The UCSB Library Invites You to Discover and Listen to its Online Archive of Cylinder Recordings

Do you remember cylinder recordings? Of course not. They became obsolete long before you were born. However, my grandmother had a few of them when I was a child although the cylinders were obsolete even then. (I’m not THAT old!)

Cylinder recordings

Welcome to the modern, digital, and online 21st century! Many of those old recordings are now available online. Yes, you can listen to the same music that some of your ancestors listened to. In those days, the devices were not called phonographs. Instead, they were “graphophones.”

Comment: I don’t think any of the recordings will ever win a modern-day Grammy Award! When I say these are old, I mean they are REALLY OLD. They are scratchy and very much low fidelity. But they still will interest many of us who are trying to imagine what our ancestors used for entertainment.

Edison Graphophone

Book Review: Strange, Amazing, and Funny Events that Happened during the Revolutionary War

The following Book Reviews were written by Bobbi King:

Strange, Amazing, and Funny Events that Happened during the Revolutionary War
By Jack Darrell Crowder. Genealogical Publ. Co. 2019. 145 pages.

The First 24 Hours of the American Revolution
An Hour by Hour Account of the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and the British Retreat on Battle Road
By Jack Darrell Crowder. Genealogical Publ. Co. 2018. 129 pages.

Jack Darrell Crowder taught school. And I’m guessing he taught history. And I’m guessing he jump-started a love of history for a lot of students who discovered a new excitement for history, because if he enriched his classes with such stories as he’s written into his books, then his teaching has left a personal legacy.

The Story Behind the German Jewish War Hero Honored on Both Sides of the Atlantic, Decades Apart

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. A beautiful story is featured today on CNN, made possible thanks to the dedicated efforts of the MyHeritage Research Team.

According to the MyHeritage Research Team:

“An iconic 1933 photo of Jewish shopkeeper Richard Stern standing defiantly outside his shop in Cologne, Germany, sparked the interest of our Research team, who noticed the Iron Cross on his lapel as a Nazi soldier [Correction: He is a brown shirt: a member of Hitler’s Nazi party] stands guard a few feet away. Using MyHeritage family trees and SuperSearch™, our researchers traced Stern’s incredible personal story from that day in Cologne and across the Atlantic Ocean. What they revealed was an inspiring story of hope and determination starring a real-life hero.”

You can read the article by CNN reporter Lianne Kolirin at: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/27/europe/richard-stern-photo-grm-scli-intl/index.html.

‘People Not Property’ Aims to Create Statewide Database of Slave Deeds in North Carolina

When Deshawn Elam started college at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University , an Historically Black College (HBCU) in Greensboro, N.C., he thought he would become a history teacher. But life changed his plans.

One of his first classes introduced Elam to digital archiving.

“I’ve always been someone who’s interested in seeing actual history, like having it in my hands,” Elam says. “So, I was always fascinated with trying to preserve that history and trying to hold it physically.”

Buncombe SlaveDeed

“Slave deeds,” documents testifying to the sale of enslaved people, were stored in county Register of Deeds offices. One of the first people who began digitizing these records and making them public was Drew Reisinger, the Register of Deeds for Buncombe County, North Carolina. The Buncombe County’s registry office has documents dating to the 1700s, and it has approximately 300 slave deeds.

How You can Help the City of Seattle Document and Decode History

I suspect many genealogists will be interested in helping with this project. From the King5 News web site:

“The Seattle Municipal Archives department works to transcribe documents that tell Seattle’s story- and now, they’re asking for your help.

“Seattle is rich with history- and the archivists at the Seattle Municipal Archives keep it all safe and accounted for. But as dedicated as they are, this time, they need some help.

Destroyed Identities – the Digital Reconstruction of Auschwitz-Birkenau Victims’ Data

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is dedicated to the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp in Oświecim, Poland. The museum is attempting to identify all the former prisoners who were incarcerated there. According to the museum’s web site:

“More than 1,200,000 entries from the post-camp documentation have been created by the Digital Repository of the Memorial Site. So far, more than 60 per cent of the 400,000 prisoners registered in the German Nazi concentration camp have been identified.

Human Remains Found in Idaho Cave Identified as Outlaw Who Died Over 100 Years Ago

Talk about a “cold case!” Joseph Loveless most likely died in 1916 at age 46. His remains were preserved in a Cave for as long as 63 years, researchers say.

The dismembered and headless John Doe, whose remains were found in the Civil Defense Caves near Dubois, Idaho, in 1979 and 1991, was identified as those of Joseph Henry Loveless. His remarkably preserved remains are thought to have been placed in the caves in 1916.

You can read the full story in an article by Janelle Griffith in the NBC News web site at: https://nbcnews.to/39BgYO4.

While the human remains have been identified, the “cold case” is not yet solved. The cause of death has not yet been determined. If Joseph Loveless was the victim of a crime, such as murder, the perpetuator also has not yet been identified. Admittedly, for a crime committed 63 years, the perpetrator probably will not be arrested. He or she probably is deceased by now. Of course, Joseph Loveless may have died of natural causes.

My thanks to the several newsletter readers who wrote to tell me about this story.

How Artificial Intelligence is Helping Identify Thousands of Unknown Civil War Soldiers

Norman Spencer Pierce

Another great use of modern technology:

David Morin in Exeter, N.H. owns a collection of more than 260 Civil War military pictures. Until now, many of the men in the photos remained a mystery to him — but in the course of the last year, he identified many of them by using Civil War Photo Sleuth, a website that uses facial recognition technology, a form of artificial intelligence (A.I.), to identify the men in such photos. And in 2020 the site is planning to add a new feature, after a successful test: a way for users to get second opinions on potential photo matches.

“Today history is so much better documented and the chances of things living on are so much greater,” says Morin.

Old Manchester, Connecticut Newspapers are being Digitized

Wouldn’t it be nice if ALL old newspapers were digitized and made available online? One genealogist is doing just that. According to an article by Jesse Leavenworth in The Hartford Courant web site at: http://bit.ly/2Sj0wMf:

Scrolling through newspaper microfilm last year with little sense of how long the search would take, Noreen Cullen remembered mumbling in frustration and “probably saying some bad words along the way.”

“I thought to myself, ‘This is 2018. Why am I still using microfilm?’” the Manchester native and genealogist said.

Front page of the Manchester Evening Herald, which was published for a little over a century before shutting down in 1991. (Manchester Historical Society)

A French-Canadian Christmas – Holiday Traditions from the Era of New France and Beyond

If you are researching your French-Canadian ancestry, you undoubtedly will want to read Kim Kujawski’s new article: A French-Canadian Christmas – Holiday Traditions from the Era of New France and Beyond.

The article’s introduction states:

“It’s that time of year… Christmas cards, decorations, Christmas trees, over-indulgence and, to the delight of some and the chagrin of others, non-stop holiday music everywhere. These “traditions” are all fairly recent. As a genealogist and history-geek, I’ve often thought about my French-Canadian ancestors and how they might have celebrated the Christmas holidays centuries ago. Did they come together with friends and family as we do? Or was Christmas mostly a religious holiday?”

Of course, I was interested in the article. After all, my family tree is 50% French-Canadian. (Thanks Mom!)

“The Return from Midnight Mass”, 1919 painting by J. Edmond Massicotte (BAnQ numérique)

The article focuses on family traditions during a series of evening festivities that lasted until the Feast of Kings, celebrated on January 6th (also called Three Kings’ Day or Epiphany). These were the “twelve days of Christmas”. Most of these traditions were common across French-Canadian groups: Québécois, Franco-Ontarians and Acadians.

The Book Your Ancestors Read: The Old Farmers Almanac

It’s official: the 2020 edition of The Old Farmers Almanac is now out in the stores. If your ancestors have been in the United States for a few generations, there’s an excellent chance that your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and even earlier generations read this same book. After all, it has been published every year since 1793, making it the oldest continuously published periodical in North America.

In fact, it wasn’t only our ancestors that read The Old Farmers Almanac. I well remember reading it cover-to-cover every year when I was growing up on a small farm in rural Maine! I am sure many others will do the same with the new 2020 edition.

Robert B. Thomas started publishing The Farmers Almanac in 1793. George Washington was president at the time. The Almanac sold for six pence (about nine cents). The Farmers Almanac quickly became the most popular publication of its kind. Nearly forty years later, in 1832, Thomas added the word “old” to the title. He apparently had a change of heart in 1836 when he removed the word “old” from the title. The word was re-inserted a year later, after Thomas’ death.

A New Online Database: “Enslaved: Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade”

From the Smithsonian Magazine web site:

A detail from a page in a 1767 slave inventory from Maranhao, Brazil. It lists the household slaves belonging to a judge in the city, including their ages and birthplaces. (Walter Hawthorne III)

The study of the historic slave trade depends on numbers—the 12.5 million people kidnapped from Africa and shipped to the New World between 1525 and 1866, the 10.7 million who survived the two-month voyage, the 3.9 million enslaved in the United States just before the Civil War. These figures are horrifying, but at the same time their very enormousness can have a numbing effect, which is why contemporary historians are increasingly turning to biography.

“Individual stories make a difference,” says Leslie Harris, a historian at Northwestern University, who writes about and teaches the history of slavery. “We do need to know the vast numbers that we’re talking about, that this was the largest forced migration in history, but when you begin to talk about these big concepts in terms of individual lives, you can better understand what these things mean.”

Georgia Civil War and Reconstruction Newspapers now Freely Available Online

As part of a $27,405.00 grant from the R. J. Taylor, Jr. Foundation, the Digital Library of Georgia has digitized over 100,000 pages of Georgia newspaper titles published from 1861 to 1877 from microfilm held by the Georgia Newspaper Project.

The project creates full-text searchable versions of the newspapers and presents them online for free in its Georgia Historic Newspapers database at gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu in accordance with technical guidelines developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress for the National Digital Newspaper Program.

You can read more in an article by Mandy Mastrovita in the blog of the Digital Library of Georgia at: https://blog.dlg.galileo.usg.edu/?p=7430.

Gas Prices in 1939

Those were simpler (and cheaper) times!


Retrieval of Irish Archive Lost in 1922 Fire ‘Astounding’, Historian Says

Two days into the Civil War, a massive explosion destroyed the Public Records Office attached to Dublin’s Four Courts and with it hundreds of years of documented history, resulting in a huge loss for genealogists, historians, and many others who depend upon such records.

The census records for the whole of the 19th century going back to the first in 1821 were incinerated. Chancery records, detailing British rule in Ireland going back to the 14th century and grants of land by the crown, were also destroyed along with thousands of wills and title deeds. The records of various chief secretaries to Ireland and centuries of Church of Ireland parish registers vanished in the fire.

The Stories You Learned in School about the First Thanksgiving Weren’t very Accurate

Most every schoolchild in the U.S. has heard the story about the First Thanksgiving, as celebrated in Plimoth, Massachusetts.

NOTE #1: It wasn’t the first Thanksgiving held in North America but that is another story for another time…

Most school children are taught that the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 with the Pilgrims and Indians holding a feast that celebrated the bountiful harvest of the first summer in the New World.

Arolsen Archives Offers an Online Database of Information about the Victims of Nazi Persecution

Here are some quotes from the Arolsen Archives web site:

“After the Second World War, the Allied occupying powers were faced with a mammoth task: they wanted to document the crimes committed by the National Socialists and search for missing persons. In order to do so, they collected information about the victims of Nazi persecution. In the American Zone of Occupation alone, this resulted in the creation of around 850,000 documents containing information on ten million names. The Arolsen Archives have now put this collection of documents online.”


Native American Genealogy in the New York City Area

The following is an excerpt from an article by Natiba Guy-Clement published in the Brooklyn Library’s web site :

Tribal leaders and historians from Canada, Delaware, Oklahoma and the Lenape Center here in New York, engaged with us about their history, customs and traditions. From Chief Chester Brooks, the oldest chief in attendance, we learned about 7 generations of his family bloodline that he was able to recite to us from memory. This was quite a privilege for me to witness, the oral recitation of family ties that takes genealogists time and effort to compile. I learned that it was borne out of the aftermath of colonization, since many families were decimated or reduced very quickly, it was necessary to know who your family was to prevent intermarriage. Other Tribal representatives shared their stories about the present conditions of their respective groups and talked about their efforts to educate newer generations about their history and culture.

The ‘Baby Killer’ Drug

It is a wonder that any of our ancestors survived childhood and then went on to have descendants, including you or me.

A 19th century ad for Winslow’s Soothing Syrup shows happy children and a resting mother. The morphine-laced patent medicine was invented in Maine and sold by Bangor druggist Jeremiah Curtis. It made him a millionaire and killed an unknown number of children.

Witches in Your Family Tree

This is the time of year for ghosts, goblins, and other such superstitions. However, perhaps it is also a time to pause and reflect on the horrors of those who suffered in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. The witches of Salem and nearby towns probably have hundreds of thousands of present-day descendants. If you have ancestry from early Essex County, Massachusetts, you have an excellent chance of finding a connection to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

Circa 1692, The trial of George Jacobs for witchcraft at the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

Circa 1692, The trial of George Jacobs for witchcraft at the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

Salem, Massachusetts, and the surrounding towns in Essex County were amongst the first settled in this country. Most of the towns were established prior to 1640. By the time of the witchcraft trials of 1692, a complete legal system of courts and clerks was well established. Records were written, and many of them have been preserved. Even if your ancestors are not among those accused, it is quite possible that you can find them mentioned as witnesses, those who gave depositions, or perhaps even those who served on a jury.