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.

Asheville, North Carolina, Unearths 1897 Time Capsule

Asheville city workers Tuesday morning recovered a time capsule from Vance Monument that has been concealed there since 1897 when the monument was constructed and dedicated. It was wedged beneath a Masonic cornerstone block at the base of the obelisk. During the removal, which took more than an hour, bystanders could see a stack of papers and what appeared to be a Bible.

The Alcohol Consumption of Our Ancestors

According to a chart created in 1790 by Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and foremost physician, citizens in the newly-formed United States drank a lot of distilled spirits. An article by Megan Gambino in the Smithsonian web site claims that, by 1830, each person, on average, was swilling more than seven gallons of alcohol per year.

“The tradition in a lot of communities was to have a drink for breakfast. You had a drink mid-morning. You might have whiskey with lunch. You had a beer with dinner, and you ended with a nightcap,” says Bruce Bustard, a curator at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. “There was a fair amount of alcohol consumption by children too.” In fact, drinking was seen as a health benefit, useful to prevent fevers and to ease digestion.

You can read the full article in the Smithsonian at http://goo.gl/0u7tlu.

The History of April Fools’ Day

One of my favorite holidays will occur this week: April Fools’ Day. Perhaps it is not an official holiday but I will suggest it should be. It is a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s friends and neighbors. How did this custom get started? Did our ancestors play similar jokes on their friends? Like many things that started centuries ago, the origins of April Fools’ Day are shrouded in mystery.

Some historians will suggest that April Fools’ Day’s origins may be related to religion. It possibly is derived from the Roman festival of Hilaria, a day of rejoicing, or the Holi festival of India, a springtime celebration of love, frolic, and colors. However, proof seems to be lacking.

Rare 1928 Photos of England in Color

Or should that be spelled “Colour?”

In the late 1920s and early 1930s National Geographic sent photographer Clifton R. Adams to England to record its farms, towns and cities, and its people at work and play. Adams happened to record it all in color using the Autochrome process, something that was radically new at the time. Prior to 1928, many people had only seen black-and-white photographs.

Click on the above image to view a larger version.

California Man Receives a Law Licence to Practice after 125 Years

The California Supreme Court has posthumously awarded a law license to a Chinese immigrant who was barred from becoming a lawyer 125 years ago.

Hong Yen Chang was barred from practicing law in 1890 by the same court because “persons of the Mongolian race” were not granted citizenship.

The Myths of St. Patrick’s Day

Many people of Irish ancestry love to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. After all, it is a great way to celebrate one’s Irish heritage. However, some of the celebrations are a bit questionable. In fact, many of the commonly-held beliefs about St. Patrick are wrong. Before making plans, you might want to consider a few facts:

St. Patrick wasn’t Irish

Patrick was probably born in what is now England, Scotland or Wales around A.D. 390. Different historians have different beliefs about his place of birth. After all, the borders moved a bit over the years as well. Most agree that St. Patrick’s parents were Roman citizens living in the British Isles. Therefore, Patrick himself was a Roman citizen even though he was born somewhere in what is now Great Britain.

The Netherlands to Give a Face to 10,000 Killed U.S. WWII Soldiers

The American War Cemetery in the town of Margraten, the Netherlands contains the remains of more than 10,000 U.S. servicemen who gave their lives to keep the Netherlands and the rest of the world free from tyranny. Through The Faces of Margraten project, during a Memorial Weekend from the 2nd till the 5th of May 2015, the Dutch will pay special tribute to these soldiers by decorating their more than 10,000 graves and names on the Walls of the Missing with personal photos of the soldiers. The project has started a quest to locate more soldiers’ photos. Perhaps you can help.

“Maybe you’re related to one of the soldiers, and have a photo tucked away in an album you haven’t looked through in years. Please look again, and if you find one, help us honor the sacrifices of thousands of other Americans by contributing the photo to The Faces of Margraten,” said Sebastiaan Vonk, chairman of the Foundation United Adopters American War Graves. “Each photo matters, even if the quality is not great, because it means another soldier who will be honored.”

Another Winter in New England: 1888

Boston in 1888 – Click on the Above image to view a larger version.

I suspect most U.S. residents have heard about the severe weather this winter in the northeastern United States. Indeed, a huge amount of snow has fallen in the area and temperatures have been below average as well. However, the area is known for harsh winter weather. This year’s weather, as bad as it has been, is not a record breaker.

For instance, 127 years ago today, on March 11, 1888, one of the most destructive blizzards ever to strike the East Coast raged for 36 hours. Called “the White Hurricane,” the storm produced a combination of blinding snow, deep drifts, driving wind, and severe cold. Monster waves battered the coastline.

The Drinking Habits of our Early New England Ancestors

The image has been often been painted of early new England Puritans and other religious citizens of the day as being strict and never having any fun. I was brought up in New England and always believed that my many Puritan ancestors would never touch liquor. A new exhibit at the US National Archives claims that I was mistaken.

Here are some of the facts cited:

Early Americans even took a healthful dram for breakfast, whiskey was a typical lunchtime tipple, ale accompanied supper and the day ended with a nightcap. Continuous imbibing clearly built up a tolerance as most Americans in 1790 consumed an average 5.8 gallons of pure alcohol a year, 7.1 gallons in 1830, but only 2.3 gallons of pure alcohol a year today.

Samuel Adams was a partner in his father’s malt house and Thomas Jefferson was famed for importing European wines.


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