Past Articles

Cheers! What Your Great-Grandfather’s Happy Hour Was Like

Posted on August 22, 2014 in Family History

One fun way to chart American history is through alcohol. When Europeans first settled here, drinking water could make you sick (and die!). They considered booze a safer bet and upon arrival, made it with whatever was on hand: apples for cider, corn and oats for beer, fruit for brandy. Caribbean trade brought sugar cane… Read more

The Civil War’s Biggest Killer? Lack of Good Medical Care

Posted on August 21, 2014 in Military Records

When the U.S. Civil War started in 1861, medical knowledge was still primitive. Battlefield doctors didn’t understand infection or the importance of sterile conditions during surgery. In fact, the country was just coming out of a period when doctors used bloodletting, purging, and blistering to cure ailments. So it’s no wonder Civil War soldiers were… Read more

Was Your Grandmother a Girl Scout?

Posted on August 20, 2014 in Family History

Musician Taylor Swift, herself once a Girl Scout, tweeted she was “beyond stoked” when some Girl Scouts came to an event of hers and brought her Girl Scout cookies. Other famous former Girl Scouts include Nancy Reagan, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Laura Bush, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters, and Mariah Carey. Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Debbie… Read more

The American Vacation: Circa 1900

Posted on August 20, 2014 in Family History

It’s hard to believe today, but leisure was considered a questionable pursuit for much of American history. Thanks to the Protestant work ethic and endless days in the fields, time off was barely a consideration for most people. But as cities grew crowded and unsanitary in the mid-19th century, fresh air increasingly seemed like a… Read more

10 Strange But True Facts About the Revolutionary War

Posted on August 13, 2014 in Military Records

For a war about taxes, the American Revolution sure wasn’t boring. Tales of the scrappy Colonists’ rebellion against King George III made many of us history buffs back in elementary school. (Even as adults, some of us still geek out over Revolutionary War records on But those textbooks didn’t teach us everything there is… Read more

Last Word: First-Person Accounts of American Slavery

Posted on August 13, 2014 in Family History

During the Depression, when the U.S. government was trying to put to work one person in every family that had an unemployed breadwinner, some remarkable things were done. Between 1935 and 1943, the Works Project Administration (WPA) hired almost 8 million unemployed people across the country to build new roads, bridges, schools, botanical gardens, zoos,… Read more

9 Typical Ellis Island Experiences

Posted on August 13, 2014 in Family History

More than a third of all Americans can trace their ancestry to Europeans who entered America after a mandatory stop at Ellis Island. Between 1892 and 1954, more than 12 million people passed through the immigration inspection station in Upper New York Bay, and on average immigrants spent 2-5 hours there. So, what was the… Read more

One If By Land — What Type of Transportation Did Your Ancestors Use?

Posted on August 8, 2014 in Family History

How did your ancestors get around? Go back far enough, and they primarily walked or rode horses (which were domesticated about 4,000-3,000 B.C.). But how about in more recent times? Not sure? Have a look at Ancestry’s helpful explanation of its maps, atlases and Gazetteers collection from across the U.S. Looking at the lay of… Read more

What It Was Like on the REAL Oregon Trail?

Posted on August 8, 2014 in Family History

Whether you were addicted to The Oregon Trail on your Apple IIc as a kid, got hooked on it on Facebook as an adult, or just have an affinity for old Westerns, you probably think you have an idea of what life was like for our pioneer ancestors who made the journey to the Pacific… Read more

13 Fascinating Victorian Funeral Customs

Posted on July 29, 2014 in Family History

Many Victorian funeral customs started when Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died of typhoid in 1861. She mourned him for the rest of her life, dressing in full mourning for the first three years after his death (her entire court did the same). Her style of mourning was copied the world over, especially in England,… Read more