20 May 2017

THE VALUE OF USING OLD PHONE BOOKS FOR GENEALOGY

Recently a friend was telling me that her parents have had the same phone number and landline since 1950 when they moved to a new suburb and shared a party line!  These days some people change their cell phone number every year.  (And I know a lot of people who never answer their phone unless a friend first text messages them.)


So it may be difficult to understand the value of old telephone books with all the amazing technological changes in both phones and networks.  Concerns about long distance phone call charges have evaporated with Unlimited calling all around the country, but not so long ago it could cost a lot more to call a few miles away into another network. The cost of phone calling meant that people used the mail (as in snail mail) to write each other letters.


Recently I traveled to Los Angeles Public Library Central to look through a half dozen old phone books there in the stacks.  Oh they were really decaying so much so that I had to wonder if the particular city I pulled from the shelf to look at 1940, 1945, 1950, 1955, 1960, and 1965 for certain surnames would disintegrate beneath my fingers.

Why would I do this, seeking what may be trivial information, when years ago I looked through the City Directories for the same surnames?

Well, let's remember that City Directories were often PRE-TELEPHONE or sometimes CO-EXISTED WITH TELEPHONE DIRECTORIES because City Directories had more in common with Yellow Pages or Business Directories than Residential Phone Books.


It cost to list yourself in most City Directories and so people did so to advertise the kind of work they were available to do or their business.  Sometimes a young woman would list herself so young men who might want to court her or marry her could find her, particularly if she was self supporting and had left home.

And then the telephone came to cities, towns, villages, suburbs at different times and places and not everyone wanted one or could afford one.  I once met a woman who discovered a secret in her family. 
A father in the family was so angered that one of his daughters would want to WORK and be a TELEPHONE OPERATOR and had responded to signs posted up around town for workers that he beat her and she rolled down the stairs and died.  Everyone knew he was a violent abusive man and in that time and place he wasn't the only class conscious man who thought "No woman in my family is going to WORK!",but he wasn't tried.  That he'd killed his daughter because she wanted to be a liberated woman was the dark family secret.

This leads into the value of using the old phone books.

They can put people at an address between census.  They can let you know that the same people lived at the same address for a short or long time.  Sometimes if the address is the same but a different person is listed, say the son or daughter, it can indicate that the father or breadwinner has died or left the home and that a child is now paying the bills.

Sometimes you can cross reference the address with the City Directory. Sometimes you can cross reference it with a census.  Sometimes you can cross reference it with a Social Security Application.  Or a ship manifest.

Sometimes you know where the family was living from a census but they simply do not yet have a phone.  (The 1940 census would be most revealing because by 1940 most places - especially the larger cities and suburbs surrounding them, have phone service for those who wanted it.  1935 there are phones but not as many of them. The books get fatter and fatter as they years go by and then with the onset of cell phones begin to skinny down.)


By looking for the surnames in the old phone books that I did, I stumbled upon one bit of information that is of special interest to me. That the wife of a man who divorced her some time after he returned from World War II does have her own phone, is listing herself as Mrs. and so by 1950 he must be living separate.  Because in 1950 it was rare for a couple to list their phone under the woman's name unless she was widowed or divorced.


Which brings us to the use of the phone book to possibly narrow down the years we must look for divorce or marriage records or death records.



Some of the phone books have the month and year date on them which is helpful but unlike a census this is the date of publication not the date of a census taker's visit.
Depending on the city and the location of the old paper books, you may find the old names, addresses, and phone numbers, with their now quaint "exchange names" very interesting!


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16 May 2017

WHAT YOUR NOSE KNOWS

CNN: YOUR NOSE SHAPE and CLIMATE b


It's exactly as we suspected, our noses do reveal something about the climate that our ancestors lived in.


EXCERPT: They selected people from four populations: North Europeans, South Asians, East Asians and West Africans. Shriver and his team looked at 3-D photos of each individual and examined the width of the nostrils, the distance between nostrils, the height of the nose, nose ridge length, nose protrusion, external area of the nose and area of the nostrils.

10 May 2017

ORPHAN TRAINS brought HOMELESS CHILDREN TO ADOPTIVE FAMILIES

In 1853, a minister named Charles Loring Brace, decided to address the urgent problem of immigrant children who were homeless, on the street, or living in deplorable conditions.  This film doesn't say it, but these children were not just begging, or singing for donations.  Many of them probably were being used for sex or sex trafficked.   Many of them were orphans or the children of unmarried women.  His Children's Aid Society moved 150,000 of these children to the Midwest, usually to farms, between the years of 1854 and 1929.  Some of the people who were moved to homes this way were still alive to testify for this documentary film.  Overall the film presents both sides.  Stories of a child who was worked to death like a slave and lived in fear, children who became the beloved adoptees by excellent parents. Children who stayed in one place and came to appreciate that they had been given a chance that saved them.  Others who moved from one place to another, who were hard to place. Other charities followed this example of placing children who had no real home to go to.





While watching this film, I couldn't help but think of all the children today who are awaiting foster homes or adoption or who are homeless and living in vehicles or motel rooms. Today I do not think this system of putting children on trains, having them get off at a stop, being chosen or rejected, and then putting them back on to another town until someone wanted them would be allowed.


PBS ORPHAN TRAIN SITE


*****
Are you researching to find more out about someone who did or may have been adopted this way?  My advice is to find that person on a census at as young an age as possible.  Then inquire at the county they lived in to find out if any legal adoption was necessary.  I've found that adoption was often not a legal or formal procedure and the text to this program suggests that.  However, the Childrens Aid Society did ask any locatable parent to sign paperwork in which they agreed not to contact the child or interfere in their life, until they were an adult.


CHILDRENS AID SOCIETY NEW YORK  still in existence. 

06 May 2017

OFF AND RUNNING : ANCESTRY WORSHIP GENEALOGY FILM REVIEW



A Jewish Lesbian couple adopted three children.  Two of them, teenagers, a son and a daughter appear to be African American or Black.  The son has no interest in connecting with birth parents.  The daughter, Avery, who is the focus of this film, does.  Encouraged by her two mothers and of her own desire, she first contacts the agency that did the adoption.  She learns that her birth mother has never contacted them.  She persists and writes her birth mother a letter - and waits - and then another.  It seems the woman doesn't want to tell her too much about how she cameo be.  The delays, hesitations, and minor details she is willing to provide, mess up Avery.


She is the daughter of privilege as is, but, a track star with hopes of a college scholarship, she quits high school and thinks about a GED instead.  She's on the pill but she gets pregnant, and sure that she would never want any of her children adopted, she has an abortion.  She moves in with friends and out of the house, because she feels the tension over the birth mother and adoption issue is too much.


The whole time I was watching this film, I was thinking about adoption issues  Is it nurture or nature that makes us? 


Reaching into the experience of someone I'm related to my marriage, I think of a situation in which a child was adopted at about the age of 4 years old by two educated and working parents who were childless.  This child was treated well, not abused, and this child wanted for nothing but wasn't spoiled.  Still, as he neared teenage years he became a rebellious, violent, and hateful child, capable of saying horrible things to his parents, even striking his mother.  When he was 18 he was encouraged to find his siblings, who he had vague memories of, with the hopes that with some answers he would better find his place in the world.  Well, he did, and it turned out both parents were drug addicts who had overdosed or suicide, not all the children had been adopted, two of the siblings had quit high school and had babies without fathers, and one of his siblings was in prison. He had it better than any of them.  For whatever reason this knowledge made him worse.


Then there is the question of placement with a family. Avery appears to be African American or Black.  Very few African American or Black people in the United States are Jewish.  Usually they are Christians and Protestants.  Then there is the question of gay people, be they single or married, having children by adoption, surrogates, or sperm donations.  Frankly there are so very many children out there who need to be adopted, and in some places it's difficult to adopt unless you own a home, for instance.  Some children go through hell in foster care, though there are loving foster care homes.  To me anyone who is a decent human being who can be a responsible parent and wants to be should be allowed to.  But it can be complicated.


One thing that I felt was odd was how the discussions within the family seem to have a lot of analysis like you'd get in therapy.  (When I was growing up NOBODY talked therapeutic terms and if someone was in therapy it was considered their business.)  Avery states her needs in a sophisticated way, but she's still a child, and clearly what she wanted out of her birth mother was more acceptance.

A thought provoking film, the good news is that this young woman gets her life on track and decides to put off the birth mother until she's graduated from college.