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Family Connections : Stewart Watson creates installations that explore genealogy and family history

Stewart Watson takes the fan chart of a whole new level. She’s able to take the family tree and visualize it’s uniqueness. “So much of what we are—as a family or species—is similar,” she says, “that it is the tiny bit which makes us unique that interests me.”

Descendant Chart, 2011. Steel, paint, hardware. 144” x 276” x 110”

via Urbanite… In Descendant Chart, shown here installed at the DC Arts Center, Watson randomly slipped steel rods through painted ‘connectors’ that were attached to the wall in a specific genealogical pattern. She explains, “Through non-mechanical reproduction—I like to think of it as a bit of secret performance art—multiples are created that are similar, but never the same. This action is crucial as evidence of the human hand, and its imperfections, in my process oriented work.”

How would your family tree look like as art?

She insisted that turkey be served along side ham or tongue. She was an American writer, an influential editor and  author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.

She famously campaigned for the creation of the American holiday known as Thanksgiving, and for the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument.

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)

via Four Pounds Flour

Washington Crossing the Delaware Dec 24th 1776 (1775-1890)

The genealogy and historical trend on Twitter is amazing.  There is just about every historical genre on Twitter and more every day. You have different eras and interest to choose from, like it’s it own Twitter. Twitter has helped me connect to people who are researching the same areas as me and even helped me find a few lost ancestors.

My current favorite is PatriotCast on Twitter. To sum it up from them, “PatriotCast is a historical online reenactment of the American Revolution. For eight years it will give a day by day account of the War.” PatriotCast will reenact the Revolution with multiple tweets every day between 2010 and 2017 (2010 being 1775).  Now that’s a long term project.

Getting the tweets everyday is like a news wire to the past.  It gives me a deeper appreciation and a better understanding for history.

Follow them:

My personal research story starts three years ago and a free two week trail membership to It’s been a whirlwind romance with passion, discovery and angst. It was love at first sight and I’m not denying the true love was in the mix.  But I’ve changed and I think we should start seeing other people.

The business of content, all kinds, is big and it’s ruthless. If it wasn’t for I would not know as much about my family history. But at some point you outgrow it and realize you can do this on our own. Many companies look to acquire content with exclusive deals, which means one website will have and no one else.  But you can get this content on your own, if you get up and get out of the house.


  • has ALOT of content and the budget to acquire more.
  • You can sit in your PJ’s and do 80% of your research.
  • It’s easy to meet ‘cousins’ on and the community factor is nice.


  • Cost – Depending on how much you use it, the fees are high.
  • You’re sharing your stuff with either everyone or at least  So their using you content to share with other people. You are providing them content and paying for membership.
  • Some members are very subjective about other members on  They feel that most researchers are sloppy researchers.  They probably are, me too. Prepare yourself for strong feedback and people getting mad because you used their photos even though it’s on

My system is a combo of, Google, Google Books, Find a Grave, going to an actual library and Footnote. It works, but I’m still dependent on the good news is that there are more venues getting and digitizing research and the competition will heat up.

Everyone has a different manor of researching and some of us are subjective. Find your own groove and don’t spend a lot of money on on it because you are smarter then that.

I still haven’t decide on the future of my relationship with, but he better send some flowers soon.

Ever wondered what your families journey looked like?  Go beyond the time-lines and create a map of your families migration. With Google Maps and Bing Maps you can create a visual journey of your families genealogy.

You have to use the current map services with the understanding that maps have changed a lot in the past few hundred years. But they do offer an excellent poor man’s interactive experience without having to be a Flash designer. The different map services also offer options like adding a photo, website and notes to each pinged location. Bing has partnered with on the website and their software.

Sometimes when you start out to learn a new tool or process, you will discover more information then before. Using the maps will put your families journey into prospective and a deeper appreciation for how far they traveled for you to discover them.

Geneabloggers has written a great two part article about QR codes and how it could (will) be the future of genealogy research.

What’s a QR code?  A QR code is a fancy bar code that you can scan with your mobile and get more information on that item/place/person/whatever that you are standing in front of.

The codes are generated for specific web sites and then attached to points of interest that are relevant to that QR code. The implications for research are endless:

  • Libraries
  • Graveyards
  • Historic Sites
  • Conferences

It’s perfect timing when more genealogy companies and research outlets are producing more iPhone apps.  All you need is a smart phone and your genealogy road trip is all set – without the boxes of paperwork and documents.

The New York Public Library continues to amaze us.

The New York Times ran an article recently – Secret of the Stacks.  The library encompasses four major research libraries and 87 branches, with a total of 20 million books, 50 million cataloged items and a growing demand in this recession for loaner laptops and other free services. Only the Library of Congress and the British Library are larger. But even the Fifth Avenue landmark by itself is a marvel of big numbers. It is undergoing a $1.2 billion makeover in preparation for its 100th birthday. Built from 1899 to 1911, it cost $9 million, contains 530,000 cubic feet of white Vermont marble and 125 miles of shelving, and opened with an inventory of one million items.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library Inquiry Desk 1923

It highlights unique and unknown facts about the library:

  • Most Faithful Customer : Norbert Pearlroth, the head researcher for “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” visited the library almost daily. Although he wrote about the incredible, his own routine was anything but: He sat at the same table for 52 years, from 1923 to 1975.
  • Menu collection : The library has 40,000 restaurant menus, the world’s largest collection, dating from the 1850s to the present. It is heavily used by chefs, novelists and researchers; a few years ago, a marine biologist consulted menus from the early 1900s for a study of fish populations.
  • Curiosities : The most bizarre item, not counting those skull fragments from Percy Bysshe Shelley in Room 319, has to be Charles Dickens’s favorite letter-opener. The shaft is ivory, but the handle is the embalmed paw of his beloved cat, Bob, toenails and all.

The library has a great collection of images on Flickr and most images have no known copyright restrictions. 1,300 photographs in all and cover various events and subjects. It is part of the Commons on Flickr which is described as the world’s public photo collection. This collection is useful for research, history and browsing.  There are many of libraries and museums that are contributing to the project as well.

My Great Grandpa Tom (middle), photo credit Texas Energy Museum

Great Grandpa Tom (middle), photo credit Texas Energy Museum

When researching our family roots, we tend to look in the typical places. Census reports,, libraries and oral histories from your family members are the best sources for building a foundation. But how do you add flavor to your research and how do you illustrate the lives our ancestors lived? Looking at the non-typical places can be a needle in a haystack, but it can bring a pleasant surprise.

One of our member’s mother was recently touring the Texas Energy Museum and discovered a photo of her grandfather. Imagine walking by photos and seeing a photo of your grandfather hanging on a wall. The photo was of men working on an oil rig and there was Grandpa Tom right in the middle. What a great surprise and a wonderful image of seeing your grandfather in his youth.

Some ideas where you might find your Great Grandpa

Keep your eyes open, you never know what you’ll find.

*Please remember most images are copyrighted and some are public domain, so always ask before using.

Photo by Wally G

Photo by Wally G

The 17-century Bowne house in Flushing, Queens is getting restored after ownership was transferred to the city. With $5 million from the city, state and private groups, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe announced the plan to restore it is moving “full speed ahead,” according to the Daily News.

Benepe noted that “the Bowne family has also left its mark on the city again and again, helping New York City become the cradle of tolerance and diversity.” The house is looked at as a symbol of religious freedom; the original owner John Bowne was arrested in 1662 for allowing Quakers to worship there (the faith was banned at the time under New Amsterdam law).

The home is the oldest structure in the borough, and the restoration will hopefully be done by 2012.

via Gothamist

Photo by Wally G

The Browne House Historical Society

Paradise Lost

The collection also includes books that are notable not because of what they're about or when they were made, but because of who owned them. This copy of Milton's Paradise Lost was owned by William Wordsworth, as his signature at the top right indicates. (Gothamist)

At a time when we learned the budget crisis might make the  New York Library a victim, we find this little gem of a collection. The rare book collection is a priceless collection of rare books unique and there are 130,000 books in the collection.

The collections include the first book published in North America and books owned by famous authors. The books go back hundreds of years and they are physical witnesses to history.

To view the collection you must be registered as a researcher (which is just registering in the rare books room) and the collection can be viewed online.

If you live in New York, visiting or just simply love books – this is one of New York’s finest.

Via Gothmist