Ancestry Blog http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm Fri, 17 Apr 2015 21:52:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 What Your Grandmother Was Like as a Teenagerhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/17/what-your-grandmother-was-like-as-a-teenager/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/17/what-your-grandmother-was-like-as-a-teenager/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:39:53 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7538 The concept of “teenager” being a distinct part of life complete with its own lifestyle — let alone one with time to sit around texting on their phones — is a 20th-century one that didn’t really exist until about the 1940s. Prior to the 1900s, many young people left school and worked, either on the… Read more

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grandma-as-teenager

[Image: Shutterstock]

The concept of “teenager” being a distinct part of life complete with its own lifestyle — let alone one with time to sit around texting on their phones — is a 20th-century one that didn’t really exist until about the 1940s.

Prior to the 1900s, many young people left school and worked, either on the family farm or at a job. But by 1900, some children were staying in school longer than before.

In 1895, the Connecticut State Board of Education actually started issuing certificates showing proof of age for children over 14 because children under 14 could no longer legally work. (These certificates list the child’s name, parents’ names, date and place of birth and evidence of age and are available at Ancestry).

And then came some other changes that altered societal conditions quite a bit.

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1. The Automobile

The early years of the 20th century saw the automobile age gearing up, and that led to changes in how young people lived. Before, when a boy was interested in a girl, he was invited to her home to have dinner with her family. He might sit in the parlor with them as they all listened to the radio together. At the end of the evening, he and the girl might spend a very short time together, unchaperoned, on the front porch.

Once boys had automobiles, though, those traditions were out the window. Dates were unchaperoned, and teenagers had about as much freedom, mobility, and privacy as they wanted. Anything could happen.

2. High Schools

The automobile culture at the start of the 20th century led to another big change: the end of the one-room schoolhouse. Americans started seeing the importance of more education for their teenagers, and buses could carry them greater distances. So towns built centrally located high schools and brought large numbers of older students to one location. All of a sudden, there were athletic teams and extracurricular activities, and this togetherness fed the growth of a teenage culture that hadn’t existed before.

3. Media

And, of course, people noticed this newly emerging group and its buying power. Marketers, advertisers, and other media began targeting, supporting, and creating trends and fads. Teenagers and their unique lifestyle had arrived.

4. The Decades

The 1920s were called the “Roaring ’20s” or the “Jazz Age.” World War I had recently ended, and the economy was booming. Many people left school young, at 14 or so, and started into full-time careers. Fashion had become much less Victorian, tight, and formal. Young people were listening to jazz music and going to dances. Teen spirits were high.

In the 1930s, the Depression hit, and times were hard for just about every family. Many teens left school to help their families on the farm. Jobs were scarce; people made do with what they could grow, gather, or make themselves and with very little money. A quarter of a million teenagers in the U.S. — mostly boys but a not-insignificant-number of girls, too — took to the rails and rode freight trains across the country. Many of them were looking for work.

The 1940s brought the U.S. into World War II, which also meant rationing and planting victory gardens. Many teens worked after school and helped with the war effort (collecting scrap metal or selling war bonds, for instance). For fun, they had sock hops, danced the “jitterbug” to big bands, and frequented soda shops.

In the 1950s, the war was over. Parents who had lived through two wars and the Depression wanted more for their children and encouraged their teens to attend college and prepare for a career. Their teenagers had more independence, opportunities, and freedom than ever before. It’s also when rock ‘n’ roll music hit, and that, too, changed the teen climate, initiating what was considered an almost insurmountable “generation gap” between parents and teenage children.

Start a free trial of Ancestry to search census records and discover whether your ancestors were in school or working as teens.

—Leslie Lang

 

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Debunking the American Dream: Immigrants Did Better in 1900 Than in 2000http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/16/debunking-the-american-dream/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/16/debunking-the-american-dream/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 21:31:08 +0000 Paul Rawlins http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7501 It’s a familiar story: An immigrant family makes their way to America. They start out with little money in their pockets, but with determination and hard work, they climb their way up the economic ladder. That’s the cliché, but it may not be accurate according to new research. “Conventional wisdom about immigrants and the American Dream… Read more

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It’s a familiar story: An immigrant family makes their way to America. They start out with little money in their pockets, but with determination and hard work, they climb their way up the economic ladder.

That’s the cliché, but it may not be accurate according to new research.

“Conventional wisdom about immigrants and the American Dream tells us those who left their homes for America 100 years ago had years of hardship and hard work ahead of them before ‘the Dream’ became a reality. However, a closer look reveals ‘the Dream’ had much more to do with the skills you came with, and where you settled, than it did hard work alone,” said Michelle Ercanbrack at Ancestry.

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Good Jobs for Immigrants

Researchers from UCLA, Stanford University, and California Polytechnic University used 1900, 1910, and 1920 U.S. Census data on Ancestry to help trace thousands of immigrant families from 16 European countries and found that the average European immigrant to the U.S. in the early 20th century did not start out substantially behind locals in job status. In fact, in 1900, on average, immigrants held jobs that paid slightly more than native workers—depending on where they lived.

The map below compares jobs held by immigrants and locals in 1900 and the wage gap between them. Immigrants in green states tended to hold jobs that paid more than those help by native workers. In red states, they held jobs that paid less. The dollars represent the differential. (Wage information was not included on the census, so workers were assigned the median pay for their profession as recorded on the census.)

1900 map

So, in 1900 immigrants in New Mexico actually held jobs that paid, on average, 32% more than locals, while immigrants in nearby Nevada worked in jobs paying 11% less on average.

“There are several factors that might explain why immigrants were more likely to hold higher-paying jobs than locals in some states, but in others were struggling to keep up. Some states had a strong industrial sector with many manufacturing jobs and others were more agricultural. It is also possible that discrimination and attitudes towards immigrants in the workplace varied across states. More research is needed to explain this pattern,” said Ran Abramitzky, PhD., Associate Professor of Economics at Stanford University.

Additional, unpublicized research by economists at UCLA, Stanford, and CalPoly found that immigrants from half of European countries who arrived in the early 20th century held better jobs than locals. Immigrants from the English-speaking countries and from the Russian Empire and France held jobs that earned more than locals, while immigrants from Scandinavia, Portugal, and other poor sending countries started out holding jobs that earned less. But while the country an immigrant hailed from had an impact, it wasn’t usually a dominant enough impact to account for the significant differences between all states.

Catching Up Is Not Easy

Researchers discovered something else about the wage gap: it persisted. Those earning less did not typically catch up, and neither did their children.

“Immigrants arrived in the U.S. with very different backgrounds, and these differences persisted over time,” said Leah Boustan, Ph.D., immigration expert and Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

“Unlike the image of immigrants pulling themselves up by the bootstraps in the past, we find that immigrants from sending countries that started out holding jobs that earned less than locals upon arrival continued to face an economic gap twenty years later, and, indeed, their children faced some of the same challenges.”

Immigrants Today

Fast forward to the year 2000, and things have changed. It appears that immigrants to the United States were substantially better off a century ago than they are now. In fact, green states, where immigrants do better than locals, are hard to come by these days.

2000 map

In 2000, earnings of California immigrants lagged behind locals a whopping 46% on average, while immigrants earned nearly 15% more than locals in Vermont.

The grid below shows the change by state. Again, immigrants in green actually made more on average than natives.

comp grid

Of course, when you look closely, no two immigrants’ stories are exactly alike. But looking closely is telling us that even the stories we thought we knew by heart have more to tell us.

You can read more about the research here.

Looking for your own ancestor’s American arrival story? Start a free trial with Ancestry and search more than 250 million immigration records to help you find your family’s personal experience with the American Dream.

 

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12 People Who Missed Their Trip on the Titanichttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/16/12-people-who-missed-their-trip-on-the-titanic/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/16/12-people-who-missed-their-trip-on-the-titanic/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 21:00:05 +0000 Paul Rawlins http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7479 On April 15, 1912, the Titanic slammed into an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank, sending 1,517 souls into the cold deep. Since that dark night, the legend of the Titanic has only grown, propelled by the glamour of the ship and its first-class passengers, complicated by the immigrant dreams of its steerage travelers,… Read more

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HMS Titanic

[Photo: National Archive]

On April 15, 1912, the Titanic slammed into an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank, sending 1,517 souls into the cold deep. Since that dark night, the legend of the Titanic has only grown, propelled by the glamour of the ship and its first-class passengers, complicated by the immigrant dreams of its steerage travelers, and recharged by a certain 1997 movie that 18 years later remains the second-highest-grossing film of all time.

Visitors to Ancestry can search Titanic’s records and passenger lists for connections to the doomed voyage on the site’s Titanic collection.

Here are eight amazing stories you won’t find in those records — stories of eight lucky individuals who changed their plans to sail on the Titanic, thanks to a frugal editor, a nosy sister-in-law, an ill spouse, or even a coin toss.

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Theodore Dreiser: Dreiser became one of the leading novelists of the early 20th century by writing about how money and wealth were changing America. The author had just spent four months traveling through Europe to write travel pieces and collect material for his memoir, 1913’s A Traveler at Forty.

Dreiser, who had grown up poor in Indiana, was eager to experience the opulence of the Titanic, but his English publisher convinced him to take a cheaper berth on another ship, which set sail from Dover two days before the Titanic sank.

Baron Moritz von Bethmann: In 1912, Baron Moritz von Bethmann, scion of a famous German banking family, was traveling the world with two friends. After arriving in Chicago, he told local newspapers three days after the Titanic’s sinking that he and his traveling companions had considered taking the Titanic but didn’t want to wait for it to sail. Bethmann and his friends settled their disagreement on which ship to take by flipping a coin.

Guglielmo Marconi: After the Titanic hit an iceberg, sealing its fate, the ship’s radio operator still managed to dispatch SOS messages using equipment invented by Italian Guglielmo Marconi.

Marconi nearly was one of the passengers whose life depended on his wireless telegraph equipment. Marconi had been offered free passage on Titanic but had taken the Lusitania three days earlier because he had paperwork to do and preferred the telegraph operator aboard that vessel.

George Washington Vanderbilt II: Vanderbilt was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, founder of the Vanderbilt family railroad and industrial fortune. Although Vanderbilt and his wife had booked passage on the Titanic, someone in their family (reportedly his wife’s well-traveled sister) warned them about the unexpected trials that might emerge during a maiden voyage. They cancelled their trip on April 9, a week before the Titanic sank.

Henry Clay Frick, J. P. Morgan, and Horace Harding: In February 1912, Henry Clay Frick, the Pittsburgh steel magnate, booked a suite but cancelled after his wife sprained her ankle. J. P. Morgan, the banking titan whose holding company actually owned the White Star Line, took over the booking but cancelled when business interests lengthened his stay abroad. The booking was then assumed by Horace Harding, a New York financier, but he and his wife were able to get an earlier sailing date aboard a Cunard ship, the Mauretania. The suite ended up going to J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, who survived himself by jumping onto a lifeboat.

Edgar Selwyn: Selwyn was a Broadway and Hollywood producer who founded Goldwyn Pictures in 1916, which eventually became part of MGM Studios. It would have been MM studios if Selwyn hadn’t chosen to stay in England to review an early draft of a friend’s novel. Because the draft wasn’t ready for Selwyn to review until April 19, 1912, Selwyn cancelled his April 10 Titanic departure.

Rev. J. Stuart Holden: The vicar of St. Paul’s Church in Portman Square, London, had booked passage with his wife on the Titanic to speak at the Christian Conservation Congress, a six-day religious meeting at Carnegie Hall scheduled for April 20, 1912.

Before they sailed, however, Rev. Holden’s wife fell ill. On April 9, one day before sailing, Rev. Holden returned his ticket to stay by his wife’s side. He kept the ticket envelope and later framed it with an inscription from the book of Psalms giving thanks for his good luck: “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction.”

Norah Callaghan and Annie Jordan: In 1912, Addergoole, County Mayo, Ireland, was a village of 3,400 still struggling to recover from the Great Famine of the 19th century. Fourteen Addergoole villagers boarded the Titanic at its last port of call in Queenstown, Ireland. Eleven of the villagers died.

Two villagers, however, had even better luck. Norah Callaghan and Annie Jordan had tickets to board the Titanic but did not. Jordan developed a rash that kept her from traveling, and records from another White Star ship, the Celtic, show Callaghan boarding that ship on April 12, 1912, just one day after the Titanic left Queenstown.

—Sandie Angulo Chen

Find out about the boats your ancestors made and missed on their journey to a new life. Start a free trial of Ancestry today.

 

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The 6 Best Ways to Start Researching Your Family Historyhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/16/the-6-best-ways-to-start-researching-your-family-history/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/16/the-6-best-ways-to-start-researching-your-family-history/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 20:50:16 +0000 Paul Rawlins http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7490 Do you know the names of all four of your grandparents? What about your eight great-grandparents? (Did you know you have eight great-grandparents?) Do you know what your last name means or if you were named after an uncle or a grandmother? If you’ve always wanted to find out more about your family history but… Read more

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6 easy ways to get started on your family historyDo you know the names of all four of your grandparents? What about your eight great-grandparents? (Did you know you have eight great-grandparents?) Do you know what your last name means or if you were named after an uncle or a grandmother?

If you’ve always wanted to find out more about your family history but thought it would be too hard–or you don’t know where to start–here are a few easy ways to get going from the experts at Ancestry.

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Start a tree

There’s a practical reason for starting a family tree: it’s a great way to organize lots of information and see it at a glance. A tree gives you a visual image of family relationships, but it also gives you a place to record all the facts you learn about a person as you learn them. You can build an online tree at Ancestry and attach records, pictures, and even audio and video.

Interview a relative

Memories are perishable resources. Older members of your family have stories, knowledge, and insights you’ll find nowhere else. They’ve known people, lived through events, attended gatherings, heard tales, and seen things that you never will—and all that can be lost if you don’t get it recorded or written down. You can find a free list of interview questions in the Ancestry Learning Center.

Write down what you know

Your history begins with you. Don’t you wish your grandmother had written down where she was born, the games she liked to play as a child, who her friends were, where she went to school, or what her first date was like? Start with yourself and things you remember. You’ll provide details about your life that can come from nobody else, and you’ll also start coming up with questions you want to research—or ask you mom, dad, or grandparents about.

Take a DNA test

Ready to apply cutting-edge science to your family history? A DNA test will provide an estimate of your ethnic origins and can connect you with living cousins. AncestryDNA can even combine DNA testing with 65 million online trees to help you find relatives back into the 1700s. DNA testing is turning out to be a favorite, and successful, approach for adoptees looking for members of their birth family. Read more about AncestryDNA

Search the 1940 census

It’s estimated that 87 percent of Americans have an ancestor in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census. That makes it a great place to start your search for your parents or grandparents. The 1940 census will give you names, ages, birthplaces, and occupations, but just as important, the census indicates family relationships. You can search the 1940 census for free on Ancestry.

Make a timeline

Timelines are a great way to keep track of details in an ancestor’s life. And, as a bonus, they’ll help you follow your ancestors’ migratory habits, link your relatives to historical events, and quickly show you what you know and what you still need to find out. Timelines are easy to create; pencil and paper or a word-processing program are all you really need. Start by gathering names, dates and place. You can download a free PDF on creating timelines from the Ancestry Learning Center.

What will you discover? Start a 14-day free trial of Ancestry today.

 

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Did Your Ancestors End Up in the Poorhouse?http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/13/did-your-ancestors-end-up-in-the-poorhouse/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/13/did-your-ancestors-end-up-in-the-poorhouse/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 22:18:21 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7474 Did your parents used to warn: “We’ll end up in the poorhouse!” Nowadays, it’s just an expression. For earlier generations, though, it was a real fear. But what was the poorhouse? And who ended up there? There really were poorhouses, though sometimes they were called by different names. In some areas it was the almshouse,… Read more

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poor-house

Famous photo of destitute pea pickers in California, 1936 [Credit: Library of Congress]

Did your parents used to warn: “We’ll end up in the poorhouse!”

Nowadays, it’s just an expression. For earlier generations, though, it was a real fear. But what was the poorhouse? And who ended up there?

There really were poorhouses, though sometimes they were called by different names. In some areas it was the almshouse, or the poor farm, or the county farm. It was typically a government-run facility where people often ended up when they were poor, blind, crippled, or otherwise disabled, or when they were elderly or homeless and didn’t have family that could care for them.

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Times were different then, and people didn’t have the kind of social services we have today as a safety net. Or rather, poorhouses were the social services. In the U.S., most seem to date from the 1700s.

If you are doing genealogical research and one of your ancestors has “fallen off the radar,” you might consider searching for poorhouse records. The system for caring for the poor and needy was not standardized, so each county or state had its own system of record keeping.

First, look for any clues in the records you’re already looking at. On the U.S. census, for instance, poorhouse residents were often referred to as “inmates.” Or perhaps one of your ancestors is listed on an obituary as having died at a “county farm.”

Ancestry has some searchable poorhouse resources, such as the 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes for 21 states. This was a supplement to the 1880 U.S. Federal Census that enumerated the disabled, poor, homeless children, and prisoners. Forms include individuals’ names, race, gender, age, and residence. For people with mental or physical illness, questions about medical history were asked. Information about homeless children’s parents and details about prisoners’ imprisonment are also included.

Some of the entries can be heartbreaking to read. see some of the information on those lists. The schedule from Red Bank Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania includes Fianna Dinger, who was noted to have been 6 when “idiocy” occurred due to scarlet fever. At 22 years old, she had never been an inmate at a training school and was “partly self-supporting.” If you happened to be searching for Fianna or the Dinger family, this might be information that would be hard to find otherwise.

The searchable database of New York, Census of Inmates in Almshouses and Poorhouses, 1830-1920, includes 64 poorhouses and almshouses in New York and details about their thousands of residents. The forms vary but can you may find names and ages, birthplace, marital status, naturalization details, whether they were considered “intemperate,” occupation, and questions on the extended family’s tendency toward self-sufficiency or dependence.

For instance, Anne Brooks, 56, was born in Ireland, widowed and was living at Richmond, N.Y. County Poor House. She had been in the U.S. for 30 years and worked as a cook. She had one child living, who was self-supporting. She was, it was noted, of “intemperate” habits. Her “existing cause of dependence” was listed as “intemperence and old age.” She had “no chance of recovery,” and under remarks, it was stated, “She is old and infirm and no chance of being able to leave.”

One tip when searching U.S. Federal Census records on Ancestry for poorhouse records is to fill in the state and county, but leave the name fields blank. If the form allows, enter “inmate” for “head of household.” (Some census searches will allow you to enter “inmate” in the keysearch search.) You’ll need to check the pages to see if they are indeed a county poor farm or the county jail.

—Leslie Lang

 

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The Surprising Roles Women Played in the Civil Warhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/13/the-surprising-roles-women-played-in-the-civil-war/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/13/the-surprising-roles-women-played-in-the-civil-war/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 20:13:49 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7469 The Civil War tore the nation in two, pitted state against state and brother against brother, and led to the death of over 625,000 soldiers. But the Civil War didn’t just change the lives of men who fought in it — it transformed the lives of women, too. Women served on the battlefield in various… Read more

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[Photo credit: David Foster/Flickr]

The Civil War tore the nation in two, pitted state against state and brother against brother, and led to the death of over 625,000 soldiers. But the Civil War didn’t just change the lives of men who fought in it — it transformed the lives of women, too.

Women served on the battlefield in various roles: nurses, vivandières or canteen carriers, laundresses, and even scouts, soldiers, and spies. At home, women took on new roles that their husbands and sons had performed until war called them off to duty.

Here are a selection of roles thrust upon, or assumed by, women as the country plunged into disunion.

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Soldier

Historians have documented approximately 250 female Civil War soldiers, but they estimate conservatively that between 400 and 750 women took up arms in defense of the Union or Confederacy and fought in every major battle. For example, the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862, where 23,746 soldiers became casualties, involved at least six women.

Most female soldiers managed to fight without anyone realizing their true gender, unless they were wounded or killed. At the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, Clara Barton, the nurse who gained fame as a battlefield nurse before founding the American Red Cross, discovered a soldier with a chest wound. That soldier was actually a woman named Mary Galloway. Galloway recovered, eventually had a daughter, and named her after Barton.

Sarah Emma Edmonds, a Canadian citizen, ran away from home and disguised herself as a man named Franklin Thompson. She served the Union army as a soldier, nurse, messenger, and spy. After the war, she said, “I could only thank God that I was free and could go forward and work, and I was not obliged to stay at home and weep.”

Spy

Some women, rather than hide their gender, flaunted their womanhood to coax secrets out of men who assumed they would not pass on the secrets they carelessly divulged. These female spies would pass enemy information in messages they hid in their hoop skirts, corsets, and parasols.

After the Union began taking parts of the South, female slaves also acted as spies and guides for Northern forces. One of the most successful spymasters, in fact, was Harriet Tubman, the former slave who became a legend by leading 300 slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Fewer people know about her service to the Union. After she volunteered as a cook and nurse, she established a spy network in South Carolina made up of former slaves.

On June 1, 1863, Tubman also became the first woman to lead a military expedition when she and several hundred black soldiers destroyed a Confederate supply depot in South Carolina and freed more than 750 slaves.

Laundress

Army garrisons had numerous civilians supporting them or taking safety from them. During the Civil War, one type of “camp follower” was a laundress. To prevent laundresses from falling into another type of camp follower, the official Union Army manual required laundresses to be of good moral character. Washing uniform by hand in a washtub with a scrub board and lye soap, they earned about $40.00 a month.

Nurse

The idea that several thousand women served as nurses during the Civil War surprises no one today. But at the outset of the war, women had to overcome resistance to their care of the wounded and dying, an often grisly and sometimes dangerous task.

Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross after the war, became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her courage and care at the battles of Antietam and Fort Wagner. At one point during the Battle of Antietam, she knelt to give a soldier water. After feeling her sleeve rustle, she noticed a bullet had passed through it and killed the man she was aiding.

Vivandière

Similar to nurses, but less well-remembered, vivandières (a French term imported from the Napoleonic Wars) were usually the daughters or wives of officers who accompanied both Union and Confederate units in battle. Often wearing semi-official skirted uniforms and sometimes drawing an Army salary, the vivandieres were an attempt to streamline and reduce the number of camp followers. They sold the troops tobacco, coffee, identification tags, oil lamps, hams, and whiskey. Vivandières also did laundry, sewed, and cooked.

Vivandières saw most of their service during the early years of the war because in September 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered all women removed from military camps under his command.

Farmer and factory worker

During the period of the Civil War, the United States remained largely rural. The North, which had a significant advantage in industrial capacity over the South, still had 75 percent of its population living in rural areas. With so many men leaving farms to fight, women became yoked to the burden of carrying on agriculture. Farm women had previously spent their long days gardening and handling other domestic chores such as cooking, cleaning, and making clothes. With the husbands gone, often never to return, they had to plant and harvest crops, feed animals, and operate farm machinery.

Farm women the South also had to deal either with restive slaves or work left undone by slaves who had left bondage. In the North, loss of male income forced many women into industrial work in places such as uniform factories or munitions plants, where they formed cartridges. In Washington, D.C., many women took over government clerical jobs once held by men who were now in uniform.

Household manager

Besides the new burden of income-producing work, women’s domestic duties became much more difficult due to wartime inflation and, particularly in the South, the lack of basic necessities. Both the Union and the Confederate governments printed paper money, but the Confederates printed money at three times the rate of the North, leading to inflation rates that reached 10 percent a month. Before the start of the war, a typical Southern family’s grocery bill was $6.65 per month. By 1864, it was $400 per month.

Women living off a confederate soldier’s pay of $11 a month found they could no longer afford flour that had risen to $100 a barrel. As a result, families found themselves substituting cheaper alternatives for their regular meals. For example, instead of pork and other conventional meats, families turned to crows, frogs, locusts, snails, snakes, and even worms. Instead of coffee, families browned okra seeds. For milk, families beat an egg white and added some butter. For salt, families boiled seawater or refined it out of dirt from the smokehouse.

By April 1863, food shortages had become so severe that several hundred women in Richmond marched on the governor’s mansion shouting, “Bread! Bread! Our children are starving while the rich roll in wealth.”

Did your ancestors struggle to survive — or perish —during America’s bloodiest conflict? Learn more about researching your Civil War ancestors or start a free trial of Ancestry and start searching today.

— Sandie Angulo Chen

 

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Six Sensational Murder Trials in Historyhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/13/six-sensational-murder-trials-in-history/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/13/six-sensational-murder-trials-in-history/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 20:11:21 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7468 “Murder most foul.” It occurs roughly 16,000 times a year here in the United States, but only a select few capture the nation’s interest and fascination. Why do some murders — and their resulting trials — attract more attention than others? Sometimes the trials involve a famous (or infamous) defendant or a particularly well-known or innocent… Read more

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“Murder most foul.” It occurs roughly 16,000 times a year here in the United States, but only a select few capture the nation’s interest and fascination.

Why do some murders — and their resulting trials — attract more attention than others? Sometimes the trials involve a famous (or infamous) defendant or a particularly well-known or innocent victim. Other times, the trial has political or cultural significance.

Whatever the reason, some murder trials live on in our collective memory, even if they took place generations ago. Here are six famous murder trials that have captivated the public for years.

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O.J. Simpson: Everything about the 1994-95 O.J. Simpson trial seemed designed to rouse the greatest amount of interest possible. First, a former NFL player turned celebrity spokesman and movie actor stood accused of killing his ex-wife and her friend in a wealthy enclave in Los Angeles. Then, just before his arrest, Simpson led police and, it seemed, every news helicopter in the area on a 60-mile “low-speed chase.” The trial itself featured moments of high drama, including the “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” moment when Simpson struggled to put on the bloody glove found at the crime scene. A police witness, revealed to be a racist and liar, presaged debates about the trustworthiness of police towards minority defendants.

A staggering 91 percent of televisions in homes — 95 to 150 million people — were tuned in to the trial when the jury delivered its “not guilty” verdict on October 3, 1995. In anticipation, trading volume dropped 41 percent on the New York Stock Exchange, and even the Supreme Court arranged to have a note about the verdict delivered to them while they were conducting a hearing.

By preserving Simpson’s high school yearbooks — and the yearbooks of many other Americans, famous and not — Ancestry.com lets you glimpse celebrities before they became famous, or infamous.
 
 

[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Leopold and Loeb: The 1924 trial of Nathan Freudenthal Leopold, Jr. and Richard Albert Loeb challenged the public to reimagine two wealthy and privileged young men as cold-blooded monsters who killed simply for the challenge of committing the perfect crime. Leopold and Loeb were students at the University of Chicago when they kidnapped and murdered Loeb’s 14-year-old cousin in Chicago on May 21, 1924. The crime was far from perfect — Leopold dropped his glasses onto the victim when disposing of the body — and they confessed 10 days after the murder.

The public, who viewed the murderers as the embodiment of everything wrong with the licentious Roaring Twenties, called for vengeance. Their families hired famed lawyer Clarence Darrow, who tried to save them with a 12-hour closing statement attacking the death penalty. It worked: rather than sentence Leopold and Loeb to death, the judge gave them both 99-year sentences. In 1936, though, an inmate killed Loeb in prison. Leopold was paroled in 1958. Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Rope” was inspired by Leopold and Loeb’s thrill murder.
 
 

[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Sacco and Vanzetti: On April 15, 1920, two men robbed and murdered two men carrying the payroll for a shoe factory in Braintree, Massachusetts. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian-born anarchists, were arrested and convicted of the murders on July 14, 1921. Coming in the midst of the post-World War I Red Scare, when the country feared Anarchist and Communist infiltration, the verdict was not unexpected.

But during the long appeals process, the case attracted a surprising amount of national and international attention. A defense fund raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and protests were voiced around the world. During the trial, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis invited Sacco’s wife to his home, while future justice Felix Frankfurter detailed the trial errors in a widely read magazine article. Nevertheless, the men were executed on August 23, 1927. In 1977, on the 50th anniversary of the execution, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued an official proclamation that Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried, cementing the view that they had been victimized by anti-Italian and political prejudice.

(Braintree, Massachusetts, flourished after Sacco and Vanzetti’s execution. You can find hundreds of recordsfor individuals born in Braintree that year on Ancestry.)
 
 

[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Harry Thaw: Americans today may think that their celebrity-obsessed culture is unique to this era of social media and reality television, but the romantic scandals of the rich and famous have always lured the attention of the mass media. Consider, for example, the June 25, 1906, murder of famous New York architect Stanford White by eccentric millionaire Harry Thaw. Six years earlier, Thaw’s future wife, Evelyn Nesbit, was a 16-year-old model newly arrived in New York City. White, a pillar of New York society whose appetites ran towards underaged chorus girls, seduced her. Eventually, White moved on, and in 1905, Nesbit married Thaw, a wealthy but violent man with a bad cocaine habit. Thaw, however, remained obsessed with the liberties White had taken with Nesbit, leading Thaw to shoot White point blank on the rooftop cabaret of Madison Square Garden.

Nesbit’s beauty, White’s lechery, and Thaw’s derangement made for an irresistible story, and when Thaw stood trial in 1907 and 1908, the scandal-mongering newspapers of the day eagerly, if prematurely, anointed it the “Trial of the Century.” The jury was deadlocked, and Thaw’s second, less sensational trial returned a “not guilty on the ground of insanity” verdict. Thaw spent seven years in a state asylum and was subsequently released.
 
 

[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

John Brown: The American Civil War had many causes, and even if it was inevitable, historians now believe that John Brown and his 1859 trial for murder, treason, and inciting slave revolt may have hastened its onset. Brown had already won fame (or infamy) for his 1856 murder of five pro-slavery activists in Kansas, where the expansion of slavery was a contentious and violent issue. On October 16, 1859, Brown led 18 men on a raid of the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, hoping to start a slave revolt.

The raid, of course, failed, and 10 men died, including two of Brown’s sons. Abolitionists turned Brown into a hero and his execution into martyrdom. But his actions polarized the country, nearly fractured the young Republican Party, and led to the election of a relative moderate, Abraham Lincoln, as president. Before his execution on December 2, 1859, Brown wrote that “the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away; but with Blood.” Brown’s violent raids proved that the various political compromises enacted since the country’s founding could not forestall a day of reckoning when the country would have resort to war to decide the fate of slavery.

(What effect did John Brown have on your ancestors? Search Civil War records on Ancestry to find out more.)
 
 

[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Boston Massacre: Every schoolchild knows the story of the Boston Massacre and its role in stoking independence fever in the American colonies, but fewer know the facts of the trial that followed, even though it attracted nearly as much attention at the time as the actual shooting. On March 5, 1770, a mob angry about the presence of British troops in Boston surrounded a group of soldiers led by Captain Thomas Preston. After someone threw a club at the soldiers, they opened fire, killing five colonial residents.

While pro-independence propagandists, including Samuel Adams, turned the incident to their advantage, his second cousin John Adams turned it into a professional achievement. Adams, the future second president of the United States, agreed to defend the soldiers even though it endangered his family and short-term reputation. His zealous advocacy won an acquittal for Captain Preston and six of the soldiers and manslaughter convictions for two others, allowing them to escape the death penalty.

— Sandie Angulo Chen

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6 Baby Names That Got a Pop Culture Boosthttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/09/6-baby-names-that-got-a-pop-culture-boost/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/09/6-baby-names-that-got-a-pop-culture-boost/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 23:27:37 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7459 Pop culture’s influence runs deep, from the clothes we wear to the words we say. In fact, the names of many people in our lives are a testament to what was happening in the world at the time they were born. Here are some of the most popular baby names that got a bump in… Read more

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Pop culture’s influence runs deep, from the clothes we wear to the words we say. In fact, the names of many people in our lives are a testament to what was happening in the world at the time they were born.

Here are some of the most popular baby names that got a bump in the rankings thanks to pop culture.

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1. Samantha

In the 1960s, people were falling in love with a housewife/witch name Samantha. Bewitched was one of the most popular shows on television at the time and inspired many future parents when it came to naming their children. The name barely broke the top 1,000 names for girls in the late ’50s, then jumped to #472 in 1964 — the same year Bewitched premiered on ABC.

2. Aidan/Aiden

In 2000, the hit HBO series “Sex and the City” introduced Carrie’s latest boyfriend, Aidan Shaw. Prior to 1990, the name Aidan/Aiden had not even made the charts. However, between 2000 and 2010, the name rose to become the highest ranking male name of the decade.

3. Franklin

Franklin, a technical term of the feudal system, was commonly a surname where the bearer was often a gentleman who ranked above many, but below knights and nobility. However, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in 1933, the popularity as a first name took off, hitting #33 on the list.

4. Elsa

While the name Elsa wasn’t foreign to the baby names top 1,000 list, the Disney juggernaut “Frozen” gave the name a significant bump. From 2013 to 2014, the name rose 34 percent in the rankings.

5. Cullen

Twihards unite. The last name of the vampire heartthrob in the Twilight series, Cullen quickly became a trending first name for baby boys. When the Social Security Administration released their names data, the name Cullen jumped 297 spots from 2008 to 2009. Food for thought: Cullen is an Anglicized version of an Irish name and means “puppy.”

6. Barack

Do historic things, and your name can inspire the masses. The name Barack was down at #12,535 on the Social Security Administration’s ranking list in 2007. In one year, the name leaped a whopping 10,000 spots to #2,409.

Were your the names of your ancestors influenced by the pop culture of their time? Or are your family names deep-seated traditions? Start a free trial of Ancestry today and begin building your family tree to see your own naming patterns and changes through the years.

— Shanna Yehlen

 

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New DNA Breakthrough Connects You to Ancestors in the 1700shttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/07/new-dna-breakthrough-connects-you-to-ancestors-in-the-1700s/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/07/new-dna-breakthrough-connects-you-to-ancestors-in-the-1700s/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 21:09:42 +0000 Paul Rawlins http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7417 Latest Breakthrough in Consumer Genetics Connects People to Ancestors Dating Back to the 1700s Using Just Their DNA DNA testing has turned out to be a godsend for adoptees searching for lost family members who are still alive and family historians looking to connect with genetic cousins. The tests work by looking for strands of… Read more

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Discover more with AncestryDNA

Latest Breakthrough in Consumer Genetics Connects People to Ancestors Dating Back to the 1700s Using Just Their DNA

DNA testing has turned out to be a godsend for adoptees searching for lost family members who are still alive and family historians looking to connect with genetic cousins. The tests work by looking for strands of DNA two people share in common and using statistics to estimate what their relationship might be. So how is AncestryDNA using their DNA test to find relatives who lived up to 300 years ago who have no sample in the DNA database?   

New Ancestor Discoveries

Ancestry calls their groundbreaking new feature New Ancestor Discoveries. They work through a unique combination of AncestryDNA results and the millions of family trees shared by Ancestry members.

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First, AncestryDNA tracks down living cousins for each person who has taken an AncestryDNA test and organizes them into family networks called DNA Circles. These Circles bring together groups of people who are genetically related to a common ancestor who appears in each Circle member’s online family tree. New Ancestor Discoveries take this one step further by finding people who are a genetic match to members of a Circle but don’t have a Circle’s common ancestor in their tree—or don’t have a tree at all. Their genetics suggest that the Circle’s common ancestor could be their ancestor, too, so Ancestry passes this hint along.

A “Shortcut Through Time”

“It is effectively a shortcut through time – you take the test today and we tell you who your ancestors were, for example, in the 1700s. You don’t need to research records or build a family tree – AncestryDNA now transports you to the past,” said Dr. Ken Chahine, SVP and GM of AncestryDNA.  “It’s a combination of three things that allowed us to achieve this breakthrough innovation: (1) millions of family trees created by Ancestry members, (2) the fastest growing genetic database in the world, currently with more than 800,000 genotyped members, and (3) a dedicated team of scientists who are pushing the boundaries of genetics and statistics to help people make family history discoveries in ways never before possible.”

These advancements make discovering new ancestors made simple. Customers just provide a small saliva sample for the AncestryDNA test, which reads a person’s genetic code at more than 700,000 DNA markers, and mail it back. Results are available within six to eight weeks, including new possible ancestors, accompanied by historical narratives of their lives that can include photos, locations, and life events available to Ancestry members.

A New Gateway for Discovering Your Past

With this latest innovation, AncestryDNA will open the door to a whole new segment of consumers who may be interested in family history but don’t know how or don’t have the time to search records or build a family tree. It will also meet the needs of experienced genealogists, who may need new genetic connections to their ancestors to help break through dead-ends in their research that historical records alone can’t.

AncestryDNA is now connecting people to ancestors going back generations from all around the world, including Colonial America, the UK, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Poland, France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Italy, and more.

It’s the latest example of today’s science taking us back to yesterday’s world in a way that’s never been possible before.

Want to learn more about the new AncestryDNA experience? Visit dna.ancestry.com.

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12 Questionable Pieces of Retro Advicehttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/03/31/12-questionable-pieces-of-retro-advice/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/03/31/12-questionable-pieces-of-retro-advice/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 21:44:01 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7397 From Dorothy Dix to Ann Landers, advice columns have long filled American newspapers. The archives on Ancestry are rich with pointers on how to snag a man or behave in polite company. They’re a window into the social mores of different eras — many of which are thankfully long gone. If you’re looking for some… Read more

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Bad retro advice

Image courtesy of wackystuff via Flickr

From Dorothy Dix to Ann Landers, advice columns have long filled American newspapers.

The archives on Ancestry are rich with pointers on how to snag a man or behave in polite company. They’re a window into the social mores of different eras — many of which are thankfully long gone. If you’re looking for some new words to live by (or not), here are a dozen iffy aphorisms from days past.

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1. It is not polite for a girl to sit in a man’s lap the first time he asks her, unless she is afraid he won’t ask her again. — Ironwood Daily Globe, 1924

2. For unmarried girls: If you dance well, dance seldom. If you dance ill, never dance at all. — Janesville Daily Gazette, 1861

3. Don’t feed men flattery in hunks with a shovel. They resent this, but every man will eat out of your hand if it is filled with sugar. Don’t be a crude bungler and tell a man in so many words that he is God’s masterpiece. Get the idea across to him by your air of adoration: by the awe with which you listen to his opinion; by the rapt expression on your face when you listen to him monologuing along about himself. — Syracuse Herald, 1933

4. A bachelor is a person who enjoys everything and pays for nothing — a married man is one that pays for everything and enjoys nothing. The one drives a sulkey through life, and is not expected to take care of any one but himself; the other keeps a carriage, which is always too full to afford him a comfortable seat. Be cautious how you exchange your sulkey for a carriage! — Star and Republican Banner, 1840

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5. In conversation, trifling occurrences such as small disappointments, petty annoyances, and other every-day incidents, should never be mentioned to friends. — Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1869

6. The poor man who is ambitious handicaps himself by marriage. Success is a jealous mistress, and demands of the one who wins her all that he has to give of time, and effort, and devotion, and she flouts those who give her half-hearted allegiance, and prefer a wife before her. — Ogden Standard Examiner, 1921

7. If, inadvertently, you get a spot on the table-cloth, absent-mindedly place a piece of bread over it, butter side down. The butter will keep the bread from slipping off the spot. — Bismarck Daily Tribune, 1915

8. If a woman needs a man’s assistance in walking, take his arm instead of allowing him to take yours. Just tell him in plain English, “hands off!” Give a man your arm and you will find him very confidential, and he will take a great many privileges he would not take if he was not permitted to do so. — The Mountain Democrat, 1880

9. A nod is not a bow. To nod to a woman is open disrespect. — Reno Evening Gazette, 1889

10. When you enter a crowded lecture-room, and a gentleman rises politely (as American gentlemen always do) and offers to give up his seat (that he came an hour ago to secure for himself) take it as a matter of course; and don’t trouble yourself to thank him even with a nod of your head. As to feeling uneasy about accepting it, that’s ridiculous! Because if he don’t fancy standing during the service, he’s at liberty to go home; it’s a free country! — Hornellsville Tribune, 1852

11. If the ladies would eat pickles but once a week, and sweetmeats but once a year, if they would take a cold bath every night and morning, and walk five miles a day, they would have no need of cosmetics to make them beautiful. — The Sheboygan Mercury, 1851

12. Women should not complain of their husbands in public. All married women have a great deal to contend with. Everybody knows that married men make very poor husbands. — Manners for the Metropolis, 1908

Ouch.

— Rebecca Dalzell

Want more words of wisdom from the past? Start a free trial of Ancestry today.

 

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