The Truth About St. Patrick

March 17 is celebrated by millions of Irish descendants every year. They all know the “facts” about Saint Patrick. Or do they?

St. Patrick wasn’t Irish, and he wasn’t born in Ireland. Patrick was probably born in what is now England, Scotland or Wales around A.D. 390. Most agree that St. Patrick’s parents were Roman citizens living in the British Isles. Therefore, Patrick himself was a Roman citizen even though he was born somewhere in what is now Great Britain. He was living in Scotland or Wales (scholars can’t agree which) when he was kidnapped at age 16 by Irish raiders and sold as a slave, reports Catholic Online. He spent years in Ireland herding sheep until he escaped. He eventually returned to Ireland where he spread Christianity.

St. Patrick did not bring Christianity to Ireland. Christianity was introduced into Ireland by a bishop known as Palladius before Patrick began preaching in Ireland. However, St. Patrick apparently had more success at converting the Irish to Christianity than did Palladius.

Why We Drink Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day

Even if you’re the kind of person who scorns tasteless green beer, you might enjoy a Guinness for Saint Patrick’s Day. And why not? Unlike shamrock pins and wild partying sure to take place on March 17th, Guinness drinking really is a longstanding tradition in Ireland, as well as the Irish diaspora. But it’s a folk tradition that’s inextricably tied up with almost a century of commercial advertising, according to Brenda Murphy, a gender studies professor at the University of Malta.

I am sure that Brenda Murphy must have conducted extensive on-site research on this topic! You can read her findings in the Jstor.org web site at: https://daily.jstor.org/why-we-drink-guinness-on-st-patricks-day.

How Two of President John Tyler’s Grandsons are Still Alive, 174 Years Later

I suspect very few families can boast this sort of longevity. Two of President John Tyler’s grandchildren are still around, 175 years after he left office.

You can read the full story by Chip Reid and watch a video on the CBS News web site at: http://cbsn.ws/2DuhH2q.

The First British People Were Dark-Skinned

DNA from one of Britain’s first people, Cheddar Man, shows that he was very likely to have dark brown skin and blue eyes. By sequencing the ancient DNA extracted from his skeleton, scientists were able to create skin color, eye color, and hair type. Despite his name of “Cheddar Man,” scientists also know from his DNA that he couldn’t digest milk.

Close up of the model of Cheddar Man rendered by Kennis & Kennis Reconstructions

One More Update about the Turkish Online Genealogy Database

I have written twice about the new online genealogy database created by the government of Turkey. (See http://bit.ly/2CbUjdT to find my earlier articles about this story.) When the Turkish genealogy web site first appeared, it was so popular that it soon became overloaded, then was shut down so that the system administrators could add more hardware to the cluster of servers in order to handle the load. The Turkish genealogy web site is now back online and apparently is running well, handling a huge number of visitors.

Fehim Tastekin has written an article explaining why the web site become so popular. It seems that many Turkish citizens have deep, dark secrets in their family trees: some of their ancestors were Armenians, Syriacs, Greeks or Jews. In Turkey, this apparently is the equivalent to Germans in the 1930s and early 1940s hiding the fact they had Jewish ancestors or Americans in the Deep South hiding the fact they had Black Americans in the family tree. While the facts in Turkey have been hushed up for years, the new web site reportedly shows the truth. The story involves the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. (What was once called the Ottoman Empire was the forerunner of present-day Turkey.)

These facts have apparently been hidden from many of today’s younger Turks while they were growing up. Yes, apparently there are many skeletons in the Turkish family closets. The new web site reveals many family secrets and curious Turks want to know those secrets.

Tastekin’s article states, “Some people who had always boasted of their ‘pure’ Turkish ancestry were shocked to learn they actually had other ethnic and religious roots.”

Remember When a 29-pound Portable Computer was Light?

The staff at Wired remembers 1983 and produced a YouTube video showing how useful the “lightweight” computer was in those days:

Henry L. Benning Civil War Materials are now Available Online

The Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) announced the availability of the Henry L. Benning Civil War materials collection at http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/CollectionsA-Z/ghlb_search.html.

Brigadiere General Henry L. Benning, CSA

Henry L. Benning was born in Columbia County, Georgia in 1814. After finishing first in his class at the University of Georgia in 1834, he moved to Columbus in 1835. There, he was admitted to the bar, married Mary Howard in 1839, and entered his father-in-law’s firm. In 1840, Benning lost a race for the General Assembly, but was later elected to the state Supreme Court in 1853. After Lincoln’s election, Benning became one of Georgia’s most vocal supporters for secession. During the war, he served as Colonel of the 17th Georgia Infantry in twenty-one engagements including Antietam, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga. By the beginning of 1863, Benning rose to the rank of brigadier general. His regiment was the first part of the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee and later under Braxton Bragg in the Army of Tennessee. After the war, Benning returned to Columbus and resumed the practice of law, dying on his way to the court in 1875.

What Do Scotsmen Wear Under Their Kilts?

Here is the answer to the question you undoubtedly have often asked: What do Scotsmen wear under their kilts?

In a bit of investigative reporting, Ken Jennings has researched the topic and provided answers in his The Debunker column at: http://bit.ly/2CondTW.

I’ll leave the racier bits for you to find in Ken Jennings’ column. But I will say that I was interested to learn that “… the traditional Scottish kilt is a lot less traditional than you probably think. The original Highland plaid was the ‘great kilt,’ a belted piece of tartan worn as a cloak from the shoulders. The modern kilt only dates back to the turn of the 18th century, and sources from that era actually credit it to Thomas Rawlinson, an English industrialist!”

You can learn more about “going regimental” at: http://bit.ly/2CondTW.

Update: Was the Westford Knight also on Oak Island?

About a week ago, I published Was the Westford Knight also on Oak Island? at http://bit.ly/2Eq2c11. The article, and an earlier article from several years ago, describe what was then a future television program that introduced the topic of possible visits by medieval Knights Templar to North America in the 1300s, possibly even earlier. I also gave information about the date and time the program was to be broadcast.

This episode of The Curse of Oak Island has now been broadcast. However, if you missed it and if you would like to view the program, you can view it free of charge on The History Channel’s web site at: https://www.history.com/shows/the-curse-of-oak-island/season-5/episode-14. However, you will be asked to log in by using your user name and password used to access your cable provider’s web site. If you do not have such a user name and password, you will not be able to view the video.

Who Was Saint Valentine?

saint-valentineValentine’s Day is the second most popular holiday to send a card. The Greeting Card Association claims that an estimated one billion cards are sent each year. Yet, most of the people who send the cards have no idea who Saint Valentine was. Even historians cannot agree.

According to some authorities, there were two Valentines. One was a priest and doctor who was martyred in the year 269, and the other was the bishop of Terni, who was brought to Rome to be tortured and executed in 273. Others say it was the same person. Both men (or the same man) have legends attributed to them concerning love and matrimony, legends that may or may not be true.

They Considered Themselves White, but DNA Tests Told a More Complex Story

How well do you know your ancestry? As more Americans take advantage of genetic testing to pinpoint the makeup of their DNA, the technology is coming head to head with the country’s deep-rooted obsession with race and racial myths. This is perhaps no more true than for the growing number of self-identified European Americans who learn they are actually part African.

An article by Tara Bahrampour in the Washington Post points out that many Americans are unaware of their own racial heritage. The article states, “…a 2014 study of 23andMe customers found that around 5,200, or roughly 3.5 percent, of 148,789 self-identified European Americans had 1 percent or more African ancestry, meaning they had a probable black ancestor going back about six generations or less.”

Beauty Secrets of Our Ancestors

This is an advertisement from the 1902 Sears Roebuck catalog. The ad promises that Dr. Rose’s French Arsenic Complexion Wafers “possesses the ‘Wizard’s Touch’ in producing, preserving and enhancing beauty of form and person in male and female by surely developing a transparency and pellucid clearness of complexion, shapely contour of form, brilliant eyes, soft and smooth skin, where by nature, the reverse exists.”

Note: I had to look up the word “pellucid.” It means:

translucently clear.
mountains reflected in the pellucid waters”
synonyms: translucent, transparent, clear, crystal clear, crystalline, glassy, limpid, unclouded, gin-clear
“the pellucid waters”

Very white skin was all the rage at the time, mostly amongst women. Prospective buyers of Dr. Rose’s French Arsenic Complexion Wafers were led to believe that regular use of the wafers would make even the ugliest person beautiful by clearing up any facial “disfigurements” and even softening angular features. And of course, the buyer was repeatedly assured that this particular dose of arsenic was completely safe.

In fact, the wafers apparently worked well but had one serious side effect: they often killed people.

A Digital Project is Underway to Recreate Ireland’s Public Record Office Destroyed by Fire in 1922

A project is under way to digitally recreate the building and contents of the Public Record Office of Ireland, which were destroyed by an explosion and fire at Dublin’s Four Courts in 1922. The six-story Victorian building went up in flames on 30 June 1922 during the Civil War. Seven centuries of Ireland’s historical and genealogical records were lost, seemingly forever.

However, thanks to new technology, historical research and careful archival practise, Trinity College Dublin says these losses “are not irrecoverable”. The “Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury” project will see the creation of a virtual reality reconstruction of the Public Record Office.

Was the Westford Knight also on Oak Island?

Subtitle: Was the Westford Knight also on Oak Island, Nova Scotia, with other Knights Templar in the Year 1398? Watch the History Channel to Learn More.

Are you aware that a number of Europeans were in North American many years before Christopher Columbus’ voyage in 1492? You might want to set your video recorder to the History Channel next Tuesday evening, February 13, 2018, at 9pm Eastern Time, 8pm Central, to learn about a fascinating story concerning some early travelers to North America. You can check your local listings for The History Channel to see broadcast times in your area.

“The Curse of Oak Island” is an ongoing television series that has been broadcast on the History Channel for several years now. It shows the multi-year efforts to find a mysterious buried treasure on a rather small island on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. There have been various legends passed down throughout the years concerning Oak Island. I vaguely remember reading about this mystery in a magazine article back when I was about 12 years old although my memory of it is rather fuzzy. In those days, I was a big fan of stories about buried pirate treasures. I guess I never grew up; I still am interested in pirates and buried treasure and similar topics. I think I have seen every episode of “The Curse of Oak Island.” My cable TV recorder is set to record every episode in case I am not home. I find it to be a fascinating story.

“The Curse of Oak Island” has described many theories about the possibility of treasure on the island. To quote the History Channel’s description:

The Food of Our Ancestors: Surströmming

Feeling hungry? Want to eat something that your ancestors enjoyed? How about Surströmming?

According to Wikipedia, Surströmming has been part of northern Swedish cuisine since at least the 16th century. However, it wasn’t confined to only Sweden. Also known as the Baltic herring, Surströmming was eaten by many people in the Baltic countries. Fermented fish is an old staple in European cuisines. The oldest archeological findings of fish fermentation are 9,200 years old and from the south of today’s Sweden.

In short, Surströmming is preserved herring. The Baltic herring is a bit smaller than the normal Atlantic herring found in the North Sea. Traditionally, the definition of strömming is “herring fished in the brackish waters of the Baltic north of the Kalmar Strait.” The herring used for surströmming are caught just prior to spawning.

A New Fad Sweeps the Country in the 1870s

We all know about popular fads: the hula hoops of the fifties, the pet rocks of the sixties, and body-piercing jewelry of the present time. The young people generally embrace fads with open arms while older generations wring their hands and wonder what the younger generation is coming to. However, we generally do not think about fads in the times of our ancestors. A quick bit of historical study shows that our ancestors were just as enthusiastic about new ideas and fashions as are any of their descendants. Some of these fads had far-reaching effects on future generations. In fact, some of us might not be here today had it not been for one of these fads.

One item that we take for granted today is the bicycle. Yet this two-wheeled device was all the rage when first introduced in the late 1870s. To be sure, two-wheel conveyances had been invented much earlier but were rarely seen. In 1790, Frenchman Chevalier de Sivrac conceived the idea of a crude form of a bicycle, consisting of a wooden beam with wheels attached below each end. It had no pedals; the rider pushed along the ground with his feet. It had no steering capability. Even worse, it had no seat. The rider simply sat on the beam. Apparently de Sivrac built only one of these, and it was soon relegated to a storage shed. Later models improved on the earlier design with a cushioned seat of some sort. In 1813, Baron Charles de Drais of Saurbrun, Germany, introduced a bicycle that was similar to Sivrac’s model but with a swivel head to aid steering.

MyHeritage CEO Gilad Japhet Tells the Stories of His Ancestors Who Were Victims of the Holocaust

In honor of International Holocaust Memorial Day, commemorated on Saturday, MyHeritage’s CEO and Founder, Gilad Japhet, wrote a very personal blog post in dedication of his family and others who perished in the Holocaust. He wrote the article in memory of his ancestors who were victims of one of the most tragic human experiences this world has ever witnessed.

Japhet writes, “My passion to learn more about my Chwojnik ancestors was key to my personal interest in genealogy, which began when I was 13 years old.”

Almost all genealogists attempt to learn of the difficulties and successes of their relatives. Those of us with families who were not affected by the Holocaust have difficulty understanding the horrors that other families endured. Gilad Japhet’s blog post helps provide some understanding of those terrible years. You can read his words in the MyHeritage Blog at: http://bit.ly/2rLjgbB.

Why the British Decided to Send Convicts to Australia in 1788

I am sure all the Australians know this story already, but The Telegraph has published an article for the rest of us.

January 26 is celebrated as Australia Day because on that day in 1788 British settlers arrived on Australian shores for the first time. The anniversary has become an annual opportunity for the country to show its national pride.

The First Fleet of convicts departs Portsmouth, England, bound for Australia

Irish Revolution Archives to go Online

The letters, official documents, secret military orders, and other papers from figures in Ireland’s political and military revolution are to be made available online.

A project to digitise some of the most important manuscript collections held in the National Library of Ireland (NLI) will mean the documents are easily accessible to researchers and others interested in the history of the period that led to Irish independence.

Vintage Photographs and Letters, and Other Documents from Rockford, Illinois are now Available Online

Rockford’s Midway Village Museum often is asked for photos to help history buffs for family trees, business research, and school projects. Previously, you would have needed an appointment. Now, 1,700 of the most popular historic images and documents are being digitized and uploaded by the museum’s staff for your viewing.

The online collection includes photos captured on rare glass-plate negatives, early 20th century postcards of Rockford, as well as digital images of numerous documents and letters. The items include: Civil War letters sent by local soldiers, transcripts from interviews done in 2007 with immigrants to Rockford and their children, and images related to the Rockford Peaches.