Sunday, April 13, 2008

Take the Genealogical Challenge

I have been fortunate enough to obtain facial images for 7 of my 8 great grandparents. Click to enlarge.
Recently I read the results of an interesting survey in Eastman's Online Genealogical Newsletter which was posted 24 Mar 2008. The findings of the survey showed that Americans lacked a knowledge of their family history and in particular their pedigree. The survey was sponsored by The Generations Network (parent company of and conducted by an independent source.

The survey discovered that:
*One-third of Americans cannot name any of their great-grandparents.
*Half of Americans know the name of only one or none of their great-grandparents.
*Six out of ten Americans do not know both of their grandmothers' maiden names. (probably even fewer would know the names of their four great grandmothers).

So I thought how I would respond to this survey. Everyone has eight biological great grandparents. For an extra measure, I also provided vital statistics including locations. I numbered my great grandparents according to the "Ahnentafel" system:

8. Karl or August Streich (or Strike), b. ? in Prussia (Posen?); d. 1885 in America.
9. Henrietta Hohnke, b. 1842 in Posen, Prussia; d. 1922 in West Houtzdale, PA.
10. Thomas W. Russell, b. 1847, Holytown, Lanarkshire, Scotland; d. 1928, Cambria Co, PA.
11. Eleanor (or Ellen) Hartley, b. abt 1845, Yorkshire or County Durham, ENG; d. abt 1892, Houtzdale, PA.
12. Henry Caspar Gailliot, b. 1862, Wesel, GER; d. 1926, Alexandria, VA.
13. Franceska (Francoise) Dumoulin, b. 1871, Roeschwoog, Alsace; d. 1941, Alexandria, VA.
14. Joseph Austel, b. 1850, Haindorf, Boehmen; d. 1924, Braddock, PA.
15. Maria Gutgsell, b. 1857, Wintzenheim, Alsace; d. 1895, Burglen, Switzerland.

I've been collecting these data for about 16 or more years, but I tried to recall the above without peeping into my computer's database. I also made these observations:
  • All of my great grandparents were born in Europe.
  • Three of my four grandparents were also born overseas.
  • I can say that my heritage is 6/8 German (based on the German borders, 1871-1918), 1/8 Scottish, and 1/8 English.
  • All of my great grandparents died before I was born in 1942. My children saw two of their great grands (Harry McNeeley and Lemma Drake on their Mother's branch).
  • Grave sites or burial locations are known for six of my eight great grandparents; but only 4 tombstone inscriptions exist.
  • I am not certain of my paternal great grandfather's first name, nor the "correct" spelling of his surname.
  • I have facial images of 7 of my 8 great grandparents, almost all of which I discovered in the hands of my collateral family who graciously let me copy them.
  • My father was fostered and then adopted by his father's sister, Martha, nee. Streich, who married Robert W. Kramp from Kries Stolp, Hinterpommern (Poland today). Thus, I have a more complex ancestral tree. Oh boy, another tree to climb!

The survey results continued:
*Twenty-two percent of Americans don't know what either of their grandfathers did for a living.

My Response: My paternal grandfather, Otto Strike, was a coal miner; then a machinist for American Car and Foundry Company in Detroit- they made most of the nation's street cars; then a maintenance man (ice plant operator) at Cresson Tuberculosis Sanitarium, PA. My maternal grandfather, Charles Gailliot, was a pattern maker for the Navy Yard in DC.

*Although America is known as a nation of immigrants, 27 percent don't know where their family lived before they came to America.

My Response: I did pretty good on this one. I have even visited the birth places of 3 of my great grandparents: Thomas W. Russell in Holytown, Lanarkshire, Scotland; Henry C. Gailliot, in Wesel, Germany; and Franceska Dumoulin, in Reoschwoog, Alsace. My goal of course would be to visit all birthplaces. You'll hear about it here.

*The study also found that in comparing regions, Southerners know the least about their roots. Only 38 percent know both of their grandmothers' maiden names, compared with 50 percent of Northeasterners.
No comment.

*Young Americans are looking to their roots- 83 percent of 18 to 34 year-olds are interested in learning their family history. Following closely are the 35 to 54 year-olds at 77 percent and Americans ages 55+ at 73 percent.

This surprised me as I thought older Americans would be most interested in knowing their ancestors- after all they will meet them sooner rather than later. And, it would be nice to be acquainted with their names and where they were from- just to make conversation.

References for survey: Dick Eastman's Newsletter, 24 Oct 2008, and The Generations Network

I appeared on the Milt Grant Show in Washington DC, and won

Tune: Rumble by Link Wray

When I was in 9th grade at North Bethesda Junior High School, our class was invited to the Milt Grant show in Washington, DC. Milt hosted a Rock and Roll, dance show similar to Dick Clark's American Band Stand. One of the shows highlights was a dance contest. I loved to dance and my girl friend, Myrtie Mae, and I had a few favorite dance steps of our own. It's hard to describe in words, but in one step, I bent down, turned and twisted my arm behind my back while holding on to Myrtie's hand- this was followed by Myrtie Mae's turn to bend down and then I kicked my leg over her back. This must have impressed the judges- besides the fact that Myrtie was just plain cute. We won first prize: two 6 packs of Coke, the top ten 45 RPM records, and a long playing (that's 33 1/3 RPM) record album featuring George Hamilton, III, and his rendition of "A Rose and a Baby Ruth. We split up the loot and I remember I got the 45 for Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen". When I got home late in the afternoon, I went down to the little "rec" room in our house and played that 45 until it turned red hot- and danced with an imaginary partner

This evening I did a little surfing, starting out by googling "The Washington Evening Star", my home town newspaper, and I eventually came upon a vintage article about Milt Grant and his house band featuring Link Wray. Apparently Link couldn't come up with a tune for a popular dance of the day called the Stroll. So, Milt hummed the first line of a tune from his head, the drummer picked up a beat, and the tune "Rumble" was born. I didn't realize until now that the tune became very popular, even world-wide popular. Even though it was just an instrumental, it was considered as a symbol promoting juvenile delinquency and was even banned in some communities. Hardly believable considering the media of today's youth.

Hey, it was just a simple tune guys. And me, a juvenile delinquent? Never.

Monday, April 7, 2008

First Week of Retirement

Before I depart Southport, NC, I thought I would spend a few days exploring the area. I can extend my stay at St. James Plantation for only a fraction of what they normally charge.

The picture above was taken at the town park in Southport, NC. The azaleas are at almost peak bloom and the dogwood and Redbud are also in bloom. I love to see the majestic and gnarled limbs of the water oak. Ferns grow on the top sides of the limbs.

My daughter and grandchildren met me for a few days of their Spring break from school. We took a walk on the beach and dug ponds and lakes in the beach sand. Then we hopped on our bicycles and took a tour around St. James Plantation. Their bike lanes are great for safe biking with the children. I wish more roads were built with bike lanes. Perhaps they will be when gas reaches 10 dollars a gallon.

On our tour we saw beautiful gardens and wildlife such as deer and fiddler crabs as we biked silently over the boardwalks which have been built above the marshes.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Retirement again- probably

Image: Setting traps for Mule deer on Pahute Mesa on the former AEC's Nevada Test Site, 1964. We collected tissue specimens from animals and analyzed them for radionuclide content. The quantity of radionuclides was the same as or less than that of other areas in the country. At that time, just after the moratorium on above-ground testing of nuclear weapons by the US and USSR in 1962, radionuclides in food, animals, and water was directly proportional to the amount of nuclear fallout in rainwater- thus, higher in the eastern states because of higher amounts of rainfall.

By the way, the trap failed to catch any deer, but we collected all the specimens we needed from road kills. We also had some time for boondoggling on the half million acre test site. Once I climbed down the sides of a crater left by the nuclear explosive in Project Sudan. The test was designed to study the feasibility of "digging" a Panama-like canal though central America using nuclear explosives.

Transporting Holsteins cows from Reno, Nevada, to the Nevada Test site near Las Vegas. Cooling off the livestock with buckets of water. I served my military obligation with a Commission in The U.S. Public Health Service. The Service performed a study to define the pathway of Iodine 131 as it was created during a nuclear test and then as it passed through the atmosphere to alfalfa feed and ultimately to cow's milk. No, we did not nuke the cows.

Checking a fellow nuclear worker for alpha contamination at Lynchburg, VA, during a decommissioning project.

Mapping some of the nuclear plants I have worked at as a Health Physics Technician (HP), sometimes referred to as a Radiation Protection Technician (RP). For about half the contracts, I worked as an instructor in Radiation Safety for the contract workers. I started working on the road as a nuclear worker in Fall 1983 at V.C. Summers Nuke plant. About 25 years later I am finishing up my last contract, hopefully, at Brunswick Nuke plant. Map covers sites I worked at between 1983 and 2001. Click to enlarge.
As an Instructor for use of respirators.

Tomorrow is my last day as a nuclear worker at Brunswick Nuclear Plant, in Southport, NC, near Wilmington. It may be the start my retirement- again. I said after a 5 week job at Sequoyah Nuclear plant last Fall that it would be my last job. The hardest part of my work day has been walking from the far reaches of the parking lot to my work station. So, climbing several flights of stairs to the top of the turbine deck or climbing over pipes and obstructions in the reactor building is out of the question. There are several reasons why people retire in their 60s- not the least of them, is that we ain't as young and energetic, quick and nimble as we used to be.

Tomorrow, at my retirement, there will be no dinner party, no speeches, no golden watch, and probably not even a thank you. Just "Good bye, see ya down the road". I think that is what it is for a road tech. I didn't even get an "attaboy" free meal ticket on this contract, nor did I get one for the two previous years- but my coworkers did. Yes, it is about time to hang it up. Actually, my team mates deserved a meal ticket as they spent their time and money to prepare a really delicious Easter dinner for about 60 workers. We don't stop to observe holidays- I wonder if my coal mining ancestors got off for Holidays. If they were around, I'd ask them.

I am not sure I chose this career. I believe I just flowed into it and couldn't get out. Psychologists would argue that I didn't follow my bliss. "Everyone has a choice", they say. Actually, I stayed in it for the money especially the last 15 years or so; pure and simple. To me there was no pride nor fun in the job. For most of the time, the best part of the occupation was seeing different parts of the country and meeting some very interesting co-workers. Another benefit was having a lots of time BETWEEN job contracts. I was free (unemployed) for most of my summers from May to September. When I started working on the road in early 1980s, the contracts lasted about 3 months- that was about the time it took to change nuclear fuel and provide maintenance in the plants. In the last decade, the same job has been reduced to about 5 or 6 weeks. Many of the younger technicians who had families left the business and now there seems to be plenty of demand for HPs, even for the older ones. In essence, since I wished to have more free time, I have accepted only one or two contracts a year for the last 10 years, giving me almost 6 months a year to do what I wanted. In the last decade for instance, I took month-long tours of England and Europe. Believe me it was easy to fill up my free time and I wished for more. I like to believe the reason I take a job is to slow down time, as it seems to be flying by these days. I've already fulfilled some of my dreams and now I'm looking ahead for more.

Being a road tech has not been my only career. I performed diabetes research at several institutes including Virginia Tech. I also taught biology and Health Physics at the latter. A few days ago, I was eating breakfast in the cafeteria at Brunswick Nulear Station and an in-house newsletter caught my eye. The Plant Manager wrote an inspiring "go go team" message to the workers who are here for the outage. The by-line had a picture of the manager- egads, he was a former student of mine who graduated from Virginia Tech. What a gulf now stands between teacher and former pupil, as it should be. We wanted different things.

It's the joy of the journey that counts, not the destination.

How do you save your precious souvenirs and trinkets?

The simple answer is to take a picture. Most people have them in a drawer, a picture case, or on a shelf of some sort. I have placed some of mine as shown above in a wooden display case with velvet bottom and glass cover. Then, you can post the picture to a blog or some other album in your house or on the Internet. Of course if the picture is on the Internet, you have to beware of migration- such as the termination of Yahoo's photo album feature. I had to transfer my images from Yahoo to an Internet album at .

Below, I describe my trinkets, beginning generally at the top of the image. They are definitely a part of our Family's history:

* A few arrowheads and arrowhead fragments. I understand the big, quartz one, which seems to be the crudest, was probably made by an eastern tribe of Indians. I found these on ridge-top of Brushy Moutain when our family first moved to Blacksburg, VA. Note the bottom fragment of a small obsidian arrow head in which you can see the notches for tying the arrowhead to a shaft (found on Nevada Test Site).

*In the top left corner is a very tiny starfish.

*A fold-over, red pin with letters "ROM" which reminds me of a visit with Annie to the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada in 1990. I was working at the Ginna Nuke plant and made the trip to the museum stopping at Niagara Falls, NY, on the way. So, you see why such trinkets are dear to me- they evoke pleasant memories of many years ago.

*top-right: Three brass-colored medallions for participating in the Annual Galax Old Time Fiddler's convention in southern Virginia. One medallion is from the 50th anniversary convention. I competed for several years in the old time banjo and old time band categories, but never won. However, one of the highlights of my life was winning first place old time banjo in the Bluefield (West Virginia) Fiddler's convention and winning a few second places elsewhere. Uncle Mudd lives on.

*Two Ribbons from my sponsorship of a Russell Sept, welcoming table at the annual Scottish Festival and Games at Ligonier, Pennsylvania in 1993 and 1994. The table stood under a tent and I tried to establish an interest in forming a Russell Clan. Though the effort did not result in a clan I did meet several others of the Russell name, and it was a convenient place to meet some of my Russell cousins for the first time in my life.

*The Maine to Georgia patch symbolizes my long time dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Though I did not hike the entire 2000 miles of the trail, I did hike over 200 linear miles in sections- usually doing a round trip. Now with prostate cancer and hormone therapy that weakens my muscles, I will never realize my whole dream- unless I make the journey on a Segway. I can bicycle better than I can walk, so hopefully, I can still do those long distances under my own muscle power. Recently, I've day-dreamed of crossing the country on a recumbent trike.

*There's the Myakka River patch which I obtained after a backpacking trip in this Florida State Park. I sewed these and several other patches on my favorite backpack (which unfortunately I never took a picture of).

*A Wheel Club pen from my Walter Johnson High School. The club was sponsored by Rotary International. All the big jocks belonged to the club.

*A Civil War bullet which I picked up in an antique store near Spring City, TN. I was working at Watt's Bar nuke plant at the time. I believe the bullet is made out of lead or some heavy metal- will check back later.

*Fossilized shark's teeth which I found while swimming in the Chesapeake Bay.

*The rattles from the tail of a western rattle snake. About 40 some years ago, I started a post graduate degree at University of Nevada Southern which was supposed to lead to a Master's in Parasitology. One of my projects was to collect one hundred snakes and identify the parasites from their innards. I collected about 12 snakes, mostly fresh road kills, until I talked my professor into studying the parasites in 100 jack rabbits instead- they were more plentiful on the roadsides. I wonder if my old professor Bert B. Babero is still around. He had some interesting stories to tell of his life as a parasitologist. I never finished my course at Nevada, primarily because I moved my family back East. Later, I obtained a Master's in Environmental Health at University of Oklahoma.

*Various invertebrate fossils collected from central Tennessee. My daughters called them "Indian money". Perhaps they were used as such a long time ago.

*There is the tiny Swiss cowbell on a key chain I used during my two year post-doctorate at Institute de Biochimie Clinique de Geneve. We only had a car, a Morris Mini, for one year of that two-year period.

*A reindeer medallion from Saltzburg, Austria, similar to the medallions one can find pinned on the walking sticks used by European hikers. For some reason the tradition never caught on here in the States. I had an idea one time of creating similar medallions for sites along the Appalachian Trail or other national trails and selling them to hikers. The walking sticks of today are made of high-tech, light resins. I don't know if one can pin trinkets on them.

*In the center of the image is a key chain with a tiny compass and whistle. It almost always brings a lump to my throat. My daughters bought it for me at a tourist stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were on our way to visit relatives in Maryland. They knew I loved to hike and at the time I was feeling pretty blue for reasons I won't go into now. But the thoughts of my kids as they purchased this trinket to precisely fit my personality are just too emotional. And I'm tearing as I write these words.

So, the trinkets and souvenirs might someday be trashed or lost, but the words of this entry will hopefully live on. As you can see, there is a host of information and memories inherent in these items. I have just skimmed their surface.

By the way, every so often I go to our public library's computers and print out several pages of this blog on their laser printer for 10 cents a page and then bind them into a book with a plastic comb. Someday, I would love to put the pages into a hardbound book.