Sunday, November 23, 2014

Shaking the Family Tree

By Jeff Burns

Searching for Family History
I’ve dabbled in genealogy off and on; it’s a real interest, but it takes time and devotion, and I too often find other things getting in the way.  Fortunately, I have a couple of cousins who have done quite a lot of work and who have fleshed out one family line pretty well, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

A couple of months ago, thinking about genealogy sparked an idea for hosting an event at my school, which is a major part of the community.   The idea was to hold an introductory workshop for anyone interested in beginning or continuing family history research. My principal and members of my department were all enthusiastic when I shared the idea, and I started planning.   I called on contacts made through my participation in Teaching American History Grants and as a Histocrat: 

Ms. Sharon Lukiri, a history teacher met at a workshop over the summer who is genealogist and member of the Georgia Genealogical Society and the Afro American Genealogical Society,

Mr. Gene  Morris, the Henry County historian,

Ms. Sara Jane Overstreet, a retired educator and member of the Genealogical Society of Henry and Clayton Counties and the Daughters of the American Revolution who has led numerous genealogy classes,

Mr. Joel Walker, education specialist at the National Archives-Atlanta, located in Morrow, Georgia.

They were all quick to volunteer and graciously offered to give up an evening for the event. The other Histocrats were also quick to offer their assistance.

My plan was to introduce each speaker to make a few opening remarks and then have them available in different areas of the school media center, so that attendees could move around and talk to the experts one on one or in small groups.  When the night arrived, there were about 20 attendees – smaller than I had hoped, but for a first effort, really not too bad a turnout.  Mr. Morris opened the evening by talking about the founding of Henry County (in the 1820s) and the first settlements and families in our particular area.  Then, Ms. Overstreet and Ms. Lukiri each spoke about getting started and gave helpful advice about not getting overwhelmed.  Finally, Mr. Walker, who admitted from the start that he was not an expert on genealogy, gave a great introduction to resources that are available in the  archives location and online through the archives website. 

Attendees then spoke to each experts and got assistance and ideas as they went from area to area.  The evening turned out to be a great success. Attendees got lots of great resource ideas and tips, and several said they were motivated to get home and get underway on their own family trees. The presenters created a lot of interest in their organizations and may have attracted society members.  It was a great night of community involvement, and I’m thinking about future programs.  I would like to give special thanks to the presenters and to the Histocrats and the administration of Ola High School for their support.

Organization Resources:

Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc. (AAHGS), Atlanta

Georgia Genealogical Society

National Archives-Information for Genealogists

Andrew McBride Chapter Daughters of the AmericanRevolution, McDonough GA    

Genealogical Society of Henry & Clayton Counties, McDonough GA    

Other Resources:
Genealogy Worldwide

Genealogy in Georgia

Genealogy in US

Genealogy of Special Populations

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Georgia Humanities Council: Helping Share Part of Everyone's Family Story

By Nina Kendall

As Thanksgiving approaches, we start to think about spending time with family and reminisce about the past.  As we celebrate and give thanks, family and friendships are popular topics. I have yet to attend a holiday or family function that some time was devoted to swapping stories. An important part of being a family is maintaining the stories and traditions that are our individual history.

As history enthusiasts and teachers, we know that not everyone or every family experiences an event the same way.  Our stories are different. Unique and important each one helps to define our community and state. Remembering all the stories becomes the job of not just family members but the community as well. It is a herculean task.

The Georgia Humanities Council helps the people of Georgia connect to all of our stories.   The Georgia Humanities Council is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Each state has its own affiliate. Here are a few of the stories they will share with citizens of Georgia this year as the end of 2014 approaches.

Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War initiative hosted by the Georgia Humanities Council in conjunction with the Veterans for Community Services to discuss war literature and issues faced by soldiers, past and present.
Dates: November 5, 12, 19; December 3, 10, 17
Location: 116 Holiday Ave. NE, Atlanta, 30307

Exploring Muslim Journeys Book discussion will be hosted by The Georgia Humanities Council, One Region Atlanta, and the DeKalb Public Library. This discussion will focus in the books that were part of the Bridging Cultures program supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Date: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm, November 18
Location: Scott-Candler Library, 1917 Candler Road, Decatur GA 30032

The Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints Art Exhibition will be coming to AUC Woodruff Library. This exhibit from Con/Vida-Popular Arts of the Americas will showcase art from Brazil that reflects the intermingling of the Atlantic World over 500 years.                                       
Date: Opens December 1  
Location: AUC Woodruff Library, 111 James P. Brawley Dr. SW, Atlanta, 30314

Over Here and There: Georgia and Georgians in World War II, the exhibit, is on display at the University of West Georgia/Ingram Library, will focus on WWII and the home front.
Date: Closes December 7
Location: University of West Georgia/Ingram Library, 1601 Maple St., Carrollton 30118

Inspired Georgia is the traveling exhibition of 28 works from the state art collection that is currently at its final stop.
Date: Closes December 11, 2014
Location: Historic Train Depot, Kingsland

Have you enjoyed an event hosted by the Georgia Humanities Council?  We would love to hear about it. Not close enough to enjoy one of these events? Check out your local state affiliate and enjoy a story this holiday.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Chalk It Up: Collectable Carnival Chalkware

By  Jeff Burns

I’ve always been a collector.  To the best of my memory, it’s been coins and paper money, comic books, postcards, stamps, sea shells, rocks, trading cards, Hot Wheels, books, model kits, Star Trek ship models, Looney Toon character pins, calendars, Aggie Zed sculptures, and kachina dolls, just to name a few.  Lately, I was reminded of another collection that I might just develop:  carnival chalkware figurines.

According to Wikipedia, chalkware refers to figures made of gypsum or plaster of paris, and there were two great periods of production, the 1800s and the carnival phase during the Great Depression and 1940s.  Early pieces tended to be hollow and more artistic, while the carnival pieces were often solid but garish, brightly colored, whimsical or humorous characters, even sometimes a little risqué, from comics, cartoons, movies and radio.  Kewpie dolls are a famous example. They were cheap enough that they could be given away by prizes in the various games of chance on the carnival midway.

I first became aware of chalkware as a child.  When we went to my great grandmother’s house, I was fascinate by a cowboy figure she kept in the kitchen, usually in the pantry.  I had to see it every trip, although I don’t remember being allowed to handle it often, if it all.  I usually just admired it on the shelf.  The family story was that it was the Lone Ranger, and that my great aunt (or maybe her beau) had won it at a carnival during the depression when she was a teenager.  However, when I finally saw reruns of the Lone Ranger TV show, I was confused.  The two Lone Rangers had little in common.  So I asked questions and found out that it pre-dated the TV series by several years, so the iconic image hadn’t been set.  The chalkware Lone Ranger was of the radio version, which started in 1933.  My great aunt won the figure in the late 1930s.  (Unfortunately, I don’t know what game it was.)

When my great grandmother died, and the family divided her possessions, I of course chose the Lone Ranger, and it sits in my living room today.  That’s it on the left.  Thanks to Ebay, I found another version many years later, on the right.  The two figurines display on of the interesting facts about chalkware:  even though figures might be made from the same mold, they were painted by different people in different places, and there is a wide variation among the figures.  Something recently renewed my interest in chalkware, and I did some internet research.  I found numerous interesting chalkware figurines on Ebay.  Some figures stand alone, and some are meant to be hung.  There’s a huge variety, and they’re reasonably priced.  Watch out, I might be catching the collecting bug again.


How to Identify Chalkware

19th century chalkware