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.

Student Seeks to Return Identities to British War Evacuees

Claire Halstead is a PhD student at the Department of History, The University of Western Ontario. She is researching British children who were evacuated to Canada during the Second World War. She has created a database which traces 1,532 children who came through the Children’s Overseas Reception Board (CORB) and an additional 1,600 who came as ‘private evacuees.’

Roughly two million British children were displaced during the Second World War, shipped from London to Commonwealth countries where they would be safe from bombings. As part of Operation Pied Piper, the first wave of evacuations saw 660,000 children, mothers and hospital patients, as well as 100,000 teachers, moved in just three to four days. By the war’s end, the population of Greater London dropped from 8.7 million to 6.7 million.

England’s Immigrant Records 1330-1550 Now Online

A new database revealing data of immigration in medieval England, held in the records at The National Archives, has been launched online. England’s Immigrants 1330-1550 at http://www.englandsimmigrants.com is the result of a major Arts and Humanities Research Council funded research project by the University of York in collaboration with the Humanities Research Institute (University of Sheffield) and The National Archives.

For the first time the database allows researchers to search over 65,000 immigrants who were resident in England during this period by name, nationality, profession and place of residence.

Ancient Pedigree Chart to be Auctioned for Possibly £40,000 ($62,000 US)

Save your pedigree charts. They may be valuable some day! Well, at least one such chart has become valuable. Of course, it is 23 feet long, was written on calfskin in the 1500s, written in Latin, and describes the genealogy of the Kings of England. It is believed be one of only 13 left in the world, and the only one currently available on the open market.

The scroll charts royalty from the legends of Hely and Cassilbellan in the first century BC right up until the end of the Wars of the Roses in 1485, with specific mention of King Richard III.

You can read more at http://goo.gl/BeXXe3.

The Search for the Grave of Baseball Hall of Inductee Pete Hill

Pete Hill’s baseball legacy can be summed up among the 75 words inscribed on his Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown. Listed among his career accomplishments, Hill is characterized as a left-handed line drive hitter with exceptional bat control who hit to all fields and who roamed centerfield with a combination of speed, range and a rifle arm.

During his career with the Philadelphia Giants, Leland Giants, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Milwaukee Bears and Baltimore Black Sox in the old Negro Leagues, Hill became known as one of baseball’s most consistent hitters. While playing with Detroit in 1919, Hill clubbed 28 home runs – one shy of the number Babe Ruth had hit while playing in more games.

Grad Student Finds Footage of 1915 Chicago Ship Disaster

A graduate student has found the first-known film clips of the SS Eastland ship disaster that left 844 people dead in 1915. The ship was headed to a company picnic when it capsized in the Chicago River. 2,500 people were on board and on their way to a company picnic when the ship capsized in the Chicago River, killing 844. The accident was the deadliest accident in the history of Chicago.

Jeff Nichols, a University of Illinois at Chicago Ph.D. candidate, recently discovered 100-year-old film clips of the SS Eastland disaster. The first Eastland clip lasts 55 seconds and shows volunteers and first responders walking on the hull of the ship. The second, which is 30 seconds, shows the Eastland being righted.

All’s Fair in Love and Classified Ads

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Boston.com has published an article about marital problems advertised for 300 years in American newspapers’ classified ads. Newspapers ran advertisements from men publicly announcing their wives had left them, and that they would no longer “be responsible for her debts.” Hundreds of thousands of ads like these ran in virtually every newspaper across the country, from small town weeklies to The Boston Globe and The New York Times. The tradition lasted into the mid 1980s, when the ads largely stopped appearing.

£10 Million Magna Carta found Hidden in Scrapbook

An edition of the Magna Carta which could be worth up to £10 million ($15.26 million US dollars) has been found after it lay forgotten in a council’s archives.

The discovery of the version of the historical parchment which established the principle of the rule of law, in the files of the history department of Kent County Council, has been described as an important historical find by an expert. The discovery was made by archivist Dr Mark Bateson at the end of December just before the 800th anniversary year celebrations of King John’s concession.

Details may be found in an article in the ITV News at http://goo.gl/ttqdkN.

How Kim Kardashian’s Ancestors Escaped from the Armenian Genocide

I normally don’t pay attention to articles about the ancestry or the relatives of celebrities. However, a recent article about the horrors endured by the Kardashian family 100 years ago strikes me as a notable exception.

The family fled Tsarist Russia in the early twentieth century at a time when many of their relatives and neighbors were being slaughtered solely because of their ethnicity.

Founders Online

Founders Online is a tool for seamless searching across the papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. It is a fully searchable online database of over 165,000 documents, including thousands of documents that have not yet appeared in the published volumes. While the focus is on these founding fathers, their papers include the names and activities of many of the people they dealt with. You might find an ancestor listed in the database and, if so, the information might show what he or she did during the American Revolution.

Les Filles du Roi

If you have French-Canadian ancestry, you probably have encountered the term “Filles du Roi” at some point in your genealogy research. Millions of today’s Canadians and Americans can find one or more of the Filles du Roi in the family tree. I thought I would explain the term this week and also provide some historical background information.

The French term “Filles du Roi” translates literally as “the daughters of the King.” Between 700 and perhaps 1,000 young, single women traveled to Quebec City, Trois Rivières, and Montréal from 1663 to 1673 as a part of a program managed by the Jesuits and funded by King Louis XIV.

Jean Talon, Bishop François de Laval and several settlers welcome the King’s Daughters upon their arrival. Painting by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale.

These hardy immigrant women married and raised families. In fact, many of them raised large families in the tradition of the day. Many of their sons and daughters went on to also have large families, and so on and so forth for generations. As a result, millions of living people are descended from this group of pioneer women.

A South Texas Internment Camp for German-American Citizens during World War II

Click on the above image to view a Larger version.

The hardships endured by Japanese-Americans who suffered forced relocation and incarceration during World War II are well documented and well-known. The rationale is that these Americans of Japanese ancestry might have been spies. However, Japan was not the only nation at war with the United States and not the only nation to have sent emigrants to the United States.

Americans of German descent were also sent to internment camps. One thing I found interesting is that many of the detainees were pawns traded for “more important” Americans held behind enemy lines during and after the war.


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