Monday Musings: It’s been awhile . . .

but I’ve been quite busy (and that’s a good thing!).  However, I just wanted to officially close out 2016 by saying a HUGE thanks to all who stopped by last year.  Here are the stats: In 2016 there were 72,504 page views by 51,550 visitors.   Other than the Home page, the article with the most views was …. drum roll…. “Early American Faith:  Puritans vs. Quakers” with 3,912.  Thanks to each and every one of you who took the time to stop by and read an article or two.  I have to say it’s been pleasantly surprising for so many to visit Digging History since I haven’t written much for the web site in a while. Instead, my efforts have been focused on growing the research side of Digging History — helping clients discover their family history and creating memorable pedigree charts.  For more on those services, click this link. But, you know what?  I’ve been missing writing (a LOT as it turns out) and I plan to make time in 2017 to get started with my first book.  I started laying out some chapter titles and topics recently and am anxious to get started.  The book, tentatively titled “Saved by Her Corset:  Headlines, Fads and Catch Phrases of the Victorian Era and the Stories Behind Them”. Regular readers here at Digging History have probably ascertained I’m a big fan of the nineteenth century and especially the Victorian Era — I’m totally fascinated with it!  Even though I haven’t been writing much here of late I am constantly gathering material for the book (and more books beyond that)...

Monday Musings: Spring Cleaning (and a few odds and ends)

Have you started spring cleaning yet?  I’m not sure if you’d call it spring cleaning, but of late I’ve been trying to organize my life a little better.  I spent a few hours recently cleaning and re-organizing my storage unit and found some long-forgotten stuff (and some stuff I should have forgotten and thrown away a long time ago, truth be told!). Of course, that got me to thinking about the history of spring cleaning.  Whenever or however it all began, it appears to have first been practiced for religious reasons.  For instance, the Jewish season of Passover is preceded by Unleavened Days of Bread – seven days when not a crumb of leavened bread is to remain in the house.  Orthodox Jews would clean their home thoroughly to eliminate the possibility of violating this sacred observance. Traditionally in Eastern Orthodox faiths the home is thoroughly cleaned during the week of Great Lent – the first day being “Clean Monday” or “Pure Monday”.  For the faithful, the week represents a time of spiritual cleansing as well. Excavations to uncover the ancient city of Pompeii began in 1738 following earlier discoveries in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, marking the beginning of the modern science of archaeology.  In 1871 American newspapers were reporting an intriguing discovery, titling the article “Seventeen Hundred Years in the Oven”. One home had been found in a state of repair at the time of the volcano eruption.  The family may have been absent, but evidence of “painters’ pots and brushes and workmen’s tools were scattered about.  Tell-tale spots of white-wash stained wall and floor.”1...

Monday Musings: A Red-Letter Day

Readers, both new and the returning faithful, you made my day on Sunday, February 7!  Thanks so much for stopping by in record numbers.  I was thrilled to see my Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl, but more excited to see these stats on my WordPress Dashboard: The article entitled “Ghost Town Wednesday: Cayuga, Oklahoma” was “the bomb” apparently as 247 views were registered.  Within that article was a link to the Tombstone Tuesday article for Mathias Splitlog (second place in total number of views).  Since the beginning of 2016 Digging History has circled the globe with well over 6,000 views from these nations: Thanks so much for your support and the encouragement to soldier on and keep writing.  I’ve been researching some great stories for what I hope will turn into a book about unique and unusual nineteenth century (Victorian era) headlines.  Stay tuned! If you’re a regular reader and haven’t signed up to receive an email each time a new article is posted, just provide your email address in the “Subscribe to this blog” box in the top right-hand corner and press Subscribe.  I hope you continue to find the articles interesting and informative — comments are encouraged and most welcome! Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY! Please consider a small donation to support Digging History. Click the DONATE button below (or the DONATE link at the top of the page for instructions) and you will be directed to a secure payment site where you may make a one-time donation or set up a recurring monthly donation (NOTE: NOT tax deductible). ...

Monday Musings: Signature Stories

Recently I’ve added a new dimension to ancestry research by collecting signatures of either my own or those of my clients’ ancestors.  When the time comes to format a pedigree chart, I will be incorporating these on the chart — something unique to document history besides a bunch of dates and places.  Each one will tell a different story. I was formatting a few signatures of my Rupe ancestors and was thinking about their stories – call them “signature stories” if you will.  One set of signatures was included in a series of affidavits averred to by four members of the Rupe family of Sebastian County, Arkansas in support of  George Abbott and his claims for property “appropriated” during the Civil War. George Abbott was a miller living in either Sebastian or Scott County until February of 1864 when he went to Fort Smith.  Abbott was deeply opposed to secession and his sympathies were solidly Union.  Like many others in the South (Arkansas was a divided state) who considered themselves Unionists, Abbott was harassed by Rebels. At Fort Smith he worked for the Union cause and claimed this as evidence of his loyalty.  His petition to the Commissioner of Claims, established under the act of March 3, 1871, stated in April of 1864 members of the 9th Kansas Cavalry (as well as two Arkansas units) camped near his home in Sebastian County and appropriated: one mare ($150); two thousand pounds of fresh beef ($120 or 6 cents a pound); and one hundred bushels of corn ($150).  He was requesting remuneration in the amount of $420. Abbott’s petition also included...

Monday Musings: New Year’s Resolutions (care to make a peacock vow?)

The ancient Babylonians made resolutions by making promises to their gods to return borrowed items and pay outstanding debts at the beginning of their calendar year, coinciding with the planting season to ensure a successful crop and an abundant harvest later.   The Romans made promises to their gods, specifically Janus, the two-faced god from which the first month of our calendar system derives its name. Following the conversion of  Roman Emperor Constantine by Pope Sylvester (who also healed the emperor of leprosy), pagan gods were no longer worshiped.  To drive away the darkness of the past Romans wandered through dark streets shouting and making noise – you know, acting foolish much like many do today.  A mask or costume ensured the ancient gods could not punish the revelers as they made merriment. In medieval times knights gathered for one last feast during Christmas week, vowing to remain chivalrous by placing their hands on a peacock (“peacock vow”).  Fast forward to the eighteenth century when the Wesley brothers instituted watch night services on New Year’s Eve as a means to close out the old and welcome the new year by soul searching, praying and resolving to be better Christians.  In a way it was akin to both the Babylonian custom and the Jewish Rosh Hashanah (New Year) which culminates with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Different cultures, even regions of the United States, have their own New Year’s customs.  For instance, the folks of Tallapoosa, Georgia hold an annual “Possum Drop” – a stuffed one (no innocent possums are harmed despite PETA’s protestations).  In Brasstown, North Carolina, however, a live...

Monday Musings: Searching For That EUREKA! Moment (Who Were You Roy Simpleman?)

I am the newsletter editor for my local genealogical society (South Plains Genealogical Society [SPGS]) and recently introduced a column entitled “Adventures in Research:  Sometimes You Just Have to Keep Digging”.  In the November issue I shared the story below, intending also to share it soon with readers here at Digging History since that’s where it originated back in October 2013.  The research I wrote about was not mine but it’s such a fascinating story I think you will find it interesting and informative. Who Were You Roy Simpleman? On July 5, 2015 I received a comment from a reader at Digging History on one of the very first articles I wrote in October of 2013.  After learning about the Dawson, New Mexico coal mine disaster one hundred years previous, I decided to write a Tombstone Tuesday article entitled “The Immigrant Miners of Dawson, New Mexico“. I usually write those articles focusing on a single person, or perhaps a husband and wife.  Instead, for that article I wrote about the tragic deaths of immigrant miners, some who had literally just gotten off the boat days earlier.  Over two hundred and fifty men perished that day. One of the survivors was a miner whose name was reported by newspapers as Roy Simpion.  As it turns out, that was either a misprint or misspelling of his name.  The email I received in July was from Roy’s great grandson Doug Simpleman. Doug wrote me a bit more about his great grandfather, adding that Roy later worked as a mine rescuer before being paralyzed and passing away a few years later.  Doug also...