Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star............

HERE WE ARE AGAIN and another month has passed. Where does the time go? Once again there is a New Moon to talk about astrologically and Skybar22 is onhand to talk about it and how it relates to Clay's astrological chart. Every time I read her contributions here I marvel at the amount of knowledge she has gained over the years. I'm still struggling to understand the terms!

I usually do a genealogy segment along with a segment on Clay, my other "hobby." This month though I'm going to talk a little bit about my descendants, instead of my ancestors.


Many of you know that I watch my ten month old granddaughter Addison during the day while her parents work. Lately I’ve been wondering when would be an optimum time to introduce Addison to Clay.

I finally realized that while one is never too young to experience the phenomenon of the Aiken, such introductions should be well thought out and planned in order to create the foundation for a life long love experience.

(Translation: I have to sneakily get her hooked before her father, my Son-in-Law, finds out that his CA obsessed enthusiastic mother-in-law has brought his daughter over to the dark side.)

So I have thus crafted a deliberate and careful plan for Addison’s entry into the Fandom.

I have begun by buying for her her own personal CD player. It is cleverly disguised as a toy, but with my planned modifications, it will soon become an Aiken instrument.

My biggest challenges, however, are to remove the preprogrammed songs “Oh Susanna” and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with the new songs from Clay’s upcoming CD.

I’ll start with Here You Come Again because its Dolly roots are closer to “Oh Susanna” than say, Right Here Waiting and I think my son in law will be less apt to notice the substitution right off the bat.

Once that is accomplished I think substituting 1000 Days for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is a shoo in. After all, they both have the star imagery thing going.

Not wanting to be too blatant about it, I’m introducing Clay to Addison in a subtle way, just to familiarize her with his name and image.

It has gone fairly well.

She knows that she and Clay have a lot in common.

They both have a lot of shoes.

He’s very bendy like she is.

He used to wear his hair spiky just like her,

and bite his toenails.

But now he has a new hairdo

and he doesn’t bite his toenails anymore.

She was intrigued and wanted me to tell her more, but I told her it would have to wait until next time.

By the time I was done with Phase I, I had her drooling. I think this is going to be easier than I thought.

Next time I think I’ll try a few more of Clay’s new CD songs on her. I think she’s a little tired of Itsy Bitsy Spider anyway.

Until next time,
(aka Grandma)


The new moon of August 23rd takes place in the sign of Virgo, a mutable earth sign. The full moon takes place in Pisces, a mutable water sign, on September 7th. This full Moon is also a lunar eclipse but it will not be visible to any of us in the US as it occurs during daylight hours. Virgo is the last month of summer and represents the transition from summer to autumn.

The sign’s characteristics are: analytical, discriminating, critical, detail oriented and hard working to name a few. Virgo rules digestion and that includes digestion of information. Virgos love to gather the facts and organize things.

There is a natural progression of energy in the zodiac. The zodiacal year begins in March with a cardinal fire sign, Aries. It moves through a fixed earth sign, Taurus and then spring season ends with a mutable air sign, Gemini. The summer solstice begins with a cardinal water sign, Cancer, moves through a fixed fire sign, Leo and ends with the mutable earth sign of Virgo. As the autumnal equinox begins we enter the cardinal air sign of Libra, move into the fixed water sign of Scorpio and end the fall with the mutable fire sign of Sagittarius. Finally we begin the winter solstice with the cardinal earth sign of Capricorn, move into the fixed air sign of Aquarius and end the year with the mutable water sign of Pisces. Notice that each element is represented at the beginning of each season, in the middle of each season and at the end of each season. This is known as the Tropical Zodiac.

Mutable signs always come at the end of each season. They are signs of integration and adaptability. People with an abundance of mutable energy find ways to adapt their life experiences and figure out ways to integrate these experiences into their circumstances.

In Gemini, an air sign, this adaptable energy operates through thinking and communicating.

In Virgo, an earth sign, it operates through organizing and categorizing experiences.

In Sagittarius it operates through seeing the larger picture and expanding ones awareness to include more and more of the whole of experience.

In Pisces it operates through removing boundaries and transcending conflicts.

There is always the negative side to these energies as well. Geminis can scatter themselves and become a “Jack of all trades” and a master of none. Virgos can be so discriminating and picky that they avoid life’s joy and spend their time worrying about everything. Sagittarians can take on more than they can handle and have to scale things down. Pisceans can escape into illusion and are susceptible to drugs and alcohol.

This lunation begins with the following planets still in the fire sign of Leo: Mercury, Venus and Saturn. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, the three outermost planets are all still retrograde and Pluto goes direct in Sagittarius on September 4th right before the full moon, lunar eclipse. The ancient astrologers believed that the solar and lunar eclipses foreshadowed major negative events on earth. I don’t see things that way and will spend some time discussing this phenomenon at another time. Eclipses are part of the natural process of the solar/lunar cycle. They can be significant if they occur on a sensitive point in an individual’s chart.

Clay and This Lunation

Clay’s CD will be out during this lunation cycle so we will take a closer look at September 19th since that is the release date. Before I do, I want to discuss some of the other interesting transits as mentioned above as they relate to Clay.

As the month begins, there are 4 planets in fire signs. It is always good for Clay to have emphasis on fire since he has so much of it. The slow moving trine from Saturn in Leo, as mentioned before, continues to provide stability for Clay's continued success and development. Saturn is the grounding force and it helps to establish a solid foundation. It's a serious energy and a maturing one as well. As the month moves on, planets move from the fire sign of Leo to the earth sign of Virgo which adds more grounding and some challenges to Clay's Sagittarian energy. Squares also provide the motivating force to take action.

Looking at midnight EST on September 19th, there are many interesting aspects which activate Clay's natal chart.

Transiting Venus conjuncts natal Saturn and they trine his Capricorn midheaven. This is very positive and constructive energy. The Midheaven is at the very top of a person's chart and begins the 10th house which is associated with one's career. Saturn rules Capricorn and naturally trines his midheaven.

Keywords for this: Hard work brings success.

The transiting Moon conjuncts transiting Saturn at 20 degrees of Leo trining his natal Mercury /Mars in Sagittarius. This repeats the theme with Saturn's energy being doubly significant and indicating a steady flow of success. This Moon /Saturn conjunction is also trining transiting Pluto suggesting an element of power developing over time. Whenever Saturn is involved, we are dealing with the organic process of grounded development based on lessons learned throughout life. Saturn is the teacher, the karmic teacher in fact and when there are trines involved, Saturn generally brings the rewards for a job well done. It is not surprising or unexpected like Uranus, but rather steady and determined.

There is, however, much more to this mix of energy on September 19th which bodes well for Clay.

Jupiter is conjunct Uranus and transiting Uranus is trining that conjunction. Although this is not yet exact it does suggest a developing process which will be freeing and positive for all contractual relationships/partnerships in the future.

Additionally, transiting Neptune is moving through his 11th house of hopes and goals trining natal Pluto in his sixth house of work and service. This is also a slow moving developmental process. Remember we are looking at the birthing of a new project, a new CD. It's more than an initial impact I am focusing on but rather a developing process and this looks good. With the Sun in Virgo moving past the squares to all of his Sagittarian energy, and with Mars and Mercury in Libra making sextiles to Sagittarius, all moving through his 6th house, the indication is that hard work will really pay off for him as he promotes this new project to the world and gives it life. Once again, Uranus is still retrograde squaring those Sagittarian planets giving this all an element of the unexpected for Clay and for us.

In summary, I really like what I am seeing for this CD release date. It suggests to me a steady and long term process developing with a boost of major expansion in December and for the entire year of 2007. I generally don't make predictions but if I were a person who did, I would predict a steady and good start and even better sales coming in the future. This one looks to have legs! Get ready for a whole new phase of this man's career.

Coming soon...Jupiter in Sagittarius. Stay tuned.


Technorati tags:

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Of Fire, Energy, Passions, and Tears that Run Dry

Once again Skybar22 shares with us her enormous knowledge of Astrology, and relates it to Clay's chart. The next new moon begins July 24, 2006 and should be an interesting period.

I've been sitting here for the last month anxiously awaiting news about his upcoming CD and tour. We're making progress - we know the name of the new album is A Thousand Different Ways. Here's hoping that by the next new moon we'll have the album release and tour dates. And since wishes are a dime a dozen, I'll spend a dollar wishing for new Clay appearances on my 55 inch Sony Hi Def TV, a thousand different ways.

After you read about Clay in the Astrology section, I hope you stick around and read the next piece on genealogy. I talk about some Civil War Pension files I was able to research and the information in them was surprising.

New Moon July 24, 2006

As this new moon begins, we are coming to the end of the Mercury retrograde period. A few more days and energy directs but it also has to travel over the degrees of the Zodiac it backtracked over so unfinished business is still the order of the day with some direct motion to help it along. Mercury, the messenger , travels around the sun creating cycle after cycle of predictable energy that we can learn to understand and even work with as we plan our projects and communications and deal with our everyday reality. Mercury will reach new zodiacal territory on August 12th. If you know the positions of the planets in your birth chart, it is very interesting to watch the Mercury cycle as it transits the Sun. The most significant impact is felt when Mercury is going retrograde or direct (also known as stationary retrograde and stationary direct).

The new moon of July 24th takes place in the fixed fire sign of Leo. The full Moon takes place on August 9th in the fixed air sign of Aquarius. The Sun entered Leo on July 22nd. Leo is ruled by the Sun. Qualities associated with this fixed fire sign are creativity, warmth, showmanship and generosity as well as enthusiasm and an ability to persevere (fixed sign).

Besides Mercury, this lunation begins with the 3 outermost planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, still retrograde and with Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius direct. Jupiter is now going to move swiftly through its transit of Scorpio and enter its own sign of Sagittarius on November 23rd. There is much to discuss about that as the time approaches since Jupiter is a planet known in astrology as the greater benefic. Think about the possibilities for those who have Sagittarius prominent in their charts. Keywords are optimism, expansion, abundance, and integration of higher knowledge.

This month will find several planets moving through the sign of Leo. Along with the Sun, Mercury enters Leo on August 11th, Venus enters Leo on August 12th and Saturn continues its slow movement through Leo. That makes a total of 4 planets in Leo by the 12th. Fire is prominent as the month moves on and Mercury directs. This month should be good for the fire signs, Aries and Sagittarius as Leo trines these signs. The more planets a person has in these fire signs, the more flowing (trines) the energy will be.

More about Clay’s energy:

In last month's blog entry I discussed the meaning of the new moon phase and how it indicates potential. Clay was born with not only the new moon conjunction but also with what is known as a stellium. Stelliums involve 4 or more planets falling in the same sign of the zodiac. In Clay’s case there are 5 planets in Sagittarius all forming a conjunction. The planets in a chart represent functions that are common to all of us. The sign these planets are in describes how these functions manifest in our lives. The aspects, (conjunction, square, trine, opposition etc.) tell us how challenging or flowing these energies will be. Since Clay has Sun, Moon, Neptune, Mercury and Mars conjunct in Sagittarius, all of these functions represented by these planets work as one.

With this stellium, Clay is able to integrate a complex blend of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy. It is a powerful grouping of planets which contains inner planets, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars with an outer planet Neptune in a configuration that gives innate potential for continual growth and expansion. If we add the trine from the ruler of Sagittarius, Jupiter, to this mix, it makes for an ease in self expression. This is not to say that Clay never feels challenged or that things are easy for him, but with this energy, he is more than capable of handling all of life’s challenges. Remember this is innate potential and is always available to him. With Mars being a planet in this stellium, Clay is strongly motivated as Mars is the planet of motivation, assertion/aggression and action. With Neptune also being a part of this stellium, Clay generally finds a way to understand his experiences from a spiritual perspective. Confusion, disillusionment and lack of focus (Neptune) give way to higher truths and understanding as well as acceptance. Inclusion is a fitting term for this energy as well.

As mentioned above, there are 4 planets moving through Leo this month. Since Clay has all that Sagittarian fire in his chart, he will benefit greatly from the Leo energy. Trines bring opportunity and it would be a great time for him to return to the public. He would be received with a warm and welcoming energy as he would be expressing himself through the qualities of fire and the expression would come even more easily than usual. Fire is his element and when the transits are in your element it bodes well for whatever you are doing. Since Saturn is trining Sagittarius, the energy is very stable and grounding for Clay as well as expressive. I expect to see a new found confidence and maturity in his demeanor. Now add the long term square (challenge) from Uranus and I also expect to see the unexpected.


WANT TO SEE some of that expressive energy at work? Then watch this Youtube video I took of Clay singing Tears Run Dry at the last night of the Juke Box Tour in 2005 in Atlantic City. Tears Run Dry was one of four songs Clay previewed during the tour as possibly being on his upcoming album. He also signs "Thank You" in sign language at the end. Will it make the album? Your guess is as good as mine.

I Thought I Was Reading A Dime Novel

My husband’s great great grandfather was a Civil War veteran, having served in the 95th Ohio Volunteers from August 13, 1862 - August 14, 1865 with his two of his brothers. He was also a deserter who was ultimately found and brought back to his unit. They didn't shoot him or court martial him. Just made him pay the $32.50 it cost the US to bring him back to his regiment. He wasn't even dishonorably discharged at the end of his service.

Desertion was more common than not – conditions on the battlefield and along the march and encampment were hellish and unbearable, with sickness, especially dysentery, running rampant through the corps. Very few men escaped being ill at some point.

When I learned that he had served in the Civil War, I was able to check pension index records and found that he had indeed applied for a war pension. However, in order to view the documents that he and his wife filed as part of that application, I had to travel to the National Archives in Washington, DC because those records weren’t online.

The file I was handed at the National Archives was thick with 100+ year old original papers. In order to apply for a pension from the Civil War, affidavits were often required to support residence, medical condition, marital status, number of children, etc. His file, filled with affidavits, read like a dime novel. Here’s what I found, just from that file.

My husband’s ancestor was a colorful character who couldn't seem to stay in one place very long. He was always moving his family about, mainly back and forth between Missouri and Illinois. He emigrated to Missouri from Ohio by way of Indiana, with his mother and father, sisters and brothers.

John (the ancestor) married his first wife, Rachel, and had 5 children with her. When she died, he went back to Ohio and married her sister, Mary, and had two children with her, one of whom died at birth.

John was a hard-drinking man, who apparently took up with his dead brother’s wife while he was still married to Mary. He tried to get Mary to prostitute herself with other men to earn money, but she would have none of it, and left him when he came up with that scheme.

By his own children's admission, John drank away any money he had, often leaving them without money for food or clothes. Mary was the only stable influence on their lives, and they seemed to have a great deal of affection for her. They testified on her behalf, against their father, when he tried to stop her from getting 1/2 his pension.

He lied to the pension people about her (Mary), claiming that she left him and took up with other men, when the opposite was true - he left her. He tried to divorce her when he learned that she was trying to get half his pension (they were separated, and he was not supporting her) but she fought his accusations, and proved to the court that he was the offender. The court ruled in her favor, and refused to grant a divorce. This meant that she was able to receive 1/2 his pension. For all of that effort she received $8.00 per month.

He had a stroke later on in his years, and ultimately had to be sent to the Soldier's Home in Danville, Illinois when his condition became so bad that he couldn’t live on his own. He admitted to his children that "drink got the better of him" and that he did care for Mary. He ultimately died at the Soldier's home in Danville.

Reading the files on John, and on the other ancestors of my husband who also served in the Civil War, gave me a new found appreciation for what these men (and some women) went through because I was able to see it through their eyes, and not some dry history book which recounted battles, and casualties, and politics, and war strategies. These were men who went in healthy, and came home sick, if they came home at all. Meanwhile, their wives and children subsisted at home on only the meager money the men could manage to send back to them. Obtaining a pension later on in life for this service practically took an act of Congress to achieve.

Thanks to these records I have an insight into what these soldiers experienced that I would never have had if it weren’t for my genealogy interest. For that one thing alone I am profoundly grateful I discovered this "hobby."


Technorati tags:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Clay Aiken: New Moon Baby

The Lunation Cycle: New Moon/Full Moon and Everything in Between


When the Sun and the Moon are at the same degree of the Zodiac we have a New Moon. On June 25th a new lunation cycle begins as this conjunction of the Sun and Moon (New Moon) takes place at 4 degrees of Cancer. Cancer is the sign ruled by the Moon so we can expect to be stirred by our more watery nature as this month unfolds. It's a good period of time to get in touch with what we feel and how we nurture ourselves and others.

On the earth we are impacted by the cycle of the Moon in different ways. Women experience a monthly cycle and the tides are controlled by the phases of the Moon. Since the human body is made up of a great percentage of water, the Moon has an effect on our emotions and feelings for the Moon in astrology represents our habitual responses to life and our feelings. The Moon also symbolizes the mother principle or nurturing instinct.

From our perception the disk of the Full Moon appears to be about the same size as the disc of our Sun. In astrology the Moon deals with inner feelings and the Sun with outer expression and innate potential. We hear much more about our Sun signs and all of the newspaper articles on astrology focus on that. However, our Moon signs are also very significant as are the other planets and the signs they are in when we are born.

The solar/lunar cycle is the prototype for all angular relationships (aspects) among the planets as they travel around the Sun and move through the zodiac. As the Moon waxes, it forms a 90 degree angle (square) to the Sun and then halfway through the cycle it reaches the 180 degree angle (opposition) and that is the Full Moon. At this time the Moon is reflecting as much of the Sun’s light as it can. The waning Moon continues the cycle forming another square and then returning to form the next new moon (conjunction). And so it goes, month after month. Each lunar cycle begins in a sign of the zodiac related to that month. So the New Moon of late June or July is in Cancer and the next New Moon is in Leo and so on around the wheel of the Zodiac. Full Moons fall in the opposite sign of the Sun so that when the Moon is full during the month of Cancer, it will fall in the sign of Capricorn and during the month of Leo it will be in Aquarius and so forth.

The coming month will take us into another Mercury retrograde period. Before the next Full Moon on July 10th, Mercury retrogrades on July 4th and will not go direct until July 28th. Mercury retrograde can be experienced as frustrating because the planet of communication appears to be moving backward in the heavens. Pay attention to these dates and see what this brings up for you. Generally, things tend to break down and all sorts of communication problems arise. The message is to go with the flow, keep impatience in check and see what the cycle is trying to teach you. Rather than pushing forward, it is a time of reflection and possible reworking that which is not quite ready to be put out there. For each person, this energy will be experienced differently so it really depends on one’s personal birth chart.

Mercury retrogrades in the sign of Cancer, the same sign as the new moon. In fact, because of Mercury’s position in the solar system, it never gets too far ahead of or behind the Sun in Zodiacal longitude. Therefore Mercury will always be one sign ahead of the Sun or behind the Sun or in the same Zodiac sign as the Sun. Its cycle is very interesting and I’ll share more about that next month.

Also of interest this month is the retrograde motion of 3 other planets. Uranus went retrograde on June 19th at 15 degrees of Pisces. That exciting, unpredictable energy is now backtracking until November 20th of this year. Neptune and Pluto continue to be retrograde as well. On July 6th Jupiter goes direct after several months of being retrograde. It’s in Scorpio and will move into Sagittarius by December of this year. I’ll share more about that as the time approaches.

The Full Moon takes place on July 10th in the sign of Capricorn which is opposite Cancer. Cancer and Capricorn are cardinal signs, as are Aries and Libra. This is known as the cardinal quadruplicity. The cardinal signs are signs of action. They begin the four seasons on earth. Aries: Spring, Cancer: Summer, Libra: Autumn, Capricorn: Winter. The Sun entered the sign of Cancer on June 21st, the summer solstice.

Relating this to Clay
Each of us is born during a lunar phase. Like everything astrological, the phase of the Moon gives us some information about the basic character of the individual. Clay was born shortly after the New Moon in Sagittarius so he was a new moon baby. Both Moon and Sun are in Sagittarius making him a man who has great promise for continual seeking and expansion of his inner and outer self. New Moon babies have the seeds of the future in their psyches and if nurtured the potential is incredible for one continually reaches one level only to strive for the next level. There is dissatisfaction in standing still for the new potential is always stirring in the psyche. Sagittarians usually love higher knowledge and if they nurture their interests, they become seekers of higher wisdom. Long distance journeys, traveling and higher education are part of the domain of Sagittarius as well as philosophy and religion.

As this lunation cycle begins, Uranus is retrograde and squaring Clay’s Moon. That is a long term effect as discussed in the last blog entry so the unexpected and surprising energy continues to influence his chart, although as mentioned above, Uranus is retrograde. Saturn is conjunct Clay’s Jupiter in Leo and this bodes well for Clay as it stabilizes his fire and creates a steady grounding to help contain the fire from burning out of control. Mars is also in the fire sign of Leo and Mars is the energy of assertion/aggression. It is the planet of action and is comfortable in Leo as it rules another fire sign, Aries. As it trines Clay’s Sagittarian planets, the energy flows outward in a creative stream of action and heat. Whatever happens, it is a great time to step out and be noticed.

As I mentioned, Mercury will be retrograde from July 4th through the 28th. Clay is no stranger to Mercury retrograde as he was born during a Mercury retrograde period. Things may not go as planned but it does not mean they won’t go. I always like to remind people that Mercury was retrograde during the final 3.5 weeks of American Idol 2. Clay was clearly on fire during that time and had some amazing performances which established him as someone who continually raised the bar. I don’t know how this energy will unfold for Clay but it will be interesting to watch if, in fact, he reappears with something new. If not, then it also fits with the need to be patient while retrograde Mercury helps to retrace and put on the final touches to any project that may be overdue. With all this positive energy created by the trines, I do think we will see some major movement this month and with Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius going direct and making an exact 90 degree angle (square) to its own natal position, the energy is there for action and expansion as well as challenge (square). It is all too unpredictable but it’s also exciting. The key to Mercury retrograde is patience so remember that as this month unfolds.

During the next several months, the energy will continue to build for Clay. He is coming into some fiery trines and conjunctions which bode well for this new phase of his career. Stay tuned for next month as I will discuss how the natal conjunctions in Clay's chart relate to the New Moon phase.

Thanks Skybar22. We'll all be looking forward to next month's New Moon.

In the meantime, here's a little refreshment before you read the next part of the blog which deals with genealogy. I took this video of Clay singing Unchained Melody at the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City during the last show of the Juke Box Tour in 2005.

US National Archives and Records Administration: Diamond in the Rough

There are tons of great resources for researching your ancestors. You could probably spend almost as much time researching resources as you could researching your ancestors.

One of the resources here in the USA that I’d like to talk about this time out is the National Archives and Records Administration housed in Washington, DC. Here is what NARA has to say about themselves:

Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by us forever.

Those valuable records are preserved and are available to you, whether you want to see if they contain clues about your family’s history, need to prove a veteran’s military service, or are researching an historical topic that interests you.

That cuts a pretty wide swath. And if you’ve ever seen the National Archives building in Washington, it is massive. Every time I go in there I feel like I should leave a trail of breadcrumbs so that I can find my way out.

The NARA is a particularly valuable resource for genealogists because of the vast amount of information that can be used in ancestral research. The records come from just about every branch of the Federal government. A sampling of these records includes census records (open for viewing from 1790 to 1930), military records, military pension records, immigration and naturalization records, passport applications, land records, and bankruptcy records.

The records that are most commonly used by genealogists are census, military, immigration and naturalization, (including ships’ passengers lists) and land records. Many of these records are online through other database sources, or through agreements with third party providers and the NARA. Records like pension records or military records usually have to be accessed in person at the center. My next blog will talk about accessing my husband’s ancestor’s Civil War Pension records at the National Archives, and what a treasure trove that turned out to be.

NARA has a host of informational tools, learning tools, and finding aids. You can learn about all of the holdings in DC as well as what is contained in the regional archive centers around the country. You could literally spend a week on the site and still not have read everything there is to read.

Viewing records in person in Washington is an experience, from a variety of perspectives.

From the time you enter the building, you realize that they take their work seriously and this is a no nonsense facility. Bags are searched on the way in and out, in order to make sure that nothing it taken in to harm records, and no records are removed. Computers are allowed, but in some areas, especially when viewing actual records, purses and other bags, etc. have to be checked at a locker. Pens are not allowed – only pencils. You have to pay to make copies, but the cost is reasonable. You have to put in a pull slip to request certain records and a staffer will retrieve them for you, but it usually takes at least an hour.

The microfilm section is enormous. I have never seen so many microfilm viewers in one place in my life. Everything that is on microfilm can be retrieved self-service. The trick sometimes is to know what film you need and what drawer it is in. But there are staff around who will answer questions and plenty of finding aids to help identify what film is needed and the drawers containing the films are clearly marked.

I usually end up spending the entire day there, and by the time I check out at closing, I am exhausted. Sometimes I’m exhilarated, too, because I’ve just removed another brick in that wall that keeps getting in my way.

Next time I’ll talk about my experience with Civil War Pension Records, and how the story they told was juicier than any dime novel.


Technorati tags:

Monday, June 05, 2006

Charting the Skies and the Past...

I’ve decided to switch around the arrangement of the blog sections. Usually I start off with Genealogy and end with Clay Aiken, but today, and probably from now on, I’m going to start with Clay and end with Genealogy.

I was going to do this blog on Clay’s Jeanealogy but I am going to wait until next time because I’m thrilled to introduce Skybar22 as a contributor to the blog. She has studied Astrology for over 30 years, and has been watching Clay’s astrological chart since he completed his stint on American Idol. I’ve read several of her pieces and I am certainly impressed not only with her incredible knowledge, but with the interpretations she has shared. She has graciously agreed to periodically talk with us about what she sees happening “in the stars” for Clay. After this first piece, she hopes to be able to update us monthly around the time of the new moon and talk about what the month holds astrologically.

Man of Fire
By Skybar22

I'll never forget Randy Jackson's words when Clay first appeared on American Idol season 2.He asked "Where is that voice coming from?" Where indeed! As the season progressed I became more and more curious about where all that talent was coming from so I drew up Clay's birth chart. I’ve been studying astrology for 30 years so it was a natural thing for me to do.

A birth chart is a map of the solar system drawn up for a person’s date, time and place of birth.

Discovering Clay through astrology has been an interest of mine for the past 3 years. Who is this man of fire as I call him? Back in August of 2003 I wrote an article about Clay’s chart for Beaver’s On Idol. Since that time, so much has happened and though what I said then is still valid, it might be fun to take a look at what astrology has to say about Clay now and in the near future. Please note that this is for fun and entertainment. Astrology is, for me, a serious study and a tool that I use in my work counseling others. However, I do not have Clay’s permission to discuss his life on a personal level and therefore will only discuss what I believe is apparent through his appearances and interviews. I'm going to share the lighter side of this multi-leveled tool.

Sagittarius is a fire sign. Leo and Aries make up the trinity of fire in astrology. When Clay was born, the Sun, Moon, Neptune, Mercury and Mars were making what is known as a conjunction in the sign of Sagittarius. Sagittarian energy grows, expands, integrates, adapts and grows some more especially if Jupiter, its "ruler", is directly involved and Clay was born with Jupiter in Leo making a trine (120 degree angle) to his Sun, Moon and therefore all those Sagittarian planets. Trines are gifts from above, inherent abilities that are effortless. There is amazing potential here for creativity and continual expansion.

In addition to looking at the birth chart, astrologers look at the current movement of the planets (the transits) as they revolve around the sun. These transits are plotted around a birth chart to give a picture of how current energy impacts the natal chart (birth chart).

What is it that Clay presented to us on AI5? He was looking very different from what most people remember and he even surprised and shocked some of his loyal fans who have seen him in concert multiple times.

Well, the operative energy stimulating all of Clay’s planets in Sagittarius is the planet Uranus. Uranus is an outer planet, invisible to the naked eye. In astrological parlance, Uranus is the awakener. Uranus awakens the soul to it's need for change and to let go of what is no longer needed for growth.

Let me explain.

As I stated above, Clay was born when the Sun, Moon, Neptune, Mercury and Mars were in the zodiacal fire sign of Sagittarius. Add the fact that Jupiter, the planet that “rules” Sagittarius was in Leo, another fire sign and we have a man who exudes the energy of intense inspiration, creativity and heat. He has kept that energy under wraps for the most part until recently although his tremendous vocal talent has been a major outlet for this. Anyone who has been to his concerts over the last 3 years knows how he has evolved from his days on American Idol. We all saw the fire pour forth at the Juke Box Tour. He was sizzling! What now and why now? Well, Uranus is moving through the sign of Pisces and it is making a 90 degree angle or square to his Sun and Moon. Clay is breaking out of the old patterns and is ready to show us something new and different. It will be surprising and it will appear sudden but it has been developing for a while now. So watch it unfold with the next phase of his career. We are talking hot, Hot, HOT! Uranus brings change and transforms that which it contacts by transits. We saw the beginnings of it. Oh yes, Clay Aiken is evolving, changing and transforming before our eyes and it will be thrilling to those who have been following him. I’m a fan and I am excited with the anticipation of what is to come. Clay's on his incredible journey and if you allow it, you can go with him to experience some of what he is all about. I doubt he knows the full extent of his abilities but he is discovering them and so are we.

Expect the unexpected! Many of us have been hearing this for a while and that is what Uranus tells us as well. Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride!


And speaking of Hot Hot HOT, I've got a Hot video for you. According to Skybar22, Sagittarius is ruler of the THIGHS (I kid you not. She told me that!) and that is certainly evident in the video clip I've uploaded of Clay singing Living LaVida Loca during the Juke Box Tour in 2005 at Interlochen Michigan. Those thighs are quivering quivering quivering. I managed to get a close up.

Geez. Now how did that happen?

(Apologies for the washouts on Clay's face. The lighting there that night was very harsh and the camera couldn't adjust very well. But who's watching his face?)

Following the Trail

As our ancestors lived their lives, they created a paper trail of births, marriages, divorces, deaths, court records, etc., and if we are lucky, pieces of that trail still exist today. Each record provides another glimpse back into their lives, shedding light on who they were and what their lives were like.

But records alone do not provide the entire story. In order to get a true picture of what your ancestors’ lives were like, you also have to understand the political and socio-economic climates of their era. My Jewish maternal grandmother and her family emigrated here from Galicia (now part of Romania) because of the Jewish persecution they faced. My paternal grandparents emigrated from Ireland because there was more economic opportunity here, where even living in slum tenements filled with immigrants and working 12 hours days in sweat shop factories was far better than the conditions back on their native soil. And my husband’s ancestors moved from Ohio to Missouri after the Civil War because they could get land cheap if they withstood the hardships of the migration and settling wilderness land.

It certainly has given me a new appreciation for history. If I had developed my interest in genealogy when I was in high school, I would have gotten far better grades in crazy Miss Stanton’s American History class.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, there are many different kinds of records that can be used to uncover some of the details of our ancestors’ lives. I’ll spend a little time talking about census records this time around.

Most countries around the world take some type of accounting of its inhabitants on a regular basis. Many of those records can be accessed online, or queries can be sent by mail to the census authority. If you are looking for census records in another country, there are a number of places to look. Start by googling the name of the country with the term census records. Use online sites like Cyndi’s List (www.cyndislist.com) which has a huge list of genealogy sites on the Internet. The World GenWeb Project (www.worldgenweb.org) is a volunteer project to provide historical and genealogical records worldwide.

Here in the United States the single best source of information on US Census records comes from the US National Archives and Record Administration. Their website, www.archives.gov provides details on what information was collected for each of the publicly available censuses, i.e., census records from the 1790 to 1930 censuses. The National Archives does not provide online access to the actual census records themselves. Details for the censuses not yet public, 1940 – 2000, can be found at the US Census Bureau, www.census.gov

Most of the United States censuses from 1790 to 1930 are online, although mainly by subscription. Ancestry.com hosts one of the largest census records depositories online, and although it charges subscription fees for the access, it provides an every name index and images for all of the census records. Other sites besides Ancestry may provide the records by subscription, and some, usually those dedicated to a particular state or county may offer free fragments of a census related to that area.

Some information that can be gleaned from census records (it varies by census) follows:

  • name
  • age
  • number of years in the U.S.
  • marital status
  • number of years married
  • whether a convict
  • birthplace of father and mother
  • number of children born
  • whether a citizen, alien, or naturalized
  • relationship of members of household to head

Here is a copy of a census record for one of my husband’s ancestors for the 1920 census. (Click to enlarge to a readable image.)

Besides the marital status, the age, and the names of the people living in the household, some other important information that I was able to obtain from this record was the year of immigration to the United States, and the year of naturalization. That helped my in my search for other records.

Because the census taker went house by house, and neighborhood by neighborhood, you can often find your ancestor living near other relatives. Especially in the years prior to the 20th century, people tended to stay close to relatives, and if they traveled or emigrated, they tended to do it in groups. Travel in the early days was difficult at best and often hazardous, so going it alone was usually not prudent. And considering that most transportation was by horseback, train, or boat, it was not easy to move about from place to place.

Immigrants tended to stay with and around relatives or friends from the “old country”, at least until they became familiar with this country or economically independent enough to move away.

When my paternal grandparents emigrated here from Ireland, they moved into a tenement house occupied by two other relatives – my grandmother’s sister, and my grandmother’s brother. I didn’t know that though when I first looked at a 1910 census record. I had no idea these people existed. However, in viewing the record, I looked at the other families living in proximity to my grandparents, and I recognized the surname of my grandmother’s brother – I knew her maiden name before she married my grandfather, and I saw that this man living in the house had the same surname. That set me on a quest to find some other records (death, cemetery, etc.) and I discovered that the two other families occupying the house were indeed her brother and her married sister.

As I’ve mentioned before, census records can provide a lot of valuable information, but sometimes you have to take it with a bit of skepticism. The veracity of the information along with the completeness often depended on who was home when the census taker arrived, and what they knew about the people in the household. Some of my ancestors gave complete and entirely factual information, because it is consistent with other records. Other ancestors, however, must have had a deep distrust of government workers, because their information varies from one census to another. My Irish grandparents never gave the same information to census takers twice. My grandfather kept getting younger and younger as the years went by, and there is about a seven year discrepancy in his dates of birth. So it’s a good idea to remember that sometimes the information given was just not accurate, especially if it conflicts with other information you have. Over time you’ll build a body of information that will bring you closer to the truth.


Technorati tags:

Monday, May 29, 2006

Genealogy is a hobby: Clay Aiken is a passion.

In the Beginning….

How do you start searching for ancestors you don’t even know you had?

Easy. Start with what you know. Get out a notebook and start writing down everything you can about your relatives, beginning with yourself.

When and where were you born? Who are your parents? What about siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Grandparents. Great Aunts, uncles, and those cousins that belie definition – first cousin once removed; second cousin twice removed, etc.

It’s essential to write down every relative you can think of when starting out. Then add in details for that relative. For example, start with your mother. What was her name before she married? When and where was she born? Do you know her parents’ names? Do you know her grandparents’ names? When did she marry (or not) your father? Where? Who are the other children from that marriage/relationship? Has she passed away? Is so, where and when.

Record all the little details that you can think of or have heard as family stories. You never know when they might turn out to be a valuable clue if you hit the proverbial brick wall. (And you probably will at some point.)

I’ll give you an example.

I was searching for my husband’s ancestors on his mother’s side. He never knew his grandmother for she died when his mother was 12 years old. And I never had much chance to know my husband’s mother since she died early in our marriage. Thus I didn’t have many details about my mother-in-law’s relatives.

One day my sister-in-law and I were chatting about my husband’s family, and she happened to mention that my husband's mother had told her the middle name of her mother – my husband’s grandmother. The middle name was the clue I needed to continue my search – it was a family name of yet another section of the family that I had known nothing about. Eureka!

Which brings up another point. Talk to family members. Especially the oldest ones. They will often have information that you weren't aware of. If you do have an opportunity to talk to the oldest members of your family, bring a tape recorder with you and tape the conversation. It will not only be a good oral history for others in your family, it will be a good resource for you to return to as you may overlook significant details in the beginning.

Once you have recorded everything you can think of about all of the family members you know, you'll see where you need to fill in gaps.

WHAT those gaps are will dictate to some extent what types of records you research. In general, besides the census records that I talked about in the last blog, there are many other types of records that are often available either on line or in person.

For instance, death records are a valuable source of information, and their public availability varies by state and country. Some states like Missouri have death records on line. Others require you to request the record in person or by mail. Older records may not have as much information as newer ones but could be available online whereas newer records may not.

Here is an example of a death record for one of my husband’s ancestors that I was able to obtain online from the Missouri site.

From this record you can see that it contains the name of the deceased, the date of birth, the date of death, the age at death, the cause of death, marital status, the place, name of mother, name of father, her parents’ birthplaces, the informant (the person who gave the death cert information), the undertaker and the place of burial.

This particular record was another Eureka! moment for me. The deceased on this record is the great great aunt of my husband, and I had been looking for her mother’s name (my husband’s great great great grandmother) for ages with no luck. From census information, I did know that the family lived in Missouri. Just by chance I decided to key this gg aunt’s information to the Missouri Death Records site and there I found it. Another piece to the puzzle.

In the beginning you won’t have a lot of information, but as you get further and further into your research, you’ll begin to accumulate piles of material, so it’s a good idea to organize your research from the start. One thing that I found really helpful was to keep a big spiral bound notebook with me whenever I went record hunting. I would jot down anything I found in that book, in no particular organized way. Then I would go through it and transfer the germane stuff into my genealogy software program. That method works well for me, but you might want to do something different. That’s great. Whatever floats your boat. And I’ll be talking about genealogy software in another blog.

Next time I’ll talk about census records, but until then, get busy and record those relatives. Make sure to write down everywhere they might have lived, the timeframes, and especially where they might have died.

And until next time, here’s your homework assignment. Research the places where your relatives lived to see what vital records (birth, death, marriage) they have online. And if they are not available online, find out how to obtain copies from them. A good way to start searching it to google the name of the place (city, state, province, country, etc) and the phrase vital records. That's all the help I'm going to give you right now. Let's see how well you do.

Happy searching!

You Can Never Get Enough Clay Aiken…..

Since he appeared on Amercian Idol in 2003, Clay Aiken has toured 6 times:

  • the American Idol tour in the summer of 2003;
  • a co-headlining tour with Kelly Clarkson in the Spring of 2004;
  • his first solo tour in the summer of 2004;
  • his first Christmas tour named the Joyful Noise Tour in Nov/Dec 2004;
  • his Juke Box Tour in the summer of 2005;
  • and his second Christmas tour (Joyful Noise II) in Nov/Dec 2005.

I’ve attended four of those tours resulting in 20 concerts, 9 of them for the Juke Box Tour alone.

Most people meeting me for the first time think I’m a pretty normal person until I tell them how many Clay Aiken concerts I’ve been to. Although I don’t usually volunteer that information upfront – “Hello, I’m MommaJudy and I’ve been to 20 Clay Aiken concerts” – inevitably it comes up.

I like to watch people’s reactions when it does. Eyes go wide. Jaws drop open. They start to back away like they have just come face to face with a lunatic.

Eventually they recover, and the first question out of their mouths is why? They can see attending one concert in a series, but multiples? How can you go to the same concert over and over again they inquire, eyebrows arching while shaking their heads in disbelief.


Every Clay Aiken concert is different. It’s an event. You never, and I mean never, know what you are going to get from the man. He has split second comedic timing, can think on his feet, and has a finely honed sense of humor. He likes experimenting musically, and often changes up the arrangements to songs, or adds new ones. Between numbers he often banters with the audience, his backup singers, or the band, and that can lead to anything. Watch this exchange with an enthusiastic audience member during the 2005 Juke Box Tour at Meadowbrook NH. (Video taken by me.)

During his last two summer tours, he had an audience participation segment where he brought a member of the audience onstage, either to sing with him or dance. These moments were not only hilarious, but often precious. Take a look at this clip of Clay performing a duet with 4 year old Brianna in Raleigh, NC during the last show of his 2004 Solo Tour. (Video courtesy of Spotlightlover.)

No matter how many times he has sung a song, there is still a chance that he will forget the lyrics, mess them up, or kick in the Aiken Random Lyric Generator to make up his own. The 3rd show of the 2005 Joyful Noise Christmas Tour in NYC is a prime example. He was singing The First Noel and screwed up the verses. He recovered and added some dramatic vocal soaring to either cover up or make up for the mistake. At the end of the song he knew the audience knew that he had messed up. He cracked himself up and nearly busted a gut trying to hold back his laughter. The audience roared and gave him a standing ovation. Watch the video of the end of that song. (Video clip taken by SecretlyLovesClay)

And then there are the moments that are truly priceless and one of a kind. The night in Raleigh NC during the JNT 05 was one of those moments when he sang a "one time only" special Bluegrass Christmas song to his grandfather, who was in the audience that night, and who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. (Video courtesy of Aflack.)

But mostly I go to multiple concerts because that man can SAAAAANNG!

Seriously. He can sing the shiznit out of anything. And when you combine his incredible vocal talent with his onstage charisma and command of the audience, once is never enough.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Living Life With Clay Aiken and Genealogy

Somewhere along the line, I ended up with two hobbies: Clay Aiken and Genealogy. I’m sure some armchair psychologist would ascribe that to a deep seated need to understand what ancestral influences played a role in my parents not allowing me to go to the Beatles’ concerts or Woodstock, but it’s really quite simple – both are incredibly satisfying pastimes.

So I decided to do a blog about both – a little Clay, and a little Roots. I hope you stick around and get some enjoyment from each.

At First There Was Genealogy...

I used to be so envious of people who talked about finding their roots – tracing ancestors back to the Civil War and beyond. Relatives who came over on the Mayflower. A long buried connection to a President or other notable figure.

Coming from Italian, Jewish, and Irish immigrant grandparents who barely had car fare when they landed here, I had no illusions of famous relatives lurking in my pedigree. Quite the opposite. If my mother’s generation of relatives were any example, I came from a long line of horse traders, gamblers, and con men. I can live with that. Keeps the bar pretty low and doesn’t present me with sleepless nights worrying how to measure up to my forebears. My father’s ancestors, Irish to the core, were content to work hard and drink harder.

One day back in 1992 a co-worker told me that he had just found a passenger record on a ship’s manifest for his Irish immigrant grandfather who emigrated to the US from Ireland back in the early 1900’s. Fascinated by his discovery and interested in learning if I could do something similar, I quizzed him on how he was able to find the record.

To make a long story short, that was the day I found out about US Census records and how helpful they could be not only in locating ancestors, but in pinning down timeframes so that other records, like ship’s manifests, could be searched. I also found out that many of these records were stored at the National Archives records centers, which had a number of regional offices as adjuncts to the main headquarters in Washington, DC.

At the time of our discussion, the 1920 Federal Census had just been opened to the public. Census records are not opened until 72 years have passed from their completion. (As I write this, the 1930 census records are now open, having become public in 2002.) From my co-worker, I learned that I could go to the nearest Archives regional office, which for me was in Waltham, Massachusetts and I could use index microfilm and other finding aids to locate my mother and father and their parents in the 1920 census. (My mother was born in 1909 and my father in 1911).

At that time the Waltham Archives was only open one Saturday per month, and they closed at 4:30 pm on weekdays so the Saturday was the only chance I had. I waited impatiently until the right Saturday rolled around and I got to go. Of course it was crowded, but I got a microfilm reader and with a little bit of help from the volunteers, I located the census records and found my parents; my mother was 11 and my father was 9. I was so excited. It was almost surreal to see my parents listed on this official document when they were so young. And that day offered yet another surprise – I was able to obtain the citizenship papers of my paternal grandfather. They were stored in Waltham because he became a citizen in RI. The information I got from the 1920 and 1910 census records helped me figure out the year he was naturalized, and another index located the document. That document offered more information as well – the name of the ship and the date of its arrival in New York at Ellis Island.

Eventually I was able to get the passenger manifest record of my grandparents’ voyage here from Ireland, but that’s another story for another blog.

Census records go back to the first census in 1790 and can provide a ton of information on ancestors. Each census is somewhat unique – some have more information on them than others. For instance, in 1850 the census starting naming each individual member of the household, whereby the 1790-1840 records only asked the name of the head of household. The other members were enumerated by age category, e.g., under 5 years old, etc. The 1900 and 1910 censuses asked how many children were born to the mother and the 1910 census asked how many of those born were still living. I was amazed to learn from that census that my grandmother had borne two more children than I knew about, but both had died by that census.

Today computer technology and the internet have made a breeze out of searching the census records. All of the available census schedules are online, although you may have to pay a subscription fee for most access services. All of them have been indexed, which was not the case when I started looking through them. Up until the last several years, you had to use multiple index tools and sources to find the right record. Today you can access a census record site and key in an ancestor’s name, and bingo – it will show you every census that includes that name. I no longer have to travel to Waltham for census work. I can do it sitting right here at my computer.

In my pajamas. With a cup of coffee. Or at 3 a.m. When I can’t sleep. I love technology.

Next time I’ll talk about how to begin the process of looking for your ancestors. Stay tuned.

And Along Came Clay Aiken...

I ended up with Clay Aiken about 10 years or so after I found genealogy, and it’s probably a good thing because if I had just been starting genealogy when I became a Clay Aiken fan, I’d still be wondering who my ancestors were. Following Clay tends to put everything else in your life on hold.

I first discovered Clay when my husband and I tuned into the second season of American Idol. We hadn’t watched the first but heard all the hype after it was over, so we decided we’d catch it the second time around and see if it was worth following. When Clay walked into the Atlanta auditions and told Simon Cowell that he was there because he was the next American Idol, my husband and I looked at each other and went “right!”. We were prepared for another off key, ear splitting annihilation of a previously lovely song, but we got the surprise of our lives. He opened his mouth, and had us at “Take...” - the opening line of his audition song. We were just blown away, and from that moment forward, we rooted for him until the end. We were disappointed when he did not win, but we knew that we’d see him again. He was too talented to be ignored, and he was not only charismatic but a great entertainer as well.

Here is a clip of Clay’s Atlanta audition, the one that started it all, in 2003.

Fast forward. Three years later I have been to 20 Clay Aiken concerts. (I’m a babe really. Others I know have been to almost double that.) I am anxiously awaiting his 3rd CD which he tells us is coming QUITE soon. I have taken pictures and video of him in concert and made a couple of montages from photos and video clips that I and others have taken. Through the Official Clay Aiken Fan Club, I was able to meet him in person, get my picture taken and get an autograph. I actually made it to a concert where I had a front row seat. And I have joined a few message boards where I’ve met some of the funniest and most intelligent people I’ve ever known. Some of them have become wonderful friends.

Clay Aiken has moved so far beyond his American Idol experience. He’s matured as a performer and as a person. When he takes the stage, he commands it, in no uncertain terms. He is not afraid to try new things. Who would ever have pictured AI Clay singing Prince’s When Doves Cry while grinding on one of his back up singers? Who would ever have pictured AI Clay leaping onto a piano in tight black pants and a leather jacket singing Jerry Lee Lewis’s Great Balls of Fire? Who would ever have pictured AI Clay singing Elvis’ Suspicious Minds?

Don't believe me? Here's some video for you to look at.

I took Great Balls of Fire at the Meadowbrook venue in New Hampshire during the 2005 Juke Box Tour (JBT). It was the only concert where Clay wore his glasses because he had gotten something in his eye the day before.

The next video is When Doves Cry and this was taken in Boston during the JBT. It was shot from the second row. Don't let the choir robes or the choir boy image fool you. Neither of them last very long.

Suspicious Minds is a terrific Elvis song. This clip is from video I shot at the Indiana State Fair for the JBT..

And finally, Nobody Does it Better is a montage I made which celebrates the many faces of Clay Aiken - beautiful, sexy, dorky, hot, funny, and above all entertaining. It is sung by Carly Simon.

So if you want to hear more about Clay Aiken, stay tuned. I've got a lot more to say. And if you can't wait for your Clay fix, try reading some of the other blogs listed to the right.


Technorati tags: