History

(+) Tracing the History of Your House

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. \

Perhaps you have spent a lot of effort studying your family’s history. However, have you ever considered studying the history of the family’s home – either the home in which you live or perhaps the ancestral home in which your parents or grandparents lived? To be sure, many families may have lived in the same house, sharing the joys and tragedies of family life throughout the years. Are you curious who they were and perhaps what their experiences were? Who built your house? When was it built, and by whom? What did it cost? Who were the previous owners and residents? What did the interior and exterior originally look like? Those questions can usually be answered by a bit of investigation. In fact, you can create a social genealogy: facts about the owners and residents of the house.

The Richmond Headlight is now Digitized and Available Online at DigitalNC

From the Digital North Carolina Blog:

“43 issues of the Richmond Headlight have been newly added to DigitalNC and are available now. These are the first issues of the Richmond Headlight to be digitized and uploaded to DigitalNC, covering from March 1901 to September 1906. It is also the first newspaper on DigitalNC from Richmond County. Published as a weekly newspaper in Rockingham, the Richmond Headlight advertised itself as the “only Democratic paper in the county” at the time. As the newspaper folded in late 1906, this batch may represent the entirety of the Richmond Headlight‘s circulation still in known existence, completing the collection.”

You can read more in the Digital North Carolina Blog at http://bit.ly/2PAfKrK.

Russia in Color: Photos of Life Before the Revolution

The photographs of Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky provide a fascinating study of the Russian Empire from 1909 to 1915. They will be especially interesting with ancestors from these paces as the photos show the every-day lives of the Russians. Unlike most photographs of that period, Prokudin-Gorsky’s photos are in color.

Russian settlers in what is now Azerbaijan, 1910

As stated on the web site displaying the photographs:

The South Carolina State Library is Working on a Project to Digitize Federal Civil War Documents

The South Carolina State Library is working with the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia, SC, to scan and digitize hundreds of documents from the Colin J. McRae Papers, Huse Audit Series. Huse was a Confederate purchasing agent for the breakaway states’ Ordinance Department in Britain.”

“It’s a collection of original invoices and correspondences that list goods and services purchased from England by the Confederate military,” Digital Curation and Preservation Librarian Jessica Dame said. “The goods and services include things like weapons, cloth for uniforms, food, medication, freight.”

Riding a Bicycle Used to be Considered Immoral

Here is an interesting footnote to anyone studying the lives of their ancestors. Writing in the JSTOR Daily web site, Livia Gershon describes the morality of riding a bicycle in the 1890s. Amongst other things, Gershon states: “The bicycle craze of the 19th century, in which both men and women participated, was seen as a moral affront by church leaders.”

For one thing, “Cycling women often wore bloomers that were much like men’s pants and were widely seen as indecent.” Another statement caught my eye: “The Women’s Rescue League of Boston even claimed that, following the closing of brothels, prostitutes were riding bikes to reach their clients.”

Did your ancestors have similar views? Or were they bicyclists? Bicycling was a very, very popular activity in the 1880s through the early 1900s, until automobiles became the preferred method of conveyance.

You can read Livia Gershon’s article at: https://daily.jstor.org/the-moral-threat-of-bicycles-in-the-1890s.

Near-80-year-old Note Found amid Construction on Water Street Bridge in Albany, Indiana

Construction workers rehabilitating a Delaware County bridge were in for a blast from the past when they found an apparent piece of the bridge’s history lodged in a concrete pillar.

Town Marshal Shannon Henry said crews were using a jackhammer to break up concrete at Bridge 701 along Water Street in Albany last week when a tattered slip of paper encased in a glass jar fell out. Though the glass didn’t withstand the fall, a worker picked up the paper, at first thinking it was trash.

“List of last crew working on this bridge,” the note read, followed by a list of 17 names of people — carpenters, cement finishers and laborers — who supposedly worked on the structure between July 1938 and June 1939.

View Hundreds of Hours of Free Vintage Films with Prelinger’s Archives

Prelinger’s Archives is a collection of thousands of hours of films that have been digitized and made available to you online. These are a varied collection of “ephemeral” films: those sponsored by corporations and organizations, educational films, and amateur and home movies, mostly from the early to mid-twentieth century. You probably won’t find much information about your ancestors in these films but they will show you the environment in which your more recent ancestors lived. And, yes, for many of us these will show the environments that WE lived in when we were young.

Founded in 1983, Prelinger’s collection has amassed to over 60,000 films, 65% of which are said to be orphan works, meaning they lack copyright owners and active custodians. The films can be watched online or, if you prefer, downloaded and saved to your computer’s hard drive(s) or flash drives. All the films are available free online, thanks to hosting by the Internet Archive.

Our Ancestors Used to Stink

Let’s face. Our ancestors used to smell. You probably won’t read about personal hygiene in history books but the historians all will tell you attention to one’s body odors was more-or-less unknown until recent years. The “good old days” may have been good but they also were smelly.

Writing in the Irish Examiner, Robert Hume investigates what our ancestors did to keep themselves cool and deal with body odor. Or, as the Irish write it, “odour.”

Here are a few of Hume’s statements:

“The fondness for bathing stopped once the medieval church warned of the evils of nudity. In Europe, bathhouses were closed down in the 14th century as a way of trying to check the spread of plague.”

“Aristocrats were often as dirty as peasants. A visitor to King Louis XVI’s court at Versailles described it as a ‘stinking cesspit’”.

The 1800s: When Americans Drank Whiskey Like it was Water

Our American ancestors seemed to like to drink… a lot. According to an article by Jim Vorel in PasteMagazine.com:

The Ale-House Door, a painting by Henry Singleton. c. 1790.

“By 1700, the colonists drank fermented peach juice, hard apple cider, and rum, which they imported from the West Indies or distilled from West Indian molasses. Drinking was an important part of the culture, and people passed around jugs or bowls of liquor at barbecues, on market days, and at elections. Candidates gave away free drinks. A stingy candidate had no chance of winning. Practically everyone drank. Even restrained New Englanders consumed great quantities of liquor. The Puritans called alcohol the ‘Good Creature of God,’ a holy substance to be taken proudly yet cautiously.”

He goes on to note: “By 1770, Americans consumed alcohol routinely with every meal. Many people began the day with an ‘eye opener’ and closed it with a nightcap. People of all ages drank, including toddlers, who finished off the heavily sugared portion at the bottom of a parent’s mug of rum toddy. Each person consumed about three and a half gallons of alcohol per year.”

Archaeologists May Have Unearthed the nearly 400-Year-Old Skeleton of America’s Second Governor

A group of archaeologists unearthed a skeleton they think belongs to the man who presided over the first representative government assembly in the Western Hemisphere. Now, they have to prove it’s really him.

Archaeologists in Jamestown, Virginia — North America’s first permanent British settlement — began excavating the site almost two years ago. After many months of work, they spent this weekend uncovering what could be the grave of Sir George Yeardley, one of Jamestown’s early leaders.

What impresses me in the story is the ground-penetrating radar technology used to find the burial place and the use of DNA and genealogy to track down any living descendants to match the descendants’ DNA to that collected from the remains. If successful, that will prove the identity of the newly-found skeleton.

The interesting story by Jessica Campisi and Brandon Griggs may be found on the CNN News web site at: http://alturl.com/yh8bv.

Beware of Paraskevidekatriaphobia

friday-the-13thToday is Friday the 13th this week. For many people, this means an attack of paraskevidekatriaphobia or a fear of Friday the thirteenth. Paraskevidekatriaphobia is derived from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”).

The origins of this fear are are not well known, but several theories exist. One claim is that it originates from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th day of the Jewish month of Nissan, known to Christians as Maundy Thursday, the night before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion on Good Friday. While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.

Other theories abound as well.

The Disappearing Story of the Black Homesteaders who Pioneered the West

An article by Richard Edwards in the Washington Post tells of a significant piece of American history that is in danger of disappearing. The once vibrant African American homesteading communities are now falling to ruin, their locations are mostly unmarked, and the achievements of their pioneers are mostly forgotten.

Edwards writes:

“These places are precious not just to descendants but to all Americans, and their loss is a national shame. The homesteading story is usually told as one of white Americans’ westward movement. But the 1862 Homestead Act had no racial restrictions, and after the 1866 Civil Rights Act clarified that black Americans were citizens, they too were entitled to 160 acres of public land if they paid a modest fee and lived on the property continuously for five years.

Past Predictions about the Future of Electricity

On March 29, 1879, a widely circulated newspaper called the American Register published a scathing editorial stating that “it is doubtful if electricity will ever be [widely] used” because it was too expensive to generate.

Several months later, the Select Committee on Lighting and Electricity in the British House of Commons held hearings on electricity, with experts stating that there was not “the slightest chance” that the world would run on electric power generation. In 1879, electricity was still considered an expensive fantasy.

Thomas Edison contradicted those statements a few months later, on New Years Eve. Edison publicly unveiled his incandescent light bulb in Menlo Park. At the time he allegedly stated “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.”

London Blitz: Where the Bombs Fell

File this under “History.” A new web site takes information about 43,000 casualties and more than 50,000 tons of high-explosive bombs that fell on London and displays all of the information on an interactive map.

Thanks to Geographer Dr Kate Jones and her team at the University of Portsmouth, you can now see exactly where the bombs fell. The map, which was funded by charity JISC, uses data previously available only by viewing in the Reading Room at The National Archives. Now it is available to anyone who wishes to explore where the bombs fell. The map also includes any further information, photographs, and memories available from that period and place.

View a Rare Copy of United States Declaration of Independence… in London

American schoolchildren always learn of the United States Declaration of Independence, printed July 4, 1776. They are also told that a copy (not the original) is on view at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.

The same schoolchildren may or may not be told that 200 copies were printed on July 4, 1776. What they usually are not told is that at least 26 copies are known to still exist. What fascinates me is that three of those copies are held in one place: The National Archives in Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England.

Yes, The National Archives of Great Britain has more original 1776 copies than does the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Celebrating Immigration on the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is a celebration of the nation’s birth. But it has historically also been a celebration of a country that defines itself by its incorporation of people from around the world through immigration. Historian Ellen M. Litwicki explains that this was especially true in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Chicago, where Independence Day celebrations were mainly organized by immigrant groups.

You can read the full article at http://bit.ly/2IMpTh8.

4,800 Welsh Portraits added to Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata

Over the last 4 years the National Library of Wales has worked with Wikimedia to provide open access to more than 10,000 public domain images. These include the Welsh Landscape Collection, photographs, maps and manuscripts. This partnership has led to more than 455 million views of Wikipedia articles containing National Library images to date.

The National Library of Wales has now placed nearly 5000 portrait prints, photographs and paintings in the public domain on Wikimedia Commons. The Library hopes that volunteers will be encouraged to create Wikipedia articles about the Welsh sitters, artists, printers and photographers involved in the collection.

Cayman Islands Search for Ancestors of Welsh Settlers

The search is on for descendants of the first settlers on the tropical Cayman Islands. If your surname is Walters or Bawden it could be you.

If it turns out you’re related to their first inhabitant, the Cayman Islands will fly you to the islands to participate in a celebration of the island’s first settlers.

A Welshman called Walters and a Cornishman called Bawden were the first known people to step foot on the islands in the Caribbean in 1658. Their names subsequently morphed into Watler and Bodden, which remain prevalent family names today.

Sunshine State Digital Network Welcomes Florida Memory

From the Sunshine State Digital Network at http://bit.ly/2KcabAF:

Florida’s Sunshine State Digital Network (SSDN) is pleased to announce that more than 62,000 new records from Florida Memory are now discoverable through the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Florida Memory is a digital outreach program of the State Library and Archives of Florida, administered by the Florida Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services. With this new content, SSDN has now contributed more than 148,000 records to DPLA. This expands the network of people, communities, and stories that we represent and can share with you, our community.

When Americans Started Bathing

When thinking about the lives of our ancestors, we sometimes overlook some of the major facts of their lives. For instance, take bathing.

Most Americans in the first part of the nineteenth century didn’t bathe. There was little indoor plumbing, and besides, everyone “knew” that submerging yourself in water was a recipe for weakness and ill health. Therefore, most people did not bathe for weeks or even months at a time, if ever. Some people could go from cradle to grave without ever immersing themselves in water.

Illustration of Thompson’s bathtub of 1842, published in the Chronicle-Telegram, November 18, 1935.