My name is Kathleen, and I have been researching my family history since I was a child. I love to go into county courthouses and smell the old books and paper... or is it dust? This blog will focus on the stories I've heard over the years and the research methods I follow. I am particularly interested in data management and cloud genealogy.

Some of my personal areas of interest include Southern Maryland and DC (Robie, Rhodes, Grimes, Lindsey), NY state (Hill, Cookingham, Flynn, Rhodes, Skinner, Wheeler, Mead, Havens, Trotter), NJ (Parcell), North Carolina and Eastern TN (Lynch, Seabolt, Spears), MO (Wilcox, Kiddell), and CA (Simi, Grady)

I am always happy to compare notes or share my experiences, so please leave a comment!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

WikiTree and the FAN principle

Lately, I have spent a lot of time on WikiTree, an online, single family tree. 

For many years, I had been skeptical of these single tree websites (Family Search's Family Tree comes to mind; you can feel my anguish here: Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned), but WikiTree has changed my mind.

WikiTree's mission is "to grow The Free Family Tree — one accurate, shared tree that connects us all, and is accessible to us all for freeforever."1

The concept of a single family tree only works if there are community guidelines that everyone adheres to, so users are asked to sign an honor code. Signing the code results in a community that works together on creating a single, well-sourced and documented profile for each ancestor ... and we are kind to one another as we do so. So far, it has been pretty amazing. Everything works as advertised!

Some people are leery of putting all their research online, and I get that. Especially after spending hours in archives and other repositories working with material that is not available online, you certainly don't want your hard work to be contradicted by somebody whose grandma says "it just ain't so." But that's where the "community" part kicks in -- you work together to fix it. Documentation is your ammunition against that kind of ignorance. If you can document your assertions, even 1,000 undocumented trees that say otherwise won't stand up to your facts.

Even if you don't want to put your entire tree on the site, here's a reason why serious genealogist should consider using WikiTree. 

Remember the FAN principle?2 Elizabeth Shown Mills reminds us to study in depth each friend, associate, or neighbor our ancestor interacted with in order to learn more about the context of their lives and break down brick walls. WikiTree is the perfect platform to record this information in a convenient place. 

Unlike traditional family tree software or online trees, where all you can do is link facts to a tree, WikiTree is essentially a blank document with links to other blank documents within the structure of a family tree. Serious genealogists prefer Word documents over family tree software precisely because "trees" lack the ability to integrate the research reports that are so necessary to analyze our data. On the other hand, trees make it very easy to see where a person fits within a family. When used optimally, WikiTree is the best of both worlds -- it combines the power of analytical narrative with the visualization of a tree. 

But back to the FAN principle. I love using WikiTree to build out profiles for the individuals my ancestor associated with. I don't want to clutter my personal tree with random people I may not be related to, but I do want to understand their lives and how they interacted with my ancestors. At the same time, when I create research reports on all these FAN members, it is easy to lose track of them in my computer. 

WikiTree's structure is set up for the way my brain works, so I'm focusing my energies on documenting the lives of the people who were tangentially part of my ancestors' worlds and linking them to their family members. 

Here's an example of a profile I recently created for John H. Wood. John was not a blood relative, but he married an ancestor's cousin and was part of his larger community, so he's a member of the FAN club. 

One of the more interesting things you can do on WikiTree is create what they call "Free Space" pages. The purpose of these pages are for users to explore any subject in greater depth. I use them as a sort of landing page for ongoing projects, including FAN research. Here's one where I am working to create profiles for all the men who were aboard the SS Jean Nicolet when it was torpedoed and then brutalized by the Japanese in World War II. Another project I'm working on is to create profiles for enslaved people as I encounter them in deeds or probate records. My free space page Prince William Slave records is a place where I'm keeping notes on some specific records I'd like to work on when I have time. 

Another free space page, William Robey's FAN club, examines the people who signed a letter in support of my great-grandfather's application to join the D.C. police force. His application was successful and he was a police officer for a number of years, but he was not an exemplary member of the force. Interestingly, many of the names on his letter of support were active members of the Womens' Christian Temperance Union or similar groups. Since there was, let's just say, a "contradiction" between the man and his glowing recommendation, I'm curious to find out who was not telling the truth and why


"About Wiki Tree," WikiTree ( : accessed 5 Aug 2022).

Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 11: Identity Problems & the FAN Principle,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : 5 Aug 2022).

Monday, March 21, 2016

DNA breaks through a brick wall... and shakes things up!

 I have recently learned that my great-grandfather, John Joseph Hill, was not, in fact, deposited in Geneva, New York by aliens.

With a name like "John Hill," I knew I'd never find where he came from before he turned up in Geneva, listed as "laborer" in the city directory for 1894.1  There are any number of men with this name who came to America in the 1890s.  Without any identifying information distinguishing one from another, I had little hope that I would find my ancestor among all the anonymous, random Hills out there.  All I knew about his past came from his 1896 marriage record and his death certificate from 1916, both of which named his parents as "Thomas Hill and Elizabeth Scott."  In later years, his children variously identified their father's country of origin as either England or Ireland, and there were vague stories floating around that he or his father had been a "Bobby2" back in England, but that was literally all I had to go on.

All this changed a few months ago, shortly after Ancestry opened sales of their DNA kits to the UK.  I noticed that my father and my uncle had a new match at the 2nd-3rd cousin level, and I was intrigued by the fact that this match was from a person living in England.  Almost certainly, then, this was a match on my father's paternal side, since his mother's family has been in the U.S. since the earliest settlements.  So I looked at our match's tree, and saw the proverbial shaky leaf pointing straight back to.... Thomas Hill and Elizabeth Scott.

And what a story this has turned out to be!  Our Hill family was from Cork, Ireland, where Thomas Hill and Elizabeth Scott had a family of ten children:  eight girls and two boys.  One of these boys was my great-grandfather, John, and the other was named Robert Albert (John gave that name to one of his sons in America.)  Several of the girls emigrated to Australia and New Zealand.

Our DNA match knew about my great-grandfather's existence, but it was otherwise a blank spot on his family tree.  My cousin's family had preserved letters written by John's sisters in the early 1900s, and one in particular struck me as poignant.  It was written just after their mother's death in 1901, and lamented the fact that John had gone off to America and never looked back, causing her a great deal of sorrow in her final days.

Some of the information our new cousin shared will shake this American family's identity to the very core... and since they are from Ireland, naturally it has to do with religion.  My grandfather, George, and his four brothers, Earl, Warren, Robert, and Vincent, were raised as staunch Catholics by their mother, Julia Mary Flynn, who in 1896 married John Hill at St. Francis de Sales RC Church in Geneva.3  We always assumed that John was Catholic, too.  Not so!
John Joseph Hill, Julia Mary Flynn Hill, and son Vincent, in Geneva, NY, sometime before John's death in 1916
In fact, John's family belonged to the Church of Ireland.  Not only were they Protestant, but his father, Thomas, was a Sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary, the armed police force that was notorious as a symbol of British oppression. 

Well, at least we know that those vague rumors we have heard about the Hill family being in the police force were true.  As it turns out, quite a number of other family members were involved in police work, too:  spouses of some of the sisters, as well as an uncle.  And there are more undated news clipping of Elizabeth Scott's 1901 obituary (another bit of information sent by my new cousin), suggests that my great-grandfather John might also have joined the force before emigrating:  

"A Record:  -- On Friday, 18th inst., at her residence in Cork, and surrounded by her daughters, there passed away at the great age of 81 years, Mrs. Hill, widow of the late Sergeant Thomas Hill, R I C.  Sergeant Hill, in his young days, served in Scull under his father (who was one of the first R I C men).  He afterwards had charge of the station midway between Cork and Mallow, in the year of the famine, and on retiring in Donaghmore, some 37 years ago, obtained a lucrative position in the Steam Packet Company's office in Cork, which, at his demise in 18__ was filled by his son, who afterwards joined the R I C, so that the family was associated with the Force in one direct line from its origin to the present day, which is indeed a record."4

This last statement in the obituary is a little confusing, since Elizabeth probably only had two sons, neither of whom was working in Cork in 1901:  John was in the U.S. by at least 1894, and a cryptic comment in one of the letters my cousin shared suggests Robert was most likely dead that same year. Add to this the mangled, chronologically impossible story in our family that Grandpa John fought in the Boer War before coming to America  -- but you know those family stories!  

Genealogists are used to conflicting data, gives us something to work on. Next time, I will summarize the research I've done corroborating the information in the letters shared by my new cousin.

1Geneva Village Directory For the Year Beginning May 1, 1894, p. 86 (Geneva, NY:  W.F. Humphrey, Publisher, 1894); original volume consulted at the Geneva Historical Society, 543 S. Main St., Geneva, NY. 

2The term "Bobby" is slang for a policeman, from the British police force raised by Sir Robert Peel in 1829.  (see: )

3St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church, 130 Exchange St, Geneva, NY, Marriage certificate for Julia Flynn and John J. Hill, 23 Jan 1896.

4Transcript of undated, unattributed news clipping, shared by DNA cousin.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Legal Education

Today was the last day of the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, a week-long opportunity to study one subject in great depth.  I was fortunate enough to study with Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, whose course was entitled: "Corpus Juris: Advanced Legal Concepts for Genealogists."  

From Federal and State statutes, to common law writs and prison records, we covered it all., not all -- I have a feeling we barely scratched the surface -- but certainly enough to introduce genealogists to the framework of legal research.

I had a chance to put some of this to use after class yesterday evening while researching at the Family History Library.  As I was scrolling through the chancery court minutes for Jefferson County, Tennessee, I found an entry for my 3rd-great grandfather, John Seabolt, dated 5 November 1868.  It was a bill for divorce, but what caught my eye was the term, "judgement pro confesso."  We had just spent the day going over many (many) common law writs, and this one hadn't come up.  

Jefferson County, Tennessee, Chancery Court Minutes, Vol. 4-5, 1865-1871,  filmed by the Tennessee State Library and Archives; FHL film #968283, citing Vol. 5, page 84.

The interesting part of the entry reads as follows:  " appears to the satisfaction of the Court that the petitioner is a man of good character and that at the time of the marriage of the parties, the defendant was pregnant by another without the knowledge of the petitioner and that about four months after the date of the marriage the deft. was delivered of a mulatto child, and it further appearing that both of the parties are white.  The Court is therefore pleased to order adjudge and decree that the bonds of matrimony are hereby dissolved..."

My first thought was that Sarah was guilty because of the rather obvious nature of the evidence, which might be considered the same as a direct confession of guilt.  I then Googled it, and Judy confirmed this in class, that "pro confesso" really means that the defendant was guilty simply because she didn't show up in court to dispute the case.  

Fascinating, right?

By the way, I am descended from John's first wife, Diana "X."  There are still family stories circulating about her inordinate pride at being an FFV (descended from the First Families of Virginia), so of course she is the one whose maiden name I can't find.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A source-centric alternative to FTM

Everyone seems to be up in arms about Ancestry's decision to stop supporting Family Tree Maker (FTM) after 2016.  We should have seen this coming -- it is a business decision, driven by the combined forces of cloud computing and Ancestry's corporate desire to be the home base for all your data.

This decision doesn't require anything more than a minor course correction.  I take full advantage of Ancestry's algorithms to uncover new data in my trees, but I don't use Ancestry or FTM for anything other than a convenient place to store relationships.  It won't bother me if FTM disappears tomorrow.

The reason for this is that all my research lives on my own computer.  We tend to forget that family tree software, whether it is FTM or any of the others, is designed to record relationships, and not the process you go through to determine those relationships!   In fact, it does a terrible job at tracking your research (there are no slots on the tree for all those 'potential' ancestors), and it is only moderately successful in recording facts.  Indirect evidence -- too often all we have -- doesn't fall neatly into the software's black and white categories, and there is no easy way to record a proof argument.  

Some years ago, I created templates to track my research using Bento, the simplified database system produced by FileMaker.  I wrote quite a lot about this on my blog (see these posts), and was terribly disappointed when FileMaker discontinued Bento.   The situation then was very similar to Ancestry's business decision to drop FTM:  with more and more custom apps being made available for free, there was no future in providing people with a DIY database.   Unfortunately for genealogists, there aren't an awful lot of custom apps for tracking research.

Fast forward to the present.  I have recently come across Tap Forms for Mac, which seems to be picking up where Bento left off.  It is not, perhaps, as pretty as Bento was, but is simple and intuitive to use, and it is only $35.  I have redesigned my old Bento templates to work in Tap Forms, and am thrilled to finally be up and running again with a research management system.  

My Tap databases are essentially a series of interconnected spreadsheets, centered around a main file containing all my sources.  Tap has several advantages over Numbers, the Mac spreadsheet program.  First, it allows you to enter data through a form view, which makes it easier to focus on one source at a time.  It is very easy to switch between the form view and the spreadsheet view: 

Second, you can add a direct link to a file on your computer, so all you have to do is click on the file name and your file opens in a new window.  This is not easily done in Numbers (see this thread on the Apple support page).  Most importantly, though, Tap allows you to link related spreadsheets together.  Like Bento, Tap is not a true relational database -- but it is close enough to satisfy me.

The key to making any research tracking system work is keeping up with data entry.  I have created fields to track quite a bit of information about my sources, but I use them according to need.  Not all sources are equally relevant to my current research, so some will get lavish attention and others just a simple citation.  Here is a quick look at my new genealogical research system:

This is a source-centric system, so the Documents database is the most important component.  I log my sources as soon as I obtain them, and add my formal citation first thing.  At the very least, I will include all the elements necessary to craft a perfect citation later.  Too much time spent looking up documents a second time has shown me that it is easier to just take the extra time and add the correct citation from the beginning.  

"Negative Searches"
I also keep track of sources I've examined that did not have information meeting my search criteria:

I have set up a file with basic information about the people in my family tree.  This allows me to link my sources to the individuals they relate to.   If I am religious about entering data when I first record a source, I will then have a complete file of all the documents I have found for every person I am researching. 

"FAN Club"

Another component is a database called "FAN club,"* which allows me to track unknown names mentioned in a source and link them both to the ancestor they are associated with and the particular document they are mentioned in.  Just being able to see the names grouped together in this database list is incredibly helpful -- I've gotten leads this way that I might not have found otherwise.
*This phrase was coined by Elizabeth Shown Mills, who uses it to describe the need to thoroughly research all the friends, associates, and neighbors of an ancestor in order to fully understand their intersecting lives.

I have also set up a database of photographs, which I link to the people who are in them.

There is a table listing all the repositories and libraries where I conduct research, which I link to a database of research logs.

"Research Log"
If I have been out researching, I spend some time at the end of the day entering data into a log, which in turn links to the documents retrieved at any given repository.  This way I have a running record of how I've spent my time, and more importantly, my sources have a date-stamp so I can easily tell when I accessed them.  If I uncover new information, I know at a glance which sources should be re-examined.

Tap has a user-contributed library of templates.   I plan on adding my research system as soon as I can (which probably won't be until after Christmas).  

Merry Christmas, everyone!

UPDATE (March 2016):  The templates are now available on the Tap Forms website, see:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Constitution Day Redux

Last year I celebrated Consitution Week with a post about how an injustice that happened to my ancestor, Thomas Amis, led to the creation of the United States Constitution.  In June of 1786, he was sailing down the Mississippi with a cargo of trade goods, when he inadvertently broke a new Spanish law limiting American trade.  With the utmost of courtesy, the Spanish commandant relieved him of his boat and cargo, and sent him back home on foot.  Of course he told his story to everyone he met on his journey home, which quickly inflamed the popular sentiment against the Spaniards.  You've never heard about the Flour War with Spain only because cooler heads prevailed in the end, but it was a close thing.   

So while my 5th great grandfather didn't have a direct hand in writing the Constitution, his experience embodied the frustrations experienced by Americans who had no recourse when confronting the arbitrary rulings of a foreign government.  His was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I'll refer you to my earlier post here, and will just add that I've recently found a portrait of Thomas, in a history of the North Carolina Society of the Cincinnati published in 1907:
Charles Lukens Davis, North Carolina Society of the Cincinnati (Boston: Riverside Press), 1907, p. 56; digital images, Hathitrust ( : accessed 14 Sep 2015).

Friday, August 14, 2015

Tag Sale

Everyone has heard that Evernote is the best thing since sliced bread, and is a must-have for the genealogist's toolbox....right?  A completely searchable database of whatever you choose to save, available on computer, phone and tablet -- what's not to like?  Despite all the hoopla, I keep hearing colleagues quietly scratching their heads, without a clue about how they can really use Evernote for their research.  

I admit up front that I have a tendency to adopt a new technology and embrace it as the definitive solution, only to drop it just as quickly when it doesn't quite work the way I had hoped (remember Zotero, anyone?)  So this time, I've waited before jumping to a conclusion.  It has now been more than a year since Evernote has been an integral part of my research procedures, and I am confident that I really use it...I might even add that I would be lost without it.  

Evernote has intuitive tools to capture data from a wide variety of sources: images and data from the internet, items you email directly to the program, as well as screen captures and data files from your computer.  You can upload 60 MB per month with a basic account, or 10 GB with a premium account.  Contrary to what you might think given this kind of capacity, I use Evernote primarily to manage my research, not as a place to store data.  

When I first started to use Evernote, it seemed logical to attach all the digital records I found, but then I started to see my data scattered in different locations.  Sometimes it was easy to add a document to Evernote, and other times it was just easier to file it on my computer.  I like consistency, and in the end I decided I am more comfortable storing my data in one place on my computer, in a single filing system that I set up a long time ago.  Evernote was designed to be a productivity tool, not a data storage or back-up system. 

The way I actually use Evernote evolved organically.  I was preparing for a visit to an out of town library and happened to have Evernote open, so I cut and pasted entries from the online catalog into a note.  Within Evernote, I saw that I could add checkboxes to each item, which made it simple to mark them off as I used them at the library.  I could also annotate the catalog entry with remarks about each item as I used it.  It wasn't until much later that I realized I had created a research log... and it required no advance set up or extra steps along the way.  It was easy.  

Another time, I was doing some background reading for a project,  collecting URLs relating to that subject, and decided to gather all the links into a single note.  Ta da! Instantly I had a portable set of completely searchable bookmarks.  Filing a bookmark on my computer is like sending it into the black hole -- it is lost forever.  In Evernote, I never forget why I bookmarked a page because you can annotate to your hearts content, bookmarks are never lost since every word is searchable, and as a result, I actually use them!

By this time, I started to get a sense of what I could do with Evernote.  I set up timelines for the major players in my family tree, with links to online data and citations to other relevant information documenting their lives.  I created tables detailing when my various database subscriptions and society memberships expire.  I added notes containing shared segments and contact information for all my known DNA matches -- just to name a few of the possibilities. Evernote also comes to my rescue when I'm tempted by a "Bright Shiny Object," or BSO(1)  -- just add it to a note and investigate it later.

So here's my secret to making this work:  use tags.  

Yes, Evernote is every-word searchable, but you will make life easier on yourself if you are able to quickly and easily retrieve like items.  Tags allow you to retrieve similar items in one easy search:   all your "to do" items, for example, or everything relating to "DNA."  I mentioned how I use Evernote to create a library catalog list:

  • I tag that note "to do," and add tags for the name of the repository and the relevant person or research question.  
  • When the search is completed, I delete the "to do" tag and replace it with a "research log" tag.  
  • By searching on a combination of tags, you have a flexible way to limit or expand the notes that are returned on any search.  For example: "to do" plus "New York" plus "Schoharie Co" = everything I have to do relating to Schoharie County, NY.  "Research plan" plus "family name" =  all the research plans I have created relating to one particular family, regardless of location...the possibilities for targeted searches are endless.

The most important key to making this work is to have a set of naming conventions and rigorously adhere to them.  Make sure your tags identify a note's "who, what, when, where, why"  qualities, as appropriate.  Here are mine:

1) Tag by name of the family or research project.
2) Tag by place.  I always include the state; including tags for the county or town level depends on usage.  
3) If including actual source material, tag it by type of record:  for example, cemetery, court document, correspondence, land, newspaper, probate/will, vital record, etc.   Also include such record types as finding aides and indexes; it is very useful to have this information handy when you are at the repository. 
4) If I am making a note from data that I have manipulated, I add a tag for what I have done to it, for example:  analysis, research log, research plan, timeline.
5) Tag by actions taken or to be taken: to do, fix this!, BSO. 
6) Tag by repository or location of action to be done.
7) Tag by purpose, for example for background reading, online coursework, etc.
8) Tag by status, for example: pending, complete, uncertain ID.  

Being consistent with your tagging is crucial:  choose a standardized way to spell your tags -- for example, don’t abbreviate some states and spell out others.  If you are working fast and don’t have time to figure out the best tag for a note, you can leave it blank (typing: -tag:* in the search field will bring up all untagged notes) OR just tag it “fix this!” and get back to it later.  I make it a plan to review and clean up my Evernote files once a week.

I don’t worry so much about using Evernote notebooks.  If you are really good at tagging, you don’t need them, and deciding which notebook to use can slow down data entry.

I'd love to hear how others use Evernote, so let me know what works for you!

(1)   "BSO:" I think Thomas MacEntee coined this phrase, which captures the lure of a new avenue of research when we should be focusing on whatever task is in front of us.  I used to call it the squirrel syndrome.  It's my biggest "time thief."

Monday, August 3, 2015

Simultaneous states of being....

About a year ago, I started a series of sketches about my own life for "future genealogy," so in that vein, here's another installment.

I had a great childhood.  My father was a Naval officer and we were constantly on the move. With all that upheaval, my description of a “great” childhood might seem a bit surprising.  The “great” part came from all the unique experiences we had as a family over the years, and I would say that living in Japan topped the list.  From 1968 to 1970, Dad was stationed at the Navy base in Yokosuka, about an hour and a half south of Tokyo.  It is one of those places that seems to hold special memories for anyone who has ever lived there.⁠1  I loved it because I had the freedom to roam around on my bike without parental supervision, and movies at the theater were free.  I think my mom most enjoyed the fact that there were 360 yen to the dollar.

My mother always likes to try new things —“it’s an adventure!” is a phrase we heard often growing up.  So when she saw an ad in the paper seeking westerners for photographic modeling jobs, she thought it would be a fun thing for us to do.  Before long, our headshots were on file at the Eddie Arab Modeling Agency (which, by the way, is still in business today!)⁠2, and we were making regular trips up to Tokyo to meet the agency handler who would take us to the photo shoot.

Our meeting point was always the dog statue at the Shibuya train station. The statue commemorates Hachiko the dog, who punctually waited for his master’s train every day.  Even after he died, the dog continued his daily ritual of meeting the train for nine more years, until he himself died.  His fidelity has come to symbolize the ultimate expression of loyalty.  Naturally enough, the statue, placed at the spot where Hachiko waited for his master all those years, has become famous as a place to meet.⁠3  
Nancy (left) and Kathleen (right) at Shibuya train station, circa 1969
And I suppose Mom was right… in retrospect, modeling was an adventure!

...I became the face of Suzy Homemaker products,

And some really modern, space-age TV sets:

My sister was on everyone’s breakfast table ….
We were in a few commercials, too… I mostly played board games, while my sister appeared in ads for cameras (below), and Datsun (now known as Nissan).

For some odd reason we did a radio commercial once, saying the Japanese words for “It’s new!” in our American accents.

Mostly, though, we were in ads for clothing:

The 1960s may have been “mod” and “groovy,” but it was also the decade of protests and riots — in 1966, my family experienced some of the drama ourselves, which I wrote about here.  Japan didn’t escape the overall mood of that era, and had its own trouble with violent student protests.  Students weren’t just against the war in Vietnam, they were also concerned about the nuclear weapons coming into Japan on U.S. warships. In 1968, the approaching re-negotiation of the U.S.-Japanese Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security4 brought this issue to the forefront.  Whenever a ship carrying nukes docked at the base in Yokosuka, we could be sure of a demonstration outside of the main gate, complete with rocks and tear gas.  (Here’s a link to a photo of the main gate as it looked in the '60s--without the rocks in the air).  

We generally had advance notice of the protests, and were warned to be inside the gates well before they started.  On one of these days, however, my mother, sister, and I were in Tokyo for a photo shoot.   

“No worries,” they told us, when we told them about our deadline. “You will be finished in plenty of time to make your train.”  

Famous last words….  We ran over our time limit, and had to race to catch the only train that might get us back in time.

I remember the trains from Tokyo to Yokosuka were always crowded. 
My mom was pinched countless times, but people were generally nice to little kids.  I was regularly invited onto the laps of strangers (wait, that sounds bad…), and nobody minded when my sister fell asleep on them.
On this day, the trains were crowded as usual, but instead of cute little boys, as in the photo below, the train was full of young men, wearing helmets, carrying shields, and holding signs saying “Yankee Go Home.” It wasn’t quite so cute; we got more than our usual stares on the train that day.  
I remember feeling just a little uneasy on the trip home, but my mother was calm and upbeat as usual.  As our train was arriving in Yokosuka, though, we knew we might not make it to the gate in time.  Even Mom started to get a little nervous; once the gates were closed, there was no entry, under any circumstances.

At the door of the train, we stood ready to spring out and run for it the minute they opened...but we could see the crowds already gathering on the platform as we arrived — a solid mass of angry humanity.  It wasn’t a long walk to the base from the station, but on that day it could have been a walk to Mars.  As the doors opened, Mom took our hands grimly and was about to step into the crowd, when a fellow passenger, all decked out for battle, grabbed her by the arm and said:

“Don’t worry, come with me, and I'll get you to the base!”  

Without another word he pulled us along, and maneuvered through the crowd like a man who knew what he was doing.  Before long we reached the gate, just as it was beginning to close.  Relieved, we flashed our ID cards at the guards, and made it back inside to safety.  From my vantage point inside the gate, I watched our guardian angel melt in to the mob, and transform back into the angry protester, shaking his fist and shouting “Yankee Go Home.”  

Somehow, a person could hate and love  simultaneously.  I’m still trying to figure that one out.

For Further Reading......

     Gibney, Frank, “Politics and Governance in Japan,” in Richard A. Maidment, David S. Goldblatt, Jeremy Mitchell, editors.  Governance in the Asia-Pacific, London:  Routledge Pub., 1998.  E-Library edition pub. By Taylor & Francis, 2005, pp. 70-75 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]

Hamaguchi, Takashi.  “Student Radicals, Japan 1968 – 69, website describing exhibit of photographs, Dec 4, 2014 – Jan 24, 2015, presented at the Taka Ishii Gallery Photography Paris [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]

Marotti, William.  "Japan 1968:  The Performance of Violence and the Theater of Protest," American Historical Review.  February 2009 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]
Oguma, Eiji.  Translated by Nick Kapur with Samuel Malissa and Stephen Poland, “Japan's 1968: A Collective Reaction to Rapid Economic Growth in an Age of Turmoil.”  The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 11, No. 1 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015].

Discussion Thread: “60s era Yokosuka demonstrations/riots against 'nukes’” 5 March 2009, [, accessed 30 Jul 2015].


(all photos from the collection of M.G.Hill; used with permission)
1 This is a very unscientific impression gleaned from postings on a closed Facebook Group “Yokosuka Naval Base Past and Present.” [ accessed 30 Jul 2015]
2 Kawaguchi, Judit, "Actor/Talent Agent Eido Sumiyoshi," The Japan Times 14 May 2009 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]
3Ċ, accessed 31 July 2015
4, accessed 30 Jul 2015