History

Lost Photos Mystery Solved

Two weeks ago police in Glasgow issued an unusual lost property appeal. A collection of old photos, perhaps treasured family memorabilia, had been found at a department store. Solving the mystery revealed an unexpected link to one of the darkest moments in the history of the BBC.

The photographs had been found in Glasgow’s John Lewis store last year and handed in to police. With no-one coming forward to claim them and thinking they may have sentimental value, officers posted them on social media.

Newspapers and websites picked up the story and soon a team of amateur sleuths and genealogists were working on the puzzle. It wasn’t long before the mystery began to unravel. Much of the detective work was skillfully provided by genealogist Sue Wright.

You can read the interesting story by Calum Watson in the BBC Scotland News website at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-47359945.

My thanks to newsletter reader John Rees for telling me about this interesting story.

We Are The Roots: Black Settlers and Their Experiences of Discrimination on the Canadian Prairies

The following announcement is from the Genealogy à la carte blog by Gail Dever at http://genealogyalacarte.ca/?p=27135:

Winner of the 2018 Alberta Historical Resources Foundation 2018 Heritage Awareness award, We Are The Roots is a documentary that tells the stories of African American immigrants who settled in Alberta and Saskatchewan in the early 1900s.

Thousands of advertisements were distributed by the Canadian Government via posters, pamphlets, and in American newspapers, encouraging Americans to move to the “Last Best West” where 160 acres of land could be purchased for a registration fee of $10.

Freedom on the Move launches Database of Fugitives from American Slavery

This new database will help many genealogists seeking their slave ancestors. Even better, if you already have information about a slave ancestor who escaped, or attempted to escape, those bonds, you can contribute the information you have in order to help future genealogists, historians, and others.

Freedom on the Move (FOTM) is an online project devoted to fugitives from slavery in North America The site’s owners are enlisting the help of the public to create a database for tens of thousands of advertisements placed by enslavers who wanted to recapture self-liberating Africans and African-Americans.

The ads were placed in newspapers by enslavers trying to locate fugitives and by jailers wanting to return captured fugitives to the enslavers claiming them as “property.” The ads offered monetary rewards and included a wealth of personal details about the fugitives’ appearance, mannerisms, clothing, speech, family members, places of origin and destinations. The insights the ads provide into the experiences of enslaved Africans and African-Americans are especially valuable because so little information about them as individuals has been preserved.

Do You Remember the Slide Rule?

It wasn’t all that long ago that engineers, astronauts, mathematicians, and students proudly carried the original pocket calculator. I had one and thought I was proficient at it. Sadly, I misplaced it years ago.

The slide rule was a simple device with one sliding part that could do complex mathematical calculations in moments. Multiplication, division, roots, logarithms, and even trigonometry could be performed with ease. But as technology marched forward with sophisticated computers and graphing pocket calculators, the lowly slide rule was forgotten.

Tracing the Founding Fathers of Tristan da Cunha

Would you like to create a pedigree chart for this extended family?

Tristan da Cunha is a remote group of volcanic islands in the middle of nowhere. It is in the south Atlantic Ocean, approximately 1,511 miles (2,432 km) off the coast of Cape Town in South Africa. That is roughly half way between South Africa and Brazil The main island has 278 permanent inhabitants who all carry British Overseas Territories citizenship.

See Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristan_da_Cunha for more information about Tristan da Cunha.

The island, which boasts rich and detailed historical and genealogical records, has a population of just 300, believed to have descended from 15 ancestors – seven men and eight women who arrived on the island between 1816 and 1908. The current population of 278 individuals reportedly are all descended from only seven females and eight males.

Remains of Explorer who put Australia on the Map found under Euston Station

Archaeologists excavating an abandoned burial ground under Euston Station in London have uncovered the remains of the Royal Navy explorer Captain Matthew Flinders, who led the first expedition to circumnavigate Australia in 1802 and gave the country its name. Identified by a lead plate on his coffin, Captain Flinders’ grave is one of 40,000 human burials that are being relocated to make way for the HS2 high-speed railway’s London terminus.

Today is Thomas Crapper Day!

thomas-crapperThomas Crapper was a plumber in the late 19th century who founded Thomas Crapper & Co. Ltd. in London. He is widely (but erroneously) credited with invention of the flush toilet.

Thomas Crapper’s date of birth is unknown but a record exists of his baptism in Thorne, Yorkshire, on September 28, 1836. He died January 27, 1910 so that date every year is dedicated to his memory because of all he did for England and the rest of the world.

Actually, Crapper did not invent the flushing toilet. It was invented by John Harington in 1596 but it never achieved much success commercially. Most people had never seen a flush toilet until after the 1880s. Crapper improved the design and used his skills as a shrewd businessman and salesperson to make it extremely popular. His company, Thomas Crapper & Co, owned the world’s first bath, toilet and sink showroom, in King’s Road, London, England.

Cullman County, Alabama, Historic Photographs Online

Wallace State Community College’s Genealogy online collection features photographs from Cullman County’s past for the public’s use. Wallace State’s Library has collected many other photographs over the years including an entire defunct newspaper’s archives. Those images will join the other collections on the Wallace State website at wallacestate.edu/library/genealogy.

Croom Family Reunion 1930

The David Rumsey Map Collection Places a 42×38 foot 1940 WPA San Francisco Model Online

“But my computer monitor isn’t big enough to display that!”

Seriously, if you have ancestors in San Francisco or have any other interest in the city as it existed in 1940, you will be interested in the scale model of San Francisco.

Thousands of Ottoman-Era Photographs from Turkey are now Online

If you have ancestors from Turkey, you will be interested in a new online collection of photographs. The digitization project focused on photographs from the nineteenth century until World War I (Series I–VIII), resulting in 3,750 individual records of digital files.

Pierre de Gigord Collection of Photographs of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey, 1850-1958

French collector Pierre de Gigord traveled to Turkey and collected thousands of Ottoman-era photographs in a variety of media and formats. The resulting Pierre de Gigord Collection is now housed in the Getty Research Institute, which recently digitized over 12,000 of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century photographs, making them available to study and download for free online.

Report on Josh Duhamel’s appearance on “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. star Josh Duhamel was the celebrity guest on this week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are?. He found some unnerving information about one of his distant ancestors, including interrogation and torture.

Duhamel traveled to England to investigate the extraordinary life of his twelve times great-grandfather, Thomas Norton. A visit to the Tower of London, the U.K. College of Arms, and Cambridge University resulted in Duhamel examining numerous original documents written in the 1500s.

You can see a bit more of the program in the following video:

World War I Newspaper Clippings, 1914 to 1926, are Now Available Online

Quoting from the Library of Congress web site:

“The massive collection, World War History: Newspaper Clippings, 1914 to 1926, is now fully digitized and freely available on the Library of Congress website. The 79,621 pages are packed with war-related front pages, illustrated feature articles, editorial cartoons, and more. You can search by keywords, browse the content chronologically, and download pages.

AT&T More-or-Less Accurately Predicted the Future in 1993

In 1993, AT&T produced a series of television advertisements that surely seemed like science fiction at the time. The company proclaimed that in 25 years (that’s in 2018), AT&T would help you watch the movie you wanted to watch at any time that is convenient to you, attend a meeting remotely from your home, have telephone communications on a wristwatch, keep an eye on your home when you are not at home, and even get directions from your car. Indeed, such things were unheard of only 25 years ago.

Yet today we accept Netflix, GoToMeeting, Apple Watch, GPS devices, and many other “science fiction” capabilities as common, everyday services.

You can watch the AT&T ads in a YouTube video (who ever dreamed of YouTube in 1993?) below or at: https://youtu.be/a2EgfkhC1eo.

There were a Number of Thanksgiving Celebrations in North America Prior to 1621

As you sit down to enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner, please don’t make the mistake of referring to the Pilgrims and “the first Thanksgiving.” They weren’t the first.

Spanish documents show the first recorded meal between European colonists and Native Americans happened on the grounds of what is now the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, Florida in 1565. However, that may or may not be considered as a meal of “thanksgiving.” They fact that they ate together doesn’t automatically qualify as giving thanks.

It is believed that the first recorded Thanksgiving celebration was held in April 1598 in Nuevo Mexico, about 25 miles south of what is now El Paso, Texas (which puts it in present-day Mexico, not the U.S.)

I wrote about that many years ago in the November 25, 2002 edition of newsletter which is still available at: http://www.eogn.com/archives/news0247.htm.

The Real Story About Thanksgiving You’ve Probably Never Heard

Millions of American schoolchildren are taught that the Pilgrims landed at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. Many of the Pilgrims died in the first few months. However, almost a year later, the Pilgrims celebrated a feast of thanksgiving to celebrate their bountiful harvest from their first year of crops.

That part of the story is true. Almost everything else we have been told about the Pilgrims’ early years  is either false or misleading.

The story actually begins in 1614, six years before the Pilgrims landed in modern-day Massachusetts. An Englishman named Thomas Hunt kidnapped Tisquantum from his village, Patuxet, which was part of a group of villages known as the Wampanoag confederation. Most of today’s history books mistakenly refer to Tisquantum as “Squanto.”

Civil War Facial Recognition

Photography was a new technology at the time of the U.S. Civil War. An estimated 40 million photos were taken during the Civil war – although only four million are believed to remain today. Many have been treated as heirloom photos by families ever since. Still others are valuable for their historical value. One problem is that many of the people shown in the old photographs have never been identified, until now.

In a marriage of the latest technology and 150-year-old technology, computerized facial recognition techniques are now identifying many of the people in the old photographs.

Computer scientist and history buff Kurt Luther created a free-to-use website, called Civil War Photo Sleuth, that uses facial recognition technology to cross-reference vintage photographs with a database and hopefully assign a name to unknown subjects.

New Suspect in D.B. Cooper Skyjacking Case Unearthed

1972 FBI Composite Drawing of DB Cooper

This isn’t genealogy. Instead, let’s file this article under “History.” Whatever the classification, I find it interesting.

On Nov. 24, 1971, a man using the name Dan Cooper hijacked Northwest Orient Flight 305 out of Portland and demanded money — a lot of it. “Do you have a grudge against Northwest?” a flight attendant asked Cooper during the skyjacking.

His response: “I don’t have a grudge against your airline, Miss. I just have a grudge.”

A U.S. Army officer with a security clearance and a “solid professional reputation” believes he has now solved the infamous D.B. Cooper skyjacking case — naming a partnership of two now-dead men in New Jersey who have never before been suspected, “possibly breaking wide open the only unsolved skyjacking case in U.S. history,” according to the Oregonian.

The evidence certainly isn’t conclusive nor is it air tight. But there are some interesting coincidences.

Over 60 Million Pages of Digitized Canadian Documentary Heritage soon to be Available at No Charge

As of January 1, 2019, 60 million pages of Canadian digital documentary heritage will be available at no charge to users. The Canadiana collections are the largest online collections of early textual Canadiana in the world. The removal of the subscription paywall will allow unimpeded access to this unique historical content for researchers, students, faculty, and all users in Canada and around the world.

The full announcement may be found in the Canadian Research Knowledge Network web site at: http://bit.ly/2PZXLyH.

International Tracing Service Adds 900, 000 Post-War Records Making Over 2 Million Records Available Online

The following is an announcement written by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

The International Tracing Service (ITS) added 900,000 post-war documents online. This brings the total of number of documents freely available in the online archive to over 2 million. One can search by name. The newly added documents contain approximately 405,000 names of Holocaust survivors, former concentration camp inmates and forced laborers. They were under the care of the International Refugee Organization (IRO) in Austria, Italy, Switzerland and England after World War II.

Sometimes Things Don’t Turn Out as You Expected

I was chatting with a friend of mine this evening, using Signal, the encrypted app for cell phones that provides text messaging, voice calls, and two-way video calls.

No, that’s not me or my friend. That is a promotional image for Signal. But it looks about the same as our two-way video call of today.

For years, futurists claimed that some day we all would have two-way video phones. Indeed, we do. Signal, FaceTime, Duo, Skype, and probably a dozen or so other apps all offer 2-way-video calls today and they are available free of charge.

Still… it didn’t work out exactly as predicted. For instance, here is a woman talking on a movie producer’s vision of the future videophone in the 1955 short film The Future is Now: