Ancestry.com Blog http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:07:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 13 Fascinating Victorian Funeral Customshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/29/13-fascinating-victorian-funeral-customs/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/29/13-fascinating-victorian-funeral-customs/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 18:13:21 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5284 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

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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, and it ushered in a period of elaborate, ritualized behavior after death — including mourning periods, styles of dress, and extravagant funeral and burial arrangements.

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Here’s how your Victorian ancestors mourned their dead:

1. In both Europe and America in the 19th century, the deceased were always carried out of the house feet first so they wouldn’t look back into the house and beckon to someone else, who would have to go along with them.

2. When a family member died, you closed the curtains and covered the mirrors so that — yikes! — the deceased’s image didn’t get trapped in the looking glass.

3. If you saw yourself in the mirror of a house where someone had just died, some thought that you might also die.

4. People stopped the clocks in the house at the time of death so they wouldn’t have further bad luck.

5. A widow in Victorian England was expected to stay in mourning for more than two years. For the first year and one day, she wore only dull black clothing without jewelry and a black cape that was her “weeping veil.” The clothing became slightly more adorned and a little less crepe-covered as time went on; in a later stage of mourning, a woman could wear purple or gray.

6. What style, material, and color a widow wore — and for how long — depended on whether she was mourning a spouse, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, aunt/uncle, etc., and how long it had been since they died.

7. Men could continue working after a loved one died, but women were expected to be isolated at home.

8. It was common to take a photograph of the deceased as a remembrance, especially babies and children, and often with the rest of the family in the photo, which was called a “memento mori.” Sometimes pupils were painted over the closed eyelids so that the eyes looked open.

9. Another type of memento mori was a lock of the deceased’s hair, which was arranged artfully and preserved in a locket.

10. Funerals became grand, expensive affairs, and many lower-class people saved up money so that if their children, in those times of high child mortality, did not survive, they could provide an appropriate funeral.

11. Victorian England is when funeral directors first came into the picture. They arranged huge processions in which black horses pulled a hearse with a glass viewing coffin (again with the yikes!). Mourners were hired to follow the hearse looking despondent, and there were ostrich feathers.

12. Many elaborate headstones and mausoleums that we still see in older cemeteries date from this period. Middle-class families often took outings to these graveyards on weekends.

13. There were even coffins set up with tubes and mirrors so that gravediggers could peer into the coffin and look for movement.

Times and traditions have evolved since Victorian times, but our culture still retains bits of traditions from earlier times. For instance, we still use the expression “saved by the bell.” In Victorian England, the deceased were sometimes buried with a rope in their hand, which was attached to a bell outside of the grave. If the person in the coffin found him or herself alive, he or she could ring the bell for help!

—Leslie Lang

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Cynthia Nixon discovers a woman caught in a desperate situation—and finds a source of her own strength.http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/28/cynthia-nixon-discovers-a-woman-caught-in-a-desperate-situation-and-finds-a-source-of-her-own-strength/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/28/cynthia-nixon-discovers-a-woman-caught-in-a-desperate-situation-and-finds-a-source-of-her-own-strength/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 20:39:51 +0000 wexon http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5271 “I was amazed to see that this ancestor of mine sort of ran right up against history.” —Cynthia Nixon Award-winning actress Cynthia Nixon has made a career of playing strong women. But she never imagined the sheer will of a female relative she’d find in her own family story. Cynthia grew up with her mother… Read more

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“I was amazed to see that this ancestor of mine sort of ran right up against history.” —Cynthia Nixon

Award-winning actress Cynthia Nixon has made a career of playing strong women. But she never imagined the sheer will of a female relative she’d find in her own family story.

Cynthia grew up with her mother but wanted to learn more about her father, Walter Nixon’s, lineage. She gets help building a Nixon family tree and uses the U.S. Federal Census to travel back four generations to Samuel Nixon. But his wife, Mary M., is a mystery.

Searching for Mary’s maiden name turns up her mother, Martha Curnutt, but no father’s name.

Marriage records on Ancestry.com show a Martha Curnutt marrying Noah Casto on 15 August 1839 in Missouri. But no Martha and Noah Casto appear in the 1850 census. There’s only Martha, Mary (10), Noah (7), and Sarah (6)—all under the name Curnutt. A quick count shows Noah could have served in the Civil War. And a search of military records yields pay dirt: Noah’s mother Martha applied for a pension in 1881.

Cynthia has found a trail. So she heads off to the National Archives to see the full pension file, which reveals that Noah died in the war and Martha’s husband died in 1842. But again, there is no paternal name.

The clues lead Cynthia to Jefferson City to look for Martha and her husband. And that’s where she makes an appalling discovery in records and newspaper accounts: Martha Casto had been indicted for murdering her husband in 1843 by striking him with an ax while he slept.

More awful still is an unnamed informant’s account that the victim “had been in the habit of treating his wife in a manner too brutal and shocking to think of.” Cynthia is devastated to learn her 3x great-grandmother endured such horrible treatment.

But Martha fared little better in prison. Convicted of manslaughter, she was the only female inmate, was abused by people she was hired out to work for, was subjected to inhumane conditions, and in the fall of 1844 gave birth to a daughter (Sarah) fathered by someone associated with the prison. It was most likely the scandal that would accompany the story of her treatment in a state facility that led to her pardon in 1845.

Despite the tumult and turmoil, Cynthia was heartened to discover that Martha’s plight had a positive impact on history: her imprisonment forced the state of Missouri to deal with the needs of female prisoners.

Cynthia ends her journey with a visit to Martha’s gravesite where she has the chance to tell her, “I’m glad I found you” and realizes that people can defy the odds even when the odds seem insurmountable.


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A (Long) Day in the Life of Your Grandparentshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/25/a-long-day-in-the-life-of-your-grandparents/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/25/a-long-day-in-the-life-of-your-grandparents/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:13:16 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5269 Family life in the 1950s is the stuff of myth: rolling suburban lawns, practical housewives, Cadillacs, and tuna casserole. A lot of that is based in fact. Flush with postwar freedom and cash, life looked pretty good to most Americans. They got married earlier than at any other time in the century (women at 21… Read more

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Family life in the 1950s is the stuff of myth: rolling suburban lawns, practical housewives, Cadillacs, and tuna casserole. A lot of that is based in fact. Flush with postwar freedom and cash, life looked pretty good to most Americans. They got married earlier than at any other time in the century (women at 21 and men at 24). Incomes more than doubled from 1935 to 1950, and 59 percent of American households owned a car. Still, day-to-day life could be a slog.

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We decided to imagine what a typical day might have been like for your grandparents at age 30, circa 1950. We’ll give them the most popular male and female names of babies born in 1920, Robert and Mary. A marriage search on Ancestry.com shows this isn’t a hypothetical pairing: There are millions of records for Robert-Mary couples in the early 1940s, when our 30 year-olds would have gotten hitched.

life of your grandparents

(Courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina, via Flickr)

6 a.m.

Mary wakes up early because there’s a lot to pack into the morning. Before her two kids go to school at 8 a.m., she needs to iron Linda’s dress and John’s shirt, make their lunches, and get breakfast ready. She’s in a rush, so it will probably just be cereal: Grape Nuts for her and Sugar Frosted Flakes for the kids. Sugar cereal was still a novelty and they’d begged her for Sugar Frosted Flakes after hearing Tony the Tiger say they were “Grrrreat!”

Robert has coffee and cereal with the kids and skims the morning paper. He gives the kids the comics page. Then he hops in the car and drives to work (“Goodnight Irene” on the radio). Their house is in an urban metropolitan area just outside the city, in a nascent ring of suburbs. Like a third of American workers, he has a job in manufacturing, at an automobile factory.

8 a.m.

Having put the kids on the school bus, Mary cleans up the kitchen. Then she throws a load of laundry into the washing machine. Before marrying Robert, she had worked briefly as a secretary (the most common job for women at the time) but now runs the house. Most of her friends do the same: only 33 percent of women work, while 86 percent of men do.Yet the 20 hours a week she spends cooking certainly feels like a job.

Robert clocks in and takes his place on the factory floor. He supervises the new machines that the company is experimenting with to cut and install parts. Automation is just beginning at car factories, but there were still a lot of human operators on the noisy floor. It’s a boom time in the industry.

a classic diner

A classic diner. (Courtesy Liz West, via Flickr.)

12 p.m.

Robert and his co-workers have an hour for lunch and go to the diner a block from the factory. They scan a menu of toasted club sandwiches, burgers, and milkshakes — though they could also treat themselves to veal cutlets or crab cakes.

Mary goes to the supermarket, which has recently opened and was more convenient going to multiple mom-and-pops. The number of supermarkets in America doubled between 1948 and 1958, offering shoppers plenty of parking, wide aisles, bright lights, and air conditioning.

Main Street in Keene

Main Street in Keene, NH, in the 1950s. (Courtesy of the Keene Public Library, via Flickr)

3 p.m.

With the kids home from school, Mary keeps them entertained. John watches a slinky climb down the stairs and Linda blows bubbles. Other popular toys are Legos and a new Fisher-Price fire truck. The decade would later produce classics like Mr. Potato Head and Play-Doh.

5 p.m.

Robert leaves work after an 8-hour day, as set by the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. He makes about $13 a day, which makes his annual income around the national median of $3,216 per year (about $32,00 today).

Mary has Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook open on the counter. The family is tired of casserole so she’s trying a new ham meatloaf, made in a ring pan for visual interest, with a side of canned pineapple. She is often tempted to pull out a frozen TV dinner — the important thing is that they all eat together, right? — but Good Housekeeping says you should take pride in your cooking. (And always makes it sound so easy.)

7 p.m.

After dinner, the family plays a game of Monopoly. In the years before TVs were common, board games were a popular form of entertainment. Only 9 percent of American households had TVs in 1950, but everybody wanted one. If the family went to a bar or a friend’s house, they might catch Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater. A variety series filled with gags and jokes, it was the most popular show on television in 1950-1951.

8 p.m.

Mary gets the kids ready to bed while Robert reads. Following the advice of Dr. Spock, whose child-care Bible came out in 1946, she tries to make bedtime pleasant, with stories or songs. Unlike her parents, who thought too much affection could make a child spoiled, Mary makes them feel loved. Sometimes, she dozes off with them. It’s been a long day.

—Rebecca Dalzell

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What’s Trendinghttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/22/whats-trending/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/22/whats-trending/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:52:28 +0000 wexon http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5247 What Can Your Last Name Tell You In Western Europe, surnames first came about in Medieval times as civilizations grew larger and it became necessary to distinguish between people. Sometimes, names were based on occupation: a blacksmith may have been “John le Smith” (John the Smith) which became, over the generations, “Smith,” and a person… Read more

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What Can Your Last Name Tell You

what does your last name meanIn Western Europe, surnames first came about in Medieval times as civilizations grew larger and it became necessary to distinguish between people.

Sometimes, names were based on occupation: a blacksmith may have been “John le Smith” (John the Smith) which became, over the generations, “Smith,” and a person named Appleby lived by or tended the apple orchard… Actor Christopher Reeve’s ancestor, the one to first take the surname, was most likely a sheriff, and Sarah Jessica Parker’s early medieval ancestor probably tended a park.

[Read more. Discover the surnames and stories in your family]


Titanic Mystery Solved with DNA Testing

titanicDNA solved a 70-year-old question of whether Loraine Allison survived the Titanic crash. Many have wondered what happened to the two-year-old little girl who disappeared from the crash more than 100 years ago.

The story begins with Hudson and Bess taking their two kids, Trevor, seven months, and Loraine, two years of age, across the Atlantic on the Titanic. At the time of the sinking, it is said that Trevor was rushed to a lifeboat by their maid and that the other three died on the boat. However, only Hudson’s body was found, leaving the mystery of what happened to Loraine and her mother.

[Read more. Uncover your family secrets by taking an AncestryDNA test.]

 


6 Things You Didn’t Know About Bonnie and Clyde

bonnie and clydeThe young gangsters in love tore across the American Southwest during the Great Depression, leaving a trail of robberies and murders. Newspapers demonized Clyde Barrow and his “gunwoman” Bonnie Parker as “notorious desperados” and “dangerous killers,” so the following six facts might surprise you.

The pair attained such notoriety that <strong>hordes of people flocked to the scene of their death and later to the coroner’s to retrieve “souvenirs.” Some attempted to cut off Barrow’s ear or finger; others took snippets of Parker’s blood-soaked dress or shattered window glass. One man offered Barrow’s father over $30,000 for Barrow’s body—the equivalent of over $600,000 today.

[Read more. Investigate your own outlaw ancestors]

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8 Celebrities With Asian Ancestryhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/21/8-celebrities-with-asian-ancestry/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/21/8-celebrities-with-asian-ancestry/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 15:36:29 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5230 For decades, Asian characters in Hollywood films and television shows were commonly played by non-Asian actors, and then for a few more decades, the only Asians portrayed were martial artists in action flicks. Even in today’s increasingly multicultural America (according to the 2010 census, 5.6 percent of the population is Asian, and it’s the fastest-growing… Read more

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For decades, Asian characters in Hollywood films and television shows were commonly played by non-Asian actors, and then for a few more decades, the only Asians portrayed were martial artists in action flicks. Even in today’s increasingly multicultural America (according to the 2010 census, 5.6 percent of the population is Asian, and it’s the fastest-growing racial group in the United States ), Asians are still underrepresented in screen roles, making up only 3.8 percent of the TV and movie landscape. And it’s not for a lack of talent — there are plenty of actors of full or partial Asian heritage working in showbiz. Here are 8 Asian-American stars making the industry ever so slightly more diverse.

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[Photo credit: Crespo Events LLC on Flickr]

Lucy Liu: Actress, painter, and humanitarian Lucy Liu speaks six languages, including Mandarin, which she spoke with her parents, who are from Beijing and Shanghai. Liu got her big break on the television show Ally McBeal in 1998, then co-starred in the Charlie’s Angels film reboot. She currently co-stars as Joan Watson in CBS’s Sherlock Holmes modernization, Elementary. Today, the New York native travels the world as a UNICEF ambassador — which is no surprise, considering she grew up in Queens, one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the world. In 2014, Liu combined movie making and advocacy to direct her first short film, which explores human trafficking and child sex slavery in Mumbai, India. Liu has also donated the sale proceeds of her abstract paintings to UNICEF.

Daniel Dae Kim: On the ABC drama Lost, Kim so convincingly played a crash survivor who initially spoke no English that many fans were surprised to learn that Kim had lived in the United States since he was a young boy and is an alumnus of venerable East Coast colleges Haverford College and New York University. Kim recently finished his fourth season on CBS’ Hawaii Five-O and has been cast in Insurgent, the sequel to this year’s popular dystopian thriller Divergent. In 2013, Kim also signed a two-year development deal with CBS and now hopes to produce a film about North Korean defectors and a remake of the South Korean hospital drama Good Doctor. Although Kim left his native Pusan at age 8, he still has an aunt living in his hometown, and he is married to a Seoul native.

Grace Park: Los Angeles born and Canadian raised, Park graduated from the same Vancouver high school as Matrix star Carrie-Anne Moss. Park began modeling at age 18, and after several years, she headed to Hong Kong to work in commercials, music videos, and movies. From 2000 to 2004, she appeared in the Canadian teen drama Edgemont. Then Park’s career rocketed into space with a starring role as Boomer in the 2003 hit remake of Battlestar Galactica. After living on the West Coast in the U.S., Park had to bolster her ties to her Korean ancestry for her first feature film, 2008′s crime drama West 32nd (named for the street that centers New York City’s Koreatown). Park told the Vancouver Sun that she doesn’t “even hang out with Korean Americans … I had to really learn my Korean. Because my accent was really bad, apparently. I thought it was fine.”

Harry Shum Jr.: To a generation of Glee fans, Harry Shum Jr. will always be Mike Chang, the McKinley High football player who turned into the glee club’s best dancer and choreographer, even if his voice wasn’t quite up to Kurt and Finn’s standards. Shum was born in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, into the Latin American country’s Cantonese-speaking Chinese community, but his family moved to San Francisco when he was 6. A dancer from an early age, he was the only male dancer on BET’s Comic View when he was 20 and went on to land lead-dancing gigs on tours for such superstars as Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, and Mariah Carey. In addition to his five-season gig on Glee, Shum appeared in Step Up 2, Step Up 3D, Stomp the Yard, the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, and the upcoming crime thriller Revenge of the Green Dragons. Shum has joked about being a polyglot, especially since people don’t expect him to understand Spanish: “I’ll use [Spanish] more if someone’s talking crap about me, then I can retaliate because they don’t know I speak it,” he told Zap2It.

Maggie Q: Half Vietnamese, half European mix (Polish, Irish, French), Maggie Q (Quigley to her parents) was born and raised in Hawaii but moved to Asia to launch her modeling career after graduating from high school. The fashion-model-turned-actress is best known to English-speaking audiences for the CW’s primetime take on Nikita, the fourth Die Hard sequel (Live Free or Die Hard), and Mission Impossible 3, but she actually started acting a decade earlier in 1998, when Jackie Chan spotted her and managed her early career in Hong Kong cinema. She even learned Cantonese for her roles. Despite her many performances as a sexy woman who can kill, Maggie hopes she’s more than a stereotype: “Not only do I not want to be stereotyped as this Asian girl who fights — gee, what a wonder — but also I have more to offer than that.”

Hailee Steinfeld: The 17-year-old actress might have a Jewish surname, but Hailee Steinfeld is also half Filipino on her mother’s side. The Los Angeles-raised daughter of a personal trainer, Peter Steinfeld, and an interior designer, Cheri Domasin, Steinfeld realizes she’s somewhat of ethnic chameleon, so she loves it when people recognize her heritage: “I found that the best thing when I am in a group of people, I would have one or two people come up to me and say, ‘You are Filipino!’ I am Filipino, too. And I am like ‘Yes, this is awesome!’ So it is sort of this one thing that connected me with many people that I find is really interesting,” she told Yahoo. Steinfeld, who started acting at 8 but broke out with a role that earned her an Academy Award nomination — playing Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers’ 2010 remake of True Grit. She’s also played Juliet to Douglas Booth’s Romeo in 2013, young warrior Petra in Ender’s Game, and Mark Ruffalo’s daughter in Begin Again. Steinfeld is set to star opposite Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson in next year’s much-anticipated Pitch Perfect 2.

BD Wong: One of Hollywood’s most recognizable Asian character actors, Wong is a third-generation Chinese American hailing from San Francisco. The stage-and-screen star first broke out with a Tony-winning performance in M Butterfly in 1988. Wong is best known for his long-running roles on critically acclaimed dramas such as HBO’s Oz and NBC’s Law & Order: SVU, on which he played forensic psychiatrist Dr. George Huang for nine seasons. The openly gay actor came out via a memoir in 2003 about his and his former partner’s experiences having premature twins (one of whom died shortly after birth) via a surrogate, Following Foo: The Electronic Adventures of the Chestnut Man. In 2003, he explained his reluctance to come out: “Up until now, acting was really my entire world, and I really felt strongly that I was supposed to be an actor, but I entered a field that was particularly non-welcoming to me as an Asian-American. The opportunities already were somewhat limited to me, so it felt almost like a kind of career suicide to be completely out as a gay man.”

Keanu Reeves: Reeves, who played a half-Japanese samurai in 2013′s 47 Ronin is partially Asian by way of multicultural Hawaii. His father hails from a sprawling, multiracial Oahu clan that looks to Ireland, England, Portugal, Korea, China, the Philippines, and Japan for its ancestry. Reeves also connected with his heritage with his 2013 directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi, about a martial arts expert whose skills land him in an underworld fight club. “My grandmother is Chinese and Hawaiian, so I was around Chinese art, furniture and cuisine when I was growing up,” Reeves told a Filipino newspaper. “I remember that I really liked haikus. I also liked animé and kung fu movies — so, yeah, I was exposed to Asian culture since I was a kid.”

—Sandie Angulo Chen
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12 Bizarre Dining Customs That Are Now Extincthttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/20/12-bizarre-dining-customs-that-are-now-extinct/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/20/12-bizarre-dining-customs-that-are-now-extinct/#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 03:26:01 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5224 [Photo credit: Shutterstock] It’s no secret that humans spend an inordinate amount of time on food, whether it’s procuring it, preparing it, serving it, or, of course, eating it. Here are 12 dining customs we’re glad are no longer in vogue. 1. Vegetarians that were, well, not. In Medieval Britain, chickens, pigeons and fish were… Read more

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[Photo credit: Shutterstock]

It’s no secret that humans spend an inordinate amount of time on food, whether it’s procuring it, preparing it, serving it, or, of course, eating it. Here are 12 dining customs we’re glad are no longer in vogue.

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1. Vegetarians that were, well, not. In Medieval Britain, chickens, pigeons and fish were considered “vegetarian.” At the time, Britons considered only quadrupeds to be “flesh-meat,” leaving other various animals available to members of religious orders, who were to refrain from rich diets. These so-called “vegetarian” meats were also available during Lent or other observances.

2. Water was not a table drink. Until relatively recently (think early 19th century), many municipal water supplies in the United States and most other Western countries were tainted. Many streets and rivers were little more than open sewers until the advent of underground plumbing, so water drawn from the nearest local water source was likely adulterated. The table drink of choice? Beer. The brewing process required boiling, so it was much more sanitary.

3. Salt was only for the rich. Salt was hard to come by and therefore expensive and highly prized. The most important item on a European dining table until about the 18th century was the “great salt,” a large, ornate salt cellar that would act as the communal salt shaker for all at the table. These impressive objects now reside in museum collections around the world.

4. Savory ice cream. While chefs will always experiment with mixing sweet and savory, the Victorians took it to a new level. Ice cream was wildly popular in the late 19th century, and cookbook authors and newspaper columnists alike came up with all sorts of interesting recipes for it. While a “cucumber ice” actually sounds refreshing, a “salmon ice” does not. Lox in your ice cream? Yuck!

5. Employing an official food taster. While this practice continues in some instances today — most notably at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when officials used white mice to test athletes’ food — having a dedicated employee or servant to taste the food of an important ruler was common practice in ancient times. Though food tasters were popular, it’s not certain whether they were actually effective, as most poisons are slow acting. The most notorious food taster was Halotus, who acted on behalf of Roman emperor Claudius. The emperor died of poisoning in AD 54, and his trusty food taster was implicated in the murder. So much for peace of mind!

6. Finger foods. Few of us can think of King Henry VIII without picturing him tearing into a chicken with his bare hands (thanks, Charles Laughton) — and with good reason. Forks are a relatively recent invention and weren’t used at the table until well after the reign of Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I. Until then, knives and spoons were used, and many men used the knives they had sheathed at their waists.

7. Backwash, anyone? Going along with the lack of forks, up until the English Restoration in 1660, only wealthy Brits could afford individual glasses for their guests. Everyone else had to share, and a servant would pass them the cup from a shelf in the dining room known as the “cup board.”

8. Ring the bell for … nunchion? You probably didn’t realize that “luncheon” is a fairly young term, only catching on in the early 19th century. Until then, a midday snack was known as “nunchion,” sometimes spelled “nuncheon.” The term was coined in Britain, where a dictionary from 1755 defines it as a snack which would have consisted of a glass of cider or wine with some cake or a cookie, or a cup of newly fashionable coffee or hot chocolate. The odd term appears in Jane Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811.

9. Peeing at the table. In Georgian times, dinner was practically an all-day affair and could last up to five hours. Without the advantage of indoor plumbing, some upper-class hosts took it upon themselves to provide a variety of chamber pots on the sideboard of their dining room. François de la Rochefoucauld, the French social reformer who was exiled to England after the French Revolution, was bewildered by this “most indecent” practice. He wrote extensively of his culture shock in his 1784 memoir, A Frenchman in England.

10. No family dinners. Most children in upper-class and upper-middle-class families in 1800s America and Britain were fed separately from their parents. Nannies would be charged with most of the childcare duties, including mealtimes, and most children would be in bed by 8:00, the usual time their parents would begin a multicourse dinner. Most young’uns didn’t eat with their parents until they were old enough to learn table manners.

11. “Secret’s in the sauce.” You’d probably be upset if you found out your canned beans or pickles had sawdust or metal shavings in them. Unfortunately, adulterating food for mass consumption was common practice in the late 19th century, as exposed by Upton Sinclair in The Jungle. In the United States, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was one of the first official measures to combat this practice. It’s also the reason H.J. Heinz sold his ketchup in glass bottles — the consumer could see for herself that there were no foreign objects inside.

12. Less-than-appetizing garnish. Native Americans may have been the experts at using all of an animal, but the Victorians turned it into an art. It was popular to serve exotic game with its head, wings or tail feathers as decoration. Anyone for a slice of stuffed peacock?
—Melanie Linn Gutowski

Unless otherwise noted, facts come from Sara Paston-Williams’ The Art of Dining.

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Hot Summer Nights: The 1890 Ice Faminehttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/20/hot-summer-nights-the-1890-ice-famine/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/20/hot-summer-nights-the-1890-ice-famine/#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 03:00:52 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5221 In the summer, it’s hard to imagine going without ice. But until the early 20th century, ice was a luxury and could be hard to come by. In the 1800s, it was “harvested” from ponds and streams, the frozen surface broken into huge chunks and shipped to cities to the south. This system could be… Read more

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In the summer, it’s hard to imagine going without ice. But until the early 20th century, ice was a luxury and could be hard to come by. In the 1800s, it was “harvested” from ponds and streams, the frozen surface broken into huge chunks and shipped to cities to the south. This system could be great in cold years, but it was fraught with hazards — warm winters being a major one.

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Ice was a major industry in the 19th century. In North America it began in 1806, when a daring entrepreneur named Frederic Tudor started shipping ice from Boston, insulating it with sawdust, to places as far south as Brazil. The idea seemed as absurd then as it does now. Yes, plenty of it melted. But the general idea worked and Tudor was soon dubbed “the Ice King.” Other businesses followed, mostly harvesting ice from New England and shipping it to places like New York City, Charleston, Savannah, and the Caribbean. Tudor even sent his ice to India.

Harvesting ice in New Hampshire. (Courtesy of Keene Public Library, via Flickr)

Henry David Thoreau observed the ice-cutting ritual in the winter of 1846-47 on Walden Pond, in Massachusetts. The workers came from Tudor’s company, which leased the rights to harvest the ice there:

“a hundred Irishmen…came from Cambridge every day to get out the ice. They divided it into cakes…and these, being sledded to the shore, were rapidly hauled off on to an ice platform, and raised by grappling irons and block and tackle, worked by horses, on to a stack, as surely as so many barrels of flour, and there placed evenly side by side, and row upon row, as if they formed the solid base of an obelisk designed to pierce the clouds. They told me that in a good day they could get out a thousand tons, which was the yield of about one acre.”

Loading ice onto a train, circa 1910. (Courtesy of The Library of Congress, via Flickr)

The winter of 1889-90 was one of the warmest on record — with the highest temperatures ever in some areas — and it led to a shortage, called an “ice famine.” By this time, Americans had grown accustomed to having ice around, using it for everything from quelling high fevers to dropping in mint juleps to preserving meat. They bought ice from a cart and stored it in a cool place at home. New York City, for instance, used about 3 million tons of ice a year in 1890.

Even in a normal year, ice companies might exaggerate shortages to gouge prices, but in June 1890, a smug Savannah newspaper noted that ice prices in Georgia were much lower than in the north, despite 90-degree days. While ice was going for $10 a ton in New York and $20 a ton in Cincinnati, in Savannah it ranged from $5 to $7.50. This was because Northern cities relied on natural ice, while the South was perfecting man-made ice. “The process of ice manufacture is both simple and comparatively inexpensive,” the Savannah News reported. The major cost was in the creation of the plant, not the manufacturing process itself.

A Southerner had come up with the idea. In the 1842, a Florida physician named John Gorrie built an air-cooling machine that compressed and cooled a gas to treat yellow fever patients. He patented the device in 1851 and eventually left his practice to work on the ice machine. Other inventors tinkered with the process, and refrigerators went into commercial use in the latter part of the 19th century. Beginning in 1877, cattle dealer Gustavus Swift pioneered the use of refrigerated railway cars so he could ship meat from Chicago across the country.

An ice machine circa 1910. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, via Flickr)

These inventions meant that Americans need not be at the mercy of natural ice. After the shortage in the winter of 1890, companies stepped up their efforts to bring ice machines and refrigerators to the consumer. But the domestic refrigerator wasn’t even invented until 1913, so people still had to buy ice themselves to take home and store. During a heat wave, hospitals gave it out for free, which could lead to an ice riot.

In a summer like this, we’d fight for ice, too.

—Rebecca Dalzell

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Phoenix NBC News Anchor Kim Covington Uncovers Her Slave Roots—and a Surprising Celebrity Connectionhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/11/nbc-news-anchor-kim-covington-uncovers-her-slave-roots-and-a-surprising-celebrity-connection/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/11/nbc-news-anchor-kim-covington-uncovers-her-slave-roots-and-a-surprising-celebrity-connection/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 17:29:30 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5135 Phoenix NBC news anchor Kim Covington knew nothing about her Covington name or heritage, and like many African-Americans, she believed it was impossible to find out more. But when family history experts from Ancestry.com began a search into her past, what they discovered not only answered questions about Kim’s family tree, but also, she says,… Read more

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kim coinvgtonPhoenix NBC news anchor Kim Covington knew nothing about her Covington name or heritage, and like many African-Americans, she believed it was impossible to find out more. But when family history experts from Ancestry.com began a search into her past, what they discovered not only answered questions about Kim’s family tree, but also, she says, “changed who I am.”

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Kim’s grandfather Roosevelt died when Kim’s father was only 11 years old, and the Covington family tree as they knew it stopped there. Kim’s father didn’t know his grandparents’ names, much less where they came from. A fact, Kim tearfully admits, has been truly painful.

Using a US census from 1870—the first census to list former slaves by names—family historians from Ancestry.com were able to discover more about Kim’s great-grandparents, starting with their names: Ephraim and Hannah Covington. Both were most likely born into slavery and remained slaves for 20 years. Kim’s grandfather Roosevelt was one of their first children born free (though he certainly wasn’t their only child—Hannah bore fourteen children in her lifetime!).

As for the Covington name, Kim’s great-grandfather Ephraim was presumably assigned the name by his owner, W.N. Covington. Upon learning this surprising news, Kim’s father muses that what matters more than a name is who you are as a person.

Genealogists also discovered that Ephraim had been sold in Maryland and shipped to Missouri, far away from his family. His parents bore the last name Robinson, but historians weren’t able to turn up much more—yet. Now Kim’s looking forward to her AncestryDNA test providing more answers about her African roots.

Discovering her family’s painful history, Kim says, has been empowering. It underscores how far her family has come in just a few generations—from illiterate slaves and sharecroppers to the educated women and men she and her siblings are today: a news anchor, a community college executive, a physical therapist, and a dentist.

Amidst these emotional revelations, Kim was also in for a fun family surprise: Hannah and Ephraim worked on the same farm as Elmer Winfrey, a direct ancestor of Oprah Winfrey. Now Kim amuses herself by thinking of them as good buddies picking cotton together.

You can watch the story unfold for Kim and her family here: Part 1, Part 2.

—Connie Ray
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What Was It Like to Live in 18th-Century England?http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/10/what-was-it-like-to-live-in-18th-century-england/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/10/what-was-it-like-to-live-in-18th-century-england/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 21:09:39 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5170 The Dashwood sisters, characters from Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility, lived rather elegantly in 1700s England. Is that what your 18th-century ancestors’ day-to-day lives were like? There were two very different lifestyles in 18th-century England: that of the rich and that of the poor. With the Industrial Revolution, which started in the middle of… Read more

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The Dashwood sisters, characters from Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility, lived rather elegantly in 1700s England. Is that what your 18th-century ancestors’ day-to-day lives were like?

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  • There were two very different lifestyles in 18th-century England: that of the rich and that of the poor. With the Industrial Revolution, which started in the middle of the century, came new machinery that saved time and made some people very wealthy. The rich were getting richer and the poor, poorer.
  • Many people were out of work because suddenly machines were doing their jobs.
  • The population was growing wildly. Cities were dirty, noisy, and overcrowded. London had about 600,000 people around 1700 and almost a million residents in 1800.
  • The rich, only a tiny minority of the population, lived luxuriously in lavish, elegant mansions and country houses, which they furnished with comfortable, upholstered furniture.
  • Their calendars included dinner parties, opera, and the theater. Many had inherited their great fortunes and never knew what it was to have to work, cook meals, or empty their own chamber pots.
  • Fashion was important in upper society: Upper-class women wore stays, which were bodices with strips of whalebone, and hooped petticoats under their dresses.
  • Men wore knee-length “breeches” with stockings, waistcoats, and frock coats over linen shirts, as well as buckled shoes. Three-cornered hats were popular, too—and wigs.
  • Schools were not compulsory, but many upper-class boys attended school, and some girls from well-off families did, too. Girls were educated more in “accomplishments” like embroidery and music than in academic subjects.
  • Some “charity schools” started to provide an education to lower-class children.
  • Tea drinking became popular in the 1700s among both the rich and the poor.
  • Poor people ate rather plain and monotonous diets made up primarily of bread and potatoes; meat was an uncommon luxury.
  • Poor craftsmen and laborers lived in just two or three rooms, and the poorest families lived in just one room with very simple and plain furniture.
  • It was a difficult life for poor people: There was no government assistance for the unemployed, and many had trouble finding their next meal or a warm place to sleep.
  • For every 1,000 children born in early-18th-century London, almost 500 died before they were 2, generally due to malnutrition, bad water, dirty food, and poor hygiene.
  • Orphans roamed the streets; because they didn’t attend school, they had little chance of improving their situation.

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—Leslie Lang

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1934: A Bad Year for America’s Most Wantedhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/10/1934-a-bad-year-for-americas-most-wanted/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/07/10/1934-a-bad-year-for-americas-most-wanted/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 17:41:45 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5161 It was 1934, the height of the Depression. FDR was president, the Apollo Theater had just opened in Harlem, and all year long, newspapers were full of articles about the “Dillinger Gang” and America’s Most Wanted criminals. It was a busy year for bad guys, and ultimately a bad one for them, too, as many… Read more

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[Source: FBI]

It was 1934, the height of the Depression. FDR was president, the Apollo Theater had just opened in Harlem, and all year long, newspapers were full of articles about the “Dillinger Gang” and America’s Most Wanted criminals.

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It was a busy year for bad guys, and ultimately a bad one for them, too, as many of them died or were killed in 1934.

John Dillinger was the most notorious of the Depression-era outlaws. As a young adult, he and a friend had robbed a grocery store of $50, and he was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison (ultimately serving 9 1/2 years). This embittered him, and it’s said that when he was first imprisoned, he stated, “I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here.” He befriended other lawbreakers in jail and studied how to be a successful criminal. After he left jail in 1933, he robbed at least 12 banks.

On March 3, 1934, Dillinger used a wooden pistol to escape from jail in Indiana. The following month, papers reported, he and two others shot their way out of an FBI ambush in Wisconsin.

Dillinger shared the headlines with Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd and George “Baby Face” Nelson—each took a turn topping the country’s Public Enemy No. 1 list—and the notorious duo of Bonnie and Clyde. Between bank heists and other robberies, ambushes by police and shootouts, people at home followed their exploits in the newspaper.

[Photo credit: FBI]

Then, on May 23, 1934, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were ambushed and killed by six police officers. It marked the beginning of the end of the “Public Enemy Era” of the 1930s. Soon after the Parker and Barrow ambush, bank robberies and kidnapping became federal offenses, and new two-way radios in police cars made bandit sprees much harder to get away with successfully.

On July 22, 1934, Dillinger was ambushed and killed by FBI agents outside a theater in Chicago. His family had his coffin encased in concrete to prevent grave robbing. On October 22, Floyd met his end in a shootout with FBI agents in an Ohio cornfield. This left Nelson, born Lester Joseph Gillis, who (along with two FBI special agents) was killed in an Illinois gun battle on November 27. The Public Enemy Era wasn’t over yet, but the enemies were falling fast.

You can search for your own notorious ancestors in Ancestry.com’s historical newspaper collection.

—Leslie Lang

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