History

Instructions for Census Takers

Do some of the entries in U.S. census records not make sense? I am not referring to the handwriting but rather the various entries in the different columns across the page. Why did they enter the information like that? What does it mean? Some columns are always filled in but others are sometimes blank. Why?

In the 1790 through 1870 collections of census information, the records were created by Assistant Marshals. A March 3, 1879 act replaced the U.S. Marshals with specially hired and trained census-takers (called “enumerators”) to conduct the 1880 and subsequent censuses.

What Your Town Looked Like on Penny Postcards

Years ago, postcards cost 1¢ to mail within the U.S. Postage was temporarily raised to 2¢ from 1917 to 1919 to cover the cost of World War I and the increase was rescinded after the War. In 1952, the required postage was raised to two cents and has slowly escalated ever since. Today, mailing a postcard cost 34¢. (Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_United_States_postage_rates)

Over the years, many postcards were printed with view of a town or other area, then sold in stores within that town or area. Many of these postcards have been preserved and often provide an interesting glimpse of what life was like in “the good old days.” Possibly your ancestors saw these same views in person.

How Homesteading Was Done in the 1800s

Did any of your ancestors take advantage of the Homestead Act of 1862? Did they settle on sparsely-populated land in one of the western states? If so, what were their lives like?

Kathy Belt has written an article that describes life for the homesteaders and asks the reader to think about what it would be like if any of us could be transported in time back to a homestead. She writes:

“If you truly want to live in the 1800s, be expected to have 18-20 children, all born at home, and have half of them die before the age of five because of dysentery, typhoid, scarlet fever or measles. Be prepared to get up with the sun and read by the light of your drafty fireplace. (Yes, the Franklin stove was invented in the late 1700s, but it weighed so much, most folks who went west didn’t take it with them. Of course, if you stayed in one of the “big” cities, you would have access to whale oil or kerosene for your lights.)

Spain Passes Law Awarding Citizenship to Descendants of Expelled Jews

Spain’s lower house of parliament has approved a law that eases the path to citizenship for descendants of Jews who were forced to flee the country five centuries ago during the Inquisition.

The measure aims to correct what Spain’s conservative government calls the “historic mistake” of sending Jews into exile in 1492, forcing them to convert to Catholicism or burning them at the stake.

1500 Turn-Of-The-Century Pictures from Hungary Made Public

If your ancestors came from Hungary, you will undoubtedly be interested in a new online collection of turn-of-the-last-century Hungarian photographs. Pictures taken by the legendary German-born Hungarian photographer György Klösz (1844-1913) are now available online in the Fortepan digital photography archives after a total of 1500 photographs from his estate have been made available for unconditional usage by the Budapest Municipal Archives.

Highways in the Early 20th Century

CarDataVideo has produced a video describing Henry Ford’s Model T. The video itself is a rather fascinating glimpse of automotive history. However, I was even more impressed by the pictures of U.S. streets and roads that the Model T traveled over. Highways were rarely paved in those days. In the winter time, there were no snowplows. Some of these roads would be difficult to travel upon even with today’s 4-wheel drive SUVs.

U.S. Navy Divers to Help Confederate Ironclad Rise Again

Navy divers from Hampton Roads will soon head to Georgia to help salvage the Confederate ironclad CSS Georgia from the depths of the Savannah River. The warship was scuttled by its own Confederate crew in December 1864 to prevent capture during Union General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Ever since, it has sat at the bottom of the Savannah River in Georgia.

Family Historians Go Online to Identify Unknown Soldiers and You Can Help

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission says it has seen a steep rise in cases where amateur genealogists and historians believe they have solved the mystery of unidentified war graves. Similar efforts are underway in the U.S. and in European countries that were the scene of World War I and World War II battles.

The ability to search old war records easily online and the popularity of family history programs such as Who Do You Think You Are? and the the Missing In Action Recovery and Identification Project of the University of Wisconsin at Madison shave led many to turn amateur historian and try to identify the graves of missing ancestors.

How to use the Upper Saint John Valley (Northern Maine and Northwestern New Brunswick) Historical Land Grant Database to Find Your Ancestors

Do you have ancestors from the Upper Saint John Valley? I do. That’s 50% of my ancestry and I also lived there for a few years. I was recently told of a great genealogy database for the area. If you also have an interest in the history and the people of the Upper Saint John Valley, you will want to read this article written by George L. Findlen, CG, CGL. He describes how to locate a family in a land grants database and how to use the information found there with other resources in order to track a family (some, not all) from 1845 forward in time.

The process requires multiple steps but the effort is worth it. The following is published here with the kind permission of author George L. Findlen:

Upper Saint John Valley (Northern Maine and Northwestern New Brunswick) Historical Land Grant Database

By George L. Findlen, CG, CGL

The 2014 Congrès Mondial Acadien (World Acadian Reunion) took place in the Upper Saint John Valley on the Maine–New Brunswick border in August. The three-week event was filled with cultural, historical, religious, and entertainment events. The core of the CMA was a series of family reunions, 120 of them, which included some Yankee and Quebec names, since they and Acadians have intermarried over the years.

Jason Scott Sadofsky Wants Your Old AOL CDs

Finally! Someone has found a use for all those AOL disks that were sent to your house and given away by many stores. Jason Scott Sadofsky is a Free-Range Archivist & Software Curator for the Internet Archive. He wants every disc ever made, but is specifically requesting that readers of his blog send him old AOL discs, the kind that came free at Best Buy checkouts, packed in magazines and mailed randomly to your house back in the 1990s. He wants to add them to an online archive of computer history.

Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard

In 1890, the Edison Phonograph Company manufactured dolls with wax cylinder records tucked inside each one. When cranked, each doll recited snippets from nursery rhymes. This was fabulous technology in 1890, a time when most people had not yet heard of phonograph records or any other method of reproducing sound. Sadly, Edison’s dolls were a flop; production lasted only six weeks. Children found them difficult to operate and more scary than cuddly. The purchase price of ten dollars also was much higher than what most families of 1890 could afford.

The Secret of Erikoussa

MyHeritage (the sponsor of this newsletter) has been working closely with Emmy Award winning writer, producer and author, Yvette Manessis Corporon. About a year ago Yvette published a book called “When The Cypress Whispers”. The book is fictional but some of it is based on true stories she grew up hearing from her grandmother, including the secret of the Greek Island of Erikoussa.

When the Nazis invaded Corfu, most of the Jewish citizens were killed, but a tailor by the name of Savas was able to escape with his three daughters, and a girl called Rosa, to the nearby Island of Erikoussa. Savas had customers and acquaintances on the island, but what was incredible was that the entire island joined forces – at risk of death – and gave refuge to Savas and his girls, and kept their identity secret from the Nazis, for the duration of the war.

A Steam Convoy from World War I

Sometimes we forget that not all early motor vehicles were powered by gasoline. Here is a glimpse at what life must have been like for some of our ancestors in the British military:

You also can display the video full screen by clicking on the second icon from the right on the bottom. If your web browser does not show the video, click on this link: WW1 Steam Convoy – ‘Gigantic’ bounces around the roundabout!

Big Data of Genealogy Databases Provides New Tools to Analyze Royal Lifestyles between 800 and 1800

An article in the London School of Economics and Political Science describes hew methods being used to provide insights into the lives the European nobility, and may provide important clues about why Western Europe led the Industrial Revolution. One huge database from FamilySearch is giving economic historians like Dr Neil Cummins of the London School of Economics’ History Department access to genealogical ‘big data’ for the first time.

Describing the significance of the newly digitised information, he says: “Individual demographic data before 1538 in England is extremely rare – that’s the time of Henry VIII, Cromwell and the English reformation. Before that we only had scraps.”

The American Civil War Began 154 Years Ago Today

The bloodiest four years in American history begin when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.”

Canada’s Parliament Buildings were Built on top of a Dump Full of Wine, Beer, and Champagne Bottles

Recent archeological digs outside the main buildings of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa have turned up tens of thousands of artifacts from the early 19th century. The site previously was called Barrack Hill and was a staging ground for the British Royal Engineers to undertake the construction of the nearby Rideau Canal. The local town was called ByTown although the name was later changed to Ottawa.

“When you think of early Bytown, it’s often portrayed as a swamp, as a back country area, but it’s interesting to see the officers still enjoyed a gentlemanly life that was expected of them,” said Kopp, who has worked on other archeological digs on Canadian military sites.

There was lots of evidence of drinking — wine bottles, beer bottles, champagne bottles, tumblers and glasses.

A 9th-century “Leechbook”

I have had a few medical problems during my life and have been treated by a number of doctors. I am glad I didn’t live during the 9th century!

“Bald’s Leechbook” is not a book about blood-sucking worms. It’s a medieval tome written in Anglo-Saxon, probably during the ninth century, which outlines the practices of English doctors (sometimes referred to as “leeches” at the time) concerning care and treatment of a variety of human maladies. The book can now be found in London’s British Library.

Wounded as a Slave, Died Free

Thanks to a genealogist’s death certificate research, a Civil War story has been uncovered and the original story corrected.

Hannah Reynolds was the lone civilian death at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. She died a slave at 60, hours before the war to end slavery unofficially came to a close. A century and a half later, Reynolds’ story is being rewritten: a new discovery by a genealogist shows that she lingered for several days — long enough to have died a free woman.

Carignan Soldiers or Soldat Carignan

In 1665 King Louis XIV ordered the Carignan-Salieres Regiment to Canada to help save the Royal Colony from destruction at the hands of the Iroquois Indians. Between June and September 1665, some twenty-four companies of 1200 soldiers and their officers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment arrived in Quebec under the leadership of Lt. General Alexander de Prouville, Sieur de Tracy.

The Carignan-Salieres Regiment was the first regular military unit to serve in Canada. Almost immediately upon arrival, they launched an attack upon the Indians in the dead of winter, and the regiment was almost destroyed. Nevertheless, within months the Regiment stabilized the situation, ensuring the survival of the French colony.

The Regiment established a series of forts along the Richelieu River and conducted another successful campaign into the land of the Mohawk Indians, leading to a long period of peace. The colony prospered as a result. However, King Louis XIV’s plan also included the permanent settlement of many of the soldiers and officers in Canada. Following their service, many of the soldiers stayed on in Canada.

30,000 NYPD Crime Photographs Will Go Online

I like the idea of placing all government information information and photographs online but must admit I am not too thrilled with this announcement. Some of these photos can be gruesome.

Stage Line “accident” December 6, 1919

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has photographed crime scenes almost since the technology was available. Some of these are scenes of traffic accidents, parades, or public events. Others are crime scenes. A new grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will support the digitization of around 30,000 of these photographs from 1914 to 1975, making them viewable to the public for the first time. The goal is to eventually place all of the 2.2 million photographs, videos, audio files, and other material online.

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