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Former Library Dean Tells Tales from His ‘On-the-Road’ Genealogical Research

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Former Library Dean Tells Tales from His ‘On-the-Road’ Genealogical Research


By Sarah Block
Library Communications

Professor William Walker’s genealogical work has led him to cemeteries and courthouses, small-town historical societies and public libraries, and the villages and streets where early nineteenth-century settlers lived.

Professor William Walker’s genealogical work has led him to cemeteries and courthouses, small-town historical societies and public libraries, and the villages and streets where early nineteenth-century settlers lived.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 24, 2016) — Questions of ancestry are a known source of debate at family dinners; in some cases those questions still linger beyond the meal. As a table is cleared, chairs pushed in, and everyone heads home, some find that, out of these questions, a new kind of appetite takes form.

UM Professor William Walker, former dean of UM Libraries, can relate to this feeling. He has spent the past seven years engaged in genealogical investigation that began in just such a way.

Walker discussed the challenges and rewards of his work in the March 15 presentation, “Hop into the Jalopy: Tales of ‘On-the-Road’ Genealogical Research.” Using his own work as an example, Walker shed light on the wide variety of resources available in retracing one’s family history. In addition to making use of online information, Walker is a strong advocate for stepping away from the computer and taking to the road.

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, Walker was raised with the belief that many of his ancestors, some who settled in the area, came from England. Their surname was Chick.

“It was a point of pride for my mother,” Walker said. “When I would ask her about our background, she would say ‘Well we’re English, Welsh, some German – [and as if to say ‘in case you missed it’] did I say English?’”  This version of his ancestry, long informing familial traditions and in some ways his own identity, was called into question, however, when a great-aunt brought up one night that the family’s actual name was shortened from “Kovalchick.” “I immediately started to wonder, is this true? Did the Chicks exist? That’s when I started digging.”

As he built the first rungs of his family tree on Ancestry.com, Walker found the answer was yes – he was a Chick, and the Chicks lived for decades in the south of England. That discovery then led to new questions.

“What you want to gain in doing genealogy is a story,” Walker explained in his presentation at the Otto G. Richter library. “You want to understand – beyond names and dates – why they moved and what their lives were like in these new places.” Uncovering this level of detail in his ancestry would ultimately require deeper research across libraries and historical resources far and wide. In the process, he retraced the lives of Jane McCullough and Harriet Bogle, two of his great-great-grandmothers, who settled in regions of Ohio and Pennsylvania during the late 1800s.

Bogle, from his maternal side, lived most of her life in Dubois, PA, a coal-mining and lumber town twenty miles from where Walker grew up. “My mother had no recollection of her; I had never heard of her.” So when he found her obituary in the town’s historical society, he was amazed by the level of detail recounting her life. “Her parents came over from Yorkshire, England, and were weavers. She ran a truck wagon, then a small store, a series of hotels. She continued running her businesses up until the time she died. Remarkably, she had acquired quite a small fortune.”

Walker shared early records he’s found retracing the lives of two great-great grandmothers in “Hop into the Jalopy” at Richter Library.

Walker shared early records he’s found retracing the lives of two great-great grandmothers in “Hop into the Jalopy” at Richter Library.

Some information came in shorter strands, requiring patience as well as persistence. Locating property records in one Ohio courthouse, for instance, meant standing in line for hours behind gas and oil reps in the quest for fracking contracts. That was after walking a cemetery three times before finally coming across the standalone grave of McCullough, his paternal great-great grandmother. “I have no photograph of her, so in a way this was the only memory of her I had. Her name, and these two interlocking hands carved on top of the tombstone.”

Wanting to know more about her life ultimately took him even further across the country. In the Family History Library, in Salt Lake City, Utah, he found maps and newsletters from around the time McCullough was alive. He found her 80-acre plot of land in Harrison County, Ohio, that Jane and Robert Walker cleared and farmed. “I really started to gain a sense of connectedness while I was there,” he said.

Walker explained that the Family History Library, which is run by the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, is the strongest resource of genealogical records for the United States and abroad. The Church also operates an online ancestry resource known as FamilySearch.com; it along with Ancestry.com, partners with the U.S. National Archives to help preserve and make available documents such as census and naturalization records.

Finding records on the other side of the pond, however, can be challenging, especially in regards to ancestors of Ireland, where records for many areas were lost due to years of civil unrest and the burning of the Public Records Office in 1922. Still, in addition to visiting there, digging through records offices, knocking on doors and talking to people, he’s found the internet resource findmypast.com particularly helpful for international research. “People are finding ways to patch together records in very interesting ways. My favorite is that in Ireland during the 1800s you had to register your dog, and you had to provide more than your name. So these registries for dog tags have become extremely valuable in lieu of census data.”

And yet the path to some answers have, in a sense, been with him all along. It was through DNA testing, which has gained in popularity in recent years, that he learned Harriet Bogle’s husband, Robert Wallace Bogle, died in the Snake River panning for gold.  “DNA testing is very useful for people doing genealogy because not only does it give you a breakdown by percentile of your heritage, it also matches you with relatives.” After getting in touch with a second cousin he’d never met – who knew many details about Harriet – he was then able to fill in a number of gaps about her life.

The data also revealed lineage in Scandinavia, Greece, and Italy, regions to which Walker never considered as his heritage. “This really gives you a different view of who you are.”

For UM students and employees interested in genealogy, the Libraries provide free access to Ancestry Library Edition. There, users can start their own family trees and find a number of other genealogical tools.

 

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UM Trustee Arva Moore Parks Presents New Book on George Merrick January 16 at the Richter Library


Special to UM News

George Merrick BookCORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 5, 2015) – As the University kicks off its 90th anniversary celebrations in 2016, Miami historian and UM Trustee Arva Moore Parks is sharing her recent insights on the institution’s founding and early history.

Parks will present her latest book, George Merrick, Son of the South Wind, on Thursday, January 14 at the Otto G. Richter Library. The book, released last October, is the story of the visionary creator of Coral Gables who founded the University of Miami.

Parks’ presentation coincides with the official opening of “The Pan American University: The Original Spirit of the U Lives On,” an exhibition of archival materials—including photographs, publications, and other documents from UM Libraries’ unique and distinctive collections—that highlight UM’s enduring connection to Latin America and the Caribbean.

The January 14 presentation will begin at 6 p.m., followed by a reception, book signing, and exhibition viewing. For more information and to RSVP, please contact richterevents@miami.edu or call 305-284-4026.

 

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‘Book Traces’ Event Unearths One-of-a-Kind Books in the Stacks

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‘Book Traces’ Event Unearths One-of-a-Kind Books in the Stacks


By Sarah Block
Special to UM News

Students, faculty, and community members found more than 300 one-of-a-kind books featuring marginal notes and additions during UM Libraries’ Book Traces event on September 24.

Students, faculty, and community members found more than 300 one-of-a-kind books featuring marginal notes and additions during UM Libraries’ Book Traces event on September 24.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 1, 2015) — Many of the books that were found originally came from the University of Miami’s earliest donors, who helped UM, as a young institution, establish a basic library collection. In the books’ margins these individuals also left behind traces of their lives.

When students, faculty, and community members searched the Richter Library’s Stack Tower and Weeks Music Library during UM Libraries’ Book Traces event on September 24, they unearthed early community members’ memories and observations, critiques, dedications, scribblings, and adornments that have remained within the texts for more than one hundred years.

Participants, including several classes from UM’s College of Arts and Sciences as well as groups such as the Classics Club, discovered the reader markings, known as marginalia, in 300 books in UM Libraries’ holdings. Findings were culled mainly from areas on the fourth and fifth floors of Richter’s Stack Tower and ranged from diary-like annotations to insertions of flowers, letters, and official documents.

“Books have a long history of marginal notes and additions in the form of marginalia,” says Special Collections Librarian Jay Sylvestre, who helped organize the event with the goal of bringing awareness and access to the many unique and historical holdings of UML within its open and circulating collections. “To find one of these one-of-a-kind books is an opportunity to take in this special kind of reading experience shared with readers of the past.”

Tyler Pedersen, a third-year classics major, had been on the fifth floor of the stacks before, but says he hadn’t spent a lot of time looking for particularly old copies of the works. “It’s really interesting to see how readers have interacted with them,” he said, skimming Paul Delcharme’s Euripides and the Spirit of His Dreams (1906) with heavy highlights in a section related to “the dangers of marrying the wrong woman.”

Another student found an early-20th-century tram ticket from Birmingham, England. One text that a faculty member had pulled from the stacks had only proofreaders’ marks penciled in by the reader, addressing spelling mistakes and incorrectly alphabetized references in the book’s index.

UML’s Book Traces event was based on a national initiative started by Andrew Stauffer at the University of Virginia (UVA) that seeks to preserve information about unique copies of library books from the age when the “printed book was king” and used in many aspects of people’s lives. Stauffer, who presented during the day’s events along with co-investigator Kara McClurken, said readers historically would return to and engage with the same texts many years apart, leaving inscriptions along the way that documented milestones and major life events and reflected changes in attitudes and even handwriting. “Past readers have left us with an incredibly rich archive of historical artifacts,” he said.

The Book Traces website crowdsources marginalia from libraries across the United States, focusing specifically on books printed from the 1800s up to the 1920s. Books within this period, generally not housed within their rare and unique books collections, are accessed less and less in print form as they’re made available online through repositories such as Google Books.

McClurken, head of Preservation Services at UVA, discussed how marginalia in circulating collections presents a unique challenge for libraries with respect to users’ experience. “There’s this idea between books’ content and context, their artifactual evidence and their functionality, that libraries and preservationists seek to balance,” she said in her presentation.

The Book Traces initiative helps ensure that the unique information in old library books, such as those found during Thursday’s event, are documented. Sylvestre says that while UML plans to highlight selected findings from the event in a digital exhibit of student generated content, the search for marginalia is far from over. Many decades since the University’s founding days, its once small library now has more than three million volumes, with plenty of areas rife with unidentified marginalia.

Until the next Book Traces event, visitors are encouraged to submit marginalia they find in library collections to Book Traces and to notify Sylvestre at UMBookTraces@gmail.com so they may be featured in the upcoming exhibit.

 

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The Lure of the Caribbean: UM Alumnus Hermes Mallea Talks about the Elegance of the Caribbean Playgrounds of the Rich and Famous


By Peter E. Howard
UM News

Hermes-MalleaCORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 03, 2014) — Hermes Mallea spent nearly an hour showcasing the Caribbean playgrounds of the rich and famous with the pace of a speed-dating encounter that took you from Bermuda and Barbados to Jamaica and Antiqua and Cuba’s hedonistic heights.

He showed how architects spun a web of elegance and simplicity in their work through nonstop slides and photos of properties as varied as Palm Beach’s haughty Mar-a-Lago to Laurance Rockefeller’s fabled RockResorts in the U.S. Virgin Islands. There were the Victorian gingerbreads and those with European influence, and the breezy haciendas sans air conditioning or door locks. Read the full story

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Cuban Heritage Collection Acquires Brothers to the Rescue Archive

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Cuban Heritage Collection Acquires Brothers to the Rescue Archive


José Basulto, founder of Brothers to the Rescue, and Maria Estorino, chair of the Cuban Heritage Collection, review some of the archival materials Basulto has donated to UM Libraries' extensive repository on Cuba and the Cuban Diaspora.

José Basulto, founder of Brothers to the Rescue, and Maria Estorino, chair of the Cuban Heritage Collection, review some of the archival materials Basulto donated to UM Libraries’ extensive repository on Cuba and the Cuban diaspora.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 10, 2014) – Flying in their dependable, twin-engine Cessna 337s, the pilots of Brothers to the Rescue patrolled the skies over the Straits of Florida for more than a decade, searching for Cuban rafters adrift at sea and then alerting the U.S. Coast Guard to the migrants’ coordinates. Read the full story

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