Friday, January 17, 2020

Juliette Gordon Low – Founder of the Girl Scouts

This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of women being granted the right to vote. During the year, we will explore the lives and deaths of some of the more well known women in American history.
By Joy Neighbors

Juliette Gordon Low

It was summer in England in 1911 when Juliette Gordon Low joined the Girl Guide movement. The group was based loosely on British general Robert Baden-Powell’s Boy Scout troupes. At the time, the Boy Scouts had more than 40,000 members in England and the U.S. Later that year, Low organized a girls group in Scotland in a similar vein and called it the Girl Guides Patrol. Members were taught how to spin wool, care for livestock, and read a map. Girls also learned how to do drills and how to set up a camp. By the end of the year, Low had formed two more groups in England.

When Low returned to the United States in 1912, she decided to form a U.S. Girl Guide troupe in Savannah, Georgia. With 18 members, she searched for ways to teach girls practical skills and independence. Low felt this would be an organization that would help girls build character and self-reliance.

There was competition in the form of the Campfire Girls. When Low invited the group to merge with her own, the leader, James E. West refused citing the Girl Scouts were teaching females to do gender-inappropriate things.

In 1913, the Girl Guides became the Girl Scouts. In 1915, official paperwork was filed and the name legally became Girl Scouts, Inc. Low served as the first president to a group of more than 2,400 girls.

By 1920, Low had stepped down as president of the Girl Scouts so she could continue working to get the group worldwide status. Low worked tirelessly to make the Girl Scouts an organization that promoted a girl’s self image and gave her the skills necessary to succeed in life.

In 1923, Low was diagnosed with breast cancer but kept it a secret. She tried numerous treatments and had several operations but all were unsuccessful.

Juliette Gordon Low died on January 17, 1927 in Savannah from the final stages of breast cancer. She was 66-years-old. Her casket was escorted to the church and graveyard by an honor guard of Girl Scouts. She was buried in her Girl Scout uniform with a note tucked into her pocket that read, “You are not only the first Girl Scout, but the best Girl Scout of them all.

In 1979, Juliette Gordon Low was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. 

On May 29, 2012, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts, Low was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama for her “remarkable vision.” The medal also celebrates “her dedication to empowering girls everywhere.”

Peak membership in the Girl Scouts was recorded at 3.8 million in 2003. Today the number is roughly 2.6 million.


Friday, January 10, 2020

The Children’s Blizzard of 1888

By Joy Neighbors

It began on the wintry Thursday afternoon of January 12, 1888 in the Great Plains. For the past several days the weather had been snowy with brutally cold temperatures but it appeared a reprieve had been granted.  Temperatures were on the rise. Just a few hours out in the warmer weather would be a welcome relief before the next storm was due to hit later that day.

According to the Weather Bureau forecast that day. "A cold wave is indicated for Dakota and Nebraska tonight and tomorrow; the snow will drift heavily today and tomorrow in Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin.” Today, forecasters would call this the start of an Alberta Clipper.

Children had walked to school in the warmer weather and farmers took to the fields to see what damage the last storm had done. But by mid-morning, the snow began to fall again in the Dakotas. By noon, another storm had rushed in and temperatures had fallen so fast many teachers had already used up their allotment of wood for the day. With a blinding blizzard there was no way to get more. Desks and chairs were tossed on the fire in an attempt to keep frostbite at bay until help could arrive - and no one knew how long that would be.

In Minnesota, temperatures were just above freezing early that afternoon and many stepped out to enjoy the welcomed break. Around 3:00 clouds began furiously rolling in to the area and the wind increased quickly. By 3:30 one of the worst blizzards on record was already loose upon the state. The somewhat balmy afternoon had turned deadly cold with temps plummeting 50 to 60 degrees in a just minutes. They now registered in the negative 40s and 50s.

When teachers realized the severity of the situation, most kept children in the classrooms and schoolhouses. Those who had already ventured out were facing dire consequences.  The children in Nebraska and South Dakota fared the worst with an official death toll of 235 people – mostly children caught out in the storm who froze to death. Some reports said the number killed was closer to 500 people considering some folks in the country were not missed until the spring, and some bodies were not discovered until later in the year when all of the snow had melted. Not only was the human death toll high, the toll on livestock caught out in the storm was also extensive.

The storm took down Western Union telegraph lines, which stopped warnings from reaching other states in the path of the storm. Trains were stopped where they stood.  In the nine states and territories including Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, and Iowa, it was one of the worst winter storms to ever hit that area.

The weather the next day dawned clear and cold with snow drifts up to five feet tall and 30 feet wide in some places. The Children’s Blizzard was the tail end of six years of extreme weather for the region, which began in 1882. Forecasters had dubbed the freak weather, “The Little Ice Age.”

Friday, January 3, 2020

Four Great Genealogy Conferences to Attend in 2020

By Joy Neighbors

If your New Year's resolution is to attend more conferences and seminars this year; congratulations, that's a perfect way to make connections and stay up on what's happening in the world of genealogy. If you’re searching for genealogy conferences with the most bang for the buck, here are four recommendations to consider.

February 26-29, 2020

Let’s start with the largest genealogy conference in the world held right here in the U.S. Each year, Rootstech has a theme and this year will be about The Story of You. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, RootsTech offers an amazing line-up of presentations, events and technology. And this is one conference that’s aimed at you, regardless of if you’re new to genealogy, have some experience, or if you're a certified genealogist. There’s something for everyone with more than 300 breakout sessions, gala events and a Family Discovery Day on Saturday, February 29th.

If you’re searching for the latest, greatest technology in the genealogy world, this is your go-to place. Take time to wander the Exhibit Hall and get your questions answered by experts in the field.

One thing to note: Get your lodging reservations in soon. Some attendees reup their rooms from one conference to the next; so don’t wait to book a room. Salt Lake City is easy to get around in and with Uber and Lyft available, travel time is minimal to and from the Salt Lake Palace.

(Full disclosure, I will be speaking twice at RootsTech. One session is about Forgotten Records of Death, and the second is a one-woman performance on The Victorian Celebration of Death.) 

April 29 – May 2, 2020
This is another conference I have had the pleasure of speaking at and it is always educational, and delightful. This year’s theme is Unlocking the Pieces. Although as a state conference it is somewhat Ohio-centric, speakers and presenters cover a wide range of materials that appeal to the genealogist in all of us including national law in regard to genealogy, tracing African American ancestors and record analysis.

The OGS website offers attendees the chance to filter presentations by day, track or speakers so you can always be up-to-date on what is happening during the conference.

A member of the National Genealogical Society, the Ohio conference will be held at the Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center in Sandusky, Ohio. This is a family-friendly location with the Midwest’s largest indoor water park. There are plenty of restaurants and shops to explore between sessions without ever leaving the resort.

May 20 – 23, 2020
National Genealogical Society’s (NGS) Family History Conference is about Echoes of Our Ancestors. This conference is held around the country but this year it will also be in Salt Lake City, just one block from the Family History Library.

The NGS offers a fabulous opportunity to network with more than 2,0000 genealogists. Attendees have the chance to attend more than 150 presentations, many given by nationally recognized speakers. The Exhibit Hall offers a chance to discover the latest and greatest in the genealogy world from more than 80 exhibitors.

Salt Lake City is a friendly city with plenty of access to the other genealogy sites around town. Most downtown lodging is within an easy distance of public transportation, and for the hale and hearty, walking is always an option.

November 13-15, 2020
The Texas Genealogy Society will hold their 60th annual conference in November. Their theme is Remembering Your Heritage. More than 300 speakers will enlighten and encourage attendees in DNA technology, records and research, ethnic research topics and much more. 

Again, while Texas-centric in some sessions, this conference also offers topics that will resonate with everyone.

The conference will be held at the Omni Mandalay Hotel Las Colinas in Dallas.