• May13


    Posted in: 23andme, DNA, Fun


  • May5

    Emma S Clark Memorial Library DoorBack when our kids were fairly small, my wife started a terrific tradition while looking for things to do in the otherwise lazy summertime: Library Field Trips.

    She began to seek out various libraries in our county of Suffolk on Long Island and they would pack up some things for snacks and/or lunch, pick a town and just browse the library there. As a life-long book and library fiend, I am aghast that such a thing never occurred to me, except maybe for larger libraries such as the New York Public Library in Manhattan.

    The kids have loved it – an opportunity to find new books they’ve never seen before along with at least the small sense of adventure one feels when visiting a new place. We’ve found some wonderful libraries, and also found that even though they’re all in the same county system, the facilities – and rules – can vary greatly. We’ve toyed with the idea of creating a dedicated blog for these trips, and now I regret not creating one a few years back. (Especially now that our son is 12 and less inclined to find the adventure. *sadface*)

    Stained Glass WindowToday I believe we have found my favorite Long Island library: The Setauket’s Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, opened in 1892 in memory of Miss Clark, who was the niece of millionaire confectioner Thomas Hodgkins.

    The library has been greatly (and beautifully) expanded several times since that first day, when the annual membership charge was a whopping 10¢ per year. The magazine area is housed in the original structure, constructed of arches and old wood that creaks comfortably beneath one’s feet.

    As my wife and son perused other areas of the library, my daughter Lily and I sat in this wonderful spot. I could easily imagine people running up to the overlarge entrance door in older times, shaking off the snow, pulling a volume from a shelf and sitting in the nook beside the fireplace and golden bottle-glass adorned windows.

    Clark Library StairsLily read quietly as I imagined these ancient goings on, and spoke only once to say “It is so peaceful here!” *Sigh.*

    As an added bonus to the library itself is that the area is of historical significance and has some beautiful churches and cemeteries to explore nearby. Walking out through the library’s nice plantings we then crossed the village green to learn that the Revolutionary War Battle of Setauket was fought here.

    Lily in a Flowering Tree




    For those who are viewers of the show Turn: Washington’s Spies on AMC, you might recognize the location name. (I have requested the first season from my own library, so please don’t tell me who wins!)

    NYS Historical Sign for Setauket village GreenThe area still has a nice rural feel to it, and it is easy to imagine carriages and soldiers milling about while crossing the triangle-shaped green on our trek over to the Setauket Presbyterian Church. As usual, the headstones in the cemetery called to us and we wandered through for the better part of an hour.

    Setauket Presbyterian Church

    Grave of Abraham WoodhullWe noted a few Revolutionary war soldiers as we walked through, and more than a few DAR markers. Then we stumbled upon one raised memorial that appeared to be built over the original headstone and had coins and stones scattered across its face.

    Abraham Woodhull PlaqueThe plaque on the top of the memorial informed us it was for Abraham Woodhull, “Friend and confidant of George Washington, head of Long Island Secret Service during the Revolution, and operated under the Alias of Samuel Culper, Sr.”

    Overall, an excellent field trip day, I must say.

  • Apr28

    For those of us of the genealogical mindset, we seek slight glimpses of ancestral life in their archived documents, their location, time in history, and even hope for finding mentions in newspapers, even if less than good.

    More desired are personal letters or diaries, but I suspect few of us are lucky enough to possess such things.

    Now, I have some homework for you. As you read May Sarton’s poem A Light Left On, below, think what “inside weather” you might document and leave for your loved ones to recall you by, to help understand the space you live in, physical, spiritual, and waiting for your return…

    A Light Left On

    In the evening we came back
    Into our yellow room,
    For a moment taken aback
    To find the light left on,
    Falling on silent flowers,
    Table, book, empty chair
    While we had gone elsewhere,
    Had been away for hours.

    When we came home together
    We found the inside weather.
    All of our love unended
    The quiet light demanded,
    And we gave, in a look
    At yellow walls and open book.
    The deepest world we share
    And do not talk about
    But have to have, was there,
    And by that light found out.

    Poem: “A Light Left On,” by May Sarton from May Sarton Collected Poems 1930-1993 (W.W. Norton).

  • Apr13

    I’m back with another edition of cool old books I’ve found online. If you have Scottish Ancestry, you may want to flip through this 1850 book entitled (now would be a good time to get a beverage or snack, because you might be here awhile…)

    The Clans of the Highlands of Scotland, An Account of their Annals, Separately and Collectively with Delineations of Their Tartans and Family Arms.
    Edited by Thomas Smibert, Esq.

  • Apr8

    Hello Pie Lovers!

    Back in the olden days of 2011 I created an Excel spreadsheet that took the world by… drizzle. But I thought it was cool. This update to my original Ancestry Pie Chart Creator lets you enter the names of you and your ancestors and the names of the countries they came from.

    Ancestry Pie 2 Generation SampleThen you could enter the percentage of each ancestry for your great-great-grandparents and Voila! .. some nice simple pie charts of your tree.

    You can see from the comments on that original blog post a few people used it, like CeCe Moore, which I thought was pretty neat.

    After I posted the first Excel sheet I made a few changes to streamline the look a little, then I let it go dormant. But, I always had a few things in it I didn’t like that were due either to limitations in Excel or to my available time to hack my way through them.

    When I saw J. Paul Hawthorne’s Excel sheet go pretty viral-y last month, I thought now might be a good time to spruce up the old Ancestry Pie recipe. The one thing I really disliked in Excel was the random color selection it chose when creating pie charts, and that you couldn’t use one chart to paint the rest the same colors. I often thought, “I want my Irish green and my Czech Blue, Dabnabit!” and I didn’t want to have to change the colors of 10 countries in 32 charts every time I ran the thing for a different person, with different countries, who wanted different colors.

    Well, with the latest version of Excel, you still can’t paint chart formats. But, I did figure out a way to automate matching the pie chart colors to the ones a user selects for each country. So, without further to do, I have uploaded this latest version of my Excel sheet – it can be downloaded here.

    I will warn folks right now – while I did include some summary info on how to use the sheet, and also included a more detailed “Help!” sheet within the Excel file, there may be a bit of a learning curve if you are not familiar with using Excel. Also, I had to use macros (*sharp intake of breath*) to automate the color painting etc.

    Because of this, when you open the file Excel might warn you that running macros from Internet downloaded files might be dangerous, scare off your kitty and cause premature hair loss. The macros I wrote are fairly benign, but if you are the cautious type, and you think my blog avatar looks slightly shifty, then this file may not be for you.

    I plan to make a video or longer blog post with details on how to use it. But, if you’d like to be the first kid on the block to have some of the newfangled Ancestry Pie (mmmm… pie) then please download it and give it a try. While I can’t promise to offer 24×7 support or any such thing, I welcome comments and suggestions here to help me make it a workable tool for genealogy peoples.

    Ancestry Pie: Part Deux
    Version Updates:
    11 APR 2016
    * Added Last Modified date at bottom of each sheet.
    * Found that the locked sheets were preventing people from changing the country cell colors – fixed.
    * Found that in some cases opening sheet with older versions of Excel (2007 at least), Excel will “forget” formulas that add the names to the pie chart sheets. If this occurs, Excel just keeps the last name that was in the sheet. This does not appear to be happening in later versions, and I will not be fighting this bug at this time.

    26 APR 2016
    * Realized Last Modified Date macro was not being called properly. Fixed.
    * Simplified color scheme on Ancestor Entry Sheet slightly so that each Paternal/Maternal Ancestor section is Blue or Pink. I found it a little busy with the previously alternating colors for each person.