When I first studied maps and globes in a unit on the explorers in elementary school, I traced the route of Henry Hudson as he attempted to find a northwest passage to the exotic land of China. We children already knew that the land of Marco Polo could be reached if we could only dig and dig and dig a hole just a little deeper. Around the same time, I traced the journey of Laura Ingalls and her pioneer family while reading The Little House books.
A few years later, I imagined the Yorkshire moors as depicted by Charlotte Bronte and her sister Emily. My inspiration continued to be rooted in a book, yet my visualization of the setting was enhanced by a topographic map. As I read Charlotte Bronte’s words, I once again journeyed to another time and sometimes another land.
"My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers
brighter than the rose bloomed in the blackest
of the heath for her ; out of a sullen hollow in a livid hill-side her mind could make an Eden.
She found in the bleak solitude many and dear
delights ; and not the least and best loved was
Is it the freedom to select “the [road] less traveled by”, explore the unknown, follow your hero’s journey, or perhaps an intangible yearning that draws you forward? For me, my life’s journey always begins with a story. Whether it is history, world literature, or words heard in passing, I have the desire to preserve the moment and begin to annotate, research, plot the points on a map and take the first step towards an unrealized and occasionally realized journey. Although I do not always physically arrive at a new location, my unrealized journeys are accompanied by the thrill of exploring a new territory. That yearning never wanes.
Have you ever wondered whether there is a more efficient and productive method to take notes and gather relevant details about your research topic? After spending countless hours researching and writing my last book Memories of Ol’ Red Hook and now collaborating for some quick, cursory research on several towns in Germany in the 1700s, I am sharing some user-friendly tools.
My go-to tool for organizing and collaborating is Google Keep. If you’ve ever carried around index cards, notebooks, or discovered that your research was on your desktop at home, you will appreciate that Google Keep is accessible anywhere that you can sign into Google. You can use it on your desk top and all of your devices.
Envision post-it notes covering your desk, exploding from a book or getting lost or crumpled at the bottom of a backpack. Your Keep notes can be organized in several ways. When creating the note, I begin by selecting a color for the specific sub-topic. With just one click and a burst of color, I have now designated that all of my notes on one ancestor are pink or yellow or lavender. Eleven colors and white as the default are available.
Creating a label is my next step. By selecting the drop down, I can add a label, add a drawing, or make a list (show tick boxes). Once you have created the label, you merely need to select it not re-type it for the next note.
Since I am collaborating on this project, I select the share icon and type in an email.
Now, I am ready to create a title. For this project, my title is “Location Name of Ancestor”.
Since searches by color, label, collaborator, and title or part of title can be done, I have now organized all of my notes. For example, when I type Location in the search bar, I have all of my notes on the locations for all of my ancestors in Germany.
It is now time to start taking notes! I can type, draw, and/or add an image all in one note or separate notes as desired.
Since our focus is pinpointing where these ancestors were in Germany before coming to America in the early 1700s, we are accessing Henry Z. Jones’ 2 volume set The Palatine Families of New York 1710, ancestry.com for primary source documents, Google Earth, and Wikipedia (only for a quick overview of the location before using other sources). Quick screen shots take the place of typed notes in many cases. Note: Bibliographic information for all sources is on a separate note.
The drop down menu pictured above shows a few additional options not yet mentioned. Most notable among these are the options to copy to Google Docs and to place a pin on any item you want to stay at the top of your notes.
My collaborator and I have noticed that colors and labels do not carry over when shared . We decided to coordinate these at the start of the project, so it just takes a moment to organize once a shared note is received.
Although the shared images are from the desktop version of Google Keep, I also use this Google product on my devices. On our Iphones , we record audio notes and set reminders for our on-the-go schedules. For us, Google Keep is a keeper for organizing and collaborating while researching.
Check back soon. I will be sharing the results of my experimentation with Google Earth as a valuable tool for historic research.
BENEATH THE MOUND: CAPTAIN ALEXANDER HAMILTON SHULTZ
The key to discovery is questioning. Through the seemingly simple question of “Why? Why is there a mound in the middle of rows of grave-stones in a cemetery?”, Local History Librarian Beverly Kane unearthed a mystery.
Kane’s curiosity led her to examine a map of Rhinebeck Cemetery which revealed that A H Schultz purchased two plots at that location. Further research in Deaths, Marriages, and Much Miscellaneous From Rhinebeck, New York Newspapers 1846-1899 Volume 1, Deaths confirmed that Alexander Hamilton Shultz was buried in a family vault in the Methodist section of the cemetery.
The story begins. In the family history Christian Otto Schultz and his American Descendants compiled by Enid Dickinson Collins, Alexander Hamilton Shultz born on August 15, 1804, son of Lucas, grandson of Peter, great grandson of early Palatine settler Christian Otto Schultz, is called “Captain”. Collins’ source is Edward Harold Mott’s Between the Ocean and the Lakes; the Story of Erie.
“Capt. A. H. Shultz, the pioneer Erie steamboat Captain, was born at Rhinebeck. Before there were railroads in Central and Western New York, he ran stages between Rochester and Buffalo. Later he ran a steamboat between Amboy, N. J. and New York. He began in the Erie service January 1, 1841, having been harbormaster under Governor Seward, before the railroad was in operation, and continued until 1844.”
When the schedule for the two modes of transportation, train and steamboat, was published in New York in 1842, Alexander’s business acumen became apparent.
“The ‘Winter Arrangement’, made December 12, 1842, announced that the cars, on and after that date, would ‘run in connection with the steamboat ‘Arrow” (Capt. A. H. Shultz), daily except Sunday.“
That same pioneering spirit evident in Alexander’s Great Grandfather Christian Otto Schultz as he sailed from Rotterdam on the ship “Hope” in 1734 appeared in Capt. Shultz throughout his many challenges. University-educated Christian Otto was trained as a civil engineer and became a teacher, but he began his first days on American soil as a farm laborer. His descendant Alexander became one of the pioneers of transportation in America.
“The winter of 1843 was one of the hardest on record. Capt. Shultz made his two trips on the Hudson River daily between New York and Piermont, although the ice was twelve inches thick, missing but one trip. April 28, 1843, in recognition of this, the people of Piermont presented him with a solid silver snuffbox, lined with gold.”
Much as the original German settler Christian Otto did, Alexander Hamilton not only created opportunities but was also willing to take risks.
“In September, 1846, Capt. ‘Alec’ Shultz, who owned the Hudson River steamboats that ran in connection with the trains at Piermont, and who seems to have been a man with no inconsiderable ‘pull’ in Erie transportation affairs, con-ceived the idea of an excursion over the railroad, and down the river and bay to Coney Island, then a sand barren, ex- cept at its northern extremity, where famous clam bakes were served. The idea meeting with the approval of Super-intendent H. C. Seymour and his lieutenant, S. S. Post, the event was announced.”
The excursion was not a success for several reasons not the least of which was a train accident considered the “first serious accident in the history of the railroad” only about six weeks earlier.
Although it is uncertain when Alexander began his position as “Alderman from the Fifth Ward of New York”, it is known that he was in “Government service for many years” before his death at Philadelphia on the 30th of April in 1867.
Despite his death, the story does not end. Interns under the direction of Beverly Kane at the Rhinebeck Cemetery discovered the headstone of Lucas Shultz, Alexander’s father, buried near the mound. It is unknown how many years ago the headstone was buried, but it was preserved beneath the ground and is in remarkable condition. Nearby, beneath the mound, Alexander Hamilton Shultz’s vault remains…?
Making history come alive is not merely compiling facts. It is sharing the stories of humans, their strengths and their weaknesses. It is the stories that reveal how those who lived before us remain relatable to each succeeding generation. It is the stories that remind us that all humans are not infallible. It is the stories that enable us to understand the triumphs celebrated and the defeats endured throughout history. By focusing on one individual, then one family, one community, one region, one nation, one world, we keep our history alive. Sometimes these stories are shared by our forefathers, but perhaps even more frequently the stories are discovered with one seemingly simple question.
More about Alexander Hamilton Shultz:
Collins, Enid Dickinson. Christian Otto Schultz, 1712-1785 and His American Descendants. E.D. Collins, 1943.
Kelly, Arthur C. M. Deaths (Vol. 1), Marriages (Vol. 2) and Much Miscellaneous from Rhinebeck, New York Newspapers, 1846-1899.
Mott, Edward Harold. Between the Ocean and the Lakes: the Story of Erie.
~Dedicated to researching and sharing local history~