Ancestry, part two

I’ve been trying to figure out who my great-grandmother was. What was she like. I don’t know anyone still living who would remember her. I don’t have diaries or other first-hand accounts. I have a handful of facts and my imagination. Her name was Alphonsine. I’ve never come across that name anywhere else. How unique was she?

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Ancestry, part one

I’ve always identified strongly with my Italian heritage. That’s where my last name comes from so it is literally part of my identity.

Growing up, I believed I was 25% Italian. I knew my dad’s dad’s parents came to the United States from Italy. Therefore, my grandpa was 100% Italian, my dad 50%, and I was 25%. My brothers also identified with the Italian side of our family. My youngest brother got an Italian flag as his first tattoo. Then, several years ago, my eldest brother had his DNA tested and received a scandalous revelation: he was only 2% Italian. I received similar results not long after. 

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Women and the Presidency

[Portrait of Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blyth], Library of Congress

[Portrait of Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blyth], Library of Congress

I’ve enjoyed listening to the Presidential Podcast from the Washington Post over the past few months. Each episode is about a different U.S. President, and the experience has been enlightening. It’s easy to forget that these historical figures are more than just a name we try to memorize and only associate with one or two events or policies from their administrations. They each had complicated stories, and in some cases they’ve been misunderstood. Continue reading

Summer Olympic Dreams

Proposed Olympic Stadium. Image from the Detroit Historical Society.

We are in the midst of the Olympic games, which always make me think of what a Detroit-hosted Olympics would look like. Could we do it? What venues would host the different events? Would it be contained in the city, or would some events be in the suburbs? Would we be best suited for the summer or winter games?   Continue reading

Processing archives

You may know what archives are and what an archivist is, in an abstract sense. But what are they, exactly? Archives can exist in a business, organization, nonprofit, federal, state, or municipal government, a university, historical society, museum, or for just a single individual. Archives contain the documents created by and relating to these entities which have enduring value. They can be used by researchers in creating histories, genealogists documenting their family trees, people needing practical information such as where exactly their property line is, are they entitled to certain benefits, the location of miners trapped in a collapsed tunnel, or an understanding of our present with that ever important connection to the past. Continue reading

Spirit Photography

from Chronicles Of The Photographs Of Spiritual Beings

Spirit photographs from Chronicles Of The Photographs Of Spiritual Beings

In her preface to Chronicles Of The Photographs Of Spiritual Beings, Georgiana Houghton refers to the photographs she collected thusly, “I send them forth in full assurance that they carry a weight of evidence as to the substantiality of spirit beings far transcending any other form of mediumship.” The year was 1881, and Spiritualism was reaching its peak. Continue reading