October 29th, 2013

Restarting genealogy work: cousin contact, researching "Millard", etc.

Two different (and unrelated to each other) cousins once removed on my mother's side (one on her father's, one on her mother's) got in touch with me on the same day. So that got me started on genealogy again, which otherwise would have waited probably another couple weeks, possibly longer depending on how weird November is.

One of the cousins wanted access to my tree as a contributor in exchange with access to hers as same. Once I understood that's what she had in mind (and who she was), I added her, and then sent her e-mail with a bit more general information about my branch and what (little) contact I had had with hers, and a feeler about whether it was okay to ask questions about the ancestral religion or not. It's a Real Touchy Subject.

The other cousin has a long-standing interest in a middle name that appears several times in our family tree: "Millard". The first time I see the name in the family tree is as my great-great grandfather's middle name. His mother's maiden name was Susan or Susana Carson, and I've got decent (altho not comprehensive) lines for her, with no indication "Millard" as a last name on that side.

Because that great-great grandfather was born in 1853, and because Millard Fillmore was President from 1850-1853, I sort of just assumed that the fam were fans, and named their kids for him; it wasn't uncommon. It sort of _looks_ like my great-great grandfather may well have been _named_ Millard Fillmore [last name], but then ditched the Fillmore part, made Millard his middle name and adopted the universal male first name of "John". At least, that's one way to interpret his entries in the census. There are plenty of others.

My 3rd great grandfather, Millard's father, who I will call William, fought in the Civil War on the Union Side. He joined up in Illinois, but said he was from Tennessee by birth, and his census entries back to shortly after his first son was born are at least consistent. I've been unable to find any of his family (parents, siblings, etc.) AT ALL. He shows up surrounded by Susan Carson's kin -- like, the entire page of the census are her kin. She died young, the kids were parceled out to others and the Carson descendants seem to think that William died. But he did not. He reappears married to another woman and they had a second family, and everyone moved to Iowa. One of William's son's in that second family was named "Elmer M", which a variety of people seem to think stood for Millard as well, altho I don't know why (they tend to have family records; I don't, so I work exclusively off of public sources).

Elmer M [last name] is thus the half-uncle of my cousin's father, with the exact same name. Feels very Dutch, altho it probably is not.

I think it is safe to say that William, who fought in the Civil War on the Union Side, may have Really Liked Fillmore's politics.

What _were_ Fillmore's politics?

Well, he's sort of despised _now_ because the story gets written by the winners, in the end, and Fillmore was anti-Catholic and nativist. He didn't like Lincoln. He supported the Compromise of 1850. And therein, I think, may lie the answer to my question. If you think the Compromise of 1850 was a terrible idea AND you oppose slavery, in pragmatic terms you were effectively supporting starting the Civil War earlier rather than later, altho you probably would vehemently dispute that assertion. Federal enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act(s) really, really, really rankled. If you think the Compromise of 1850 was a terrible idea AND you think the Civil War was the War of Northern Aggression, you are so crazy it's hard to know what to say about you, other than that you are probably kind of an awful person.

I don't like the politics of this crop of my ancestors. Some of them were Democrats who lived in Iowa and supported the Fugitive Slave Act(s) but don't seem to have actually ever owned slaves themselves, altho that might have been a function of when they were poor and when they became wealthy, rather than reflective of a moral position. Some of them gave their sons the middle name "Fillmore" and while from Southern states, moved West and during the Civil War fought on the Union Side. I think of these two groups as being unlikely bedfellows (literally!), but maybe that wasn't unlikely at all. Maybe these people fundamentally all thought basically the same (War = Bad, Slavery = Shouldn't Spread Further but maybe not worth more of a fuss than that).

My next step was to take a look around on Amazon, where I was more than a little shocked to discover that one of the most recent biographies of Millard Fillmore argues that what he did _caused_ the war! That's approximately the least reality based idea ever. Only approximately -- I'm sure you can find something worse. The nativist/Know Nothing strand of Fillmore's politics is surely worth mocking, and of course as the beneficiaries of the efforts of those who came before us, we can comfortably say that everyone should have been more true to the ideal of freedom much earlier on in the process. But blaming Fillmore for the Civil War? Seriously?

The guy who wrote the thing appears to be at Albany Law and lives in Slingerlands. Maybe this T-weekend I'll do a little asking around to find out if he's this nutty in general, or if it is limited to this particular topic.

As I looked at what I had in my tree for William's second family, I realized that once they left Iowa, I sort of lost track of everyone. Well, there's really no excuse for that, especially since the best online source for these people thinks that the daughter named Estelle would ultimately die in Seattle in 1950! Alas, I haven't found her marriage yet, so I have no idea. But Agnes and a couple of her brothers ended up in Omaha, where the brothers died, but Agnes would ultimately pick up and move to California somewhat later. Ancestry.com really let me down, but Forest Lawn's interment records are (mostly) online, so I could find the brother's burial information. Ancestry obviously had the census records where, at intervals, the brothers could be found living with Agnes' family. They also all turn up in Ancestry's copies of Omaha city directories, which was convenient in helping me figure out which Elmer in the book was my Elmer, by comparing addresses for Agnes' husband's listing and the various Elmers.

The next step is probably to get in touch with the person who has been working this line, show them the city directories and interment records and ask them what their evidence is for a 1909 death for Elmer vs. the 1915 death date that I prefer -- and to ask them to pretty please tell me who Estelle married. I could also continue to try to understand Omaha's Wards and Districts in the 1910 census and find Elmer that way; I have his address in the city directory so in theory that should work; the index is utterly failing me.

None of this does anything for me, in terms of going backwards in time above William.

Also, hadn't realized Fillmore was involved in New York banking reform that provided the basis for the Fed. I feel bad for Fillmore. I doubt I would have liked him, but given how many people died in the Civil War, it's hard to blame someone for wanting to avoid going to war.

Kindle Matchbook has finally launched

I noticed thanks to Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader, who writes:


... "darned if I can’t find any Amazon purchases that qualify."

So of course I went over to investigate. I have 39 purchases that qualify, as of my current check.

A few years ago, I bought copies of Aldous Huxley's _The Perennial Philosophy_ as gifts for other people; it had been a huge influence on me during what would now be called my "quarter life crisis". Because I bought p-copies through Amazon, I can now buy a kindle copy for $2.99. I may.

I could also pick up a kindle version of Mini Mickey from 2011; I definitely won't buy that, even for $1.99.

Most of the rest of the list is genre fiction. There are numerous Terry Pratchett novels; if I ever decide to reread them again (unlikely), I can pick them up for a couple of dollars each on kindle. Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer collaborated on _Agnes and the Hitman_, which I am unlikely to reread. I found Loretta Chase's _Not Quite a Lady_ not quite readable, so that's out. Ah, but the highly erotic MMF Regency _Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander_ is available for $2.99! Probably the most tempting on the list.

Several Kim Harrisons, more Loretta Chase, some parenting books (_Scientist in the Crib_, 4th ed. of _Nursing Your Baby_ -- I weaned my last kid a couple years ago, so not a lot of point there). _Horse People: Scenes from the Riding Life_ by Michael Korda was a book I bought for a friend in Xmas of 2004. I'll ask her if it's worth reading; at $2.99, maybe. Some romances: Rachel Gibson, who I don't read any more, but SEP's _Nobody's Baby But Mine_ is one of those horrifying premises that works disturbingly well. I've reread it a lot. I might reread it again for $1.99. If I get really, really sick. I also don't read Elizabeth Peters any more, altho I could rebuild that collection on the cheap if I wanted to.

When I was still working for a certain online bookseller, I bought a bunch of books on negotiation, because I wasn't happy about how that was working for me (I figured out the problem: some people are not negotiating in good faith, and the Best Way to deal with that is to Not Be Around Them. Which is one of a long, long, long list of reasons I don't work for that company any more. Second most overdetermined choice of my life.), including _Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive_, by Harvey Mackay. I got rid of it in favor of not swimming with sharks. Should I decide to swim with sharks again, perhaps I would reread it for $2.99.

Georgette Heyer's _Cotillion_ and _Sylvester_ are each available for $2.99. Those are moderately tempting.

Oh, and _Good Omens_. Which is a truly excellent book, but I can only reread a book so many times.

When kindle matchbook figures out what is available for you, it works backwards through what you have ordered from them. My most recent available purchase was bought in 2011 (the Mini Mickey). Virtually everything else was bought from before 2007, and about half of the available items I bought in paper over 10 years ago. In fact, #21-#29 are from 1999 or earlier. The earliest purchase was from right around when I started that job I mention from time to time. My earliest purchase _ever_ from Amazon was placed December 22, 1995, for Herbert O. Yardley's _Education of a Poker Player_. It was a gift for my then boyfriend, who would interview at that online bookseller shortly before me, and we started at around the same time (along with another co-worker of mine from Spry). None of us appear in a certain book that came out recently about that bookseller. In any event, Yardley's book is not (yet?) available through matchbook. I might buy that, because, hey, history!

The books available through matchbook are the kinds of books that Just Aren't Selling Like Hotcakes Any More, especially in paper, but they are also the kinds of books that if you are still collecting, reading and rereading in genre fiction, you might well fork out for a copy for completist purposes. This seems like a classic Jeff-program: camel nose in by showing people they can make money off of stuff that they don't think they can make money on, and then coerce them into offering up everything else for sale, too.

Awesome for readers, and basically, that's what I've always been.

Still More About Politics Surrounding the Civil War

I ran across a remark indicating that Millard Fillmore opposed Abraham Lincoln during the war, and backed Andrew Johnson during Reconstruction. This was a point where I went, yeah, never really understood any of that, either. So off to wikipedia for a refresher, to see if it made more sense now than it did the last time I saw it (possibly college, more likely high school).

Most superficial and ridiculous conversations about US politics in the middle of the 19th century sort of lose track of how, er, multi-faceted they were. During Reconstruction, the States which had Lost were not participating in national politics: they weren't represented in Congress. There was an ambiguous and contested relationship between the occupying Army and the state legislatures. There was debate about who should be allowed to vote. There were debates about who should be prosecuted and how. Etc.

You can think of roughly three interests participating in these debates: freedmen and that fraction of Republicans which thought they ought to be citizens and be allowed to vote, other Republicans who were incredibly pissed about the war and wanted to make sure Something Happened as a result, and a third group that hadn't been all that hot about abolitionism in the first place, Andrew Johnson appears to have fallen somewhere on the Democratic side of that last group. His horse in the race was the poor, white, scrappy farmer, and he was a lot more worried about freedmen voting for their former masters who they were still farming for just under a technically different arrangement, than about anything we might recognize as justice.

Andrew Johnson really got into it with his Congress. This seems sort of surprising, altho if you give any thought to how the Whigs went down, and the various assemblages that cratered until Lincoln finally got the nod (in exchange for Committing to Not Support Abolition), maybe not so surprising at all. But it's so odd: basically a completely one party setup, and Congress kept overriding his vetoes -- and then they impeached him.


Andrew Johnson switched parties.

If you are wondering why they didn't just find a way to get rid of him, apparently the Vice President favored Women's Suffrage, which is about the only thing all these white men could agree to be in opposition to.

The wikipedia article on Andrew Johnson has (at the time I read it today) a really great section on succeeding generations of historians and what they thought of him. In many ways, I feel bad for _anyone_ who was involved in politics through the middle decades of the nineteenth century (I mean, even more so than most other times). Basically, if you could convince other people to agree with you on anything at the time, there was guaranteed to be a whole wave of people then or later that would think you were Evil Incarnate for whatever it was. Given that Johnson was from Tennessee, and assuming he wanted to actually go home again, his politics don't seem that inept to me. At all. They really quite liked him when he went home. He got to be a Senator after a bit.

But whenever I think about what he did from the perspective of liberty, justice and Righting of Wrongs, well, he still doesn't seem inept. Evil, and damn good at it.

I'm not seeing the inept theory, I guess.

I also feel like I can see the underlying theme that was appealing to Fillmore and Johnson. They were both fundamentally status quo guys, who were freaked out about immigration, and freaked out about people who had historically been at the bottom of the pile somehow being elevated. Johnson had his own group that he wanted to succeed, but his was a weak populism, at best. They were absolutely centrist beings in a hyper-partisan time: for farm, family, and a white Protestant God.

This may be the Best Argument Ever against centrism, but it sure does a great job of explaining my mid- to late- 19th century ancestors living in what is now the Midwest. For them, it wasn't about being for or against slavery. It was about being _for_ the nuclear family climbing the economic ladder by settling new land.