2014 in Review

WordPress.com stats team prepared a 2014 annual report about my blog:

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog’s audience viewed Our Heritage… about 16,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at the Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thank you to everyone who took precious time from their day(s) to read posts from Our Heritage.

And thank you wordpress.com for compiling these meaningful stats and reporting them to me.

Our Deaf Heritage, Part 2

Our Deaf Heritage

Last January, I posted Our Deaf Heritage, that confirmed deafness in the Boling/Bolling/Bowling and Randolph families’ ancestors from the 1700’s in England and Virginia, and how they were responsible for founding the first schools for the hearing impaired in America, and later, the infamous Gallaudet University in the District of Columbia.  Gallaudet was established in 1864 by an Act of Congress, and its charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

Remembering The Pioneering Audiologist Who Tested Hearing At Birth

Dr Marion Downs-AudiologistThis morning, I came upon yesterday’s NPR post that pays tribute to Dr. Marion Downs (January 26, 1914 – November 13, 2014)–nearly 101 years old at the time of her demise.  Dr Downs, mother of pediatric audiology, was  a pioneering audiologist and Professor Emerita at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver. She pioneered universal newborn hearing screening in the early 1960s, then spent more than 30 years trying to convince her peers to adopt the testing in hospitals and to place hearing aids on infants who showed hearing loss. She worked to alert the medical world on the developmental problems associated with childhood deafness. As a result of her efforts, 95 percent of all newborns in America today are screened for hearing loss. She devoted her professional life to the promotion of early identification of hearing loss in newborns, infants, and young children and to helping those handicapped by hearing impairment lead fulfilling lives.

This woman and NPR’s article honoring her is meaningful to me because today’s descendants of the Boling/Bolling/Bowling and Randolph families still have some members who have varying degrees of hearing loss from infants through our elderly.  We noticed one of our grandson’s problems with hearing, speaking, and early frustrations with certain sounds and volumes.  It was because we as a family were tenacious and unrelenting in search of the source and solutions for his problems that today, at 12, he hears, speaks, and interacts appropriately with others.  In his case, he went to speech pathology for a couple of years; otherwise, his condition improved.  Although, still today, he and his mother are still very sensitive to and easily distracted by certain sounds and noises.

Family Connections and Christmas Letters

Family Connections and Christmas Letters

Yesterday, I received a surprise christmas letter from John and Deidra Doan who had just returned home from his 28th season of Holiday concerts and second year of calling it “Christmas Unplugged – Reclaiming the Holiday Spirit.”John’s timing was uncanny and I feel as though we are both ancestrally and spiritually connected, though separated on west and east coasts.  You see, this year, not aware of John’s concert, or its title, I too, chose to refocus this year’s Christmas on the reason for the season–Jesus–the most amazing gift, the blessed hope of all who believe!  And, like John, I wrote letters of special praise and hope to 20 some family members as my Christmas gifts to them.  Everyone warmly and appreciatively received them, which, in turn, warmed my heart and spirit.

Our Love of Music, History, Blogging, and Dogs

And to add to the coincidences and/or family connections, we, too, had a surprise guest of a loving and entertaining bulldog pup (well, close, a bullmastiff).  Here’s John and Deidra’s musical video of their bull dog, Lyra:

and below is our family’s 8-week old Christmas visitor, Justice:


Justice literally stole our hearts and stole the show.  A long line of family members formed–those who wanted to steal him away from his dog sitter.  If I could manage to steal away Justice, maybe he and Lyra could continue our connections with yet another branch of little loved ones! (ha-ha)


A Reblog from John Doan’s Page:

And John and my family’s similarities continue–his love of music, history, research, blogging, and dogs.  The following is a reblog from John’s page that I hope you will enjoy.

John Doan

Christmas Unplugged – Reclaiming the Holiday Spirit

John doan Victorian Christmas Concert with harp buitar

“John Doan breathes new life into musty tunes with his pristine, intricate picking, which is laced with the delicacy of a snowflake … that evokes the nostalgic, mystical side of Christmas and leaves the shopping mall sentimentality behind.”

The “Christmas Unplugged – Reclaiming the Holiday Spirit” Concert with John Doan is a much anticipated annual concert tour through North America celebrating it’s 28th year. The Emmy-Nominated show explores how the Victorians invented many Christmas traditions we remember and quite a few we have forgotten. Click Calendar for current concert and ticket information.

John Doan VCC Stage1

The concert recaptures the feeling of a time before radio, TV, computer games, DVD, CD and MP3 players provided most of our musical home entertainment. Amateurism was very much alive back then, and people actually entertained themselves, especially at the holidays.

During the concert, Doan plays over a dozen late nineteenth-century instruments such as the harp guitar, classical banjo, chartola, and ukelin, all original American instruments. These instruments were once popular in American parlors, on vaudeville stages, and in mandolin orchestras. John Doan’s imaginative storytelling, paired with physical comedy, takes the audience on a tour through the history and evolution of social interaction through music that is both informative and entertaining.

The multimedia concert is accompanied with a slide show of old catalogues and archival photographs, sharing the origins of many of our American carols and Christmas traditions.

The audience becomes part of the show by singing (or whistling) along to a nineteenth-century accompaniment. Twenty-one arrangements and medleys of favorite carols are performed on dozens of traditional Americana musical instruments along with several arrangements from his Wrapped In White album. After the concert, the audience is invited to come up on stage for a closer look at the fine craftsmanship that produced these vintage instruments.

Zithers Christmas John Doan

Harp Guitar gt mandola Christmas John Doan

“Call him Mr. Christmas.”

“…guitarist and composer John Doan, putting a new twist on the standard Christmas concert, brought that 19th-century tradition of homemade music to life…His low-key approach, in fact, effectively communicated the charmingly casual joys of the popular music of the earlier day. He’s performing important historical work, too, by making his scholarship and respect for those lovingly crafted instruments and the sweet, simple music they were designed for accessible to today’s listeners.”

Tuba Guitar Christmas John Doan

The “Christmas Unplugged – Reclaiming the Holiday Spirit” Concert With John Doan … had large, enthusiastic audiences and earned a substantial profit. A number of the people attending this year’s concert came on the recommendation of people who saw the concert last year… People frequently commented on how entertaining and informative it was and how much they enjoyed John’s humor. Most touching, though, were the people who told me that it made them think about music as something other than a spectator activity–that music can be something personal that brings people together and enriches their lives.”

John Doan Christmas Unplugged Maestro Interview

“Thanks for a great evening of entertainment that was much appreciated by our capacity audience. The Christmas Unplugged – Reclaiming the Holiday Spirit” Concert was the highlight of our “Christmas at the Lincoln” weekend. Your stories, slides, and above all your high level of artistry on an amazing variety of vintage instruments made for a wonderful performance. The antique decorations were also a big hit with the audience as was your willingness to stay afterwards and talk to the many people who came forward to see the instruments.”

“John was literally Mister Christmas as he cast a spell over our rural audience… His offering is more than just a concert. It is an audio-visual treat for the whole Family.”

“John’s music style delighted the audience. His particular gift for storytelling added meaning to each piece that he played… His Christmas concert included fascinating stories of Christmas’ past and beautiful holiday music on many unusual instruments from his collection. It was truly a pleasure to work with John Doan. His press material was well-prepared and delivered in a timely manner. His relaxed style made set-up and preparation for his concerts fun and even educational.”


  1. Pingback: Christmas Unplugged | John Doan | Dec 7 | Center for Spiritual Living | Tacoma
  2. Pingback: Searching for and Documenting Ancestral Gifts and Talents

Ford and Lo-Lathrop Families Among Puritans Who Ban Christmas in MA

puritanchristmasbanDecember 25 1659: Christmas Celebration Outlawed

To put this story in context, Massachusetts was home to many of the Lo-Lathrop family, my maternal grandmother’s ancestors and significant leaders in the making of the “New England” in America.  My 9th great grandfather, Rev. John Lathrop, was one of the first and was founder of Barnstable, MA.  The Sturgis Library in Barnstable, MA, has the Lothropp family bible and a copy of John Lothropp (1584-1653) A Puritan Biography & Genealogy, latest edition, 2004.  Tucked inside it is a pedigree chart showing some of the more prominent descendants of Rev. John including (believe it or not) four of America’s presidents:  Ulysses S. Grant, 18th; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd (one of our greatest); George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st; and George Walker Bush, 43rd (unfortunately).

November- December 1621

In 1621, the voyage of the Fortune was the second English ship sent out to the Plymouth Colony by the Merchant Adventurers investment group, which had also financed the 1620 voyage of the Pilgrim ship Mayflower.  Fortune’s Master was Thomas Barton. Fortune departed London in the fall of 1621 and arrived off Cape Cod on November 9, 1621 and arrived in Plymouth Bay November 11. The ship remained in Plymouth about one month to load cargo before departing for England on December 13, 1621.

The Plymouth Pilgrims (from the Mayflower’s voyage the year before), already had put their loathing of the celebration of Christmas into practice by spending their first Christmas in the New World building their first structure – thus demonstrating their complete contempt for the day.

On December 25, 1621, Governor William Bradford led a work detail into the forest and discovered some recent arrivals among the crew had scruples about working on Christmas. Bradford noted in his history of the colony, Of Plymouth Plantation:

“On the day called Christmas Day, the Governor called [the settlers] out to work as was usual. However, the most of this new company excused themselves and said it went against their consciences to work on that day. So the Governor told them that if they made it a matter of conscience, he would spare them till they were better informed; so he led away the rest and left them.”

With new mouths to feed, rations were reduced by half.  The indentured Plymouth settlers struggled under the demands of their English investors for seven years before buying out their shares and earning a measure of freedom.  Among the list of 35 passengers aboard the second voyage to Plymouth aboard the Fortune was yet another branch of my maternal family–William, Ford and his wife, Martha, their daughter Martha, and John, a son, who was born the day after they arrived.

Now ’tis the season to learn about colonial times Christmas…

On This Day...

…in 1659, a law was passed by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony requiring a five-shilling (accounting term dating back to Anglo-Saxon times,  value equaled that of a cow in Kent, England or a sheep elsewhere) fine from anyone caught “observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way.” Christmas Day was deemed by the Puritans to be a time of seasonal excess with no Biblical authority. The law was repealed in 1681 along with several other laws, under pressure from the government in London. It was not until 1856 that Christmas Day became a state holiday in Massachusetts. For two centuries preceding that date, the observance of Christmas — or lack thereof — represented a cultural tug of war between Puritan ideals and British tradition.


On December 25, 1621, Governor William Bradford led a work detail into the forest and discovered some recent arrivals among the crew had scruples about working on Christmas. Bradford noted in his history of the colony, Of Plymouth Plantation:

“On the day called Christmas Day, the Governor called [the settlers] out to work as was usual. However, the most of this new company excused themselves and said it went against their consciences to work on that day. So the Governor told them that if they made it a matter of conscience, he would spare them till they were better informed; so he led away the rest and left them.”

When the Governor and his crew returned home at noon they discovered those left behind playing stool-ball, pitching the bar, and pursuing other sports. Bradford confiscated their implements, reprimanded them, forbade any further reveling in the streets, and told them their devotion for the day should be confined to their homes.

Like other Massachusetts Puritans, Reverend Increase Mather considered Christmas a “profane and superstitious custom.” The Boston minister wrote in 1687 that December 25th was observed as the birth date of Christ not because “Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens Saturnalia was at the time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian [ones].” He was correct.

The English men and women who came to New England in the 1600s were familiar with Christmas as it was celebrated in Britain. The Christmas season began in late November and continued well into the New Year, coinciding with a natural break in the agricultural cycle. It was a time of feasting, excessive alcohol consumption, general merry-making, and “misrule” (the turning of social conventions upside down). Men of means were expected to open their homes and furnish those less well off with food and drink.

Massachusetts Puritans sought to put an end to the celebration of Christmas with all of its excesses. Almanacs published in the Bay Colony did not mark December 25th as Christmas Day.

While the Puritans succeeded in suppressing most holiday revelry, they could not quell it completely. The authorities condemned fishermen and other residents of the region’s coastal villages as irreligious; they behaved in unacceptable ways, from heavy drinking to “keeping Christmas.”

One Christmas conflict occurred in Salem in 1679. On the night of December 25th, four men entered the home of farmer John Rowden and helped themselves to seats by the fire, began to sing, and then demanded cups of the Rowdens’ pear wine. After being repeatedly refused, they pretended to leave the house, only to return and demand money. Turned out again, they continued their harassment, throwing “stones, bones, and other things” at the house and stealing several pecks of apples. These men were re-enacting the time-honored English tradition of “wassailing,” where lower-class revelers entered the homes of their social superiors at Christmas time. In exchange for singing and mumming, the uninvited guests generally received gifts of food, drink, or money. In England, the tradition had long fostered good will between people who occupied different rungs of the social ladder, but as the events in Salem indicate, this was not so in Puritan New England.

Under pressure from the British government, Massachusetts repealed the law against Christmas festivities in 1681. The holiday was widely, and sometimes wildly, celebrated from 1687 to 1689, the period after Massachusetts Bay lost its charter and was governed by an English official. When the colony regained its charter in 1689, public expressions of Christmas cheer ended, at least for the time being.

The observance of Christmas did not disappear altogether, and soon a movement was afoot to purify and temper the custom, rather than stamp it out altogether. By the 1750s the most common New England hymnal, the Bay Psalm Book, included Christmas hymns, and by 1760 most almanacs named December 25th Christmas Day. Christmas music by New England composers appeared in song books published in the second half of the eighteenth century; the Worcester Collection of Sacred Harmony, published by Isaiah Thomas in 1786, even included Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”

In the early nineteenth century, fear that excessive drinking, aggressive begging, and riotous processions associated with Christmas posed a threat to public order moved middle- and upper-class Americans to re-make Christmas as a family holiday. The social and business elite collaborated with the press to reshape Christmas into a well-regulated domestic celebration. The chief beneficiaries of this kind of Christmas were children.

The new, child-centered Christmas was idealized by Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which introduced Santa Claus into American lore. A few years later, Stockbridge writer Catharine Maria Sedgwick published a story that created an indelible image of wide-eyed children discovering a Christmas tree surrounded by gifts.

The gift-bearing St. Nick and present-laden fir tree coincided with a consumer revolution in nineteenth-century New England. Merchants and shopkeepers capitalized on the new materialism by advertising “thoughtful gifts” for children and others within the domestic circle.

By the 1840s many states began to make Christmas a legal holiday. An 1856 Massachusetts law accorded this status to Christmas, Washington’s Birthday, and July 4th. The success of this measure was due to the growing number of Irish Catholics in the electorate. Public offices were also to be closed on these days, and it was expected that businesses would follow suit. In time they did. Early in the twenty-first century, December 25th remains one of the few days that the nation’s economic engine is still.



The Battle for Christmas, by Stephen Nissenbaum (Alfred A. Knopf, 1996).

Testimony against Several Profane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New-England, by Increase Mather (1687).

How’s Your Pre-Christmas Spirit?

a_christmas_carolHave You Been Scrooged or Is Family Your Focus?

How’s your pre-Christmas spirit going this year?  Have you just about had it with all the hustle and bustle that leads up to the big day?  Has your focus been on the reason for the season or has societal pressure and extreme commercialism pulled you in?

The focus of our family’s Christmases together for the past several years has been changing.  Bob and I are of the sandwich generation, and fortunately for us,  for the past three years we have had five living generations come together (about 30 of all ages) to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

This year, especially, our elders have become more frail and less independent.  As such, our family has pulled together to honor their wishes and to support them in their home. While at times serving them can get burdensome and tire us out, the grace of God and the true meaning of love of family sustains us.  W continue to treasure each moment and each year that we can spend Christmas with most of our family together under a single roof.

A few children and grandchildren have ventured out into the world.  But, most of us remain on the east coast, while others are in Chicago, Texas, and even Italy. But in spirit our family is together and remembering Christmases past.

A 6-Minute Version of Charles Dickens’ 1843 “A Christmas Carol”

So, I thought in the spirit of Christmas, and remembering times from our past, I’d share with you the 6-minute version of Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost, a silent film from 1901.  It is the earliest known film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1843 A Christmas Carol. The English movie pioneer R.W. Paul produced it.  It is, however, based more on J.C Buckstone‘s 1901 stage adaptation Scrooge rather than Dickens‘ original story.

Like in the play, the film Scrooge is shown the error of his miserly ways by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley—played by a man in a sheet.

Here’s wishing you heartwarming moments with your family and friends–and plenty of laughter to welcome in the new year!

Odd Christmas Customs From Newspaper Archives!

 “Old Christmas fare did not include the turkey, now the modern Christmas bird.  In olden days, a roasted peacock took its place on the festive board.”

Canaseraga 1913-1915 1Last week I wrote about the great newspaper archives at fultonhistory.com.  I promised I would go back and take a closer look.  So I searched on the word Christmas this time.  The interesting article of customs (to the left) across the world from 1913-1915 appeared.  I next googled Canaseraga to see what I could learn about this New York city and the newspaper in which I found this article. I hope you find the customs as interesting as I did.  And now, for some background on the area and the newspaper from which this article came:

Canaseraga, New York

Canaseraga is a village in Allegany County, New York, United States. The population was 550 at the 2010 census.The name comes from a creek that flows past the village, which is reportedly a native term for “lying among milkweed“.

The village lies in the northern part of the town of Burns at New York State Route 70 and County Road 13.

The community was one of the original settlements in the town, but was subordinate to the community of Burns until about 1840. The village of Canaseraga was incorporated in 1892. It was originally called “Whitney Valley”.

As a result of a fire the town is now much smaller than it once was. Many residents travel to nearby communities to shop and attend movies, as Canaseraga is very limited. There is one school, for pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The school offers soccer, basketball, skiing, and baseball/softball), but lacks other sports such as football and track. Canaseraga has a Fall Harvest Festival which offers several activities for families.

Canaseraga Four Corners Historic District is a national historic district at Canaseraga in Allegany County, New York. The district consists of 1.7 acres (0.69 ha) and includes 16 contributing buildings. It encompasses that part of the remaining commercial core that retains a high degree of architectural integrity. It is an intact example of a cohesive collection of a building type and style that characterized rural villages at the end of the 19th century.[2]

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

Canaseraga 1913-1915 2Canaseraga - Four Corners Historic District

As for the Canaseraga Times Newspaper, it seems to have been in business from Nov. 29, 1873 until Oct. 29, 1942–just shy of 69 years! But, given the business district’s number of fires in the 1800’s and the  area and population decline to merely 1.06 square miles and 550 people in 2010, this makes this a very small place, only 1 percent of its home country, Allegany. That is, Allegany County is over 1,000 square miles and its 2010 population was nearly 50,000!

Canaseraga 1913-1915 3Canaseraga 1913-1915 4

A Renaissance Christmas Dinner – Published 1660

It has become a tradition in our family for the past 10 years or so (passed down from my maternal grandmother, Loretta, my mom, Norma, as they got older) that my daughter-in-law and I shop and prepare food for about 30 loved ones on our special holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Despite her full-time career, our daughter-in-law, Penny, always puts on the best feed bag ever.
And, although mostly women render our meals with love, we also complain about all the shopping, planning, preparation, cooking, presentation, and clean up that goes into less than an hour sit down meal with our beloved family and friends.  I must say that I feel just a bit ashamed after reading Robert May’s 2-course meal!  However, I would put Penny’s extraordinary meals of everyday foods in a match against those of Robert May’s for nobility anytime because I’m sure her delicacies are of equal quality, taste, and presentation. In order words, Penny’s our accomplished cook and master of kitchen arts in Southern Maryland. Not to be overlooked or outdone, our son, Jeff, Penny’s husband, is also a master outdoor cook and captain of cutlery!  And together, they’re the team to beat when it comes to hosting great get togethers.

A Bill of Fare for Christmas Day

Original Article Published December 18, 2013 – 5:00 pm by:  Joy Lanzendorfer on Mental_floss’s FaceBook page:

The Accomplisht Cook, London, England


If the thought of planning Christmas dinner makes you nervous, be glad you weren’t born in the Renaissance. The earliest known published Christmas menu includes pork, beef, goose, lark, pheasant, venison, oysters, swan, woodcock, and “a kid with a pudding in his belly,” to name just a few.

This is according to The Accomplisht Cook, written by Robert May in 1660. May was an English chef who trained in France and cooked for nobility throughout his life. In a section titled “A bill of fare for Christmas Day and how to set the meat in order,” May suggests 39 dishes split over two courses, plus oysters, oranges, lemons, and jellies for dessert. The menu is surprising not only because of its size, but because it contains so many proteins—there are 11 different types of birds alone—and not much else. Well, unless you count pastry. There’s lots of pastry, too.


1. A collar of brawn [pork that is rolled, tied, and boiled in wine and seasonings].
2. Stewed Broth of Mutton marrow bones.
3. A grand Sallet [salad].
4. A pottage [thick stew] of caponets [young castrated roosters].
5. A breast of veal in stoffado [stuffed veal].
6. A boil’d partridge.
7. A chine (a cut of meat containing backbone) of beef, or surloin roast. Here’s May’s recipe:

To roast a Chine, Rib, Loin, Brisket, or Fillet of Beef
Draw them with parsley, rosemary, tyme, sweet marjoram, sage, winter savory, or lemon, or plain without any of them, fresh or salt, as you please; broach it, or spit it, roast it and baste it with butter; a good chine of beef will ask six hours roasting.

For the sauce take strait tops of rosemary, sage-leaves, picked parsley, tyme, and sweet marjoram; and strew them in wine vinegar, and the beef gravy; or otherways with gravy and juice of oranges and lemons. Sometimes for change in saucers of vinegar and pepper.

8. Minced pies.
9. A Jegote [sausage] of mutton with anchove sauce.
10. A made dish of sweet-bread (Here’s a recipe from A New Booke of Cookerie by John Murrell, published in 1615: Boyle, or roast your Sweet-bread, and put into it a fewe Parboyld Currens, a minst Date, the yolkes of two new laid Egs, a piece of a Manchet grated fine. Season it with a little Pepper, Salt, Nutmeg, and Sugar, wring in the iuyce of an Orenge, or Lemon, and put it betweene two sheetes of puft-paste, or any other good Paste: and eyther bake it, or frye it, whether you please.)
11. A swan roast.
12. A pasty of venison.
13. A kid with a pudding in his belly.
14. A steak pie.
15. A hanch of venison roasted.
16. A turkey roast and stuck with cloves.
17. A made dish of chickens in puff paste.
18. Two bran geese roasted, one larded [larding is inserting or weaving strips of fat in the meat, sometimes with a needle].
19. Two large capons, one larded.
20. A Custard.


Oranges and Lemons
1. A young lamb or kid.
2. Two couple of rabbits, two larded.
3. A pig souc’t [sauced] with tongues.
4. Three ducks, one larded.
5. Three pheasants, 1 larded.
6. A Swan Pye [the showpiece: a pie with the dead swan’s head, neck, and wings sticking up from it].
7. Three brace of partridge, three larded.
8. Made dish in puff paste.
9. Bolonia sausages, and anchoves, mushrooms, and Cavieate, and pickled oysters in a dish.
10. Six teels, three larded.
11. A Gammon of Westphalia Bacon.
12. Ten plovers, five larded.
13. A quince pye, or warden pie [pears or quinces peeled and poached in syrup, then baked whole in a pie].
14. Six woodcocks, 3 larded.
15. A standing Tart in puff-paste, preserved fruits, Pippins, &c.
16. A dish of Larks.
17. Six dried neats [calf] tongues
18. Sturgeon.
19. Powdered [salted] Geese.

And you know, nothing says Christmas like powdered geese and jellies.

Old Wounds Reopened…

When asked about how I feel about the August+ events in Ferguson, Missouri, that now have festered and exacerbated old wounds among our people, my only answer can be; “I’m having flashbacks to the happenings in the 1960’s, equal rights movements, and the 1990’s in Los Angeles and around the United States after the Rodney King traffic stop, his beatings and arrest, and police acquittals.”  If any fingers must be pointed, then let’s point them at the media, who always spins and sensationalizes stories to incite publicity and ultimately generate unrest and many times illogical and irrational responses that harm all of us as a society.

So, I went back through some archives to back up my memories of the 1960’s, and my feelings that after nearly 55 years we (the world) may have fooled ourselves about the progress we have made in the arena of human rights.  Below is a newsreel from the Universal Studios collection of “Universal Newsreels.”   Ed Herlihy, famous radio announcer whose voice charted the course of World War II for moviegoers, then for the better part of 40 years spoke for Kraft foods on radio and television, narrates “News Highlights of 1960, 1960/12/31.”  So, I ask you–“Just how much have we changed things in our families, our communities, and the world at large to help us all get along, to succeed together, and to just love thy neighbors?

27 Million Newspaper Pages Digitized in a Living Room!

Original Article About Tom Tryniski was written by Jim Epstein at Reason.com

If you have ever searched through newspaper archives you know just how tedious, time-consuming, sometimes costly, and most importantly, how iffy a find can be.  But back in March 2013, Jim Epstein at Reason.com, profiled Tom Tryniski, an eccentric retiree who digitized about 27 million newspaper pages (1795 through 2007).  He worked alone in his living room for 14 years and then made them available for free for anyone to search.  “A lot can be said about one computer expert  (a high school graduate) who built a historic newspaper site (http://fultonhistory.com) that’s orders of magnitude bigger and more popular than one created by a federal bureaucracy with millions of dollars to spend. Armed only with a few PCs and a cheap microfilm scanner, Tom Tryniski has played David to the Library of Congress’ Goliath,” according to Mr. Epstein.

Tryniski’s site has grown into one of the largest historic newspaper databases in the world, with 22 million newspaper pages. By contrast, the Library of Congress’ historic newspaper site, Chronicling America, has only about 5 million newspaper pages on its site and cost taxpayers about $3 per page.

Today’s site has 28,300,000 Historical Newspaper Pages from the USA and Canada

According to Tryniski’s site today, you can search over 28,300,000 Historical Newspaper Pages from the USA & Canada.  So, I thought I would give it a try.  I literally searched Tryniski’s site using the following text in the keyword box “Civil War in Spotsylvania County, Virginia,” and asked the browser to search for all the words–not an easy search task in my opinion.  Almost instantly 299 weighted and scrollable entries appeared. The articles dated from 1864 to 1977.  Many of them were from publishers in cities of New York, but also a few from Philadelphia and Chicago. And there were excerpts from the documents included.  I was more than pleased–I was delighted!  I will certainly be using this site again in my genealogical searches.  Please give it a try to let me know what you think.

For complete text and links, go to: http://bit.ly/YT5KcL

A Time for Everything…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9:  A Time for Everything

1There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

4a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.


As the biblical verse says there is a time for everything and a season for every activity…This pretty much sums up my take on what used to be our family’s secure place to go when it was our time to weep and mourn the loss of our loved ones with friends and neighbors, to say our final goodbyes, and to wish them peace.  And often and awkwardly, this was the place where extended family embraced, reunited after long absences, and spoke of times past that sometimes even turned into times when we laughed.

Just south of Pennsylvania Avenue at 517-519 11th Street Southeast was a unique – at least for the Capitol Hill area – Art Deco building. Older maps show that, at the turn of the century, a couple of old wood-frame houses occupied the lot. They were used by a confectioner and as a milk store. In the early 1930s, the two buildings were bought by W. W. Chambers, who had been in the funeral business in Washington, D.C. for the past 20 years and he converted them into a funeral home.

Apparently the Chambers’ business boomed and expanded. The place on 11th St, SE was perfect, just off of Pennsylvania Avenue, and close to Congressional Cemetery, where they were responsible for many funerals. In November 1932 Chambers built a new structure with a remarkably modern design, with elaborate stonework over the windows, glass and metal decorations flanking the central section – and a clock on top to finish it off.

For the next 60 or so years, W. W. Chambers Co. flourished, even after Chambers himself died unexpectedly in 1954 at age 60. His wife and children continued the operation and expanded out into Maryland. In the early 1990s, however, the Chambers family sold the S.E. property and the Ralph Williams Funeral Home operated out of it for only a few years.  The buildings were then turned into the apartments that stand today, though the façade, and particularly the clock perched on top, show that it was not always used for this purpose.

But, most importantly, Chambers Funeral Home coördinated the arrangements for many of our loved ones funerals.  This site during the 1940’s and through the 1960’s is where many of our family members and friends gathered before official church services and interments began. This is the funeral home that my dad at  age 15 sneaked into to say goodbye to his estranged mother of 10 years.  This is the funeral home where I arrived before others to have some solitude and special quiet time with my dearly beloved maternal grandmother, Loretta Lathrop Ford, before others gathered to begin the services. This is also where we said goodbye the my maternal great-grandfather, John Carpenter Ford, my maternal grandfather, Robert Gideon “Roy” Ford, my paternal great-grandmother Lottie Taylor Chambers and my favorite maternal uncle John Austin Ford.

And, I guess my dear readers, you may have asked yourselves; “Is there a connection to my paternal family tree’s Chambers’ branches and W.W. Chambers, the renowned undertaker from Washington, DC?”  The answer today has to be from the genealogist:  “The Chambers family of the District of Columbia more than likely emigrated to the nation’s capitol from Pennsylvania where the first Scots-Irish, Benjamin Chambers was a passenger aboard “The Welcome” ship that embarked from Ireland and landed in Philadelphia, PA, in 1632.  It was this Chambers family that founded Chambersburg, PA, that is less than one hundred miles from the District of Columbia.”  Perhaps another post to further clarify and more fully answer the question of relationships will be in our future.