Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Website To Help With Genealogy

By: Andrea, student assistant at Clarke Historical Library

I found a good website a few months ago while researching my family history. I was particularly looking for birth and death information and wondered if there was a website out there that compiled a list of the people buried in various cemeteries in the United States. I came across the website and this proved to be a very helpful website. Currently, the website has over 57 million grave records. In addition to searching by a person’s name, you can also search for cemeteries in a particular county. Once you find the cemetery, you can search through just the records for that particular cemetery. Some of the records tell you exactly what is written on the grave stones. For example, my grandparents had their wedding date inscribed on their stone and that appears on the record on the website. Some of the newer records have a copy of the person’s obituary as well. Overall, I think that this website is very helpful and worth visiting. Here is the link to the website:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Larry Massie's Presentation: The Allure of Association - The Appeal of Provenance: Stories Told by Old Michigan Books

By Frank Boles

(to see a podcast of this March 1, 2011 presentation at ITunes U, click here)

On March 1 Larry Massie spoke in the Park Library Auditorium. His  topic was The Allure of Association - The Appeal of Provenance: Stories Told by Old Michigan Books.  Although there are many book collectors in Michigan, Massie is uniquely qualified to speak on this subject.  With a private collection of more than 35,000 volumes, Massie has assembled the largest existing, personally owned collection of Michigan-related books.

Mr. Massie’s principal point, made through many examples, is that very often what makes a book interesting to a collector is not simply the book itself, but also the person who once owned the book.   The association of owner and volume, particularly in cases where the owner or others chose to inscribe the volume, can offer fascinating insights into history.

For example, one of the books Massie discussed was a relatively common book of music printed in the first years of the nineteenth century. This particular music book, however, was owned by Father Gabriel Richard. Richard was a Catholic priest who served in Detroit from 1798 until his death in 1832. He was an innovative, educated man who quickly became a community leader.  Michigan’s first printing press arrived at Richard’s instigation. Richard co-founded Michigan’s first University.  And Richard apparently enjoyed music.  Not only did he add a music book to his personal library, he likely placed the book on Michigan’s first piano, which he was responsible for having brought to Detroit. Through association with a fascinating man, a “common” music book took on interesting “associational” value.

In another example Massie produced two copies of Laura Havilland’s A Woman’s Life Work: Labors and Experiences of Laura S. Havilland.  The book is an interesting one in that Havilland, a devout Quaker, was a key conductor on the Underground Railroad, which led escaped slaves north to Canada. Supposedly she and her husband established the first Underground Railroad station in Michigan. Haviland herself traveled south several times to help slaves escape, in one case seeking the children of slaves who had already fled north. Her adventures were numerous, documented through endless legal actions filed against her by irate slave holders and more pointedly, by once being held at gunpoint by a slave owner who seems to have briefly considered shooting the Yankee troublemaker.

In one the copy of her book Haviland had written, “No word or tear of sympathy for the oppressed is in vain.” Haviland’s fierce commitment to abolitionism demonstrated in this passage was matched by her commitment in faith.   She inscribed a second book found by Massie, “No prayer presented in living faith is unanswered by Him who is the author and finisher of our faith.”

A third example from Massie’s talk was a Book of Mormon once owned by Wingfield Watson. In nineteenth century Michigan, Watson was a well-known follower of Mormon-leader James Jesse Strang. When Mormon founder Joseph Smith was murdered, Strang offered himself as Smith’s replacement. Strang profoundly disagreed with the church’s decision to appoint Brigham Young Smith’s successor. He refused to submit to Young’s leadership and founded his own branch of Mormonism.

Strang and his followers eventually settled on Beaver Island. Although Strang was murdered in 1856, until his own death in 1922, Watson continued to proslitzye on behalf of Strang’s interpretation of Mormonism.  Watson lent the copy of the Book of Mormon in Massie’s possession to individuals he hoped would join the faith. One of the most fascinating entries in the Book is signed by “A Blackbird.”  Andrew Blackbird was a well-known and well respected Indian leader who lived in Harbor Springs. Blackbird apparently read the volume, but was unmoved by it or by Watson’s words of persuasion.  As Blackbird wrote in the volume, “keep your books to home.”

In these and many other examples Massie demonstrated that the joy in collecting books is not just in finding a particular title, but in the story a particular volume  of a title may tell.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Michigan Author Barry Marsh Publishes Good Harbor Bay

By Christa Clare

As the person who orders new materials for the Clarke Library, I get to see a lot of interesting books coming into the Clarke Library.  Our library focuses on collecting Michigan history, children’s literature, and some Michigan authors.

Recently, we received a book called Good Harbor Bay by Michigan author Barry Marsh.  The book is about eleven-year-old Josh Ogden  who leads a comfortable life in a Detroit suburb. Most of what he knows about Good Harbor Bay, far to the north, is from looking at photographs in an old family photo album with his mother. It is where his father grew up, and where his parents first met.

When Josh’s mother is suddenly killed by a drunk driver, his father decides to quit his job and they move in with Grandpa Ogden who lives in a run-down secluded cabin in Good Harbor Bay.
Josh is very unhappy at first and he struggles to cope with his new home and new life as the old life of luxury fades. Friends grow distant; the world of e-mail, computer games, and text messaging dims. At first life seems to be  little more than doing chores in the barn, and home schooling.   

Gradually Josh begins to accept his new life and bonds with his grandfather who teaches him how to handle the massive draft horses he uses for logging, drive old pickup trucks, and  experience nature along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Packed with adventure, Good Harbor Bay is recommended for ages 9-12 and makes excellent reading for anyone who enjoys a good story in a northern Michigan setting.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Clarke Staff Wins University Award for Annual Giving

 by Frank Boles

Every year the faculty and staff of Central Michigan University are offered the opportunity to support the University through the “Campus Campaign.” The University’s employees are asked to make a financial contribution to CMU; to give back a bit of what they earn to help support the institution’s goals and aspirations.

The campaign is important at many levels. At one level, the University can use the money. One can debate the wisdom of public policies that have led to a continuing and deep decline in the amount of state funds made available for higher education, but the impact is not debatable.  Tuition has increased substantially and funding for higher education has become much more dependent on public generosity. At another level, if we are going to ask others to help us, we have to show that we ourselves believe so much in what we do that we are willing to lead by example. It is easy to ask someone else for money.  However, “the ask” is much more convincing if we as individuals have already donated to the cause we are asking others to support.

Thus, I am very pleased that the Clarke staff has been recognized for having obtained the highest percentage of donors among CMU units with fewer than twenty-five employees to the recently completed 2010 Campus Campaign. The accomplishment is even more notable in that the Clarke staff also received this award for the 2009 Campus Campaign.

My thanks go to the individual Clarke staff members who, despite hard times, supported the Campus Campaign. Like the University as a whole, the Library can use the money. More importantly, gifts from staff members demonstrate our commitment to what we do every day.