01 December 2010

Father's Day

Another Father's Day had come and gone and Jack mused to himself, again no wishes expressed. "Here's your presents" were the words from his grandson as he handed him a gift bag containing a couple of unwrapped shirts and a couple of packs of biscuits but from his daughter, son-in-law and other grandchildren the words Happy Fathers Day were not forthcoming. The same had happened at his previous birthday, in fact at all events in recent years where these sorts of expressions were regarded by Jack as normal.

He had become used to no display of feeling, such as a hug, from his daughter when she visited and of course the son-in-law took every opportunity possible not to turn up. He was only there when duty required it and then spent most of his time laying on the lounge or on the floor taking little or no part in whatever discussions or activities were going on.

Is there a cultural thing about his daughter and her family's lack of ability to wish him a happy day? Probably not. Jack felt that the way he had disciplined his kids as they were growing up was at the core of this behaviour. He had been a strong disciplinarian with his children because this was what he thought was the right thing to do and he did spank often and hard although never in a place that could seriously hurt them like the head. In retrospect with knowlege later attained he now believed he had spanked too often and wished he had known better techniques. However he was pleased that he had dramatically changed things from what he had gone through as a child. The use of fists and lumps of wood was something he had vowed not to do and he was pleased with himself that he had achieved that goal.

Jack thought about how when he was growing up, when he talked to other adults about how he was disciplined, they always told him "it would do him good" and that anyway he would eventually grow up and leave home and then any such matters would easily resolve themselves in this way. Jack had found this to be fairly true and he didn't feel any resentment towards his parents. They were only doing as good as they knew how to do at the time. However it appears that times have changed and now such things are considered in a different light and Jack has heard that if children ask about these sorts of things these days they are told they are victims and victims they actually become, with all the percieved helplessness of that state and part of that legacy being a resentment by children to their parents.

Jack saw that his daughter and her husband clearly had an issue about discipline and they thought that he was going to try and interfere in this with their kids, a preposterous thing as far as Jack was concerned. Jack had been happy to see his kids leave home, not because he didn't love them but because he no longer had the pressure of always being vigilant, a pressure which he now realised he hadn't had to impose on himself but which he believed may have contributed to his breakdown some years earlier. To suggest that he would want to take on this pressure again with his grandkids, to him verged on the bizarre.

However at his last birthday, Jack was talking to his grandkids and was leading the conversation towards talking to them about how things had changed and how they no longer had silly rules to comply with, which he had had to live with as a child but he never got that far. Son-in-law intervened with comments to the effect of such things are not in our family (wasn't that where Jack was going?). Jack let the matter lie there not wishing to make a scene in front of the kids. A couple of weeks later Jack got a "talking to" from his daughter (the son-in-law was absent again) about how he had raised his children and how he should just sit back and relax and leave the discipline to them. Again maybe foolishly, Jack didn't present her with another view but just changed the subject and let it slide. Even now he's not certain whether that was a correct decision but he feels it's not worth dragging it all up again. This is clearly an issue for them. Why else would the grandson have been able to tell Jack that he had been too severe with Mummy when she was growing up. Clearly one to get TV guru Dr. Phil upset in terms of trying to get children to handle adult issues.

Jack sat back in his chair thinking about these matters. He loved his kids, he loved his grandkids and he had respect for his son-in-law but for now just wanted to forget about it all and enjoy life to the fullest. Maybe he'll get wished Happy Birthday or Happy Fathers Day next year. Maybe it is all just an oversite. That's what Jack's wife thinks, although she has always been a very generous soul towards people's motivations. Maybe I'll write all this down one day, Jack thought to himself as he turned his attention to the next episode of The Bill as it started to come on the TV.

John Owen
5 Sep 2006

Sources & Citations in Genealogy

The principals outlined here apply to recording data manually or in an electronic database but it discusses the issues from the viewpoint of using an electronic database.

When researching your family tree it is important that you record the details associated with every piece of data and how you obtained that data. e.g. was it from a birth certificate, a census record or a date calculated from a headstone. This is important because at some future time you are going to want to go back and confirm data e.g. when newly gained information produces a conflict. It is also beneficial for other people to go to that source and see the evidence for themselves. Each piece of data should have its own citation of the source but remember each piece of data may also have more than one citation.

What is the difference between a source and a citation?

A source is the actual record of the fact e.g. a marriage certificate, a website or a notation in the front of a family bible. A source is always located in an actual place known as a Repository which for the above sources could be, My Marriage Certificate files; the internet and finally My Library (or maybe even Grandma’s bookshelf). Sources are subdivided between Original Sources
and Derivitative Sources. These refer to the providence of the record; so a taped interview would be Original while a photocopy or transcription of a Certificate would be Derivative. This information is usually stored under the Type Field of the Source.

A citation is a quoting of the source which you associate with a specific piece of data. Attributes associated with a citation are the entry date; the quality assessment of the source for the piece of data; where within the source the information is located; text from the source and any note you wish to make. A citation can be thought of as an audit trail for the data. A quality software database will provide the ability to complete all these fields as they are also part of the GEDCOM specification.

Let's look at entering some new data into the database such as a NSW Death Certificate. Such a certificate may provide among other things the following details - the Name of the deceased; Date of Death; Where Buried; Date Buried; the Informant; the deceased's Spouse and any Children of the Marriage. It is usually tempting when you have a new Death Certificate to go and immediately enter the person's date of death, etc. however, the recommended procedure is to go and enter the source first. Once this is done you have a source to refer to for your citations.

Next go to the record of the individual and the first thing to do is enter the data e.g. Date of Death. Then there will be a button to select to 'Add a Citation'. Select this and this will bring up a list of Sources; select your new Death Certificate as the source and you will then be able to enter the attributes. (This process will vary slightly between databases).

Entry Date : While a few people use this attribute to date when the record was compiled, common usage is to enter today's date. (The date when the record was compiled can be entered in the Notes section of the Source itself). By entering to-day's date you record how recently you looked at this piece of data.

Assessment : The four standard assessments are Primary, Secondary, Questionable and Unreliable. When entering the Name of the deceased; the Date of Death; Where Buried; Date Buried or the Informant, the assessment is Primary Evidence. However when entering the deceased's Spouse and any Children of the Marriage the assessment can be either Primary or Secondary Evidence, as such information on Death Certificates is totally subject to the actual versus perceived knowledge of the informant. Questionable is used when you have some doubt about the accuracy of the source for this piece of data. Unreliable is self-explanatory but is also only referring to this piece of data. If you decide that the source itself is unreliable, then this should be noted in the Notes section of the Source Record.

Where Within Source : This will vary depending on the nature of the source e.g. for a book it could be the Chapter Number and Page Number (remembering Page Number can vary between editions); for an Internet Source, the address of the site is shown. Sites can change or even disappear, so you should print the page (or appropriate part of the page) to keep in your records. For our Death Certificate you could either leave it blank or record the Column Title.

Text Within Source : This Attribute is used to actually quote the relevant text from the Source and common practice is to insert it in Inverted Commas.

Note : Used to insert any additional information. In the case of our Death Certificate, at least the Registration Number would be shown.

Typical Source names found in Australian genealogy databases are Bankruptcy (Name); BDM Online Index (by State and/or Country); Biography; Book; Book Notations (Inside Cover References); Cards; Cemetery; Census; Certificate (Type e.g. BDM, Railway Service); Eulogy; Headstone; Index (Type); Internet; Letter; Mailing List; Military File; Newsletter; Photo; Postcard; Researcher (Name); Shipping Records; Verbal and Will.

Entering your sources and then the appropriate citations gives your database much more meaning and can make chasing information from ten years ago that much easier.

John Owen
May 2010

A Couple of Weeks in March

I seem to have a blind spot on the left-hand side of my head, not the right just the left. All my life and I'm 62 when writing this, I have hit my head on the left-hand side. Overhead cupboards, low doors and tree branches have all been targets for my left cranium to home in on. However, the worst of all have been motor vehicles. During our lives, we have had cars, station wagons, utilities, 4-wheel drives, vans and a light-duty truck. No matter what the the vehicle, I have continually hit my head while getting into the driver's side. (Much as I tried, Ellen always refused to get her licence.) The kids grew up to a continual refrain of words they were not allowed to use, as my head banged its way through life.

Consequently on Thursday, 23rd February, 2006 when getting in the car to go and do the weekly shopping, the act of hitting my head was not exceptional. However, I did hit it harder than usual and was quite dazed, sitting in the car for some minutes before driving off. The shopping was done and when I came home, I never thought to tell Ellen about it even if, as shown below, I was still able to remember it. I certainly didn't realise that it was going to put me in hospital for the first time in my life.

The next week or so produced a range of symptoms that something was wrong but incredibly I just saw them as strange curiosities rather than something to be concerned about. On one occasion, using the lever to raise the footrest on my chair took about three minutes while at the same time a large part of my right hand was sort of numb - "that's interesting" was my thought. On the Friday before my major symptom presented itself, loading the car with our goods to go and do the markets saw me thoroughly exhausted in a way that should have raised alarm bells. I do twenty minutes on my treadmill most mornings and that same morning saw me unable to continue after five minutes. As Ellen was going to the doctors that day I went too on the basis that I was feeling a bit run down. The doctor (not our usual GP) did all the usual checks but could find nothing wrong and just prescribed a general tonic, Accomin Vitamin Supplement.

The next morning (Saturday 4th March, 2006), we were up getting ready to go to the markets. Ellen had some Aspirin prescribed for her the previous day and she asked me to read the instuctions from the box. Well, it was here that things really went wrong. For about 10 seconds, I knew what I wanted to say but literally couldn't. Finally the words came out and in my head they sounded slurred as if I was very drunk but Ellen says that they were entirely unintelligible. She asked if I was having a stroke to which I shrugged my shoulders. She said she was ringing for an ambulance and I agreed by nodding.

When the ambulance arrived, my speech seemed to have returned and I was able to talk to the officers. I was able to walk OK and off we went in the ambulance to Wyong Hospital. My memory of events from then are a little hazy. I do remember having a catscan and an X-Ray. Apparently I had some Weet-Bix and about three sips of coffee before being put on "nil by mouth", and being told that the doctors at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney had viewed the catscan (they sent it down to them by email) and said I needed to go there straight away. By chance there was an operating slot available to me and so I was transferred by ambulance to RNSH. I vaguely remember waiting at reception (Ellen says for about two hours while my scrambled memory says half an hour, that's how good my judgement was), being asked a large number of questions after getting into intensive care and generally not really knowing what was going on. The one question I was continually asked with it taking a number of forms was, "Did you hit your head?", "Did you have a fall?", "Did somebody punch you?". No, No, No was my continual reply. I had totally forgotten hitting my head.

I remember Ellen being there and Scott and Sonia but not much else. Then I was in the operating room, they asked me to climb off my bed onto the operating table which I did. I lay down and then the mask was coming over my face and that was it. Apparently I went into the operation at about 4 o'clock. Ellen's unsure what time I came out as she was not allowed to see me for awhile but she and Sonia were eventually allowed into intensive care at about half past seven. I really don't remember much of them being there except that Sonia got me some crushed ice and they helped me drink a cup of coffee through a straw because I was not allowed to sit up. In fact I had to stay on my back for about a day because of the drain in my head. Ellen and Sonia left to go home about 9 o'clock and I was probably transferred to the step-down unit at about 10 o'clock.

The upshot of the problem was that when I had hit my head, the force was so great that I had torn the outer layer surrounding the brain (called I think, the meninges) and that the blood from this was accumulating, forming what was sort of like a giant blood blister. Apparently if this hardens and forms a clot it eventually penetrates the brain with all sorts of disastrous consequences from severe strokes to death. My operation was a procedure to clean up and repair the damage and to insert a draining process whereby all the excess fluid is drained out so that the "blood blister" doesn't form - hence having to stay on my back for 24 hours for the drain to work. A warm vote of thanks here to neurosurgeon Dr. Little and the team which worked with him for the expert and neat job they did in the operation.

Once the drain was out I became a part of the normal observation procedure. It was at one of these obs on Tuesday that an extraordinary (to me) thing happened. The nurse had just taken my blood pressure, temp, etc. and was writing the details in the chart. I was sitting on a chair beside by the bed when I suddenly exclaimed "Oh!". She turned around enquiring what was wrong. It was very strange, the memory of hitting my head had just come back and it had done so with a force which caused the exclamation. It was all there in "technicolour". She very quickly recorded the details. Doctors later said that the memory loss was not unusual and that it often did come back.

From then on I had a fairly normal recovery process. Ellen decided to stay at Sonia's place at Gosford. She and Sonia came down by train on the Sunday and then Ellen came down by herself on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The phone service into the hospital was a very useful tool allowing a large number of relatives, both mine and Ellen's to ring while quite a few also came to visit. I was really surprised by the number of contacts and gratefully say thankyou to them all.

Thursday 9th March was discharge day and Scott and Sonia arrived to pick me up and drive me home. We came back to their place where we had lunch and then Sonia drove Ellen and me back to Buff Point. Adventure over - or so we thought but it was not to be. It would be great to be able to sleep in my own bed again and after watching a little television I went to bed, feeling very good. However at quarter to five the next morning I awoke with a strange feeling in my right hand and right foot. One thing I had learned in hospital was to stop and observe my symptoms, so I waited as the feeling (even now I don't have an appropriate word for it) moved about first up my right arm to the elbow and then also up the right leg to the knee. It continued to move around these limbs for awhile but then it started to happen in my left hand. My brain injury was on the left so any consequences should be on my right side only. I shouldn't be getting effects on my left and the feeling was starting to get much stronger. I decided it was time to wake Ellen and did so. She rang Wyong hospital and talked to them and they said I needed to be got in there as quickly as possible, so she called the ambulance again.

By the time the ambulance had arrived, it was about six o'clock and Ellen still hadn't eaten and her diabetes was starting to spin her out. I had never seen her like this before and was really concerned, so I insisted that she stay and have her food while I go to the hospital alone. We arrived at Wyong and into A & E again where coincidently I was placed in the same bay as the previous Saturday. As a nice touch the nurse who had been my attending nurse the previous Saturday recognised me and came and had a talk to find out how I was getting on.

The same observation process began although this time I had brought the catscan and report which RNSH had given me to give to my GP for them to look at. RNSH was contacted and they ordered a new catscan which was done even with the nine staples and one stich still in my head. Apparently this revealed nothing new so they decided that the problem lay more in the convulsive area, probably arising in the settling down process following all the previous trauma. Wyong was not the appropriate hospital to dispense this treatment and so another ambulance transfer occurred to take me to Gosford Hospital.

Friday was spent mainly getting to know the other three blokes on the ward although I was visited at about five o'clock by two doctors who went through the identical assessment procedures as those done at Wyong. Their view was for a continuation of the medication (200ml Epilum) until the neurologist saw me and "given nothing much happened on week-ends" this would probably be Monday. As it turned out Dr. Sturm did drop in for a flying visit on Saturday morning where he increased the dosage to 500ml. Over Friday, Saturday and Sunday the symptoms gradually lessened and finally disappeared. They removed the stitch and four of the staples on Sunday and then removed the other five staples on Monday. They also gave me an EEG on the Monday with the preliminary results being positive.

My cousin Margarette had just recently moved to Gosford and on Saturday she went and picked Ellen up and they came in to see me. Sonia also came in to take Ellen home and so Ellen was again staying at Sonia's however this time the hospital was only a five minute drive away. Ellen was with me on late Monday afternoon when Dr Sturm agreed I could go home so we left on Monday night and since then there have appeared to be no problems. I have a six week period from my discharge from RNSH where I am not allowed to drive and this makes sense to me but aside from that life seems to have returned to normal.

One thing must be mentioned before I finish this and that is the wondrous attitude and approach of all the doctors, nurses, wardsmen and wardswomen. It was truly inspiring. How these people work with such skill, dedication and especially patience when equipment around them is continually failing is beyond me. Thankyou all of you.

This certainly was a couple of weeks I could have done without. When I finally am able to drive again and am getting in the right-hand side of a car, I am going to have to develop a new way of doing so, so as to avoid ever hitting my head again. I hope I am successful.

John Owen
22 March 2006

27 January 2010

Language Changes

I find it interesting to observe the changes in grammar, punctuation and pronunciation which have occurred in my lifetime, currently spanning 60+ years.
Here in Australia and I believe in most western countries, big changes in education occurred in the 1960s which led to what I view as a change in standards. The statement was made that these rules were not necessary so long as everybody was able to understand what was meant. Fair enough but my observation is that ambiguity is far more prevalent than it used to be and far more misunderstandings occur as people don't know the meaning of words.
Maybe I'm looking at it with rose-tinted glasses but on this last point, I remember we used to have a subject titled just that, 'The Meaning of Words". Everyday we took home a list of ten words with their meanings and and we had to know them when we were examined the next school day; no comments about "murdering trees" came from our lips because we knew the word "murder" referred to killing a human being. It would appear a lot of people don't know that today.
The rules of pronunciation were well known. I bet if you ask anybody under fifty what the vowel, consonant, vowel (VCV) rule is, they would stare at you blankly as they were never taught it. Stated simply, when you have three letters in a row in that form, the first vowel is pronounced by its name not its usual sound. Hence the change in pronunciation of words such as status, project, menu, leverage (lever), premier, venue, data, etc.
Making nouns plural is another area of change. A common lack of understanding is for words ending in "f" and "fe". Thus the plural of knife is knives; roof, rooves; wife, wives; elf, elves; wharf, wharves and wolf, wolves. Then there are the words which we learnt didn't have a plural. These words are by their nature a description of a class or a heading for which there are various types and as such are unique. When something is unique, it means that there is only one of them and so by definition it cannot have a plural. Examples of such words are sport, fruit, meat, cheese, art, craft, wine, etc. Thus for us "sports" didn't exist; we had to express it as types of sport; types of fruit; etc. It was interesting to note how the Nine Network used to talk about "Wide World of Sport" but at sometime (I don't know when) they changed to "Wide World of Sports".
Grammar has seen the biggest change with the incorrect use of "who" for "which" now almost universal. "Who" used to only be used when referring to a human being and a word such as team is an intangible noun and is not human even though it is composed of humans. It seems that the concept of the intangible noun not being human is almost unknown. "The dog who chased the ball" still feels terribly wrong to me. "The dog which chased the ball" feels much better. To put an unscientific number on it, I think something like 80% of the times "who" is used, it is done so "incorrectly".
When I was at school we well knew the words which couldn't start a sentence. They were and, but, also, or and nor. Logically this rule should still apply because by definition they require something in front of them but I continually see them starting sentences in newspapers, magazines and of course on the internet.

This same group of words leads me to the common punctuation "mistake", i.e. the misplacement of the comma especially with the listing of adjectives and nouns. In the example "the balloon colours were red, green, blue, yellow and black" there is no comma before the "and". We learnt that there were a number of seperators which could be used for this sort of situation. These were the comma, the semi-colon plus the words
and, but, also, or and nor. All of these items were of equal standing and so to place two of them together (e.g. , and) was just silly. We also learned that if placing a breath comma with those words, it was placed after them so more emphasis was placed on the following words.

The decision of the Americans in the 1940s and 1950s to standardise their version of English has also caused more confusion, especially since the arrival of the internet. Their decision to eliminate "ou" in favour of "o" in words like colour; the elimination of "ph" for "f" in words like sulphur;
the use of "er" for "re" in words like centre; the use of "ize" for "ise" in words like standardise and the elimination of double letters in words like Nanna and labelling has caused a lot of confusion and has even changed some pronunciations. I don't care what they say, "z" is a "zed" not a "zee" - blame Sesame Street!

Spelling has always been a problem but the kids no longer seem to know the simple little sayings we had to help us, e.g. "i" before "e" except after "c". What now seems like a common occurrence viz., the splitting of single words into two words, has increased dramatically, e.g. road work for roadwork; all ready for already; all right for alright; any time for anytime; in to for into (the same with onto); with in for within; how ever for however and I've even seen sand shoe for sandshoe.

These are a few of the things I've observed and provide examples of how language is a living thing, constantly evolving and changing. Of course I don't know where it will go next but personally I would like to see some of the old "rules" brought back although I doubt that will happen.