Ancestry.com’s Newest Mobile App Identifies Iconic Ancestors and Relatives


An End to Years of Tedious Research?

Over the course of my 35+ often tedious years of researching and documenting family histories, obviously I have discovered many ancestors and even living relatives who I wasn’t aware were connected to our family.  Nevertheless, during their lives for whatever reason(s), they left indelible marks on our world’s history and in some instances our “pop” culture.

If we look back at my blog over the past 5+ years, we can see that many of my 325+ posts have focused on the more famous characters–those who made an impact on me or society because they attained great knowledge or fame through their leadership, their bravery, their innovation and perseverance through difficult times, their specific skills and contributions to a particular field or study, or their God-given callings and talents that helped make them extraordinary persons in the eyes of their peers.

We’re Related App

To both my joy and sorrow, Ancestry recently released a new FREE mobile app, “We’re Related.” The ease of this app quickly puts new and interesting relationship details in your hands that once took decades to uncover.   It finds discoveries that you never would have expected; i.e., you are related to famous people, or you’re related to friends within your social media circles.

I allowed the app to access to my already public ancestry tree that goes back generations.  Almost instantly it started notifying me of new finds about possible relatives through shared common ancestors.  While I haven’t yet shared any new relationship discoveries on Facebook, Snapchat or other social media, the capabilities and options to do so are there.

The app’s look and feel and overall navigation options are outstanding –  easy, simple, intuitive, with options for feedback.  It is loads of fun and may be “for entertainment only,” but for a serious genealogist it can be a tool for research, too.

This is a screenshot of one of my suggested relatives, former Sex Symbol of the 1950s and 1960s: “Marilyn Monroe.”  While not shown here, there are icons below the narrative, to allow you to check the branching of relatives from you back to a relative in common with the notable person; a button that links me back into my tree for further exploration; a share button to allow you to share via the usual social media sources, an emoji heart-shape to recommend the app to others; and, opportunities to select and/or invite friends to join in on the fun or to see if you are related to the friend.  There’s also a statistical chart that breaks down all suggested relatives by their occupations; e.g., I have 14 identified relatives.  The breakdown is as follows:

  1. All – gives you the total count of relatives suggested, in my example – 14
  2. Favorites – indicates those that you marked as “favorite” upon reviewing them
  3. Facebook – tells you how many of your relatives are from Facebook – 1
  4. Nearby – How many relatives live nearby- 0
  5. Actors & Actresses  – In my example, I have 5
  6. Authors & Writers – In my example, 2
  7. Business Magnates – 1
  8. Musicians and Composers – 2
  9. Politicians – 3
  10. US Presidents & First Ladies – 1
  11. Arts and Architects – 0
  12. Crime Fighters and Lawyers – 0
  13. Criminals, Eccentrics, and Oddities – 0
  14. Educators – 0
  15. Entertainers and Magicians – 0
  16. Historical Figures –  (this should be 2, but it says 0) what would you call Ben Franklin and Winston Churchill?
  17. Journalists – 0 (Ben Franklin was also a journalist)
  18. Medal of Honor Recipients -0
  19. Military Figures – 0
  20. Philanthropists – 0 (this should say 1) Bill Gates
  21. Religious Figures – 0
  22. Royalty – 0
  23. Scientists and Inventors – 0 (again, Ben Franklin)
  24. Social Reformers – 0
  25. Sports Figures – 0
  26. U.S. Supreme Court Justices – 0
  27. Victim – 0

The following link takes you to the list I created by extracting an individual relative’s information from the app.  I hope you enjoy and will send me your thoughts and feedback.

Famous Relatives Identified by Ancestry.com’s -Possible Relatives- App – Sheet1

Back From the Future – Part 3 (With John Rolfe and Pocahontas)


I wish to thank my dear friend, retired College Lecturer, and fellow Pocahontas research enthusiast, Christine Dean, for her ongoing updates about happenings in and around her hometown of  Heacham, Norfolk, England.  From her undaunting energy and perseverance while delving into local legends about Pocahontas and John Rolfe, I am able to bring you new posts that allow us to travel back from the future and into the past based on new details and discoveries provided to me with the help of Christine in our present day.

So let’s begin Part 3 of this journey back from the future in the year 1597.  Here, we find John Rolfe, age 12, living at Heacham Hall with his mother Dorothea Mason Rolfe Redmayne, (who had been widowed in 1594 at the death of John’s father (Sir Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe), and with his stepfather,  Dr. Robert Redmayne (since his mother’s marriage to him in 1595).  Robert Redmayne had been Chancellor at Norwich Cathedral since 1588.  His chancellorship went on to span 37 years and five bishops including a family relative, Bishop William Redman (1595-1602), who chose to spell his name as it sounded. It would be only 12 years later when the U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration records would show that John Rolfe arrived in Jamestown, Virginia.  In fact, pages 15-21 of this reference include the persons aboard the Sea Venture, which left Britain in 1609 for Jamestown but was wrecked off Bermuda. And, specific names appear on pages 16 and 17, with genealogies of some of the passengers on succeeding pages.

Six years later in 1615, biographical histories have documented a visit to Heacham Hall in Norfolk County, England, by John Rolfe, his wife Pocahontas, and their infant son Thomas Rolfe.  This visit lasted nearly two years–from early June 1615 until March 1617.  Unfortunately Pocahontas died in January 1617, leaving her husband, John, a widow with their two-year-old son, Thomas.  Shortly after Pocahontas’ death, John Rolfe departed England to return to Jamestown, Virginia.  John left his son, two-year-old Thomas, in London, in the care of Sir Lewis Stukley.  Upon Sir Lew Stukley’s death in 1620, Thomas’ guardianship was transferred to John  Rolfe’s, two-years’ his junior, younger brother, Henry Rolfe, until Thomas was 21.  And in 1635, passenger and immigration records show that Thomas Powhatan Rolfe arrived in Virginia.

But Wait, Our Story in England Isn’t Yet Finished–We’re Gonna Be Talk’n ‘Trees’

The mulberry tree in the grounds of Heacham Manor (far right of building) Picture: Chris Bishop

The mulberry tree in the grounds of Heacham Manor. Picture: Chris Bishop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heacham Manor Hotel 3

Today’s luxurious Heacham Manor Hotel

A four hundred year old legend exists.  It tells of the Rolfe’s now infamous visit to Heacham Village and adds trees into the mix of our family’s history–and not branches of our ancestry tree. But, literally a living mulberry tree and its branches.  A tree that Pocahontas is said to have planted at Heacham Hall during her stay there.  And today, 400 years later, the manor and villagers say this same mulberry tree  remains and is thriving beside the Heacham Manor Hotel main entrance.  

But wait–what if this mulberry tree could talk–what might it tell us?

Palace of WhitehallPrincess Pocahontas is said to have visited Queen Anne and King James I on Twelfth Night 6th January 1617 at their Palace of Whitehall in London.  They had a garden that had nine mulberry trees and they were giving away 1000+ mulberry seeds to all their noble friends, who they encouraged to plant them to grow trees for medicine, healthy food, drink, and wine and to cultivate silkworms for spinning silk from which new shirts could be made.  So, the question remains “could the Heacham mulberry tree seeds have come from King James I’s and Queen Anne’s Buckingham Palace Gardens?”

Syon House and ParkSyon Park also in London has about 200 acres (Thames-side near Isleworth), and includes the Syon House. This estate has been owned by Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke of Northumberland,  and his ancestors for about 400 years. Syon House was the  home of the 9th Duke of Northumberland’s family and Earl George Percy  was a President /Governor at Jamestown in 1609-1610 and his brother ‘Wizard Earl’ alchemist expert Henry Percy.  Henry Percy remounted  Pocahontas pearl wedding earrings with  silver clasps when she visited him at the Tower of London in 1616. Syon House  has the oldest surviving mulberry tree in England dating back to 1548 and growing in the meadow where Pocahontas stayed in their two cottages close by at Brentford after she became ill in London.  Could this tree be the parent tree to the one in Heacham?

Mulberry Tree Red Lodge Country HouseAnother old mulberry tree grows on the estate of Narford Hall that is situated in the Breckland District of Norfolk County, in the garden at the  Red lodge Country House behind the wooden seat–this was the home of John Rolfe’s  stepfather’s family, the Redmayne’s.  It possibly dates back to a 1643 gift from King Charles 1.  Further, Uncle Edmund Rolfe also lived at Narford Hall with his son Henry and grandson Francis.  Princess Pocahontas’ might had picked up seeds or truncheon twigs from this tree to plant at Heacham Hall.  Princess Pocahontas probably commuted between Heacham and other England vicinities by carriages, possibly changing horses at relatives’ stables in Narford Hall.

The map of England’s Norfolk County from 1658, below, is the best I could find to try to show where the Rolfe and Redmayne farming families would have traded in their ships, horses and carriages along the yellow River Nar that flows from Kings Lynn to several major ports at Waterbeach Cambridge, Huntingdon, Peterborough, Isle of Ely, and the Royal Boston port.  The tidal water is highlighted in  grey.

Norfolk England Map 1658

Cottrell Joan

Dr. Joan Cottrell

Dr Kevn Burgess Columbus St Univ GA

Dr. Kevin Burgess

In just a few weeks, (sometime in May 2017), when the fresh mulberry leaves at the luxury country house Heacham Manor Hotel (formerly Heacham Hall) are mature enough, Dr. Joan Cottrell of the Forest Research, Northern Research Station, Roslin, Midlothian, UK, and Dr. Kevin Burgess of Columbus State University, Georgia, USA will take a six-inch branch from this tree to conduct DNA testing of it and compare it to branches from three other very old mulberry trees.  It is hoped this will lead to finding a DNA connection between the Heacham Manor Hotel’s tree and three other very old mulberry trees identified in the UK – at Buckingham Palace, Syon House in West London and Narford Hall, Swaffham, Norfolk, where it is thought Pocahontas might have visited and collected seeds from one of them.  This research could establish whether any of these three other trees are forebears of the Heacham tree–which today is still producing delectable fruit that is served on the menu at Heacham Manor.

As I understand it (in very lay persons terms), one chromosome passes from a mother tree to a child tree.  By analyzing clippings, scientists can sometimes detect a matching digital DNA barcode.  Ultimately, this process might identify and connect a species of seeds to this mulberry tree to help corroborate the story of Pocahontas’ mulberry tree planting in Heacham Village!

Adding “Genetic Communities” to My DNA Results


Evaluating My DNA Testing Results

It has probably been three or more years since I first received my DNA test results that I ordered through Ancestry.com.  Initially, I was very disappointed with the look and feel of Ancestry’s DNA feature–it merely showed (based upon my DNA sample test), that I descended from Europeans who had migrated to the New World.  Now, the only way I wouldn’t have already known this was if I had been an ostrich with its head buried in the sand for the past 400 or so years.

Over the past 18 months or longer, Ancestry has continued to add, or in its opinion, improve to its list of features like its “lifestory” option which assimilated facts from my collected documentation in my family tree to general historic timeline narratives of events in close proximity with a given fact.  It was a good try, but, in my opinion, something I preferred to research and narrate on my own with more specificity, if and when I chose to do a write about an individual.

Ancestry Releases Another New Feature

Then, this week, Ancestry sent me an email announcing more new features to help me better connect my people and my places to historical details and migration paths.  It seems AncestryDNA™ has become the largest consumer genetic testing company with 3,000,000 people tested; 80,000,000 trees; and 19,000,000,000 records.  And this time, Ancestry uses its vast collection of DNA results to tap into its family history resources and create an all-new feature “Genetic Communities™,” which in turn helps me fill in missing pieces about my family’s story and how it inter-relates to the geography, times, and stories of other families.

Earlier results broke down my ethnicity origins into a mere four regions of the world. With today’s results (that will continue to grow over time, since this feature is in its Beta version), I can browse over 300 Genetic Communities using MapBox open source geospatial maps that Ancestry integrated into this new feature.

So Just What Is A “Genetic Community”?  

Ancestry describes a genetic community as a group of AncestryDNA members who are connected through DNA most likely because they descend from a population of common ancestors, even if they no longer live in the area where those ancestors once lived.  The image below shows that my ancestors and I are part of two genetic communities in which our connection is very likely or possible:  Early Settlers of Lower Midwest & Virginia and Early Settlers of Tennessee and the Deep South.

And further,  below is just one of six time-line examples within the “Early Settler of the Lower Midwest & Virginia” Genetic Communities™: (1700-1775 “Into the Back Country,” 1775-1825 “Kentucky Fever,” 1825-1850 “Along the Mississippi,” 1850-1875 “War Hits Home,” 1875-1900 “The South Industrializes, 1900-1950 “An Urban Life,” in this new feature. Although, not shown as links, you can click on each name from your tree and it will display this person on the MapBox map, (which you can zoom in or out of for greater or less geographic detail); and you can also click another link that will allow you to view each person’s profile details from inside your Ancestry family tree.

“Into the Backcountry 1700-1775”

By 1700 flourishing towns and small cities dotted the eastern seaboard from Massachusetts to North Carolina. Many new immigrants from England and Germany, and Scots-Irish from northern Ireland, pressed into the rugged country to the west where they could find land, religious tolerance, political freedom, and economic opportunity. They faced threats from the French on the other side of the Appalachian Mountains and native peoples who resisted encroachment on their lands.

People in Your Tree

  1. Elizabeth Williams Settle  B:1661 D:1724
  2.  Elizabeth Frances Triplett B:1670 D:1710
  3. Deborah Hearn B:1670 D:1731
  4. John Powell B:1670 D:1731
  5. John Bourne B:1672 D:1720
  6. Ethelred Taylor B:1675 D:1716
  7. William George Wharton B:1675 D:1740
  8. Elizabeth Johnson B:1676 D:1760
  9. Elizabeth Duke B:1677 D:1725
  10. Susan Alvis B:1680 D:1735
  11. William Kinchen B:1681 D:1735
  12. Thomas Chowning B:1684 D:1782
  13. Elizabeth Ruffin B:1685 D:1761
  14. Sarah Davis B:1686 D:1721
  15. William Taptico II B:1690 D:1719
  16. Elizabeth Barrick B:1690 D:1724
  17. Sarah or Mary Ann Lee B:1690 D:
  18. William Elliott B:1692 D:1750
  19. Frances Rachel Riley B:1692 D:1751
  20. Lettice Bourk B:1693 D:1727
  21. Mary Fellows B:1693 D:1747
  22. Capt. John Higginbotham B:1695 D:1742
  23. Benjamin Asbury B:1695 D:1750
  24. John Jett B:1695 D:1771
  25. William Guttery B:1697 D:1723
  26. Frances Brown B:1698 D:1755
  27. Etheldred Taylor B:1699 D:1755
  28. Ann Elizabeth Wells B:1700 D:1770
  29. Robert Kyle B:1702 D:1774
  30. Benjamin Bowling B:1704 D:1767
  31. Betty Ann Campbell B:1704 D:1779
  32. Mary Williams B:1705 D:1735
  33. Samuel S McGehee B:1706 D:1788
  34. William Tapp B:1707 D:1791
  35. Christian Bourne B:1708 D:1791
  36. Mary Elizabeth Bland Blair Bolling B:1709 D:1775
  37. Thomas Wharton B:1711 D:1748
  38. Robert “Chowning” Chewning B:1711 D:1843
  39. Mary Elizabeth Elliot B:1714 D:1745
  40. Moses Higginbotham B:1714 D:1790
  41. James Whitlock B:1715 D:1749
  42. Aaron Garrison B:1715 D:1758
  43. Patience Kinchen B:1715 D:1765
  44. Agnes Christmas B:1715 D:1768
  45. Elizabeth Birdwell B:1717 D:1816
  46. Betty Guttery B:1718 D:1743
  47. Jane Sparks Miller B:1720 D:1756
  48. William Balum Dempsey B:1720 D:1777
  49. John Asbury B:1720 D:1812
  50. William Brown B:1722 D:1793
  51. Jonathan Stanford B:1723 D:1792
  52. Jean Bolling B:1724 D:1795
  53. Elender Nellie Last B:1725 D:1760
  54. Susanna Watson B:1728 D:1751
  55. Vincent Tapp B:1729 D:1791
  56. Mary Mollie Meadows B:1729 D:1800
  57. Robert Bolling B:1730 D:1775
  58. James Powell B:1733 D:1816
  59. Frances Kyle B:1734 D:1825
  60. Benjamin Bolling B:1734 D:1832
  61. Mary Leavette B:1735 D:1791
  62. Mary Mollie Jett B:1736 D:1823
  63. Mildred “Millie” Stephens B:1739 D:1781
  64. Charles Whitlock B:1739 D:1814
  65. Charles “Chowning” Chewning B:1739 D:1816
  66. John Wharton B:1741 D:1816
  67. Esther B:1742 D:1811
  68. Samuel C Mcgee McGhee B:1744 D:1814
  69. Rhoda Morris B:1745 D:1827
  70. William Garrison B:1746 D:1824
  71. Winifred “Winnie” Elizabeth Garrison B:1747 D:1835
  72. Grace Brown B:1748 D:1789
  73. Mary Elizabeth Stanford B:1749 D:1828
  74. Jane Bowling B:1750 D:1809
  75. James Bartholomew Warren B:1750 D:1813
  76. Samuel Young B:1751 D:1800
  77. Susan B:1752 D:
  78. George Asbury B:1756 D:1819
  79. Sarah Jane Yancey B:1756 D:1820
  80. Daniel Dempsey B:1759 D:1846
  81. James Moses “Old Moses” Higginbotham B:1760 D:1826
  82. Elizabeth Betsy Dempsey B:1760 D:1840
  83. Eleanor Garrison B:1762 D:1856
  84. Jarrett Bowling B:1762 D:1857
  85. James Tapp B:1764 D:1860
  86. Elizabeth “Betsy” Garrison B:1765 D:1826
  87. Ptolemy Powell B:1767 D:1843
  88. Wiley L McGee B:1769 D:1845
  89. Sarah “Sallie” Chewning B:1771 D:1834
  90. Andrew Austin Wharton B:1773 D:1835
  91. Frances Withers B:1774 D:1850
  92. Elizabeth Leavette B: D:1771
  93. Thomas Leavitt B: D:1771
  94. Thomas Whitlock B: D:1832

MapBox Time Period View of Ancestral BirthplacesB

Bottom line, I am enjoying browsing and navigating the “Genetic Communities” feature because I always wanted to geographically place my ancestors together along a timeline to see their proximity to each other and how their lives might have been the same or dissimilar. If you are an Ancestry.com customer, who hadn’t yet heard about Ancestry’s newest feature and its options, I hope you will check it out and let me know what you think.

On This Day: April 5, 1614 – Pocahontas Marries John Rolfe


Article Details:  POCAHONTAS MARRIES JOHN ROLFE
Author:  History.com Staff
Website Name:  History.com
Year Published:  2009
Title:  Pocahontas marries John Rolfe
URL:  http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/pocahontas-marries-john-rolfe

On the 403rd Anniversary – The Story of the Marriage of My Paternal 11th Great Grandparents

Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of the Powhatan Indian confederacy, marries English tobacco planter John Rolfe in Jamestown, Virginia. The marriage ensured peace between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Indians for several years.

In May 1607, about 100 English colonists settled along the James River in Virginia to found Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America. The settlers fared badly because of famine, disease, and Indian attacks, but were aided by 27-year-old English adventurer John Smith, who directed survival efforts and mapped the area. While exploring the Chickahominy River in December 1607, Smith and two colonists were captured by Powhatan warriors. At the time, the Powhatan confederacy consisted of around 30 Tidewater-area tribes led by Chief Wahunsonacock, known as Chief Powhatan to the English. Smith’s companions were killed, but he was spared and released, (according to a 1624 account by Smith) because of the dramatic intercession of Pocahontas, Chief Powhatan’s 13-year-old daughter. Her real name was Matoaka, and Pocahontas was a pet name that has been translated variously as “playful one” and “my favorite daughter.”

In 1608, Smith became president of the Jamestown colony, but the settlement continued to suffer. An accidental fire destroyed much of the town, and hunger, disease, and Indian attacks continued. During this time, Pocahontas often came to Jamestown as an emissary of her father, sometimes bearing gifts of food to help the hard-pressed settlers. She befriended the settlers and became acquainted with English ways. In 1609, Smith was injured from a fire in his gunpowder bag and was forced to return to England.

After Smith’s departure, relations with the Powhatan deteriorated and many settlers died from famine and disease in the winter of 1609-10. Jamestown was about to be abandoned by its inhabitants when Baron De La Warr (also known as Delaware) arrived in June 1610 with new supplies and rebuilt the settlement–the Delaware River and the colony of Delaware were later named after him. John Rolfe also arrived in Jamestown in 1610 and two years later cultivated the first tobacco there, introducing a successful source of livelihood that would have far-reaching importance for Virginia.

In the spring of 1613, English Captain Samuel Argall took Pocahontas hostage, hoping to use her to negotiate a permanent peace with her father. Brought to Jamestown, she was put under the custody of Sir Thomas Gates, the marshal of Virginia. Gates treated her as a guest rather than a prisoner and encouraged her to learn English customs. She converted to Christianity and was baptized Lady Rebecca. Powhatan eventually agreed to the terms for her release, but by then she had fallen in love with John Rolfe, who was about 10 years her senior. On April 5, 1614, Pocahontas and John Rolfe married with the blessing of Chief Powhatan and the governor of Virginia.

Their marriage brought a peace between the English colonists and the Powhatans, and in 1615 Pocahontas gave birth to their first child, Thomas. In 1616, the couple sailed to England. The so-called Indian Princess proved popular with the English gentry, and she was presented at the court of King James I. In March 1617, Pocahontas and Rolfe prepared to sail back to Virginia. However, the day before they were to leave, Pocahontas died, probably of smallpox, and was buried at the parish church of St. George in Gravesend, England.

John Rolfe returned to Virginia and was killed in an Indian massacre in 1622. After an education in England, their son Thomas Rolfe returned to Virginia and became a prominent citizen. John Smith returned to the New World in 1614 to explore the New England coast. On another voyage of exploration in 1614, he was captured by pirates but escaped after three months of captivity. He then returned to England, where he died in 1631.

John Rolfe – Just One of My Family’s Immigrants . . .


The Early Modern Period

John Rolfe Painting 1850Over the next twenty-eight days, we will be revisiting my 11th paternal great grandfather’s story once again.  It is a story that dates back to 1585–the 585th year of the 2nd millennium, the 85th year of the 16th century, and the 6th year of the 1580s decade.  Although much has been written about John Thomas Rolfe and especially his third wife, Powhatan Princess Pocahontas, there’s still new stories and insights unfolding in our 21st century–some 400+ years later.  And, yes, he was probably among a handful of my ancestors who were among America’s first immigrants!

To put his story into greater context, Great grandfather Rolfe, in the 16th century would probably have stood only about 5’ 7” and the women of his day, just 5 feet.  From a worldwide perspective, historians say “The Early Modern Period” (in which John Rolfe was born and lived for 37 years), can best be defined by its globalizing character; i.e., the new explorations and colonizations of the Americas and the rise of new and enduring commerce between previously isolated parts of the world.  To have become a prominent figure of the times, most likely required more drive and early maturity than our 21st century youth could possibly fathom.  After all, man’s average lifespan in the 16th century was a mere 47 years–compared to today’s 74-80 years.  Many people were stricken with smallpox, measles, malaria, scarlet fever, and chickenpox due to poor sanitation and died even younger than 47.  

Greater Understanding and Appreciation

Quite honestly, until my more recent research with a fellow history enthusiast (who just happens to live in John Rolfe’s family’s hometown of Heacham, England), I really didn’t truly understand or appreciate his life in the early modern period or the extensive role this small statured young man played in England’s colonizing America and saving the people of Jamestown with his entrepreneurship and his marriage to Native American Princess Pocahontas.

This is just day one of the next 27 where we will delve more deeply into the adventure and entrepreneurship of John Rolfe (1585-1622).

John Rolfe Letter to Governor Thomas Dale, 1614


marriage-of-john-rolfe-and-pocahontas

Wedding of John Rolfe and Princess Pocahontas,  April 5, 1614

Continuing to further document and understand the lives of our earliest ancestors – emigrants from England to Jamestown, Virginia, I have included below, the 1614 letter  (transcribed and updated to today’s word usage and spellings by me–I made no changes to word choices or punctuation and kept present day English spellings).  My  11th great-grandfather, John Rolfe, (English Explorer), penned this letter to Sir Thomas Dale, then Governor of the Jamestown Colony.  In this deeply moving and revealing letter, John Rolfe asks permission to marry Princess Pocahontas, daughter of Indian Chief Powhatan, who presided over the Powhatan Empire until his death in 1618. If you would like to see the online letter with 400 year-old English words and spellings, please visit  “Virtual Jamestown’s” site .

Honourable Sir, and most worthy Governor:

When your leisure shall best serve you to peruse these lines, I trust in God, the beginning will not strike you into a greater admiration, than the end will give you good content. It is a matter of no small moment, concerning my own particular, which here I impart unto you, and which toucheth me so dearly, as the tenderness of my salvation. Howbeit I freely subject myself to your grave and mature judgment, deliberation, approbation, and determination; assuring myself of your zealous admonitions, and godly comforts, either persuading me to desist, or encouraging me to persist therein, with a religious and godly care, for which (from the very instant, that this began to root itself within the secret bosom of my breast) my daily and earnest prayers have been, still are, and ever shall be produced forth with as sincere a godly zeal as I possibly may to be directed, aided and governed in all my thoughts, words, and deeds, to the glory of God, and for my eternal consolation. To persevere wherein I never had more need, nor (til now) could ever imagine to have been moved with the like occasion.

But (my case standing as it doth) what better worldly refuge can I here seek, then to shelter myself under the safety of your favourable protection? And did not my ease proceed from an unspotted conscience, I should not dare to offer to your view and approved judgement, these passions of my troubled soul, so full of fear and trembling in hypocrisy and dissimulation. But knowing my own innocence and godly fervor, in the whole prosecution hereof, I doubt not of your benign acceptance, and clement construction. As for malicious depravers, and turbulent spirits, to whom nothing is tasteful but what pleaseth their unsavory palate, I pass not for them being well assured in my persuasion (by the often trial and proving of myself, in my holiest meditations and prayers) that I am called hereunto by the spirit of God; and it shall be sufficient for me to be protected by yourself in all virtuous and pious endeavours. And for my more happy proceeding herein, my daily oblations shall ever be addressed to bring to pass so good effects, that yourself, and all the world may truly say: This is the work of God, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

But to avoid tedious preambles, and to come nearer the matter: first suffer me with your patience, to sweep and make clean the way wherein I walk, from all suspicions and doubts, which may be covered therein, and faithfully to reveal unto you, what should move me hereunto.

Let therefore this my well advised protestation, which here I make between God and my own conscience, be a sufficient witness, at the dreadful day of judgment (when the secret of all men’s hearts shall be opened) to condemn me herein, if my chief intent and purpose be not, to strive with all my power of body and mind, in the undertaking of so mighty a matter, no way led (so far forth as man’s weakness may permit) with the unbridled desire of carnal affection: but for the good of this plantation, for the honour of our country, for the glory of God, for my own salvation, and for the converting to the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, an unbelieving creature, namely Pocahontas. To whom my hearty and best thoughts are, and have a long time been so entangled, and enthralled in so intricate a labyrinth, that I was even wearied to unwind myself thereout. But almighty God, who never faileth his, that truly invocate his holy name hath opened the gate, and led me by the hand that I might plainly see and discern the safe paths wherein to trade.

To you therefore (most noble Sir) the patron and Father of us in this country do I utter the effects of this settled and long continued affection (which hath made a mighty war in my meditations) and here I do truly relate, to what issue this dangerous combat is come unto, wherein I have not only examined, but thoroughly tried and pared my thoughts even to the quick, before I could end and fit wholesome and apt applications to cure so dangerous an ulcer. I never failed to offer my daily and faithful prayers to God, for his sacred and holy assistance. I forgot not to set before mine eyes the frailty of mankind, his prones to evil, his indulgence of wicked thoughts, with many other imperfections wherein man is daily ensnared, and oftentimes overthrown, and them compared to my present estate. Nor was I ignorant of the heavy displeasure which almighty God conceived against the sons of Levi and Israel for marrying strange wives, nor of the inconveniences which may thereby arise, with other the like good motions which made me look about warily and with good circumspection, into the grounds and principal agitations, which thus should provoke me to be in love with one whose education hath been rude, her manners barbarous, her generation accursed, and so discrepant in all nature from myself, that oftentimes with fear and trembling, I have ended my private controversy with this: surely these are wicked instigations, hatched by him who seeketh and delighteth in man’s destruction; and so with fervent prayers to be ever preserved from such diabolical assaults (as I took those to be) I have taken some rest.

Thus, when I had thought I had obtained my peace and quietness, behold another, but more gracious temptation hath made breaches into my holiest and strongest meditations; with which I have been put to a new trial, in a straighter manner then the former: for besides the many passions and sufferings which I have daily, hourly, yea and in my sleep endured, even awaking me to astonishment, taxing me with remissness, and carelessness, refusing and neglecting to perform the duty of a good Christian, pulling me by the ear, and crying: why dost not thou endeavour to make her a Christian? And these have happened to my greater wonder, when she hath been furthest separated from me, which in common reason (were it not an undoubted work of God) might breed forgetfulness of a far more worthy creature. Besides, I say the holy spirit of God often demanded of me, why I was created?

If not for transitory pleasures and worldly vanities, but to labour in the Lord’s vineyard, there to sow and plant, to nourish and increase the fruits thereof, daily adding with the good husband in the Gospel, somewhat to the talent, that in the end the fruits may be reaped, to the comfort of the laborer in this life, and his salvation in the world to come? And if this be, as undoubtedly this is, the service Jesus Christ requireth of his best servant: who unto him that hath these instruments of piety put into his hands and wilfully despiseth to work with them. Likewise, adding hereunto her great appearance of love to me, her desire to be taught and instructed in the knowledge of God, her capableness of understanding, her aptness and willingness to receive any good impression, and also the spiritual, besides her own incitements stirring me up hereunto.

What should I do? Shall I be of so untoward a disposition, as to refuse to lead the blind into the right way? Shall I be so unnatural, as not to give bread to the hungry or uncharitable, as not to cover the naked? Shall I despise to actuate these pious duties of a Christian? Shall the base fear of displeasing the world, overpower and withhold me from revealing unto man these spiritual works of the Lord, which in my meditations and prayers, I have daily made known unto him? God forbid. I assuredly trust He hath thus dealt with me for my eternal felicity, and for his glory; and I hope so to be guided by his heavenly grace, that in the end by my faithful pains, and christian-like labour, I shall attain to that blessed promise pronounced by that holy Prophet Daniel unto the righteous that bring many unto the knowledge of God. Namely, that they shall shine like the stars forever and ever. A sweeter comfort cannot be to a true Christian, nor a greater encouragement for him to labour all the days of his life, in the performance thereof, nor a greater gain of consolation, to be desired at the hour of death, and in the day of judgment.

Again by my reading, and conference with honest and religious persons, have I received no small encouragement, besides serena meaconscientia, the clearness of my conscience, clean from the filth of impurity, quo est instar muri chennai, which is unto me, as a brasen wall. If I should set down at large, the prohibitions and godly motions, which have striven within me, I should but make a tedious and unnecessary volume. But I doubt not these shall be sufficient both to certify you of my true intents, in discharging of my duty to God, and to yourself, to whose gracious providence I humbly submit myself, for his glory, your honour, our Country’s good, the benefit of this Plantation, and for the converting of one unregenerate, to regeneration; which I beseech God to grant, for his dear Son Christ Jesus his sake.

Now if the vulgar sort, who square all men’s actions by the base rule of their own filthiness, shall tax or taunt me in this my godly labour: let them know, it is not any hungry appetite, to gorge myself with incontinency; sure (if I would, and were so sensually inclined) I might satisfy such desire, though not without a seared conscience, yet with Christians more pleasing to the eye, and less fearful in the offense unlawfully committed. Nor am I in so desperate a state, that I regard not what becometh of me; nor am I out of hope but one day to see my Country, nor so void of friends, nor mean in birth, but there to obtain a match to my great content: nor have I ignorantly passed over my hopes there, or regardlessly seek to loose the love of my friends, by taking this course: I know them all, and have not rashly overstepped any.

But shall it please God thus to dispose of me (which I earnestly desire to fulfill my ends before set down) I will heartedly accept of it as a godly tax appointed me, and I will never cease, (God assisting me) until I have accomplished, and brought to perfection so holy a work, in which I will daily pray God to bless me, to mine, and her eternal happiness. And thus desiring no longer to live, to enjoy the blessings of God, then this my resolution doth tend to such Godly ends, as are by me before declared: not doubting of your favourable acceptance, I take my leave, beseeching Almighty God to rain down upon you, such plenitude of his heavenly graces, as your heart can wish and desire, and so I rest,

At your command most willing to be disposed of,

John Rolfe


Source:

Jameson, J, Franldin. Narratives of Early Virginia. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1907. (237-244)

Thanks Charlie–One Man’s Genealogical Random Act of Kindness


This video shows the great work ethic and commitment this man has for honoring those who paved the way for the rest of us in this world.  As a genealogical enthusiast, I can relate to this man’s passion for identifying and uncovering the lost people and histories of our families. In fact, I volunteer for Findagrave.com.  When family members who do not live locally want pictures of their loved ones’ grave markers, I go to the cemeteries within my locale to find those gravesites and to create or add to a memorial page on findagrave.com for that person and his family.

Founder of Find A Grave Website

FindAGraveFounder-Jim TiptonIt was Jim Tipton, who created the Find A Grave website in 1995 because he could not find an existing site that catered to his hobby of visiting the graves of famous people. He found that there were many thousands of folks around the world who shared his interests. What began as an odd hobby became a livelihood and a passion. Building and seeing Find A Grave grow beyond his wildest expectations has been immensely satisfying for Jim. Every day, contributors from around the world enter new records, thousands use the site as an educational reference tool, to locate long-lost loved ones and millions of lives are fondly remembered.

We often are disappointed when we find a headstone that is illegible due to the weather and the passing of time.  Some of us try cleaning the headstones as best we can.  However, if  we use the wrong techniques and solutions, we risk permanently damaging or destroying the grave marker further over time.

So, I’m very glad “Charlie,” made it his mission to clean each gravestone at the West Dennis Cemetery, (AKA Crowell Family Cemetery) as a tribute to those whom have passed as well as their families.  The dates of death on these gravestones range from 1809 to 1849–about 150 to 200 years old. After three years, 3-to-5 days a week, and about 800 gravestones already cleaned, Charlie probably still has another year before finishing all the grave markers in this cemetery!  Let’s hope this story triggers more volunteers at more cemeteries.

Our Ancestors’ Died From What?


Death Certificates Validate Our Lives

The primary purpose of a death certificate is to explain how or why people died. The only thing we know for sure is that people died because they were born; because they were mortal.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that roughly fifty million people in the world this year will die.  This figure includes every fatality in every developed nation on earth. Yet, only about half of all deaths will be recorded with a death certificate. The other half of the world’s people will die in the poorest of places, which maintain no end-of-life documentation.

Before modern death certificates, England, in the early 16th century, had a form known as the Bill of Mortality. No earlier civilizations kept track of their people’s deaths. However, church records of baptisms and burials and recordings of these events by family members within their family bibles offer good proxies for formal records of births and deaths.

Other Vital Statistics Information

The registration of births, marriages, and deaths has a long history in the United States, beginning with a registration law enacted by Virginia in 1632 and a modification of this law enacted by Massachusetts in 1639. Later, when the U.S. Constitution was framed, provision was made for a decennial census but not a national vital registration system; this latter function remained with the states. To obtain national data, the decennial censuses in the latter half of the nineteenth century included questions about vital events, but the method was recognized as inefficient and the results as deficient.

Deaths Registered in Harwich, MA, for the Year 1870

The copy below of a page from the death registry of 1870 in Harwich, Barnstable County, MA, includes one of my ancestors, “Betsey Doane,” who died of “childbirth fever,” soon after giving birth.  “Childbirth fever,” is explained later in this post.

Death Records - MAAccordingly, in 1902, when the U.S. Bureau of the Census was made a permanent agency of the federal government, legislation authorized the Director of the Census Bureau to get, annually, copies of records filed in the vital statistics offices of those states and cities having adequate death registration systems and to publish data from these records. A few years earlier, the Census Bureau had issued a recommended death reporting form (the first “U.S. Standard Certificate of Death”) and requested that each independent registration area adopt it as of January 1, 1900. In 1915, the national birth-registration area was established, and by 1933 all states were registering live births and deaths with acceptable event coverage and providing the required facts to the Census Bureau for the production of national birth and death statistics.

In 1946, responsibility for collecting and publishing vital statistics at the federal level was transferred to the U.S. Public Health Service, first in the National Office of Vital Statistics and later (1960) in the NCHS. In 1987, the NCHS became part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which in turn is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Lives, Deaths, And Medicine Over The Past 300 Years

For over two centuries doctors have defined people’s medical conditions like burns, asthma, epilepsy, and angina–terms still familiar to us today. However, they also used terms for other commonplace causes of death that we may not recognize today. For instance: ague (malaria), dropsy (edema), or spontaneous combustion (especially of “brandy-drinking men and women”).  Sometimes you might see Causa Mortis Incognita, which means the cause of death was not known and the doctors  wrote it in Latin and not admit in English they didn’t have a clue! Happily, many early 19th and 20th century health conditions that led to death have all but disappeared not only from doctors terminology but the diseases and illnesses themselves, thanks to dramatic advances in hygiene and medicine.

Yellow fever was the noted cause of death on the majority of 5,000+ death certificates issued in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between August 1 and November 9, 1793.  This virus, like malaria, and today’s Zika virus, was carried and transferred by mosquitoes.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, hundreds of thousands of women died needlessly following childbirth from puerperal fever.  Unwashed hands and medical instruments introduced bacteria into women’s uterine tracts triggering this killer infection.

Before the mid-20th century, my family and I were fortunate enough to be among the first people in the United States to receive vaccines to fight smallpox, polio and measles – diseases which once killed thousands of people each year.

Prior to Sir Alexander Fleming’s, accidental discovery of Penicillin in 1929, the use of maggots to clean away dead tissue from infected wounds was commonplace.  Leeches were popular with doctors for blood-letting to “balance” the four humors (blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile) and to bring an ill patient back into good health. Many quacks also peddled “snake oil elixirs,” as “cure-all medicines.

Below, I used my genealogy software to generate this sample report of 15 persons causes of death from various branches of my ancestral tree dating back to 1617-1944.  Aside from name, birth and death dates, it gives age at death and causes as written by physicians on their death certificates, with only one exception.  The last entry–Pocahontas’ cause of death description–comes from many historical writings about her life and death.

Causes of Death - My Family Tree Sample

 

 

You can follow and understand my ancestor’s causes of death rather easily with only a few exceptions of now archaic terms like “acute gastrointestinal auto intoxication,” “childbirth fever,” and “diphtheria,” similar to other now dated causes of death that I mentioned earlier. In today’s terminology infant “Bessie Charlotte Chambers,” died of blood poisoning; i.e., “toxemia,” a condition in which the blood has toxins produced by body cells at a local source of infection or derived from the growth of microorganisms, possibly from her milk.

Death Certificate-Bessie Charlotte ChambersDiphtheria once was a major cause of illness and death among children.  It is transmitted from person-to-person through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include sore throat, loss of appetite, and fever. The most notable feature of diphtheria, is the a thick gray substance called a pseudomembrane that forms over nasal tissues, tonsils, larynx, and/or pharynx. The United States recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921, resulting in 15,520 deaths. Diphtheria was the third leading cause of death in children in England and Wales in the 1930s.

Since the introduction of effective immunization, starting in the 1920s, diphtheria rates have dropped dramatically in the United States and other countries that vaccinate widely. Between 2004 and 2008, no cases of diphtheria were recorded in the United States. However, the disease continues to play a role globally. In 2007, 4,190 cases of diphtheria were reported, which is likely an underestimate of the actual number of cases.

Finally, below, I have included a table many more terms that genealogists and family historians may come across in their research of family members lives.

Obsolete Medical Terms and Definitions

TERM:

DEFINITION:

AGUE

Used to describe recurring fever and chills of malaria; can mean any fever with chills

BILIOUSNESS

Jaundice or other symptoms associated with liver disease

CHLOROSIS

Iron deficiency anemia

CHOLERA INFANTUM

Summer diarrhea of infants usually the first summer after weaning from breastfeeding

CORRUPTION

Infection

CORYZA

A cold

COSTIVENESS

Constipation

CRAMP COLIC

Appendicitis

CREEPING PARALYSIS

Tabes dorsalis (syphilis)

DENTITION

Infantile convulsions; febrile seizures; infected dental caries (cavities); mercury poisoning from teething powders

DEBILITY

“Failure to thrive” in infancy or old age or loss of appetite and weight from undiagnosed T.B. or cancer.

DROPSY

Edema (swelling), sometimes caused by kidney or heart disease.

DYSPEPSIA

Acid indigestion

ECLAMPSIA

Convulsions of any cause; later applied more specific

EXTRAVASATED BLOOD

Rupture of blood vessel

FALLING SICKNESS

Epilepsy

FLUS OF HUMOUR

Circulation

FRENCH POX

Venereal disease

GALLOPING CONSUMPTION

Rapidly progressing tuberculosis

GREEN SICKNESS

Anemia

HEMORRHAGE AND INFLAMMATION

Ruptured aneurysm or swollen lymph nodes or superficial cancer with ulceration and bleeding; swollen lymph nodes from chronic infection, such as T. B., brucella, anthracis, staphylococcus, etc.

HIP GOUT

Osteomyelitis

JAIL FEVER

Typhus

KING’S EVIL

Scrofula (T.B. of lymph glands, especially of neck)

LUES VENERA

Venereal disease

LUMBAGO

Back pain

LUNG FEVER

Pneumonia

LUNG SICKNESS

Tuberculosis

MALIGNANT FEVER

Fever with hemolysis; malaria with hemorrhagic skin rash; meningococcal infection; putrid malignant fever; typhoid.

MANIA

Insanity

MARASMUS & DROPSY OF THE BRAIN

Hydrocephalus and wasting of the body

MILK LEG

Thrombosis in femoral vein, often after childbirth; death from pulmonary embolism or pelvic infection (usual cause for milk leg)

MORTIFICATION

Gangrene usually of the leg; trauma; infection; diabetes; aneurysm of aorta

NOSTALGIA

Homesickness

A PERIPNEUMONIA

Pneumonia plus pleurisy (inflammation of the pleura usually with fever, painful & difficult respiration, cough and fluid into the pleural cavity)

PUTRID FEVER

Diphtheria

PUTRID SORE THROAT

Gangrenous pharyngitis; tonsillitis with peritonsillar or retropharyngeal abscess.

QUINSY

Tonsillitis

REMITTING FEVER

Malaria

ROSE COLD

Hay fever incorrectly thought to be caused by rose pollen.

SANGUINEOUS CRUST

Scab

SCREWS

Rheumatism

SCROFULA

See KING’S EVIL

SHIP’S FEVER

Typhus

SOFTENING OF THE BRAIN

Dementia (Syphilitic or nonsyphilitic); cerebral hemorrhage; stroke

STOMACH TROUBLE

Complication of gastric ulcer perforation plus pancreatitis, hemorrhage, cancer.

STRANGERY

Rupture

SUMMER COMPLAINT

Diarrhea and vomiting; gastroenteritis

THROAT DISTEMPER

Tonsillitis; diphtheria

VENESECTION

Bleeding

 

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.