Clean water, coming freely—hot or cold—at a touch, on demand. Not just for my community, but at our own house—several places in and around our house, in fact. That is wealth unheard of for much of the world, stretching along dimensions of both space and time.

Granted, others have been richer in the taste of their water. In my memory, no water in the world has ever matched that which flowed in the streams of the Adirondack Mountains, where I hiked as a child with my father. Our tap water is bland, with the dull sameness that permeates pasteurized milk, orange juice, and cider, and accompanies produce and meats bred and processed to be convenient, standard, and safe. But tap water is fine with me, because if there's a bottled spring water that even hints at that glorious mountain spring taste, I've never experienced it. In fact, I don't believe it exists, because the processing needed to make it safe to transport and sell kills the flavor along with the germs.

But plentiful, clean water, bland or not, is one of the greatest blessings in the world. Water for drinking, water for cooking, water for washing, water for flushing toilets, water for swimming, water for tea and squirt gun fights and baptisms.

Then there's the other side. All that blessed water flowing in to our homes requires a safe channel to remove it for its own cleansing after it has finished with ours. Sewage removal and treatment is something we usually take for granted—until it stops. The dread of sewage backups keeps us vigilant to minimize our water use during hurricane recovery, and grateful for the emergency generators struggling to keep the county's pumping stations and sewage treatment plants functioning.

I'm reminded of the following, from the Book of Common Prayer's baptismal service:

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 7:52 am | Edit
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Inspired by my previous post, Presents of Mind, and a few incidents this year that left me temporarily without blessings which I usually take for granted, I'm starting a Seven Days of Thankgiving series. They'll be in no particular order. Seven days isn't nearly enough, but—as a good friend keeps reminding me—better done than perfect.

It doesn't take long for a power outage, such as we experienced with Hurricane Irma, to make one realize the blessing of reliable electric power. One of my happiest childhood memories is of an ice storm that forced us to use candles for light, cook over a camp stove, and have the whole family sleep huddled together on the floor by the fireplace. But our power outage didn't affect our water supply, nor our septic system, and it was winter, so there was no need to worry about spoiled food. If the few days it lasted was too short a time for a child's sense of adventure, I'm sure my mother was thrilled when the power came back on. I wasn't the one who had to worry about washing diapers! And there was nothing I could call delightful about a power outage in the middle of a Florida September, other than being provoked to gratitude. I can't imagine what the people of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands are experiencing.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 18, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Edit
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The Charlotte, North Carolina, area is home to some of my favorite people, so when I saw that this video came from Charlotte, I was naturally drawn to it. It's under two minutes long, and definitely worth your time.

I don't need to read anyone's comments (it's making the rounds on Facebook) to hear the negative responses: The the lead character is a while, middle class male. His sweet, blonde wife and his adorable two children, one girl and one boy, send him off from his lovely, suburban home to his first-world office job.

Just. Don't. Go. There.

You'll miss everything important.

Build your own mental video (or film it!) with the characters and situations you think it should have.

And be thankful.


I know it's too early for Christmas videos. It's not even Thanksgiving yet, let alone Advent, let alone Christmas. But for some reason I'm not finding the Christmas-decorations-go-up-before-Hallowe'en problem so annoying this year. Maybe I've given up on trying to fit a proper Advent of solemn, thoughtful preparation followed by 12 glorious days of Christmas into modern, secular, American society. But, aside from the maddening habit of ending the playing of Christmas carols at noon on the 25th, this isn't really modern America's fault. Choirs as well as commercial establishments must begin preparations for the Christmas season early, if they hope to make a good showing in December, so I've been singing Christmas music for weeks already. In my childhood days, December 24 often saw saw us engaged in last-minute shopping, and certainly in last-minute wrapping, but that won't do when one's family is a lot further away than over the river and through the woods, and tucking a small gift into a child's stocking late at night may require international travel—without benefit of a reindeer-powered sleigh. I'm actually grateful that Christmas sales started as soon as they did.

Any church musician knows that it's important to get it right—and equally important to be flexible, charitable, and to choose one's battles.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 10:22 am | Edit
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altThe Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran by Andrew Scott Cooper (Henry Holt, 2016)

People were excited at the prospect of "change." That was the cry, "We want change."

You are living in a country that is one of the wealthiest and most powerful in the world. You enjoy freedom, education, and health care that was beyond the imagination of the generation before you, and the envy of most of the world. But all is not well. There is a large gap between the rich and the poor, and a widening psychological gulf between rural workers and urban elites. A growing number of people begin to look past the glitter and glitz of the cities and see the strip clubs, the indecent, avant-garde theatrical performances, offensive behavior in the streets, and the disintegration of family and tradition. Stories of greed and corruption at the highest corporate and governmental levels have shaken faith in the country's bedrock institutions. Rumors—with some truth—of police brutality stoke the fears of the population, and merciless criminals freely exploit attempts to restrain police action. The country is awash in information that is outdated, wrong, and being manipulated for wrongful ends; the misinformation is nowhere so egregious as at the upper levels of government, where leaders believe what they want to hear, and dismiss the few voices of truth as too negative. Random violence and senseless destruction are on the rise, along with incivility and intolerance. Extremists from both the Left and the Right profit from, and provoke, this disorder, knowing that a frightened and angry populace is easily manipulated. Foreign governments and terrorist organizations publish inflammatory information, fund angry demonstrations, foment riots, and train and arm revolutionaries. The general population hurtles to the point of believing the situation so bad that the country must change—without much consideration for what that change may turn out to bring.

It's 1978. You are in Iran.

I haven't felt so strongly about a book since Hold On to Your Kids. Read. This. Book. Not because it is a page-turning account of the Iranian Revolution of 1978/79, which it is, but because there is so much there that reminds me of America, today. Not that I can draw any neat conclusions about how to apply this information: the complexities of what happened to turn our second-best friend in the Middle East into one of our worst enemies have no easy unravelling. But time has a way of at least making the events clearer, and for that alone The Fall of Heaven is worth reading.

On the other hand, most people don't have the time and the energy to read a densely-packed, 500-page history book. If you're a parent, or a grandparent, or work with children, I say your time would be better spent reading Hold On to Your Kids. But if you can get your hands on a copy, I strongly recommend reading the first few pages: the People, the Events, and the Introduction. That's only 25 pages. By then, you may be hooked, as I was; if not you will at least have been given a good overview of what is fleshed out in the remainder of the book.

A few brief take-aways:

  • The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Jimmy Carter is undoubtedly an amazing, wonderful person; as my husband is fond of saying, the best ex-president we've ever had. But in the very moments he was winning his Nobel Peace Prize by brokering the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty at Camp David, he—or his administration—was consigning Iran to the hell that endures today. Thanks to a complete failure of American (and British) Intelligence and a massive disinformation campaign with just enough truth to keep it from being dismissed out of hand, President Carter was led to believe that the Shah of Iran was a monster; America's ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, likened the Shah to Adolf Eichmann, and called Ruhollah Khomeini a saint. Perhaps the Iranian Revolution and its concomitant bloodbath would have happened without American incompetence, disingenuousness, and backstabbing, but that there is much innocent blood on the hands of our kindly, Peace Prize-winning President, I have no doubt.
  • There's a reason spycraft is called intelligence. Lack of good information leads to stupid decisions.
  • Bad advisers will bring down a good leader, be he President or Shah, and good advisers can't save him if he won't listen.
  • The Bible is 100% correct when it likens people to sheep. Whether by politicians, agitators, con men, charismatic religious leaders (note: small "c"), pop stars, advertisers, or our own peers, we are pathetically easy to manipulate.
  • When the Shah imposed Western Culture on his people, it came with Western decadence and Hollywood immorality thrown in. Even salt-of-the-earth, ordinary people can only take so much of having their lives, their values, and their family integrity threatened. "It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations."
  • The Shah's education programs sent students by droves to Europe and the United States for university educations. This was an unprecedented opportunity, but the timing could have been better. The 1960's and 70's were not sane years on college campuses, as I can personally testify. Instead of being grateful for their educations, the students came home radicalized against their government. In this case, "the Man," the enemy, was the Shah and all that he stood for. Anxious to identify with the masses and their deprivations, these sons and daughters of privilege exchanged one set of drag for another, donning austere Muslim garb as a way of distancing themselves from everything their parents held dear.  Few had ever opened a Quran, and fewer still had an in-depth knowledge of Shia theology, but in their rebellious naïveté they rushed to embrace the latest opiate.
  • "Suicide bomber" was not a household word 40 years ago, but the concept was there. "If you give the order we are prepared to attach bombs to ourselves and throw ourselves at the Shah's car to blow him up," one local merchant told the Ayatollah.
  • People with greatly differing viewpoints can find much in The Fall of Heaven to support their own ideas and fears. Those who see sinister influences behind the senseless, deliberate destruction during natural disasters and protest demonstrations will find justification for their suspicions in the brutal, calculated provocations perpetrated by Iran's revolutionaries. Others will find striking parallels between the rise of Radical Islam in Iran and the rise of Donald Trump in the United States. Those who have no use for deeply-held religious beliefs will find confirmation of their own belief that the only acceptable religions are those that their followers don't take too seriously. Some will look at the Iranian Revolution and see a prime example of how conciliation and compromise with evil will only end in disaster.
  • I've read the Qur'an and know more about Islam than many Americans (credit not my knowledge but general American ignorance), but in this book I discovered something that surprised me. Two practices that I assumed marked every serious Muslim are five-times-a-day prayer, and fasting during Ramadan. Yet the Shah, an obviously devout man who "ruled in the fear of God" and always carried a Qur'an with him, did neither. Is this a legitimate and common variation, or the Muslim equivalent of the Christian who displays a Bible prominently on his coffee table but rarely cracks it open and prefers to sleep in on Sundays?  Clearly, I have more to learn.
  • Many of Iran's problems in the years before the Revolution seem remarkably similar to those of someone who wins a million dollar lottery. Government largess fueled by massive oil revenues thrust people suddenly into a new and unfamiliar world of wealth, in the end leaving them, not grateful, but resentful when falling oil prices dried up the flow of money.
  • I totally understand why one country would want to influence another country that it views as strategically important; that may even be considered its duty to its own citizens. But for goodness' sake, if you're going to interfere, wait until you have a good knowledge of the country, its history, its customs, and its people. Our ignorance of Iran in general and the political and social situation in particular was appalling. We bought the carefully-orchestrated public façade of Khomeini hook, line, and sinker; an English translation of his inflammatory writings and blueprint for the establishment of an Islamic republic in Iran came nine years too late, after it was all over. In our ignorance we conferred political legitimacy on the radical Khomeini while ignoring the true leaders of the majority of Iran's Shiite Muslims. The American ambassador and his counterpart from the United Kingdom, on whom the Shah relied heavily in the last days, confidently gave him ignorant and disastrous advice. Not to mention that it was our manipulation of the oil market (with the aid of Saudi Arabia) that brought on the fall in oil prices that precipitated Iran's economic crisis.
  • The bumbling actions of the United States, however, look positively beatific compared with the works of men like Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, and Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization, who funded, trained, and armed the revolutionaries.
  • I have a couple of Iranian friends who lived through those disastrous times; I'm looking forward to hearing their take on The Fall of Heaven

I threw out the multitude of sticky notes with which I marked up the book in favor of one long quotation from the introduction.  It matters to me because I heard and absorbed the accusations against the Shah, and even thought Khomeini was acting out of a legitimate complaint with regard to the immorality of some aspects of American culture. Not that I paid much attention to world events at the time of the Revolution, being more concerned with my job, our first house, a visit to my in-laws in Brazil, and the birth of our first child. But I was deceived by the fake news, and I'm glad to have a clearer picture at last.

The controversy and confusion that surrounded the Shah's human rights record overshadowed his many real accomplishments in the fields of women's rights, literacy, health care, education, and modernization. Help in sifting through the accusations and allegations came from a most unexpected quarter, however, when the Islamic Republic announced plans to identify and memorialize each victim of Pahlavi "oppression." But lead researcher Emad al-Din Baghi, a former seminary student, was shocked to discover that the could not match the victims' names to the official numbers: instead of 100,000 deaths Baghi could confirm only 3,164. Even that number was inflated because it included all 2,781 fatalities from the 1978-1979 revolution. The actual death toll was lowered to 383, of whom 197 were guerrilla fighters and terrorists killed in skirmishes with the security forces. that meant 183 political prisoners and dissidents were executed, committed suicide in detention, or died under torture. [No, I can't make those numbers add up right either, but it's close enough.] The number of political prisoners was also sharply reduced, from 100,000 to about 3,200. Baghi's revised numbers were troublesome for another reason: they matched the estimates already provided by the Shah to the International Committee of the Red Cross before the revolution. "The problem here was not only the realization that the Pahlavi state might have been telling the truth but the fact that the Islamic Republic had justified many of its excesses on the popular sacrifices already made," observed historian Ali Ansari. ... Baghi's report exposed Khomeini's hypocrisy and threatened to undermine the vey moral basis of the revolution. Similarly, the corruption charges against the Pahlavis collapsed when the Shah's fortune was revealed to be well under $100 million at the time of his departure [instead of the rumored $25-$50 billion], hardly insignificant but modest by the standards of other royal families and remarkably low by the estimates that appeared in the Western press.

Baghi's research was suppressed inside Iran but opened up new vistas of study for scholars elsewhere. As a former researcher at Human Rights Watch, the U.S. organization that monitors human rights around the world, I was curious to learn how the higher numbers became common currency in the first place. I interviewed Iranian revolutionaries and foreign correspondents whose reporting had helped cement the popular image of the Shah as a blood-soaked tyrant. I visited the Center for Documentation on the Revolution in Tehran, the state organization that compiles information on human rights during the Pahlavi era, and was assured by current and former staff that Baghi's reduced numbers were indeed credible. If anything, my own research suggested that Baghi's estimates might still be too high. For example, during the revolution the Shah was blamed for a cinema fire that killed 430 people in the southern city of Abadan; we now know that this heinous crime was carried out by a pro-Khomeini terror cell. Dozens of government officials and soldiers had been killed during the revolution, but their deaths were also attributed to the Shah and not to Khomeini. The lower numbers do not excuse or diminish the suffering of political prisoners jailed or tortured in Iran in the 1970s. They do, however, show the extent to which the historical record was manipulated by Khomeini and his partisans to criminalize the Shah and justify their own excesses and abuses.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, November 6, 2017 at 10:51 pm | Edit
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On our cruise to Mexico and Cuba with two of our grandchildren we were given a quick lesson in napkin folding. Naturally, the kids picked up on it better than the adults. This morning, a friend shared on Facebook a video of napkin folding techniques from the Ever & Ivy site. Unfortunately, I can't find the video on YouTube, so I can't embed it here, but hopefully the link will still work when I want to find it again. (There are also plenty of other napkin-folding instructional videos on YouTube.) Warning: I'm sure there are other good things about the Ever & Ivy site, but I can't recommend it in general. Good ideas + Bad language = I'll find the good ideas elsewhere, thank you. Except for the napkin folding—no words.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, November 5, 2017 at 8:37 am | Edit
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It's all too easy, when one's eyes and mind are blurred by immersion in a sea of birth, death, and marriage data (or worse, the lack thereof), to forget that our ancestors were real people who laughed and cried and joked, just as we do. Then, every once in a while, you come upon something that wakes you up, such as a comment from Dr. Lewis Newton Wood, my great-great-great grandfather.

Lewis Newton Wood, son of David and Mercia (Davis) Wood, was born in southern New Jersey, on January 12, 1799. In 1821 he married Naomi Dunn Davis, born September 8, 1800, the daughter of David and Naomi (Dunn) Davis. Their first child, my great-great grandfather, was born in New Jersey, but the other seven of their children were born after they moved to upstate New York, near Syracuse. There, Lewis taught school, and in 1836 he graduated from the newly-formed Geneva Medical College, then part of Geneva College, which is now Hobart and William Smith. The medical school itself is now SUNY Upstate University. Perhaps the most famous graduate of the Geneval Medical College is Elizabeth Blackwell, Class of 1849, America's first licensed female physician.

Lewis moved to Chicago to practice medicine, and his family followed a year later, after which they migrated some 90 miles northwest to become some of the earliest settlers of Walsorth, Wisconsin. Eighteen years later they moved to their final destination, about 100 miles further north and west, to Baraboo, Wisconsin. There, Lewis died in 1868, and Naomi in 1883; they are buried in the Walnut Hill Cemetery in Baraboo. My great-great grandfather, incidentally, continued the family's northward and westward migration, moving first to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and finally to the west coast of Washington.

Lewis was not only a teacher, doctor, pioneer, and probably farmer (given that he lived on 360 acres in Big Foot Prairie), but also an amateur geologist who made notable scientific contributions, one of the founders of a school of higher education for girls in Baraboo, and a member of the Wisconsin state legislature. He even has his own Wikipedia entry, a link I incude with the standard Wikipedia cautionary tale about not believing everything you read, since some of the facts about him are wrong.

After that historical and genealogical excursion, I arrive at the reason for this post, the saying of Lewis Newton Wood's that struck my funny bone. It's taken from Gilbert Cope's Genealogy of the Sharpless Family Descended from John and Jane Sharples, Settlers Near Chester, Pennsylvania, 1682.

All my progenitors were Baptists of the Orthodox belief, i.e. Calvinists; and that is my own religious belief, except with the Calvinism pretty much left out.

Which may explain why this Baptist's funeral was held in a Methodist church. I know, it actually makes sense when you dig into the history of the Baptist Church, but still....

I like an ancestor with a sense of humor.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 4, 2017 at 11:34 am | Edit
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Another genealogical puzzle with my research and conclusions.

The Problem of Jonathan Stoddard Wightman’s Wife

The Puzzle

There are two men named Jonathan Stoddard Wightman in my family tree. One, who was born May 22, 1830, in Bristol, Hartford County, Connecticut, and died on September 9, 1893, in South Meriden, New Haven County, Connecticut. On April 26, 1855, he married Olive Fidelia Davis, born April 26, 1833 in Meriden, died March 13, 1903, in Southington, Hartford County, Connecticut, daughter of Zina and Amanda (Stevens) Davis. There’s work I could still do on this family, but I’m happy with what I have.

His parents were Elbridge M. Wightman, born about 1800 in Southington, died April 14, 1875 in Bristol. On June 17, 1829, in Bristol, he married Ursula Perkins, born 1812 in Southington, died August 7, 1889 in Bristol. She was the daughter of Elijah Mark Perkins and Polly Yale, who has an interesting line of her own.

The problem comes with Elbridge Wightman’s father, the first Jonathan Stoddard. He was born July 17, 1765 in Groton, New London County, Connecticut, and died April 18, 1816 in Southington. His second wife was Hannah Williams, who had married, first, Dr. John Hart of Southington.

His first wife, the mother of all but one of his children, is the unknown.

 

The Sources

  • Wade C. Wightman, The Wightman Ancestry, including "George Wightman of Quidnessett, RI (1632 - 1721/2) and Descendants" by Mary Ross Whitman (Chelsea, MI: Bookcrafters, 1994), pp. 96-97.
  • The American Genealogist, New Haven, Connecticut: D. L. Jacobus, 1937-. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009 - .), v. 25, Donald Lines Jacobus, "The ‘Other’ Gilletts” pp. 174-191.
  • Bertha Bortle Beal Aldridge, Gillet, Gillett, Gillette families, including some of the descendants of the immigrants Jonathan Gillet and Nathan Gillet...also of the descendants of Barton Ezra Gillet, 1800-1955 (Victor, N.Y:, 1955), p. 25.
  • Esther Gillett Latham, Genealogical data concerning the families of Gillet-Gillett-Gillette : chiefly pertaining to the descendants of Jonathan Gillet... (Somerville, Massachusetts:, 1953), 70.
  • Lorraine Cook White, The Barbour collection of Connecticut town vital records (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1994), Colchester 103 (Gillett), Farmington 55-56 (Gillett).
  • Ancestry.com. Connecticut, Church Record Abstracts, 1630-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 2013., Southington v107 p17, Gillet.
  • Ancestry.com. Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015., Hartford Probate Records v1-3, pp196-197 Zachariah Gillet. Also Hartford Probate Packets, pp 916-933 Zachariah Gillet, and Hartford Probate Packets, pp 81-82, Nehemiah Gillet.
  • Personal conversation with genealogist Gary Boyd Roberts of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Family notes of Elinor (Wightman) (Fredrickson) Fisher, 3rd great-granddaughter of the Jonathan Stoddard Wightman in question.

 

The Data

From Ellie Fisher’s Notes 

Jonathan Stoddard Wightman’s first wife was Patty Hillet. 

From the Wightman Ancestry

He married first, Mercy (Patty) Gillet, baptized 1768, daughter, probably, of Zachariah Gillet. (No date given, but their first child was born about 1789.)

From The ‘Other Gilletts’ TAG article

Donald Lines Jacobus presents an ancestral line from William Gillett of Somerset, England, through his son Jeremiah, ending with a daughter of Zachariah Gillett and his third wife, Sarah: Mercy, born at Southington, baptized September 4, 1768.  

From Gillet, Gillett, Gillette Families

Bertha Bortle Beal Aldridge presents a different ancestral line from William Gillett of Somerset, this one through his son Jonathan, ending with a daughter of Nehemiah Gillet and his second wife, Martha Storrs: Martha, no dates given.

From Genealogical Data Concerning the Families of Gillet-Gillett-Gillette

Esther Gillett Latham presents the line through Jonathan and Nehemiah m. Martha Stoors, showing daughter Martha born April 12, 1767.

From the Barbour records

Colchester: Martha, daughter of Nehemiah and Martha, born April 12, 1767.

Farmington: several of Zachariah and Sarah’s children are listed, but several are missing, including Mercy.

Southington: there are no Gillets mentioned at all.

From Connecticut Church Record Abstracts

Records the baptism, on September 4, 1768, of Mercy Gillet, daughter of Zecheriah, in Southington.

From Connecticut Wills and Probate Records

Zachariah’s will, although it names Mercy as his daughter, mentions no married name for her. The will was written in November 1789. The probate papers show that she is still unmarried in March 1791. Also that Zachariah’s wife is named as Rhoda, and in March 1791 is known as Rhonda Frisbee.

Nehemiah’s will, written in July 1807, names his daughter Martha, still single at that time.

From a conversation with Gary Boyd Roberts

He mentioned that Jonathan Stoddard Wightman’s first wife was Martha Gillet.

 

The Questions

What was her name?

I respect personal information in the memory and records of family members, but am inclined to conclude that “Hillet” in the Ellie Fisher notes was, somewhere along the line, a misreading of “Gillet.”  That settled, all sources agree on her last name. Her first name is a different story.

Ellie Fisher names her Patty; Wightman Ancestry has Mercy (Patty). According to the published lines from William Gillett, if her father is Zachariah, her name is Mercy; if he’s Nehemiah, she’s Martha. Unfortunately, both of these lines stop with Mercy/Martha; no marriage is recorded for either of them. But I have found no other reasonable suggestions for the parentage of Jonathan Stoddard Wightman’s wife.

In favor of the Nehemiah line (Martha): “Patty” is a common nickname for Martha, but uncommon for Mercy. My admiration for Gary Boyd Roberts as a genealogist is great, and he said her name was Martha. On the other hand, it was a very short, casual conversation and the information was off the top of his head, so I don’t want to rely too much on his memory.

In favor of the Zachariah line: The only printed source that records her marriage to Jonathan Stoddard Wightman (Wightman Ancestry) calls this line “probable” and mentions no other. But the most significant factor, I believe, is that this line places her in Southington (Hartford County), where all their children were born, whereas the other line is in Colchester (New London County).

When was she born? With the Nehemiah line, I have a birthdate: April 12, 1767. For the Zachariah line, there is only a baptism date: September 4, 1768. To say “about 1768” hedges my bets nicely.

When were Patty Gillet and Jonathan Stoddard Wightman married? Wightman Ancestry gives the birth of their first child as “about 1789” based on a death date of July 13, 1864 and an age at death of 75. This is consistent with census and gravestone data. Yet Zachariah’s probate records show Mercy as unmarried in March of 1791. (She signs her name “Mercy Gillet” and there is no mention of a husband.)  Even if she was married that year, the timing is a little uncomfortable for the Zachariah line.

But the Nehemiah line is worse: Martha was still single when her father wrote his will in 1807, by which time all nine of J. S. Wightman’s children had been born.

Why didn’t these girls get married before their fathers wrote their wills? It would have made things so much clearer. But I think, after all, it is clear enough. The evidence of the wills, combined with the evidence of the location convinces me that Patty Gillet, wife of Jonathan Stoddard Wightman, was Mercy Gillet, daughter of Zachariah and Sarah Gillet of Southington.

One more question: What about Zachariah Gillet’s wives? Donald Lines Jacobus gives him three, the first two totally unknown, and the third known only as Sarah. Bizarrely, however, he claims that Zachariah’s will names his wife Sarah, whereas the wife in both copies I found of the will seems clearly to be “Rhoda.”  Jacobus gives no death date for Sarah, but it’s a good assumption that she predeceased Zachariah, who married a fourth time.  After Zachariah's death, Rhoda married someone named Frisbee.

I found a will for a Sarah Gillet, dated and probated in 1776, witnessed by Zachariah Gillet and Elizabeth Gillet. In this will, Sarah Gillet leaves everything she has to “my Nephu Sarah Andrus wife to Ichabod Andrus.”  Sarah Gillet, daughter of Zachariah and his first wife, did marry Ichabod Andrus (Andrews). At first I thought this might be the will of Sarah, Zachariah’s wife. But Donald Lines Jacobus says it’s the will of Sarah, Zachariah's sister, daughter of Abner Gillet. That makes more sense, though I'm still confused by “nephu."

 

The Conclusions

Pending new evidence to confirm or debunk my conclusions, this is what I believe:

Jonathan Stoddard Wightman was born July 17, 1765 in Groton, New London County, Connecticut, and died April 18, 1816 in Southington, Hartford County, Connecticut. He married (1) Mercy (Patty) Gillet, born about 1768 in Southington, daughter of Zachariah and Sarah (surname unknown) Gillet. Jonathan married (2) Hannah Williams, widow of Dr. John Hart of Southington.

The ancestry of Zachariah Gillet, taken from “The ‘Other' Gillets” by Donald Lines Jacobus, published in The American Genealogist (see above), is, in an abbreviated form, as follows:

  1. The Reverend William Gillett, Rector of Chaffcombe, County Somerset, England.
  2. Jeremiah Gillett, born in England, emigrated to New England, lived in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and fought in the Pequot War of 1636-1638. Later he returned to England, but because of his service was granted land in Simsbury, most likely tended by his brother, Nathan of Simsbury until Jeremiah, Jr. arrived.
  3. Sergeant Jeremiah Gillett of Simsbury, Connecticut. He was probably born in England, about 1650, and he died in Simsbury on March 24, 1707/8.
  4. Abner Gillet, born perhaps 1684-88, died March 12, 1762 at Southington, Connecticut. He married, at Farmington, Connecticut, September 6, 1710, Mary Higginson, who was baptized at Farmington January 10, 1691/92 and died at Southington on February 8, 1766. She was the daughter of William and Sarah (Warner) Higginson.
  5. Zachariah Gillet, born at Farmington March 31, 1721, died at Southington in 1790. He married (1) at Southington, July 6, 1741, an unknown woman, (2) at Southington, April 3, 1750, another unknown woman who died September 1757, and (3) Sarah (surname unknown). According to my own conclusions, based on probate evidence, he also married (4) Rhoda (surname unknown) who later married someone named Frisbee.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 at 10:33 am | Edit
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Genealogy research consumes my life, albeit in fits and starts, as other projects push themselves into the forefront of my life. Lately, it has consumed every spare moment, and some not-so-spare, as I have given priority to cleaning up my database, which currently contains nearly 15,000 people. The goal is to be able to publish my database on Ancestry.com, and there are too many questionable and unsourced trees there already. If I'm going to put my data out there—and I believe I have a responsibility to do so—I want to do it as well as I can.

As I go through the process, I inevitably run into problems. The psychological process of working through them is worthy of a blog post in itself, but not now. What I will do now is begin to document here some of the work: the data, the sources, my thought processes, my conclusions. Doing so helps me think and increases my own understanding. It also gets some of the data "out there" where it may be of interest to others researching the same people. The posts will often be very long, and of little or no interest to most of my readers. Feel free to skim or skip them altogether! I post them for those random visitors who end up here through a Google search on a name of interest, because I have been helped in my own work by just such a process.  To begin:

 

The Problem of David Wood

 

The Puzzle

I’m pretty happy with the line of my family tree that goes up (on my father’s side) to David Wood, born May 1, 1778 in Stow Creek Township, Cumberland County, New Jersey, died there in 1828, probably. He married, April 11, 1798, Mercia Davis, born July 15, 1777 in Cumberland County, died there December 1, 1823, daughter of Isaac and Mary Ann (David) Davis. I’m good with that.

I also have an okay line up from David’s grandfather, Jonathan Wood, who died in Cohansey, Salem County, New Jersey in 1727, and was married to Mary Ayers. This goes back to a John Wood who died at Portsmouth, Rhode Island in 1655. Details are sparse, but at least the line is there.

The problem, as is often the case, is in the middle.

I know that David Wood, Jr.’s father was David Wood, Sr., son of Jonathan and Mary (Ayers) Wood. But David Wood, Sr. had three known wives, and what details are known have few dates associated with them. I’m convinced that David Jr.’s mother was named Prudence Bowen; I haven’t found her parents, though supposedly she was the sister of David and Jonathan Bowen, of Bowentown, Cumberland County, New Jersey. Am I certain enough to put time into following the Bowen line? Probably, though not now. 

I’m not at all certain my logic will convince anyone else, but I’m equally uncertain I’ll get any better documentation. As one of my correspondents understated, "New Jersey records are very hard to find." I’ve been spoiled by working mostly with early New England ancestors. Say what you want about the Puritans, those folks knew how to keep records. And when something like engaging in illicit sex or selling liquor to Indians lands you in the court dockets, that’s a bad thing for you but a great thing for future genealogists.

 

The Sources

  • Bruce W. David, The David Family Scrapbook: Genealogy of Owen David, Volume 5 (3223 Ormond Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio: Bruce W. David, Volume 5, 1964), pp. 315-316.
  • Gilbert Cope, Genealogy of the Sharpless Family Descended from John and Jane Sharples, Settlers Near Chester, Pennsylvania, 1682: Together with some account of The English Ancestry of the Family, including the results of researches by Henry Fishwick, F.H.S., and the late Joseph Lemuel Chester, LL.D.; and a full report of the bi-centennial reunion of 1882 (Philadelphia: For the family, under the auspices of the Bicentennial committee, 1887), p. 545.
  • Dorothy Wood Ewers, Descendants of John Wood: A Mariner who died in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, in 1655 (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Ewers, 1978), pp. 54-56.
  • Ancestry.com. New Jersey, Marriage Records, 1683-1802 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, v. 22 p. 52 Prudence Bowen and Simeon Roberts, and v. 22 p. 335 Prudence Roberts and David Wood. (Original data: New Jersey State Archives. New Jersey, Published Archives Series, First Series. Trenton, New Jersey: John L Murphy Publishing Company.) 
  • Ancestry.com. New Jersey, Abstract of Wills, 1670-1817 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, v. 9, Abstracts of Wills, pp. 50-51 Jonathan Bowen, and pp. 419-420, David Wood Sr. (Original data: New Jersey State Archives. New Jersey, Published Archives Series, First Series. Trenton, New Jersey: John L Murphy Publishing Company.)

Although published genealogies are far from primary sources, they are usually—according to my contact at the New England Historic Genealogical Society—reasonably reliable on the American side of the Atlantic Ocean, even though many fictitious across-the-pond connections abound. Therefore I’m designating the above sources all as credible, if not as good as impossible-to-get primary sources.

  • Family tree data from Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and other Internet sites. 

The credibility of this data is exceedingly variable. Some online trees are maintained by excellent, sometimes even professional, researchers. Some contain undocumented but accurate personal memories. And there are also many, many trees that have merely copied someone else’s data that is entirely wrong—a widespread propagation of error. Therefore, unless something about the source convinces me otherwise, I consider this data suspect.

 

The Data

From the David Family Scrapbook

David Wood Jr. was born May 1, 1778, the son of David Wood, Sr. and Elizabeth Russell. (I believe the designation of Elizabeth as his mother to be erroneous.)

From the Sharpless Genealogy

David Wood (Sr.) died about 1798, “aged over 70.”  His wives and children:

  1. Lucy Lennox, no issue.
  2. Prudence, sister of David and Jonathan Bowen of Bowentown, Cumberland County, New Jersey. Children:
    1. David Jr., born May 1, 1778 in Stow Creek, Cumberland County, New Jersey; married April 11, 1798, Mercia Davis, daughter of Isaac and Mary Anna Davis.
    2. Auley McCalla
    3. Sarah
    4. Prudence
  3. Elizabeth Russell. Children:
    1. John
    2. Lucy
    3. Richard

From Descendants of John Wood

David Wood, Sr. was born 1721, died 1794 in Stow Creek, New Jersey, “over 70.”  His will was written March 10, 1794, proved January 18, 1798. Two scenarios are presented for his wives and children, from different correspondents:

  1. Lucy Lennox, no children.
  2. Prudence Bowen, married 1777. Children:
    1. David
    2. Auley
    3. Sarah
    4. Prudence
  3. Elizabeth Russell, married in 1786. Children:
    1. John
    2. Lucy
    3. Elizabeth
    4. Richard
  • Alternatively, the following children, not assigned to mothers, and in no particular order (clearly taken from David’s will, see below):
    1. Sarah
    2. Prudence
    3. Lucy
    4. Obadiah
    5. James
    6. Phebe
    7. Lydia
    8. Aulay McAuliff (McCalfa, McCalla)
    9. David
    10. John

From New Jersey Marriage Records

I find nothing for a Prudence Bowen marrying a David Wood, but there are these records of marriage licenses issued:

  • Prudence Bowen of New Town and Simon Roberts of Philadelphia, June 14, 1762.
  • Prudence Roberts of Cumberland and David Wood of Salem, July 9, 1777.

It’s very tempting to believe these represent the first and second marriages of the same person, especially since that agrees with the 1777 date in Descendants of John Wood.

From New Jersey Abstract of Wills

  • Will of Jonathan Bowen, February 21, 1804. He was likely the Jonathan, brother of David of Bowentown, mentioned in Sharpless above, hence brother to David Wood’s wife Prudence. Among many other bequests, he leaves a share of his household goods to “my niece, Mary Roberts,” strengthening the notion that this Prudence was once married to Simeon Roberts.
  • Will of David Wood, Sr. of Stow Creek Township, Cumberland County, March 10, 1794. 

Wife, Elizabeth, 1/3 of personal. Son, Obadiah, £50. Daughters, Sarah, Prudence, and Lucy Wood, son, John, and if wife should be pregnant, the said child; the remainder of personal, divided between them, when of age. Son, John, to be put to a trade, when 14. To heirs of son James, 5 shillings. To heirs of daughter, Phebe, 5 shillings. To heirs of daughter Lydia, 5 shillings. Son, David, 4 acres of woodland bounded by land of David Gilman, Dorcas Bennett to John Dare’s land; also 10 acres of marsh in Stathem’s neck. Son, Aulay McCalla Wood, remainder of home plantation with buildings; also remainder of swamp at Stathem’s neck; should said sons, David or Aulay McCalla, die before of age, said property to the survivor of them. Executor—Azariah Moore, Esq. Witnesses—George Burgin, Mary More and Martha More. Proved Jan. 18, 1798.

January 10, 1798. Inventory, £221.9; made by Joel Fithian and David Gilman.

January 18, 1798. Azariah Moore, having renounced the Executorship. Adm’r—C.T.A.—Jonathan Bowen. Fellowbondsman—Benjamin Dare.

From assorted online family tree data

  • David Wood Sr. was born 1721 or 1740, died 1798, married David Wood 1760.
  • Lucy Lennox was born 1742, died 1773. Her children were Obadiah (born 1760), James (born 1760), Phebe (born 1762), Richard (born 1768).
  • Prudence Bowen was born in 1754, died in 1778, married David Wood 1774. Her children were Prudence (born 1776), Sarah S. (born 1776 or 1777 or 1779), Auley (born 1775).
  • Elizabeth Russell was born in 1755, died in 1797, married David wood in 1779. Her children were Prudence (born 1776 died 1777), Lydia (born 1778), Elizabeth (born 1779), David (born 1778), Lucy (born 1767), John (born 1780).
  • Simeon Roberts, born about 1735 in Philadelphia, died about 1766 (probate) in Philadelphia, married Prudence Bowen (born 1740 in Newton, Sussex, New Jersey) June 14, 1762 in New Jersey. Their child: John (born about 1780).

And more. The data is inconsistent and confusing as well as unreliable.

 

The Questions

So what can I make of all this?

First of all, let’s deal with the name of one of David’s sons: Auley McCalla Wood. What kind of a name is that for a child? First of all, despite the alternate spellings given in Descendants of John Wood, Auley (or Aulay) McCalla is probably correct. The name shows up more than once in New Jersey; David Wood’s child was no doubt named after a friend, or someone his parents respected.

The will is the most interesting document, and I’m sorry I only have an abstract to work with. Struggling with hand-written wills is hard on both the eyes and the brain, but can give insights a summary misses. Still, the abstract is something to work with.

Of the twelve children mentioned in the combined sources—David, Auley McCalla, Sarah, Prudence, John, Lucy, Richard, Elizabeth, Obadiah, James, Phebe, and Lydia—two are missing from the will. For that time period, it’s not unlikely that Richard and Elizabeth had died before the will was made, so there’s no need to assume they’re extraneous additions to the records.

That Elizabeth Russell was David’s third wife is supported by the mention of Elizabeth in his will. Next comes Obadiah. It’s not specified that he is the firstborn, but that’s customary, and as he’s bequeathed his £50 outright, he must have been at least 21 years old in 1794, unlike Sarah, Prudence, Lucy, John, David, and Auley McCalla, who are clearly not yet of age. John is something less than 14 in 1794, making him born after 1780.

The five-shilling bequests to the heirs of children James, Phebe, and Lydia are another puzzle. Why the heirs? Are James, Phebe, and Lydia older, married … and dead? Or did David just want to leave something directly to his grandchildren (sadly, unnamed)? In any case these three children seem to be married and on their own. I’m trying to be grateful to David for actually leaving a will, since many did not, instead of wanting to shake him by the shoulders and demand to know why he didn’t include surnames for most of the people he mentions.

But who are these children?

One scenario is that Obadiah, James, Phebe, and Lydia are Prudence’s children from her first marriage. It’s possible, because there were 15 years between her first and second marriages, if the dates are right. But I think it more likely that they were Lucy Lennox’s children, already grown and on their own by the time their father made his will. Of course it’s possible that Lucy simply didn’t have any children; infertility is not exclusively a modern problem. But David specifically names these children as his. On the other hand, relationship naming was more fluid in the past: When a document specifies “my brother” or “my uncle,” for example, it does not necessarily mean by these terms what we do now. 

One thing that speaks to these children being Prudence’s by her first husband is the naming patterns. It seems unusual for David to have at least two sons before giving one of them his own name. He did have an uncle Obadiah, as well as an uncle John. The sources of the names Lucy, Prudence, and Elizabeth are obvious, though if James, Phebe, Lydia, Richard, Sarah, or Auley McCalla are in his family tree, I don’t know about it. But I can’t find any information on children for Prudence and Simeon, nor for Lucy and David, to help solve the puzzle. I think it more likely these are Lucy’s children, but I may be wrong.

Wills often name children in order of their birth, but sometimes that order is within categories, such as all sons and then daughters. In this case, I would guess that Sarah, Prudence, Lucy, and John are listed from oldest to youngest; likewise James, Phebe, and Lydia; also that David is older than Auley McCalla. Figuring out birth order between one category and another is more of a problem.

Although it is mostly speculation on my part, here is the scenario as I imagine it. As was customary, David’s widow received 1/3 of the personal property—as I understand it, this is pretty much everything that’s not land. It was valued at £221.9, so her share would have been £74. (Or possibly £57, if Obadiah’s £50 was deducted before the division. I’m afraid I don’t know enough about legal language when it comes to wills.) That makes Obadiah’s portion a pretty large chunk of the estate, but it was not unusual back then for the firstborn son to inherit more than his siblings.

The remainder of the personal property was to be divided amongst Sarah, Prudence, Lucy, and John, probably the youngest children. This suggests that the older children may have already received gifts of goods and property and were perhaps living on their own.

David and Auley each received land. Since Auley was given the “remainder of the home plantation with buildings,” I imagine the older sons (probably Obadiah and James) had been given their shares of the land already. Why was John to be “put to a trade” (I assume apprenticed) when 14? Perhaps the land suitable for farming had already been apportioned. Maybe John didn’t want to be a farmer, and his father supported that preference, although he seems to have been too young for that to be likely.

Why were the heirs of James, Phebe, and Lydia given five shillings? Such an amount was not insignificant, but at 20 shillings to the pound, barely a drop in the estate bucket. Was it meant to be just a token for small children from Grandpa? If there were bad relations in the family and he wanted to insult them, I imagine he would have done it for even less money.

Was David Wood, Sr. really born in 1721? It seems a reasonable approximation, if it is true that he was “over 70” when he died, which was somewhere in the range 1794-1798. That makes him apparently much older than his wives, though I don't have documented birth dates for any of them. I've also seen an unsourced birth year of 1740 often suggested for David Sr.   But it's not impossible that he really was that old—one of my own great-grandfathers was 59 before producing any children. Absent any compelling evidence to the contrary, I’ll stick with the earlier date, though since I think it’s a guess from the uncertain death date, I’d put it more at about 1725.

 

The Conclusions

Always being ready to scrap speculations in light of new data, this is what I now believe about David Wood, Sr.

David Wood, Sr. was born about 1725, probably in Salem County, New Jersey. (Cumberland County was formed in 1748 from the west side of Salem County.) He died between March 10, 1794 and January 18, 1798, in Stow Creek Township, Cumberland County, New Jersey. David married three times.

His first wife was Lucy Lennox, who died before 1777, and by whom he possibly had four children. These may, instead, have been the children of David’s second wife and her first husband.

  1. Obadiah
  2. James
  3. Phebe
  4. Lydia

He married, second, about July 9, 1777, Prudence Bowen, the sister of David and Jonathan Bowen of Bowentown, Cumberland County, New Jersey. She had married, first, about 14 July 1762, Simeon Roberts of Philadelphia. Obadiah, James, Phebe, and Lydia listed above may have been their children. Prudence died before 1786.

David Wood and Prudence Bowen had, probably, the following children:

  1. David Wood, Jr., born May 1, 1778, died in 1828. He married, April 11, 1798, Mercia Davis, born July 15, 1777 in Cumberland County, New Jersey, and died there December 1, 1823, daughter of Isaac and Mary Ann (David) Davis.
  2. Auley McCalla
  3. Sarah S.
  4. Prudence

David married, third, in 1786, Elizabeth Russell. Their children were probably

  1. Lucy
  2. John
  3. Elizabeth, died probably before 1794
  4. Richard, died probably before 1794

 

The ancestry of David Wood, Sr. all taken from Descendants of John Wood, is, in an abbreviated form, as follows:

  1. John Wood, died 1655 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, married an unknown wife.
  2. John Wood, born 1620, died August 26, 1704 in Little Compton, Rhode Island, married Anna, surname unknown.
  3. Jonathan Wood, born August 26, 1658 in Springfield, Massachusetts, died 1715, married, by 1692, Mercy Banbury.
  4. Jonathan Wood, died 1727 in Cohansey, Salem County, New Jersey, married Mary Ayers.
  5. David Wood, Sr., as above.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 28, 2017 at 8:21 pm | Edit
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Math, art, travel, photography. What's not to like?

For some reason, probably all of the above, this photo of "Seventeen parallel flowlines running between Flow Station 2 and Drill Site 3, Drill Site 9, Drill Site 16, Drill Site 17 and Endicott at the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field" really struck me this morning when I read David July's Mount Sutro post, The Linear Perspective Orthogonals. (The photo is from the Mount Sutro Gallery. License agreement here.)

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Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 27, 2017 at 6:06 am | Edit
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Category Education: [first] [previous] Just for Fun: [first] [previous] [newest]

This is for someone who will appreciate it, even if the rest of you are covering your ears.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 21, 2017 at 7:42 am | Edit
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I don't think of myself as a conformist. I mean, really, can you be of my generation and not like rock 'n' roll? I'm afraid I've always taken pride in being different from the general culture.

Apparently I'm slipping.

Lo and behold, my hands-down, absolute, nothing else is even close, favorite fast-food restaurant, Chick-fil-A, is the most popular fast-food restaurant in the country. Here's the state-by-state breakdown. (Click to enlarge.)

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I suppose McDonalds, which won only Alaska, North Dakota, and Washington, D.C., could argue with the methodology, since they have so many restaurants.

For the study, we looked at which chains received the most visits on average in every state based on the total number of visits to each chain divided by the number of locations in that state.

But even McDonald's can't argue with these numbers.

Chick-fil-A dominates, which isn't surprising —  the fried-chicken chain generates more revenue per restaurant than any other fast-food chain in the US.

I guess part of being independent of popular opinion means accepting the situation when other people agree with me. :)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 20, 2017 at 8:41 am | Edit
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Today's Orlando Sentinel features, on its opinion page, a wonderful article by guest columnist James O. Cunningham: What's wrong with America? 'Dear Sir, I am'. The link takes you to the front page, from which you could click to page 12—or maybe not; it's not clear to me which parts the newspaper makes available to non-subscribers. But the Sentinel also makes it possible to clip and save articles, and this one deserves wider publicity, so I've included it below. If you find the print too small, click on the image for a larger version. (H/T Porter, who grabbed my attention by mentioning the Chesterton quote.)

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Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 10:32 am | Edit
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Category Politics: [first] [previous] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Google frequently suggests, through my phone, articles that it thinks I might find interesting. Most of the time it's not even close: Really, I don't want to know what President Trump tweeted, any more than I wanted to hear what President Obama said on Saturday Night Live. I consider both to be inappropriate venues for a President. But recently Google was whang in the gold, with its suggestion of the video below from musician Rick Beato.

Not the whole video, actually. Mostly it's about acquiring the musical skill known as perfect (absolute) pitch, and why Beato believes it must occur during a child's first two years of life. He makes a good case, but it's a controversial point, and he apparently takes no account of recent studies demonstrating neuroplasticity in adult brains—something previously considered to be impossible. In any case, Beato himself doesn't mean adults can't develop really, really good relative pitch and get quite close to absolute pitch; after all, he has created several YouTube videos on how to do just that. But babies ... they're still something special.

The part of the video I find most intriguing is from the 6 minute point to about the 13 minute point.

One thing that surprised me, although in retrospect it should not have, is that Beato's son's acquired his ability to discern and remember pitches well before he knew any note names. But this post is not really about perfect pitch. It's also not about me feeling guilty for the opportunities lost with our children, and certainly not about making anyone else feel guilty for their own omissions. We do what we can with what we know at the time, and regrets are part of every parenthood contract. My concerns now are more general and philosophical.

What strikes me here—and it confirms what I've learned from other sources—is that our teaching habits are upside down.

Apparently, what helps babies learn is complexity. Materials with high information content. Unexpected twists and turns. So what do we do? We simplify everything for children. We give them baby talk, controlled-vocabulary books, and three-chord songs, when their brains are craving adult conversations, complex language, Bach, and jazz. Sure, they learn anyway: Babies are so desperate to learn they'll use whatever tools they can get their hands on. But despite the best of intentions, we are building cages where we should be opening doors.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 6:23 am | Edit
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Category Education: [first] [previous] [newest] Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] Music: [first] [previous]

Warning: This is an unabashed Grandma-brag—but it has a generally-applicable point as well.

One of my recurrent themes here is the truth that children can do and be so much more than we usually expect of them, from toddlers to teenagers. While our thirteen-year-old grandson's accomplishment is not on a par with commanding a captured naval vessel at the age of 12, nor with captaining a trading ship at 19, I'm quite proud of him—and his parents.

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In his right hand is an oak board, similar to that from which he made the object in his left hand, which, when painted, will replace the barber-pole coat rack at a local barbershop.

When he approached the barber, who had advertised for someone to do the work, it took guts and skill to negotiate the commission, not to mention to persuade the barber that a young teen could do the job.

It was an ambitious project, and required working with some heavy-duty power tools—radial arm saw, lathe, planer, and jointer—knowing not only their operation, but proper safety equipment and procedures as well. It was a time-consuming job that required patience, persistence, and focus. That's pretty impressive at an age when many consider him too young to fly unaccompanied on a commercial airplane, to own a knife, or even to stay home alone.

He can cook full meals, too, and I don't mean just heating things up in the microwave.

Is he some sort of genius?  Of course he is, he's my grandchild!

But seriously, what distinguishes him the most from many young people is opportunity. His parents didn't just turn him loose among those dangerous tools, unprepared. He's been helping in the workshop (and the kitchen) since he was a toddler. So have his siblings. The kind of training that produces skills of this sort requires patience and persistence on the part of parents, too—and even more so, a willingness to stand up for the right of children to fly in a society determined to clip their wings.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 13, 2017 at 10:16 am | Edit
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I'm so glad that the ending of the Space Shuttle program did not mean the end of being able to watch launches from our front yard.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 6:58 pm | Edit
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