Giving Back to Our Historic Local Communities

One day Father John Shaffer, the rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Baldwinsville, NY, which I attend, asked my input how to spend $5,000 their congregation had allocated to meet local needs. As the director of the local Volunteer Center on the outskirts of Syracuse, I was in the position to know of special needs in the community. We depend on local congregations as well as individuals, families, service clubs, organizations, and businesses for support.

Consider how this congregation helped a West African refugee family who arrived in Syracuse.

The father and mother had gone foraging for food when fighting between warlords broke out and they were unable to return home. With thousands of others, they fled across the border and had been refugees in various countries until an Assembly of God missionary arranged for a Syracuse church to sponsor them in a refugee resettlement program. The children had in the care of their grandmother, but she and other relatives were slaughtered. Somehow, four children were still alive, and a good part of the parents’ wages in the US was sent to Africa to track down the children, get them to safety, buy food, and appeal for them to join them. The weeks and months dragged on.

You might think that a mother who had been tortured, uprooted, and separated from her children would be always bitter. Not so. Life in Syracuse wasn’t a piece of cake either. Doctors couldn’t find a solution to her recurrent digestive problems. If her health was stable, the steam pipes in the ceiling of the basement apartment burst and flooded their possessions, and the repairman stole the mother’s shoes. On Labor Day, a sudden storm with tornado-strength winds toppled the huge tree outside her apartment building; falling trees knocked out power lines throughout the Syracuse area and blocked off streets; it took a week to restore power to many neighborhoods. She shivered in the autumn chill but was excited to see snow. She got frustrated and discouraged at times, but she never lost her faith in God or gratitude for a chance to make a new beginning.

In mid-December the children finally arrived. Key people on the Volunteer Center’s Christmas Bureau set aside special gifts for the family. Local people rounded up clothing and toys. None if this required extra funds. The congregation was struck by the mother’s testimony of faith and determination. The children were baptized during the bishop’s annual visit, and the congregation celebrated.

Periodically, the teenage members of Episcopal churches in central New York travel to New York City to camp out for a weekend at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Gothic structure in the world. (Construction started in 1896 and is still unfinished.) The kids got to climb high up into the ramparts, listen to a midnight concert on the 8,000-pipe organ, and explore New York City. The congregation paid the expenses for the oldest boy to participate in this trip. He saw people begging on the street, homeless people with black skin like him. He shot hoops with kids of all skin colors. It was a beautiful, clear day, and the young man climbed the Empire State Building and looked out toward distant horizons. The church kids and adults made him feel so loved. He came back with full heart and mind. Through him the family experienced new aspects of this country and its people, as well as a living experience with some people who embody Christ.

To underwrite the young man’s trip and the reverberations it created throughout this family cost the congregation a grand total of about $115 in money and a lot of outpouring of heart.

Imagine what could be done with $5,000.

Family Trees and Our Rich History

Has any of our readers actually tried any of the wide range of family tree software that seems to be advertised all over the place these days? We’re a little bit skeptical regarding these services ability to actually deliver a worthwhile cache of our historical trees. If anything, it seems like the less scrupulous vendors of these listings are succeeding in pruning and trimming the wallets and bank accounts of hard working Americans. If this is really the case, then we cannot stand to promote such a service here on our Yesteryear blog.

Also, many of these so called ancestry services only have relevant records when it comes to individuals of Western European ancestry. Sure, they can serve the ‘majority’ ethnicity in the United States, but does the devalue the contribution and relevance of our plethora of other ethnic groups, including the indiginous peoples who were here long before European settlers arrived? I would like to see a branching out of this record keeping to be more diversified in the range of cultures and historical background that they would cover.

Maybe if they could make that a reality, then I would be a buyer and willing to put down my dollar to look into the past. For now, I will just stick with the trusted sources that I use for the majority of my body of research and study.

Presidents’ Day Weekend

Those of us whom are fortunate enough to have the extra day off for Presidents’ Day, and enjoy a three-day weekend as a result, are well aware of this momentous day and are grateful for it as a result.

But do we all really know what it means? I would argue that if we went outside and polled the average American today, less than 25% would understand the significance of what is now widely celebrated as a Federal Holiday in the United States.

The official explanation is that President’s Day is the commemoration of George Washington, our first ever head of state’s birthday. However, as some readers may already know, it is not necessarily celebrated on his actual birthday. Washington’s date of birth was February 22nd, but for the sake of convenience, and in the interest in creating a three day weekend for us modern rat racers, it is now celebrated on the third Monday regardless of the actual day.

The other President who we associate with this third Monday in February is of course good ol’ Honest Abe, Abraham Lincoln. Yes his actual D.O.B. is also not an actual federal holiday. It just happens that this other great president, who is arguably the most famous after Washington, was also born in February. Therefore, we give him the respect and honor and remember him on that same day as well. What is a lesser known fact is that presidents William Harrison and Ronald Reagan were also born in February, but they are not necessarily remembered on this same day. Maybe someday that will change, as there are many out there who would consider Reagan up there with one of the greats (and many who would vehemently oppose the notion). Regardless, maybe we can use the day to honor and show respect for ALL presidents that who have one time or another served this great nation.

History Begins

History begins
Here at Yesteryear Depot, as the name would suggest and lead you to believe, we celebrate our rich history throughout time. Although we have a deep love and interest in history all over the world, across all continents and cultures, our expertise is going to be in that heritage that we call our own here in the United States of America.

Many history buffs will pick one particular era in time, such as the American Revolution or the Civil War, and choose to completely immerse themselves in this period to the exclusion of all others. This concept has much merit, as the entire span of history is an extremely broad subject, so it makes more sense to specialize in a specific age or timeframe. Otherwise, it would be too much to cover everything for any one particular expert.

Our main advantage over here at Yesteryear, is our ability to aggregate and regurgitate the research and writing of our many contributors who all have their own specialization in U.S. history. From pre-colonization, to 1776, to 1812 and the Battle of Baltimore, to modern times; we’ve got expert historians who have researched it all and are able to provide that knowledge base to us to pass back on to you, our informed readers.

Fact checking and verification is something that we take very seriously over here at YYD, so we are going to make sure to uphold this ideal as best as we possibly can to ensure the best possible experience for all who happen to discover this rich and ever growing resource and knowledge repository.

The cherished history of this great nation is a treasure that we must be careful not to squander as we continue our journey into the ever expanding future. Luckily, one of the advantages of living in this new ‘information age’, is that we have increased our ability to preserve and promote knowledge a thousand-fold. Our main mission is to serve as a beacon for American History, and perhaps even a time capsule should there one day be a re-drawing of national lines. This site will hopefully stand as a testament as what stood before, so that it is never forgotten to the sands of eternity.

The North American continent was once undiscovered by the ‘old world’ cultures of Europe, but we now know there were established peoples and traditions already existing here for millennia previous to the ‘discovery’ of Christopher Columbus and his Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria vessels. Unfortunately many textbooks in U.S. schools have often glossed over this crucial period as one introductory chapter. We here at yesteryear feel that this was a gross miscarriage of justice, and it is one of the first matter which we aim to rectify in our educational endeavor.

History is written every day, and should be added to our codex accordingly. The modern events of our present newspapers becomes tomorrow’s history, so we will never neglect the importance of current issues in our pursuit of knowledge. We hope to be able to strike a fair balance between all eras, and give an accurate weight to each one in terms of their importance in framing the world that we all inhabit to this very day.