History

720,000 Newly Digitized Historic Photos Show Where New Yorkers Lived in the 1940s

The New York City Department of Records & Information Services is home to a lot of documents and photographs; from Lindsay administration memos to crime scene photos, the expansive collection draws from 50 NYC agencies. The archives are so vast that it’s taking a while to digitize everything, but they did just release 720,000 images online.

The latest photo dump brings their 1940s tax photos online; tax photographs were taken by the City’s property tax office (or rather, by freelancers which they paid via funding from the Depression-era Works Progress Administration) as part of their assessment process. All in all, they show “every house and building in the five boroughs” from the decade, according to their press rep.

In Search of the Food Your Norwegian Ancestors Enjoyed: Lutefisk

NOTE: I am presently in a hotel room in Oslo, Norway, and will attend the MyHeritage LIVE 2018 Conference this weekend. While here, I decided to look for a restaurant that serves a traditional Norwegian meal called lutefisk. However, I haven’t found it yet. Is it still a staple food in Norway? Admittedly, I am hampered by the fact that many restaurants in Norway print their menus only in Norwegian! Also, I am here in Norway a bit early for the lutefisk season.

I have found restaurants that serve mooseburgers and reindeer burgers (It was delicious!) and steaks but no Lutefisk as of yet.

Here is what I know about Lutefisk.

lu·te·fisk \´lüd·e¸fisk, ´ lüe-\ or lut·fisk \´lüt¸f-\ also lu-de·fisk \´lüde-\ or lud·fisk \´ lüd¸f-\ n -s [lutefisk fr. Norw, fr. lute to wash in lye solution + fisk fish; lutfisk fr. Sw, fr.luta to wash in lye solution + fisk fish; ludefisk & ludfisk fr. Dan ludfisk fr. lude to wash in lye solution + fisk fish; stockfish that has been soaked in lye water, skinned, boned, and boiled

It is with some hesitation that I write about lutefisk. It reportedly is a vile tasting dish made of cod or a similar white fish, dried, then preserved, then soaked in lye (!), later soaked in plain water to remove the caustic (poisonous) lye, then cooked. All along the way, it smells like … Well, let’s just say I am told that it smells bad. Really bad.

A Dark And Fascinating History of Cemeteries

It’s Hallowe’en and we are all genealogists, right? What better way to spend this “holiday” than to study how people have buried their dead throughout the ages. You can watch the YouTube cartoon below or at: https://youtu.be/8HegwRtbDSU.

The Orphan Trains

From the 1850s through the 1920s, New York City was teeming with tens of thousands of homeless and orphaned children. To survive, these so-called “street urchins” resorted to begging, stealing, or forming gangs to commit violence. Some children worked in factories and slept in doorways or flophouses. The children roamed the streets and slums with little or no hope of a successful future. Their numbers were stunningly large; an estimated 30,000 children were homeless in New York City in the 1850s.

Charles Loring Brace, the founder of The Children’s Aid Society, believed that there was a way to change the futures of these children. By removing youngsters from the poverty and debauchery of the city streets and placing them in morally upright farm families, he thought they would have a chance to escape a lifetime of suffering.

The Genealogies of the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers Rivalry

Friends and co-workers of David Allen Lambert can tell you that he is not only a baseball fan, but also a serious baseball historian. As the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, David is in a unique location: his office is only a short walk from Fenway Park, the home (since 1912) of the Boston Red Sox. And, yes, David knows the history of Fenway Park and the Red Sox about as well as anyone else.

1916 Boston Red Sox

David has written a brief history of the rivalry of the two teams locked in a battle for this year’s World Series.

Be Careful What You Donate to Charity, Such as a Valuable 1776 Newspaper

A quick eye by Goodwill workers in South Jersey turned up framed pages from an original 1774 Philadelphia newspaper with an iconic “Unite or Die” snake design on the masthead. It is believed to be one of the four known copies that exist.

The frayed Dec. 28, 1774, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal and the Weekly Advertiser boasts three items signed by John Hancock, then president of the Provincial Congress, who pleads for the Colonies to fight back “enemies” trying to divide them.

The Missing Mayflower Pilgrim

Tamura Jones is an Englishman living in Leiden, the city in the Netherlands where the Pilgrims lived from 1608 until 1620, before crossing the Atlantic and creating a new settlement called Plimoth Plantation (usually spelled “Plymouth” these days). As the saying goes, “the rest is history.” Today, millions of Americans and people in numerous other countries count themselves among the descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims.

Not all the Pilgrims’ family trees have been well researched and published. For instance, Tamura Jones has been researching Pilgrim Moses Fletcher’s descendants for ten years. Tamura has now published an overview of his findings, although not all the details. At least, he hasn’t published all the details just yet. The research is not finished and ready for publication today. However, he lists a Twitter account at @LeidenPilgrims to monitor to learn about future research developments and the future publication of his final report.

His overview focuses on Pilgrim Moses Fletcher but also mentions a number of other Mayflower passengers. As he wrote in the report:

Archaeologists may have Unearthed the Nearly 400-year-old Skeleton of America’s Second Governor

Sir George Yeardley was one of Jamestown’s early leaders. Born in 1588, Yeardley left England in June 1609, bound for Virginia. In Jamestown, he served as a captain of Lt. Governor Sir Thomas Gates’ guard and helped lead an expedition to discover gold and silver mines in the interior. Playing an important role in the war of 1609-1614 against the Powhatans, he later served briefly as deputy governor in 1616 before returning to England the following year.

Yeardley was appointed lord governor of Virginia in the fall of 1618 following news of the unexpected death of the incumbent governor, Lord Delware (De La Warr), at sea on his way back to the colony. Yeardley was knighted by the king and sailed back to Virginia in early 1619.

Do Canadian Carvings Depict Vikings?

Scientists have found carvings in the Canadian Arctic that may be the earliest portraits of the Vikings created in the Americas. Now the scientists believe they can prove when the carvings were created. If successful, the dates may show visits by Vikings to arctic Canada hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus’ so-called “discovery” of the New World.

You can read more in an article by Owen Jarus in the LiveScience web site at: http://bit.ly/2q2I773.

13 Pages from the Missouri 1880 US Census Population Schedule Long Thought Lost have been Discovered

The following announcement was written by the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office:

Jefferson City, Mo. — Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, in collaboration with the Missouri Historical Society, today announced the discovery of 13 pages from the 1880 U.S. Census Population Schedule. Identified by the staff of the Missouri State Archives, a division of Ashcroft’s office, the pages record the households of the 99th Enumeration District in Perry County, including the name, age, marital status, occupation, level of education and more for 633 individuals then residing in the county’s Union Township.

“Discoveries like this are extremely rare,” Ashcroft said, “and we are thrilled to now provide access to these records previously unavailable to genealogists, historians and archivists alike.”

Haggis is… English?

Haggis is a well-known dish all throughout Scotland. I was in Edinburgh, Scotland, last week and tried haggis myself. It wasn’t bad. From its reputation, I had assumed I would not like the taste. After trying a few bites, I found it was moderately pleasant. I’m not going to eat haggis every day but I am willing to try it again someday.

However, I was shocked… yes, SHOCKED… to learn that haggis was not invented by the Scots. In fact, it first appeared in a cookbook published in England! Well, there goes another belief I held.

Holocaust Historian Slams Germany for Shredding Millions of Death Records

According to the Hamburg Morgen Post newspaper, the state cultural ministry is defending the decision by the archive’s director, Udo Schäfer, to destroy an estimated 1 million death certificates dating from 1876 to 1953. The Hamburg State Archive destroyed an estimated 1 million death certificates dating from 1876 to 1953. The state cultural ministry later admitted the move was a mistake.

Details may be found at http://eogn.com/20180928-1.

Has Hurricane Florence Destroyed Records of America’s Slave Trade?

This might be a lesson for all archivists, historians, and genealogists who have historic records, artifacts, or family treasures in their possession: North Carolina’s archivists are worried that fragile collections of documents, covering centuries of history, could have been destroyed by Hurricane Florence.

The fear is that historical archives housed in universities, courthouses, and local libraries are at heightened risk from flooding and mold.

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’”.