Saturday, April 18, 2015

What Use are Dead Ancestors?

My younger daughter signed our family up with an online genealogy site.

A few days ago I received a message that there had been updates in our family.
I clicked the link.

My father’s name is now misspelled.
My father’s mother’s name is now misspelled.
My father’s current wife is listed as a relative of my mother.
My brother, sister and I are now listed as children of one of my father’s other wives – not our mother.
And my father’s current wife is listed as dead.

I spent the time correcting these errors. 

Then I thought – why do I care? If the only way this site will know anything about my family is if we tell them, then they’re not doing anything we can’t do without them.  They’re not accessing the Mormon database of ancestors that goes back centuries.

My father’s brother researched a family tree for my father’s family in honor of my father’s father’s 50th wedding anniversary.  The entries go back to the time when people only had first names, and has the story of how his family got their last name.

There are a few details, such as careers that some of my ancestors followed. But mainly they are just names without stories.

The online genealogy site is less detailed than the paternal family tree. And since they have mistakes in the living members files, I see no reason to care about the older ones.  Actually, I’d only care if there were stories – the whole fun of having family is the soap opera.

My older daughter is interested in a different website – one that studies the genetics of families – what diseases they have, how many neanderthal genes they carry. I can see a use for this – it might be nice to know what diseases to be on the lookout for. But my family doesn’t have hereditary early onset cancer or other diseases that can be treated by modern medicine. So, I’m not excited about this service, either.

I think the current soap operas and diseases present plenty of problems, and that these history services don’t help solve them.

Friday, April 10, 2015

No Vacant Lots for Us

My husband, the alien, and I have been trying to buy vacant lots that belong to the city of Philadelphia. We want to build a one-story home because my husband is having trouble climbing stairs. Philly is a city of row houses and over 40,000 vacant lots.  The city has created a map of these lots with “for sale” signs on a good fraction of them. We only want to build one home. We have been requesting to purchase lots that have “for sale” signs.  Every time we request one, we are told that “the council president has other plans for that lot.” . 

After sending about 30 such requests, we received this note from the council president’s person in charge of real estate:

“I wanted to let you know that I have been receiving your requests.  The lots in the neighborhoods you are considering (such as Brewerytown, Francisville, West Poplar, Ludlow, North Central) are on “hold” pending or have been identified as part of other larger community development plans and/or the Council President’s affordable/workforce housing initiative.  Until these initiatives/plans are finalized, I am afraid I won’t be able to move forward on any of these requests.”

One of the lots we requested and were denied has now been removed from the map of city owned vacant lots.  To me, this indicates that this lot was sold to someone else and is now somebody’s private property.  I conclude that there are rules for who can buy city owned vacant lots. But I have no access to these rules.

There is also a map of privately owned vacant lots. I used Google Earth to look at some of these lots.  About half of them have buildings in progress. This morning, I biked out to look at one that appeared empty on Google Earth, and the owner is in the process of building.  This map is out-of-date.

A friend suggested I find an abandoned dilapidated warehouse, buy that, destroy it, and then build.  That probably costs a lot more than buying a vacant lot.  Meanwhile, I can keep looking at the privately owned vacant lots, find one that is really vacant, find the owner, and offer to buy it. This is not going to be simple.

Friday, April 3, 2015