Honoring My Home State on Maryland’s 228th Anniversary

On April 28 in 1788, Maryland became the 7th state admitted to the United States. During our nation’s first census in 1790, Maryland’s population numbered 319,728. By the 1790 Census the United States had expanded to 13 states and its total population was just under 4 million (3,929,214).  The Census Bureau estimates and projections program estimated that Maryland’s population in 2014 was just under 6 million (5,976,407), and the United State’s population nearly 320 million (318,857,056).  The United States has grown about 80 times the size it was 220 years ago, while Maryland’s population grew  about nearly 19 times its originally counted population in 1790.

MD 2010 CensusLike so many other native-born Americans, my earliest ancestors helped settle America about 16 generations ago.  They came primarily from England and the British Isles.  My paternal ancestors landed in 1609 in Jamestown, Virginia, and my maternal ancestors in 1620 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

It was my paternal grandfather who ventured from Virginia  to Maryland through the District of Columbia in and around 1930, when my dad was just two years old.  Likewise, my mom’s family came from the south through the District of Columbia in 1920. I was the first child in my parent’s family to be born a first generation Marylander and I am proud to call Maryland my home state.

Maryland’s Nicknames: America in Miniature, Old Line State, Free State

Maryland has been called “America in Miniature” because there is so much packed into its 12,407 square miles of land and water.  Being a Mid-Atlantic state it is defined by its abundant waterways and coastlines on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic. Native Americans living along its shores gave the Bay an Algonquian name. Chesepiook, meaning “great shell-fish bay.” This name signified the abundance of crabs, oysters, and clams. In June 1608, Captain John Smith led two voyages throughout the Chesapeake Bay, and in its midst European settlers first landed at St. Clement’s Island, Maryland, in 1634.

Maryland is for crabsYet, it was not until 1989, that Maryland’s Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus Rathbun) was designated the State Crustacean (Chapter 724, Acts of 1989; Code General Provisions Article, sec. 7-303).  The blue crab’s scientific name translates as “beautiful swimmer that is savory.” Its name honors Mary Jane Rathbun (1860-1943), the scientist who described the species in 1896.

Blue crabs are Maryland’s culinary specialty. Meat from the Blue crab has been compared to the sweetness of lobster meat; the flavor best appreciated by cracking and eating steamed hard shells or feasting on soft shells. Restaurants and homes alike steam or saute crabs.  They shape the raw meat into crab cakes and bake, broil or fry them.  Then there’s Crab Imperial–a special tangy rich delicacy served in a pie dish, or Maryland’s wonderful cream of crab and crab bisque soups, or savory hot or cold crab dips to be eaten with bread or crackers.

Maryland was home to the first railroad, the first dental school and the first umbrella factory. And Maryland inventors gave us the gas light, the linotype machine and the refrigerator.

The “America In Miniature” title also applies to the role Maryland has played in our nation’s history, from the founding of the United States to the present. And like our country, Maryland is home to ethnic groups of every origin.

Maryland’s largest city, Baltimore, has a long history as a major seaport. Fort McHenry was the birthplace of the U.S. national anthem,The Stars Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key. It was September 13, 1814, when Key penned his poem that was  later set to music and became America’s national anthem in 1931. The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” was written after Francis Scott Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812.

Maryland is also called the “Old Line State” and “Free State.“The Old Line nickname was given during the Revolutionary War, when 400 soldiers in the First Maryland Regiment fought a British force of 10,000 and helped General George Washington’s army to escape. Washington depended on the Maryland Line throughout the war, and the soldiers’ discipline and bravery earned Maryland its nickname.

The name “Free State” was given in 1919, when Congress passed a law prohibiting the sale and use of alcohol. Marylanders opposed prohibition because they believed it violated their state’s rights. The “Free State” nickname also represents Maryland’s long tradition of political freedom and religious tolerance.

Maryland, My Maryland

“Maryland, my Maryland” is Maryland’s official state song. The song is set to the tune of “Lauriger Horatius” — better known as the tune of “O Tannenbaum“. The lyrics are from a nine-stanza poem written by James Ryder Randall (1839–1908) in 1861. The state’s general assembly adopted “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state song on April 29, 1939. The poem was a result of events at the beginning of the American Civil war. President Lincoln ordered to bring troops to Washington. Many soldiers came from Baltimore, many of them sympathized with confederate ideas, especially at Baltimore. Listen now as Tennessee Ernie Ford, famous country singer, sings Maryland, My Maryland in the background to this slideshow:  16 Undeniable Reasons Why Maryland Really Is America In Miniature (Photos and captions by onlyinyourstate.com)

Famous People Born in Maryland

Famous Marylanders include politicians, lawyers, painters, craftspeople, writers, health professionals and religious leaders. The following lists names, occupations, and dates of births-deaths of famous people born in Maryland (in no particular order), as compiled by biography.com (BIO).  With over 7,000 biographies and daily features that highlight newsworthy, compelling and surprising points-of-view, BIO was my digital source for true stories about these people.  When you click on the named person’s link, Bio takes you their full page of information about this person, including a mini-bio video.  In all, there are 74, dating from births as early as 1731 with the birth of Benjamin Banneker, Astronomer/Scientist to famous basketball player Kevin Durant, born in 1988.

Barbara Kingsolver WRITER 1955–

Mapping the Spread of American Slavery

Lincoln Mullen is an assistant professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University, working on the history of American religions as a digital historian. He writes regularly on his own blog and for the Religion in American History group blog.  He also teaches a course on “Data and Visualization in Digital History” where he is working on nineteenth-century U.S. religious statistics.

It seems that Professor Mullen and I have a few things in common.  Both of us:

  • work with and enjoy using statistics to back up or generate our work;
  • acknowledge the value of data visualizations in pictorial or graphical formats to help others better grasp concepts or identify patterns in data;
  • enjoy sharing our discoveries with others through our blog sites;
  • love history and want to help others appreciate it, too.

The following blog was written by:  Lincoln Mullen and published on May 12, 2014.  It gives a fuller perspective on the distribution, growth, and demise of slavery that expands on the history of slavery in an earlier blog post of mine from May 21, 2013 Tobacco, Slavery, Earthworms, Honey Bees; Grains, Livestock, Disease, Oh My!

These Maps Reveal How Slavery Expanded Across the United States

As the hunger for more farmland stretched west, so too did the demand for enslaved labor

In September of 1861, the U.S. Coast Survey published a large map, just under three feet square, titled a “Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States.” Based on the population statistics gathered in the 1860 census, and certified by the superintendent of the Census Office, the map depicted the percentage of the population enslaved in each county.


Figure 1: U.S. Coast Survey, Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States (Washington, DC: Henry S. Graham, 1861). Image from the Library of Congress. [PNG]

The map showed at a glance the large-scale patterns of slavery in the American South: the concentrations of slavery in eastern Virginia, in South Carolina, and most of all along the Mississippi. It also repaid closer examination, since each county was labeled with the exact percentage enslaved. The map of slavery was one of many thematic maps produced in the nineteenth century United States. As Susan Schulten has shown, this particular map was used by the federal government during the Civil War, and it was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln’s.1


Figure 2: A detail from the U.S. Coast Survey map of slavery, showing the Mississippi River and delta. [PNG]

Though such thematic maps, in particular of slavery, have their origins in the nineteenth century, the technique is useful for historians. As I see it, one of the main problems for the historians’ method today is the problem of scale. How can we understand the past at different chronological and geographical scales? How can we move intelligibly between looking at individuals and looking at the Atlantic World, between studying a moment and studying several centuries?2 Maps can help, especially interactive web maps that make it possible to zoom in and out, to represent more than one subject of interest, and to set representations of the past in motion in order to show change over time.

I have created an interactive map of the spread of slavery in the United States from 1790 to 1860.3 Using Census data available from the NHGIS, the visualization shows the population of slaves, of free African Americans, of all free people, and of the entire United States. It also shows those subjects as population densities and percentages of the population.4 For any given variable, the scales are held constant from year to year so that the user can see change over time. You can use the map for yourself, and I’ve also written briefly about what the map shows below.5 Historians have of course often made use of maps of slavery, in particular maps based on the Census, in support of their arguments. What I’ve tried to do in this interactive map is make it possible for users (including me) to explore the census data in support of making historical arguments.6

The Spread of U.S. Slavery, 1790–1860

How to use this map

I have written an introduction to this visualization. Zoom to any county by clicking on it. Clicking on the same county will zoom out. The scales preserve intensity for change over time: in other words, a color represents the same thing for each year on the map. However, the color scales do not necessarily preserve intensity from data field to data field: the darkest color for the total population does not represent the same values as for the enslaved population. The scales for population are logarithmic (with intermediate values) so every second step in the color ramp represents a ten-fold (not a two-fold) increase.


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Figure 3: An animation of the density of slave population from 1790 to 1860. Notice that slavery spreads more than it grows. Taken from the interactive map. [GIF]


Fig : An animation of density of the total population from 1790 to 1860. Notice that population in the north both grows in place and spreads westward. Taken from the interactive map. [GIF]

Another observation to make about slavery in the United States is what an extraordinarily high percentage of the population was enslaved. The majority slave populations of the Chesapeake, the South Carolina and Georgia coast were soon duplicated in the majority slave populations of the Mississippi River valley.


Figure 5: An animation of the percentage of the population enslaved from 1790 to 1860. Taken from the interactive map. [GIF]

A striking way to see the importance of slavery is to look at a map of the total free population: a photo negative, if you will, of slavery. When looking at the density of the population that was free, large swathes of the South appear virtually depopulated. (Perhaps this is what a history book looks like that fails to take includes slaves?)


Figure 6: The population density of all free persons in 1860. Taken from the interactive map. [PNG]

Finally, the dynamics of the free African American population looked more like the free white population than the slave population. The Free African American population seems to have primarily settled along the Eastern seaboard and especially in the cities of the northern United States. Free African Americans were almost entirely excluded from most of the deep South, except the cities.animation-free

Figure 7: An animation of the free African American population from 1790 to 1860. Taken from the interactive map. [GIF]

Historians have long used maps of slavery to advance their arguments.9 I hope this map finds some use in making more arguments about the history of slavery, and especially for helping students to grasp the big picture of the “peculiar institution” which made the nation “half slave and half free.”10

Interactive Maps

The first thing to observe is that slavery spread more than it grew. The population of slaves in 1790 or 1800 was already very high compared the maximum population levels.7 In fact, in Charleston County, South Carolina (one of the counties with the highest populations of slaves) the number of enslaved people in 1860 was only 63% of what it had been in 1840. This is not to say that the total number of slaves in the eastern seaboard states did not go up over time. But the number of enslaved people in a particular place did not grow at anything like the rate of free people in the north. The free population in the north both grew in the same place and spread to the west. The slave population had a different dynamic. It grew in intensity in places around the Chesapeake bay, even as slavery was gradually abolished in the North. But primarily the slave population spread to the fertile crescent of lands in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and most of all to the Mississippi River valley. Below you can see two animations of the density of the slave population and the density of the total population (keep in mind that the scales are different). What you see in these maps is the spread of slavery through the domestic slave trade.8 You also see the origins of the sectional crisis in the continual expansion of slavery.

And, these data visualization maps from Cartographer, Bill Rankin.  Bill Rankin tries to find balance between accuracy and readability in a set of maps that show slavery in a grid layout from 1790 to 1870.

Rankin made a map for each decade, but the most interesting one that shows all the data at once. Size of each circle represents the peak number of slaves per 250 square miles. Color represents the year this peak occurred.

YEARS:  mouse over, or click to download:

1790  (PNG, 551 KB)
1800  (PNG, 686 KB)
1810  (PNG, 821 KB)
1820  (PNG, 980 KB)
1830  (PNG, 1.10 MB)
1840  (PNG, 1.25 MB)
1850  (PNG, 1.48 MB)
1860  (PNG, 1.65 MB)
1870  (PNG, 1.56 MB)

or download:

all nine decades (ZIP, 9.88 MB)
big poster (PNG, 3.87 MB)
peak slavery (PNG, 1.05 MB)

The gradual decline of slavery in the north was matched by its explosive expansion in the south, especially with the transition from the longstanding slave areas along the Atlantic coast to the new cotton plantations of the Lower South. Although the Civil War by no means ended the struggle for racial equality, it marked a dramatic turning point; antebellum slavery was a robust institution that showed no signs of decline.

Mapping slavery presents a number of difficult problems. The vast majority of maps — both old (from Census 1860)  and new  (from Census 1790) — use the county as the unit of analysis. But visually, it is tough to compare small and large counties; the constant reorganization of boundaries in the west means that comparisons across decades are tricky, too. And like all maps that shade large areas using a single color, typical maps of slavery make it impossible to see population density and demographic breakdown at the same time. (Should a county with 10,000 people and 1,000 slaves appear the same as one that has 100 people and 10 slaves?)

My maps confront these problems in two ways. First, I smash the visual tyranny of county boundaries by using a uniform grid of dots. The size of each dot shows the total population in each 250-sq mi cell, and the color shows the percent that were slaves. But just as important, I’ve also combined the usual county data with historical data for more than 150 cities and towns. Cities usually had fewer slaves, proportionally, than their surrounding counties, but this is invisible on standard maps. Adding this data shows the overwhelming predominance of slaves along the South Carolina coast, in contrast to Charleston; it also shows how distinctive New Orleans was from other southern cities. These techniques don’t solve all problems (especially in sparsely populated areas), but they substantially refocus the visual argument of the maps — away from arbitrary jurisdictions and toward human beings.

(For a graphic explanation of this technique, see here.)

The bottom map shows the peak number of slaves in each area, along with the year when slavery peaked. Except in Delaware, Maryland, and eastern Virginia, slavery in the south was only headed in one direction: up. Cartographically, this map offers a temporal analysis without relying on a series of snapshots (either a slide show or an animation), and it makes it clear that a static map is perfectly capable of representing a dynamic historical process.


Lincoln Mullen, “The Spread of U.S. Slavery, 1790–1860,” interactive map, http://lincolnmullen.com/projects/slavery/, doi: 10.5281/zenodo.9825.

Minnesota Population Center, *National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0* (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, 2011), http://www.nhgis.org.

  1. See Susan Schulten, Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), especially chapter 4 on slavery and statistical cartography. Also see the book’s companion website, which includes many images of maps of slavery.
  2. For one discussion of the problem of scale, see David Armitage and Jo Guldi. “Le Retour de la longue durée: Une perspective anglo-saxonne,” Annales, in press. Whatever the reason for the blockbuster success of Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, it’s worth noting that the book is primarily a longue durée history of the structure of capital.
  3. I am grateful for suggestions from Yoni Appelbaum, John Hannigan, and Caleb McDaniel, who each looked at the map in development, though they will each find more things they wished were different.
  4. You might think of the visualization as 88 maps = 8 decades ✕ 11 variables.
  5. The map represents a lot of data, and I have not been able to make it snappy enough for my satisfaction, particularly for mobile devices. Hence the animated GIFs below.
  6. Of course there is far more to the history of slavery than just the Census data, which alone cannot answer any of the interpretative questions that historians have asked.
  7. This is remarkable given that in the Revolution many slaves escaped to or with the British army.
  8. Steven Deyle writes, “I believe it is safe to conclude that between 1820 and 1860 at least 875,000 American slaves were forcibly removed from the Upper South to the Lower South, and that between 60 and 70 percent of these individuals were transported via the interregional slave trade.” Steven Deyle, Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 289.
  9. Perhaps I will provide a few examples in a future post.
  10. From Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech: “Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new—North as well as South.”

Explanation of Census Data:

The U.S. Census data and shapefiles for these maps comes from Minnesota Population Center, National Historical Geographic Information System, version 2.0 (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, 2011). For a description of the questions asked on the 1790 to 1860 censuses, see Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000 (U.S Census Bureau, 2002). Bear in mind the reason the Census kept statistics on slavery. Slaves were counted in the Census because of the three-fifths compromise in the federal constitution, by which an enslaved person counted as three-fifths of a person when apportioning representation in Congress and direct taxes. I have tried to represent unavailable data on the map, but sometimes in the Census a value of zero actually means that the data has been lost or was never gathered. Treat the Census numbers skeptically: even in the best of circumstances the Census undercounts the population. For example, Harvey Amani Whitfield has shown that Vermont did have slavery, even though no slaves were enumerated in the Census. The numbers are useful chiefly for showing degrees of magnitude. Below are the fields in the NHGIS data that I have used. The total free population was always calculated by subtracting the slave population from the total population.

1790 Census

  • Slave population: “Race/Slave Status: Persons: Non-White: Slave” (AAQ002)
  • Total population: (A00AA1790)
  • Free African American population: “Race/Slave Status: Persons: Non-White: Free” (AAQ001)

1800 Census

  • Slave population: “Nonwhite Population, Except Indians Not Taxed by Slave Status: Slave” (AAY002)
  • Total population: (A00AA1800)
  • Free African American population: “Nonwhite Population, Except Indians Not Taxed by Slave Status: Free” (AAY001)

1810 Census

  • Slave population: “Nonwhite Population, Except Indians Not Taxed by Slave Status: Slave” (AA7002)
  • Total population: (A00AA1810)
  • Free African American population: “Nonwhite Population, Except Indians Not Taxed by Slave Status: Free” (AA7001)

1820 Census

  • Slave population: sum of “Nonwhite: slave” male and female columns for “Race/Slave Status by Sex” (ABB003 and ABB004)
  • Total population: (A00AA1820)
  • Free African American population: sum of “Nonwhite: free” male and female columns for “Race/Slave Status by Sex” (ABB005 and ABB006)

1830 Census

  • Slave population: sum of “Nonwhite: slave” male and female columns for “Race/Slave Status by Sex” (ABO003 and ABO004)
  • Total population: (A00AA1830)
  • Free African American population: sum of “Nonwhite: free” male and female columns for “Race/Slave Status by Sex” (ABO005 and ABO006)

1840 Census

  • Slave population: “Nonwhite: slave” column for “Race/Slave Status” (ACS003)
  • Total population: (A00AA1840)
  • Free African American population: “Nonwhite: free” column for “Race/Slave Status” (ACS002)

1850 Census

  • Slave population: “Nonwhite: slave” column for “Race/Slave Status” (AE6003)
  • Total population: (A00AA1840)
  • Free African American population: “Nonwhite: free” column for “Race/Slave Status” (AE6002)

1860 Census

  • Slave population: sum of “Slave” male and female columns for “Race by Sex” (AH2005 and AH2006)
  • Total population: (A00AA1860)
  • Free African American population: sum of “Free colored” male and female columns for “Race by Sex” (AH2003 and AH2004)

Remembering Our Mount Calvary School (MCS) and Community

June 10, 2016

Thanks to Rob Maloof and his visit to Mount Calvary School this week, we have some new photos from inside and out.  Hope you enjoy them and we will see you tomorrow, June 12,  2016 at the special 10:30 Mass to Honor the Students and Mount School for its long and honorable service through providing high academic curricula and strong spiritual, community, and citizenship values to thousands of children who passed through its doors on their ways to successful and fulfilling lives.  The high volume of positive comments and posts about everlasting memories are a testament to its 66 years in existence.  We truly will miss its demise, but will always cherish our memories of the family and friends we came to be.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

May 9, 2016

It’s very inspiring to see the number of comments and articles by others due to the word of mouth about Mount Calvary’s closing.  Here’s another, this time, written by former student John Nagy, who is now Editor of The Pilot, out of Moore County, NC.


Pennsylvania Avenue runs by the White House and Capitol Hill, but if you follow the road southeast about 8 miles, past the I-495 Capital Beltway, it runs into Forestville, Md.,

An Event Has Been Created 

Since this post, Mount Calvary has added a Farewell Mass and Reception Event to be held Sunday, June 12.  Please check it out at the link above.

A Sad Goodbye to Our Old Friend, Mentor, Life Coach, and Comforter

On Monday, April 18, 2016, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, Mr. Bill Ryan; Mt. Calvary Pastor Father Everett Pearson, and Mt. Calvary School Principal Mrs. Darcy Tomko held a community meeting for students and their parents to announce the permanent closing of Mt. Calvary School at the end of the 2015-16 school year citing “enrollment and deficit concerns.” On Tuesday, April 19, 2016, Marco J. Clarke, President and CEO of Bishop McNamara High School publicized the closing announcement on its website. Next came a flurry of messages, remembrances, and discussions among the nearly 1,000 Mount Calvary parents and alumni who are members of the Mt. Calvary Catholic School Alumni-Forestville, MD Facebook Public Group, (of which I am a member).

The very first moment I learned of MCS’s closure I felt compelled to blog about a school and church community that had been such a big part of so many family’s lives.  My husband graduated from there in 1958.  Bob most remembers Sr. Bernadette from 1957.  She was short but feisty.  He says:  “Boys being boys, we used to torment her and when the boys  would “get her goat,” she would scream, “you damn boys.” On one occasion her false teeth fell out, hit a student’s desk, and then hit the floor and the whole classroom erupted in laughter.  The teen drama club played a big part in his life and from the mid-1970’s until the early 1990’s our three children attended the school and we attended the church, participated in and volunteered in the Teen Club and CYO sports programs, fundraisers, drama club, etc.  And when laid off from the printing industry one year, Bob worked in the school as part of its maintenance crew. My parents were church members, too, and my brothers and sons were altar boys.

Individual families with school-aged children did life together as one large family there for the betterment of their community and individual families.  Just a few of the family names that stick out in our minds as involved community leaders:  Mammano, Piazza, Mazzullo (all with their fair share of children), Antonio, Mundell, Dusseau, Butler, Palmer, Arena, Breslin, Vespoint–and so many more that I apologize to those whose names I may have inadvertently omitted.  As evidenced as you read through this post, many who attended Mt. Calvary will always remember and be grateful to the faculty and staff who cared for and taught them or their children–even several decades later the impressions, situations, and names stay firmly embedded in their hearts and brains.


Mount Calvary School before 1961

Mount Calvary School before 1961 when the “New” Church was built.

Mount Calvary Catholic School (MCS) first opened its doors on September 10, 1950, to 404   students from what grew into five local church parishes: Mount Calvary and Holy Spirit Churches in Forestville, Saint Bernadine’s in Suitland, Holy Family in Hillcrest Heights, and Saint Phillip’s in Temple Hills, MD. It’s mission has always been “to provide an environment that fosters spirituality and growth in faith, an educational program that builds academic success, leadership that promotes strong character, and a love for service to others.” 

Upon its opening, it had eight classrooms, a principal’s office, a health center, and a large “multi-purpose” room on the upper level that became known as “The Blue Room.” The blue room was the place on inclement weather days where students would gather for recess. In the basement was a similar multi-purpose room called “The Lower Hall.” While construction was underway for the “New” church–both rooms were soon used as temporary spaces for masses on Sundays and holy days.  Due to a rapidly growing and overflowing church community, both auditoriums had standing room only at staggered mass times.

Altar Mount Calvary ChurchThe new church was opened in 1959.   Later, the lower hall was used for special events and weekly bingo games. The overcrowding at masses required men of the church to direct traffic in and out of the parking lot and parking spaces to and from Marlboro Pike.  In the late 1960’s Mount Calvary’s parish was split into three parishes requiring the building of Saint Bernadine’s in Suitland and Holy Spirit on Ritchie Road in Forestville.

Mount Calvary School was the first construction on the future campus that housed the church, school, rectory, convent and Bishop McNamara High School next door.  The original and first Catholic Church in Forestville–a frame church that was painted white and built in 1912.  1958 Christmas CardThe “Little White Church” was located to the left and just behind today’s rectory.

The Little White Church was used as classroom space that included a 4th grade male only classroom (known as the Boy’s Academy), Boy Scout meetings, music lessons, and teen club gatherings. It was accidentally set afire by careless smokers and burned down in the 1970’s.

School Choir, inside the Little White Church, 1957.

School Choir, inside the Little White Church, 1957.

Bishop McNamara High School for boys opened its doors for the school year 1964-65. It converted to a coed school in 1992 when neighboring La Reine Catholic High School for girls in Suitland closed its doors.

In 1961, MCS’s peak school population included 19 sisters who ministered to 1,601 students. Most of Mount Calvary’s alumni testify that in spite of having 90 students in a classroom, they received an “Excellent” education.  I just can’t fathom the odds against excellence with that many faculty, students, and personalities together all day in what many would consider a small school.  Surely God was busily at work there, too.

Today, Mount Calvary’s enrollment is a mere 155 students and it serves a vastly different student population that it did at its beginnings 67 years ago. Only one-third of the student body is Catholic and 99 percent are African-American.  (These demographic changes over the past six decades are representative of the local Prince George’s County community.) The all-lay faculty and staff today includes 8 full-time teachers, a full-time Technology Coordinator/Resource Aide, and part-time teachers in the following areas: Art, Music, Physical Education and Spanish. The support staff includes two Instructional Aides, a Receptionist, and a Tuition Bookkeeper. The administration consists of the Pastor, the Principal and the Assistant Principal who also serves as the parish Director of Religious Education and the Director of the school’s Extended Care Program.  Beginning in the mid-1970’s, many of our families (senior parents and their children alike) migrated further south to counties such as Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s.  As for my parents, they are frail at ages 87 and 88 but insist on living independently (well–semi-independent) in their home in Berkshire that our family moved into in October 1960, 56 years ago.

Mount Calvary’s Leader of Progress and Excellence for 40 Years

Msgr Peter Paul Rakowski

Msgr Peter Paul Rakowski

Reverend Monsignor Peter Paul Rakowski (1897-1982), (Msgr Pete, as he was called), served as Pastor of Mt. Calvary Church from 1942 and was Pastor Emeritus at the time of his death on March 4, 1982.  When he first became Pastor, he lived with the elderly sisters who owned the house and the property where Bishop McNamara High School now stands. He used to say the sisters were shocked because he took a bath once a week. (Apparently, something about the bathing standards in those days.) It was his wish to be buried at his home where he had lived and worked the majority of his life, and so he was.  Just behind the rectory on the land where the “Little White Church” had once stood.  There, a prayer garden was also built in his honor.  Fr. Pete was the leader of progress and excellence for the church and the school for 40 years–longer than any other priest who had resided there.  Everyone loved him and his storytelling (for which he was also known).  In May 1973, 50th years after his ordination as a priest, our parish family and honored guests celebrated with him at his Anniversary Jubilee.  This was one of the biggest and most festive events our family recalls.
Sr GabrielleMsgr. Pete loved to brag about his school and its student population.  He also worked with financially struggling parishioners to define payment plans to help them pay for their children’s school tuitions.

Before going to diocesan pastors meetings, Fr. Pete would regularly call the Principal, Sister Gabrielle, to see how many kids were enrolled that day. In recent Facebook posts, more than 1 alumni commented that they thought Sr. Gabrielle did not like them and that the sisters of the day were tough! Patrick McDonald in 2010 posted there that “Sr. Gabrielle scared the heck out of everyone. If we had to walk past her office, it was fast paced and eyes straight ahead.  If Sr. Gabrielle was in the hallway when we went to or from recess, we all hugged the wall on the opposite side–or, at least I did.”  Patrick Morrissette in 2011 posted, “I still have a scar on my right thumb from a metal edged ruler where she whacked me!!”

Fr Worch Msgr PeteNot everyone remembers his name and many still call him “the young priest,” but those who knew him will always remember–these are two of our favorites from our Mt. Calvary family life:  Fr. Donald P. Worch and Msgr. Pete. Here they are in Hawaii in October 1974 on a Mt. Calvary sponsored trip.  Young and old, they were definitely among the chosen ones.  Their love of children and family stood out.  Fr. Worch in all his humility, and bold and passionate, Msgr. Pete.  Fr. Worch is retired and in residence at: Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church
9200 Kentsdale Drive, Potomac MD 20854 dworch@olom.org

The School Sisters of Notre Dame fully staffed Mount Calvary from 1950 – 1961

1960-61 Teaching Staff

Angie Lambert Hamm posted on April 21, 2016:  “I graduated in 1967. I’m wondering if the discipline changed once the nuns were no longer there. Who remembers the hand slaps with the wooden paddle for not doing homework or worse? Spankings were a normal punishment; chewing gum was stuck on our noses; and, the “milkshake” events!! If these things took place in today’s schools, the nuns would have been jailed!! No wonder they could teach 60+ kids in small classrooms!!

November 22, 1963

Washington Post 11-22-1963The day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX, by Lee Harvey Oswald–Student, Jim Jenkins (14 years old at the time) still remembers it well from his perspective as an 8th grader at Mt. Calvary:

Sister Norman was called to the door of our classroom by another teacher.  Then Sister Norman let out a gasp, “Oh no, please Lord!”

Sister immediately turned back into our classroom and began to set up the classroom television that was on a tall stand with wheels – we always had to adjust the antenna to get the reception right.  We all began watching Walter Cronkite talk us through the reports filtering out of Parkland Hospital in Dallas.  I remember Sister started to cry and asked that we begin to recite the rosary.

Soon the principal, Sister Gabrielle, announced over the “loud speaker” that local government officials were declaring a state of emergency and were asking that students be dismissed from school and return to their homes as soon as possible.

I remember walking home with my brother and we saw police and military vehicles beginning to take up positions at intersections along Pennsylvania Avenue (which extended out into Prince George’s County toward nearby Andrews Air Force Base – the destination of Air Force 1 with the body of John Kennedy).  Then, we saw our mother walking toward us.  We could clearly see that she had been crying.  She took us by our hands and we walked quietly home together.  Schools were closed for about a week and everyone remained solemn and watched the news and events unfold as they happened.

MCS kids consistently scored high on the various tests used to measure scholastic excellence. Its curriculum and community life standards were very high–so much higher than the public schools that many non-catholic families started enrolling their children at Mt. Calvary.  And, MCS students regularly outscored other archdiocesan schools on their high school entrance exams.  Much of the student’s comprehensive knowledge, retention, and test-taking skills can be attributed to the full-time teachers and committed staff and volunteers who worked with students after school and in the evenings, especially Mrs. Mary Cronin (1920-2011), who taught 20 years at Mt. Calvary (1966-1986) until she retired to Heritage Harbor in Annapolis, MD.  Mrs. Heron  taught math all day and then with Mr. Larry O’Callaghan, tutored the advanced math teams for many, many years.

Jane Perham Sr Elizabeth Carole Page 2010Sister Elizabeth Sokel was the school’s principal when our children began there in 1974. She always has been a great person and our kids tell us that she ran a tight ship.  By the time our eldest son graduated 8th grade in 1980, Mr. Bill Clancy was Principal.  Center in this 2010 picture, Sr. Elizabeth is with Jane Perham, left, and Carole Page, right.

In 1989, former student Scott Gielda wrote and produced a very successful musical “Looking Back on Broadway,” whose cast sang and danced their way in the Blue Room to a three-times packed auditorium in mid-October.  The performers, musicians and stage crew were alumni–young and older, a couple of staff, family members, and friends (Frank Antonio, Mary Mundell Boyce, Bob Dickinson, Kat Butler, Scott Gielda, Connie Germaine, Rob Isley, Jennifer Dickinson McDaniel, Joe Morrison, David Neale, Lloyd Unzel his daughter Erin Unzel Williams, and Glenn White).  David Neale passed away on May 22, 2011. David’s performances as Skimbleshanks–The Railway Cat from the Broadway Play “Cats” embodied Skimbleshanks as played by some of the best broadway performers.  David was a graduate of Dematha High School and Brown University, founder of Black Lavender Resources, and co-founder and editor-in-chief of Black LGBT Art Report.

John Patrick Sullivan, April 22, 2016 posted:  “My dad and I worked on the boiler system. About a decade ago I did a heating survey on the steam heating system. There was no central air system to evaluate. The heating system had all but given up the Holy Ghost. Replacing everything with individual classroom heat pumps was looked at but the electrical system was not large enough to make the upgrade . . .”

Mary Veazey Clark on April 20, 2016 posted: “There was no AC in the church or the school. School always smelled like sour milk and that stuff the janitors threw on the floor to sweep up sickness and spills. Milk was delivered to each classroom in the morning and sat on the floor in cases until lunchtime . . .”
Fr John EnzlerWashingtonian Magazine’s Washingtonian of the Year 2012: Monsignor John Enzler for pioneering programs for the forgotten. Some of Monsignor John Enzler’s most important work began at kitchen tables. As a parish priest in Potomac, he met in a private home with several parents whose children had developmental disabilities, and he realized that the Catholic Church’s efforts to support them weren’t sufficient. Enzler and the parents started Potomac Community Resources, a constellation of 35 programs that now helps more than 500 people with disabilities and their families.  He’s now CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, a job he took in 2011 during what he calls the “perfect storm” of shrinking government and philanthropic resources
and growing community needs. He relishes his role in marshaling resources: “Everything I’ve done has been in preparation for this job. I want to be a change agent for people whose lives are a daily struggle for food,shelter, and clothing.” And, this was the Fr. John Enzler that our family knew when he was pastor at Mt. Calvary.  My daughter Jen and I served on a small team  of parishioners who were concerned about drug and alcoholism in our families and neighbors. We worked to raise awareness about drug and alcoholism and partnered with other religious ministries to help combat these issues.
Fr FarinaMonsignor Michael di Teccia Farina, (Age 86) passed away after a brief illness on February 10, 2010. As he remarked during his last illness, “I have lived a rich life.” When asked why he chose to minister in the Nation’s Capital, Fr. Farina quipped, “Well, that’s where all the sinners are.” Father Farina is fondly remembered by parishioners from Holy Family Parish, Hillcrest Heights, as well as St. Thomas Apostle in Washington. In 1966 he was named the founding pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, Forestville, Md., where he built the present church. He became pastor of Mt. Calvary in 1974.  While at Mt. Calvary he spearheaded a cookbook fundraiser because of his love of cooking–“one of the fine arts,” as he was known to say.  For all his accomplishments, he earned the title of monsignor in 1984. 

Some Personal Thoughts From My Children

We had to carry their own lunches to school because Mt. Calvary didn’t prepare or sell them.  Although once a month special Hot dog luncheons were offered.  We would scoff them up because the smell of them cooking was “to die for” and this once-a-month at-school treat made them taste the very best!  First Fridays were Krispy Kreme donut days.

Free dress day was another fun time.  Occasionally, students could wear regular clothes instead of their uniforms.  Mom didn’t know this until now, but I would sneak into her closet and “borrow” high heels.  I would put them in my book bag and when I arrived before school started I would switch shoes.

My very first job was selling school supplies out of the little closet outside of the girls’ lower level bathroom.

Morning recess was 10:10-10:30 and a buzzer, not a bell, sounded to let us know when recess started and was ending.  Thing is, this buzzer even during summer months when school was not in session buzzed at 10:10 and 10:30.  On the upper level of the school, students were privileged to carry and ring the bell to indicate class changes.  I was so excited the day it was my turn.

girls uniformsIn fifth grade, girls got to switch from jumpers to skirts.  Peggy Guy shared this picture on August 26, 2012. My sister Mary Lou Bradburn Morawski! (She’s the one to the far right, with Ginger Bradburn Meissner in the center and me on the left. Looks like it’s Ginger’s very first day of school at Mt. Calvary with her “ID tag” pinned to her uniform. This picture was taken in front of our house on Insey Street in Berkshire.

Oh, and, we knew just how cool we were when we advanced enough to transition from recess in the back of the school to recess in the front.  We would sit along the brick wall or hang on the fence that was between McNamara and Mt. Calvary.  Sister Paulanna was one tough cookie.  Others have talked about Sr. Paulanna threatening girls with stories about getting cancer in their bottoms if they sat on those cold and damp walls.

Teachers of the Month - Keough Page 1980

Article from Today’s Catholic Teacher Journal, ca. 1980

Adelaide Keough and Carol Page selected and directed many, many, many school plays with choreography by Dottie Herbert. Mrs. Keough passed away on December 22, 2007.  She taught for 26 years at Mt. Calvary and co-led the Drama Club.The sets and costumes were amazing, too.
Dawn Woods and her husband Frank led the teen club for many years and somehow always smiled.

Let’s also remember our very caring nurse for many years, Mrs. Newman.
Mt. Calvary alumni Dee Butler and her sisters Pat and Kat, along with Jeni Stepanek coached girls softball and soccer.
An alumni dinner dance was held in the blue room in the 90s.
Brother Francis always had a coin or pouch to give away.  Brother Francis Michael Sullivan, C.S.C. died on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at Archcare’s Ferncliff Nursing Home after a long illness. Brother Francis was 78 years old and was member of the Congregation of Holy Cross for 58 years. He  taught in schools in New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey.
Mrs. Heron taught math all day and led the math club at night and you knew when she was coming down the hall by the sound of her necklaces.

Mrs. Keough’s shoes made an identifying rhythm as she walked down the hall.

Mrs. Dixon kept the boys in line and provided wise counsel to many.Mrs Pyatt“Use only blue or black ink,” in Mrs. Pyatt’s English class–no other colors permitted. I uploaded Mrs. Pyatt’s picture from a 1995-96 class picture.

At the time, she was Mt. Calvary’s Vice Principal, serving with Mr. Bill ClancyBill Clancy who was Principal. Mr. Clancy served over 20 years in the United States Air Force logging over 10,000 flight crew hours, with service to his country in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and with the Strategic Air Command and Operation Looking Glass. He also served over 40 years in Catholic education for the Archdiocese of Washington Schools. Bill, a graduate of the University of Maryland, served as a classroom educator and as an administrator at several schools, including Principal at Mt. Calvary Catholic School (Forestville, MD) and Assistant Principal at St. Mary of the Assumption School (Upper Marlboro, MD). Dear to his heart was implementing chapters of the National Junior Honor Society at both schools, because it recognized students for both academic achievement and stellar personal character. Although he loved teaching Math, Bill’s passion was teaching religion. A devout Catholic, Bill was committed to nurturing the faith of his students and encouraging them to manifest their faith each and every day “by living as Christ.”Fr George Golden

Fr. George Golden passed away from cancer on
November 13, 2005.  He was Pastor of Mt. Calvary in this 1995-96 school year picture.
Mrs. Phyllis Dennant  had beautiful handwriting and kept the library in order and a fun place to get a book and begin reading. Be sure to turn your book in on time. Mr. Clancy handed out every report card and would have a chalk line on his clothes from where he leaned against the chalkboard ledge.

Maryann-ArenaMrs. Maryann Josephine Arena (June 25, 1942 – December 9, 2013), school office administrator, knew every student and helped keep everyone organized.Mary Mundell Boyce

Mary Mundell Boyce taught music and led the worship team during mass.  She shared the lyrics for the Mt. Calvary School Song that she and her husband, Bill, wrote  in honor of Catholic Schools Week in 1981–the theme that year was Tradition and inspired the following:

Verse 1:  Mount Calvary, we hold you dear.

Your green and gold throughout the year
remind us of our friends and times we’ve spent.
We are proud of all you represent.
Mt. Calvary, Mt. Calvary may you forever be
a symbol of our Christian love and friends in unity.

Verse 2:  You’ve helped us to begin our life
in unity with the Christian light.
You give us what we need to make our way
on the road of life in everyday.
Mt. Calvary, Mt. Calvary may you forever be a symbol
of our Christian love and friends in unity.

Mrs. Clarisse (Chris) Dixon passed away on October 29, 2010.  She was a resident of Upper Marlboro, MD.  She kept the boys in line and provided wise counsel to many. Tricia Bond posted on February 20, 2012:  “She was my favorite teacher and took the time to understand what we were going thru at that age (6th-8th grade). We were hard to handle, but she handled us with grace and understanding each and every time.”

Students last day of school at Mount Calvary will be Friday, June 10.  Many of us are praying that before then, we will get word of some special event(s) regarding a proper closing and farewell to a school that has provided some much to so many for so long. Some have suggested a tour of the campus, several would like to see some of the school groups reunite, Mary Mundell Boyce mentioned that it would be great to get an alumni group together to perform the school song and record it for posterity (Frank Antonio, Kevin Basiliko…Erica Boursiquot…Melissa Davey…Michelle Lamare O’Brien and hubby, Jim….list goes on…..).  I believe this very well could be doable with a set date, time, and place, and I would help identify the videographer/audiographer.

And finally, a huge thank you to those who cared enough on October 23, 2008, to create the Mt. Calvary Catholic School Alumni-Forestville, MD Facebook Public Group administrators:  Sharon Messina, Anna Sullivan WarrenStefany Kalnoskas LangChloe Evers SummyRalph Edward Williams II, and Rob Maloof

Mt Calvary Alumni FB GroupSo much of what I have included here, I originally gleaned from members posts to this site. It’s alive and going stronger than ever–especially since the closing of Mt. Calvary School’s notice there.   Meanwhile, I hope that each of you will read and share this post and take time to add your thoughts and comments here for posterity.  Thanks for letting me ramble . . .

“Snuffing Out” Tobacco in Southern Maryland

Tobacco’s 17th Century Beginnings in the Colonies

English_Settlers_Harvest_Tobacco_1Maryland’s tobacco growing farms date back to the 17th century. Upon their arrival in 1634, Maryland settlers quickly hopped onto the tobacco bandwagon which the Virginians had started at the beginning of the century in Jamestown, Virginia. Borrowing seeds from my 11th great grandfather, Captain John Thomas Rolfe’s (1585-1622) now famous sweet-scented variety, they busily cultivated Maryland’s “tidewater area,” (geographic areas of southeast Virginia, northeastern North Carolina, part of the Atlantic coastal plain, and portions of Maryland facing the Chesapeake Bay).

Colonists quickly found that tobacco was the highest paying crop per acre. Colonial agriculture was primitive but exceedingly profitable. The annual tobacco crop brought in as much money as all the other American exports totaled. Family farms grew into plantations. Indentured servants were slowly replaced by slaves from Africa and the Caribbean.

And, the tobacco market wasn’t without its periods where sales slumped; e.g., the Revolutionary War Period (1775-1783). Yet, it still maintained and stimulated the growth of Maryland and other states throughout the colonial period. Tobacco farming became Calvert County’s main cash crop and the family farms grew rich through the generations.

Maryland’s Tobacco Farms in the late 20th Century

20th century tobacco barnIn fact, in the late 1990’s, southern Maryland tobacco generated 70% of farmers’ incomes, even though it occupied only 5% of their acres under cultivation. Scattered on small plots on almost every farm, the crop was a laborious and a year-round occupation–one of the reasons in labor-strapped southern Maryland that it was not a bigger crop.

Actually 24 years ago, when my husband, children, and I moved to Calvert County, we would see farmers in late summer harvesting tobacco leaves, turning over their hand cut leaves to others who would string them onto sticks and then hang them in their barns for curing.  After a couple of months, when the farmers were sure the leaves were completely dried, we would sometimes see them hauling their crops to a local tobacco warehouse for auction.  In our case, northern Calvert’s tobacco was either taken to the Hughesville Barns in Charles County, or the Upper Marlboro Tobacco Barns in Prince George’s County.

About seven years later, (1999), tobacco crops became almost extinct. I believe the tobacco farm on Mount Harmony Road was one of those that started growing soy beans instead of tobacco.   A late-1998 $206 Billion settlement by the nation’s largest tobacco companies and the 50 states brought the tobacco industry to a halt.  Life-long Southern Maryland tobacco farmers (whose average age was about 65), had been around long enough to see that the tobacco industry was dying. Their embrace of the wholesale buyout was both eager and sad. They were paid as much as $20,000 annually for 10 years to keep their farms and to replace their tobacco crops with other vegetation. This put about 1,100 Maryland  farmers out of the tobacco business.  

Parris N. Glendening was Maryland’s governor in 1999 when the tobacco settlements began to be paid out.  Governor Glendening vowed to use part of Maryland’s share of the windfall to close the book on “Maryland’s history as a tobacco state.”

Even so, about 100 Amish tobacco farmers refused to accept subsidies from the government.  They just changed their brand of tobacco leaves to “burley,” which was in demand in Europe.   And, some farmers sold off their farms to land developers and subdividers instead of accepting a financial settlement that would lock them into their farms for 10 years.  This decision by the farmers, might help explain the State’s third largest housing boom and population growth (nearly 20 percent increase in population) in Calvert County that took place between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.

The tobacco crops may have disappeared but, the Calvert County Flags that had tobacco leaves on them can still be found.

Calvert County Flag CollageReferences:

  • U.S. Census Bureau:  U.S. by County Population & Housing Patterns: 2000 to 2010″End of an Era For Maryland Tobacco,” By Philip Rucker, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, March 1, 2007
  • “Snuffing Out Tobacco is No Easy Task for Maryland Farmers,” By Melissa Healey, Times Staff Writer, August 15, 2000

  • “Maryland Pays Farmers Not to Grow Tobacco,” World Net Daily “WND,” August 23, 2000

  • “Pulling up roots : Maryland move discourages tobacco,” Michigan Daily, February 1, 2001




My Genealogy Story

My Desires to Know and to Learn

One day my dad and I were talking about his young life, the absence of his mother early on and her mysterious death at age 32 that had left him and his family with unanswered questions. We also visited my paternal great grandmother about once a month for many years. She lived in the Home for Incurables in Washington, D.C.,  for about 25 years after becoming crippled with arthritis and abandoned by her husband of 33 years, never to be heard from again.  And then there was my maternal great grandfather who I had heard was one of the last two remaining soldiers who fought in the American Indian Wars. And yet, he married a full-blooded Cherokee bride, and after many years of marriage retreated to the National Soldier’s Home and lived there for about 30 years. Family referred to him as a disgruntled old man or “habitually intemperate.”   There were so many sketchy and questionable stories that seemed to naturally arouse my curiosities and had left me feeling incomplete about who I was and what I could share with my children and the rest of my family about our heritage. Then in 1980, came our eldest son’s 8th grade family history school project, where he had to draw his family tree as far back as he could and he began asking questions–some we could answer, others we couldn’t, and the completed information in the tree went back only to grandparents.  He had some names of earlier generations, but not enough specifics to include them in his tree.   That was the final impetus that set me on my path to being our family’s historian.

My  First Resources

The facts I collected and recorded from the United States censuses became absolutely key resources for me when I began my serious research into our family’s histories.  Yes, it was January 1980, and coincidentally I had just joined the Census Bureau’s staff and had completed a brief new employee orientation that included a bit about the origin of the census and the agency.  I learned that the  first United States Census was conducted in 1790 and at 10-year intervals ever since then. Thus, Census 2010 was the 22nd census of population.

In the Spring  of 1980, 36 years ago, I first trekked to the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  There on weekends, I used their family coding system and microfilm machines to scroll through hundreds of reels of film that contained copies of the original census forms.  I remember being inside the Archives on a warm and sunny day, researching family and hearing bands and people cheering the Easter Paraders passing by outside on Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues.

Using microfilm was a long and tedious, mental and eye-straining process. I would copy by hand the facts I found and make notes on lined paper, then take this work home and transcribe it using a typewriter.  Each little factoid I found exhilarated me so much that I would persevere and I kept trudging along at a snail’s pace uncovering just the tiniest of bread crumbs along my journey.

To give you a better idea of what I was up against, in 1983, the most recent census data available to the public was from the 1910 Census.  This was due to the “72-Year Rule,” where the National Archives was not allowed to release census records to the general public until 72 years after Census Day (about a person’s lifetime when originally established)–this holds true til this day.   As a result, the 1940 census records were released April 2, 2012 and remain the most current census data available. So, this 70+ year gap in data didn’t make it easy to uncover facts about people who came 3 to 4 generations before me.  But, a known birth state here, a remembered relative’s name there, was enough to get me started.

Technology Advances My Research

Ancestry dot com birthIt was also in 1983 when Ancestry Publishing was founded–the precursor to today’s Ancestry.com.  But, it wasn’t until 1996 that Ancestry.com was launched.  Ancestry developed efficient and proprietary systems for digitizing handwritten historical documents, established relationships with national, state and local government archives, historical societies, religious institutions, and private collectors of historical content around the world.   These profound advances in technology and genealogical research occurred at a time when my family commitments had forced me to take a brief hiatus from my research. But my desire to continue my research never faltered and sometime shortly thereafter that I first subscribed to Ancestry.com and my family tree began to grow by leaps and bounds.

In 2001, Ancestry.com added its one-billionth record to its site and it resources.  Today, my public tree has over 12,000 records, about 600 family photos, many copies of newspaper clippings from yesteryear, copies of birth and death certificates, and various family documents and stories.

Surprises Along My Way

Uncle Same Have Your Answers Ready With all this being said, I’m not quite sure why people seem to remain “up in arms” about today’s “invasive” census questions.  Especially, when my research gave me the opportunities to compare questionnaires and schedules going back over 200 years with today’s slimmed and trimmed down questions and forms.

For example, the seventh U.S. Census of Population was conducted by U.S. Marshals and Assistant Marshals in 1850.  It was the first census where Marshals recorded names, relationship to head of household, age, sex, and color for all persons living in each household.  These census takers were also required to ask the head of each household about each individual’s full health. If the head of a household (usually the husband, father, or other male relative) claimed an individual was deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic the census taker also recorded this in a separate column designated(column 13, below).

1850 census form header

Additionally, there was a separate 1850 schedule relating to numbers of slave inhabitants. The forms collected the names of slave owners; number of slaves; the slaves color, sex, age, and whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic; and the numbers of fugitives from the state. The 1860 census is the last federal census where slaves were enumerated. Unfortunately, they were not enumerated by name but by quantity with their owner–only on a rare occasion did I find a name listed.

Slave Inhabitants Questionnaire

Wretched Terms Used to Describe Family Members Health

Then, in the 1880 Census, (and only the 1880 Census), there was a “Special Schedule of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes (sometimes called the DDD or 3D Schedule). When an enumerator recorded a health issue on the census of population form, he would then have to fill in this 3D Schedule to further clarify an individual’s defect, dependency, or delinquency; successively, for all individuals with any of these conditions. In fact, there were seven categories used to classify “health” conditions:

Insane: The schedule lists the “form” of the person’s insanity (melancholia, mania, epilepsy, etc.), history of “attacks,” if they need to be under lock and key, type of restraints (if any), and history of institutionalization.

It’s important to remember that it was often a family member giving information about the “insane” person and understanding mental health could be quite subjective.  Even Epilepsy was considered a form of insanity, as was postpartum depression.  Even veterans of the Civil or Indian Wars could have been classified as “insane,” where in later years we might have described them as “shell-shocked (from WWI and WWII), or in later wars as suffering from PTSD.

Idiots: An idiot for this schedule was defined as “a person the development of whose mental faculties was arrested in infancy or childhood before coming to maturity.” Questions included if the person was self-supporting, age at which idiocy occurred, supposed cause of idiocy, size of head, training school history, and other disabilities the person had. Let’s see, this classification probably included children with Downs Syndrome, autism, ADD, and ADHD, or for that matter, just spoiled, ill-tempered brats.

Deaf-mutes: Enumerators were tasked with not listing those who were only deaf or hard-of-hearing or those who were only mute. “A deaf-mute is one who cannot speak, because he cannot hear sufficiently well to learn to speak.” Information includes whether he or she was self-supporting, age that deafness occurred, supposed cause of deafness, history of institutions, and other disabilities.  Helen Keller would have fit into this category.

Blind: The semi-blind could be included, but not those who could see well enough to read. The form asked if the person was self-supporting, form of blindness, supposed cause, the age that blindness occurred, institutional information, and other disabilities.

These next categories were used to enumerate people in institutions, poor houses, and boarding homes:

Homeless Children: Rather than homeless children, it was for children in institutions (children’s homes, poorhouses, etc.) Information included their residence when not in the home, if the father and/or mother were deceased, if the child was abandoned, if the parents had surrendered control to the institution, if they were born in the institution, year admitted, if the child was separated from his/her mother, the child’s criminal history, and disabilities.

Inhabitants in Prison: This section gave information about the prisoner’s residence, type of prisoner, why they are in prison (awaiting trial, serving a term, etc.), date of incarceration, alleged offense, sentence, and if the prisoner was at hard labor.

Paupers and Indigent: Similar to the Homeless Children section, this part of the schedule was for those who were “in institutions, poor-houses or asylums, or boarded at public expense in private houses.” Information included residence “when at home,” how he or she was supported; if the person was able-bodied, habitually intemperate, epileptic, or a convicted criminal; disabilities; year admitted; and other family members in the institution (spouse, parents, children, and siblings). There was also a section at the end about the institution itself.

So there you have it.  I have gathered so much information about our past and yet there is so much more to be learned from these antiquities about our families lives and times.  I will say, if I God called me home today that those in my family who have an interest in their family’s history would be given a great starting point from which to continue on–that is unless the suspicious and conspiracy theorists about our government’s intentions and uses of data collected squelch the availability of future genealogical resources such as these.

And, yes, I discovered where my father’s mother went to live, that she was a “Rosie the Riveter,” and her official cause of death was chronic alcoholism; I found my paternal great grandfather’s death information from the 1970’s in Las Vegas and have even gotten to know, to love, and maintain contact with my new family members from my great grandfather’s second family that he built while in Vegas; and was led to an unknown uncle from my maternal grandfather’s first family in Hawaii, which we knew nothing about.  I also found many colonial leaders–settlers from what is now Great Britain–statesmen, lawyers, musicians,  and many fascinating and larger than life characters.  And my stories will continue as long as I am still here to research and write them . . .

Words from: Robert M. Groves, Director of the United States Census Bureau at the time of the 2010 Census–our most recent:

“Just like we can’t survive without roads and bridges, the country doesn’t function well without an updated Census to distribute funds to areas that most need them and to support community decisions about their own future.”
And let’s not forget the growing love and interest in family histories and genealogy!

Addicted to Genealogy

For the Love of a Dear Sister

sistersAfter many years as an Ancestry.com (the world’s largest online history resource) subscriber and enthusiastic supporter, I went looking for a similar but free resource for a friend of 40 years (who’s like or better than a biological sister to me) who has never been consumed like me by researching family history

In fact, I immersed her as my genealogy cohort when she mentioned to me that she knew little about her family. Her father passed when she was 13 when he lost control of his propane tanker truck, and her mother, who she continues to mourn, passed away from brain cancer 12 years ago.  I asked her for a few simple facts, names, dates of birth, city, state, entered them into Ancestry as a new tree, and one entry led to another, and so on . . . most of you know this storyDanville Register - Sat Aug 14 1971 - William Irvin Owen

When I found the August 14, 1971, newspaper article about her father’s accident and listed his relatives in the obituary portion, that’s all it took.  I had hooked her and the addicted researcher behavior in me took over my life again.  Within a matter of few furious days I gifted her a tree of 368 relatives and 82 photos.  So obviously, she was on high with delight and wanted to continue this trip and get to know her family for herself.  Thus, my search for a free online family history database resource.

Finding the Mother Lode

I first looked at FamilySearch, the genealogical organization operated by the Genealogical Society of Utah (“GSU”), and the genealogical arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the largest genealogy organization in the world.  It is this organization that we can thank for digitizing billions of family history records.

And yet, here is this completely FREE genealogy website with billions of indexed records, access to billions of pages of unindexed records (most of them original source material), with a significant educational component (the Wiki and Video Courses), a collaborative family tree (featuring sources, notes, record hints, photos, stories, etc.), and only five percent of a genealogy enthusiasts audience of 100 use it–and 95 out of 100 in this audience were aware of it and had visited it (according to Randy Seaver, author of Genea-Musings Blog).

At any rate, I took my friend’s small ancestry.com tree, used my Family Tree Maker (FTM) software and downloaded her tree’s .ftm file into a GEDCOM (.ged) file so I could upload her file into FamilySearch’s database.  My only other option would have been to re-enter all her family history data manually into FamilySearch (FS).  Next, FS uploaded the information into its database, but it didn’t add all her records automatically.  I was required to do a one-to-one comparison of her records to those possible duplicate records already in FS.  On a small file this isn’t so bad, but on a file as large as my ancestry.com tree (12,000+ records) this would be a tedious and exhaustive process–a real downer.  Perhaps this is why people choose not to transfer their files to FS?  Or, maybe because it’s a collaborative database and they are not willing to share or have their data edited by others who they do not know or feel they can trust their genealogical skill sets?  Bottom line, my dear sister friend was euphoric to have her own family tree and to be able to manipulate it on her own.  My sister and I are going on a short out of town trip very soon to hear her son’s band play and this will be an opportunity for us to revive our genealogical buzz.

Awaiting Another Intoxicating Adventure 

Meanwhile, in my endeavor to try out and test FS, I queried the database about my third maternal great grandfather Henry Ford–a brick wall in my tree.  I didn’t nail down Henry’s data, but I discovered there were two conflicting records for my second great grandfather–the father of my maternal great grandmother, Mary Susan Morris, who was the wife of John Carpenter Ford.  One record had his death in 1880, which agreed with my record, but a census record showed an inmate in 1900 at the North Carolina State Insane Asylum.  So, I contacted the FamilySearch research support team. Within a couple of days I received the most unexpected in-depth research about the conflicts and directions to further resources about these people. And, to boot, FS researchers complimented me on one of my blog posts that they had found and read as a result of their queries on my behalf.

So now, the genealogical addict in me is adding my ancestry.com public tree (slowly and surely) using the GEDCOM file upload and one-to-one record comparison method to see what my sharing and comparing of these data might bring to light.

Family Life – Then and Now . . .

Family Life Under Seige

Family life today is under siege and family units have changed dramatically over the last 50 years. Families are beset by divorce, crises in roles, absenteeism of parents, breakdowns in authority, preoccupations with other things, inadequate times together, financial pressures, and a host of other problems.

An Analogy:  Imperfectly Formed Yet Functional

Family Coffee MugAs an analogy, let’s first take a look at an everyday item–in this instance, a normal-enough looking coffee mug.  On the surface it appears smooth, easy to manage, and fully functional. It holds coffee or other drinks; it will not tip when laid to rest on a flat surface; and in fact, we can easily drink from it.  But, if we look just a little closer at the lip and barrel of this mug, we can see that it has been imperfectly formed–the mug’s circular shape is irregularly rounded at the lip and in some places the barrel has minor dents and protrusions.  Hence, it  does not conform to our description of a standard or what we would consider a normal coffee mug.  It is unique and yet it is still functional and meets the needs of coffee drinkers.

Today’s Norm for Family Structures

97i/14/huty/6750/23Now, let’s take a look at our perceptions of today’s forms of family structures and functionality.  We can see that The “Leave it to Beaver” family is no longer a norm or standard. More children are being raised by single parents, by same-sex parents, in blended and extended families, and in families with mixed race, religion and ethnicity. 

Fewer than Half of U.S. Kids Today Live in a ‘Traditional’ Family

Fewer than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. This is a marked change from 1960, when 73% of children fit this description, and 1980, when 61% did, according to Pew Research Center’s December 2014 analysis of recently released American Community Survey (ACS) and Decennial Census data.

Pew found that one of the largest shifts in family structure was: 34% of today’s children are living with an unmarried parent—up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980. In most cases, these unmarried parents are single. However, a small share of all children—4%—are living with two cohabiting parents, according to CPS data. Because of concerns about the quality of the new 2013 ACS data on same-sex marriage, Pew did not separate out the very small number of children whose parents are identified as in this type of union, but instead folded them into this “single parent” category.

According to Pew’s 2014 analysis, 15% of today’s children are living with two parents who are in a remarriage. Pew says it was difficult to accurately identify stepchildren in the ACS data, so they didn’t know for sure if these kids were from another union, or were born within the remarriage. However, data from another Census source—the 2013 Current Population Survey (CPS)—indicated that 6% of all children were living with a stepparent.

The remaining 5% of children were not living with either parent. In most of these cases, they were living with a grandparent—a phenomenon that has become much more prevalent since the recent economic recession.

Yet, as the shapes of our families (traditional, extended, complex, step, adopted, or foster), have become more unique, the roles and functions of family members still remain the same.  A truly thriving family provides its members with emotional and spiritual kinship through shared values, beliefs, and traditions; common experiences and activities, and unconditional, non-judgmental support.   Seems simple enough. Where there’s commitment, communication, common values and goals, and a genuine love and support for each other all challenges can be met with and weathered.  That is, until you add in the distancing distractions of today’s world’s technologies and increased global communications and lifestyles.

Please take a few minutes to look at this 2010 mind blowing video.  It shows just how overwhelming the virtual and online world is.  Its presence alone, putting all other economic and social indicators aside, is changing, consuming, and threatening the quality of our families’ lives and times.  Bottom line for me–life was so much calmer and simpler 50 years ago.  And, here’s where I must end this post, else I could negatively ramble on in comparisons of yester years’ benefits vs. today’s world’s destructive dynamics affecting all levels of our lives, regardless of our family’s structure.


Before there were Alarm Clocks

There were “Knocker Uppers”

Sometimes I go searching and researching for interesting stories to share on my blog site.  And, sometimes, the stories just come to me.  Most times, my posts are personal, about hardships or successes of my ancestors or relatives despite their challenges, and almost always lack humor.  But today’s post is factual, telling of the times during the Industrial Revolution (a 200 year period from 1700’s and 1900’s about  progress of people and their politics), and still humorous to me.  Humorous because the term “Knocker Upper” originally was an  occupational title.

My how times have changed . . .

In today’s world “Knocker Upper” has an entirely different meaning.  In Great Britain throughout most of the Industrial Revolution period “Knocker Uppers” were mostly elderly men and women who got paid to awaken or arouse people from their sleep so they wouldn’t be late for work.  But, in today’s America, it is a vulgar slang used to describe a male who has impregnated a female.

Meet Dead Fred’s Genealogy Photo Archive – March 18, 2016

Dead Fred's Genealogy Photo Archive's photo.
Photograph from Philip Davies’ Lost London: 1870 – 1945.

Meet Mary Smith my favorite knocker upper

Mary Smith earned sixpence a week shooting dried peas at sleeping workers windows. . . .

The knocker-up used a truncheon or short, heavy stick to knock on the clients’ doors or a long and light stick, often made of bamboo, to reach windows on higher floors. Some of them used pea-shooters. In return, the knocker-up would be paid a few pence a week. The knocker-up would not leave a client’s window until sure that the client had been awoken.

There were large numbers of people carrying out the job, especially in larger industrial towns such as Manchester. Generally the job was carried out by elderly men and women but sometimes police constables supplemented their pay by performing the task during early morning patrols.