The Real Colonel Harland Sanders

Alan Bellows has published a fascinating mini-biography of “Colonel” Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame. The story certainly changed my mental image of the Colonel. You might be interested in reading the article at http://www.damninteresting.com/colonels-of-truth.


This Is How People Sent Emails Back In The ’80s

I do remember home computers in those days and I do not miss them! If you were using online home computers in the 1980s, this video from the archives of Thames TV is a reminder of how we used to send and receive email messages long before the invention of the World Wide Web. Ah, the sweet sound of a dot matrix printer.

My favorite line from the video is when the television interviewer asked, “Why did you buy a computer?” I cannot imagine anyone asking that question today.

This interview was first shown on Thames TV’s computer programme ‘Database’ in 1984. You can view at https://youtu.be/szdbKz5CyhA or in the video player below:

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.

Intriguing History of ‘Paris Siege’ Letter

When A. Mesnier wrote to his mother in December 1870, Paris was under siege. The Prussians had surrounded the capital, food supplies were running low and temperatures had dropped below freezing. Mr Mesnier wrote of his hopes for victory and his frustration at being unable to enlist. The letter was flown out of Paris in a “ballon monté”, a hot air balloon, the only way to communicate with the rest of France. That had to be an early example of “air mail!”


Iowa History is at Risk

If you live in Iowa, have Iowa ancestry, or have any other interest in Iowa history, you will want to be aware of a situation described by Tyler Priest in an article in the Des Moines Register. Priest writes:

“The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has mismanaged the [Historical Society of Iowa] for years, but recently the situation has become dire. Because of budget austerity and shifting priorities, public service hours at both the Iowa City and Des Moines research centers have been reduced to only three days a week. The source of the problem is that DCA leaders have diverted scarce funds away from hiring archivists, librarians and catalogers, in favor of administrators, public relations managers, and marketers who lack the training and commitment to guarantee the society’s longstanding mission ‘as a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy.'”

Tyler Priest then goes on to describe the physical condition of the collections:

The Lives of Our Ancestors: the Moral Threat of Bicycles in the 1890s

Today we typically think of bicycles as toys for children or as exercise machines for adults to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle. Yet out ancestors often had very different opinions about bicycles. As Michael Taylor explained in a 2010 paper, Protestant authorities saw cycling as a significant threat to morality, and tried to mold the sport into a Christian activity. The Women’s Rescue League of Boston even claimed that, following the closing of brothels, prostitutes were riding bikes to reach their clients.


Become a Space Archaeologist and Locate Historical Sites

Sarah Parcak, a scientist, professor, Egyptologist, anthropologist, and the 2016 winner of the $1 million TED prize, is encouraging everyone to become Space Archaeologists.

Parcak spends her days scrutinizing satellite imagery of Earth for clues that could lead to long-buried historical artifacts. She has been profiled by several national news outlets like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. She enjoyed perhaps her biggest platform yet when she delivered the keynote at TED’s annual conference. During her TED speech, she said, “I want to find every archaeological site in the world.”


Parcak plans to do this by turning everyone—including you—into space archaeologists. Using an idea that’s already had success in biology and chemistry, Parcak wants to turn the act of searching for archaeological sites into a game on your phone.

Exact Location of Hangings of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 has been Identified

salemwitchtrialhangingsProctor’s Ledge has now been identified as the exact location of the gallows used to execute 19 innocent people during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The site was confirmed as the hanging site last week by the Gallows Hill Project, a group of seven scholars who spent the past five years pinning down the exact spot. The rocky, wooded area has grabbed attention from not only visitors who want to grab a picture, but news crews and even direct descendants of some of the victims.

Whisky, Haggis, Golf and Other Things that Aren’t Actually Scottish

This article is going to upset a lot of people with Scottish heritage! Writing in The Scotsman (a web site that presumably knows about all things Scottish), Alison Campsie claims that history books prove:

  • Bagpipes probably came from Egypt. The earliest written references to bagpipes have been found in Greece, where the instrument is known as the piovala.
  • The first written record of whisky drinking was actually made in Ireland in 1405 while the earliest documented record of distilling in Scotland was made in 1494.
  • There is strong evidence to suggest that golf was actually an import from northern Europe.
  • The origins of the humble haggis is believed to have been from England before making its way to Scotland. Food historian Catherine Brown said Burns claimed the pudding as Scottish with his 1786 Address to the Haggis because it was a thrifty contrast to the flamboyant French cuisine popular in Edinburgh at the time.
  • Archaeological finds have suggested that tartan – or plaid – was found in both Central Asia and Austria long before it was first woven in Scotland.

Did Ancient Romans Visit North America about 1,400 Years Before Columbus?

Many undocumented stories tell of Europeans and Asians who visited North America prior to 1492. Now a popular television program claims to have found proof that Roman ships visited North America, possibly prior to 100 AD.

The evidence will appear soon on the History Channel’s popular series Curse of Oak Island, now in its third season. Historic investigator J. Hutton Pulitzer, who has previously been featured on the show, has put a large white paper together with a group of academics from the AAPS (Ancient Artifact Preservation Society). Pulitzer claims to have evidence of a Roman sword found submerged just off Oak Island – and what is believed to be a Roman shipwreck.

The History of the Hearing Aid

Man uses an ear trumpetYou must admit that some of today’s technology advances are very useful. Take hearing aids, for instance. Today’s micro-miniature hearing aids can hide inside the ear canal. A few sightly larger ones with more capabilities hide discreetly behind the ear. Hearing aids worn by our ancestors were not always so discreet.

The earliest known hearing aid, called an ear trumpet, was described by Belgian scientist and high school rector Jean Leurechon in his book Récréations-Mathématiques, in 1624. The book described how to make your own ear trumpet as there were no manufacturers of the device at that time.

Jamestown Dig named One of Archaeology Magazine’s Top Ten Discoveries of 2015

Nearly 20 years after unearthing the lost remains of America’s first permanent English settlement, Jamestown archaeologists have attracted world attention again with one of Archaeology Magazine’s Top Ten discoveries of 2015. This is the third time the project has made the list since uncovering the town’s historic 1608 church in 2010.

Excavations of four burials at the 1608 Jamestown Church site in James Fort. Burials (left to right) JAMESFORT-APV-2993B, JAMESFORT-APV-2992C, JAMESFORT-APV-3046C, and JAMESFORT-APV-170C. Preservation Virginia performed excavations between November 18 and November 21, 2013. Dr. Douglas Owsley, Curator, and Kari Bruwelheide, Museum Specialist, from the Division of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History performed in situ analysis of the burials.

Excavations of four burials at the 1608 Jamestown Church site in James Fort. 

So far, four bodies have been found in unearthed graves. Best of all, their identities have been determined. In addition to the Jamestown and Smithsonian scientists, the team included genealogists from Ancestry.com, who compiled a list of colonists buried between 1608 and 1610 — then pinpointed their ages at their time of death. That list was then compared with the forensic data gleaned from an exhaustive study of human remains which revealed biological ages and social status of those bodies. As a result, the team has identified the four of bodies as:

An Online Archive of Old Radio Shows

If you really miss Ozzie and Harriet (I don’t miss them) or Fibber McGee and Molly (Yes, really I do remember that one), you’ll be glad to know they are now available online. That blows my mind: radio programs of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s are now available instantly on demand on the Internet in 2015.

Radio wasn’t always all about music and news: it used to be full of dramas, comedies, and all sorts of things we now watch on television. Well, “used to watch…” I recently “cut the cord” and canceled my cable TV service. But that’s another story…

Old Radio World is a great archive for finding out what broadcast entertainment used to sound like. All of old broadcasts on the site are available free of charge. Old Radio World may be found at http://www.oldradioworld.com.

Wear What Your Ancestors Wore

5674099489_89e1c6d89e_mThis is a bit late for this year’s Halloween but it could be quite the eye-catcher at your next genealogy meeting. Can you or someone else in the family make clothing from a pattern? If so, you can dress up in clothes that would have looked good on great-great-grandmother or great-great-grandfather.

Artemisia Moltabocca has assembled free patterns for anything from Elizabethan-era costumes Shakespeare would be proud of to something you’d wear to a 1950s sock-hop. You’ll also find patterns for everything in between, including Victorian girdles and early 20th century wear.

Click on the image above and to the right to view a larger version.

After 74 Years, Bones of Victims in the Pearl Harbor Tomb Ship May Be Identified

74 years ago today, the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,402 military personnel. A full list of the victims may be found at http://www.usmemorialday.org/pearllst.txt. Unidentified remains of hundreds of sailors and Marines who perished on the USS Oklahoma. Over the past six months, with a fresh mandate from the Defense Department, the bones were exhumed from a cemetery in Hawaii and most were brought to a new lab at Offutt, where scientists have begun the task of identifying the remains. The goal is to send the men home.

You can read a lot more about this sad effort at http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article48362490.html.

Search for Jewish Tombs lost in the Czech Republic during WWII Brings Back Heritage

Confronting the dark legacy of the Holocaust, a small team of researchers has been working to reassemble a Jewish cemetery in the eastern city of Prostejov, Czech Republic, that was destroyed during the Nazi occupation. The Nazi death machine killed 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, wiping out a third of world Jewry — and didn’t even let those already dead rest in peace.

The discovery of Prostejov’s lost graveyard was a result of efforts to find roughly 2,000 tombstones that were desecrated and disappeared more than 70 years ago in what was then Czechoslovakia. Dozens of Jewish cemeteries faced the same eradication as the one in Prostejov. All 1,924 tombstones were desecrated, likely in 1943, and no documents are available to clarify their fate. Now a team of genealogists and historians is working to reconstruct the plans for the cemetery, including names and other information about the people buried there.

The Steamboat Arabia has been Recovered and Its Cargo is on Display

steamboat-arabiaIn 1856, the Steamboat Arabia was frontier bound, loaded with supplies for 16 towns. With two hundred tons of precious cargo aboard, it left Kansas up the Missouri river on a routine trip, but a hidden, thick trunk of a walnut tree sank the steamboat. The tree trunk was hidden in the water and the steamboat was traveling directly towards the setting sun. The steamboat’s pilot never saw the partially submerged tree trunk.

The impact pierced the thick hull of the steamboat and it sank within minutes. Everyone on board miraculously swam to safety, except for one forgotten mule, tied to the deck.

The boat sank to the bottom of the river and soon became hidden from the world. The river’s course also changed over time. The Steamboat Arabia was finally discovered in the late 1980s, buried 45 feet deep in dirt beneath a Kansas farm.

6,300 Nazi Holocaust Documents Found Behind Wall of a Budapest Apartment

A vast and historically valuable trove of Holocaust-era documents, long thought destroyed during World War II, has been found hidden in a wall cavity by a couple renovating their Budapest apartment. The haul of 6,300 documents are from a 1944 census that was a precursor to the intended liquidation of the Hungarian capital’s 200,000 Jews in Nazi death camps. This census contains the names of Jews and Christians alike.

61 kilogrammes (135 pounds) of dusty papers were found. The forms found in the Budapest apartment contain names of each building’s inhabitants, and whether they are Jewish or not, with total numbers of Christians and Jews marked in the corners. The yellowed papers were given to the Budapest City Archives where they are being prepared for long-term preservation.

The SS United States has been saved from the Scrapyard

This story isn’t genealogy-related but it does describe history. Besides, I think I think it is a wonderful turn of events.


The SS United States Conservancy announced Tuesday that it has received more than $600,000 in donations to keep the SS United States from being sold for scrap metal, after the nonprofit revealed in early October that it was running out of funding to maintain it and was exploring its sale.

Looking for Descendants of the Orphan Train Riders

2015SBAGSOrphanTrain-smallerFrom the 1850s until the 1900s the Children’s Aid Society’s orphan trains brought children to families in the Midwest. During the early years, Indiana received the largest number of children.

If you are descended from one of the orphan train riders, at the program the South Bend Area Genealogical Society would like the opportunity to recognize you and honor your ancestor’s experience.

You can read more about the South Bend Area Genealogical Society’s meeting in the poster to the right. Click on the image to view a larger version.


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