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DIY Research Tips

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

September 9, 2014 • Deirdre Black

Eleanor Roosevelt in a 1940 Red Cross Appeal

Eleanor Roosevelt stands as a mythic figure in my family. Our folklore praises her for personally intervening in response to a plea for help by my grandmother and her siblings during the 1940s. While I have no documented evidence to support the story, for some reason I choose to accept it as true… perhaps due to my own desire to be part of the Roosevelt family’s great historical drama. It should come as no surprise then that I’ll be tuning in to watch the seven-part, Ken Burns’ series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History  which begins September 14 on PBS. I’m really looking forward to it.

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And we’re back

September 2, 2014 • Deirdre Black

What with work, recreation, and those random “surprises” life can be depended upon to throw at all of us, it’s been a crazy busy summer. But now I’m back and ready to share the research and information sources I discover out in the great wide world.

I’ll do my best to re-establish my posting routine starting today.

Categories: DIY Research Tips
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The Forgotten Stars of Silent Film

June 18, 2014 • Deirdre Black

Reading the Atlantic online yesterday, I stumbled across an article on the dismal preservation record for American-made silent films.

In an article entitled The Forgotten Stars of Silent Film, Adrienne LaFrance claims that “Some 70 percent of the movies made in the United States between 1912 and 1929—nearly 8,000 titles—are lost to history.”

In an attempt to flesh out information about the surviving films , a series of screenings will take place over a long weekend next month at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. Anyone and everyone is invited to attend and “shout out” details as the films role.

There have been 204 such screenings in the past through which 100 films have been identified. For more information about the films and the silent film survey, visit the American Silent Feature Film Database.

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Rescued from the trash: Photos of African-American troops in WWII Europe

June 9, 2014 • Deirdre Black

I just stumbled upon this story published by the UK Mail Online in January 2012: Rescued from the trash: Photo album of fascinating WWII portraits of African-American troops in Europe | Mail Online.

The photos are precious since they serve as documentary evidence of the war, but perhaps more importantly because they provide coverage of the military service and experiences of African-Americans during the war, coverage which was sorely lacking in the segregated U.S. Armed Forces of the day.

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70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion

June 2, 2014 • Deirdre Black

This June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, and so the media outlets have been providing lots of footage and reports about it for the last few weeks. It’s hard to believe that so many years have passed since that event and even harder to believe that so few of those who served are still alive to remind us of the trauma.

The recent interviews of WWII veterans are are almost just too much to bear, not least because of the pain and suffering those vets continue to endure. They aren’t able to really say much in the interviews, so that doesn’t account for the effect. It’s really just seeing them try to talk about it and all the visible pain that persists that is so horribly moving. And despite the horrors and victories that came with D-Day, the war, of course, went on and on.

I cannot help but think of my own father as I watch these interviews. He enlisted on his eighteenth birthday and served for nearly four years as a gunner, first on the Q-ship Asterion and then on the USS Atlas, an LST. He rarely spoke of the war. Even when asked direct questions, he would only offer up a phrase or two about the fine men with whom he served.

Incredibly, this year my brother located an actual “secret” US Fleet file for the Atlas written just after the landings at Utah Beach. He found it posted at the USS Atlas page on facebook of all places. Characterized as the “Chronological Narrative of Operations through June 17, 1944,” the document comprises 14 pages of log entries and briefs.  Even without embellishment, it reads “scary”… unknown planes overhead, bombs dropping, communication failures, and big guns being fired without authorization. The following comment made toward the end of the document gives needed context:


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