Ancestry.com Blog http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm Tue, 16 Sep 2014 22:58:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 It’s a Boy … and a Boy … and Another Boy: Does Child Gender Run in Families?http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/16/its-a-boy-and-a-boy-and-another-boy-does-child-gender-run-in-families/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/16/its-a-boy-and-a-boy-and-another-boy-does-child-gender-run-in-families/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 22:22:56 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5698 Genealogy isn’t just a great way to learn about your personal history; it may also hold the key to longstanding mysteries in biological science. For decades, scientists and philosophers around the world have wondered what causes the “returning soldier effect” — a boom in baby boys born after a society’s soldiers return from war. Theories… Read more

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Gender namesGenealogy isn’t just a great way to learn about your personal history; it may also hold the key to longstanding mysteries in biological science.

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For decades, scientists and philosophers around the world have wondered what causes the “returning soldier effect” — a boom in baby boys born after a society’s soldiers return from war. Theories ranged from the divine (a heaven-sent replenishment of lost sons) to hormonal (surviving soldiers were more ardent and likely to fertilize their wives when sons were most likely).

But a biologist says he’s found the real answer by combing through 973 family trees, containing information on 556,387 people going back to 1600. If a man produced more sons than daughters, those sons were more likely to have more sons as well. Newcastle University’s Corry Gellatly, who conducted the research, believes a gene that’s expressed in men may be the cause.

Gellatly’s research leads him to believe that the gene causes some men’s sperm to produce X chromosomes, while the same gene in other men causes them to produce more Y chromosomes. Chromosomes from one lucky sperm combine with an egg to produce a baby: XY chromosomal pairs produce boys and XX pairs produce girls.

The way this phenomenon plays out over a few generations helps explain how the population may stay fairly balanced between males and females after a war. Let’s say two patriarchs, Harry and Sam, live in a post-war nation where women outnumber men due to war casualties. Before the war, Henry had three boys and one girl, and Sam had one boy and three girls. With three boys, Henry stands a better chance than Sam of having a son return from war to start his own family. And when Henry’s sons do start having kids, Henry’s grandchildren are more likely to be boys, thereby helping to replenish the stock of available men in a subsequent generation.

“The family tree study showed that whether you’re likely to have a boy or a girl is inherited,” Gellatly told Popular Science. “We now know that men are more likely to have sons if they have more brothers but are more likely to have daughters if they have more sisters.” Women, however, did not have the same tendency.”

For now, Gellatly’s theory remains just that; no one’s identified the gene that makes men more likely to send forth X versus Y emissaries. But luckily, anyone can replicate Gellatly’s research — if on a smaller scale — by investigating their own family tree and tallying the number of Jacks versus Jills and from generation to generation.
—Sandie Angulo Chen
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10 Weird but True Facts About DNAhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/16/10-weird-but-true-facts-about-dna/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/16/10-weird-but-true-facts-about-dna/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 01:15:50 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5683 AncestryDNA does amazing things. With just a few drops of saliva, it can trace your genes to Senegal or Scandinavia. It can reveal hidden branches of your family tree and connect you to previously unknown third cousins. But these revelations are just the beginning of your complex genetic map. Here are some stunning but true… Read more

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facts about DNAAncestryDNA does amazing things. With just a few drops of saliva, it can trace your genes to Senegal or Scandinavia. It can reveal hidden branches of your family tree and connect you to previously unknown third cousins. But these revelations are just the beginning of your complex genetic map. Here are some stunning but true facts about the code that all living organisms have inside them:

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1. Your DNA could stretch from the earth to the sun 600 times.

If unwound and linked together, the strands of DNA in each cell would be 6 feet long. With 100 trillion cells in your body, this means that the total DNA in your body could make hundreds of round trips to the sun and back.

2. We’re all 99.9 percent alike.

Not to diminish your unique genealogical tree, but it’s basically the same as everyone else’s. But those similarities are important: They’re what make you human.

3. We’re over 98 percent identical to chimps.

We’re only 1.2 percent genetically different from chimpanzees. Our last common ancestor lived about 6 million years ago. We’re almost as close to gorillas, but 7 percent different from rhesus monkeys. After billions of years of evolution, we share genes with all living things on earth.

4. Genes make up only 3 percent of your DNA.

The other 97 percent was thought to be “junk” DNA until recently. Scientists have found that this noncoding DNA controls the activity of your genes. It contains switches that turn genes on or off and program other compounds.

5. You can sequence the DNA of a fetus with blood and spit.

With only blood from the mother and saliva from the father, scientists have recently constructed the DNA of an unborn child. That sample alone could help detect genetic diseases in their offspring — with no invasive procedures required.

6. The human genome contains 3 billion base pairs of DNA.

Each cell has 3 billion base pairs, or chemical letters. If those letters were typed out, it would take nearly 30 years of typing nonstop. That’s enough text to fill 200 phone books.

7. Your genome contains ancient viruses.

Eight percent of our genome is made up of retrovirus DNA. These are viruses that have been passed down for so long that most have mutated and are held powerless in your system. But some retroviruses can take on new life, such as in people with HIV and several viruses that trigger cancer. When scientists isolated the DNA of both HIV patients and healthy people, they found a virus they called K111, sometimes intact and sometimes not. It is also found in the genome of chimpanzees, so the virus would have infected our ancestors before humans split off over 6 million years ago. When people are infected with HIV, the ancient K111 virus becomes activated.

8. DNA has been traced back over 300,000 years.

In 2013, scientists reported that they had found an ancient Y chromosome in an African-American man in South Carolina. It had been passed down intact for 338,000 years, predating the earliest known fossils of the modern human. The chromosome carried a mutation that scientists matched with one found in people of the Mbo tribe in Cameroon. That means that an ancestor of the Mbo interbred with an archaic African human.

9. A whopping 20 percent of Neanderthal DNA lives on in humans.

People living outside of Africa today have genomes composed of 1 to 4 percent of Neanderthal DNA. Combined, these different scraps make up about one-fifth of Neanderthal DNA. It’s especially found in the genes that make keratin, which affects our hair and skin. The Neanderthal skin color gene is still found in 70 percent of Europeans. Scientists have even sequenced the DNA of a Neanderthal dead for 5,300 years and found he has living relatives.

10. Your boyfriend can smell your DNA.

Studies of kissing have shown that women are more attracted to the scent of a man with a different genetic code than her own. A difference in DNA increases the chance for healthy children. So, what you perceive as chemistry may in fact be DNA!

—Rebecca Dalzell

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Born on the Wrong Side of the Blanket? 8 Illegitimate Offspring Who Made Historyhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/15/born-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-blanket-8-illegitimate-offspring-who-made-history/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/15/born-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-blanket-8-illegitimate-offspring-who-made-history/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 20:51:34 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5680 If you think there’s reason to be ashamed of any illegitimate ancestors you find stashed in your family’s closet, then, in the words of Game of Thrones‘ Ygritte, “You know nothing, Jon Snow” (a bastard himself). Even Prince William, the future King of England, can trace his roots (on Diana’s side) back to two of… Read more

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Born on the wrong side

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If you think there’s reason to be ashamed of any illegitimate ancestors you find stashed in your family’s closet, then, in the words of Game of ThronesYgritte, “You know nothing, Jon Snow” (a bastard himself).

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Even Prince William, the future King of England, can trace his roots (on Diana’s side) back to two of Charles II’s more than a dozen illegitimate children. Throughout history, children born out of wedlock or as the result of adulterous affairs have gone on to do huge things. That’s no small feat, considering the stigma society often attached to their birth. Here are just a few men and women who should make us think twice about using the word “bastard” as an insult:

1. Caesarion, aka Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar

The son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar (who recognized him as his own) was named co-ruler of Egypt, with his mother, when he was just 3 years old. After the suicides of his mother and Marc Antony, new Roman Emperor Augustus (aka Octavian), ordered the young pharaoh killed in 30 B.C. He was just 17.

2. William the Conqueror

The son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and mistress Herleva (a tanner’s daughter), William “the Bastard” unified Normandy in 1060 and then led an army to take over England in 1066. Now he’s known as William the Conqueror. That’s one way to get rid of an unsavory nickname.

3. Leonardo da Vinci

A peasant named Caterina, who may have even been a slave from the Middle East, gave birth to this future artist and scientist. He grew up in the home of his father, notary Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, and was raised by his stepmothers.

4. Bernardo O’Higgins

Spanish colonial law required government officials to get permission to marry South American-born women of Spanish descent, and for some reason, Irish-born Ambrosio O’Higgins didn’t bother with such formalities before getting young Isabel Riquelme pregnant. Ambrosio went on to become the Viceroy of Peru before finally recognizing his only son on his deathbed. The younger O’Higgins led the Chileans to independence from Spain in 1818.

5. Jenny Lind

Other than, say Elizabeth I, female bastards have generally had a harder time of it than their male counterparts. But “Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind managed to make the most of her poor beginnings as the daughter of a bookkeeper and a teacher — who didn’t believe in divorce and finally married Jenny’s father only after her first husband died when Jenny was 14. By then, the girl had already made her stage debut and was on her way to becoming one of the most celebrated opera singers of her time.

6. Billie Holiday

Clarence Holiday and Sadie Fagan where teenagers in Baltimore when Billie was born in 1915. Clarence left when she was just a baby, becoming a professional jazz guitarist that his very famous daughter went out of her way not to hire.

7. Marilyn Monroe

So little did Norma Jeane Mortenson/Baker know about her birth father, that she once pretended he was actually Clark Gable. When her mother, Gladys, was institutionalized, Norma spent her childhood moving between orphanages and foster homes.

8. Steve Jobs

The late Apple founder’s birth parents, Joanne Carole Schieble and Abdulfattah Jandali, were students in San Francisco when Schieble’s father forced her to give her son up for adoption after his birth in 1955. The couple actually married later and had a daughter before divorcing. Would he still have invented the Apple computer had he grown up working in an entirely different garage?

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Oh, Ethel! 10 Baby Girl Names That Used Be Popularhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/09/oh-ethel-10-baby-girl-names-that-used-be-popular/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/09/oh-ethel-10-baby-girl-names-that-used-be-popular/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 21:53:05 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5646 Much like fashion, baby names follow trends. These days, classic-sounding names like Olivia, Sophia, and Ava are in vogue, but some more traditional names that were once on top have completely fallen to the wayside. Now, a name like Minnie (which you may come across frequently if you are digging around your Ancestry.com family tree… Read more

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Much like fashion, baby names follow trends. These days, classic-sounding names like Olivia, Sophia, and Ava are in vogue, but some more traditional names that were once on top have completely fallen to the wayside.

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Name ChangesNow, a name like Minnie (which you may come across frequently if you are digging around your Ancestry.com family tree in the late 1800s) is probably only associated with young people wearing T-shirts at Disney World. That said, female names seem to vary wildly in popularity, while many of the most popular male names over the years stand the test of time. There are some monikers like Ernest, Norman, or Bernard that sound retro but all still managed to rank within the top 1,000 names in 2013 according to the Social Security Administration.

So if you are looking through your family history hoping to come across a name that will make your little girl stand out, here are a few formerly popular names that are practically nonexistent now.

Betty: Throughout the 1930s, Betty was second only to Mary among girl names, but has been on a steady decline since 1940.

Ethel: Strong showing during the 1890s, hitting 8th place, slipped to 12th in the 1900s, then dropped to 80th the following decade and never recovered.

Tammy: This female moniker skyrocketed out of nowhere in the 1960s and landed in the 13th spot. But by the 1990s, it was no longer in the top 200 and has all but disappeared since then.

Dorothy: In the 1920s Dorothy was all the rage (way before The Wizard of Oz) and peaked in the No. 2 spot, but since then, this name has slipped significantly. While it still merits a place in the top 1,000, it was most recently ranked at 808. The similar Doris (13th in the 1930s) has also been ignored over the past 15 years, not even making the top 1,000.

Ida: This classic name was the 7th-most-popular female name during the 1880s, but then slipped into disuse in subsequent decades.

Mildred: The name peaked at 6th place during the 1910s and held strong through the 1920s, but then went on a rapid decline.

Edna: It never quite reached top 10 popularity, but it was a strong contender from the 1880s all the way through the 1920s before it started sounding old-fashioned.

Gladys: Managed to crack the top 20 at the turn of the century, but dropped off by the 1910s.

Florence: For almost five decades, Florence managed to stay in (or very close to the top 20), but by the 1930s, the name was losing favor.

Bertha: In the 1880s, this name was the 8th-most-popular female name for the entire decade and then took a slow downturn. Now we think of Bertha — and Bessie, which followed a similar popularity arc — as a name more regularly associated with farm animals!

—Angel Cohn

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All Work and No Play? No Way! 8 Early Amusement Parks Your Ancestors Visitedhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/09/all-work-and-no-play-no-way-8-early-amusement-parks-your-ancestors-visited/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/09/all-work-and-no-play-no-way-8-early-amusement-parks-your-ancestors-visited/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 20:30:00 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5635 Our ancestors weren’t so different from us. They worked, they took care of their homes and families, and when they had free time, they sometimes enjoyed taking their families to visit fairs and other early attractions that were precursors to our modern amusement parks. In the Middle Ages, people enjoyed “periodic fairs,” and one of… Read more

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CarouselOur ancestors weren’t so different from us. They worked, they took care of their homes and families, and when they had free time, they sometimes enjoyed taking their families to visit fairs and other early attractions that were precursors to our modern amusement parks.

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In the Middle Ages, people enjoyed “periodic fairs,” and one of the oldest was the Bartholomew Fair in London, England. Henry I granted the fair a charter in order to fund the priory of St. Bartholomew, and it took place on August 24 every year from 1133 to 1855 (the date became September 3 after the calendar changed in 1793).

It was called a “pleasure faire” and had cloth trading, as well as music, puppets, acrobats, side shows, prize fighters, wild animals, and more. Authorities eventually called an end to the fair in 1855 due to “debaucherie and public disorder.”

The world’s oldest actual amusement park is Bakken (“The Hill”), located about 10 minutes from Copenhagen. It opened in 1583 after fresh spring water was found on its site. One tale says that a local potter came up with the story that healing powers of the water worked best when drinking it from a newly made bowl. Not all bowls turned out just right though, so the chipped and poorly formed bowls were lined up and people paid to use them for target practice — and that was the start of the amusement park, which is still in operation more than 400 years later!

“Pleasure gardens” were big from the 16th to 18th centuries. These were garden areas open to the public that also offered entertainment such as zoos, menageries, rides, and concert halls. They were, at first, operated by inns and taverns, such as London’s well-known 12-acre Vauxhall Gardens, founded in 1661 (and commemorated today as the Vauxhall tube station in London). It had acrobats walking tightropes, sword swallowers, fortune tellers, hot air balloon rides, fireworks shows, and music. In fact, in 1764, the 8-year-old prodigy Mozart performed there. Vauxhall Gardens was enormously popular and drew tremendous crowds.

In the 19th century,parks started appearing in Europe and America that were a little more similar to today’s amusement parks, with rather primitive (and often unsafe) rides and roller coasters. Some also offered circus-type attractions like strongmen and animal shows.

Tivoli Gardens was a pleasure garden that opened in 1843 on 20 acres just outside the city walls of Cophenhagen and included a wooden roller coaster, bumper cars, and a carousel. The gardens still exist today.

Atlantic City, New Jerseywhich inspired the original Monopology game— started a successful seaside resort in the 1870s. It famously had a wooden boardwalk with piers extending over the ocean, with entertainment offered at each pier at a single admission price. When business began declining after Atlantic City’s long heyday, legalized gambling revitalized it. Motion pictures and automobiles also brought new life to the resort.

Coney Island in New York sprang up as a seaside resort in the 1830s. Charles I. D. Loof built a carousel with hand-carved horses in 1876 (a ride cost 5 cents). More attractions followed: roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, a miniature railroad ride, the space-inspired “Trip to the Moon,” and Dreamland, which included an unusual exhibition where visitors could see premature babies being kept alive with incubators, which was a new technology at the time —

Great SaltairThe Mormon Church was one partner that helped fund and build Saltair on Utah’s Great Salt Lake in 1893, hoping to create a more wholesome, family-oriented Coney Island. The huge, four-story pavilion with domes and minarets stood on stilts over the water and offered dancing, roller coasters, carousels, fireworks displays, and hot air balloon shows.

Find out what your family did for work and play.

—Leslie Lang

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History’s 8 Worst Jobs for Kidshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/09/historys-8-worst-jobs-for-kids/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/09/historys-8-worst-jobs-for-kids/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:37:15 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5634 It’s hard to believe that child labor wasn’t outlawed in the U.S. until 1938, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed. For centuries, poor families relied on every member of the household to help make ends meet. Families with more means could apprentice their child to a tradesman. Your own ancestors might have been… Read more

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Worst Jobs for Kids

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It’s hard to believe that child labor wasn’t outlawed in the U.S. until 1938, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed. For centuries, poor families relied on every member of the household to help make ends meet. Families with more means could apprentice their child to a tradesman. Your own ancestors might have been put to work as children!

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Often the work done by children was boring and dangerous, and their small stature and quick legs were exploited to the maximum. That, and they could be paid much less than adults. Here are 8 of history’s worst jobs for kids. (If you want to learn more about most of these, and other horrible historic jobs for children, check out Tony Robinson’s The Worst Children’s Jobs in History.)

1. Climbing Boy. No, not someone who explored treehouses — this poor lad was a chimney sweep’s apprentice. Most climbing boys were horribly undernourished, a fact that worked in the sweep’s favor because it kept the boys small enough to shinny up the flue. In addition to malnutrition, climbing boys often suffered from lung and eye ailments due to the constant exposure to soot and dust.

2. Barber’s Apprentice. It may not seem that bad to learn to cut hair, but in medieval times, barbers were known as barber-surgeons. They were responsible not only for the hair of their clients but the rest of their bodies as well. Barber-surgeons bled patients to remove “ill humors” from the body, amputated limbs, and performed surgeries. The apprentice got to mop up blood and dispose of the remnants of unsavory operations.

3. Flour Mill Damsel. Prior to the 20th century, flour mill technology hadn’t changed much. Most mills still used pairs of dry, round stones to grind wheat into flour. The problem with this is that rubbing two dry stones together causes friction, which can easily cause a spark. The mill’s damsel — a girl as young as six — was responsible for making sure that grain was continuously moving through the millstones so that a spark wouldn’t ignite the dusty, floury air inside.

4. Babysitter. This job wasn’t so awful for the child doing it as it was for the other children involved. On many farms, all of the adults were needed to work the fields, especially at harvest time. Many parents would leave the eldest child behind to watch the remaining kids. These were often girls younger than age five “supervising” their toddler siblings. With all the household hazards in a 19th-century farmhouse, babies who weren’t being properly looked after could easily get burned in the fireplace, fall out of a window, or ingest something dangerous.

5. Gong-scourer’s Boy. Gong-scourers weren’t responsible for polishing percussion instruments; they were hired to clean the private sewers of the wealthy. Their apprentices had to crawl down into the narrowest parts of these cesspits and scoop out the stinking sludge.

6. Mule Scavenger. Textile mills were the focus of the early Industrial Revolution, and though technology advanced quickly, humans were still needed for some of the more dangerous parts of the work. Mule scavengers were children hired to crawl under the moving parts of a textile mill’s machinery with a brush and remove any bits of cotton fluff that drifted beneath it. Due to the cramped conditions involved, these children were often the youngest and smallest. The job was quite dangerous because it was easy for a child to become caught in the machinery if he or she wasn’t quick enough.

7. Hurrier. Hurriers were children who worked in pairs to move carts of coal through deep, narrow tunnels. Using a chain attached to his belt, one child would crawl up the tunnel, pulling the cart, while another followed, pushing it from behind. These children worked in dark and wet conditions, spending all day in sopping-wet clothing.

8. Breaker Boy. Once a crew of miners had done their work underground, it was the breaker boys who had the unenviable job of sorting the coal from the rock. These boys could be as young as 7 or 8, and aside from the dark, wet, and filthy conditions, they also risked falling into some of the massive machinery around which they worked.

You’ll find a wide assortment of employment records about your ancestors on Ancestry.com, from railway records to “school age certificates” that proved children were old enough to work.

—Melanie Linn Gutowski

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10 of the Most Disgusting Jobs in Historyhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/09/10-of-the-most-disgusting-jobs-in-history/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/09/10-of-the-most-disgusting-jobs-in-history/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 15:23:59 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5631 The 21st century certainly has its share of disgusting jobs, but in the times before mechanization, indoor plumbing, and electricity, our ancestors really bore the brunt of the literal dirty work. Here are 10 jobs found in Tony Robinson’s The Worst Jobs in History that are NSWE (not safe while eating). 1. Vomit collector. It’s… Read more

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Most disgusting jobs in history

[Photo credit: David Sidoux on Flickr]

The 21st century certainly has its share of disgusting jobs, but in the times before mechanization, indoor plumbing, and electricity, our ancestors really bore the brunt of the literal dirty work. Here are 10 jobs found in Tony Robinson’s The Worst Jobs in History that are NSWE (not safe while eating).

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1. Vomit collector. It’s a myth that the ancient Romans had dedicated rooms for regurgitating food, but it was common practice to vomit in order to consume more at the feast. Many individuals would throw up in special receptacles or simply on the floor to avoid interrupting the bacchanal. Of course, this required the services of a vomit collector who would clean it all up.

2. Leech collector. In the Middle Ages, medicine could barely be described as primitive, and methods such as bleeding were common practice for a multitude of medical ailments. One method of bleeding a patient called for applying leeches, which had to be collected from nearby ponds and bogs. A leech collector would simply wade into the water with bare legs and swish around until the dreaded creatures attached. They were then pulled off and dropped in a bucket to be sold to the town’s doctor, barber-surgeon, or other “medical professional.”

3. Fuller. Wool is a naturally waterproof material, thanks to the oils distributed through it from a sheep’s skin. This grease also was what made the harvesting, carding, spinning, and weaving processes run smoothly in the Middle Ages. But the cloth that resulted was coarse, had a wide mesh, and was easily frayed. To solve these problems, the grease had to be removed from the cloth with an alkaline solution, and the cheapest and most abundant alkaline solution at that time was stale urine. A fuller’s job was to place freshly woven lengths of wool cloth into a tub, pour in stale urine, and then stomp it with his or her feet. As if that weren’t bad enough, the urine used for this process came from multiple people — as many gallons were needed. Fullers had to collect it from public toilets and private homes. Have you ever been so grateful for modern chemistry?

4. Groom of the Stool. In the tradition of divine right — which placed kings on the level of gods — for centuries it was thought improper for a king to wipe his own bottom. Henry VIII was no exception, and the Groom of the Stool was a prestigious position assigned to a top-level aristocrat. Though prestigious, the job was humiliating. The groom was responsible for fetching the king’s toilet chair when needed, wiping his behind, and collecting his stool for examination and monitoring of his health. He also had the privilege of administering an enema should the king find himself constipated.

5. Violin string maker. Prior to the 17th century’s revolution in the technology of string-making for musical instruments, the industry was decidedly more disgusting. In order to make strings thick enough to play lower notes on a violin (which at the time had only three strings), the preferred method involved twisting strands of sheep innards together. String makers would have to butcher the sheep very carefully so as not to rupture the stomach or lower intestines and then spend painstaking hours trimming away fatty tissue, blood vessels, and muscle. Then the guts had to be soaked in a solution of wood ash to further clean them and constantly monitored so that they didn’t begin to rot. The innards were then thoroughly dried and twisted into bass strings.

6. Rat catcher. With rapid industrialization in the 19th century, cities became burgeoning hubs of filth and disease. Happily contributing to that were millions of rats. When the problem got out of hand in a certain household, the rat catcher was called in to sort things out. He rubbed oils of aniseed and thyme into his hands and clothing to attract rats, which he would try to catch with his bare hands. Most of these rats weren’t killed; they were kept and sold as a tidy source of profit.

7. Match girl. “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…” — wait a minute! This isn’t the Russian shtetl, rather the factories of London (and there’s no yente involved). Manufacturing matches themselves wasn’t the disgusting part; it consisted merely of dipping short sticks of wood into a phosphorous solution. The grossness happened after you’d been on the job for a few years. Inhaling the phosphorous caused an ailment known as “phossy jaw,” in which the gums began to abscess and give off a foul-smelling discharge. Eventually, the absorption of the phosphorous caused the women’s jaws to take on a eerie glow. The only known treatment was a harrowing operation to remove the jawbone.

8. Bone grubber. Victorian cities had a vast scavenging economy, and the bone grubber fell somewhere in the middle of it. These workers would scavenge rotting bones from butchers, garbage piles, and stockyards and sell them to dealers. Some of the bones would eventually be made into toothbrush handles, children’s teething rings, and other personal items. What couldn’t be sold were boiled down for soapmaking, and the remainder were ground into fertilizer.

9. Mudlark. At the bottom of the Victorian scavenging economy was the mudlark, a person who walked the river banks collecting bits of anything overlooked by other scavengers. These people toiled in extreme poverty, often barefoot, in the freezing water of a city’s rivers. There was no telling what they might find; bits of metal, bone, or cloth could be sold to other scavengers. Dead bodies, human excrement, and rotting fish were occupational hazards.

10. Tanner. Perhaps the most disgusting job of all time, in Robinson’s view, tanners performed the essential work of preserving hides from cattle, pigs, and other animals for use in manufactured goods. The process of preparing the hide was a tedious and foul-smelling one, involving soaking the hides in giant pits of lime to soften the hair and tissues. All of the hair and fat would then be scraped off by hand, a slippery and odorous process. The cleaned hide was then re-immersed in a pit of water and dog feces to further clean and soften it. Of course, these pits were kept fermenting between batches of hides, so the Victorian tannery was one of the most revolting, wretched-smelling places in history. (You can find thousands of tanners in the 1880 U.S. Census.)
—Melanie Linn Gutowski
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8 Quintessential American Products That Debuted at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fairhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/04/8-quintessential-american-products-that-debuted-at-the-1893-chicago-worlds-fair/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/04/8-quintessential-american-products-that-debuted-at-the-1893-chicago-worlds-fair/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 23:55:07 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5627 What was the hottest summer ticket in 1893? If 26 million visitors counts for anything, it was the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair. Meant to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America, the fair was our country’s chance to show off how far it had come.… Read more

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What was the hottest summer ticket in 1893? If 26 million visitors counts for anything, it was the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair. Meant to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America, the fair was our country’s chance to show off how far it had come. Many of the products, machines, and traditions enjoyed by generations of your family originated at this fair. Here are eight.

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Columbus Day

While Columbus Day didn’t become a federal holiday until 1934, the dedication ceremony for the World’s Fair was the first organized nationwide effort to celebrate the explorer’s historic discovery. Ceremonies were held in schools across the country on October 21, 1892, the same day the fairgrounds were dedicated. The fair would officially open to the public on May 1, 1893.

Juicy Fruit Gum

William Wrigley Jr. started out as a soap merchant who had his salesmen give out baking powder as a free premium to his customers. The baking powder became the more popular of the two products, and so Wrigley began including packages of chewing gum with his sales of baking powder. In 1891, Wrigley founded his eponymous gum company and introduced several varieties of gum before Juicy Fruit made its debut at the 1893 World’s Fair.

Cream of Wheat

Convenient breakfast foods were on the rise in the late 19th century, with inventors such as Post and Kellogg leading the way. Cream of Wheat, another popular convenience food, got its start even earlier, in 1893, when Tom Amidon, a North Dakota miller, convinced his partners to manufacture a breakfast porridge he’d been making for his family. Amidon and partners were able to get their product to the fair, where it received wide acclaim. It became a part of Nabisco in 1962.

Heinz Pickle Pin

H. J. Heinz was known to be a marketing genius well before the Chicago Fair, especially for his catchy “57 Varieties” slogan and use of a clear glass bottle to win over consumers skeptical about the integrity of processed foods. The 1893 fair, however, cemented his place in marketing history. Heinz was given a booth on the second floor of his exhibit building, making it difficult to attract visitors. He sent representatives to stand on the first floor and hand out cards offering a free gift to those who visited the exhibit upstairs. The “gift” turned out to be a small, pickle-shaped charm that could be pinned on with a straight pin. Fair visitors came to the Heinz booth in droves, making the pickle pin one of the most famous marketing gimmicks in history. Today, it includes a safety pin inside for easy fastening, but the original charm style has become a popular collectible.

Ferris Wheel

One of the goals of the fair’s organizers was to create some kind of structure that would be sure to “out-Eiffel” Eiffel. The famous Parisian tower had opened at the Paris Exposition of 1889 to great acclaim and was a tough act to follow. An open competition produced many rejected designs, but the winning one has become ubiquitous at fairgrounds and cities the world over. Pittsburgh engineer George Ferris submitted a design for a large, rotating iron wheel with passenger cars. The original Ferris Wheel held 2,160 passengers at one time. Alas, it was melted down for scrap and did not endure as Eiffel’s tower does today.

Shredded Wheat

Inventor Henry Drushel Perky developed a machine capable of shredding whole wheat, producing delicate pillows of the stuff. Perky’s initial intention was to sell his machines, not the resulting wheat biscuits. His Shredded Wheat Company introduced its flagship product to the American public at the World’s Fair and was later sold to Post.

DeCecco Pasta

Though founded in 1886, Italian pasta maker DeCecco became known to American consumers after winning a gold medal at the Chicago World’s Fair. Though perhaps the American public preferred to call it “macaroni.”

Pledge of Allegiance

We’d like to think that the Pledge of Allegiance has been around as long as America itself, but the original composition was written in 1892 by Francis J. Bellamy. Recitations of Bellamy’s pledge became part of school ceremonies starting Oct. 12, 1892, coinciding with the dedication of the Columbian Exposition’s fairgrounds. The pledge became part of the official flag code in 1942.

—Melanie Linn Gutowski

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4 Types of French Surnames: Which One Is Yours?http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/03/4-types-of-french-surnames-which-one-is-yours/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/03/4-types-of-french-surnames-which-one-is-yours/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 21:31:03 +0000 Ancestry.com http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5606 Is your last name French? Did you ever wonder where it came from and how your family got it? The most common French surnames for people born between 1891 and 1990 were: Martin (patronymic; after the most popular French saint, Saint Martin of Tours) Bernard (patronymic; from the given name, which is of Germanic origin)… Read more

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french surnames

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Is your last name French? Did you ever wonder where it came from and how your family got it?

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The most common French surnames for people born between 1891 and 1990 were:

  1. Martin (patronymic; after the most popular French saint, Saint Martin of Tours)
  2. Bernard (patronymic; from the given name, which is of Germanic origin)
  3. Thomas (patronymic; from the medieval given name of Biblical origin, meaning twin)
  4. Petit (a descriptive name; from the French adjective for “small” or “little”)
  5. Robert (patronymic; from the Germanic given name meaning “renown,” “bright,” “famous”)
  6. Richard (patronymic; from the Germanic given name meaning “powerful,” “strong”)
  7. Durand (a descriptive name; “steadfast;” from the Old French durant, “to endure,” “last”; or someone from a place called Durand in former Szepes County in Hungary)
  8. Dubois (A geographic name for someone living in a wood, from du + bois or “from the” + “wood”; in English, often translated as the name Wood)
  9. Moreau (a descriptive type of name meaning “dark-skinned;” literally, “son of the Moor”)
  10. Laurent (a geographic name; from the Roman surname Laurentius, which meant “from Laurentum,” which was an ancient Roman city)

In France, surnames were first used in about the 11th century to distinguish between people with the same given name, though it was centuries before their use was common.

So how did your ancestors get their French surnames? Most can be traced back to one of four types:

1. Patronymic/Matronymic

This is the most common type of French last name, and it’s simply based on a parent’s given name. Patronymic surnames were based on the father’s name and matronymic ones on the mother’s. It was common for people to distinguish between two people with the same first name by referencing their parents (usually the father). In general, the mother’s name was used only if the father was unknown.

This type of name was formed in a few different ways. French prefixes that mean “son of”—which attach, of course, to the start of a name—include de and fitz (from the Norman). To use the list of common French surnames above as an example, someone named Pierre whose father’s name was Robert might become known as Pierre de Robert or FitzRobert. Or a suffix may have been added to the parent’s name, such as -eau, -elin, -elot, -elle, or -elet, all of which indicated “little son of.”

Most patronymic names, though, did not take prefixes or suffixes. Robert’s son Pierre might just be known as Pierre Robert.

For many generations, these “surnames” did not pass down; each generation took their father’s given name as their surname until, eventually, governments decreed that a surname would be hereditary. That is when, for the most part, the same surname started passing down through each generation.

2. Occupational Surnames

It was also very common to distinguish individuals by referring to their jobs or trades. Some French occupational surnames include:

  • Berger — shepherd
  • Bisset — weaver
  • Boucher — butcher
  • Brodeur — embroiderer
  • Caron — cartwright
  • Charpentier — carpenter
  • Chevrolet — goat farmer
  • Couture — tailor
  • Fabron — blacksmith
  • Faucheux — mower
  • Fournier — baker
  • Gagne — farmer
  • Granger — farm bailiff
  • Lefebvre — craftsman (usually a blacksmith)
  • Marchand — merchant
  • Mercier — trader
  • Mullins — miller
  • Paquet — gatherer or seller of firewood
  • Page — servant or page
  • Pelletier — fur trader
  • Segal — grower or seller of rye

3. Descriptive Surnames

A descriptive surname is based on a quality that describes a person and sometimes developed from a nickname.

  • Petit — small
  • Legrand — the big one
  • Leblanc — the blonde one
  • Brun — someone with brown hair or a brown complexion
  • Donadieu or Donnadieu (“given to God”) may have been the name of a child given to a priest or monastery or because they were orphaned

4. Geographical Surnames

Geographical surnames described where a person lived or hailed from, such as:

  • Beaulieu — beautiful place
  • Beaumont — beautiful hill
  • Chastain — near certain chestnut trees
  • Comtois — from Franche-Comte, a province in eastern France
  • Deschamps — from the fields
  • Dupont — by the bridge
  • Desmarais — by the marsh
  • Dupuis — by the well
  • Linville — from Linivilla, now Ninville, France
  • Marseille — many people have the name of this major French city as their surname
  • Paris — from Paris
  • St. Martin — from St. Martin
  • Travers — near a bridge or ford

You can search for your family’s French name, its origin and meaning, French guillotine records, and much more at Ancestry.com.

—Leslie Lang

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Down the Mine at 89: “Retirement” Age in Victorian Englandhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/02/how-to-spell-retirement-in-victorian-england-d-e-a-t-h/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/09/02/how-to-spell-retirement-in-victorian-england-d-e-a-t-h/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 20:07:28 +0000 Paul Rawlins http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=5580 Analysis of historic census records reveals the majority of over-65s in Victorian England worked full-time – Ancestry.com Victorian census reveals farmers, miners, servants and cleaners in their 80s or 90s More than half (57 percent) of people had to work beyond the age of 65 compared to just 10 percent today Records also show how… Read more

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Analysis of historic census records reveals the majority of over-65s in Victorian England worked full-time – Ancestry.com

  • Victorian census reveals farmers, miners, servants and cleaners in their 80s or 90s
  • More than half (57 percent) of people had to work beyond the age of 65 compared to just 10 percent today
  • Records also show how so-called “NEETs” were virtually nonexistent in 1891

There’s been plenty of talk about raising the Social Security age in the U.S., and working beyond the state pension age is on the mind of many Brits as well, but new research shows just how much harder the Victorian over-65s had it. Forget long hours as a greeter or flipping burgers; plenty of them were working as miners, servants, and cleaners into their 80s and 90s.

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The findings, from family history website Ancestry.com, were revealed through a study of the millions of records in the 1891 census, which lists the names, ages, and occupations of everyone in Britain’s workforce at the time, highlighting historic trends in employment.

Measured against today’s statistics, the census data shows that the number of elderly people working has decreased sharply since the end of the 19th century, with only 10 percent of over-65s today still working compared to 57 percent in 1891.[i]

And while today many elderly workers are generally given less physically demanding work to do, in 1891 men such as Robert Barr from Kilbarchan, Scotland, were still mining for coal at the age of 89. Other examples include James Andrews and Francis Appleby, who are listed as agricultural labourers aged 90, and men like John Stevens, 82, from Dorset, and Robert Miller, 90, from Nottingham, a carpenter and general labourer respectively.

John Stevens and other older workers on the 1891 Census.

John Stevens and other older workers on the 1891 Census.

Similarly, the census reveals many examples of women working into old age, with common occupations including servants, laundresses and cleaners, such as Priscilla Abbott from Plympton who still worked as a domestic helper at the age of 85.

When separated to reflect gender, the employment rates from 1891 show the different prospects for men and women at the time. Whilst 33 percent of women over 65 worked in Victorian England, for men the number was much higher, with 88 percent of all men still working.[ii]

Currently, governments in both the UK and the U.S. are looking to push back the age of retirement for those currently working beyond 65, largely due to increased life expectancy and living costs.

In the Victorian era however, the concept of “retirement” didn’t exist for many, and a lack of state pension or welfare funds meant that elderly people had no support unless they had financial help from relatives. For most working-class people, the only options were work or the workhouse, which forced many people into continued employment no matter how old they were.

Attitudes slowly began to change around the turn of the 20th century. In England legislation such as the Old Age Pensions Act 1908 and the National Insurance Act of 1911 became the first steps towards government protection of the economically vulnerable by giving those aged 65 financial support if they suffered ill health. The United States saw Social Security go into effect in 1937.

But there was a plus side—sort of. As well as showing huge numbers of elderly workers, the research also highlighted the virtual nonexistent youth unemployment in 1891, with almost every young person not in education involved in some kind of work: 82 percent of 16/17 year olds were employed in 1891 (compared to 22 per cent today), and 79 percent of 18-24 year olds had jobs (compared to around 60 per cent today).[iii]

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[i] According to an audit of 1007 records on Ancestry.com from 1891 Census, 57 per cent of those listed as over 65 were employed. According to ONS, the employment rate for those over 65 is 10.1 per cent (published 11 June 2014).

[ii] According to the audit (see footnote 1), 88 per cent of men over the age of 65 were employed, compared to 33 per cent of women

[iii] The audit showed that 82 per cent of 16-17 year olds and 79 per cent of 18-24 year olds were employed full time in 1891.

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