Exact Location of Hangings of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 has been Identified

salemwitchtrialhangingsProctor’s Ledge has now been identified as the exact location of the gallows used to execute 19 innocent people during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The site was confirmed as the hanging site last week by the Gallows Hill Project, a group of seven scholars who spent the past five years pinning down the exact spot. The rocky, wooded area has grabbed attention from not only visitors who want to grab a picture, but news crews and even direct descendants of some of the victims.

Whisky, Haggis, Golf and Other Things that Aren’t Actually Scottish

This article is going to upset a lot of people with Scottish heritage! Writing in The Scotsman (a web site that presumably knows about all things Scottish), Alison Campsie claims that history books prove:

  • Bagpipes probably came from Egypt. The earliest written references to bagpipes have been found in Greece, where the instrument is known as the piovala.
  • The first written record of whisky drinking was actually made in Ireland in 1405 while the earliest documented record of distilling in Scotland was made in 1494.
  • There is strong evidence to suggest that golf was actually an import from northern Europe.
  • The origins of the humble haggis is believed to have been from England before making its way to Scotland. Food historian Catherine Brown said Burns claimed the pudding as Scottish with his 1786 Address to the Haggis because it was a thrifty contrast to the flamboyant French cuisine popular in Edinburgh at the time.
  • Archaeological finds have suggested that tartan – or plaid – was found in both Central Asia and Austria long before it was first woven in Scotland.

Did Ancient Romans Visit North America about 1,400 Years Before Columbus?

Many undocumented stories tell of Europeans and Asians who visited North America prior to 1492. Now a popular television program claims to have found proof that Roman ships visited North America, possibly prior to 100 AD.

The evidence will appear soon on the History Channel’s popular series Curse of Oak Island, now in its third season. Historic investigator J. Hutton Pulitzer, who has previously been featured on the show, has put a large white paper together with a group of academics from the AAPS (Ancient Artifact Preservation Society). Pulitzer claims to have evidence of a Roman sword found submerged just off Oak Island – and what is believed to be a Roman shipwreck.

The History of the Hearing Aid

Man uses an ear trumpetYou must admit that some of today’s technology advances are very useful. Take hearing aids, for instance. Today’s micro-miniature hearing aids can hide inside the ear canal. A few sightly larger ones with more capabilities hide discreetly behind the ear. Hearing aids worn by our ancestors were not always so discreet.

The earliest known hearing aid, called an ear trumpet, was described by Belgian scientist and high school rector Jean Leurechon in his book Récréations-Mathématiques, in 1624. The book described how to make your own ear trumpet as there were no manufacturers of the device at that time.

Jamestown Dig named One of Archaeology Magazine’s Top Ten Discoveries of 2015

Nearly 20 years after unearthing the lost remains of America’s first permanent English settlement, Jamestown archaeologists have attracted world attention again with one of Archaeology Magazine’s Top Ten discoveries of 2015. This is the third time the project has made the list since uncovering the town’s historic 1608 church in 2010.

Excavations of four burials at the 1608 Jamestown Church site in James Fort. Burials (left to right) JAMESFORT-APV-2993B, JAMESFORT-APV-2992C, JAMESFORT-APV-3046C, and JAMESFORT-APV-170C. Preservation Virginia performed excavations between November 18 and November 21, 2013. Dr. Douglas Owsley, Curator, and Kari Bruwelheide, Museum Specialist, from the Division of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History performed in situ analysis of the burials.

Excavations of four burials at the 1608 Jamestown Church site in James Fort. 

So far, four bodies have been found in unearthed graves. Best of all, their identities have been determined. In addition to the Jamestown and Smithsonian scientists, the team included genealogists from Ancestry.com, who compiled a list of colonists buried between 1608 and 1610 — then pinpointed their ages at their time of death. That list was then compared with the forensic data gleaned from an exhaustive study of human remains which revealed biological ages and social status of those bodies. As a result, the team has identified the four of bodies as:

An Online Archive of Old Radio Shows

If you really miss Ozzie and Harriet (I don’t miss them) or Fibber McGee and Molly (Yes, really I do remember that one), you’ll be glad to know they are now available online. That blows my mind: radio programs of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s are now available instantly on demand on the Internet in 2015.

Radio wasn’t always all about music and news: it used to be full of dramas, comedies, and all sorts of things we now watch on television. Well, “used to watch…” I recently “cut the cord” and canceled my cable TV service. But that’s another story…

Old Radio World is a great archive for finding out what broadcast entertainment used to sound like. All of old broadcasts on the site are available free of charge. Old Radio World may be found at http://www.oldradioworld.com.

Wear What Your Ancestors Wore

5674099489_89e1c6d89e_mThis is a bit late for this year’s Halloween but it could be quite the eye-catcher at your next genealogy meeting. Can you or someone else in the family make clothing from a pattern? If so, you can dress up in clothes that would have looked good on great-great-grandmother or great-great-grandfather.

Artemisia Moltabocca has assembled free patterns for anything from Elizabethan-era costumes Shakespeare would be proud of to something you’d wear to a 1950s sock-hop. You’ll also find patterns for everything in between, including Victorian girdles and early 20th century wear.

Click on the image above and to the right to view a larger version.

After 74 Years, Bones of Victims in the Pearl Harbor Tomb Ship May Be Identified

74 years ago today, the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,402 military personnel. A full list of the victims may be found at http://www.usmemorialday.org/pearllst.txt. Unidentified remains of hundreds of sailors and Marines who perished on the USS Oklahoma. Over the past six months, with a fresh mandate from the Defense Department, the bones were exhumed from a cemetery in Hawaii and most were brought to a new lab at Offutt, where scientists have begun the task of identifying the remains. The goal is to send the men home.

You can read a lot more about this sad effort at http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article48362490.html.

Search for Jewish Tombs lost in the Czech Republic during WWII Brings Back Heritage

Confronting the dark legacy of the Holocaust, a small team of researchers has been working to reassemble a Jewish cemetery in the eastern city of Prostejov, Czech Republic, that was destroyed during the Nazi occupation. The Nazi death machine killed 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, wiping out a third of world Jewry — and didn’t even let those already dead rest in peace.

The discovery of Prostejov’s lost graveyard was a result of efforts to find roughly 2,000 tombstones that were desecrated and disappeared more than 70 years ago in what was then Czechoslovakia. Dozens of Jewish cemeteries faced the same eradication as the one in Prostejov. All 1,924 tombstones were desecrated, likely in 1943, and no documents are available to clarify their fate. Now a team of genealogists and historians is working to reconstruct the plans for the cemetery, including names and other information about the people buried there.

The Steamboat Arabia has been Recovered and Its Cargo is on Display

steamboat-arabiaIn 1856, the Steamboat Arabia was frontier bound, loaded with supplies for 16 towns. With two hundred tons of precious cargo aboard, it left Kansas up the Missouri river on a routine trip, but a hidden, thick trunk of a walnut tree sank the steamboat. The tree trunk was hidden in the water and the steamboat was traveling directly towards the setting sun. The steamboat’s pilot never saw the partially submerged tree trunk.

The impact pierced the thick hull of the steamboat and it sank within minutes. Everyone on board miraculously swam to safety, except for one forgotten mule, tied to the deck.

The boat sank to the bottom of the river and soon became hidden from the world. The river’s course also changed over time. The Steamboat Arabia was finally discovered in the late 1980s, buried 45 feet deep in dirt beneath a Kansas farm.

6,300 Nazi Holocaust Documents Found Behind Wall of a Budapest Apartment

A vast and historically valuable trove of Holocaust-era documents, long thought destroyed during World War II, has been found hidden in a wall cavity by a couple renovating their Budapest apartment. The haul of 6,300 documents are from a 1944 census that was a precursor to the intended liquidation of the Hungarian capital’s 200,000 Jews in Nazi death camps. This census contains the names of Jews and Christians alike.

61 kilogrammes (135 pounds) of dusty papers were found. The forms found in the Budapest apartment contain names of each building’s inhabitants, and whether they are Jewish or not, with total numbers of Christians and Jews marked in the corners. The yellowed papers were given to the Budapest City Archives where they are being prepared for long-term preservation.

The SS United States has been saved from the Scrapyard

This story isn’t genealogy-related but it does describe history. Besides, I think I think it is a wonderful turn of events.


The SS United States Conservancy announced Tuesday that it has received more than $600,000 in donations to keep the SS United States from being sold for scrap metal, after the nonprofit revealed in early October that it was running out of funding to maintain it and was exploring its sale.

Looking for Descendants of the Orphan Train Riders

2015SBAGSOrphanTrain-smallerFrom the 1850s until the 1900s the Children’s Aid Society’s orphan trains brought children to families in the Midwest. During the early years, Indiana received the largest number of children.

If you are descended from one of the orphan train riders, at the program the South Bend Area Genealogical Society would like the opportunity to recognize you and honor your ancestor’s experience.

You can read more about the South Bend Area Genealogical Society’s meeting in the poster to the right. Click on the image to view a larger version.

Menus of the 1850s and 1860s

The Hilton College of the University of Houston’s Hospitality Industry Archives includes a wonderful selection of menus from the 1850s and 1860s. It is interesting to see that our ancestors’ food choices were quite different from what we might choose today. My favorite is shown below. (Click on the image to view a larger version.)


Was the First Thanksgiving Held in Florida?

Did the first Thanksgiving held in the New World happen in Saint Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565? One person with significant credentials in history claims Thanksgiving started decades before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

“The first Thanksgiving that involved a feast and lots of local food and inviting the local people, the Timacuan Indians here in St. Augustine to be part of it, and that’s our Thanksgiving,” says Kathleen Deagan, Ph.D., the distinguished research curator emerita at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida. “Most of us associate our early history and our founders of the English colonies of Jamestown and of Plymouth, and really the first settlement was here in St. Augustine in 1565.”

Dr. Deagan continues, “It never ceases to astonish people the first thanksgiving meal was smoked meat and fish. Ham. Garbanzo beans. Red Wine. Olives and Olive oil. There wasn’t any corn as far as we know, no turkeys, no mashed potatoes, no pecan pie for sure!”

The Origins of the Melungeons

Melungeon_family“Melungeon” is a term applied to many people of the Southeastern United States, mainly in the Cumberland Gap area of central Appalachia: East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and East Kentucky. The most common adjective used to describe the Melungeons is “mysterious;” no one seems to know where the Melungeons originated. The Melungeons often did not fit into any of the racial categories that define an individual or group within American society; their neighbors considered them neither white, black, nor Indian.

The Melungeons appear to be of mixed ancestry, and contradictory claims about the origins of these people have existed for centuries. Most modern-day descendants of Melungeon families are generally Caucasian in appearance, often, although not always, with dark hair and eyes, and a swarthy or olive complexion. Descriptions of Melungeons vary widely from observer to observer, from “Middle Eastern” to “Native American” to “light-skinned African American.”

Harvard’s Digital Portrait of Colonial Life

Harvard University has launched a new website called the Colonial North American Project. It includes 150,000 images of diaries, journals, notebooks, and other rare documents from the 17th and 18th centuries. Many more documents are planned to be added in the coming months.


Part of the University’s endeavor to digitize all its collections and make them available free of charge, the Colonial North American Project contains material scattered throughput 12 repositories — from Houghton Library to the Harvard University Archives to Loeb Music Library. When complete, the project will make available to the world digitized images of all known archival and manuscript materials in the Harvard Library that relate to 17th and 18th century North America. These documents reveal a great deal about topics such as social life, education, trade, finance, politics, revolution, war, women, Native American life, slavery, science, medicine, and religion.

Think Your Immigrant Ancestors Came Here Legally? Think Again.

An article by Brian Donohue, recently re-published in the NJ.com web site, will interest many genealogists, especially in light of the political issues in the Presidential campaigns that are receiving a lot of publicity lately. Donahue points out that a high percentage of America’s immigrants have arrived illegally for the past 150 years or more. Most of them stayed, raised families, and the immigrants and their descendants have contributed greatly to America’s industrial might, military strength, culture, and more.


Donohue writes:

“The images burned into our brains of previous immigration waves come largely from newsreels and photos of immigrants disembarking at Ellis Island, one at a time, orderly, legally.

“There’s one problem with the argument. It’s utter hogwash.”

Booze in Colonial America

“Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Wine is necessary for life.” – Thomas Jefferson

“My manner of living is plain…a glass of wine and a bit of mutton.” – George Washington


According to many historians, the American Revolution was built on a foundation of booze. Our ancestors imbibed frequently, often every day. It is estimated that there were more taverns per capita than any other business in colonial America. In fact, the Colonial Williamsburg web site says:

Colonial Americans, at least many of them, believed alcohol could cure the sick, strengthen the weak, enliven the aged, and generally make the world a better place. They tippled, toasted, sipped, slurped, quaffed, and guzzled from dawn to dark.

Rediscovered Leather Trunk Contains Thousands of Letters From the 17th Century

Talk about the Dead Letter Office! A 300-year-old linen-lined trunk filled with over 2,600 letters that were mailed out—but never received—between the years 1680 and 1706 has recently been discovered in The Hague, Netherlands. The extraordinary collection contains letters from all manner of society, including aristocrats, merchants, lovers, actors, musicians, and even spies. At least 600 of the 2,600 letters have never even been opened. Historians are now taking a closer look.



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