Bonesteel and Wells: A tragedy in Troy

large“Three little children who were playing on the sidewalk near 118th Street and Seventh Avenue Tuesday afternoon jokingly shouted to two women riding in a ten-year-old automobile, ‘Get a horse! Get a horse!’

“A few seconds later they were frantically scrambling from the path of the old machine as apparently out of control, it plunged across the street toward them like a juggernaut.”

“There was a moment of silence and then from the front of the car…came the screams of a child.” Continue reading

What’s in a name? That which we call…

rosebyanothernameOne thing I have struggled with while uncovering my family’s complicated past is the lack of consistency in naming conventions before the digital age.

In the Information Age, if you type in your name or ID with a single letter missing or out of place, your application gets rejected by whatever online program it is you’re trying to get access to. We all have numbers assigned to us—social security numbers, student numbers, worker numbers, case numbers, credit card numbers, you name it.

The past?

Thhppt. What’s a number? What’s a name? That which we would call a rose… Continue reading

Four generations of strong women: The paternal-maternal side(s)

It has been said that men write history but women live it.

In my family, it’s also been the women who were the keepers of family history, the tellers of tales and stories. The saver of old photographs and documents.

Which is why I have this photograph of four generations of women who brought four different families into our lineage. Thank you, Aunt Linda, for saving it. Since they are gone, I have an obligation to tell their stories. Who are they? Continue reading

Finding the Tree in the Family Forest

IMG_2197While visiting Montreal and Upstate New York for summer vacation, my family were greeted by an unhappy surprise.

My mother has Stage 4 cancer.

I’ve been spending the past two to three years researching my ancestry (at, you guessed it, ancestry.com) and I had already hoped to talk with my mother about her memories of our Irish and French Canadian heritage.

I’d already managed to find quite bit online via various databases, both public and private. But there’s no substitute for family stories. And now I have a time limit.

Continue reading

Half-finished, half-destroyed, hybrid? Syncretic culture

During the first week of May my family and I had a chance to explore ancient Greece.

Well, OK, modern Greece. With some ruins thrown in.

In addition to the museums of Byzantine culture, early Christian churches, old Turkish baths, reconstructed tombs of Phillip II of Macedon and all that, we also wandered around downtown Thessaloniki (Thessalonika) quite a bit. I was struck by the prevalence of half-destroyed, half-rebuilt buildings in various states of disrepair/renewal/disusage/usage. Continue reading

Why I’m leaving Facebook (and why you should, too)

facebookAbout ten days ago, I started a countdown on my Facebook “wall.”

Some of my “friends” asked if I was going to send something into space.

When I “commented” that I was leaving Facebook as of May 1st, they begged me not to.

The system will police itself, they argued. User complaints and the #deletefacebook movement/backlash would force Zuckerberg & Co. to change their policies.

Hardly. Instead, they’re doubling down.

In fact, Facebook has been terrified for years that its users would eventually find out that  it’s nothing more than an online marketing tool for greedy companies – and that Facebook has sold them out.

It took me a while, but finally I decided enough was enough.

I’m leaving Facebook. Here are a few reasons why I hope you will, as well.

Continue reading