Thursday, May 31, 2012

Canada Conference, Three New Talks and A Baseball

This coming Saturday and Sunday (June 2 &3), I’ll be on the north side of the St. Lawrence River in the Province of Ontario, Canada.  Region VII of the Ontario Genealogical Society is hosting the annual OGS conference at St. Lawrence College in Kingston and I’ll be presenting three of the talks, all of which are brand-new.

On Saturday, I’ll be discussing some underutilized references and resources for doing effective newspaper research and (in the other presentation) will be discussing some of the small wonders available for family researchers in the New York State Archives and Library. 

In the “newspaper” talk, I’ll be stressing that most newspapers have not yet been digitized, and even if they had been, there’s much more to competent newspaper research than just putting a name in a search engine on the internet and hoping for the best.  In the “Archives & Library” talk, I’ll be highlighting some of the manuscript resources of interest to United Empire Loyalist families from New York and also pointing out how to locate some of the obscure digitized material available for free research on the Library/Archives website.  I’ll also be pointing out the advantages of driving south from Ontario to Albany to use one of the best genealogical research collections in the northeast.

On Sunday, I’ll be doing a new talk called “Keepers of the Family Stuff: Some “Best Practice” Tips on Maintaining the Family Home Archives for Genealogists and Family Historians.”  This time, the focus will be on what we should be doing as the (sometimes accidental and inadvertent) curators of family documents, photographs, memorabilia and other treasures.  I’ll be stressing the importance of preservation, thorough identification and documentation, all of which are steps that even the most dedicated genealogists often fail to take.

The point here is that while family genealogists are often the repositories of detailed information about family and the “family stuff”, all too often that “repository” exists only in the family genealogist’s memory.  More often than not, it’s not written down, and even when it is, it’s not in a location or form that’s accessible to the uninitiated.  In a sense, it’s much like a “hidden collection” in an archives, understood by only a few archivists. 

Unlike institutional archival collections, however, family collections kept at home are in greater danger of loss. Should anything untoward happen to that genealogist, the memory (i.e., the repository) is lost for all time.

Sometimes, artifacts in family collections are obvious as to what they are.  In other cases, however, they often need further explanation when they are actually more than they seem on the surface.
Here’s an example from my own collection of “family stuff”.  Take a look at the picture:

It looks like a beat-up old baseball, right?. 

Not much to look at, and very likely the kind of thing that  - if found in my rather extensive collection of stuff - someone (other than me) might think was just an old baseball.  Something to pass along to a child as a plaything. After all, it’s just an old baseball.

But look again … this time on the other side.  Note that there’s some kind of faint writing.  Note also that there’s a date of “Oct 9, 1916”  

What’s that all about?

Oh, by the way, this ball belonged to my grandfather and was kept for years in his study.  My grandfather was a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in 1916 and, as a result, I know the significance of the post-season date.

So, just in case I get taken away by aliens, I wrote it all down and added it to my “Family Stuff” spreadsheet, where it will eventually find its way in to the collection’s finding aid, if the aliens don’t get me first.

Here’s what I wrote:

Inscribed 1916 “Official American League” Baseball

From the personal collection of Meldon J. Wolfgang (1890 – 1947), this inscribed baseball is dated [handwritten in ink] “Oct 9, 1916”.  The ball shows some soil, scuffing and wear, possibly because it was used in game play or practice prior to being inscribed.

The inscription directly above the date is illegible. On the panel opposite the date, the ball is inscribed “Best Wishes [illegible] Best of Luck”.  The inscribed date (October 9) was a Monday, two days after the last game of the four-game post-season Chicago “City Series” between the White Sox and Cubs on October 4 – 7, 1916.  The White Sox won the 1916 City Series, beating the Cubs in every game (8 – 2; 3 – 1; 3 – 0; 6 – 3). 

Mel Wolfgang was a White Sox team member at the time, and although he was used mostly for batting practice and did not pitch in any of the four Series games, he would have shared in the proceeds of $19,581.88.  On October 7th, a Chicago Tribune sports writer estimated that since the winning team got 60% of the proceeds, each White Sox player would receive $489.55.

It is highly likely that each player received his share (probably in cash) along with an inscribed baseball like this on Monday, October 9, 1916. As a point of comparison, a wage of $20.00 for a six-day work week (48 hours) was the norm for skilled factory workers at this time, so a player’s “take” from the City Series would be about as much as a factory worker would earn in half a year.

The description places the baseball in context and surrounds it with additional data that allows for further interpretation.  So, it’s much more than an old beat-up baseball, especially to a family historian.

Yeah, it takes time to do this kind of documentation, but it sure beats thinking that the baseball will likely end up being tossed around by some little boy and his dog at some point in the future, just because nobody knew what it was.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Archives: Politicians' "Ducks In A Barrel"?

Less than two weeks ago, I wrote about the draconian cuts to the National Archives and other cultural institutions in Canada.  The cuts were the result of the implementation of the Conservative Harper government’s 2012 budget.  Virtually overnight, the six-year old National Archival Development Program (NADP) was garroted and its tiny corpse tossed out on the trash heap of history.

As it died, the program took with it a lot of stuff genealogists use.

Of course, folks south of the border here in the US aren’t taking much notice of this.  After all, it’s Canada, not the good ol’ US of A, so what’s the big deal?  It’s not our problem, right?  We have bigger fish to fry, like the yahoos wanting to shut down public access to the SSDI because of their misplaced understanding of “identity theft.”  

Surely what happened in Canada can’t happen here.  Or could it?

Actually, it could. That’s why I keep saying that elections often have unintended consequences.

Let’s look at the Harper government’s response to criticism. In a Canadian Senate debate on May 10th, the question was raised by the Hon. Dr. Claudette Tardif (Liberal, Alberta and Deputy Leader of the Opposition) about the elimination of the NADP. 

She asked, “For the past 26 years, Library and Archives Canada has been supporting over 800 local Canadian archives working to preserve and make available unique archival documents pertaining to the history of Canada and its people. Since 2006, that financial support has been distributed through the National Archival Development Program, which was shut down by the government on April 30.  … Why did the government choose to cut the long-standing funding that our national archives need to continue the important work of preserving and sharing Canada's heritage?

The conservative government’s response from Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): 

Honourable senators, I am sure the honourable senator has noticed, as I have, much to my chagrin at times, that we have moved into a new age of technology, which some of us still find difficult, but are managing.

Library and Archives Canada is moving into the digital age, and more services will be available to Canadians online. The evidence thus far is that Canadians are utilizing and accessing information to a much higher degree than they ever did in the past.

This is very good for Canadians, who will be able to access historical content regardless of where they are located.

This is too cute for words.

In other words, the official Harper government response went something like this: hey, no big deal; we’ll be putting more and more archives stuff online soon.  Just you wait and see. Technology is complicated; we don’t really get it, and most of us don’t understand it, but the geeks we’ve hired tell us it will probably solve the problem. At least, that’s the party line. Besides, we never bothered to find out what the NADP actually did, but it looked too good not to cut. Money is tight.  “Job creators” need tax cuts. Get over it.  Move on.

Of course, this government response is predicated upon the belief that the general public, like the government, has absolutely no idea what the NADP program actually did and that saying something – anything – that suggests that the government is going high-tech and digitizing stuff with abandon will make folks think that the government is “cutting edge.”   

And high-tech “cutting edge” is good, right?

Therefore, this is a “good idea.”  Sadly they’re probably right about this (the “depth of public understanding” part, not the “good idea” part…).

In fact, the working rule in politics is that if you don’t understand a question or you don’t want to talk about it, change the subject and refer to the talking points you’ve been given by your handlers.  Keep saying the same stuff over and over again, and the problem will likely go away eventually.

With programs like the NADP, it isn’t so much WHO was funded but rather, what was actually DONE with the funding.  NADP funded the preservation and cataloguing of unique and important records at many small institutions. When word of its demise became public, one of the first institutions to speak out was the Jewish Public Library Archives of Montreal.  (Even if you’re Canadian, you probably never heard of it, right?) A few days after the cuts were announced, the blog on the Jewish Public Library Archives told THEIR story with regard to NADP.

It wasn’t about all about digitization.  It wasn’t all about technology.

It was about service. And professionalism.  And access to records.

Here’s what they wrote:

“The JPL-A was itself a recipient of two NADP grants, one in 2007 that supported the up-dating and professionalization of the archives, and another in 2010 that supported the appraisal, arrangement, description and initial digitization of the Young Men’s-Young Women’s Hebrew Association fonds.  Without a doubt, this large amount of work would have been impossible to achieve without the support of the NADP.  The first grant resulted in the cataloguing of over 10,000 images and the second one contributed to the  Y’s 100th anniversary celebrations as well as making preserving and making accessible the social history of this key cultural institution.”

Then, you can poke around on the rest of their website to see the good things they’ve been doing.

The Jewish Public Library Archives is just one of the hundreds of archival programs that have benefitted from the NADP grants.  The total size of the NADP budget was about $1.7 million dollars.  Canadian.  In the very same budget, the conservative Harper government set aside $11 million dollars for this year’s commemoration of the War of 1812.  Whoopee!

There’s a moral here.  It’s simple. 

Here’s the takeaway:  archives and history and document preservation are small potatoes in the big world of politics.  Governments look at those “blue-haired old lady” issues as sitting ducks in a barrel. They’re an easy enough kill, and the governments doing the killing can point to “savings”, “tax relief” and any number of canards that will lead the voting general public by the nose to their (the government’s) way of thinking.

And here’s the real bottom line: the entire budget of the National Archival Development Program in Canada was $1.7 million Canadian.  It wasn’t a whole lot of money in the big scheme of things. 

In fact, that’s  almost enough to pay Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, for about three and a half weeks of his very valuable time, despite the bank’s most recent $2 billion trading losses.

But as we’ve been told on both sides of the border:  times are tough, “job creators” need tax breaks and the money has to come from somewhere.

Archives are an easy mark. Let’s not let it happen here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gallinippers, Gee-haw Whimmydiddles and Ziggerboos

The long-awaited fifth volume (Sl – Z) of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE for short) has finally been released by Harvard University Press.  Those of you who have been following this blog for a while might remember that I wrote about DARE and its founding editor and longtime driving force, the late Frederick Gomes Cassidy, back in March of 2011

Fred and I both presented lectures at a conference sponsored by the Indiana Historical Society way back in 1987.  At the time I wrote last year, I described the forthcoming fifth volume as the “final” volume, not knowing that a sixth volume, with yet more maps, regional indexes and all manner of good analytic stuff was also in the works. It is now almost "in press", as they say in the book biz.

The Dictionary of American Regional English has had its home at the University of Wisconsin since its very beginning. You can learn much, much more about the Dictionary of American Regional English on the project’s updated website here.  

Be sure to visit the “DARE in the News” page here to read about the release of the latest volume and also to read the reviews and related stories.  If you have even a passing interest in “English as she is spoke”, you’ll be glad you did.

But why should you care about DARE in the first place?  After all, you’re unlikely to find a single ancestor’s name in it.

Simply put, DARE can provide family researchers with a unique linguistic insight into regional language and culture, including unveiling patterns of immigration and migration that local historians and genealogists will find exceedingly valuable. 

Here are some examples.

Mrs. Blogger (who is NOT from these parts) sometimes finds things to be all “cattywumpus”, but I know that they’re really just “cockeyed”. Her relatives ate “smear cheese”, while mine ate “cottage cheese” (the city folk) or “pot cheese” (the farmer folk).  Just by knowing that she says these two things goes a long way to identifying her origins.  Likewise with me.

Much of what she says is the result of growing up around her parents, who grew up around their parents, and so on.  Same with me.  Each of us speaks a kind of regional English, peppered with words and expressions that are unique to a specific part of the United States.  And that peppering gives a unique spice and flavor to our spoken language.

Here in the Northeast, folks used to go “down cellar” and “down street.”  Business or shopping might take our grandparents “down city.” If it wasn’t too far away, they often went “down along” to the post office. They rarely went “down the line”, however – that was an Upper Midwest kinda thing.

And, of course, everybody knows that going on vacation “down East” means going to Maine, right?

Here, we have “dooryards” in the country and “stoops” in the city. Some city folks live in “flats”. Whether we sit on couches, sofas or davenports often depends on our age and social condition. And if you ask us whether the noon-ish, midday meal is "dinner" or "lunch", our answer will depend on that "urban/rural/age/social class" thingamabob.

What we actually eat is also important. Our words for foods tell a lot about where we live and where our ancestors lived. For example, it’s pretty hard to find “frankforts” outside of the Northeast and a few parts of the Upper Midwest. Most other folks call ‘em “hot dogs”, although a few call ‘em “frankfurters.”  Go far enough east in New England and you can get a frappe (no “e” sound on the end, please) or a “tonic” with your frankfort, or maybe even a “coffee milk.”  If you’re near Boston, you can finish it all off with a nice piece of “election cake” the right time of year.

Folks around here prefer “sodas” and “milk shakes” to wash down their food.  In the South, “coke” is the big thing.  Just be ready to be asked what flavor “coke” you want.  Orange?  Lemon-lime?  Root beer?

In many parts of the Midwest, farm folks made “fourteen-day pickles.”  In Maine, however, they’re called “fifteen-day pickles” and they take a little bit longer.  Maybe it’s the weather down East.

Eggs seem to have a regional history all their own.  “Dropped eggs” are popular in New England, while “egg bread” is a Southern thing. In Boston, “egg coffee” was for company.  In New York City, if you order an “egg cream”, you will get something entirely without eggs or cream.  Go figure.

If you enjoy “flannel cakes”, chances are very high that you have roots in Pennsylvania, Maryland and those parts of the Appalachians settled by Pennsylvanians or Marylanders. You also might be a bit older than most folks. The term began to die out in the 1940s and 1950s, as “pancakes” and “hot cakes” became more common.  “Funnel cakes”, once an isolated Pennsylvania delicacy, are now widely available at state fairs all over the country.

That’s simply a linguistic fact of life: as people move around the country, regional vocabularies and dialects that reflect early immigration and migration patterns are often driven out in favor of more homogenous “national” words and sounds. Still, the old words and expressions crop up in diaries, stories and oral histories that folks left behind.

Of course, it’s not just all about food.  There are those nasty flying bugs and creepy crawly things as well. 

In some parts of the South, you might well be pestered by “gallinippers” in the summer.  Depending on the area you’re in, the term could refer to any number of large flying insects, ranging from mosquitoes to dragon-flies (which, of course, are properly called “darning needles” in these here parts and “eyestitchers” in some parts of Wisconsin.)  Then, there are the southern "dog flies" and the northern "no see-ums."

Even the gadget-y, appliance-y stuff we use in our daily lives is subject to regionalisms.   For example, in the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast parts of the US, the generic term “frigidaire” (used to describe any brand of electric or gas refrigerator) stuck around a whole lot longer than it did in the Northeast or Mountain states, where the shortened “fridge” became the term of choice.

And when things went wrong with fridges, radios and TVs, they were described as being “on the fritz”, at least in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and West Coast states.  Apparently, the folks in the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast states didn’t have the same problems with malfunctioning appliances, since “on the fritz” is not widely used there. 

If you ever played with a “gee-haw whimmydiddle” when you were a kid, there’s a very good chance you grew up in the southern Appalachians.  If you had access to a copy of the second volume of DARE, you’d be able to learn what a “gee-haw whimmydiddle” actually is.  Here’s a hint: in parts of Tennessee, they call them “ziggerboos.” 

That, of course, can easily be found in the just-released Volume V of DARE.

Nuff said for now. 

Now . . .  go pester a librarian and look it all up.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kentucky Derby 2012: From Pedigree Charts to a Family Connection

Later today, the Kentucky Derby will be run for the 138th time.  

Twenty thoroughbred horses – a very large field – will thunder around the track at Churchill Downs for a mile-and-a-quarter in an attempt to win what their owners and jockeys have been dreaming of: the first and likely the most impressive jewel in racing’s Triple Crown.   Before darkness falls tonight, millions of dollars in bets will have changed hands, and it’ll all be over in about two or three minutes, start to finish.

Horse racing is all about good breeding and good training.   Good breeding comes first.

If there are people anywhere who are as passionate as genealogists about tracing pedigrees, they can be found in the world of thoroughbred horse racing and breeding.  Untested yearlings are bought and sold for staggering sums by folks who study the horses’ genealogical charts for ten generations or more.  It’s a sport where bloodlines are everything…at least in the beginning.

Today’s race has an interesting genealogical twist.  Every horse in today’s Kentucky Derby is a cousin of one sort or another to every other horse.  In fact, each horse racing today is a descendant of an English-born stallion named “Bonnie Scotland.” 

I know this piece of racing trivia because I spent part of last night and this morning poring over the contending horses’ genealogical charts, acting on the hunch that Bonnie Scotland would likely appear somewhere in each thoroughbred’s ancestry.

Bonnie Scotland died in 1880 in Davidson County, Tennessee, after serving eight highly successful years at stud, siring the ancestors of all of today’s Derby contenders, and thousands of other thoroughbreds.

And so begins our unusual family tale, which will first take us back to early Virginia and to an early ancestor of Mrs. Blogger named Rene Massoneau LaForce.

Rene Massoneau LaForce, immigrant from France, died in Goochland County, Virginia in 1728. Two of his many grandchildren were Zulima LaForce (daughter of his son Rene Junior who was Mrs. Blogger’s ancestor) and Zulima’s younger cousin Giles Harding, son of Rene Senior’s daughter Sarah.  (For those interested, an excellent and thorough study of the early LaForce family of Virginia was researched and written by Cameron Allen, FASG, and was published in several parts in The Genealogist in 2004/2005.)

Rene’s granddaughter Zulima married and settled down not far from her parents and grandparents homeplaces in the part of Virginia where Goochland and Fluvanna counties meet.  Her cousin Giles and his brother William, however, had other, more adventurous radical ideas.  Like many other Virginians of the time, Giles set out with his young wife to try his luck in Tennessee, while his brother William went south to North Carolina. 

No one can say if Giles or William Harding kept in touch with their first cousin Zulima and their other kin in old Virginia. Chances are, it didn’t take long for the families to lose touch.  Chances are, Zulima never learned much, if anything, about Giles and his children and grandchildren in Tennessee.

What follows is the story of that part of Giles’ life that Zulima never learned about.

Giles Harding and his wife settled in the part of Tennessee close to Nashville.  His son John Harding started acquiring large tracts of land early on and was quite successful in his land dealings.  Young John Harding’s holdings grew and grew, and he was soon one of the county’s largest landowners. 

He called his ever-growing plantation “Belle Meade.”

John Harding’s son William Giles Harding took over the day-to-day management of Belle Meade from his aging father in the mid-19th century.  By then, Belle Meade had grown to more than 5,300 acres, and its master was a very wealthy man.

The 1860 census tells us approximately how wealthy. 

William Giles Harding, the great-great grandson of Rene Massoneau LaForce, owned Davidson County land worth $275,000 and had personal (other than real estate) wealth of $130,500.  You can see Harding’s 1860 census entry here:

While Belle Meade was a very large working farm, part of the family’s wealth came from horses.   

You see, William Giles Harding, like his father John before him, had a way with horses.  They bred them.  They boarded them for others, including their friend and neighbor President Andrew Jackson. They trained them. And then they raced them.  The Harding horses were thoroughbreds, with impeccable bloodlines.

In fact, the very first racing silks ever worn in the United States were the Belle Meade silks. And the Belle Meade-bred and Belle Meade-trained horses won races, with ever-increasing regularity.  Word soon spread.

After the Civil War, William Giles Harding devoted all his energies and resources to his thoroughbreds and his stud farm.  Belle Meade became known around the racing world on two continents as the premier thoroughbred breeding operation in North America. Winner after winner traced a lineage to the Belle Meade Stud.  

When the very first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875, six of the fifteen horses in the race had some ancestral connection to William Giles Harding’s Belle Meade Stud.  It is said that Harding’s collection of silver racing trophies was the largest in the world.  In the racing world, William Giles Harding was a man to contend with, as were his horses.

In 1872, Harding bought a stallion for stud that had been raced in England a few years earlier.  The stallion’s English racing career wasn’t particularly distinguished, but he had an impeccable bloodline.  That horse was named Bonnie Scotland.  While at Belle Meade, Bonnie Scotland’s performance at stud far surpassed his performance on the race course.

Bonnie Scotland appears in the genealogical charts of many of American racing’s greatest horses.  Secretariat. Northern Dancer.  Seattle Slew. A.P. Indy. They can all trace their pedigree back to Tennessee and a stallion named Bonnie Scotland who lived out his later life at Rene Massoneau LaForce’s great-great grandson’s Belle Meade Farm and Stud.

Sorry to say, Mrs. Blogger’s "stay-at-home" side of the same family did not prosper to quite the same degree. While they also had some land and they also had a few horses, their land and horses were different, in both kind and degree.  You see, none of their horses were known for winning races, even at the county fairs.  In fact, most of their horses saw service behind ploughs, where stamina was more important than speed.

So when we watch the Kentucky Derby later today, we’ll be cheering on the distant progeny of very distant cousin William Giles Harding’s magnificent stud horse Bonnie Scotland. 

All twenty of ‘em.  

Remember -  no matter what the outcome, one of Bonnie Scotland's descendants is certain to win.  You heard it here first and you can bet on it.

Like I said, good breeding comes first.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Archives? Who Needs All That Old Stuff? A Look At Our Northern Neighbours

Last night, Edvard Munch's painting called "The Scream" brought nearly $120 million at auction at Sotheby's.  An as-yet-unknown buyer had some very deep pockets.

These days, deep pockets are hard to come by.  In fact, the Canadian Council of Archives could sure use some right about now.

Even though you probably never heard of it, you should be very, very concerned that the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) will be forced to close its office doors in Ottawa tomorrow afternoon. 

Having lost its principal funding source, the not-for-profit CCA is now one of the latest casualties of the Harper government’s current war on just about everything “not-business.”  Remember, these are the same government folks that decided last year that Canada’s “long-form” census was just a waste of money, having no practical business use.   

Abstract demographics and statistics is not their best game.

This time, Library and Archives Canada (LAC)  will have to reduce its own staff by 20%.  Overall, LAC will wave good-bye to $9.6 million over the next 36 months.  Of course, they’re not alone.  The CBC, the National Film Board, the National Battlefields Commission and other cultural agencies will lose substantial chunks of funding as well.  

At first glance, museums seem to have escaped; still, they got hit hard last year.

Of course, for some, there’s a bright side, even in these austere times.  The budget contains $400 million to increase private sector investments and support creation of large-scale venture capital funds. Oh, yeah, then there’s that $110 million per year to the National Research Council to double support to companies through the Industrial Research Assistance Program.

See, there’s still money for the basics and the essentials.

So it appears that the Harper government has determined that archives and libraries are essentially “non-essentials”, especially when there are deserving private-sector businesses in need of additional subsidies. You know, the “job creators” and all that …  It appears that it has also been determined that “real” research needs to be business-oriented and profit-directed.

While going very politely, the CCA is not going very quietly.  In fact, they’ve issued a “call to action” on their way out the door.

The “call to action” below from the CCA came across my desk yesterday evening and appears in full below.  

Remember: it’s not just those retired hobbyist-genealogists who are worrying about the devastation wrought upon the Library and Archives Canada (LAC)  and other institutions by the 2012 budget of the Harper government.  Here’s the take by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, who, like genealogists, find some passing value in libraries and archives.  

As you read the CCA “Call To Action” below, think hard.  

This is a 100% Canadian thing and could never, ever happen here in the good ol’ US of A, right?  

Crippling budget cuts for cultural institutions and subsidies for businesses? No way!!!  Shuttering libraries and archives?  Unheard of!!!  Who would ever think of such a thing??!!??  We’ll always have our own beloved National Archives and Records Administration and its regional branches, right? 

What’s that?  They shut down the NARA “reading room” in Pittsfield last year to save $$$?  Oh,  well then, never mind….

As I continue to harp on about all this, I also will continue to stress the point that elections usually have unintended consequences.  Failing to understand that can cause you to look very much like that person pictured in the Edvard Munch painting referenced above once you've realised what's actually happened.

Anyway, read the CCA’s “Call” below:


 Who:  To members of the archival community and archives supporters

What:  The following call to action is in response to the elimination of the National Archival Development Program by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) on April 30, 2012, and the resulting impact on Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial archives councils, and the Canadian Council of Archives.

Background:  On April 30, 2012, LAC eliminated the National Archival Development Program (NADP), a 1.7 million contribution program administered by the non-for-profit Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) for LAC and distributed to Canada’s 13 archives councils to support archival activities locally.  Through the councils, NADP funding is on the ground in our 10 provinces and 3 territories, ensuring that Canada’s history is preserved in local communities.  Canada’s archival councils provide user-centred services, providing support to archives and archivists so that they may better serve all Canadians.
 A one-of-a-kind program, NADP’s goal is to assist in the preservation and accessibility of Canada’s archival heritage through the following objectives:
-          Increase access to Canada’s archival heritage through the national catalogue of archival descriptions
-          Increase awareness and broaden use of Canada’s archival heritage
-          Increase representation of Aboriginal peoples and under-represented ethno-cultural groups in Canada’s archival heritage
-          Increase the capacity of archival networks to undertake strategic and development activities; and;
-          Increase the capacity of archival institutions to preserve Canada’s heritage. 
 NADP funds the following activities across Canada:
-          Development of the national on-line catalogue of archival descriptions, and its provincial and territorial counterparts, so all archives, including the very small, can reach Canadians
-          Provision of archival and preservation advice to archives
-          Job exposure for new graduates from Canada’s archival and information studies programs
-          Access to archival holdings information on-line
-          Outreach and educational activities in communities to help small institutions manage their treasures
-          Cataloguing of archival materials to make them accessible to the public
-          Training opportunities for local archives run by volunteers or one-person operations
-          Site assessments to both urban and rural archives, to safeguard Canada’s documentary heritage
-          Preservation  of at-risk documents and other archival materials, including electronic records

Impact:  NADP was a joint federal/provincial/territorial initiative; NADP, and its predecessor financial assistance program, was a critical source of funding to the community – CCA has operated for 26 years; elimination of NADP means that 11 of the 13 provincial and territorial councils will collapse within 30 days to 6 months, without any financial support.  A number of councils have suspended their operations.  The CCA’s physical office in Ottawa will close its doors to the public effective May 4, as the organization moves to a virtual office and staffing has been immediately be reduced from 8 FTE to  4 FTE, and will soon be further reduced to a maximum of 2.5 FTE.  Further adjustments may be necessary  – but at this time minimum administration services will be maintained for the small program Young Canada Works in Heritage Institutions,, Arcan-l and other secretariat services.

WHAT CAN YOU DO:  If your MP is a Cabinet Minister, call the local office and offer a briefing as well as the letter.  Write the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable James Moore, and your MP asking them to stop the NADP cut. 

Use the following key messages:
·         Canada’s documentary heritage is preserved it its over 800 archival institutions
·         NADP supports archives to preserve Canada’s documentary heritage for Canadians
·         NADP leverages financial and partnership opportunities for archives across the country
·         CCA serves the Canadian public. CCA's work ensures the preservation of Canada's heritage for the benefit of all Canadians-now and for the future. Through initiatives such as , CCA is the window through which the world may access Canadian archival information
 ·         Archives support Canada’s economy. Sustaining Canada's knowledge-based economy means sustaining and facilitating access to our knowledge resources. Archives are fundamental to the success of countless public, private, and educational enterprises.
·         Archives preserve Canada’s past. Millions of historical documents, photographs, maps and audio-visual materials are held in archives across the country
·         LAC’s stakeholder forum meetings cannot and will not take the place of an archival network of dedicated professionals and volunteers across Canada that took 26 years to build.  The damage done by elimination of NADP will take years to re-build.

Tell your own story about the value of the NADP and CCA’s services; use the following examples:
• books and other outputs that have utilized holdings made accessible by NADP
• non-traditional users whose access has been facilitated by NADP
• achievements realized through expertise made available to you through archives advisors, preservation services, training opportunities.
• how has and provincial/territorial networks helped users find you
• what holdings have been preserved through NADP and in what ways has that had public acknowledgement
• what activities by other groups have been assisted through the results of NADP funded projects
• what federal initiatives have benefitted by records that were preserved or made accessible through NADP

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Triple-Washed Veggies, Old Erie Canal Style

Earlier today, in preparation for tonight’s salad, I cut open my bag of Trader Joe’s radicchio - romaine - butter lettuce mix and noticed in the process that it proudly proclaimed to be “triple washed.”  

Normally, I wouldn’t have even noticed that kind of hype or given it a second thought, but I had just finished reading the 1910 Annual Report of the New York State Department of Health, and the section from the state’s Hygienic Laboratory was still in my memory.

Washing produce before its sale to make it more attractive to the consumer has been going on for a long time, but not always in the best of conditions.  Moreover, food inspection of any kind by government is a relatively recent thing, all things considered.  While colonial governments were concerned about short-weighting, actual food quality wasn't much to be concerned about.

 Here’s the section of the Report that stuck in my memory, mostly because the geographic area referred to is just a few miles from where many of my ancestors lived:

Albany, N. Y., May 27, 1910.

Hon. Eugene H. Porter, A.M., M.D., State Commissioner of Health, Albany, N. Y.: 

Sir:—Under date of May 21st, the attention of your Department was called to the washing of vegetables by truck gardeners in the water of the Erie canal, between Troy and Albany. This complaint was received by you on May 23d and transmitted to Inspector Number [___ ], with your instructions to investigate that matter on the following day.

Your inspector called upon the gentleman making this complaint, but was unable to find him at home. He accordingly proceeded to the direct investigation of the subject-matter.

He found that it is a constant practice and has been for some time for a number of truck gardeners to wash vegetables in the water of the Erie canal at various places, which vegetables they subsequently supply to the markets of Troy and Albany.

In particular at a point in the canal near Schuyler bridge, spinach was seen by your inspector to be washed and his investigation showed that this spinach was the property of a Mr. Beattie, who had built a wooden rack pen in the canal, into which pen vegetables to be washed were thrown from a wagon with forks; and after remaining in this pen, submerged with water, were taken out with the forks and thrown upon the bank to drain. They were subsequently loaded on to wagons, which wagons as a matter of custom usually left his residence from two to three in the morning to arrive at the Troy market at an early hour the following day.

At the time of this inspection a number of boys were in swimming at this place and samples of the water of the canal were taken at this time for examination at the laboratory.

In this vicinity also another pen, in which spinach, lettuce and onions were washed, was found existing in the canal, stated to be the property of O'Leary, a truck gardener who conveyed the most of his produce to Troy and also to the Albany market.

Another installation of the same sort served for the washing of products, the property of a man named Keys, who sold this produce at Troy.

At another point a similar installation belonging to Mr. O'Brien, was found; he washed practically all of his green produce in this way; at the time he was washing spinach, lettuce and onions and he sold all of this produce both in Troy and Albany.

Another installation was visited belonging to a Mr. Mattimore, where the actual washing of thirteen barrels of spinach, three of lettuce and a quantity of onions were seen and the two sons of this proprietor were interrogated. They stated it to be the usual custom to wash green produce here in this way; that after the produce remained in the water for some half hour or more, it was removed therefrom with forks, allowed to drain on the banks, subsequently loaded on to wagons and driven to the barn. From this barn the wagons started about two or three o'clock in the morning to arrive at the market at an early hour and sell the produce.

Another installation for washing the produce of Mr. T. Smith was also found, where spinach and lettuce were washed, which produce it was stated was carted early the following morning for sale at the Troy market.

Another installation opposite the farm of Mr. Clancy was said to be used by Mr. J. Mullen of Island Park, for washing of his green produce and a further installation was found of this nature, utilized by Mr. Burns.

Nearer to Albany, in the rear of Altro Park, a Mr. Burns was found to have a similar wash stand; and a Mr. Sheller and Mr. Carmend, vendors of such products, were found in this vicinity, but these last two were not provided with wash stands. The last three mentioned bring their truck for sale in Albany.

This method of washing green produce has been known for a long time by the people dwelling in that vicinity and is easily observed by passengers in the car line running between Troy and Albany and has been so observed in actual operation by members of the Laboratory Staff.

A report of the actual nature of the water in this Erie canal at the time of the washing is appended.

I will not bore you with the specific lab report on the water quality.  I will not even comment on the questionable practice of soaking vegetables in the Erie canal (with its rather exotic assortment of toxic effluents) and then letting them dry on the canal’s banks. 

Suffice it to say, it is my fervent hope that the good folks at Trader Joe’s have found a better, cleaner, more hygienic source of water for their “triple washing” than the early 20th century produce dealers of upstate New York.  

For those who are familiar with the general state of cleanliness of the Erie canal in that time period, it’s actually surprising that so many people in this area survived eating their veggies.

A hearty bunch, those long-gone New Yorkers, who took more risks than they suspected when they decided to fix a nice vegetable side dish.