One of my wife’s nieces lives here in Scarborough. On her house, she has a sign which reads, “On This Site in 1897 Nothing Happened.” I know her home was built in the 1980s, as was most of her neighborhood, which is nestled between Pleasant Hill and Higgins Beach. When I first saw the sign, I thought, “well, maybe nothing happened on her property, but I’ll bet something happened in the area.”
Sure enough, on August 11, 1897, there was great excitement in Scarborough. During the day before, it was wicked foggy. One observer said it looked as if “the space between earth and sky was filled with gray-white cotton.”[i] During the night it just got worse. About two o’clock in the morning, there were loud crashes and curdling noises coming from the water. I’ll bet, they were loud enough you probably could hear them through the thick fog two miles away at my niece’s property. When the fog cleared in the morning, it was clear that a ship had run aground.
Howard W. Middleton appeared very low in the water while she was aground Photo: Scarborough Historical Society
The Howard W. Middleton, a three-masted schooner had run aground on a ledge near Higgins Beach. It contained 894 tons of Pennsylvania coal headed for Portland. All the crew members made it safely to shore. Tug boats from Portland tried to get it off the rocks to no avail.[ii] Most of the cargo was saved, although it is said that some of the locals salvaged enough coal for themselves to last them through three winters.
Remnants of Howard W. Middleton shipwreck
Photo by Rich Bard (CC BY-ND 2.0)
The following month a storm drove the wreck further inland onto Higgins Beach where some of the remains can be seen 119 years later during low tides.
It may be that nothing happened at my wife’s niece’s property in 1897, but certainly there was a lot of excitement in her neighborhood that year surrounding the sinking of the Howard W. Middleton.
I was recently asked about what I do for Genealogical Training. How do I keep up with things genealogical? Of course, learning is an ongoing process, but the key to learning, in my opinion, it to provide an environment for learning. I do that in several ways.
First of all, I volunteer at my local historical society and museum. There, I regularly answer questions from individuals who have questions regarding their genealogical searches. I have only been in Maine about a year and a half, so my volunteer work helps me really learn about the place where I am living and the ancestors of this place. I am also learning about the genealogical records available here. Not only does it help me help others but it also helps me understand what types of records are available at a historical society in general. I am amazed at the kinds and types of materials that are possible. There are resources that I would never have thought of. By volunteering, I have the knowledge to ask other societies for specific types of materials or searches and hone in on specific possibilities.
Next, I attend my local chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society. Every month they host a speaker who talks about various genealogical topics and I attend. Not only does it give an hour of education it has the side benefit of meeting and conversing with individuals who actually care about my genealogical successes and brick walls as I care about theirs. Just those conversations can be motivating and inspiring. I even gave one of the talks last summer regarding “Social Media and Genealogy.” There is nothing that teaches you more than preparing to give a talk.
Next, I am particularly interested in genetic genealogy. There is a new Genealogical DIG (DNA Interest Group) here in Maine, which I am now attending. I also volunteered to help with a website for them. Not only do I learn about genetic genealogy through the meetings, I learn even more as I help with the content of the website. And again, being able to chat with individuals with a similar interest in genetic genealogy can sometimes be inspiring.
Next, I read. I subscribe to several magazines and the other societies I belong to send magazines focused upon their society. I also subscribe to several blogs of individuals that I know their writings will usually be interesting. Another thing I did was create a daily magazine at Paper.li. I am still using the free version and have the system create a Genealogical Daily. I check it every day. You can modify your paper to ignore some types of content and I’ve adjusted mine to eliminate some of the more flagrant sales pitches. Sure, it sometimes duplicates items I’ve already seen through my few blog subscriptions but I can quickly bypass the. I think it is a great resource. If you are interested in seeing what I’ve done, see it at http://paper.li/DT_Genea/1445328221. Feel free to subscribe or favorite it. If I see enough users I might try to curate the postings.
Next, I plan to attend three, day-long genealogical focused seminars or conferences this year. All are sponsored by my state Genealogical Society.
1. 2016 Maine Genealogical Society Spring Workshop – April 23, 2016. The keynote speaker is well-known genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger
2. 2016 Southern Maine Genealogy Conference – May 21, 2016. The keynote Speaker is D. Joshua Taylor of “Genealogy Roadshow” fame.
3. 2016 Maine Genealogical Society and Annual Meeting – September 17, 2016. The keynote Speaker is Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL
I think between the workshop, conference and meeting, I’ll pick up many new things.
Finally, I watch a one hour video every week. I tend to miss watching a video on weeks that I’m attending a conference but I watch one most every week. My favorites are usually RootsTech videos. They never have a bad video.
My plans include about ninety hours of semi-formal training, (50 hours of videos, at least 15 hours at conferences, and 24 hours of presentation at society chapter and DIG meetings. Add another 100+ hours of volunteer service at the Historical Society and Museum supporting genealogical activities and I figure I’ll be learning all year.
How many can you check off?
þ Volunteer at local historical or genealogical society.
þ Attend your local genealogical society’s chapter meetings.
RootsTech 2015 Video Archive (Note: RootsTech 2016 is in just a few weeks. Typically, these videos are unavailable when the new RootsTech takes place. There may be a couple weeks between when the video archive for 2015 is not available and the 2016 archive becomes available.
Scrapbooks can be an incredible source of information regarding a place and time. However, by their very nature they can self-destruct over time. Often they are filled with newspaper clippings that yellow and become brittle as the years pass. Sometimes clippings and other documents are mounted with tape or other means that damage the exhibits within.
Several of us at the Scarborough Historical Society & Museum are working to preserve some of these treasures through digitization. The first one we have been working on is a medium sized scrapbook donated by 2006. There are nearly 200 pages of clippings of items that the creator found important during the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s.
To save the scrapbook we began by scanning each page of the scrapbook in a way that minimized potential damage to the book. The images were scanned as 600dpi color images in TIFF format. These TIFF originals are about 100MB in size and have excellent archival capabilities. The TIFF files are our digital originals and are never modified or changed. Then the TIFF files are imported into optical character recognition (OCR) software and searched for text. Next, the imported files are resampled to 300dpi and changed to grayscale (black & white) and saved as 300dpi PDF files that include the selectable text embedded in the image. Having selectable text allows for searching the files for keywords as a group. These files are also excellent for printing and typically are about 7MB per page, about 1/12 of the size of the original files. Now that we have the images, what do we do with them?
Just paging through the digital images on the computer is fun. For example, in this scrapbook, there are articles about the turnpike between Kittery and Portland being built. I found it amazing that construction began in May 1946 and the pike was open for use only 19 months later on 13 December 1947. The pike cost 50¢ to travel the distance with fewer charges for shorter distances when it opened.
Antique Crank Telephone
It was also fun to read about how, in 1950, dial phones came to Scarborough and that the old crank phones could finally be replaced. There were complaints how party-line neighbors would listen in on private conversations and even join in and hopes that someday that would be a thing of the past. That brought back memories for me, as a child, we had an eight-person party line for a while. Our ring was two longs a short and a long. Anyway, I can definitely see how Scarborough historians would find the scrapbook a treasure trove of information about Scarborough and nearby communities.
I found the pages regarding Princess Elizabeth’s wedding and wedding dress to be historically interesting but not of particular genealogical interest. Although I do have a general interest in history, genealogy is my passion. Would the scrapbook help in genealogical research? I thought so, but I wanted to test that premise.
My “Thurlow Test”
I began with Thurlow. I know Bruce from the Museum (he is the Programs Chairman). I also know his family has been in Scarborough for many years. Might they be mentioned in this scrapbook? A quick search found three pages with “Thurlow” mentioned.
On 10 October 1939, a Miss Alice Thurlow attended a wedding shower for Miss Elizabeth Charlotte Moulton. This is the type of information that is important for genealogists wanting to do “friends, acquaintances, & neighbors” (FAN) analysis.
Alice Thurlow & Peter
Kelley, Jr. 1940
In 1940, Alice E Thurlow married Peter W. Kelley, Jr. at St. Joseph’s Church in a service officiated by Rt. Rev. Mgr. John Houlihan. We also learn that Miss Thurlow “is the daughter of Mrs. Harold F. Seal of Bell Street.” Humm. Interesting. I would interpret that statement as Alice’s mother remarrying. Certainly something to theorize, research, and prove genealogically in further research. There is also a photo of Alice and Peter. Although only black & white and newsprint pixelation, it does provide an image of the couple. Also, from the article, we learn that after they return from a honeymoon, they will live on Bismark Street. (Another area of research. Was there a Bismark Street in Scarborough or are they locating to Portland? There is a lot more information, particularly regarding Peter’s family. Any genealogist working on the Thurlow family would love the data and photo provided in this story.
Finally, the third article found mentions that Donald Thurlow was a boy scout who acted as an usher for Scarborough superintendent of schools Franklin H. B. Heald’s retirement testimonial dinner in 1946. This is really cool information because it adds texture to understanding about the individual’s interests. We now know that Donald was interested in the Boy Scouts.
My “Delaware Test”
After finding amazing bits of information on the Thurlow family in just one scrapbook, I thought I’d do one more quick search for another Museum regular. This time I searched for “Anna Delaware.” Instantly the results come back; two pages include both Anna and Delaware.
The first one, from 1945 is the announcement of the engagement of Anna Wright and Cpl. Warren H. Delaware. The article provides their parents names, where they went to school, where they worked, and photos of both Anna and Warren.
The second finding is hand annotated “23 May 1946,” the date of the article. It talks about how Anna and Warren were to marry Thursday. It mentions Anna’s sisters, Mary and Margaret and several other relatives. There is more about Warren’s family as well. There is also a photo of Anna in an amazing wedding dress. From a genealogical perspective, there is almost enough data in those two articles to rough out a family tree.
If you are a member of the Scarborough Historical Society & Museum, can’t make it to the museum, let me know (through the museum) and I will be happy to do a look-up for you. Better yet, if you can make it in, I’ll be happy to show you how to search for your ancestor in the scrapbook collection. If you are not a member, please become a member.
Finally, are you a member of your local historical society? If not, join and volunteer. Besides the benefit of learning more local history, they are bound to have genealogical tidbits galore, maybe even some old scrapbooks that need digitizing that you can help with.
I was recently talking with some folks at the Scarborough Museum regarding disaster contingency planning. With my computer background, I quickly thought about backups and off-site storage of important computer files.
I have a Mac, so for my personal use I have Time Machine for my local backups. It is awesome and easy to use. It allows me to go back to the version of a file I had on just about any date. It was great when I had to replace a disk drive. However, in the event of a major disaster, I know I need a good off-site backup solution. I use CrashPlan for that and love it. But, I didn’t know if it would be really good for the Museum, they use various Windows based systems. I also wondered about costs for them.
I thought about their requirements. They have a multi-terabyte disk drive they use for local backups. That gives them a good system to restore the occasionally damaged or corrupted file from a backup on site. To accommodate their backups, off-site storage needs to be large, very large. Photos scanned at 600dpi and saved in TIFF format make for large files. A recent scan project that another person was doing resulted in hundreds of files all nearly a gigabyte each. So, off-site storage needs to accommodate that. Because of the local storage, they will seldom, and hopefully never, need files recovered from off-site. If they do, recovery can be slow, so restoration speed isn’t paramount. I can’t imagine the Museum needing to backup Android or IOS devices anytime in the near future so those capabilities are nonexistent. Another important aspect of their requirements is how they use their systems. Generally, they are used for a short time, when the volunteers are there. Real-time backups to the cloud aren’t critical as long as backups to the cloud can occur before another individual uses the computer on another day. Another critical requirement is that the software should be easy to use. It should be set and forget. Finally, the off-site storage should be inexpensive; the museum has a limited technology budget. That said, I know you get what you pay for and free or super inexpensive software typically doesn’t have adequate feature.
After considering basic requirements, I began an internet search.
They listed three as their “Editor’s Choice” services: iDrive, Crash Plan, and SOS Online Backup.
IDrive has a 1TB storage limit, which disqualified it as an option in my mind. Because I dropped iDrive my contention, I added their next choice, Carbonite to my list for consideration.
Next stop, About.Com’s site and 34 Online Backup Services Reviewed. Their top choice was BackBlaze followed by Crash Plan, Carbonite, and SOS Online Backup. Back on the PC Magazine site, BackBlaze was number six on their list, so I felt it should be a top contender.
That gave me four off-site backup storage services to consider.
Cost: Not enough difference to matter. Although some have free versions, their features are scaled back enough that none of their free versions should be considered. Storage: All are unlimited. Copies: Carbonite only keeps 12 versions of a file. This isn’t really an issue for documents and images, however, can be a killer for databases that change daily. The other three services keep unlimited copies of files. Retention:Carbonite has a retention period of 90 days. If you delete a file, you need to restore it within 90 days. If you don’t, it is gone. I can visualize a situation where a file is deleted and no one notices for months and then the file can’t be restored. Because of that, I thought their retention policy is inadequate for the museum, so I dropped Carbonite from further consideration; however, I believe it is still an excellent choice for personal use. External/USB Drives: The three remaining products all backup External and/or USB Drives. Business Costs: Most reviews and pricing notes relate to individual licenses for software. In the case of the museum, a business license(s) would be necessary. I was taken aback by the additional costs for the business use. I contacted the three remaining products via email for cost information for the Museum’s environment.
CrashPlan replied with a form email. We would need CrashPlan Pro for $9.99 per month ($119.88/year).
SOS Online Backupimpressed me with their response. They sent an email indicating that someone would call. An individual did call and provided pricing for our environment. He told me that as a non-profit we would receive their best possible pricing. A computer plus an external drive would require two licenses which would run $15.99/month ($191.88/year). To backup all five computers at the museum, the license would run $34.99/month ($419.88). I really appreciated the call. Again, I think it is an excellent choice for personal use, but not the best pricing model for the Museum.
BackBlaze and BackBlaze for Business are the same price and have the same features. $50.00/year ($4.16/month). Clearly the most cost effective choice.
For the Museum, I recommend BackBlaze Online Backup for Business as the archive and backup off-site as their solution. See: BackBlaze Online Backup for Business for more information.
I love helping Find-a-Grave. So, when I saw a request for a marker at the nearby Dunstan Cemetery I was happy to try to photograph the marker. It was even more exciting because my wife’s favorite beach and the road we live along (Pine Point) were named after that individual, Charles Pine. Charles Pine came to Scarborough about 1702 and died in Scarborough in 1753, so he was definitely one of the early settlers of Scarborough, Maine.
The entry for Charles “The Indian Fighter” Pine on Find-a-Grave was substantial[i]. Not only were his birth and death dates provided but also his children’s names and it indicated that he was buried at Dunstan Cemetery. Dunstan Cemetery is a modest size but still has over 1300 internments so it would be easy to miss a marker. Also, I was afraid that a 260-year-old burial might not still be marked. So, I thought I’d see what the Scarborough Museum (and Scarborough Historical Society) has that might help me. I recently began volunteering there and figured that finding Charles Pine’s marker would be a good little project to help me start learning about the resources at the museum.
Grave of Charles Pine (c. 1925) Grandfather Tales of Scarborough, Page 102,
She also had copies of pages from the 1925 book, Grandfather Tales of Scarborough that included a photo of the stones[iii]. So, now I know Charles Pine isn’t buried at Dunstan Cemetery. The next time I drive up Broadturn Road on a nice dry day, I’ll try to stop and try to get a modern picture of the two Charles Pine grave marker rocks. Hopefully, they are still there and I can find them.
My volunteer time at the Scarborough Museum provided me access to resources that saved me time on my Find-a-Grave volunteering. I also learned a lot about Charles Pine, a definite “Ancestor of Place.” That’s a win-win.
Have you considered volunteering at your local museum or historical society? Not only will it help them, you might find it will help you understand the land better, regardless if you grew up there or if you are “from away.”
[i] http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=131264489 [ii] Henley, T. S., & Bentley, S. J. (1985). Dunstan cemetery records Scarborough, Maine: Stone inscriptions and old records combined and indexed. Maine: T.S. Henley and S.J. Bentley. [iii] Moulton, Augustus Freedom; Grandfather Tales of Scarborough, Katahdin publishing company, 1925.