February 2008

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2008.

Meeting the Gillhams

The internets (to use Dubya’s term) has changed many aspects of our lives but one area I didn’t come to appreciate until recently is genealogy. The changes are, like so many other e-changes, revolutionary.

Genealogical research used to involve going to various government and local offices to sift through birth, marriage and death records. Then you’d take that data home and write up a little chart that you would distribute to everyone in your family. And that was it, until you or someone else in your family picked up the ball and went to the next government office to try to decipher the next link in your family chain.

Now many of those government records are online. But even more importantly, all that work done by diligent families over time is also on the internet. So if you can stretch your family a generation or two into the past, you can connect with all this work that people have already done.

That’s how I figured out in the last month or so that I am related to one of the original members of the Jamestown colony. He arrived in Virginia in 1608. As a result, history has really come alive for me and now I’m pouring over Colonial history to see what my relatives were up to in the 17th and 18th centuries.

I did much of my work on ancestry.com but just googling surnames I’ve come across a motherlode of information. Here’s one of the coolest things I’ve found, the graves of my maternal great(x6)-uncles who fought for the Rebels in the Revolution. They later settled in Illinois:

gillham

gillham

gillham

gillham

Incidentally, the website I found these pics on is pretty cool in and of itself, http://www.waymarking.com.

So get out there and find out where you come from!

Here are some suggestions from a novice:

1. Compile everything you already know. Talk to your living relatives. Everyone has somebody in their family who’s already been working on the family history. I’ve got a couple in mine. Gather all these tidbits in one place. I started with an Excel spreadsheet but there is good genealogy software out there.

2. Get on familysearch.org and/or ancestry.com and see how what you already know connects with the work people have already done.

3. Now the hard work begins. Start with one branch and search, search, search. Google your family names & surnames and the names of husbands & wives, especially the oddball ones. One of my google searches uncovered a diary that describes the 1834 migration of one of my relatives from Virginia to Illinois. It’s the earliest information I have on that branch. I’ve discovered Captains, Quakers, Tories and Rebels, frontiersman, and pioneers. It’s not that just I’ve found cool relatives — whatever I found out would have been cool because this is my tribe. (There will be bad things, too. No doubt some of my relatives were slaveowners. But that’s American history, you take the awesome and inspiring with the shameful.)

I’m making great progress. I’ve nearly filled out six generations of my family tree and made it much further in several branches. But I still have a long way to go. I’ll keep you posted.

Here are a couple tidbits related to the Presidential race.

So the debate now is “ready on day one” (Hillary’s experience) versus “right on day one” (Barack’s vote against the war). I like Obama’s response to the experience question, that nobody had more experience before they took office than Cheney and Rumsfeld. I thought of all this today when I heard the following quote from John Adams. He said this in 1774 during the First Continental Congress at which his fellow delegates included George Washington, Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston and John Jay:

I muse, I mope, I ruminate. What’s about to happen is almost too big for my grasp. We don’t have men fit for these times. We lack education, experience in the world, money, everything. I feel an unutterable anxiety. God grant us wisdom and strength in the coming months.

* * *

One reason I voted for Obama in the caucus is that I believe nobody will unite Republicans quite like Hillary Clinton and nobody can unite Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans quite like Barack Obama. Check out this illustrative transcript from the Rush Limbaugh show (which I got from Ann Althouse’s blog):

CALLER: But, Rush, what I wanted to say was (sigh) I’m a Christian
conservative and a loyal Republican. I voted every year, every
election cycle since 1984. So I’m pretty depressed today because this
is the first time that I found myself in a position where I will not
vote for the nominee. In fact, hell will freeze over before I’ll vote
for McCain — or Huckabee, for that matter. I’m going to sit home this
year, and my husband says he is, too. I also want to say that, it’s
really true what you said about Obama. He doesn’t scare me. I’m not
afraid of him. In fact, I may even vote for him against McCain.

RUSH: You won’t do that when you find out what Obama’s policies are.

CALLER: Well, you know what? I know that he’s very liberal. I know that.

RUSH: Just think of a nice Hillary Clinton, in terms of policy.

CALLER: You’re right. You’re right.

RUSH: Maybe even worse, if that’s possible.

CALLER: But he’s very likable.

Pimping Out

An MSNBC anchor accused the Clinton campaign of “pimping out” Chelsea by having her make some phone calls on behalf of her mom. The anchor issued an on-air apology and has been suspended. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews (who I think has the best daily show on politics around) also got in trouble with the Clinton campaign for saying of Hillary: “the reason she’s a U.S. senator, the reason she’s a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around.”

So is Hillary really outraged? Is she really this thin-skinned? Or is she milking the outrage to increase the women’s vote? With Chelsea becoming part of the campaign, is it fair to say she’s no longer off-limits? Does the milking of the “pimping out” outrage just make it more obvious that the Clintons are in fact using their daughter for political advantage? Was Chris Matthews wrong? Her husband’s position and infidelity did play a role in her rise to prominence.

I think the outrage over the use of the term “pimping out” is a bit generational. People 40 and under know know it’s not to be taken literally. People over 40 may not see it that way. The anchor who used the term is on the young side.

Speaking of Chelsea, she apparently forwarded a feminist rant to a bunch of her friends over email and slate.com got a hold of it. You can read the rant, by Robin Morgan, here. Chelsea’s take: “I don’t agree with all the points Robin Morgan makes but I do believe her thesis is important for us all to confront–I confess that I didn’t entirely get ‘it’ until not only guys stood up and shouted ‘iron my shirts’ but the media reacted with amusement, not outrage…” Which makes me like Chelsea. I’ve always felt Chelsea is the one Clinton I could be happy voting for. I think she’s the most mature member of that family. (I voted for Bill twice but I’m not happy about it.)

As far as Robin Morgan’s essay, it seems like a fair argument for voting for a woman. But not a good argument for voting for Hillary Clinton. If Hillary was the man and Obama was the woman, wouldn’t the essay be essentially the same? Many people will vote against Hillary for the wrong reasons but many, including me, are against her and for Obama not because she is a woman and not because of their policy positions but because Obama is trying to move the political dynamic away from lies, manipulation and endless spin.