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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Philadelphia: country's worst place to research family history

This is a geeky post, but I'm beyond furious with the rapacious tactics of Philadelphia government in holding their historic records hostage.

Philadelphia is the worst place for genealogy I have ever seen.

The Historic Society of Pennsylvania charges you $8 to walk in the door and is open half a day, four days a week. The Germantown Historical Society is open only a few hours on two days a week and charges you $10 to walk in the door.

Philadelphia City Archives: The website says "Welcome to the City of Philadelphia" but the miserably uncooperative Philadelphia Archives is a hell-hole offering ruined, scratched, unreadable microfilms and surly employees who try not to notice when somebody is trying to get their attention. I believe they hate their customers.

The deeds, wills, etc. are barely indexed at all - last time I went, you had to pull a (scratchy) microfilm for your letter of the alphabet and search through virtually unreadable white-on-black handwritten lists of people in un-alphabetical order. In contrast, nearby Montgomery County has properly indexed and digitized all its records and you can search the index and print out the documents yourself in a matter of minutes.

But back to the Philadelphia Archives: there are not enough microfilm machines and "The free readers have been retired from public service." You pay to sit down at a reader AND pay to print: $2.00 per page.

You pay exorbitantly every time you turn around. They demand $20.00 for a one-page late 19th century marriage record even when you look it up and print it yourself. Other places, this would cost 50 cents.

The unfriendly and unhelpful staff does not answer emails. They often do not even answer the phone.

Traffic = atrocious. Parking and hotels: appallingly expensive.

If you are willing to pay the gigantic price (the aforesaid marriage record would cost me $45 if I asked them to print the single page and send it to me), it takes six months. They suggest patience.

My suggestion if you are unlucky enough to have ancestors in Philadelphia: do as much of your research as you can without going there. Pay for online databases, rent films at the FRIENDLY and HELPFUL local Family History Centers, look for records any other place you can and only as a last resort visit the City of no Brotherly Love.

End of rant.

Monday, July 25, 2011

[Hannah]: On the young, 1819

"The young are generally ambitious, and willing to submit to all labors and sacrifices to gain public opinion ... and they are generally benevolent, from sentiment, and disposed to serve mankind for the consciousness of doing it ... but they feel neglect and ill success very sensibly, and after failing in some of their generous purposes...they sink into a love of themselves and indifference to all mankind besides."
-The North American Review and Miscellaneous Journal, 1819

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

[Hannah]: On Philadelphia Merchants, 1750s

"They breakfasted at eight or half-past; and by nine were in their counting houses, laying out the business of the day; at ten they were on their wharves, with their aprons around their waists, rolling hogsheads of rum and molasses; at twelve, at market, flying about as dirty and diligent as porters; at two back again to the rolling, heaving, hallooing, and scribbling. At four they went home to dress for dinner; at seven, to the play; at eleven, to supper, with a crew of lusty Bacchanals who would smoke cigars, gulp down brandy, and sing, roar, and shout in the thickening clouds they created like so may merry devils, till three in the morning."

- quoted from a contemporary foreign traveler in Charles Rappleye, Robert Morris

Saturday, July 02, 2011

In which we visit a flock swap, then drive to Sanford NC and buy pygmy goats

I've been looking for suitable goats for a couple of weeks. Today a friend and I went to the "flock swap" at Burlington Tractor Supply. There were no goats. But it was a splendid NC event.

So I was going to give up and go home but my friend Paul had his fancy phone and we looked on Craigs List and there was a guy selling goats in Sanford (an hour away) so we went down there and I bought two pygmy goats. The dad and his son were in business together. One of the goats was the dad's goats and one was the kid's, so they split the profits.

I'd made a goat cage out of cattle panels and cable ties and used a rachet tie-down to secure it in the back of my truck. The goats settled right down for the ride home.

We off-loaded the cage by the side of our driveway and Paul, my son Ezra, and I fell into kind of a stupor feeding leaves to the goats. We were there a long time doing not much of anything. In our defense, it was quite a hot day.

Then, since the goat halters were too big for these pygmy goats, I carried them one by one to their new home. When I got back from carrying the first one and dumping it into its pen, the second one had (surprise) escaped and I chased him for a while and then carried him over and they commenced to chewing. However, they are far too small to make much of a dent in the weed population.