One interesting point: 70% of serial killers had experienced significant head trauma as children; with what we now know about violence among football players and boxers who receive blows to the head, could this be a risk factor?

So hug your kids. Be patient. Be kind to them and to others, and teach them to be kind as well. Take bullying and animal cruelty seriously, and report it to authorities. You don’t know how many lives you might save.