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Grant Hayter-Menzies's Blog

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Map of early New England
During the panel discussion convened on March 29th at the Greenwich Historical Society, as part of Joseph McGill's Slave Dwelling Project, I listened to fellow panel member Dale Plummer of Norwich, CT talk about the beginnings of slavery in New England. Dale spoke of how, following the Pequot...
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I am always interested in people’s reactions to episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?”, the television show which follows a celebrity’s search for his or her ancestors. Usually there are plenty of positive comments, interspersed by remarks asking for more information, or profferring same, or...
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My grandmother's Boston terrier
“Ask the birds, ask the beasts and they will teach you.” - Job 12: 7-10, My two grandmothers were in many ways women who could not have been less alike.  Our paternal Grandmother Menzies (hereafter Grandma M) had been born in 1896 in the Los Angeles of orange groves and blue skies, the...
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Entertainment, at what cost?
When I was a boy living in the central California foothills, my mother took my siblings and me to what was billed as a “wild animal park” not far from our home town, somewhere in the rolling golden hills around the San Joaquin Valley. I was about seven years old, but I can still remember the...
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As I drove down the “Pilgrims’ Highway” south of Boston to Plymouth on Sunday, 26 October 2008, the day which had begun with such heavy mist it dripped down my windshield gave way to patchy sun; and on either side of the highway, as I motored over the wooded hills, were walls of autumn foliage...
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The Empress and Mrs. Conger
If a picture really does speak a thousand words, for Sarah Pike Conger it could do more than that—it could capture not just the image but the living soul of its subject, delivering to the discerning viewer a truth of the subject’s personality that words could never convey. In fact it was distorted...
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Nativity scene at Hermannstein, Hessen, commissioned by the author's ancestors in 1492.
At Christmas time I always think back not just to Christmases past—gifts and goodies and mental snapshots of grandparents, grandaunts and friends long past—but also to the image of the man around whom this whole show revolves, Jesus. Sometimes it's more about the show than the man, religiously...
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I had a dream some years ago. I walked up the hillside road beside our house in the early morning light, before the sun had risen.  The stones and dust were still cold with night. At the top stood the schoolyard where I spent my formative years – 1969-1977 – and the little tile-roofed building...
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The author attempting a chord cluster circa 1965
The last time I heard my grandmother play her piano, I was about 7 and she was close to 80.  I had asked her to perform an arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which I’d just heard Judy Garland sing in a televised version of The Wizard of Oz.  I was told later that my grandmother,...
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Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous With American History by Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton, August 2010) http://books.wwnorton.com/books/Charlie-Chan/ Few remember her now—indeed, so obscure has she become that I can safely say that unless people have read my...
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The author, at right, with his siblings, a cousin, and his maternal grandmother, a great southern lady
Some people say that babies remember very little, but I think they underestimate the power of infant memory capture.  I recall many things from before I could walk and from shortly thereafter. I remember being carried by my maternal grandmother in a blue blanket to her house up the street from ours...
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Inside Chinatown: Ancient Culture in a New World By Robert Amos and Kileasa Wong TouchWood Editions, 160 pages, September 2009 (9781894898911) http://www.robertamos.com/legacy/Insidechinatown.html The first impression many foreigners took away from Chinese cities a century ago was that they could...
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[Reproduced from my blog on Coming To The Table (comingtothetable.org)] Every so often I look at a sheaf of photocopied deeds, wills and succession papers sent to me by cousins in the south. They represent transactions carried out by my maternal ancestors, involving the lives of the black people...
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To single out one book, any more than a whole library’s worth of them, as being of most influence on one’s development is like having to list your favorite kisses from an unforgettable lover. I can simplify the process by counting on one hand the books which, read before the age of eighteen,...
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Of course, I should be sitting at my desk working on my new book instead of sitting here typing a blog, and for that matter I should be sitting at my desk working on my new book every Friday evening instead of watching "Who Do You Think You Are?"  But I can't.  I'm hooked.  It's not...
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