History

Floridians: Share Your Digital Photos of Hurricane Irma

NOTE: This has nothing to do with today’s genealogy. However, Florida residents are invited to help preserve the history of the state and to record events that perhaps will benefit future historians and possibly even future genealogists.

The Florida State Archives is asking residents to preserve hurricane history by donating your digital images of preparation, damage, volunteers, shelters, recovery and other effects of Hurricane Irma. The donated photographs will join past photos of Camille, Andrew, and Charley as one of many hurricanes that have shaped Florida’s history. Some of the photographs donated to the State Archives will appear on Florida Memory.

Details may be found in the Florida Memory web site at: http://bit.ly/2wLmnCs.

How One Woman Brought the ‘Mother’s Curse’ to Thousands of Her French-Canadian Descendants

The first King’s Daughters—or filles du roi—arrived in New France in 1663, and 800 more would follow over the next decade. Given their numbers, they were not literally the king’s daughters of course.

They were poor and usually of common birth, but their passage and dowry were indeed paid by King Louis XIV for the purpose of empire building: These women were to marry male colonists and have many children, thus strengthening France’s hold on North America. French Canadians can usually trace their ancestry back to one or more of these women.

For more information about the filles du roi, see my earlier article at http://bit.ly/2wG6ecP.

Whenever a small group of people leave a large population (France) to found a new one (New France), they bring with them a particular set of mutations. Some of these mutations will by chance be more common in the new population and others less so. As a result, some rare genetic disorders disproportionately impact French-Canadians.

One of these is Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, which causes vision loss, usually in young men. Recently, geneticists using French Canadian genealogy have reexamined the effects of Leber’s and found a striking pattern of inheritance: It seems to show a long-theorized but never-seen-in-humans pattern called the “mother’s curse.”

The 19th-Century Freakout Over Steam-Powered Buses

Many of our ancestors were petrified by buses. No, not the twentieth-century buses but those of an earlier generation.

In the 1830s, the transportation industry of the United Kingdom took a dramatic turn. Large, clunking, hissing steam-engined vehicles—which looked like a cross between a carriage and a trolley car—began to rumble along the roads. Alarmed by their appearance, some people threw rocks at them. Others wrote furious letters to the local government. Still others used stones to block the paths of traveling steam buses.

The Internet Archive 78 RPM Records Archive is now Online

Want to listen to the music of your parents or grandparents? You can now do so, thanks to the Internet Archive. The Great 78 Project is a new project by the Internet Archive to preserve 78 rpm records that has released about 26,000 records as of today. One new digitized 78 rpm record is being added to the online collection every 10 minutes. More than 200,000 records are expected to be available online when the project is completed. In fact, you can even add your collection of 78 RPM records as well.

Disclaimer: Your taste in music will dictate the usefulness of this collection for you.

You can play the music online or else download any of the records to your computer and save them for later use. Downloads are available in a number of file formats including MP3 and M3U. Images of most of the records are also available.

America’s Love-Hate Relationship with Immigrants

It does seem strange that a nation of immigrants has so often attempted to place restrictions on immigration. With today’s rules around immigration in flux, Angelica Quintero has provided a look at the enormously varied ways the U.S. has determined who can become an American throughout history. Her article in the Los Angeles Times explains some of the problems your ancestors may have faced when attempting to immigrate to America.

Quintero writes:

“In the 1800s, the Irish were a favorite target, and newspaper wants ads commonly included the phrase “No Irish need apply.” Later in the 19th century, anti-immigration sentiment was codified in federal laws that singled out Asians. Later federal laws targeted Italians and Southern Europeans.”

Today is the 125th Anniversary of Lizzie Borden’s (Possible) Act of Murder

Lizzie Borden

One of the more fascinating murder stories in the U.S. occurred 125 years ago today.

Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks.
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Shortly before noon on August 4, 1892, the body of Andrew Borden, a prosperous businessman, was found in the parlor of his Fall River, Massachusetts, home at 92 Second St. The police were called and they started investigating the rest of the house. They soon found the body of Andrew Borden’s wife, Abby Borden, discovered in an upstairs bedroom. Both had been hacked to death with a hatchet.

While all the neighbors were shocked by the gruesome deaths, many in Fall River were perhaps not entirely surprised that Andrew Borden had met an untimely end. Frugal to a fault, he was a self-made man who had become the head of one of the town’s largest banks and was a substantial property owner. At the time of his death, his estate was valued at $300,000 (equivalent to roughly $8,000,000 today). The dour businessman had also made many enemies on his rise to the top. In fact, it appears he had no friends outside the family.

Early rumors in the days following the murders speculated that Andrew and Abby had perhaps been killed as revenge for Andrew’s shady business dealings.

Most French Canadians are Descended from 800 Women Known as the Filles du Roi

If you have French-Canadian ancestry, you probably have one, two, or perhaps a dozen filles du roi in your family tree. Several of them even have proven lines of descent from Charlemagne and a number of other royal families from throughout Europe. If you are descended from one of the Charlemagne descendants, that obviously makes you a descendant of Charlemagne and other royal families as well.

Who were these young French women known as les filles du roi? They traveled from France to what was then called New France, now known as Québec, between 1663 and 1673 as part of a program designed to boost the population by encouraging female immigrants to settle, marry, and raise families.

The Unusual Cause of Death of Allan Pinkerton

Allan J. Pinkerton (25 August 1819 – 1 July 1884) was a Scottish American detective and spy, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Pinkerton emigrated as a young man to seek his fortune in the United States of America. A self-educated man, he had little formal training in any of the professions usually available to immigrants. However, that never slowed the ambitious young man.

He settled in Dundee Township, Illinois, fifty miles northwest of Chicago. He built a cabin and started a cooperage (making barrels). His home soon became a stop on the Underground Railroad, smuggling escaping slaves northward to Canada.

Pinkerton worked with the local sheriff to identify some counterfeiters who were working nearby. Soon he was appointed as the first police detective in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. In 1850 he partnered with Chicago attorney Edward Rucker in forming the North-Western Police Agency, one of the nation’s first private detective services. The company later became Pinkerton & Co and finally Pinkerton National Detective Agency, still in existence today as Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations, a subsidiary of Securitas AB.

Live Cannonball (or is it a Mortar Shell?) from the Battle of the Plains of Abraham found in Old Quebec

A cannonball fired by the British during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 has been unearthed at a building site in Old Quebec. The rusted, 90-kilogram projectile was unearthed during excavation work last week at the corner of Hamel and Couillard streets and still contained a charge and gunpowder.

One person took the cannonball back to his home, and noticed it still contained a charge. A team of army munitions technicians was dispatched from CFB Valcartier to collect the ball and neutralize it.

City of Tampa, Florida, to Release Two Newly Digitized Historic Photo Collections

Here is a great online resource for anyone interested in the history of Tampa, Florida: As part of its annual Archives Awareness Week, the City of Tampa’s Archives and Records Division will be releasing two recently digitized historic photographic collections to the public. These photo collections have never been shown beyond the City of Tampa’s archives, and were not previously available digitally. Similar to the iconic Burgert Brothers photographic collection, these collections will serve as an important historical resource to both citizens and researchers. In collaboration with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library, the photographic collections will be available online and can be accessed on this web site: http://digitalcollections.hcplc.org/digital/.

The Hidden Rules of the Puritan Fashion Police

The fashion rules may have been tough for some of our ancestors, according to an article by Sarah Laskow in the Atlas Obscura web site. For instance:

“The Massachusetts Bay Colony passed its first law limiting the excesses of dress in 1634, when it prohibited citizens from wearing “new fashions, or long hair, or anything of the like nature.” That meant no silver or gold hatbands, girdles, or belts, and no cloth woven with gold thread or lace. It was also forbidden to create clothes with more than two slashes in the sleeves (a style meant to reveal one’s rich and fancy undergarments). Anyone who wore such items would have to forfeit them if caught.”

Then there are these questionable pieces of legislation:

Proof that Amelia Earhart May Have Survived Crash-Landing?

This isn’t genealogy but it certainly qualifies as history. One of the biggest mysteries of the last century is “What ever happened to Amelia Earhart?” All sorts of speculation has circulated over the years. However, researchers now believe they have proof. A photo discovered in the National Archives shows a woman who resembles Amelia Earhart on a dock in the Marshall Islands.

The photo, found in a long-forgotten file in the U.S. National Archives, shows a woman who resembles Earhart and a man who appears to be her navigator, Fred Noonan, on a dock. The discovery is featured in a new History Channel special, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” that airs Sunday. The television program’s home page may be found at: http://www.history.com/specials/amelia-earhart-the-lost-evidence.

Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!

There are many ways of celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canada. One of the best methods I have seen is in a beautifully done song and video to mark Canada’s 150th Birthday, July 1st. Take a look at: http://bit.ly/2smCeC5.

My thanks to newsletter reader Terry Mulcahy for telling me about the video.

Museum wants Revolutionary War Boat Saved from Lake Bottom

More than two decades after it was discovered at the bottom of Lake Champlain (between Vermont and New York), a Revolutionary War gunboat may see the light of day under a museum plan to raise, preserve and put the vessel on display.

The Spitfire, a 54-foot boat that’s part of a fleet built by Benedict Arnold before he turned traitor, sank a day after the 1776 Battle of Valcour Island, helping delay a British advance down the lake. The Spitfire’s sinking made it possible for the 1777 American victory at the Battle of Saratoga, a key moment in the American Revolution because it led to French recognition of the fledgling United States of America.

Oregon Historical Society Adds Digital Collections

In 2015, the Oregon Historical Society embarked on an ambitious two-year project to build an infrastructure to create, collect, preserve and provide access to digital materials in its vast historic collections. This month, OHS announced a major milestone in this project, with the official launch of OHS Digital Collections.

This new website allows online public access to a rich variety of materials from the Oregon Historical Society’s Research Library, including items from the manuscript, photograph, film and oral history collections. Behind the scenes, these files are safeguarded using a series of digital preservation workflows, systems and storage processes called the OHS Digital Vault.

A Kickstarter Campaign to Help Digitize Several Hundred Holocaust Diaries

The US Holocaust Memorial has started a campaign to transcribe more than 200 Holocaust diaries. Those persecuted during the Holocaust suffered greatly. This project will help the victims’ families and many others to find information that would otherwise be lost. If successful, the Kickstarter funds will be used to digitize the diaries and place them online where everyone will have access.

NOTE: Kickstarter is an excellent service that helps many companies, nonprofits, and even individuals find funding for all sorts of projects. I have contributed to Kickstarter several times and have always been pleased with the results. If you are unfamiliar with Kickstarter and its objectives, you might want to read the introductory article, Introduction To CrowdFunding, Kickstarter As A Successful Example, at http://bit.ly/2sF4diP. Then look at Kickstarter’s home page at: https://www.kickstarter.com/.

More than 200 diaries presently stored at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are waiting to be cataloged, translated, and published online. This is not a trivial task. Rather, it is a specialized, expensive, and time-consuming project.

According to the project’s home page at http://kck.st/2sMND0z:

Father’s Day Founder Was a Renegade, According to her Great-Granddaughter

Sonora Smart Dodd

The woman most cited as the founder of Father’s Day is Sonora Smart Dodd. Inspired by the earlier campaign to create Mother’s Day, and a desire to honor men like her father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran and a widower who raised Sonora Smart Dodd and her brothers solo, Dodd organized the first Father’s Day in 1910 in her hometown of Spokane, Washington.

Father’s Day did not become a national holiday until 1972, thanks to the continued efforts of Sonora Smart Dodd. Dodd spent 62 years lobbying everyone from presidents to retailers for support. She even lived to see the national holiday created. She died at age 96 in 1978.

Dodd’s 55-year-old great-granddaughter, Betsy Roddy, recalled this year that her ancestor was a Renaissance woman, the Mother of Father’s Day was a painter, poet and businesswoman, running a funeral home with her husband while raising the couple’s only son, a future father named Jack.

How a Synagogue Caretaker Used Google Maps to Solve the Mystery of a Forgotten Graveyard

Not so long ago, in Plymouth, England, Jerry Sibley discovered a Jewish cemetery that dated back to the 1700s. Sibley went to Google Maps, with a clue that placed the older cemetery on Lambhay Hill. After an initial effort failed to find it, he painstakingly over aerial images again until he found bright green spot. He zoomed in—and he could just make out some headstones.

The cemetery had gone unvisited for so long that no one at the synagogue knew how to open the door to the walled space. Sibley sorted through a box of 300 keys until he found the right one. When he opened the door he found a secret garden of trees, grass, flowers, and gravestones.

You can read the full story in an article by Sarah Laskow in the Atlas Obscura web site at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/plymouth-jewish-cemetery-rediscovered.

The End of an Era: Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Closes

The “Greatest Show on Earth” is no more. For many of our ancestors and even for our children and grandchildren of today, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus provided entertainment not found elsewhere. Perhaps we should all take note of the passing of this once-gigantic entertainment enterprise. The founders were the epitome of American entrepreneurship, an excellent example of why America welcomes immigrants.

The Ringling brothers were the seven American-born sons of harness maker Heinrich Friedrich August Ringling (originally spelled as “Rungeling”), (1826–1898), an immigrant from Hanover, Germany, and Marie Salome Juliar (1833–1907), an immigrant from Ostheim, in Alsace (now a part of Bavaria, Germany). One Ringling sister, Ida Loraina Wilhelmina Ringling also was part of the family although she apparently was not involved in the circus business. [Reference: “Ringling brothers” on Wikipedia.org]

Follow-Up: Things You Don’t See Anymore

On December 14, 2015, I published an article at http://bit.ly/2qGwZin, Things You Don’t See Anymore. I described a number of things that used to be common in American life but have since almost disappeared. I listed a bunch of things, including “rotary telephones” and “telephone party lines.” I guess it is now time to update that list.

If I was to republish the list today, I would have to add “wired telephones.”

An article in the BBC News web site points out one major change in the past decade: the number of U.S. homes that have an old-fashioned, wired telephone obtained from the local telephone company has now dropped to less than 50%. That is a number that few people would have dreamed of ten years ago.