tom_bergeronDancing with the Stars, Tom Bergeron,  put down the mic and took a break to explore his family tree on TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, airing this Sunday, August 30, on TLC.

Entertainment Weekly (EW) says: “In this exclusive clip, Bergeron learns more about a far-back relative named Marguerite, one of the first female immigrants from France to Canada. An expert explains that Marguerite was a fille du roi (“daughter of the king”), one of the first female immigrants from France to Canada who were sent to bolster the population and establish the New World.

Apparently, having a fille du roi in your family is a great source of pride in Canada, much in the same way Americans discover a relative came over on the Mayflower. In other words, Bergeron comes from royalty, y’all!

Who Do You Think You Are? airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on TLC.

Click on the link to see the EW clip “

Some are saying that Iran already has a nuclear bomb. If this is the case, it’s all the more reason not to give them upwards of one hundred billion dollars. During his impromptu press event on Thursday, Donald Trump mentioned holding a protest against the Iran nuclear deal in Washington, D.C. — with Ted Cruz. Mr Trump always tells it as it is with his no fluff rhetoric.  Congress is expected to begin debate on the Iran accord when lawmakers return from recess Sept. 8.  It’s time for “We The People” to make our voices heard before our country as we know it is gone forever.

scotlandspeople3A complete record of the deaths of Scottish seafarers from late Victorian times until 1974 are now available to search on ScotlandsPeople as follows:

The 14,000 new records are monthly returns of the Deaths of Seamen, which list Scots along with other crew members of all nationalities who were serving on British-registered vessels between 1909 and 1974. Amongst the new entries are William M Murdoch, the Dalbeattie-born First Officer who died on the fateful maiden voyage RMS Titanic in 1912, and John Thompson, a seaman from Annan, who perished aged just 15 on the Lusitania, torpedoed by the Germans in 1915.

Also within the new records are the Returns of Deaths at Sea for the years 1902-1905: the lists of Scottish seamen and passengers reported to the Registrar General for Scotland as having died at sea.  Read the full News Release to find out more about these fascinating new records.
Carnegie Trust Student Archives

In 1901, Scots American millionaire Andrew Carnegie created the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland to help the “deserving and qualified youth of that country” to attend university. The main source of student funding until the introduction of government grants, the Carnegie Trust has played an important role in increasing social mobility and educational attainment in Scotland.

The original index cards showing the name of recipients, course details and the amount awards have been digitised, and the Carnegie Trust team will happily dig into its records on behalf of former recipients or their descendants curious to know more about the support given to them. The Trust also welcome information about our beneficiaries, summarising their achievements and life stories.

To learn more about the archive and request a search, please contact The Carnegie Trust.

Routes to your North East Roots

The ScotlandsPeople team will be attending the Routes to your North East Roots at Stonehaven Town Hall on Saturday 26 September 2015.   We’ll be offering one-on-one research, tips and advice on uncovering your ancestors. Amongst the guest speakers is Tristram Clarke of the National Records of Scotland, who will be delivering a talk about new and forthcoming records available on ScotlandsPeople.

Also upcoming are two family history talks at the National Records of Scotland.
There are still a few places left for the first event, on Tuesday 8 September, a family history session run by Iain Ferguson.  Iain will be offering hints and tips and there will be a hands-on session to help you get the most out of ScotlandsPeople. Next up is a talk by archivist Louise Williams from the Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA) onThursday, 8 October. Louise will explore how family historians can use hospital and medical records in their research, giving an introduction to the fascinating records that LHSA holds and how they can be accessed.

Appeal for information – Scots-Italians and Midwives
We’ve been delighted with the response to our recent appeal to those who have an ancestor who was a midwife in Scotland, or with Scots-Italians ancestry. If you have a story to tell, we would love to learn more about your ancestor’s life and experiences in Scotland for two forthcoming projects at the National Records of Scotland. We apologise for previously giving out the incorrect contact address. Please get in touch with us at

facebook_mThere’s always something new on the horizon and Facebook has been in the news a great deal lately with bad news on the stocks. The latest news is that they are working on an “assistant” called “M” to your messenger app. and there are now the details online help pull it all together. It is thought by some that this development puts the company squarely in competition with Apple, Google and Microsoft in the digital personal assistant space. We’ll see.

In a recent Facebook post, Facebook Messenger lead David Marcus wrote about Facebook’s plans: 

“Today we’re beginning to test a new service called M. M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf. It’s powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by people.

Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.

This is early in the journey to build M into an at-scale service. But it’s an exciting step towards enabling people on Messenger to get things done across a variety of things, so they can get more time to focus on what’s important in their lives.”

The following press release from Business Wire describes a collaborations between Gannett Co., the largest local-to national media company.  The Cincinnati Enquirer the first Gannett archive launched with over 4 million pages online:

August 24, 2015 09:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time

PROVO, Utah–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Ancestry, the leader in family history and consumer genetics, today announced its collaboration with Gannett Co., Inc., the largest local-to-national media company, to digitize more than 80 daily newspapers across the nation., an Ancestry business unit, and Gannett will provide a historical newspaper viewing experience complete with full text search, clipping and sharing features. Together, they expect to deliver more than 100 million full-page images of historical newspapers in a simple, easy-to-use online archive.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Gannett to deliver newspapers from the past directly to subscribers’ devices, allowing them to step back in time and experience the news as it was happening on that day, from new babies and marriages to war updates and other major news events,” stated Brent Carter, senior director of business development at

Through this collaboration, more than four million searchable pages of The Cincinnati Enquirer were made available online. and Gannett will begin the rollout phase of all public archives of more than 80 daily newspapers, including Detroit Free Press, The Arizona Republic, The Indianapolis Star, The Tennessean and many others to follow. Each archive will ultimately include every available page from the first date of publication up to issues from 30 days ago.

Each new archive will be accessible through an “Archives” link in the newspaper’s primary online navigation, mobile Web site and native mobile app. Archives will be updated on a regular basis with content from the previous month. Gannett digital subscribers will have access to the most recent two years of content included in full-access subscriptions. Complete archives will be available to everyone with an affordable monthly or annual subscription.

“This collaboration is a significant value add for our subscribers. We share a commitment to providing individuals with information about the people and events that shaped their history and are excited that this joint effort will unlock new ways for people to discover and share that information,” stated Maribel Perez Wadsworth, chief strategy officer at Gannett. Read the rest of this entry »

Lady GodivaAccording to History Extra,  the unofficial title of the first voyeur – whose name would go down in ignominy – goes to a Coventry tailor who just couldn’t control himself. History Revealed magazine investigates…

The original Peeping Tom, however, probably never existed. His story is steeped in the legend of Lady Godiva and her famous horse ride from the 11th century. Lady Godiva was pleading with her powerful husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, over his treatment of his people. The increasingly exasperated Leofric came up with a wager that he was sure would end the argument.

Leofric said he would lower his heavy taxes if Godiva rode through the streets of Coventry completely naked. He misjudged his wife’s reaction to this wager – Godiva met his challenge and made the ride.

Before setting off, the people of Coventry were ordered to stay indoors, close their shutters and make sure they averted their eyes as she passed by. According to legend, the whole town complied, apart from one man, Tom the tailor, who was unable to resist. As soon as he had peeked through his shutters and spied on the Lady Godiva, however, he was instantly struck blind.

Whether this story is true is open to debate. Lady Godiva was a real person, but records are sketchy about her bareback horse ride. As for Peeping Tom, he didn’t emerge into the legend until the 17th century – it is unclear why he was added to the already-racy story. One of the first written mentions of him wasn’t until the late 18th century, in Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: “Peeping Tom, a nickname for a curious prying fellow.”

indianapolis500On August 19, 1909, the first race was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the home of the world’s most famous motor racing competition, the Indianapolis 500.

Built on 328 acres of farmland five miles northwest of Indianapolis, Indiana, the speedway was started by local businessmen as a testing facility for Indiana’s growing automobile industry. The idea was that occasional races at the track would pit cars from different manufacturers against each other. After seeing what these cars could do, spectators would presumably head down to the showroom of their choice to get a closer look.

The rectangular two-and-a-half-mile track linked four turns, each exactly 440 yards from start to finish, by two long and two short straight sections. In that first five-mile race on August 19, 1909, 12,000 spectators watched Austrian engineer Louis Schwitzer win with an average speed of 57.4 miles per hour. The track’s surface of crushed rock and tar proved a disaster, breaking up in a number of places and causing the deaths of two drivers, two mechanics and two spectators.

The surface was soon replaced with 3.2 million paving bricks, laid in a bed of sand and fixed with mortar. Dubbed “The Brickyard,” the speedway reopened in December 1909. In 1911, low attendance led the track’s owners to make a crucial decision: Instead of shorter races, they resolved to focus on a single, longer event each year, for a much larger prize. That May 30 marked the debut of the Indy 500–a grueling 500-mile race that was an immediate hit with audiences and drew press attention from all over the country. Driver Ray Haroun won the purse of $14,250, with an average speed of 74.59 mph and a total time of 6 hours and 42 minutes.

Since 1911, the Indianapolis 500 has been held every year, with the exception of 1917-18 and 1942-45, when the United States was involved in the two world wars. With an average crowd of 400,000, the Indy 500 is the best-attended event in U.S. sports. In 1936, asphalt was used for the first time to cover the rougher parts of the track, and by 1941 most of the track was paved. The last of the speedway’s original bricks were covered in 1961, except for a three-foot line of bricks left exposed at the start-finish line as a nostalgic reminder of the track’s history.

hardingOnly recently I mentioned on this blog when researching family history be prepared for the unexpected, the good and the not so great bombshells . The following article by Peter Baker for the New York Times is probably vindication for President Harding’s daughter Elizabeth Britton and her descendants:

“WASHINGTON — She was denounced as a “degenerate” and a “pervert,” accused of lying for money and shamed for waging a “diabolical” campaign of falsehoods against the president’s family that tore away at his legacy.

Long before Lucy Mercer, Kay Summersby or Monica Lewinsky, there was Nan Britton, who scandalized a nation with stories of carnal adventures in a White House coat closet and endured a ferocious backlash for publicly claiming that she bore the love child of President Warren G. Harding.

Now nearly a century later, according to genealogists, new genetic tests confirm for the first time that Ms. Britton’s daughter, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing, was indeed Harding’s biological child. The tests have solved one of the enduring mysteries of presidential history and offer new insights into the secret life of America’s 29th president. At the least, they demonstrate how the march of technology is increasingly rewriting the nation’s history books.

The revelation has also roiled two families that have circled each other warily for 90 years, struggling with issues of rumor, truth and fidelity. Even now, members of the president’s family remain divided over the matter, with some still skeptical after a lifetime of denial and unhappy about cousins who chose to pursue the question. Some descendants of Ms. Britton remain resentful that it has taken this long for evidence to come out and for her credibility to be validated.

“It’s sort of Shakespearean and operatic,” said Dr. Peter Harding, a grandnephew of the president and one of those who instigated the DNA testing that confirmed the relationship to Ms. Britton’s offspring. “This story hangs over the whole presidential history because it was an unsolved mystery.” Read the rest of this entry »

medieval-warrior-princeThanks to William Shakespeare, Macbeth has become legend and the Bard’s narrative is based on the true history of  King Macbeth.

At the Battle of Lumphanan, King Macbeth of Scotland was slain by Malcolm Canmore, whose father, King Duncan I, was murdered by Macbeth 17 years earlier.

Macbeth was a grandson of King Kenneth II and also had a claim to the throne through his wife, Gruoch, who was the granddaughter of Kenneth III–the Scottish king who had been overthrown by Duncan’s predecessor King Malcolm II.

Under King Duncan, Macbeth was governor of the Scottish province of Moray and a trusted military commander. However, he opposed Duncan’s ties to the Saxons in the South, and he rose in rebellion. On August 14, 1040, Macbeth killed Duncan in a battle near Elgin, and he was crowned king of Scotland in his place.

In 1054, after 14 years of rule, King Macbeth suffered a major military defeat at the Battle of Dunsinane against Siward, the earl of Northumbria. Siward was acting on behalf of Malcolm Canmore, Duncan’s son. Malcolm then gained control of the southern part of Scotland and spent the next three years pursuing Macbeth, who fled to the north. On August 15, 1057, Macbeth was defeated and killed by Malcolm at the Battle of Lumphanan with the assistance of the English. Malcolm Canmore was crowned Malcolm III in 1058.


The British National Archives are now offering  a bumper bundle of new records. Also in advance of the launch of the 1939 register later this year, their partners at Findmypast are offering readers a subscription offer:

The new records are listed below with links to their location in the National Archives database where you will find very well laid out instructions and other ways to contact help which includes a live chat. I’ve found live chats in these instances to be better than a telephone call:

scotlandspeople2Here’s the latest from ScotlandsPeople:

“You can now view the updated indexes for statutory records until the end of 2014, and in addition to this, images for births until 1914, marriages until 1939 and deaths until 1964. You can also purchase an Extract, a fully certified copy of a birth, marriage or death certificate, for 12GBP. For more information on purchasing an official Extract, please read more.

Search the birth, marriage and death indexes

Changes in naming Conventions in Scotland – babies’ names 2014

The new statutory birth indexes offer a fascinating insight into the most popular and unusual names for babies registered in Scotland during the period from January to November 2014.

Emily has knocked Sophie from the top spot and is the most popular girls’ name, and Jack remains the favourite name for boys for 7 years running. Jessica, Isla, Olivia, Sophie and Emily make up the top five girls’ names, while Logan, Oliver, Lewis, James and Jack make up the top five names for boys.  You can read the full and final list for babies’ forenames here.

Appeal for information – Scots-Italians and Midwives
Do you have an ancestor who was a midwife in Scotland, or do you have Scots-Italians ancestry? If so we would be delighted to learn more about your ancestor’s life and experiences in Scotland for two forthcoming projects. Please get in touch with us at”



Thomas Edison’s Kinetograph

Can you believe it’s August already? As usual I’m sharing some interesting gems from History Extra where we take a look back of some strangest and most surprising things that have happened in August through history:

1) 2 August 1100: King William II is killed by an arrow in mysterious circumstances

While hunting in the New Forest in 1100, William II (Rufus) was shot and killed by an arrow fired by nobleman Walter Tirel. The incident was at the time recorded as an accident. However, it has since been suggested that it could have been an assassination.

According to chronicler Orderic Vitalis, before the hunting party set off the king was presented with a letter from the Abbot of Gloucester, warning William II of a vision that a monk had had of the king’s death. However, the king dismissed the letter and began the hunt.

During the hunt, nobleman Walter Tirel took a shot at a stag, yet the arrow missed and hit the king in the chest. Tirel fled the scene almost immediately to France. Learning of the king’s death, William’s brother, Henry, rode to Winchester to proclaim himself king. It is possible that Henry had planned for his brother’s murder in order to gain the throne, yet this is disputed among scholars.

 2) 1 August 1774: Joseph Priestley discovers oxygen

While employed as the tutor of the children of William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, British minister and chemist Joseph Priestley discovered the gas oxygen.

After experimenting with different ‘airs’, Priestley conducted an experiment that would make his scientific work famous. By using what was referred to as a ‘burning lens’, he placed a lump of mercuric oxide in a glass container and focused some sunlight onto the compound. A colourless gas was emitted and a candle began to burn. To begin with, Priestley called this ‘dephlogisticated air’, before further tests confirmed the discovery of oxygen.

 3) 31 August 1897: Thomas Edison secures a patent for his kinetograph

After first developing it in the early 1890s, Thomas Edison secured a patent for the kinetograph, a camera that could record film footage. His camera was based on work completed by French still-photograph pioneers Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre, but unlike previous cameras Edison used celluloid film in the kinetograph. After building a small film studio in 1893, Edison was able to capture footage and create films. One of his first was of three of his employees acting as blacksmiths.

In 1897 Edison sued American Mutoscope and Biograph Pictures, after he claimed the company had transgressed on the patent for his kinetograph.

4) 20 August 1911: The first telegram is sent around the world in just 16.5 minutes

The first telegram was sent from the New York Times office in order to discover how long it would take for a message to cross the world by telegraph cable. The message, which travelled more than 28,000 miles, simply read “This message sent around the world”.

After being transferred by 16 operators across the globe, including those in San Francisco, Saigon and the Azores, the reply to the message was received by the New York Times office just 16.5 minutes after being sent. This made the telegram the fastest message to be sent by a commercial cablegram since the Commercial Cable Company first launched the Pacific cable in 1900.

 5) 21 August 1911: The Mona Lisa is stolen in France

Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting was stolen from the Louvre in Paris on this day in 1911. Italian handyman Vincenzo Peruggia decided to steal the 16th-century painting after being employed by the Louvre to construct protective glass cases for some of the museum’s most famous works, which included the Mona Lisa.

After spending the night in a closet, Peruggia was able to remove the painting with ease, hide it under his clothes and leave the building – he was let out by a plumber after finding the doors were locked.

The painting was not reported missing until 24 hours later. After this, the newspapers were filled with stories about the stolen masterpiece. It was not until two years later, December 1913, that the painting was finally recovered. Peruggia received a seven-month jail sentence.

 6) 27 August 1955: The Guinness Book of World Records is published

The first edition of The Guinness Book of Records was published on 27 August 1955, and printed 50,000 copies in its first year. By Christmas 1955 the book had become a bestseller in the United Kingdom.

Sir Hugh Beaver, the managing director of the Guinness Brewery, first came up with the idea of the book of records in the early 1950s following an argument at a shooting party about the fastest game bird in Europe.

Twins Norris and Ross McWhirter were invited by Beaver to research and write the book, which took 13-and-a-half straight weeks to write. The first edition of the records was drafted and then published in 1955.

Sandy on August 10th, 2015

The following new records are available at Findmypast :

This week’s Findmypast Friday marks the release of over 1.2 million new additions to our collection of Staffordshire parish registers. These new additions have been released in partnership with with the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service and are the second phase of an exciting project to create the Staffordshire Collection on Findmypast – a rich source, which on completion will comprise around 6 million fully searchable transcripts and scanned images of handwritten parish records. Over 17,000 records relating to Hillsborough Cemetery in Auckland, New Zealand are also available to search.

Staffordshire Baptisms

Over 483,000 records have been added to our collection of Staffordshire baptism records in the second phase of Findmypast’s partnership with the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service. On completion, the Staffordshire Collection will comprise approximately 6 million fully searchable transcripts and scanned images of registers from Staffordshire parishes, spanning 1538 to 1900. Staffordshire Baptisms now contains over 1.7 million records. Each record includes a transcript and scanned colour image of the original source material. The parents of the person baptised are often named, which can prove a crucial link to previous generations. Some of the more recent records list the date of birth, mother’s maiden name, the father’s occupation and the name of the officiating minister.

Staffordshire Marriages Read the rest of this entry »

anne-frankA sad day in history took place seventy-one years ago today. On August 4, 1944, acting on tip from a Dutch informer, the Nazi Gestapo captured 15-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family in a sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse.

The Franks had taken shelter there in 1942 out of fear of deportation to a Nazi concentration camp and occupied the small space with another Jewish family and a single Jewish man. They were aided by Christian friends, who brought them food and supplies. Anne spent much of her time in the “secret annex” working on her diary. The diary survived the war, overlooked by the Gestapo that discovered the hiding place, but Anne and nearly all of the others perished in the Nazi death camps.

Annelies Marie Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on June 12, 1929. She was the second daughter of Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Hollander, both of Jewish families that had lived in Germany for centuries. With the rise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1933, Otto moved his family to Amsterdam to escape the escalating Nazi persecution of Jews. In Holland, he ran a successful spice and jam business. Anne attended a Montessori school with other middle-class Dutch children, but with the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 she was forced to transfer to a Jewish school. In 1942, Otto began arranging a hiding place in an annex of his warehouse on the Prinsengracht Canal in Amsterdam.

On her 13th birthday in 1942, Anne began a diary relating her everyday experiences, her relationship with her family and friends, and observations about the increasingly dangerous world around her. Less than a month later, Anne’s older sister, Margot, received a call-up notice to report to a Nazi “work camp.” Fearing deportation to a Nazi concentration camp, the Frank family took shelter in the secret annex the next day. One week later, they were joined by Otto Frank’s business partner and his family. In November, a Jewish dentist—the eighth occupant of the hiding place—joined the group.

For two years, Anne kept a diary about her life in hiding that is marked with poignancy, humor, and insight. The entrance to the secret annex was hidden by a hinged bookcase, and former employees of Otto and other Dutch friends delivered them food and supplies procured at high risk. Anne and the others lived in rooms with blacked-out windows, and never flushed the toilet during the day out of fear that their presence would be detected. In June 1944, Anne’s spirits were raised by the Allied landing at Normandy, and she was hopeful that the long-awaited liberation of Holland would soon begin.

On August 1, 1944, Anne made her last entry in her diary. Three days later, 25 months of seclusion ended with the arrival of the Nazi Gestapo. Anne and the others had been given away by an unknown informer, and they were arrested along with two of the Christians who had helped shelter them. They were sent to a concentration camp in Holland, and in September Anne and most of the others were shipped to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. In the fall of 1944, with the Soviet liberation of Poland underway, Anne was moved with her sister Margot to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Suffering under the deplorable conditions of the camp, the two sisters caught typhus and died in early March 1945. The camp was liberated by the British less than two months later.

Otto Frank was the only one of the 10 to survive the Nazi death camps. After the war, he returned to Amsterdam via Russia, and was reunited with Miep Gies, one of his former employees who had helped shelter him. She handed him Anne’s diary, which she had found undisturbed after the Nazi raid. In 1947, Anne’s diary was published by Otto in its original Dutch as Diary of a Young Girl. An instant best-seller and eventually translated into more than 50 languages, The Diary of Anne Frank has served as a literary testament to the nearly six million Jews, including Anne herself, who were silenced in the Holocaust.

The Frank family’s hideaway at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam opened as a museum in 1960. A new English translation of Anne’s diary in 1995 restored material that had been edited out of the original version, making the work nearly a third longer.

I personally recommend  folks read the diary of Anne Frank and ponder on humanity and what’s happening in the world today. There’s no need to spell it out.

Sandy on August 3rd, 2015

female_caligulaThe latest article from History Extra, submitted by Emma McFarnon, does not disappoint readers. I was, however, interested to see a different viewpoint on Mary Queen of Scots where the author states  that it is easy to overlook the blindingly obvious point that she was absolutely useless as queen of Scotland. The write up is short.  Even if it were a more robust account, which wouldn’t be appropriate for the article, poor little Mary did not deserve her fate since there were many other monarchs who would have been better candidates among the nine instead of Mary Queen of Scots:

History has no shortage of disastrous rulers; this list could easily have been filled with the Roman Emperors alone. Rulers have been homicidal, like Nero or Genghis Khan; incompetent, like Edward II; completely untrustworthy, like Charles I; or amiable but inadequate, like Louis XVI of France or Tsar Nicholas II.

Some royal stinkers were limited in their capacity to do serious harm: the self-absorbed Edward VIII by his abdication, the narcissistic prince regent and king, George IV, by the constitutional limits on his power. And the mass murderer and self-proclaimed ‘Emperor’ Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Empire might have featured on this list had his imperial status been international recognised, but it wasn’t.

Nearly-rans include the French Emperor Napoleon III, whose delusions of competence led to disaster in Italy, Mexico and finally defeat at the hands of Bismarck, and the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, a ludicrously gauche and immature ruler but not actually responsible on his own for launching Germany, and the rest of Europe, into the First World War.

The nearly-rans also include the extravagant waste of money and space that went by the name of King Ludwig II of Bavaria; and absentee monarchs like Richard I of England and Charles XII of Sweden – both of them great military leaders who spent much of their reigns away at war, including time in captivity, instead of seeing to the affairs of their kingdoms.

Here, then, is my list of the nine worst monarchs in history…

 Gaius Caligula (AD 12–41)

There are plenty of other contenders for worst Roman Emperor – Nero and Commodus for example – but Caligula’s mad reign sets a high standard. After a promising start to his reign he seems to have set out specifically to intimidate and humiliate the senate and high command of the army, and he gave grave offence, not least in Jerusalem, by declaring himself a god; even the Romans normally only recognised deification after death.

Caligula instituted a reign of terror through arbitrary arrest for treason, much as his predecessor Tiberius had done; it was also widely rumoured that he was engaged in incest with his sisters and that he lived a life of sexual debauchery, and this may well be true. The story of his making his horse a consul, meanwhile, may have been exaggerated, but it was not out of character.

Caligula’s unforgivable mistake was to jeopardise Rome’s military reputation by declaring a sort of surreal war on the sea, ordering his soldiers to wade in and slash at the waves with their swords and collecting chests full of seashells as the spoils of his ‘victory’ over the god Neptune, king of the sea and by his failed campaign against the Germans, for which he still awarded himself a triumph. He was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard in AD 41.

Caligula’s successor, Claudius, was an improvement but, despite the favourable picture in Robert Graves’s famous book I, Claudius, not by much.

Pope John XII (954–964)

Even by the lax standards of the medieval papacy, John XII stands out as a disaster of the highest order. He was elected pope at the ripe old age of 18 as part of a political deal with the Roman nobility, and he inherited a conflict for control of Italy between the papacy and the Italian king Berengarius.

John had the support of the powerful German emperor Otto I, who swore to defend John’s title, but John himself was too taken up with a life of drunken sex parties in the Lateran to care too much either way. He recovered from his hangover enough to accept Otto’s oath of undying loyalty and then promptly linked up behind Otto’s back with his enemy, Berengarius.

Understandably annoyed, Otto had John overthrown and accused, among other things, of simony (clerical corruption), murder, perjury and incest, and he replaced him with a new pope, Leo VIII. However, John made a comeback and had Leo’s supporters punished ruthlessly: one cardinal had his hand cut off and he had a bishop whipped.

Full-scale war broke out between John and Otto, until John unexpectedly died – in bed with another man’s wife, or so rumour had it.

King John (1199–1216)

The reign of King John is a salutary reminder that murder and treachery may possibly be forgiven in a monarch, but not incompetence.

John was the youngest and favourite son of Henry II, but he had not been entrusted with any lands and was mockingly nicknamed John Lackland. He tried unsuccessfully to seize power while his brother Richard I was away on crusade and was sent into exile upon Richard’s return.

On his accession John had his own nephew Arthur murdered, fearing Arthur might pursue his own, much better, claim to the throne, and he embarked on a disastrous war with King Philippe-Auguste of France in which he lost the whole of Normandy. This singular act of incompetence deprived the barons of an important part of their power base, and he alienated them further with arbitrary demands for money and even by forcing himself on their wives.

In exasperation they forced him to accept Magna Carta; no sooner had he sealed it, however, than he then went back on his word and plunged the country into a maelstrom of war and French invasion. Some tyrants have been rehabilitated by history – but not John.

King Richard II (1377–99)

Unlike Richard III, Richard II has good reason to feel grateful towards Shakespeare, who portrayed this startlingly incompetent monarch as a tragic figure; a victim of circumstances and of others’ machinations rather than the vain, self-regarding author of his own downfall he actually was.

Learning nothing from the disastrous precedent of Edward II, Richard II alienated the nobility by gathering a bunch of cronies around him and then ended up in confrontation with parliament over his demands for money.

His reign descended into a game of political manoeuvre between himself and his much more able and impressive uncle, John of Gaunt, before degenerating into a gory grudge match between Richard and the five Lords Appellant, whom he either had killed or forced into exile.

Richard might have redeemed himself by prowess in war or administration, but he possessed neither. Henry Bolingbroke’s coup of 1399, illegal though it no doubt was, brought to an end Richard’s disastrous reign. Richard II has his defenders nowadays, who will doubtless take issue with his inclusion in this list, but there really is very little to say for him as a ruler.

Ivan IV ‘the Terrible’ (1547–84)

Prince Ivan Vassilyevitch grew up at the hazardous court of Moscow, his life often in danger from the rivalry of the boyars – nobles. It gave him a lifelong hatred of the nobility and a deep streak of ruthless cruelty – aged 13 he had one boyar eaten alive by dogs.

Ivan was Prince of Muscovy from 1533, and in 1547 he was crowned Tsar (Emperor) of all Russia – the first ruler to hold the title. He crushed the boyars, stealing their lands to give to his own followers; he also condemned millions of Russians to a permanent state of serfdom.

Ivan took a vast area of Russia as his personal domain patrolled by a mounted police force with carte blanche to arrest and execute as they liked. Distrusting the city of Novgorod he had it violently sacked and its inhabitants massacred, and he embarked on a disastrous and ultimately unsuccessful series of wars with Russia’s neighbours.

Ivan beat up his own pregnant daughter-in-law and killed his son in a fit of rage. Ivan was in many ways an able ruler, but his ruthlessness, paranoia and taste for blood earn him his place in this list.

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–67) Read the rest of this entry »

Monmouth County, New Jersey, Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon explores the rich history of Naturalizations books and records, housed at the County Clerk’s office. Host Cynthia Scott talks with County Clerk Giordano Hanlon and County Archivist Gary Saretzky about these books, preservation and how to do research. Online searches are available at at the County Archives. It’s a great video. Take a look:

Lampooning the latest discovery claiming that the first people to reach the Americas came from Siberia, now in Russia, around 23,000 years ago, new research proposes that native Americans living in the Amazon show an unexpected genetic connection to indigenous people in Australasia.

The new discovery suggests a previously unknown wave of migration to the Americas thousands of years ago. According to David Reich, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and senior author of the study, “There is a strong working model in archaeology and genetics that most Native Americans today extend from a single pulse of expansion south of the ice sheets – and that is wrong. We missed something very important in the original data.

Previous research showed that native Americans from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America can trace their ancestry to a single “founding population” called the First Americans.

In 2012, Reich and colleagues enriched this history by showing that certain indigenous groups in northern Canada inherited DNA from at least two previous waves of migration.

The new study, published in the journal Nature, indicates that there is more to the story.

Pontus Skoglund, first author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher in the Reich lab, was studying genetic data when he noticed a strange similarity between one or two Native American groups in Brazil and indigenous groups in Australia, New Guinea and the Andaman Islands. Reich said, “That was an unexpected and somewhat confusing result.

The team analyzed publicly available genetic information from 21 native American populations from Central and South America. They also collected Read the rest of this entry »

Another useful share from the blog. I’ve taken some of their classes in the past and found them more than useful:

Several new classes have been added to the FamilySearch Learning Center. These new classes include:

  • Danish Research
  • England Research
  • South African Research
  • Spain, Latin America, Mexico ResearchSwedish Research
  • Various Other Research-related Content

Below are links to the full classes or webinars found on the FamilySearch website. To access a class, click on the title of the course or webinar you want to view. Read the rest of this entry »

british-slave-ownersAlan Stewart owner of Grow Your Own Family Tree says:

“University College London’s Department of History has made a database of ‘slave-owners’ available online.

UCL has set up the project and website Legacies of British Slave-ownership. The project’s overview states that:

“In 1833 Parliament finally abolished slavery in the British Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape. The slave trade had been abolished in 1807, but it had taken another 26 years to effect the emancipation of the enslaved. However, in place of slavery the negotiated settlement established a system of apprenticeship, tying the newly freed men and women into another form of unfree labour for fixed terms.

“It also granted £20 million in compensation, to be paid by British taxpayers to the former slave-owners. That compensation money provided the starting point for our first project. We are now tracking back to 1763 the ownership histories of the 4,000 or so estates identified in that project.”

At the project’s website, you can search its database of around 46,000 members of the aristocracy and gentry who were ‘slave-owners’.

The BBC is broadcasting two one-hour television programmes entitled “Britain’s Forgotten Slave-owners”, presented by Anglo-Nigerian historian David Olusoga. You can read his Observer article on the subject at The Guardian‘s website.”

Sandy on July 21st, 2015

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

TheGenealogist has released online 99,500 records of London synagogue seat-holders spanning the years from 1920 to 1939.

  • Covering the records from 18 Synagogues around London with many connected guilds, societies and charities etc.
  • Additional information found in these records include names of gentlemen eligible for office, life member of the council, women who are seatholders in their own right and seatholders who are not eligible to vote.
  • Fully searchable by name, keyword, synagogue and address, the Jewish Synagogue Seatholders has been extracted from various years of: “Seatholders for Synagogues in London”

Those with Jewish ancestors from London will welcome this fascinating new release from TheGenealogist. Revealing details of positions held by forebears, researchers will be able to track ancestors who became wardens, council members, or served on committees of their synagogue, as well as seatholders in synagogues from around the capital city. These fully indexed records allow family historians to search by name, keyword, synagogue and address and with one click see an image taken from the pages of Seatholders for Synagogues in London.

Sandy on July 19th, 2015

The following press release outlines a very interesting move for with a new source to empower consumers with important health information through DNA. This includes the announcement of the hiring of a Chief Health Officer, Dr. Cathy A. Petti, who has previously held executive roles at HealthSpring Global, TriCore Reference Laboratories, and Novartis:

Dr. Cathy Petti Joins as Chief Health Officer to Spearhead Company’s Global Health Initiatives

AncestryDNA Database Surpasses One Million People Genotyped

PROVO, Utah, July 16, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Ancestry (, the leader in family history and consumer genetics, today announced the launch of AncestryHealth (, a new entity and resource to empower consumers with important health insights to help promote wellness, prevent illness and support healthier living. The company also announced appointment of Cathy A. Petti, MD, as AncestryHealth’s Chief Health Officer. At the same time, AncestryDNA ( announced the accomplishment of surpassing one million people tested in its database.

AncestryHealth’s first offering is a free service, currently in beta, that gives consumers the ability to compile their family health history information with the help of their Ancestry family tree.

Family health history is unique to every person. According to the Surgeon General’s office, family health history is one of the most effective screening tools in health today. Because certain health conditions like breast cancer, heart disease and cystic fibrosis can run in families and be traced, knowing important information about one’s family’s health history can help individuals and their physicians be more aware of potential health problems and take the necessary steps to reduce and prevent risks.

“Ancestry fundamentally believes family history is a powerful tool that not only can educate individuals about their past and where they came from, but can inform their future,” stated Tim Sullivan, CEO of Ancestry. “This new service leverages expert research and delivers customized information to consumers about the risks and prevention measures to help empower them to make healthy lifestyle choices. Combined with the breadth and scale of Ancestry data, we expect AncestryHealth to be a key piece of the puzzle as we look to understand how health is passed down through generations, and we are excited to have Dr. Petti lead this effort.” Read the rest of this entry »

PandoraBoxI’d like to share an article written by Joy Neighbours  and published on Inside It touches on the more sensitive side of family history research and I, like most people, found a couple of interesting facts that makes me wonder if they need to be shared.  It’s a reminder to  think before you decide to open a Pandora’s box.  One also might to consider that by keeping quiet about key components of family history they will never stand a chance of being fully revealed leaving a large gap in understanding whom our ancestors were. Sharing real information  could help us understand the past and present.  See below:

If you’ve ever explored genealogy, you’ve probably uncovered a family secret or two.

Some sociologists warn that if you dig too deep, you may get more than you bargained for.

Family secrets can run the gamut from the relatively tame taboos by today’s standards of illegitimate children, interracial and interfaith marriages to bigamy, mental illness into the darker depths of incest, suicide or murder.

We all begin our genealogy journey wanting to discover who our people were, especially in relation to who we are, but when we discover a family secret, we need to be prepared and decide how to handle the information.

It’s important to remember that every family has a story – some of it good, some not. And there are skeletons in every family’s closet so think about what you will do when you open Pandora’s box.

What to do will depend on several factors, the most important: who will the information affect now? Read the rest of this entry »

cascadiafaultIn case you didn’t know it already there’s an enormous fault off the cost of the Pacific Northwest, from Cape Mendocino, California to Newport, that has been silent for 312 years and Vancouver Island for 480 years. And while the north may have only half as many jolts, they tend to be full-size disasters in which the entire fault breaks from end to end.

A very bad day in the Cascadia Subduction Zone is ominously overdue. According to scientists, three centuries of silence along the fault has been entirely misleading and this is real. The monster is only sleeping  and will awaken with a vengeance and produce a 9.3 magnitude. Just over a year ago a magnitude-9 earthquake hit the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan triggering one off the most destructive tsunamis in a thousand years. The projected Cascadia Subduction will produce worse.

If you’d like to read the detail rich article in Discovery magazine by Jerry Thompson, click on The Giant, Underestimated Earthquake Threat to North America, it will be worth your while.

Sandy on July 13th, 2015
The Duke of York future King George VI plays at Wimbeldon

The Duke of York future King George VI plays at Wimbeldon

While we still have the 2015 Wimbledon tennis championships on our minds, it might be fun for readers to enjoy 10 scandalous moments in Wimbledon history from historyextra. At least 9 out of 10 are scandalous. No 1 was a history making event when the future King George VI (Queen Elizabeth’s father) played in the men’s doubles. See below

1926: Royalty playing at Wimbledon

Members of the royal family have long taken their seats in the royal box on Centre Court, but in 1926 George VI decided to break with tradition: the then Duke of York took to the court in the men’s doubles tournament with wing commander Louis Greig. The duke faced Arthur Gore (aged 58) and H Roper Barrett (aged 52).

Experience triumphed over youth in this match, however – the future monarch was defeated in three straight sets. George VI is the only member of the royal family to have played at Wimbledon.

1949: Knickers in a twist

Over the decades, female tennis players have donned small skirts and shorts during their matches. However, ‘Gorgeous Gussie’ Moran caused scandal during the 1949 championships when she wore ruffled lace knickers underneath her tennis skirt.

Her choice of attire prompted some members of the All England Club to argue that Moran was causing “vulgarity and sin” in tennis, and questions about the issue were even raised in parliament.

Despite being seeded as seventh out of the women’s American players, Moran shot almost overnight to celebrity status, and went on to make it to the doubles final. In her later competitions, Moran chose to wear shorts rather than skirts.

1957: Protests during the Queen’s visit to Wimbledon

During the men’s doubles finals between Neale Fraser and Lew Hoad against Gardnar Molloy and Budge Patty, a protester jumped over the courtside wall and got onto the Centre Court while holding a sign that read ‘Save Our Queen’.

Protester Helen Jarvis was campaigning for the ‘Life, Love and Sex Appeal Party’, and she declared that she wanted a new banking system in the UK. Policemen and the match’s referee, Col Legg, quickly escorted Jarvis off of the court.

This did not put off the Queen from returning to Wimbledon, however: she went on to attend matches in 1962, 1977 and 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

In a press release the National Library of Ireland has now online almost 400,000 images of Catholic parish register microfilms are now available online for free.   Their April 2015 press release  is as follows:

The entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms held by the National Library of Ireland (NLI) will be made available online – for free – from 8 th July 2015 onwards. On that date, a dedicated website will go live, with over 390,000 digital images of the microfilm reels on which the parish registers are recorded.

The NLI has been working to digitise the microfilms for over three years under its most ambitious digitisation programme to date.

The parish register records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census. Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,091 parishes throughout the island of Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records. Read the rest of this entry »

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone

Some interesting historical events from History Extra:

1) 28 July 1540: An eventful day for Henry VIII

An ageing Henry VIII married young Catherine Howard, while Thomas Cromwell was beheaded on Tower Hill.

After Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves (which Cromwell had orchestrated) quickly broke down, Cromwell’s political rivals at court – most notably the Norfolk family – saw this as an opportunity to bring Cromwell down from power by pushing Catherine Howard forward as an alternative wife.

Cromwell was sentenced to death for treason without facing trial after an act of attainder was passed against him. [An attainder is an act of a legislature declaring a person guilty without a trial.]

Catherine would follow Cromwell to the executioner’s block just over a year-and-a-half later on the grounds of treason after conducting an affair with Thomas Culpepper.

2) 19 July 1799: French soldier discovers Rosetta Stone

During a campaign in Egypt, a Napoleonic soldier found a black stone outside Rosetta, a town 35 miles from Alexandria. The stone was a slab, almost two-and-a-half feet wide and nearly four feet long, with different inscriptions on it including Egyptian demotic, Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Following his invasion of Egypt in 1798, Napoleon had ordered a group of scholars to seize any cultural artefacts and to take them into French possession. The British took ownership of the stone after the French were defeated in 1801.

3) 6 July 1885: A step forward for modern medicine

Although he was not certain that the vaccine would work, French microbiologist Louis Pasteur successfully gave the first anti-rabies vaccination to nine-year-old Joseph Meister, who had been bitten by an infected dog.

Pasteur, who had first tested the rabies vaccine on dogs, was a pioneer in using vaccines to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

4) 13 July 1923: ‘Lady Astor’s Bill’ succeeds in parliament

Following MP Lady Nancy Astor’s campaign to raise the legal age of drinking in Britain, a law was passed in the House of Commons to prevent the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 18. Nicknamed ‘Lady Astor’s Bill’, it won by 257 votes to 10.  Read the rest of this entry »

Who Do You Think You Are?The two-time Emmy nominated series WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? returns Sunday, July 26, at 9/8c. Every season has revealed some fascinating family history discoveries of celebrities. At the same time the series provides instruction to everyone interested in genealogy on how to uncover their roots.

Geneabloggers says some the celebrities featured in the upcoming season include:


Tom Bergeron, who is aware of his French Canadian roots on his paternal side, but wants to know what brought his ancestors to North America. He goes as far back as his 10x great grandmother to find the answer.

Bryan Cranston, who comes to discover an unfortunate pattern amongst the men in his family.

Ginnifer Goodwin, who sets out to learn about her mysterious paternal great grandparents, whom her father, regretfully, does not know much about either.

Alfre Woodard, who strives to find out more about the paternal side of her family, and explores how her surname came to be.

Additionally, TLC will air the U.S. premiere of J.K. Rowling’s episode of the series, where the best-selling author sets off to uncover her maternal French roots. She finds that a family war story might not be what she thought when military records reveal a surprising twist.

Ancestry, the leading family history company, is teaming up again with TLC as a sponsor of the upcoming season. As part of the show sponsorship, Ancestry provides exhaustive family history research on each of the featured celebrities to help make discoveries possible and build out the story of each episode.

Sandy on July 1st, 2015

The blog posted information on their newly updated privacy policy as follows:

“At Ancestry, we value and respect our customers’ privacy and we have standards in place to protect the integrity of the data our customers entrust to us. So, we want to be clear about a policy change we are making.

As of today, we are updating our privacy statement to clarify what information we may use and share in an effort to further research in fields such as human evolution and migration, population genetics, health, ethnographic diversity and genealogy. We feel we can contribute to discoveries about the intersection of family history, health and genetics that could benefit our members and society at large.

Please visit our updated privacy statement here.

What this means to you:

We will not share information with third parties for research unless the information has been anonymized or aggregated so that individuals cannot be reasonably identified. Personal information such as names and addresses are kept confidential.

We will not share information from private trees for research purposes unless you have agreed to participate by signing our informed consent.

Your Privacy Settings:

While the majority of our customers choose to keep their trees public for the benefit of discovering, sharing and collaborating with the Ancestry community, you do have the option to make your tree private.

New customers are prompted at registration to mark trees as ‘public’ or ‘private’.

Existing customers can log-in and follow the directions here to make their family tree private.

If you have any questions or concerns, please visit our privacy center here.”

Sandy on June 29th, 2015

Fleet_Street._By_James_Valentine_c.1890The Findmypast blog says:

Just how murky is your past? Are there wrongdoers in your family tree? Perhaps you’re the descendant of legal eagles and lawmakers.

Whether your family history contains vice or virtue, over our Crime and Punishment month we’ll be giving you the opportunity to find out more than ever before, with blogs, articles and videos to help you research your criminal ancestry.

Launched to coincide with our release of almost 2 million crime and punishment records – made available online for the first time only on Findmypast – our Crime and Punishment month explores the seedy underbelly of our family histories.

In addition to our helpful blogs and videos, there’ll be stories of the criminals amongst our record collections, fun games and quizzes and case studies of the amazing criminal ancestry discoveries made by our users.

Links to Dickens’ London

Examples of the stories we’ll be exploring in our records include the inspiration for Charles Dickens’ character Mademoiselle Hortense from Bleak House is included in the new records. Maria Manning and her husband Frank, were sentenced to public execution for killing Maria’s lover Patrick O’Conner. Dickens watched the hanging and was consequently driven to campaign against capital punishment and immortalise Manning in his fiction.

The new records uncover fresh detail on petitions and pleas to stop the hanging, including a letter from a member of the public, asking the Home Office to acquit Frank because he was only doing what “any red blooded man would do.”

Most of the requests were for Frank’s life to be spared. However, surprisingly, the records show us a long petition for clemency for Maria in French, from a lawyer who had apparently known her in her youth. These pleas fell on deaf ears as the married couple were hanged together outside Horsemonger Lane Gaol, London in 1849.

Stay tuned throughout this month for more burglaries, murders, embezzlements and other crimes and misdemeanours than you could rattle a chain at.

Start a free trial today.


Sandy on June 26th, 2015

One of the most enlightening classes during my college days focused on historiography (writing history). It was very difficult task to write history without bias. As evidenced by most television channels and newspapers, our news media fails miserably in the quest to report unbiased truth.  Many go out of their way to lie and, after the damage is done, issue apologies.

If history is written by the victors, as Winston Churchill allegedly said, then what of the losers; how is their tale told? Ruins in most nations offer alternative history and  tell the story of a constantly shifting balance of power. They tell us how even mighty armies and steadfast institutions can topple in the shifting sands of time. Ruins depict forces, often way beyond our control, that continue to shape our lives to this day. The ruins speak to the history of losing side.

Click on History Extra to read another fascinating article by writer Dave Hamilton author of Wild Ruins the first ever guidebook to Britain’s ruins.  In the article Hamilton shares seven of his favorite ruins and explains their historical significance.

Britains 7 most amazing ruins.


archivesandrecsrodsadminofusAccording to  the Archives of the United States of America has been hacked—indicative of the same hack that extracted private information of past and present federal  employees.  This breach is a very serious violation. What’s next? The Power Grid?

See below:

The National Archives and Records Administration recently detected unauthorized activity on three desktops indicative of the same hack that extracted sensitive details on millions of current and former federal employees, government officials said Monday. The revelation suggests the breadth of one of the most damaging cyber assaults known is wider than officials have disclosed.

The National Archives’ own intrusion-prevention technology successfully spotted the so-called indicators of compromise during a scan this spring, said a source involved in the investigation, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the incident. The discovery was made soon after the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team published signs of the wider attack — which targeted the Office of Personnel Management — to look for at agencies, according to NARA.

It is unclear when NARA computers were breached. Suspected Chinese-sponsored cyberspies reportedly had been inside OPM’s networks for a year before the agency discovered what happened in April. Subsequently, the government uncovered a related attack against OPM that mined biographical information on individuals who have filed background investigation forms to access classified secrets.

The National Archives has found no evidence intruders obtained “administrative access,” or took control, of systems, but files were found in places they did not belong, the investigator said.

NARA “systems” and “applications” were not compromised, National Archives spokeswoman Laura Diachenko emphasized to Nextgov,  “but we detected IOCs,” indicators of compromise, “on three workstations, which were cleaned and re-imaged,” or reinstalled.

“Other files found seemed to be legitimate,” such as those from a Microsoft website, she said. “We have requested further guidance from US-CERT on how to deal with these” and are still awaiting guidance on how to proceed.

It will take additional forensics assessments to determine whether attackers ever “owned” the National Archives computers, the investigator said.

Diachenko said, “Continued analysis with our monitoring and forensic tools has not detected any activity associated with a hack,” including alerts from the latest version of a governmentwide network-monitoring tool called EINSTEIN 3A.

EINSTEIN, like NARA’s own intrusion-prevention tool, is now configured to detect the tell-tale signs of the OPM attack.”

“OPM isn’t the only agency getting probed by this group,” said John Prisco, president of security provider Triumfant, the company that developed the National Archives’ tool. “It could be happening in lots of other agencies.”

Prisco said he learned of the incident at a security industry conference June 9, from an agency official the company has worked with for years.

“They told us that they were really happy because we stopped the OPM attack in their agency,” Prisco said.

The malicious operation tries to open up ports to the Internet, so it can excise information, Prisco said.

“It’s doing exploration work laterally throughout the network and then it’s looking for a way to communicate what it finds back to its server,” he added.

Homeland Security officials on Monday would not confirm or deny the situation at the National Archives. DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee referred to the department’s earlier statement about the OPM hack: “DHS has shared information regarding the potential incident with all federal chief information officers to ensure that all agencies have the knowledge they need to defend against this cybersecurity incident.”

The assault on OPM represents the seventh raid on national security-sensitive or federal personnel information over the past year.

Well-funded hackers penetrated systems at the State Department, the White House, U.S. Postal Service and, previously in March 2014, OPM. Intruders also broke into networks twice at KeyPoint Government Solutions, an OPM background check provider, and once at USIS, which conducted most of OPM’s employee investigations until last summer.

On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the OPM incident that, among other things, will examine the possibility that hackers got into the agency’s systems by using details taken from the contractors.

Sandy on June 24th, 2015

Fold3 has new content to offer family historians who have New York ancestors as follows:

Do you have New York ancestors? If so, take some time to explore Fold3’s new collection of New York Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts.

Like its title suggests, this collection, from microfilm at the New York State Archives, is made up of abstracts compiled from original muster rolls for New York volunteer units (mostly infantry but also some cavalry, artillery, engineers, and USCT) from the Civil War. In addition to information on individual soldiers, the collection also may contain regiment information—including lists of officers—and the occasional unit history. The information in the collection is organized by regiment, then soldier surname.

Information on the abstract forms may include the soldier’s name, date of enlistment, age, place of enlistment, grade, company, regiment, reason for leaving, promotions, participation in engagements, wounds, and physical appearance. Miscellaneous documents related to the soldier’s service are also occasionally included with their abstract, such as enlistment papers,certificates of dischargereversals of desertion chargesgrade adjustmentsname clarificationsmustering out notifications, and many others.

Let’s take a look at an example of one of the muster roll abstracts and see what we can learn:

From Andrew Langmade’s abstract we see that he was born in Yorkshire, New York, on 24 May 1848 to parents William and Laura. A farmer by trade, on 12 December 1861, at age 21, Langmade enlisted at Yorkshire for a period of three years. He was mustered in on either 26 or 29 March 1862 as a sergeant in Company K of the 105th Infantry. He served in the battles of Antietam and Second Bull Run and was promoted in either October or December of 1862. In March 1863, he was transferred to Company K of the 94th NY Infantry. He was taken prisoner at Gettysburg in July 1863 but wasn’t paroled until August 1864. He was finally discharged 26 April 1865.

You can find all sorts of fascinating details in the New York Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, such as that Urbane Lyon played in a brigade band, that Alexander Klaucke enlisted under an assumed name, that George Dore was awarded the Medal of Honor for capturing a Confederate flag, or that Robert McLaughlinwas held as a prisoner of war at the infamous Andersonville Prison.

Want to begin looking for your New York Civil War ancestors? Get started searching or browsing the New York Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts here.

Sandy on June 22nd, 2015

The list of history’s Hot 100 for 2015 results arose from voting by readers of History Extra conducted over a six week period. The readers and historians were asked to nominate the historical figures in whom they are currently most interested. An intriguing  caveat was that the individuals  nominated had to have died before January 1, 1985. Based on the historical figures I personally find most fascinating, the top 100 was surprising. Perhaps you will have the same reaction. Click on the link below to take you to the site:

History Hot 100 2015

waterlooThe 200 anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo was celebrated this week and History Extra has once again come through with an interesting article in question and answer format. I remember singing a song as a child about Waterloo which was one of the world’s most famous battles.  It ended the Napoleonic Wars and led to Napoleon Bonaparte’s abdication followed by decades of international peace in Europe.

In  their new book, The Battle of Waterloo Experience, historians and journalists Peter and Dan Snow tell the story of the battle of Waterloo – one of history’s most dramatic military encounters. If you are interested in purchasing the book, I’ll provide the like as soon as it becomes available in the United States.

The authors answer 10 key questions as follows:

” Q1: Why does waterloo matter?

A: Waterloo was the battle that finally and decisively ended the ambition of the French Emperor Napoleon to dominate Europe and shaped the continent during a hundred years of relative peace until 1914. It brought to an end a terrible war that had raged on and off for more than 20 years.

France had decisively lost the struggle for global mastery, and a victorious Britain went on to build the largest empire the world has ever seen.

Q2: What caused the battle?  

A: In early 1815 Britain and her allies – Austria, Prussia and Russia – thought Napoleon was finished: he had been defeated and forced to abdicate a year earlier. But he bounced back from exile in February 1815 and astonished the allies by advancing fast toward Brussels, in Belgium.

 Q3: Who were the protagonists on either side?

A: The overall commanders at Waterloo were two of the greatest generals of all time. Britain’s Duke of Wellington had never lost a battle in 12 years of war. Napoleon Bonaparte had in his time crushed every army in Europe except Britain’s.

 Q4: Was the duke’s army all British? 

A: Only a third of Wellington’s army was British. Most were from the German states with some units from the Netherlands.

 Q5: Who were the men and how were they treated?

A: British soldiers got paid about £20 GBP ($31.73 USD) a year but only saw about half that. They were fed a pound of beef a day, and a pound-and-a-half of bread. They got a daily ration of a pint of wine or a third of a pint of gin or rum. The average age that we can calculate was around 27 – the youngest soldiers were 17; the oldest were 44.

Q6: What sort of battle was it? 

A: The battle was one of the last great contests fought at close quarters. The main weapon in both armies was still the musket. It had an effective range of little more than 50 yards.

 Q7: How did Napoleon perform?

A: Napoleon was a shadow of his former self at Waterloo. He was not in good health, and his leadership was poor.

Q8: Was Napoleon short?

A: No. He was in fact 170cm or 5’7″, which was the average height for a male at the time.

 Q9: Should we regard Waterloo as a great British victory?  

A: Waterloo was not just a British victory. The Duke of Wellington would have been hard pressed to win without the timely assault of Marshal Blucher’s Prussians on Napoleon’s right flank. Besides, two thirds of his own army was made up of allies from the rest of Europe.

 Q10: How many casualties were there?

A: It was a bloody battle. A veteran eyewitness said he had never seen “carcasses so heaped upon each other”. Some units lost two thirds of their men.

Overall, the British lost 17,000 who were reported killed, wounded or missing – around a quarter of the army. Napoleon may have lost as much as a third of his men.

Sandy on June 15th, 2015

John_Signs_the_Great_CharterThe 800 year old Magna Carta is the foundation of our U.S. legal system and has been quoted recently by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

On June 15, 1215,following a revolt by the English nobility against his rule, King John put his royal seal on the Magna Carta, or “Great Charter.” The document, essentially a peace treaty between John and his barons, guaranteed that the king would respect feudal rights and privileges, uphold the freedom of the church, and maintain the nation’s laws. Although more a reactionary than a progressive document in its day, the Magna Carta was seen as a cornerstone in the development of democratic England by later generations.

John was enthroned as king of England following the death of his brother, King Richard the Lion-Hearted, in 1199. King John’s reign was characterized by failure. He lost the duchy of Normandy to the French king and taxed the English nobility heavily to pay for his foreign misadventures. He quarreled with Pope Innocent III and sold church offices to build up the depleted royal coffers. Following the defeat of a campaign to regain Normandy in 1214, Stephen Langton, the archbishop of Canterbury, called on the disgruntled barons to demand a charter of liberties from the king.

In 1215, the barons rose up in rebellion against the king’s abuse of feudal law and custom. John, faced with a superior force, had no choice but to give in to their demands. Earlier kings of England had granted concessions to their feudal barons, but these charters were vaguely worded and issued voluntarily. The document drawn up for John in June 1215, however, forced the king to make specific guarantees of the rights and privileges of his barons and the freedom of the church. On June 15, 1215, John met the barons at Runnymede on the Thames and set his seal to the Articles of the Barons, which after minor revision was formally issued as the Magna Carta.

The charter consisted of a preamble and 63 clauses and dealt mainly with feudal concerns that had little impact outside 13th century England. However, the document was remarkable in that it implied there were laws the king was bound to observe, thus precluding any future claim to absolutism by the English monarch. Of greatest interest to later generations was clause 39, which stated that “no free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised [dispossessed] or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimised…except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” This clause has been celebrated as an early guarantee of trial by jury and of habeas corpus and inspired England’s Petition of Right (1628) and the Habeas Corpus Act (1679).

In immediate terms, the Magna Carta was a failure–civil war broke out the same year, and John ignored his obligations under the charter. Upon his death in 1216, however, the Magna Carta was reissued with some changes by his son, King Henry III, and then reissued again in 1217. That year, the rebellious barons were defeated by the king’s forces. In 1225, Henry III voluntarily reissued the Magna Carta a third time, and it formally entered English statute law.

The Magna Carta has been subject to a great deal of historical exaggeration; it did not establish Parliament, as some have claimed, nor more than vaguely allude to the liberal democratic ideals of later centuries. However, as a symbol of the sovereignty of the rule of law, it was of fundamental importance to the constitutional development of England. Four original copies of the Magna Carta of 1215 exist today: one in Lincoln Cathedral, one in Salisbury Cathedral, and two in the British Museum.

Dale-Earnhardt-JrI couldn’t pass up this article featured in USA TODAY featuring NASCAR’s most popular driver of the number 88 car. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is excited about planning a trip to Germany to explore his roots:

CONCORD, N.C. — On Monday, after competing in this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will embark on a treasure hunt.

Earnhardt will fly to Germany in hopes of tracing his family’s lineage, which dates to more than three centuries ago there. It will be the driver’s first visit to Europe other than a 24-hour stay in Monaco to shoot a Jay-Z video in 2006.

“I’ve got some specific areas narrowed down I want to go see and some buildings I want to go see that I know my family was somewhat connected to,” Earnhardt told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday during an appearance for Amp Energy. “They left Germany in 1744, so all this stuff we’re going to see or get close to is more than 300 years old.”

Amy Reimann, Earnhardt’s girlfriend, will join the trip along with his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, and brother-in-law L.W. Miller. They’ll be guided by German native Martin Friedrich, who is in charge of information technology at JR Motorsports.

“I’m excited,” Earnhardt said. “My sister is super nervous. She doesn’t leave the house for that long of time without her kids, so she’s super nervous. So I want to make sure she has a good time, and Martin is going to make sure we’re enjoying ourselves and not insulting anybody or driving on the wrong side of the road.”

Genealogy has been an ongoing hobby for Earnhardt, who became passionate about researching his family history in 2012. He located the gravesites of ancestors in North Carolina — relatives who were born as far back as 1809.

But to go further up the family tree, Earnhardt realized he’d have to travel overseas. The Earnhardt name — though pronounced differently (“Eh-ren-heart”) and spelled various ways — has been found handwritten in German books and bibles.

The ‘d’ in Earnhardt was added when the family arrived in the United States, he said.

Earnhardt consulted a North Carolina genealogist to confirm some of his findings “so I don’t go to Germany for no reason, or I’m standing in the wrong area or talking to the wrong people,” he said with a chuckle.

The driver enjoys the process more than anything. When he plays video games, for example, it’s not the actual game or race he likes as much as building a team from scratch.

“I like to manage,” he said. “That’s sort of a game, building your genealogy. Having to think and manage and remember and trace back all that stuff. It’s fun. Really enjoyable.


Sandy on June 13th, 2015

The huge rise in popularity of curry among all social classes has seen it emerge as Scotland’s other national dish. Surprisingly new evidence shows that it was being enjoyed by the wealthy elite over 200 years ago, as curry powder was being sold by an Edinburgh grocer in 1798.

The grocer, John Caird, informed customers through the Edinburgh Evening Courant that he “has just received a parcel of REAL INDIA CURRY POWDER in the original package.” It was selling at 2/6d (two shillings and sixpence a canister–12 pennies =one shilling).

This is just one of the fascinating revelations about Scotland’s changing relationship with food over four centuries uncovered in a free exhibition opening today at the National Library of Scotland. A 16th century recipe for marmalade, by the Countess of Sutherland, is also on show at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) for the first time.

Lifting the Lid: 400 years of food and drink in Scotland is being staged during Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink. It will help visitors understand more of how their ancestors lived and how their diet links to what we eat today.

The main ingredients for the exhibition come from the rare collection of recipe books, dating from the 17th century to the 1940s, that are held at the National Library. These were mostly written by female members of wealthy families as memory aids to record favorite dishes and new culinary experiences rather than the everyday meals that would be served. They are supported by other striking information in published recipe books, household accounts and inventories, tradesmen’s bills, menus, visitors’ journals, maps and amateur and government films about food.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see what is thought to be Scotland’s first ever recipe book – John Reid’s The Scots Gard’ner – which was published in 1683. Although principally a book for food growers, it also includes tips for cooks on preparing meals.

The exhibition tells of old Scottish measures such as a chopin (two pints), a mutchkin (just under a pint), a peck (two gallons) and a forpet or lippie (half a gallon).While some foods such as Cullen skink, crannachan and clootie dumpling have lived on, others like powsowdie (a sheep heid’s broth), crappit heids (haddock heads and livers) and cruddy butter (a type of cheese) have all but disappeared in the mists of time.

“The written records we have are mostly for the wealthy,” said curator Olive Geddes, “but the exhibition also looks at the role of the cook from the ordinary housewife and domestic servant to the professional chef. The social and economic significance of food will also feature. How far has social convention dictated what was eaten by whom and when?

Source:  Herald Scotland

Sandy on June 12th, 2015
Woodcut showing a man being de-loused

Woodcut showing a man being de-loused

Once again, History Extra has come through with a great article worthy of sharing. It’s a terrific site. See below:

From microwaves to dishwashers, today we enjoy a multitude of modern conveniences. Spare a thought, then, for the medieval housewife. How did she cook? Where did she shop? Where did her clothes come from?

Here, writing for History Extra, Toni Mount, author of The Medieval Housewife and Other Women of the Middle Ages, reveals what life was like for a typical housewife in the Middle Ages.

“A woman’s work is never done!” as my mother used to say in the 1960s, when she cared for our family of five and assorted pets, while working as a school dinner lady. Yet this claim was expressed centuries earlier when the Tudor writer and poet Thomas Tusser wrote in his A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie in 1557:

Some respite to husbands the weather may send,
But housewives’ affairs have never an end.

We can only imagine the drudgery of struggling to do the washing, cooking and cleaning when every task had to be done from scratch – before the linen could be washed, the housewife had to make the lye (the medieval equivalent of detergent) to soak it in, and before dinner could be cooked, the fire had to be lit. The medieval housewife also had to churn butter, brew ale and tend livestock, as well as spin and weave cloth to make clothes for the family.

These tasks had been carried out by housewives for centuries, but how do we know this, Read the rest of this entry »

Another great resource. The following write-up was posted on the Library and Archives of Canada blog on June 10, 2015. You just need to follow the commonsense rules:

It used to be that the only way of getting copies of archival documents was a bit of a tedious process. Flagging the pages you wanted copied, filling out the form, handing in the information to the Consultation staff, and then waiting the 30 business days for the copies to be made. If you were not someone who was from the Ottawa-Gatineau area, you would then have to wait for the copies to be mailed out to you. If you were in the National Capital Region, but not a regular visitor, you might have to make a special trip to 395 Wellington Street to pick up your copies. Now the process can be much quicker if you choose. If you have a camera or a smartphone, you can now take digital images of our collection, rights and restrictions permitting. Once you have the material you wish to copy, simply check in with the Consultation staff, who will provide you with a quick form to fill out. You will need to provide the full reference number for the box or volume, along with your user card number and your name. The staff will verify restrictions of the documents and provide you with a green copy of the approved form. Here are some of the key points to remember about what is required from a technical standpoint of your camera or smartphone.

  • You must have a wrist strap, neck strap or tripod.
  • No flash can be used.
  • Photos cannot be taken before permission is given.
  • Your green permission slip must be visible at all times.
  • You can request a weight or book wedges to help you photograph larger items instead of forcing the items open.

There are also a few tripods available with either a camera mount or a smartphone mount, but they are loaned out on a first-come, first-served basis. You can see the Consultation staff for these as well. If you cannot come in during service hours and still wish to take photos, you can either fax in your filled out form (613-992-5921) or scan and email it to the following address:, indicating your date of visit and which lockers have been assigned to you. You can get a copy of the form in person during service hours or by contacting the Consultation staff at the above mentioned email address. This service is also available in Genealogy and Reference Services during their service hours.

Sandy on June 10th, 2015

Benjamin-FranklinOn June 10, 1752, one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, flew a kite during a thunderstorm and collected a charge in a Leyden jar when the kite was struck by lightning, enabling him to demonstrate the electrical nature of lightning.

This amazing man’s interest in electricity began in the mid-1740s, a time when much was still unknown on the topic, and spent almost a decade conducting electrical experiments. He coined a number of terms used today, such as, battery, conductor and electrician. He also invented the lightning rod, used to protect buildings and ships.

He was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, to a candle and soap maker named Josiah Franklin, who fathered 17 children, and his wife Abiah Folger. Franklin’s formal education ended at age 10 and he went to work as an apprentice to his brother James, a printer. In 1723, following a dispute with his brother, Franklin left Boston and ended up in Philadelphia, where he found work as a printer. Following a brief stint as a printer in London, Franklin returned to Philadelphia and became a successful businessman, whose publishing ventures included the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanack, a collection of homespun proverbs advocating hard work and honesty in order to get ahead.

The almanac, which Franklin first published in 1733 under the pen name Richard Saunders, included such wisdom as: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Whether or not Franklin followed this advice in his own life, he came to represent the classic American overachiever. In addition to his accomplishments in business and science, he is noted for his numerous civic contributions. Among other things, he developed a library, insurance company, city hospital and academy in Philadelphia that would later become the University of Pennsylvania.

Most significantly, Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the United States and had a career as a statesman that spanned four decades. He served as a legislator in Pennsylvania as well as a diplomat in England and France. He is the only politician to have signed all four documents fundamental to the creation of the U.S.: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris (1783), which established peace with Great Britain, and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

Benjamin Franklin died at age 84 on April 17, 1790, in Philadelphia. He remains one of the leading figures in U.S. history.

Couldn’t resist this one. What a victory!! Who’s a good boy?

Sandy on June 5th, 2015

donutsOn the first Friday of June each year, National Doughnut Day is celebrated by the Salvation Army who created it in 1938 to honor the women who served donuts to soldiers during World War I.

Many doughnut stores in the United States offer free doughnuts on National Doughnut Day. In 2009, small doughnut vendors as well as large national franchises offered free doughnuts in the United States.

It all started in 1938 as a fund raiser for the Chicago Salvation Army. The focus was to help the needy during the Great Depression, and to honor the Salvation Army women of World War I, who served doughnuts to soldiers.

Shortly after the US entrance into World War I in 1917, “the Salvation Army sent a fact-finding mission to France. The mission concluded that “huts” that could serve baked goods, provide writing supplies and stamps, and provide a clothes-mending service, would serve the needs of US enlisted men. Six staff members per hut should include four female volunteers who could “mother” the boys. (The canteens/social centers that were established by the Salvation Army in the United States near army training centers were called “huts”.)”

About 250 volunteers went to France and because of  difficult logistics in providing freshly baked goods from huts that were established in abandoned buildings near the front lines and two brilliant Salvation Army volunteers hatched the idea of providing doughnuts.

The doughnuts were an instant success and soon many soldiers were visiting the Salvation Army huts. It is said that the origin of the term “doughboy” was created by the provision of doughnuts to US enlisted men in World War I. It is likely that the term was resurrected and became better known because it was used as early as the Mexican-American War of 1846-47.

The Salvation Army still uses National Doughnut Day as a fundraiser.

Sandy on June 4th, 2015

Lascars-2The family history web site Findmypast is a great resource for researchers as the following recent addition to its database clearly illustrates:

Last week’s Findmypast Friday marked the release of over 157,000 additional England & Wales Merchant Navy Crew, Lists 1861-1913. Consisting of crew lists and agreements taken from British Merchant vessels, these new additions contain the details of individuals from some of Britain’s earliest Asian communities and one of the most overlooked groups in British maritime history, the Lascars.

Lascars were sailors and militiamen from the Indian subcontinent who served on board British ships between the 16th and 20th centuries. The history of Lascars in Britain’s Merchant Navy can be traced back to the early days of the East India Company.

Despite long and hazardous voyages, the Company transported millions of tons of valuable goods such as tea, sugar, coffee, silk, cotton, spices and porcelain each year. Conditions were harsh, sickness common, and death rates were fairly high. Many sailors died at sea and many more chose to desert once they arrived in India, frequently leaving ships under-manned for their return voyage. The Company needed men to replace these sailors, and Lascars were employed in their stead.

Lascars and the East India Company Read the rest of this entry »

Sandy on June 4th, 2015

The following press release comes from WikiTree. I urge you to visit this free site and learn what they have to offer. They keep it simple and, depending on your needs, you are likely to find relevant information.


June 3, 2015 Contact: Eowyn Langholf, ​ 3 June 2015​:

This week the WikiTree community reached a major milestone: 10 million profiles on our shared family tree. Since its founding in 2008, WikiTree has grown steadily but carefully. Although the community’s mission is to connect the entire human family on one tree ­­ ultimately including billions of people ­­ WikiTree prioritizes collaboration​and accuracy​. Over 200,000 genealogists​have added profiles to WikiTree. Many of them share ancestors. Rather than create duplicate ancestor profiles, they work together on the same profiles. When duplicates are created accidentally, they’re merged. WikiTree’s most recent enhancements for accuracy center on the integration of DNA testing. More than 15,000 members have taken DNA tests for genealogy and are using WikiTree’s DNA features to confirm or reject genealogical connections. The ultimate goal is to use DNA to confirm each connection on our shared family tree. Members are already marking certain family tree connections at “Confirmed with DNA” and DNA­ confirmed indicators have started appearing in family trees and in WikiTree’s Relationship Finder, the tool that shows the connection between any two people. About WikiTree WikiTree: The Free Family Tree has been growing since 2008. Community members privately collaborate with close family members on modern family history and publicly collaborate with other genealogists on deep ancestry. Since all the private and public profiles are connected on the same system this process is helping to grow a single, worldwide family tree that will eventually connect us all and thereby make it free and easy for anyone to discover their roots. See

The following April 2015 news release comes from regarding their new resource that will feature high-quality video courses spanning a variety of family history topics; Expert guidance to help both experts and novices:

Ancestry, the world’s leading family history service, has launched Ancestry Academy, a new educational resource that offers high-quality video instruction from family history and genealogy experts. Covering a wide range of topics of interest in family history research, including Native American ancestry, online US census research, and DNA testing, this new educational content will help anyone, no matter their knowledge, better research and understand their family’s unique history.

“Whether you are just beginning your family history research or an expert genealogist, nearly anyone can learn something new from the terrific lineup of expert instructors featured on Ancestry Academy,” said Laura Prescott, Director of Ancestry Academy. “Our goal is to deliver the best online video instruction library of family history courses to as many people as possible to provide an educational and rewarding experience while researching their family history.”

Ancestry Academy courses are divided into smaller lessons enabling self-paced learning, and an easy to use navigation helps members identify topics within a course simply. There is also an opportunity to evaluate your proficiency on a subject through optional tests available after completion of a course.

“Ancestry Academy is a natural next step in our effort to provide the best in education and resources for people interested in researching their family history,” said Brian Hansen, Vice President of Emerging Businesses at Ancestry. “This new resource, combined with the Ancestry Learning Center and other educational content on, will provide quality family history education to help every person discover, preserve and share their family history.”

While premium courses will help educate on some of the more popular how-to conversations in family history research, other courses on Ancestry products and websites will also be available free of charge for anyone with a registered account to Currently, there are 15 courses available on Ancestry Academy, with plans for new courses to be added each month on an ongoing basis. Unlimited access to all Ancestry Academy courses is available for  $11.99 a month, $99.99 a year, or as part of the Ancestry World Explorer Plus subscription.

To learn more about Ancestry Academy, visit

Sandy on June 1st, 2015

emeliaAccording to Discovery News, the search for Amelia Earhart’s long lost aircraft will resume this month in the waters off Nikumaroro, an uninhabited South Pacific atoll in the republic of Kiribati, where the legendary pilot might have died as a castaway.

Called Niku VIII, the expedition will be carried out by a 14-person team of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which has long been investigating Earhart’s disappearance.

“The team will fly to Fiji and begin the five-day, thousand mile voyage to Nikumaroro on June 8. We anticipate two weeks of search operations — June 13 to June 26 — before sailing back to Fiji,” Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, said in a statement.

TIGHAR will return to Los Angeles on July 1 – one day before the 78th anniversary of Earhart’s last, fateful flight on July 2, 1937.

The tall, slender, blond pilot mysteriously vanished while flying over the Pacific Ocean during a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator.

The general consensus has been that the twin-engined Lockheed Electra had run out of fuel and crashed in the Pacific Ocean, somewhere near Howland Island, Earhart’s target destination.

But TIGHAR researchers believe Amelia suffered a different fate.

The group is testing the hypothesis that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan made a forced landing on the smooth, flat coral reef at the western end of Nikumaroro, at the time called Gardner Island.

There, they sent radio distress calls for nearly a week before the plane was washed into the ocean. Gillespie believes they might have survived as castaways for weeks.

The hunt for the plane wreckage is supported by new research which suggest that a piece of aircraft debris recovered in 1991 from Nikumaro is, with a high degree of certainty, the first physical evidence of Earhart’s plane.

The 19-inch by 23-inch piece of aluminum was identified as the patch installed to replace a window on Earhart’s Lockheed Electra aircraft during eight-day stay in Miami, which was the fourth stop on her attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

“The preponderance of the evidence indicates that battered hunk of aluminum is a true Amelia Earhart artifact,” Gillespie told Discovery News.

To search the wreckage TIGHAR will rely on a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) equipped with high-definition video and scanning sonar run by Advanced Remote Marine Services of Katy, Texas.

Operating on the west end of the atoll, the ROV will examine an “anomaly” that emerged from analysis of the sonar imagery captured off Nikumaroro during TIGHAR’s last expedition in 2012.

A straight, unbroken feature uncannily consistent with the fuselage of a Lockheed Electra, the anomaly rests at a depth of 600 feet at the base of a cliff just offshore where, according to TIGHAR, the Electra was washed into the ocean.

The same area is shown in a grainy photograph taken by British Colonial Service officer Eric Bevington three months after Amelia’s disappearance. The picture appears to show the wreckage of one of the aircraft’s main land gear assemblies on the reef edge.

During the two-week search, divers will also look for aircraft debris at shallower depths.

Meanwhile, an onshore search team will seek to identify any sign of a possible initial survival campsite established by Earhart and Noonan while the plane was still on the reef.

“The campsite, if there was one, should have been in an area closest to the plane that provided good shade and was reasonably accessible. Useful objects from the plane may have been brought ashore and left behind when Earhart and/or Noonan moved on after the plane was lost to the sea,” Gillespie said.

He noted that such part of the atoll was never cleared or developed when the island was later inhabited.

“This leaves us with a good chance that objects might have survived undisturbed,” Gillespie said.

His team had previously found a castaway encampment on the south-east end of the atoll in an area called the Seven Site that may have been used by Earhart and/or Noonan after their plane was washed away.

Gillespie believes Earhart died there, her body largely consumed by the site’s numerous hermit and coconut crabs. All was left were 13 bones, a few artifacts, and the remains of her cooking fires.

Bits of physical evidence also included a small cosmetic jar appearing to be as one holding Dr.Berry’s Freckle Ointment, a concoction once used to fade freckles (Earhart disliked having them).

The Seven Site is indeed where a partial skeleton was found in 1940 but subsequently lost. The bones were reported to belong to an individual “more likely female than male,” “more likely white than Polynesian or other Pacific Islander,” and “most likely between 5 feet, 5 inches and 5 feet, 9 inches in height.”

 “Twenty-seven years of research, including ten archaeological expeditions to the island, have produced a preponderance of archival, photographic, analytical, and artifact evidence suggesting that our hypothesis is correct,” Gillespie said.

But he admitted that a “smoking gun” object, if it still exists, may or may not “be discoverable with the assets we can bring to bear.”

“This expedition is nothing more, and nothing less, than an attempt to build on the preponderance of evidence that has already established Nikumaroro as the most likely answer to the Earhart riddle,” Gillespie said.

Preparation for the new expedition comes with good news for TIGHAR, as a lawsuit linked to the Earhart search was dismissed.

Filed by Timothy Mellon, the son of philanthropist Paul Mellon and a major donor to TIGHAR’s 2012 expedition, it alleged that the Delaware aircraft preservationist group found the Electra wreck in 2010 but hid the discovery to raise money for future expeditions.

“The court firmly dismissed Mellon’s charges. Finally, one of the most bizarre episodes in the Earhart saga appears to have come to an end,” Gillespie said.

The new expedition, TIGHAR’s eleventh to Nikumaroro, is expected to cost around $500,000. Funding has been raised through charitable contributions from TIGHAR members, corporations, foundations, and from the general public via Facebook.

Discovery News will follow the expedition with daily updates.”


CuneiformThe following information was published on Please visit the site to learn more. It’s fascinating.

“Distinguished by its wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets, cuneiform script is the oldest form of writing in the world, first appearing even earlier than Egyptian hieroglyphics

Now, the curators of the world’s largest collection of cuneiform tablets – housed at the British Museum – have written a book exploring the history of cuneiform. In it, they reveal why the writing system is as relevant today as ever.

Here, Irving Finkel and Jonathan Taylor share six lesser-known facts about cuneiform…

 1) Cuneiform is not a language

The cuneiform writing system is also not an alphabet, and it doesn’t have letters. Instead it used between 600 and 1,000 characters to write words (or parts of them) or syllables (or parts of them).

The two main languages written in Cuneiform are Sumerian and Akkadian (from ancient Iraq), although more than a dozen others are recorded. This means we could use it equally well today to spell Chinese, Hungarian or English.

 2) Cuneiform was first used in around 3,400 BC

The first stage used elementary pictures that were soon also used to record sounds. Cuneiform probably preceded Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, because we know of early Mesopotamian experiments and ‘dead-ends’ as the established script developed – including the beginning of signs and numbers – whereas the hieroglyphic system seems to have been born more or less perfectly formed and ready to go. Almost certainly Egyptian writing evolved from cuneiform – it can’t have been an on-the-spot invention.

Amazingly, cuneiform continued to be used until the first century AD, meaning that the distance in time that separates us from the latest surviving cuneiform tablet is only just over half of that which separates that tablet from the first cuneiform.

 3) All you needed to write cuneiform was a reed and some clay

Both of which were freely available in the rivers alongside the Mesopotamian cities where cuneiform was used (now Iraq and eastern Syria). The word cuneiform comes from Latin cuneus, meaning ‘wedge’, and simply means ‘wedge shaped’. It refers to the shape made each time a scribe pressed his stylus (made from a specially cut reed) into the clay.

Most tablets would fit comfortably in the palm of a hand – like mobile phones today – and were used for only a short time: maybe a few hours or days at school, or a few years for a letter, loan or account. Many of the tablets have survived purely by accident.

4) Cuneiform looks somewhat impossible…

Those who read cuneiform for a living – and there are a few – like to think of it as the world’s most difficult writing (or the most inconvenient). However, if you have six years to spare and work round the clock (not pausing for meals) it’s a doddle to master! All you have to do is learn the extinct languages recorded by the tablets, then thousands of signs – many of which have more than one meaning or sound.

5) … but children master it surprisingly quickly

Children who visit the British Museum seem to take to cuneiform with a kind of overlooked homing instinct, and they often consider clay homework in spikey wedges much more exciting than exercises in biro on paper.

In fact, many of the surviving tablets in the museum collection belonged to schoolchildren, and show the spelling and handwriting exercises that they completed: they repeated the same characters, then words, then proverbs, over and over again until they could move on to difficult literature.

 6) Cuneiform is as relevant today as ever

Ancient writings offer proof that our ‘modern’ ideas and problems have been experienced by human beings for thousands of years – this is always an astounding realisation. Through cuneiform we hear the voices not just of kings and their scribes, but children, bankers, merchants, priests and healers – women as well as men.
It is utterly fascinating to read other people’s letters, especially when they are 4,000 years old and written in such elegant and delicate script.

Irving Finkel and Jonathan Taylor are the authors of Cuneiform (British Museum Press, March 2015). To find out more, click here.

To learn more about the world’s largest collection of cuneiform tablets, which contains more than 130,000 examples of cuneiform writing, click here.”


Sandy on May 23rd, 2015

Sandy on May 22nd, 2015

Great-EmigrationOn May 22, 1843, a massive wagon train, made up of 1,000 settlers and 1,000 head of cattle, set off down the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri. It was known as the “Great Emigration,” and the expedition came two years after the first small party of settlers made the long, overland journey to Oregon.

After leaving Independence, the giant wagon train followed the Sante Fe Trail for some 40 miles and then turned northwest to the Platte River, which it followed along its northern route to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. From there, it traveled on to the Rocky Mountains, which it passed through by way of the broad, level South Pass that led to the basin of the Colorado River. The travelers then went southwest to Fort Bridger, northwest across a divide to Fort Hall on the Snake River, and on to Fort Boise, where they gained supplies for the difficult journey over the Blue Mountains and into Oregon. The Great Emigration finally arrived in October, completing the 2,000-mile journey from Independence in five months.

In the next year, four more wagon trains made the journey, and in 1845 the number of emigrants who used the Oregon Trail exceeded 3,000. Travel along the trail gradually declined with the advent of the railroads, and the route was finally abandoned in the 1870s.

As of Friday, May 15, 2015, Findmypast has 2.5 million Irish records available from Dublin Workhouses and more as follows:

“This Friday sees the release of over 2.5 million Irish records from the Dublin Workhouses. This fascinating collection sheds light on the (often hard to trace) poorest members of the population at one of toughest points in their country’s history. We’ve also released over two million newspaper articles, Nottingham baptisms and burials, and Australian Northern Territory Birth, Marriage and Death records.

Dublin Workhouses Admission & Discharge Registers 1840-1919

Containing over 1.5 million records, the Dublin Workhouses Admission & Discharge Registers 1840-1919 list the details of those who passed through the workhouses of the North and South Dublin Unions. Levels of poverty in Ireland were far higher than in England and the workhouse was an inescapable part of life for many Dublin families.

Each record includes a transcript and an image of the original document. Entries list arrivals at the workhouse with details of their age, occupation, religion, any illnesses or infirmities, other family members, original parish and condition when they arrived (usually describing clothes or cleanliness).

Dublin Poor Law Unions Board of Guardians Minute Books

Containing nearly 900,000 records, the Dublin Poor Law Unions Board of Guardians Minute Books from the National Archives of Ireland contain fascinating records of meetings held by the Board of Guardians of four Dublin workhouses.

Each record contains a transcript and an image of the original handwritten minutes. The amount of information contained in the image can be considerable, including correspondence and contracts but also individual cases that came before the Board.

Dublin Poor Law Unions Board of Guardians Minute Books Browse

Thanks to Findmypast’s partnership with The National Archives of Ireland, it is now possible to browse through pages of Board of Guardians Minute Books from four Dublin Workhouses; the North Dublin Union, the South Dublin Union, Rathdown Workhouse and Balrothery Workhouse.

British newspapers

Over 2,285,544 million new articles have been added to Findmypast’s collection of historic British newspapers. The latest additions include 11 brand new titles, and updates to existing titles include over 109,000 new articles from the Newcastle Journal and over 92,000 Birmingham Daily Gazette articles.

The total collection now stands at 124,529,375 articles from 338 different titles covering 245 years of British history (1710-1955).

Nottinghamshire baptisms

Over 5000 records have been added to our collection of Nottinghamshire baptisms. The records cover the years between 1538 and 1980, and the total collection now includes over 852,000 records.

Records can include the child’s name, religious denomination, church, baptism date, residence, parent’s names and father’s occupation.

Nottinghamshire burials

Over 14,000 burial records have been added to our collection of Nottinghamshire parish records, bringing the total Nottinghamshire burials to over 254,000 records.

The amount of information in each record varies, though many will include a combination of the deceased’s name, religious denomination, age at death, burial date, burial place, and any additional notes.                       

Northern Territory Birth Index 1870-1918

The Northern Territory Birth Index 1870-1918 comprises approximately 1,780 entries from an index of births registered in the Northern Territory, Australia, between 1870 and 1918.

Each record includes a transcript listing the child’s name, date of birth, parent’s names and registration details, and many include additional details.

Northern Territory Marriage Index 1870-1913

The Northern Territory Marriage Index 1870-1913 records comprise approximately 710 entries from an index of marriages registered in the Northern Territory, Australia, between 1870 and 1913.

Each record includes a transcript of the original source material. The amount of information listed varies, but most records will include the couple’s full names, their year of marriage, place of marriage and registration details.

Northern Territory Death Index 1870-1913

The Northern Territory Death Index 1870-1913 records comprise approximately 3,200 entries from an index of deaths registered in the Northern Territory, Australia, between 1870 and 1913.

Each record includes a transcript that lists the deceased’s name, date of birth, date of death, residence, registration details and place of death. The level of detail listed regarding the place of death varies. Some only specify the region, while others record particular camps, hospitals and even telegraph stations.”

The following sad news comes from the Associated Press:

“LAS VEGAS (AP) — B.B. King, whose scorching guitar licks and heartfelt vocals made him the idol of generations of musicians and fans while earning him the nickname King of the Blues, died late Thursday at home in Las Vegas. He was 89.

His attorney, Brent Bryson, told The Associated Press that King died peacefully in his sleep at 9:40 p.m. PDT. He said funeral arrangements were underway.

Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg confirmed the death.

King’s eldest surviving daughter Shirley King of the Chicago area said she was upset that she didn’t have a chance to see her father before he died.

Although he had continued to perform well into his 80s, the 15-time Grammy winner suffered from diabetes and had been in declining health during the past year. He collapsed during a concert in Chicago last October, later blaming dehydration and exhaustion. He had been in hospice care at his Las Vegas home.

For most of a career spanning nearly 70 years, Riley B. King was not only the undisputed king of the blues but a mentor to scores of guitarists, who included Eric Clapton, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and Keith Richards. He recorded more than 50 albums and toured the world well into his 80s, often performing 250 or more concerts a year.

King played a Gibson guitar he affectionately called Lucille with a style that included beautifully crafted single-string runs punctuated by loud chords, subtle vibratos and bent notes.

The result could bring chills to an audience, no more so than when King used it to full effect on his signature song, “The Thrill is Gone.” He would make his guitar shout and cry in anguish as he told the tale of forsaken love, then end with a guttural shouting of the final lines: “Now that it’s all over, all I can do is wish you well.”

His style was unusual. King didn’t like to sing and play at the same time, so he developed a call-and-response between him and Lucille.

“Sometimes I just think that there are more things to be said, to make the audience understand what I’m trying to do more,” King told The Associated Press in 2006. “When I’m singing, I don’t want you to just hear the melody. I want you to relive the story, because most of the songs have pretty good storytelling.”

A preacher uncle taught him to play, and he honed his technique in abject poverty in the Mississippi Delta, the birthplace of the blues.”

national-library-of-scotlandIf you’re interested in what was going on in the lives of your ancestors during the 19th century tenure of The House of Lords, the Parliamentary Papers will soon be available online at the National Library of Scotland (NLS). This is their first digitized collection of these valuable historical documents and will be produced in partnership with a company called ProQuest .

The NLS announcement is laid out below:

Launching later this year, the project will allow those who are not able to access the documents in their physical form to broaden their research into this resource. Enhancing the growing corpus of historical papers that ProQuest have digitised – including the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers – this new collection will improve research outcomes for scholars of British history, British government, political science, history and more.

The papers encompass wide areas of social, political, economic and foreign policy, providing evidence of committees and commissions during a time when the Lords in the United Kingdom wielded considerable power. Most importantly from a legislative perspective, this collection will include many bills which originated and were subsequently rejected by the Lords – rich indicators of the direction and interests of the Lords that have been largely lost to researchers.

There are very few surviving copies of this important historical collection because of the way the documents were originally printed and stored.

The content has similar indexing and editorial controls to ProQuest’s House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, enabling it to be fully cross-searchable with the new House of Lords Parliamentary Papers (1800-1910). This new content will bring together a complete picture of the workings and influence of the Parliament of the United Kingdom during their pivotal role in 19th Century history.

Dr John Scally, Scotland’s National Librarian, said: ‘More British Prime Ministers served in the Lords in the 19th century than in the House of Commons, despite the progressive dwindling of the influence of the upper chamber. This is a fascinating period in our history and digitisation will make these important papers available on any screen anytime, anywhere.  This partnership with ProQuest is part of our commitment to open up our collections to as many people as possible.’

Susan Bokern, vice president product management at ProQuest, added: ‘The research value of the House of Lords Parliamentary Papers is of international significance. As an addition to ProQuest’s comprehensive and diverse collection of government databases, researchers are even more empowered to analyse global perspectives of key political outcomes of the 19th century and beyond.’

If you’d like to visit the sites, the related links are as follows:  ProQuest , National Library of Scotland

On May 13, 1846, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly votedin favor of President James K. Polk’s request to declare war on Mexico in a dispute over Texas.

Under the threat of war, the United States had held back from annexing Texas after the it won independence from Mexico in 1836. But in 1844, President John Tyler restarted negotiations with the Republic of Texas, culminating with a Treaty of Annexation. The treaty was defeated by a wide margin in the Senate because it would upset the slave state/free state balance between North and South and risked war with Mexico, which had broken off relations with the United States. But shortly before leaving office and with the support of President-elect Polk, Tyler managed to get the joint resolution passed on March 1, 1845.Texas was admitted to the union on December 29.

While Mexico didn’t follow through with its threat to declare war, relations between the two nations remained tense over border disputes, and in July 1845, President Polk ordered troops into disputed lands that lay between the Neuces and Rio Grande rivers. In November, Polk sent the diplomat John Slidell to Mexico to seek boundary adjustments in return for the U.S. government’s settlement of the claims of U.S. citizens against Mexico and also to make an offer to purchase California and New Mexico. After the mission failed, the U.S. army under Gen. Zachary Taylor advanced to the mouth of the Rio Grande, the river that the state of Texas claimed as its southern boundary.

Mexico, claiming that the boundary was the Nueces Riverto the northeast of the Rio Grande, considered the advance of Taylor’s army an act of aggression and in April 1846 sent troops across the Rio Grande. Polk, in turn, declared the Mexican advance to be an invasion of U.S. soil, and on May 11, 1846, asked Congress to declare war on Mexico, which it did two days later.

After nearly two years of fighting, peace was established by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848. The Rio Grande was made the southern boundary of Texas, and California and New Mexico were ceded to the United States. In return, the United States paid Mexico the sum of $15 million and agreed to settle all claims of U.S. citizens against Mexico.

I’m a big supporter of our police force throughout the country and believe they should receive great respect and thanks for putting their lives on the line daily.

However, the following news is over the top.  Just in case you are unaware, police management are choosing to use a lab linked to a private collection of genetic genealogical data called the Sorenson Database, which is owned by

Please read the following article written by Jay Syrmopoulos published in Mint Press News. You can find more information about Mr Syrmopoulos below.

“Would you find it frightening— perhaps even downright Orwellian — to know that a DNA swab that you sent to a company for recreational purposes would surface years later in the hands of police? What if it caused your child to end up in a police interrogation room as the primary suspect in a murder investigation?

In an extremely troubling case out of Idaho Falls, that’s exactly what happened.

Police investigating the 1996 murder of Angie Dodge targeted the wrong man as the suspect, after looking to owned Sorensen Database labs for help. The labs look for familial matches between the murderers DNA and DNA submitted for genealogical testing after failing to find a match using traditional methods.

According to The Electronic Frontier Foundation:

The cops chose to use a lab linked to a private collection of genetic genealogical data called the Sorenson Database (now owned by, which claims it’s “the foremost collection of genetic genealogy data in the world.” The reason the Sorenson Database can make such an audacious claim is because it has obtained its more than 100,000 DNA samples and documented multi-generational family histories from “volunteers in more than 100 countries around the world.” Some of these volunteers were encouraged by the Mormon Church—well-known for its interest in genealogy—to provide their genetic material to the database. Sorenson promised volunteers their genetic data would only be used for “genealogical services, including the determination of family migration patterns and geographic origins” and would not be shared outside Sorenson.

It’s consent form states: Read the rest of this entry »

ve-day1On  May 8, 1945, seventy years ago, both Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe Day. Cities in both nations, as well as formerly occupied cities in Western Europe, put out flags and banners, rejoicing in the defeat of the Nazi Germany.

The eighth of May spells the day when German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms: In Prague, Germans surrendered to their Soviet antagonists, after the Soviets had lost more than 8,000 soldiers, and the Germans considerably more; in Copenhagen and Oslo; at Karlshorst, near Berlin; in northern Latvia; on the Channel Island of Sark–the German surrender was realized in a final cease-fire. More surrender documents were signed in Berlin and in eastern Germany.

The main concern of many German soldiers was to elude the grasp of Soviet forces, to keep from being taken prisoner. About 1 million Germans attempted a mass exodus to the West when the fighting in Czechoslovakia ended. They were stopped by the Russians and taken captive. The Russians took approximately 2 million prisoners in the period just before and after the German surrender and more than 13,000 British POWs were released and sent back to Great Britain.

Pockets of German-Soviet confrontation continued into the next day. On May 9, the Soviets lost  600 more soldiers in Silesia before the Germans finally surrendered. As a result, V-E Day was not celebrated until the ninth in Moscow, with a radio broadcast salute from Stalin himself: “The age-long struggle of the Slav nations…has ended in victory. Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The war is over.”

captain-kidd-treasure-silver-barCaptain William Kidd was either one of the most notorious pirates in the history of the world, or one of its most unjustly vilified and prosecuted privateers. For all the legends and fiction surrounding this character, his actual career was punctuated by only a handful of skirmishes, followed by a desperate quest to clear his name.

Born in Dundee, Scotland, January 1645, Kidd named the city as his place of birth and said he was aged 41, in testimony under oath at the High Court of the Admiralty in October 1695 or 1694. His baptism documents were research and found to list Dundee as the city of his birth. His father also a seaman, Captain John Kyd, who was lost at sea.

William Kidd was first employed by British authorities to hunt pirates, but legend says that he turned himself into a ruthless criminal of the high seas.

According to Discovery News, a team of American explorers yesterday claimed to have discovered silver treasure from the infamous 17th-century Scottish pirate in a shipwreck off the coast of Madagascar.

“Marine archaeologist Barry Clifford told reporters he had found a 50-kilogram (110-pound) silver bar in the wreck of Kidd’s ship the Adventure Gallery, close to the small island of Sainte Marie.

After looting a treasure-laden ship in 1698, he was caught, imprisoned and questioned in front of the British parliament before being executed in Wapping, close to the River Thames in 1701.

The fate of much of his booty, however, has remained a mystery, sparking intrigue and excitement for generations of treasure-hunters.

Clifford, who was filmed by a documentary crew lifting the silver bar off the sea bed, handed it over to Malagasy President Hery Rajaonarimampianina on Sainte Marie. Soldiers guarded the apparent treasure at the ceremony, which was attended by the US and British ambassadors.

“We discovered 13 ships in the bay,” Clifford said. “We’ve been working on two of them over the last 10 weeks. One of them is the Fire Dragon, the other is Captain Kidd’s ship, the Adventure Galley.”

Independent archaeologist John de Bry, who attended the ceremony, said the shipwreck and silver bar were “irrefutable proof that this is indeed the treasure of the Adventure Gallery.” Robert Yamate, US ambassador to Madagascar, said the discovery was a boost for the country.

“This is a fantastic find that shows the hidden story of Madagascar,” he said. “This is great for tourism… and it is just as important as historical preservation.””

I’ve recently discovered Dick Eastman’s Privacy Blog and it’s a good place to visit for some sage advice from an expert.  On the off chance that you haven’t heard, Mr. Eastman is also the owner/writer of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.

That said, I’d like to share a recent Privacy Blog article on the subject of secure banking which is on everyone’s mind when they execute online transactions and, if online security isn’t on your mind, it should be. See below:

Have you ever wondered how secure your computer is? Well – believe it or not, hackers may be watching your computer and recording your every click! Any electronic device with on-line access can be vulnerable. Most hackers steal information from your computer’s usage history. That is, a hacker can log into your computer today and find passwords and other personal information you entered days or even weeks ago.

Another problems is the security “holes” in your computer’s operating system and especially in the web browser you use. Internet Explorer on Windows has the worst security history of any web browser but none of the others are perfect.

Finally, usage of an insecure Internet connection can be tapped by hackers. Using an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection is good but using a Tor connection is even better. Some people prefer to use I2P encrypted networking, another highly secure option. (Information about SSL encrypted connections may be found at while information about Tor network may be found at and information about I2P may be found at

There are easy (and cheap!) solutions to keep your movements from being tracked. The recommendations may sound complex and expensive but I can tell you how to implement very high security at no cost or, if you don’t want to do any techie work at all, at very low cost. You can get “another computer” without buying any hardware. My recommendations are: Read the rest of this entry »

Sandy on May 5th, 2015

cinco_de_mayoCinco de Mayo (May 5th) is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, but in the United States it has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. Unfortunately, last year it heralded unrest and we got a glimpse through the media of not so great political activism. We can only hope that tomorrow’s celebration will be what it is meant to be, a joyful celebration of the rich heritage of the Mexican people.

What is the history of Cinco de Mayo?

During the course of the French-Mexican war General Ignacio Zaragoza and his poor and outnumbered Mexican army defeated the French army intent on capturing a small town in east-central Mexico called Puebla de Los Angeles. This was a great moral victory for the Mexican government, symbolizing the country’s ability to defend itself against a threat by a powerful foreign nation.

When Benito Juarez became president of Mexico in 1861, the country was in financial ruin and defaulted on debts to the European governments. As a result, France, Spain and Britain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement of their money.

Britain and Spain struck a deal with Mexico and withdrew. France ruled by Napoleon, decided to use the situation to acquire Mexico.

It was late in 1861 that a well-armed French navy stormed Veracruz, the large French military force drove President Juarez and his government into retreat.

The French thought victory would be swift and 6,000 French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez set out on a mission to attack Puebla do Lost Angeles. At his new northern headquarters, Juarez pulled together a rag-tag force of 2000 loyal followers and sent them to Puebla.

Led by Texas-born General Zaragoza the Mexicans fortified the town and prepared for the arrival of the French army. And, on the 5th May, 1862, Lorencez drew his army well-provisioned and supported by heavy artillery and began their assault from the north.

The battle lasted from first light to early evening and the French finally retreated with a loss of 500 soldiers. Fewer than 100 Mexicans were killed.

Although this was not considered a major strategic victory in the overall war against the French, the victory at Puebla enhanced Mexican resistance and 6 years later the French withdrew.

Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, who had been installed as emperor of Mexico by Napoleon in 1864, was captured and executed by Juarez’ forces.

Puebla de Los Angeles, the site of Zaragoza’s historic victory, was renamed Puebla de Zaragoza in honor of the general. And, today the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla is celebrated by Mexicans as Cinco de Mayo—a national holiday in Mexico.


Sandy on May 1st, 2015
Electricity Plant

Electricity Plant

In her new book, Great Victorian Discoveries: Astounding Revelations and Misguided Assumptions, Caroline Rochford examines some of the incredible findings made across the world between 1875 and 1895. After reading this blog post you might want to purchase the book I’ve provided a link to purchase from Barnes and Noble,

In an article for History Extra, she shared some of her highlights:

“The Victorians lived in an age when knowledge could be shared faster than ever before. New railways and steamships had made it easier for intrepid explorers to visit regions of the world hitherto unseen by western eyes; telephones enabled communication across vast distances, and speedier printing presses ensured the delivery of the latest news to almost every household in the land. Meanwhile, those with a thirst for knowledge were able to read about the astounding discoveries of natural historians, who published thrilling accounts of the strange new plants and creatures they’d encountered during their forages.

Indeed, modern technology had kick-started an information revolution in every field of science. With the aid of photography, microscopes and other new contraptions, researchers were happening upon daily discoveries that promised to change the way the world worked. These many remarkable discoveries were described in the pages of forgotten Victorian compendia, which revealed the wondrous experiments and bizarre theories of the great – and not-so-great – minds of science, engineering and natural history.

1) The four-legged bird

Since the publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, mankind has been captivated by the theory of evolution. In 1885 an American naturalist, Edward Morris Brigham, took great pleasure in announcing the discovery – made in 1881 – of an astonishing type of bird that lived by the banks of the Amazon River: the creature’s most incredible characteristic was that it was born with four feet. Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Life says:

The entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms held by the National Library of Ireland – 400,000 films amounting to the most important source of Irish family history – is to be made available online this July.

The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has been working to digitise the microfilms for more than three years under its most ambitious digitisation programme to date.

Announced in December, the archive of parish register microfilms will go live on 8 July.

The parish register records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census. Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,091 parishes throughout the island of Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.

The most important source of information on Irish family history:

“This is the most significant-ever genealogy project in the history of the NLI. The microfilms have been available to visitors to the NLI since the 1970s,” explained Ciara Kerrigan, who is managing the digitisation of the parish records.

“However, their digitisation means that, for the first time, anyone who likes will be able to access these registers without having to travel to Dublin.”

Typically, the parish registers include information such as the dates of baptisms and marriages, and the names of the key people involved, including godparents or witnesses.

The digital images of the registers will be searchable by parish location only, and will not be transcribed or indexed by the NLI.

“The images will be in black and white, and will be of the microfilms of the original registers,” explained Kerrigan.

“There will not be transcripts or indexes for the images.

“However, the nationwide network of local family history centres holds indexes and transcripts of parish registers for their local areas.

“So those who access our new online resource will be able to cross-reference the information they uncover, and identify wider links and connections to their ancestral community by also liaising with the relevant local family history center.”

Sandy on April 28th, 2015

Breitbart News has conducted research of the publicly available U.S. Census records showing that movie star has another nine slaveholder ancestors from Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Only last week, “Affleck admitted that he successfully pressured Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates to edit his Georgia slaveholding ancestor, Benjamin Cole, out of an episode of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots” that featured his family history.

This brings the number of Affleck’s known slaveholder ancestors to 12, who owned a total of 214 slaves.

James Henry Alexander, Affleck’s 4 times great grandfather, owned 50 slaves in Holly Springs, Marshall County, Mississippi, at the outbreak of the Civil War, according the 1860 U.S. Census Slave Schedules.”

While I’m sure Ben Affleck was totally surprised by the revelations, I can only say that no reasonable person would ever blame him for the actions of his ancestors. Many folks uncover “stuff” in their family history research that they wish they hadn’t found,  but moved on with acceptance. In Ben’s case it was in a public forum.

If readers would like to read the complete article click on the link Brietbart News where you can form your own opinion of the article.


I’m Scottish born and spent my formative years living in the historic Scottish town of Stirling, with it’s splendid castle, home to Scottish royalty. Growing up in an area literally steeped in history did leave its mark later on.   We listened as children with pride to stories of the legendary William Wallace, King Robert the Bruce, and the Stewart kings.

The part of our history that always grieves me is the fate of Mary, Queen of Scots and the heinous treatment she was subjected to at the hands of barbaric individuals who were supposed to look after her.  I’ve read varying accounts of her execution, all of which I found troubling some sugar coated focusing on her positive attitude towards her fate and others are, to say the least, gristly and I suspect the latter tales are likely a more accurate account of the event.

Her four ladies-in-waiting witnessed first-hand the most eventful periods in Mary Stuart’s life, accompanying her everywhere and enjoying some of the lavish court entertainments so important to 16th-century monarchy. Many have wondered  what happened to the four girls appointed to be companions and, later, ladies-in-waiting, to the Queen of Scots.

There was a Scottish Ballad written about the four friends of the ill-fated queen. Mary queen of Scots end is well- known and it is often wondered what became of them.

Before I point you to a link with an article written by Melita Thomas, editor of Tudor Times on the fate of these ladies, I invite you to listen to the Scottish ballad (mentioned above) written about the four friends all with the first name Mary . The Corries version of the “Yest’re’en the Queen had four Marys” is haunting and a perfect prep for the story. The link is below the video:

Click on the link Mary, Queen of Scots: what happened to her ladies-in-waiting? to read the article.

Here’s the latest information on new records at Findmypast via Alan Stewart’s “Grow Your Own Family Tree“:

Australia: New South Wales

“Containing over 29,000 records, the New South Wales Goal Photographic Books 1871-1969 consist of entries of prisoners from 14 different gaols around the state. The records are particularly fascinating as they contain not only transcripts and scans of the original prisoner entry listings themselves, but also the mugshot photographs of individual inmates. The original series, held by the State Records Authority of New South Wales, was created as per the ‘Gaol Regulation’ which was proclaimed in the New South Wales Government Gazette on 19 February 1867. This required that description books be maintained to keep track of incoming and outgoing prisoners. Each record includes a transcript and image.

“The New South Wales Government Gazette Indexes 1832-1863 consist of over 1.2 million transcripts containing rich details of life in Australia’s most populous state. The information recorded was of an administrative and bureaucratic nature and can reveal details of your ancestor’s property, occupation, transactions and other useful biographical information. Each record includes a transcript of the original document.


“Containing over 156,000 records, the Essex Wills Beneficiaries Index 1505-1916 was compiled over a 15 year period by researcher Thora Broughton. The index records all people mentioned in a will, with the exception of witnesses and those with the same name as the testator – therefore not only beneficiaries and relatives appear but also executors, trustees, occupiers of property and adjacent landowners and so on. Each record contains a transcript and an image of the index.

Yorkshire: Craven

“Containing over 4,000 records, Craven’s Part in the Great War 1914-1919 was designed to serve as a memento of the part that the district of Craven in Yorkshire played in the Great War. The memorial itself is divided into two main sections. The first is a nominal roll containing names, ranks and regiments, while the second section is a roll of honour includes including photographs supplied by the families of the deceased. Each record includes a transcript as well as an image of the original document.


“Over 5.3 million articles and 15 new titles have recently been added to our collection of historic British newspapers. The collection now stands at over 124 million articles from across England, Scotland and Wales and covers 245 years of British history from 1710-1955. New to the collection is the national title, The Daily Telegraph from 1871. There’s also new additions from other cities and towns around the country including Nottingham, Fife, Yorkshire and London. Substantial additions have also been made to existing titles, including the Fife Herald and the Derbyshire Courier.”

For Earth Day, please listen to  “Nature’s Greatest Mimic” imitate the sound of chainsaws destroying its habitat: