Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Synopsis: 2011 July 31

A productive week!! My granddaughter M stayed in Ashland to assist me in some woefully behind office projects.  Originally, I thought that I would just have her scan pictures, file, and general organization projects. On Monday, she whipped through a scanning project, so on Tuesday I had her do the computer edits for the  UNCLE RALPH LETTERS project.  She was fast and quick to pick up on my idiosyncracies, so between her and me, we have completed 150 out of 176 pages.  If all goes well, next week we should be able to download the manuscript into Scribus, and the start inserting pictures, and identifying problem areas.


So, to my Miss M,  I say Bravo!


I have also kept up transcribing J.P.'s diary, though not at the rate before M's starting her work project.  Hopefully, blogging about people, places and things in 1850s Springdale, Wisconsin, will entertain Geneabloggers friends, as well as family and other interested persons.   Always hoping for that cuzin-connection --- or even almost-cuzin-connection.


As far as writing is concerned, my efforts are rather minimal.  I have several "Auntie" pieces in various stages of completion -- or not  --  and growing  list of stories to tell; but the time to sit down to uninterrupted writing time has been sparse to non-existent --- but the days are starting to lengthen, and in the early morning eastern sky,  I can see Orion peeking over the mountains; hopefully a harbinger of quiet autumn days.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Surname Saturday: Beat (John & David) of Verona, Wisconsin

In May of 1850, one of the first Scots with  whom James Peter McPherson came into contact in Wisconsin was John and David Beat of Verona.  Just two days after  J.P.  settled his family into their temporary lodgings,   John Beat "ploughed" a garden site for J.P. at the site of the log cabin where J.P. and family were living in the small village of  Verona.  A few days later,  Beat took J.P. to Springdale to look for land on which to settle.  In return, J.P. plied his trade as a tailor, making pants, vests and coats for the Beats.

Over the next five years (which is as far as my transcriptions have taken me), McPhersons and Beats have had an ongoing working relationship, as well as being friends.  J.P. lived in Springdale, and John and David Beat lived in Verona, a distance of  eight or nine miles.  Even so, they were at one another's "raisings," helped one another during planting and harvesting as well social visits.

Until I read J.P.'s diary, I had never heard of the Beats, and now I would like to know so much more about the John and David Beat that I have met in the pages of J.P.'s diary.  So, if there are any relatives of John and David Beat reading this blog, I would very much like to hear from you.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Family Recipe Friday: 1850s Recipe for Cleaning Wool,

James P. McPherson, my 2x great grandfather, was a flax dresser in Dundee, Scotland, before he and his new wife, boarded the Medora to sail to America.  Once he landed on the shores of his new homeland, he used his textile skills in the tailoring trade in New York City for the next eight years.

By mid-May of 1850, he had brought his family to Springdale, Wisconsin, where he used his tailoring skills to supplement his income, while forging a new life on his farm in Wisconsin.  Wool was important to him, as can be attested to by the affixing of this Rural New Yorker clipping to the front of his precious diary.

Within days of his arrival in Dane County, Wisconsin, J.P.  was measuring and sewing pants, vests, and coats for the men and boys.  During the first two years, he purchased wool from his neighbors  ---  at first by barter, and later by currency.  By 1854, he was starting his own flock of sheep.  In the spring of 1855, he sheared his own sheep  --- all nine sheep.

From 1850 through 1855, James P. McPherson makes no mention about how wool goes from sheep to cloth. ---  no mention of weaving or spinning.   Nor does he mention making garments of wool' however, he certainly notes when he made coats and vests of "sackcloth."    Nevertheless, it is certain that my great-great great grandfather was careful about cleaning his wool so that it was white and, soft --- well, at least if he followed the recipe..

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Synopsis . 2011 July 24th; Dual Screen Transcribing;;HOO-RAA!

This was to be a vacation week.  Yes, indeed, I gave myself permission to not show up at ye ole puter in the early morning hours., because my son and his family were here on vacation.  Of course, I kept alpha geek son busy with my long list of puter questions, problems, etc.

Genius son made me a happy, happy mom.  I have told you all about my obsession  with the diary.  However, I haven't really said much about the eye strain, the "slow go" due haaving to switch between screens, and the laboriousness of zooming in and out to read faded and sometimes scrawled words.  I whined abit --- now just a tiny bit --- to genius son.  And lo, as the sun rises in the east, genius son bestowed on me the gift of a dual-screen set up.  He connected my old desk-top -monitor (which is a very nice monitor) to my lap-top computer.  Now I have a fairly large display of the diary on the big desk-top screen and on the lap top screen is the word processing transcription document.  Heavenly!  And if I want to go from one screen to the other, a quick sweep of the mouse and I have switched to the other screen.

I dinna know whether I have described this magical wonder in understandable terms --- but you get my drift --- right?  I was   going to post this on   Techie Tuesday Thingy, but I just couldn't wait.  Although, I have been feeling rather left out with the techie stuff,  so I might just post this again.  Needless to say, I am a happy mom, happy transcriber, and view myself as an emerging techie --- just dinna know it.

Vacations are so wonderful  - especially when a dual monitor set-up is part of the package.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Surname Saturday: Burns Family

A second surname to come out of James Peter McPherson's diary: BURNS.  Now this name is actually a family name: the maiden name for J.P.'s wife, Mary, my great-great grandmother.


Mary's father was William Gibson Burns, bn. in 1801 in Lancashire, England.  She also had an uncle, Jabez Burns, who was a well-known minister; in his youth he was associated with Methodist, Wesleyan, then General and Free Will Baptist. Their father was an apocathery and their mother a devout Wesleyan. In fact she named the younger son, Jabez, after another well-known Wesleyan minister.  The parents apparently died when the boys were fairly young, but old enough to have developed strong religious and social beliefs.  The family is said to have been of "small means but independent thinking."


William G. Burns was active in the Chartrist movement, of one man, one vote, which wasn't particularly popular with the early 19th century established governments.  Jabez, focused on religion and the Temperance movement.  Both of these men influenced, not only Mary, but her husband James Peter McPherson.


Mary's younger brother, Jabez, also emigrated to America shortly after Mary and J.P.   Jabez, the brother, came to America, married a Scots woman by the name of Agnes Brown, and became a rags to riches story.  He plied the streets of New York City as peddler, then a cartman, and finally he designed and developed a unique coffee-roaster which made him very wealthy.


Family lore, which reportedly comes directly from Mary Burns, states that she was a cousin of the poet Robert Burns.  The age difference does not support a cousin relationship, but there may indeed be a family relationship.  Research for another day.


I have searched off and on for nearly a decade to find living Burns relatives.  A couple of times, I was sure that I had located a "cousin" only to be met with no response to queries.  So this is a call to my missing BURNS family.  In ET's words, "phone home."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Synopsis . 2011 July 17th

(oops! Forgot to post this one)

Late afternoon on this Sunday, and life has been coming at me full force this past week --- well, past month.  However, I have persevered --- or been just more obsessive than usual.   My main focus, though not necessarily what I intended, has been J.P. McPherson's diary.  I managed to transcribe nearly two years during this past week -- up to March 6th, 1854. It's a hard GO, hard on the eyes, required intense concentration, and the willingness to put myself along side J.P. and his      world of the 1850s.  However, in some respects the transcription is getting easier because  I have a greater background and knowledge of how J.P. writes, who he writes about, and the tasks that he writes about.  On the other hand,  more and more questions are coming arising out of his short and terse entries.

This next week, I am going to start doing an analysis of his first year in Springdale; the people that he met and worked with and for; people to whom he posted or received letters; important task and events.  Stopping to analyze each year will show the pattern of friendships, his increasing political interest; how the farm changes, i.e., crops, number of animals, buildings, and use of neighbors equipment and teams.  If I don't do a yearly analysis, so much of the richness of the diary will be lost.

I found myself surprised as I read along about his trips to Madison, which was nearly 22 miles from his home in Springdale (perhaps a longer trip in the 1850s).    Then one day, I realized that he did not have a  horse, nor oxen, so he walked to Madison.  Sometimes, he would go with other folk from Springdale, but in the first couple of years he did not mention riding in a wagon (or waggon as he writes it) or by horseback --  though he might have.  Two years after he arrived in Springdale, he begins to mention "raising" of neighbors stables -- though not his own, as his next "raising" was  his root celler in the fall of 1853..  I would like to know how many horses and wagons were in the little village of Springdale in 1850-53;  who had horses and wagons;  did all of the families walk to their neighbors when they went "visiting." So many questions I would like to ask of my great-great grandfather.

I did not work on my book of Uncle Ralph's Letters, and probably won't take up that project for another week.

I did send a short piece to my Eugene critique group and I am a bit anxious about how it is going to fair.  The group is focused on essays and memoir type writing and this does not quite fall into either category, but more of a bit of fiction in which I played with how my dad's last two sisters might act in a certain situation.  The piece came out of a short news brief about a store in Montana that gave away guns (a hand gun or a shot gun) to anyone who signed up for a subscription for a satellite TV company.  Of course, as the aunties were quick to say, "We'd never do such a thing!"  Still it was a fun piece to write --- even though the aunties looked at me with questioning eyes.

And,  my friends,  this is a wrap for this week.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Surname Saturday: What is the connection between James P. McPherson and Wm. and A. Cairncross?

James Peter McPherson's Diary of his years in Springdale, Wisconsin, has pulled me back through the strands of time.  His friends and neighbors are now as close, or closer, than many my current friends and neighbors --- well at least in some ways.  Unfortunately, I know little about the people named in J. P.'s diary (now "J.P." is my short hand for my 2x great grandfather) and I plan to use Saturday Surname to highlight some of these names and hope that someone reader might know about some of these people of  J.P.'s diary.

The first family name that I am listing is CAIRNCROSS.  There are two CAIRNCROSS men, WilliaM and A. (which may be for Alexander).  I don't know their relationship to one another, but I do know that they have been in Cincinati and Pittsburgh before coming to Springdale.  J.P. might also have know them in Scotland before 1842, or in New York City, during the years 1842 through 1849.

My first introduction to the CAIRNCROSS family is when  J.P. notes in his diary on January 24, 1851, that he had "posted a letter to CAIRNCROSS."  This letter was written shortly after J.P.  moves his family into his newly completed log house. The connection between the two families is strong because over the next year and a half, J.P. regularly exchanges letters with Wm. and A. CAIRNCROSS.  By June, 1852, Wm. CAIRNCROSS arrives in Springdale, Wisconsin, and J.P. helps him look for land, cut logs, and build his house. William  helps J.P. as well during the five months that William is buildng his house in Springdale.  Immediately after CAIRNCROSS'  house is "raised," Wm. returns to Cincinnati and the letters resume.  By 1853 both Wm. and A. CAIRNCROSS return to  Springdale.

I am interested to know if anyone out there in this cyber-community of genealogist knows or has ties to the CAIRNCROSS family.  If you all know these folks, leave a message.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Synopsis . 2011 Junly 10th

Ahhhh, indeed a Sunday Synopsis on Sunday; now that is a good thing! The last couple of weeks have been full, somewhat stressful, but  to a great extent productive --  but still no Sunday Synopsis.

First order of business is the book of my Uncle Ralph's letters.  I am almost a third through the major edit and revision.  The revision is not of his letters, but includes the introduction paragraph for each letter and  inserting letters that were lost in the transferal process.  I also have an appointment to talk with a professional who consults, advises and even sets up the printing process.  I am not sure just where this conversation will lead, but looking forward to having some professional input on how the final project might look.  Unfortunately, I am further away from that publication date than I had earlier thought.  Revision and editing is the PITS.

Next on my list of TO DOs is much more entertaining to me: Transcribing the diary of my 2x great-grandfather James Peter McPherson.  Being a bit obsessive about this project has forced me to actually close the screen with the photographic image of the diary as well as the transcription screen when I have finished for the day.  I have tended to leave the screen active in my tool bar ---- then,  I will tell myself that I can just add an entry or two.  The next thing I know, an hour or more has passed.  The good thing about that is that I have about 50 pages transcribe, clear up to mid 1853.  Now to keep myself in check with reality, this means that I have only transcribed about 3 1/2 years out of the thirty-five years in the first book.  Yowser!!  Reality noted!

Before the 4th of July holiday, I was headed down to northern California to visit my McPherson aunties, which I did.  However, one aunt was ill in the hospital, so our family get-together rather revolved around going to the hospital, at the hospital, coming from the hospital, and talking about the same.  As always, I enjoyed seeing my aunties and cousins, even under such stressful and worrisome conditions.  However, I didn't get to hear any of the family stories that I so love.

Last of my ongoing tasks -- not really a tasks, because I really do enjoy writing --- even though my writing has not been very productive the last two weeks.  During April and May, I participated in a memoir writing group, and during the process I wrote about 15-20 short pieces, which in retrospect are rather like reminders of stories that I want to put flesh on their bare bones. During the last two weeks, I  have all of those pieces entered into my computer --- some actually in a "2nd draft"-rewrite condition.  One of the most important parts of the workshop was the mining of these stories that  had nearly slipped away.

I do like my latest writing regimen;  I get up between 5:30-6:00 a.m and stagger to my computer and write.  I try not to put a good or bad connotation on what I choose to write, but knowing that sooner or later I will use what ever I write or am working on --- in some form or fashion these morning sessions will show up in a completed piece.  Now, depending upon the day, I have full-filled my writing commitment by 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and I have the rest of the day to work in my garden, read, go to my writing group, check in with friends, clean house (ughh), or even to go back to my office and write.  What a change in attitude, no more struggling with my ever-growing lists which left no time for life and living.  Although to my list-making family this is a slovenly way to go through life.  But it suits me --- and it is how I worked for most of my life.  Back to my roots -- or in this case, Roots'n'Leaves.