History

Afghan Officials Receive Digitized Cultural Treasures

Here is another strong argument why libraries, archives, and museums should make digital copies of everything in their collections and store the copies off-site. During recent warfare and insurrections, tens of thousands of historical items were stolen and most apparently are lost forever. Now more than 163,000 digital pages of documents are being returned to the owners of the originals.

A digital copy is never as good as the original but it is a lot better than staring at an empty space where the original was once housed!

The following announcement was written by the Library of Congress:

Library of Congress, Carnegie Corporation provide Cultural, Historical Materials

The Library of Congress has completed a three-year project, financed by Carnegie Corporation of New York, to digitize holdings of the Library of Congress relating to the culture and history of Afghanistan, for use by that nation’s cultural and educational institutions.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, joined by Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian, presented hard drives containing more than 163,000 pages of documents to the Afghan Minister of Information and Culture, Abdul Bari Jahani, and to Abdul Wahid Wafa, Executive Director of the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University.

Burbank in Focus: a Digital Archive of Historic Burbank, California Photos

The Burbank Public Library has a new online web site called Burbank in Focus. It contains hundreds of hundreds of historic photographs saved by the library and by the public. Whether you are interested in browsing by collection, searching for photos of a particular person or event, or even searching by location, this is the place to celebrate the Media Capital of the World and the people who have made it great.

Burbank's First Two-Story Office Building 1911

Burbank’s First Two-Story Office Building 1911

Burbank in Focus is available at https://burbankinfocus.org.

A Family History Discovered on eBay

Genealogy information is found in many places, including on eBay. James Boling wrote:

“It all began in April 2014, as I was conducting on-line research into my maternal grandfather’s military service on the Mexican Border (1916). After many swings and misses, lo and behold, I discovered an eBay auction for a number of ‘postcards, Mexican Border, Pancho Villa.’ I immediately went to the listing and discovered four cards showing my grandfather, James ‘Harvey’ Holdeman, both in uniform and in his later career as an oil exploration geologist in Texas.

“Of course, I hit the ‘contact seller’ button, and was soon corresponding with a bookseller near Houston who had an interesting story. Here is what we pieced together:”

Remains of Civil War Veteran Returned Home

A Civil War soldier from Maine whose cremains were stored haphazardly at the Oregon State Hospital for nearly 100 years has finally come home. Private Jewett Williams was part of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He saw a number of battles of combat and was present at Appomattox when his commanding officer, Joshua Chamberlain, accepted the formal surrender of the Confederate army.

Jewett Williams

(Photo of  Jewett Williams from the Oregon State Hospital records)

In 1922, Jewett Williams passed away at the age of 78. His remains had been stored at the Oregon State Hospital ever since. His family never claimed his body and he had no known relatives. Thanks to the Patriot Guard Riders, Jewett Williams’ final journey began August 1 and ended on Sunday after crossing 19 states to get to Maine.

Gorham (Maine) Historical Society May Need to Disband

An article by Robert Lowell in the KeepMeCurrent.com web site describes a potential loss for historians, genealogists, and the general public. The Gorham (Maine) Historical Society is on the verge of going out of business. The society doesn’t have a president, vice president or recording secretary. Brenda Caldwell, executive secretary and archivist, and a few core members are trying to breathe new life into it.

The society’s building houses genealogical records, documents, volumes of books, scrapbooks, town reports, school yearbooks and files with histories of Gorham people and landmarks.

Collage, The London Picture Map

Launched last week, Collage, The London Picture Map allows you to trace London’s visual history street by street. With more than 150,000 pictures mapped across the city, the digital photo archive of the city of London is a huge resource showing what London looked like over the years. Yes, if you have London ancestors, it is likely that you can now see what they saw. The project is the result of two full years of digitizing and mapping images from the London Metropolitan Archive and the Guildhall Art Gallery, which together possess the largest collection of London images in the world.

Whitechapel High Street- looking east about 1890

Whitechapel High Street- looking east about 1890

Happy Birthday, US National Census

Seal_of_the_United_States_Census_BureauHappy 226th birthday!

One of the most valuable tools for US genealogists is the National Census that is enumerated (created) every ten years. Census results were never intended to benefit genealogists. That is simply a side benefit. The primary purpose is to reapportion seats in the House of Representatives and to to realign congressional districts. Over the years, the Census numbers also have become important for the formulas that distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds each year.

The first national census took place on August 2, 1790, when marshals under the direction of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson canvased the original 13 states plus Maine, Vermont, Kentucky, and the Southwest Territory (Tennessee). They asked six questions: name of the head of the household, and number of persons in each household in these categories: free white males over 16; free white males under 16; free white females; all other free persons; and slaves.

Postcards Provide Link to Edwardian Social Media

You can see postcards that your UK ancestors may have seen from 1901 to 1910. The following announcement was written by the folks at Lancaster University:

A new public searchable database provides access to a unique and inspirational treasure trove of amazing stories and pictures through what Lancaster University researchers term the ‘social media’ of the Edwardian era.

Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus – Click on the image to view a larger version.

Described by researchers at Lancaster University as the social media of its day, with features of Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Messenger and SMS texts, the ‘hands-on’ database includes 1000 postcards, written and sent between 1901 and 1910, together with transcriptions and carefully researched historical data about the people who wrote and received the fascinating cards.

Preserving Medieval Graffiti

st-georgeWe have all read about the Middle Ages, right? A time of kings, princes, knights and fair damsels in distress. It is a vision of the past that includes the splendor of great cathedrals and the brooding darkness of mighty castles. A past of banquets and battles.

There’s only one thing wrong with that vision: 95% of the people were not a part of it.

Most men, women and children were commoners. 95 per cent of the population performed about 99% of the work. This undoubtedly includes your ancestors and mine.

We rarely read about the 95% of the population who were common people. With low levels of literacy throughout much of the Middle Ages, these people did not leave written records behind. The few texts that described the common people were actually written and compiled by the priests, scribes and lawyers of the elite. They refer to the lower orders, but are most certainly not in their own words. However, many of these common folks did leave something written behind: graffiti.

The Strange Tale Of 19th-Century Quack Doctors

BeechamsPillsDuring the 19th century, quack “doctors” outnumbered legit ones three to one. A growing interest in science and a booming open market proved irresistible to businesspeople who rushed to bring products with dubious medical claims to health-starved consumers. These were the people who treated (and mistreated) our ancestors’ medical woes. Among these were Wallace and Willis Reinhardt, twin brothers who helmed a kind of fraudulent dynasty in the Midwest.

After being run out of Minnesota for fear of a grand jury investigation of their faux medical institute, the brothers set up shop in Milwaukee. Under the guise of the “Wisconsin Medical Institute,” they took advantage of ailing patients, diagnosing “sexual ailments” and pushing pricey treatments on their victims. Those who were unable to travel to their office could experience the Reinhardt’s “cures” from afar thanks to mail-order books, devices and medicines.

Virginia Tech’s Civil War Newspaper Collection is Online

The American Civil War Newspapers website can be a valuable resource for genealogists researching Civil War era ancestors, even those outside of Virginia. The ultimate goal of the American Civil War Newspapers website is to index newspapers from the Civil War era — Northern and Southern, Eastern and Western, urban and rural, white and black — in order to offer a balanced cross-section of opinion, observation, and experience, from all across America.

CivilWarNewpaper

Quoting from the newspaper collection’s web site:

“For many years the newspapers of the Civil War era were probably the most neglected of all sources, and yet they are one of the richest. The reason no doubt lay in the sheer mass of them, their inaccessibility, and the fact that they were not indexed. Few if any scholars had the time or resources to spend weeks and months scanning page by page in the hope of finding something of use to their projects. Yet the newspapers are the surest windows on the attitudes of the time, despite their inevitable editorial bias.

Photographs of Men Who Fought in the Revolutionary War

LemuelCookYes, you read that right. Photographs of Americans who fought in the Revolution are exceptionally rare because few of the Patriots of 1775-1783 lived until the dawn of practical photography in the early 1840s.

Utah-based journalist Joe Baumam spent three decades researching and compiling the images. These early photographs – known as daguerreotypes – are exceptionally rare camera-original, fully-identified photographs of veterans of the War for Independence – the war that established the United States.

You can see the photographs in an article in The Daily Mail at http://goo.gl/S3s7g8.

If one of them happens to be your ancestor, right-click on the image to save a family heirloom!

Who Wrote the Declaration of Independence?

The Constitution

The Constitution

In school, I was taught that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. I was also taught that it was signed by all the members of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Now an article by Matthew Wills says that both “facts” are erroneous.

Wills says that Jefferson did actually write the first draft, aided by a committee that consisted of Jefferson himself plus John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. In later years, Thomas Jefferson claimed that credit must go to Locke, Montesquieu, the Scottish Enlightenment, and the long struggle for English civil liberties.

How to Find a Revolutionary War Patriot

The Fourth of July seems like the perfect day to plan genealogy research to find information about your ancestors in the 1770s. If they were in the original 13 colonies, they may have participated in the American Revolution, either as a Patriot or a Loyalist. You might want to refer to the article I published last year, How to Find a Revolutionary War Patriot, available at https://goo.gl/KAfk14.

William Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms Discovered

William_Shakespeare_1609William Shakespeare’s biography has long circled a set of tantalizing mysteries: Was he Protestant or secretly Catholic? Gay or straight? Loving toward his wife, or coldly dismissive?

Most of those questions remain unanswered but one new discovery does provide a bit of insight into the man’s personal life. New documents were recently discovered by Heather Wolfe, the Folger Shakespeare Library’s curator of manuscripts. The documents are said to relate to a coat of arms given to Shakespeare’s father in the year 1596 — a discovery that offers proof of Shakespeare’s gentlemanly status and provides researchers with new insights into his life.

The Most Famous Historic Houses in each State

ThrilList.com has compiled a list of the most famous historic houses in each state. The list includes a two-story log building built by the Russians in Alaska long before the United States purchased the territory, the Paul Revere House in Boston, the Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore, Maryland, the Ernest Hemingway Home in Key West, Florida, and the Playboy Mansion in California.

Famous_House

Today in History: 22 June 1633 (383 years ago): Galileo admits the Earth is the Center of the Universe

On 22 June 1633, the Holy Office in Rome forced Galileo Galilei to recant his view that the Sun, not the Earth, is the center of the Universe in the form he presented it in, after heated controversy.

Galileo

You can read more about the trial at http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/galileo/galileoaccount.html.

I have to wonder what “irrefutable facts” of today will be disproven in the next 383 years. Which “absolute truths” do we believe today will be rejected by the year 2399?

A New Immigration Exhibit opens on Ellis Island

RSL_Ellis_IslandA new, temporary exhibition opened recently at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. It focuses on the immigrants’ stories, awash in hopes, uncertainties and, apparently, disinfectant. The new exhibition, which is called “Via Antwerp: The Road to Ellis Island” and will be in place through Sept. 4. It nicely complements the permanent exhibits at Ellis Island, which are heavy on the arrival-and-processing chapter.

The traveling exhibit was created by Antwerp’s Red Star Line Museum and focuses on the experiences of those leaving Europe for the United States. All of the people featured in the new exhibit left Antwerp and traveled to the US on the Red Star Line’s ships.

King Henry I May Be Buried Under a Parking Lot

King Richard III’s body was discovered buried under a parking lot. The same fate may await the bones of King Henry I. Technicians are using ground-penetrating radar at the site of a former abbey in Reading, England, as part of a survey they hope will reveal the burial place of King Henry I.

Henry-IHenry I, a son of William the Conqueror, ruled from 1100 to 1135. He reportedly died after eating lampreys, a kind of jawless fish. He ascended to the throne after the death of his elder brother William II. Henry has been described as a usurper because he seized the crown while another elder brother was away on a Crusade.

Records written at the time of Henry I’s death say that his body was buried in front of the the high altar of Reading Abbey. The abbey was founded by King Henry I himself. The abbey is now in ruins and much of its former grounds are now the site of a car park and a nursery school.

You can read more in an article by Dan Bilefsky in the New York Times at http://goo.gl/iyrxl9.

Let Your Cell Phone Tell You About “History Here”

History Here is a fascinating cell phone app produced by the History Channel. It displays historical locations that may be hidden all around you, including architecture, museums, battlefields, monuments, famous homes, tombstones, and much more.

You can use it at home to learn what historical events happened near you. However, the History Here app will also come in handy when you’re traveling to a new city as it locates large and small museums alike. It also finds events, both famous and obscure. For instance, the first time I used History Here, it displayed information about the first National Women’s Rights Convention held in 1850 a few miles from my home. Who knew?

Besides historic homes and museums, the app also maps many graves of historic figures. Hit a spot on the map, and you’ll get a brief history lesson. You can save spots and later receive alerts when you’re walking near a mapped site.

History Here has recently added TOURS, a list of curated tours in various cities. The TOURS feature uses locations as a way to learn about historical themes and topics, such as Marilyn Monroe’s Hollywood, Civil War Atlanta, and Al Capone’s Chicago.