â€œIf all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.â€
~ Doug Larson
As the end of summer nears (or winter for those of you reading this from “down under”), now is a good time to reflect on and record the events and memories of the season. What happened with your family? Were there vital events, health issues, gatherings, or other milestones? What was the season like for you? Were there wild weather conditions or other natural disasters? What local or world events impacted you? What is your view on the current state of things–at home, in your community, and throughout the world? Make a record of this season to live on in your family history. Don’t you wish your ancestors had done the same?
There seems to be some confusion over who first proposed the Labor Day holiday, but evidence points to Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. The intention was to have a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
Last week as I was photographing some heirlooms, I came across reminders of my own familyâ€™s working past. Among the treasures were a nineteenth-century police badge, a photo of my uncle in his minerâ€™s hat, and a printed card bearing my grandfatherâ€™s name and the address of his little carpentry shop in Brooklyn. The fragile pages in a velvet-covered autograph book needed special care. The ink on some pages was so faded that I couldnâ€™t recover the words. But a verse written by someone named Sarah in 1877 was clear, and it stuck in my mind:
â€œIn after years when youthâ€™s bright joys
Have vanished like Autumn flowers
Let memory keep a place for me.â€
I wonder who Sarah was and if anyone kept her in their memory.
Then there was a priceless American flag embroidered by my grandmother. Under the flag, she had stitched the words, â€œIf I had a thousand lives, Iâ€™d live them all for you.â€ Inked on the reverse side is her name and â€œ1911â€–the year she died of typhoid fever. She was only thirty-nine. My mother and the aunt who raised me were little girls when they lost their mom so they barely remembered her. We do have some records that document her life, but it is only in a few photographs and the words she left on that piece of cloth that we get a hint of her personality.
Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™m not alone in wanting to understand my ancestorsâ€™ lives. What kind of a lifestyle did they have? Census statistics show that the vast majority of our ancestors were â€œlaborers.â€ Relatively few of them made it into the history books or the social pages of the newspapers and after long hours of work most didnâ€™t have it in them to leave us a written account of what was happening or what they were thinking. But there are ways we can get a better feel for what they were like. Continue reading
Whenever something new seeks to change our lives, we often ask â€œWhatâ€™s in it for me?â€ If you have never attended a genealogical conference, you may be wondering this yourself.
There are reasons that the majority of first-timers fast become avid returnees. Using the Federation of Genealogical Societiesâ€™ upcoming conference in Philadelphia (which starts September 3) will help me answer the â€œwhatâ€™s in it for me?â€ question.
Itâ€™s fair to assume that you are going to be enlightened at a conference. The top speakers in the country will be delivering knowledge about a myriad of topics. In the case of the Federationâ€™s event, you can expect fifty to sixty sessions per day presented by nationally-known lecturers. What more could you ask—other than more hours in the day?
The activity generated, people bustling from class to class, talking in the halls about the great presentation they just heard, in itself offers a conference-going benefit. The excitement is hard to describe; there is electricity in the air and a feeling you are a part of something wonderful. You canâ€™t help but be caught up in the moment–every moment.
Youâ€™ll make a ton of new friends in the halls, at luncheons, and in lecture rooms. People are eager to share discoveries and pass along tips. And there are countless stories of finding a long-lost cousin over coffee and a doughnut.
Shopping is a big plus because vendors come from around the world. A list of those who will display in Philadelphia is online at the FGS website. Their products and services range from books and CDs to technologyâ€™s newest and best offerings. Thereâ€™s always more to see and do in the exhibit hall than time or energy permit. Continue reading
Donâ€™t feel comfortable with online searching or other computer and software aspects? Public libraries, community education programs, and college and university libraries in your area may have free or low-cost classes. These may include learning how to make the most out of Web searches and how to use various reference databases offered by the library (including Ancestry Library Edition). My own county library system offers a wide variety of classes. Others offer classes on becoming acquainted with such things a Microsoft Access, Excel, PowerPoint, word processing, Windows Vista, Linux, Google, spreadsheets, and shareware. Though not as prevalent, some do offer classes for Mac users, including Mac user groups. Check with a genealogical society in your area to see if there is a special interest group related to computers and software. Even if you never learned to type well there is hope. Your library may offer keyboarding classes. College and university libraries might have restrictions on who may take the classes and you have a better chance of taking such free or low-cost classes if you are a graduate of that institution.
Some examples of computer class offerings:
Donâ€™t assume that because only a birth date is on an old family group sheet that the individual never married or had a family. Sometimes, especially during the 1930s and 1940s, family members, often young men, would migrate to distant cities to find work. Often these individuals settled in these cities, married, had families, and perhaps rarely returned to visit relatives left behind. When this happens families tend to lose touch, and, in some cases, resentment may build among those left behind. So when a family history book is compiled, it could be easy for whole branches of the family to be ignored. In short, be sure to do a very thorough nationwide search for the death dates and places of these individuals, including SSDI, military records. Also, talk with elderly relatives and try to locate an obituary once you have determined where the person(s) died. You may be surprised to find that you have a much larger family that you originally had thought.
Linda Larson Continue reading
The year was 1894 and the world was still in the midst of the “Long Depression.”Â In the U.S., following the Panic of 1893, unemployment was estimated at more than 18%. People were desperate for work and in 1894, Jacob S. Coxey led a protest march from Massillon, Ohio to Washington, D.C. Starting out with one hundred men, five hundred arrived in Washington demanding work on public projects. They were denied and the Coxey was arrested for trespassing when he tried to speak.Â “Coxey’s Army” was one of several groups planning to march on Washington, but the only sizeable group to complete the journey. (The image accompanying this post iis of Coxey’s Army from the Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry. Click on the image to enlarge it.)
In Chicago, George Pullman had cut pay for his employees by 25%. All of his workers were required to live in “Pullman City” and paid rent to Pullman–a rent that remained static despite the pay cuts. The hardship this created pushed three thousand Pullman workers to strike. It was a “wildcat” strike (without the approval of the union), but some American Railroad Union workers followed in support, refusing to move any train with a Pullman car, unless it carried mail. Since most trains by this time had Pullman cars, this affected the railway system across the country. Eventually a federal court ruled that the strike was illegal and federal troops were called in. Violence ensued as riots broke out and in a violent confrontation with soldiers on July 7, many rioters were killed or wounded.
In New York, 10,000 tailors went on strike on Labor Day to bring attention to sweatshop conditions. At that time workers worked under a “task” system wherein they were given a certain number of garments that needed to be created for a fixed price. The tasks had been increasing in size, while wages remained static requiring workers to work longer hours. This meant that workers were being paid around a dollar a day, and working in some cases eighteen hour days.Â While the strike did attract some attention, the problems of wages and working conditions in the garment industry would continue to be a problem. Continue reading
Click on an image to enlarge it.
Contributed by Ward R. Bray, Amherst, New York
This is a photo of my great-grandparents’ (Fred and Lizzie Brandt) family who lived in the Village of Tonawanda, Erie County, New York, between 1891 and 1944. Tonawanda is the western terminus of the Erie Canal. Fred and Lizzie Brandt settled in the Village of Tonawanda around 1890, soon after giving up his way of life–as a canaler on the Erie Canal. Competition from the new railroads and the new Erie Barge Canal in the late 1800s made the canal life obsolete. Fred then worked as a carpenter for the Herschell-Spillman Company, making carousels, or “Tonawanda machines,” as they were known then. This photo was taken around 1907.
Center â€“ Elizabeth Brandt (nee Wasmund) born Pomerania,Â Germany, 1864
Upper right â€“ Her husband, Frederick Henry Brandt, born Pendleton Centre, 1864
Upper left â€“ Their son, Earl Brandt, born 1893
Lower left â€“ Their daughter, Minnie Augusta Johanna Brandt, 1891
Second from right â€“ Their daughter, Pearl Brandt, born 1896 (notice the chicken she is holding)
The other two ladies are not related to me. They may be friends/neighbors, Minnie Harder and Augusta Rodgers.
These workers from the Mecklenburg Iron Works in Charlotte, North Carolina, are taking a break. Two of them are my grand uncles: on the top right is Arthur Leroy Primm (1884-1965) and second from the left on the first row is Arnold Primm (1899-1915). The picture was taken before August 1915 when Arnold was killed in a shooting accident while on a camping trip with friends. This seemed appropriate for Labor Day!
Ann Rohleder Stephens