A Renaissance Christmas Dinner – Published 1660

It has become a tradition in our family for the past 10 years or so (passed down from my maternal grandmother, Loretta, my mom, Norma, as they got older) that my daughter-in-law and I shop and prepare food for about 30 loved ones on our special holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Despite her full-time career, our daughter-in-law, Penny, always puts on the best feed bag ever.
And, although mostly women render our meals with love, we also complain about all the shopping, planning, preparation, cooking, presentation, and clean up that goes into less than an hour sit down meal with our beloved family and friends.  I must say that I feel just a bit ashamed after reading Robert May’s 2-course meal!  However, I would put Penny’s extraordinary meals of everyday foods in a match against those of Robert May’s for nobility anytime because I’m sure her delicacies are of equal quality, taste, and presentation. In order words, Penny’s our accomplished cook and master of kitchen arts in Southern Maryland. Not to be overlooked or outdone, our son, Jeff, Penny’s husband, is also a master outdoor cook and captain of cutlery!  And together, they’re the team to beat when it comes to hosting great get togethers.

A Bill of Fare for Christmas Day

Original Article Published December 18, 2013 – 5:00 pm by:  Joy Lanzendorfer on Mental_floss’s FaceBook page:

The Accomplisht Cook, London, England


If the thought of planning Christmas dinner makes you nervous, be glad you weren’t born in the Renaissance. The earliest known published Christmas menu includes pork, beef, goose, lark, pheasant, venison, oysters, swan, woodcock, and “a kid with a pudding in his belly,” to name just a few.

This is according to The Accomplisht Cook, written by Robert May in 1660. May was an English chef who trained in France and cooked for nobility throughout his life. In a section titled “A bill of fare for Christmas Day and how to set the meat in order,” May suggests 39 dishes split over two courses, plus oysters, oranges, lemons, and jellies for dessert. The menu is surprising not only because of its size, but because it contains so many proteins—there are 11 different types of birds alone—and not much else. Well, unless you count pastry. There’s lots of pastry, too.


1. A collar of brawn [pork that is rolled, tied, and boiled in wine and seasonings].
2. Stewed Broth of Mutton marrow bones.
3. A grand Sallet [salad].
4. A pottage [thick stew] of caponets [young castrated roosters].
5. A breast of veal in stoffado [stuffed veal].
6. A boil’d partridge.
7. A chine (a cut of meat containing backbone) of beef, or surloin roast. Here’s May’s recipe:

To roast a Chine, Rib, Loin, Brisket, or Fillet of Beef
Draw them with parsley, rosemary, tyme, sweet marjoram, sage, winter savory, or lemon, or plain without any of them, fresh or salt, as you please; broach it, or spit it, roast it and baste it with butter; a good chine of beef will ask six hours roasting.

For the sauce take strait tops of rosemary, sage-leaves, picked parsley, tyme, and sweet marjoram; and strew them in wine vinegar, and the beef gravy; or otherways with gravy and juice of oranges and lemons. Sometimes for change in saucers of vinegar and pepper.

8. Minced pies.
9. A Jegote [sausage] of mutton with anchove sauce.
10. A made dish of sweet-bread (Here’s a recipe from A New Booke of Cookerie by John Murrell, published in 1615: Boyle, or roast your Sweet-bread, and put into it a fewe Parboyld Currens, a minst Date, the yolkes of two new laid Egs, a piece of a Manchet grated fine. Season it with a little Pepper, Salt, Nutmeg, and Sugar, wring in the iuyce of an Orenge, or Lemon, and put it betweene two sheetes of puft-paste, or any other good Paste: and eyther bake it, or frye it, whether you please.)
11. A swan roast.
12. A pasty of venison.
13. A kid with a pudding in his belly.
14. A steak pie.
15. A hanch of venison roasted.
16. A turkey roast and stuck with cloves.
17. A made dish of chickens in puff paste.
18. Two bran geese roasted, one larded [larding is inserting or weaving strips of fat in the meat, sometimes with a needle].
19. Two large capons, one larded.
20. A Custard.


Oranges and Lemons
1. A young lamb or kid.
2. Two couple of rabbits, two larded.
3. A pig souc’t [sauced] with tongues.
4. Three ducks, one larded.
5. Three pheasants, 1 larded.
6. A Swan Pye [the showpiece: a pie with the dead swan’s head, neck, and wings sticking up from it].
7. Three brace of partridge, three larded.
8. Made dish in puff paste.
9. Bolonia sausages, and anchoves, mushrooms, and Cavieate, and pickled oysters in a dish.
10. Six teels, three larded.
11. A Gammon of Westphalia Bacon.
12. Ten plovers, five larded.
13. A quince pye, or warden pie [pears or quinces peeled and poached in syrup, then baked whole in a pie].
14. Six woodcocks, 3 larded.
15. A standing Tart in puff-paste, preserved fruits, Pippins, &c.
16. A dish of Larks.
17. Six dried neats [calf] tongues
18. Sturgeon.
19. Powdered [salted] Geese.

And you know, nothing says Christmas like powdered geese and jellies.

Old Wounds Reopened…

When asked about how I feel about the August+ events in Ferguson, Missouri, that now have festered and exacerbated old wounds among our people, my only answer can be; “I’m having flashbacks to the happenings in the 1960’s, equal rights movements, and the 1990’s in Los Angeles and around the United States after the Rodney King traffic stop, his beatings and arrest, and police acquittals.”  If any fingers must be pointed, then let’s point them at the media, who always spins and sensationalizes stories to incite publicity and ultimately generate unrest and many times illogical and irrational responses that harm all of us as a society.

So, I went back through some archives to back up my memories of the 1960’s, and my feelings that after nearly 55 years we (the world) may have fooled ourselves about the progress we have made in the arena of human rights.  Below is a newsreel from the Universal Studios collection of “Universal Newsreels.”   Ed Herlihy, famous radio announcer whose voice charted the course of World War II for moviegoers, then for the better part of 40 years spoke for Kraft foods on radio and television, narrates “News Highlights of 1960, 1960/12/31.”  So, I ask you–“Just how much have we changed things in our families, our communities, and the world at large to help us all get along, to succeed together, and to just love thy neighbors?

27 Million Newspaper Pages Digitized in a Living Room!

Original Article About Tom Tryniski was written by Jim Epstein at Reason.com

If you have ever searched through newspaper archives you know just how tedious, time-consuming, sometimes costly, and most importantly, how iffy a find can be.  But back in March 2013, Jim Epstein at Reason.com, profiled Tom Tryniski, an eccentric retiree who digitized about 27 million newspaper pages (1795 through 2007).  He worked alone in his living room for 14 years and then made them available for free for anyone to search.  “A lot can be said about one computer expert  (a high school graduate) who built a historic newspaper site (http://fultonhistory.com) that’s orders of magnitude bigger and more popular than one created by a federal bureaucracy with millions of dollars to spend. Armed only with a few PCs and a cheap microfilm scanner, Tom Tryniski has played David to the Library of Congress’ Goliath,” according to Mr. Epstein.

Tryniski’s site has grown into one of the largest historic newspaper databases in the world, with 22 million newspaper pages. By contrast, the Library of Congress’ historic newspaper site, Chronicling America, has only about 5 million newspaper pages on its site and cost taxpayers about $3 per page.

Today’s site has 28,300,000 Historical Newspaper Pages from the USA and Canada

According to Tryniski’s site today, you can search over 28,300,000 Historical Newspaper Pages from the USA & Canada.  So, I thought I would give it a try.  I literally searched Tryniski’s site using the following text in the keyword box “Civil War in Spotsylvania County, Virginia,” and asked the browser to search for all the words–not an easy search task in my opinion.  Almost instantly 299 weighted and scrollable entries appeared. The articles dated from 1864 to 1977.  Many of them were from publishers in cities of New York, but also a few from Philadelphia and Chicago. And there were excerpts from the documents included.  I was more than pleased–I was delighted!  I will certainly be using this site again in my genealogical searches.  Please give it a try to let me know what you think.

For complete text and links, go to: http://bit.ly/YT5KcL

A Time for Everything…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9:  A Time for Everything

1There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

4a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.


As the biblical verse says there is a time for everything and a season for every activity…This pretty much sums up my take on what used to be our family’s secure place to go when it was our time to weep and mourn the loss of our loved ones with friends and neighbors, to say our final goodbyes, and to wish them peace.  And often and awkwardly, this was the place where extended family embraced, reunited after long absences, and spoke of times past that sometimes even turned into times when we laughed.

Just south of Pennsylvania Avenue at 517-519 11th Street Southeast was a unique – at least for the Capitol Hill area – Art Deco building. Older maps show that, at the turn of the century, a couple of old wood-frame houses occupied the lot. They were used by a confectioner and as a milk store. In the early 1930s, the two buildings were bought by W. W. Chambers, who had been in the funeral business in Washington, D.C. for the past 20 years and he converted them into a funeral home.

Apparently the Chambers’ business boomed and expanded. The place on 11th St, SE was perfect, just off of Pennsylvania Avenue, and close to Congressional Cemetery, where they were responsible for many funerals. In November 1932 Chambers built a new structure with a remarkably modern design, with elaborate stonework over the windows, glass and metal decorations flanking the central section – and a clock on top to finish it off.

For the next 60 or so years, W. W. Chambers Co. flourished, even after Chambers himself died unexpectedly in 1954 at age 60. His wife and children continued the operation and expanded out into Maryland. In the early 1990s, however, the Chambers family sold the S.E. property and the Ralph Williams Funeral Home operated out of it for only a few years.  The buildings were then turned into the apartments that stand today, though the façade, and particularly the clock perched on top, show that it was not always used for this purpose.

But, most importantly, Chambers Funeral Home coördinated the arrangements for many of our loved ones funerals.  This site during the 1940’s and through the 1960’s is where many of our family members and friends gathered before official church services and interments began. This is the funeral home that my dad at  age 15 sneaked into to say goodbye to his estranged mother of 10 years.  This is the funeral home where I arrived before others to have some solitude and special quiet time with my dearly beloved maternal grandmother, Loretta Lathrop Ford, before others gathered to begin the services. This is also where we said goodbye the my maternal great-grandfather, John Carpenter Ford, my maternal grandfather, Robert Gideon “Roy” Ford, my paternal great-grandmother Lottie Taylor Chambers and my favorite maternal uncle John Austin Ford.

And, I guess my dear readers, you may have asked yourselves; “Is there a connection to my paternal family tree’s Chambers’ branches and W.W. Chambers, the renowned undertaker from Washington, DC?”  The answer today has to be from the genealogist:  “The Chambers family of the District of Columbia more than likely emigrated to the nation’s capitol from Pennsylvania where the first Scots-Irish, Benjamin Chambers was a passenger aboard “The Welcome” ship that embarked from Ireland and landed in Philadelphia, PA, in 1632.  It was this Chambers family that founded Chambersburg, PA, that is less than one hundred miles from the District of Columbia.”  Perhaps another post to further clarify and more fully answer the question of relationships will be in our future.


Together Again–Four Generations of the Chambers Family

Four Generations of Chambers-Boling Family


Four Generations of Chambers-Boling Family (left to right): Helen Louise Chambers Boling, daughter of Frank Maynard Chambers (center), Maude Johnston Chambers, mother of Frank Maynard Chambers; Forefront center, Frank Burton Boling, son of Helen Louise Chambers, grandson, and great grandson of others.

Lost and Found

For years, I thought there were no pictures of my dad as a little boy and especially none of his mother Helen Louise Chambers (1911-1944) born in Philadelphia, daughter of Frank Maynard Chambers (1864-1967) from Marion, Pennsylvania and Lottie Taylor (1890-1962) from Culpeper, Virginia.

I had totally forgotten that I made special albums in 2002 for mom for Mother’s Day and Dad for Father’s Day.  Lo and behold, dad’s album had the one and only picture that I am aware of that includes not only my dad and his mother together, but also his grandfather Frank Maynard and great grandmother Maude (Little Grandma) Johnston Chambers.

Today was truly the first day that I closely examined this photo.  I noticed immediately that my dad’s sister, Aunt Delores Ann Boling Stambaugh (1930-2008) bore a strong resemblance to her mother, Helen.

I also noticed that our newly discovered Grand Uncle (Maynard Nelle Chambers) bears a striking resemblance to his dad and to my dad today. (This Christmas marks the one-year anniversary of Maynard reaching out to our family after reading one of my earlier posts.)

Please note also that Maude’s left arm and hand are not shown.  Her top does have a slight bulge at her left side.  Perhaps she injured her arm and tucked it within her dress?

And finally, my dad and his mom captured in a photo together is quite significant. As well, as my dad being with his grandfather Frank Maynard.   If you have read any of my earlier posts about the Chambers-Taylor-Boling families (listed below) you will remember that Helen estranged herself from her husband Jesse Boling and their children when my dad was only 5.  And, Frank Maynard Chambers estranged himself from Lottie and the remaining family members in 1939-40.

My best guess is that this photo was taken when my dad, Frank Burton Boling was 4 or 5–that means it was taken in 1932-33.

And about my dad I just want to say:  It takes a strong man to live up to the definition of “father.” But, it takes a remarkable soul to fill the description of “dad.”  Wishing you a very happy 86th birthday on Sunday, December 7, 2014, dad.

 My Other Blog Posts About The Chambers-Boling-Taylor Families:

Busted “Brick Wall” Reveals More “Chambers”

100th Anniversary–Opening of the Panama Canal–August 15, 1914

Nearly 75 Years Later – A Family’s Unanswered Questions and Unsolved Mysteries Unravel

ISO my Family’s Sociological “Big Bang!”

What’s All This Fuss About a Groundhog Named Phil and Punx’a’what?

My Family of Secrets

The Taylor’s of Culpeper, Virginia (1877-1945)

My Family of Secrets

Behind My Passion



First National Day of Mourning, Thursday, November 26, 1970

Reblogged from MassMoments eMoments (emoments@massmoments.org):

On This Day…in 1970, a group of Native Americans attending a Thanksgiving feast in Plymouth walked out in protest. The Indians and their supporters gathered on a hill overlooking Plymouth Rock near a statue of Massasoit, the Wampanoag leader who had greeted the Mayflower passengers 350 years earlier. The protesters spoke about their long struggle to preserve their land and culture. The fourth Thursday in November was not a day for thanksgiving and feasting, they declared, but for grieving and fasting. As most Americans continued to observe the holiday in what had become the customary way — with football, parades, and family gatherings — the native people of Massachusetts began a new tradition: a “National Day of Mourning,” held in lieu of Thanksgiving celebrations.

A century ago, when heavy immigration brought large numbers of southern and eastern Europeans to the United States, civic groups and educators set out to “Americanize” these new citizens. At settlement houses, workplaces, and public schools, immigrants were taught to see the Pilgrims as models for their own families. The story of the “First Thanksgiving” was a key element in the curriculum. The tale of Pilgrims and Indians sharing a feast of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie became part of American lore.

The problem is that the familiar version of the “First Thanksgiving” is largely a myth — a myth that misrepresents the experience of the native people at Plymouth in 1620. The traditional Thanksgiving story evokes, and is usually taught as, a benign and mutually beneficial relationship between the Pilgrims and their Indian contacts. Many Native Americans believe this happy fiction hides the truth of how they were dispossessed of their lands, their religion, and their traditional way of life when the English colonists came to Massachusetts.

Even the phrase the “First Thanksgiving” is a misnomer. The Wampanoag Indians who lived in Plymouth Colony before the arrival of the Pilgrims considered all of nature to be a sacred gift from the Creator. They had been holding ceremonies to give thanks for plentiful harvests or other good fortune from time immemorial. The English settlers were also accustomed to setting aside a day of prayerful thanksgiving for divine providences; indeed, the English proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving for their safe arrival at Jamestown years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. The celebration that took place at Plymouth in the fall of 1621 was a traditional harvest celebration. Thanksgiving Day as we now know it would not develop for another 200 years.

After an abundant harvest in the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims decided to celebrate by holding a three-day feast with games and gun-firing. One of the colonists reported, “[M]any of the Indians [came] amongst us [including Massasoit and 90 men] whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation.” Food historians say that the menu probably featured duck, geese, turkey, pumpkin, squash, corn, and fresh and dried fruits, and berries (but no pies, since there was not enough flour or butter for crusts). The Indians would have understood this as the sort of gift-giving and celebration that they were accustomed to sharing with friends and allies.

Sadly, the good relations that marked the early contact between the Plymouth colonists and the native people did not last. Within a few decades, tension between the newcomers and the native people turned to open conflict; by 1700, warfare and disease forced most of the region’s surviving Indians onto reservations controlled by whites.

Political and religious leaders continued to declare days of fasting when times were hard and days of thanksgiving prayer when they were good. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, thanksgiving days in the fall had become annual events. The morning was spent in worship at the meetinghouse; the afternoon, feasting on the fruits of the harvest. An increasingly mobile population welcomed the annual Thanksgiving as an opportunity for loved ones to return home. By the second quarter of the nineteenth century, the day was a nearly sacred family occasion in New England.

In the 1840s, Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of an influential women’s magazine, launched a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. New Englanders had taken the custom with them when they moved west, but it was observed on different dates in different states and territories. Hale hoped that a national day of thanksgiving would strengthen family ties and bring unity to a country approaching civil war. Hale finally succeeded in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the fourth Thursday of November be set aside to give thanks and praise for the nation’s blessings. Not surprisingly, white Southerners considered Thanksgiving a “Yankee holiday”; it was not widely celebrated in the South until the Spanish-American war reunited the nation against a common foe.

As Thanksgiving became a fixture of American culture, the story of the “First Thanksgiving,” with its misrepresentation of the native experience, remained largely unchanged. In 1970 the protest in Plymouth began the process of educating the nation about the history and survival of the Wampanoag people.


Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday, by James W. Baker, University of New Hampshire, 2009.

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick (Viking, 2006).

Plimoth Planation’s articles on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: An American Holiday, An American History, by Diana K. Appelbaum (Facts on File Publication, 1984).

“Thanksgiving: Memory, Myth and Meaning,” in Plimoth Life, Vol. 1, 2002.

Thanksgiving Invites–Anyone Dead or Alive

Who’s On Your Guest List?

How many times in life have you been asked; “If you could invite anyone dead or alive to dinner, who would be your quests?”  And sometimes this question has a follow-up or two: “Why?” And, “What would you say to them?”

My Honored Guest List:

I would first invite Jesus Christ who has always been there for me and my family in good times and bad. He would lead us in a prayer of thanksgiving for our food and this special time together. He also would keep the conversations focused on what’s truly important in this life and impart a special message to us just before our time together ended.

For entertainment, I would invite the truly unique talent and voice of  Elvis Presley with his Jordanaire backup band. Elvis was more than a pop or rock n roll artist. His early love of music came from his spiritual and gospel beginnings.  In fact, I’d ask Elvis to sing “How Great Thou Art.”  “How Great Thou Art” appeared on the title track of Presley’s 1967 gospel album which won him his first Grammy. And then his live performance of it earned him yet another Grammy in 1974.

Mamma, Roy, and Uncle Johnny Mixing It Up with Family

And sitting around the table with today’s extended family would be my maternal grandparents, Roy and Loretta, and their son, my uncle, Johnny.  These are the people who loved and cared for me in my formative years.  These are the family members that taught me the importance of family and what it means to be a part of a nurturing environment.  I was so very blessed to have them in my life.  As I wrote in several of my posts over the past two years they all had qualities that made them larger than life in my eyes and my heart.

I recognize that my invite to them this Thanksgiving is solely selfish yet, they still could bestow their wisdom and guidance on those family members who followed after their passings and I would love for everyone to get to know these ancestors.

My grandfather, Roy, exemplified what it was to be “man of the house,” family provider, and strong in his silence rather than speak anything derogatory about others.  And, Roy could enlighten my brothers and other male family members about his days’ times and how extended families flocked together during hard times to more than just “weather through.”  Instead, families received their greatest gifts of quality times and fighting the good fights in trying times of survival mode.  Our son, Bobby, who says that Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday because of time spent with family would truly enjoy conversing with Roy.

I truly believe ’til this day that Mamma Loretta is my spiritual guide.  And, I talk with her nearly daily. I believe granddaughter Kylie and other female family members would thrive around Mamma and be in awe of some of the stories she could share from her past. Meanwhile, our daughter Jennifer and mamma could compare notes about women’s schedules of yesteryear vs. today’s women’s roles and responsibilities. Please believe me when I say my mamma was well ahead of her times and was a self-made female who shared her zest for life and confidence in going for it with me.

Uncle Johnny lived his life to the fullest in his short 37 years on this earth. He was always upbeat and full of energy.  Johnny had an overall great aura, if you will.  Everybody loved him and loved being around him because he added fun into our lives.  I just know our son and Johnny would get along famously because Jeff is so much like how I remember him.

A Line from Shapespeare…

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow That I shall say good night till it be morrow?

Unlike today’s thanksgivings when we so look forward to having the long day of preparation, hosting, clean up, and travel home come to a close, the end of this day would be the absolute hardest despite and because of all the good times with lost loved ones and reflections of memories now past.  Here’s where we rely on our faith to get us through it.–knowing that we will all be together again some day.

It’s All About That “Baste”

To lighten this somewhat solemn and somber ending to this post, I thought I’d share this clever parody of Meghan Trainor’s It’s All About That Bass:

And, now I’m asking you–“Who would be on your guest list?”

Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


What’s on the Thanksgiving Table in your Home State?

My Blog’s Second Year Anniversary

Two years ago this week I wrote my first blog post.  My purpose was to collect, clarify, authenticate, preserve, and publish all relevant genealogical information intended as a legacy to my family.  I want to leave them with as complete and accurate an accounting of our family’s past; to honor those who came before us; to remember loved ones who have passed on; and, to spiritually ground me through a greater sense of ancestral identity and history.

On this my blog’s second year anniversary, with nearly 200 posts behind me, and hopefully many more to follow, I thought I’d go back to my second post Our First Thanksgiving in Plymouth and bring it full circle to how we celebrate Thanksgiving with our families today.  As it would happen, just as I was preparing to sit down to write, a New York Times Facebook post appeared on my Facebook page “The United States of Thanksgiving: 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico), 52 recipes.”  The narratives include historic information about the people and foods of the area and the interactive displays include a drop down so readers can easily navigate to their favorite state to see what’s hot for Thanksgiving there without weeding or scrolling through all of the recipes.  The recipe windows are initially displayed in their minimized form, but when you click on the + sign the recipe window expands to include a picture and a link to the New York Times Cooking section that includes their article’s full narrative for that selected state and the recipe section’s full tools and options.  So I concluded, what better way to include my family’s cultures in our traditional Thanksgiving celebrations than to highlight The Times narratives and recipes for the primary states of our ancestors origin!

Colonial Settlements of My Immigrating Ancestors

Of my nearly 11,000 documentedImmigration to America ancestors, the first ones immigrated primarily from Great Britain, Ireland, and Europe West. Upon their arrivals, they settled primarily in five of the first 13 colonies: i.,e., Jamestown, VA; Plymouth and Boston, MA; New Haven CT; Raleigh, Wake County,NC and Southern MD.  So, I will provide links to each state’s recipe page that I discovered in The Times Facebook post.

  1. Virginia:  Corn Pudding
  2. Massachusetts:  Clam and Chouriço Dressing
  3. Connecticut:  Quince with Cipollini Onions and Bacon
  4. North Carolina:  Sweet Potato Cornbread
  5. Maryland:  Sauerkraut and Apples

I believe my favorites would be Maryland’s Sauerkraut and Apples and North Carolina’s Sweet Potato Cornbread.  I’m going to give them a try for this Thanksgiving with our extended family of about 30.  I’ll let you know how well they are or aren’t accepted.  You know, most everyone is at least somewhat reticent to change–but I’m gonna give it “the old college try”.

Our Ancestors’ Periods of Sleep Differed from Ours – Are We Doing It Wrong?

Familial Sleeping Disorders

Our daughter and I have sleeping disorders which prevent us from getting a full night’s rest filled sleep.  One of the best benefits of leaving my career job a few years ago was finding time to take a nap in the afternoons (not recommended, by the way) when life’s activities permit.  But, daughter continues to suffer through ongoing sleep deprivation while being a full time wife, mother of two young teens, church volunteer, and holding down an extremely demanding supervisory job that often consumes more than 50 hours a week in commute and projects.

Sleep deprivation in and of itself is unhealthy for us.  But, I notice that we tend to hold onto or fail to close our minds to life’s pressures and to enjoy life in the moment. Proper rest helps us put our life situations into perspective.  Sleep allows our brains to help us let go of and to effectively cope with life’s emotional baggage.

So, this past year our daughter stepped up her game.  She had a physical, which showed nothing apparent that would interfere with her sleep.  She did a body cleanse, switched to clean eating and proper hydration.  She probably lost about 20 pounds (which put her at a very healthy weight ).  She maintains a steady physical exercise program (where she is the class instructor).  And she works out  strenuously about six times a week.  This year’s new addition also included adding the sport of bicycling at least once a week with a team of church friends.  Each outing includes a mostly rural ride of about 25 miles.  Now that’s a full schedule if I ever saw one.  Yet–her mind doesn’t close off the day’s activities and she dozes at best most of the night.

Well, I came upon Collective Evolution’s article today that includes scientific and historical evidence to suggest the way in which most of us sleep might not actually be good for us.  Could, in fact, daughter’s mind and body be trying to tell her there’s a better way?  See what you think and let me know.

Below is Collective Evolution’s article in its entirety:

Our Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like We Do – Are We Doing It Wrong?
October 2, 2014 by

Evidence continues to emerge, both scientific and historical, suggesting that the way in which the majority of us currently sleep may not actually be good for us.

In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a paper that included over 15 years of research. It revealed an overwhelming amount of historical evidence that humans used to in fact sleep in two different chunks. (1)

In 2005, he published a book titled “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past,” that included more than 500 references to a disjointed sleeping pattern. It included diaries, medical books, literature and more taken from various sources which include Homer’s Odyssey all the way to modern tribes in Nigeria and more.

“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge.” –Ekrich (source)

What Was Found In The Research

Ekirch’s research found that we didn’t always sleep for an average of 8 hours straight. Instead we would sleep in two shorter periods throughout the night. All sleep would occur within a 12 hour time frame that started with 3 or 4 hours of sleep, followed by being awake for 3 hours or so and then sleeping again until the morning.

There was also some research done in the early 1990’s by psychiatrist Thomas Wehr. He conducted an experiment where 14 people were put into complete darkness for 14 hours a day for an entire month. By the fourth week the participants were able to settle into a very distinct sleeping pattern. The pattern was the same as Ekirch suggested of how we were meant to sleep; the subjects slept for approximately 4 hours, woke for another few and then went back to sleep until morning. (2)

“Ekirch found that references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th Century. This started among the urban upper classes in northern Europe and over the course of the next 200 years filtered down to the rest of Western society. By the 1920’s the idea of a first and second sleep had receded entirely from our social consciousness.” (source)


Possible Reasons As To Why It Was Like This

One reason could be that this type of segmented sleep is what really comes natural to the human body, at least that’s what Wehr’s experiment suggests, but there are other theories.

Historian Craig Koslofsky suggests:

“Associations with night before the 17th Century were not good.  The night was a place populated by people of disrepute – criminals, prostitutes and drunks. Even the wealthy, who could afford candlelight, had better things to spend their money on. There was no prestige or social value associated with staying up all night.”(source)

Things changed, however, in 1667 when Paris became the first city in the world to light its streets, and eventually throughout Europe staying up at night became the social norm, and then the industrial revolution happened:

“People were becoming increasingly time-conscious and sensitive to efficiency, certainly before the 19th Century, but the industrial revolution intensified that attitude by leaps and bounds.” (source)

Eventually, we got to the point where parents were forcing their children to sleep at a certain time, and forced them out of the segmented sleeping pattern that was more dominant.

Many Sleeping Problems May Have Roots In The Human Body’s Natural Preference For Segmented Sleep

Ekirch believes that many modern day sleeping problems have roots in the human body’s natural preference for segmented sleep. He believes that our historical sleeping patterns could be the reason why many people suffer from a condition called “sleep maintenance insomnia,” where individuals wake in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep. This type of condition first appeared at the end of the 19th century, approximately the same time segmented sleep began to die off.

For most of evolution we slept a certain way. Waking up during the night is part of normal human physiology.The idea that we must sleep in a consolidated block could be damaging, he says, if it makes people who wake up at night anxious, as this anxiety can itself prohibit sleep and is likely to seep into waking life too.”  – Psychologist Greg Jacobs (source)

According to Russell Foster, a professor of circadian [body clock] neuroscience at Oxford:

Many people wake up at night and panic. I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern. But the majority of doctors still fail to acknowledge that a consolidated eight-hour sleep may be unnatural. Over 30% of the medical problems that doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep. But sleep has been ignored in medical training and there are very few centers where sleep is studied.” (source)

As far as what people did during this in between time of wakefulness, Ekirch’s research suggests that they primarily used the time to meditate on their dreams, read, pray or partake in spiritual practices.

Related CE Articles:

The Best and Worst Sleeping Positions and How They Affect Your Health 

Alternative Sleep Cycles: 7 – 10 Hours Are Not Needed

How Cumulative Sleep Debt Is Impacting Your Brain Functioning and Alertness






Rated BP-14

This Post contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age

When both your parents have Alzheimer’s dementia you often live your life in the midst of turmoil with only an occasional few moments of reprieve from strife, unrest, anxiety, confusion, and other medical maladies.  That pretty much describes my yesterday. And then, after spending the night and regulating blood pressures, blood sugars, and personalities, there comes a totally unexpected moment that returns love and laughter to the family mix.

Does this happen with your family during mealtime? Or, is it just a phenomenon in ours?

It happened while at the lunch table and the parents “quite normally” started discussing/comparing bodily fluids and functions.  So, our family’s octogenarian patriarch adds a recitation to the conversation, as follows:
man on toilet

Now I’m sitting in all my bliss,

Listening to the trickling piss,

Every once in a while a fart is heard

Which gives the warning of a coming turd! –AHHHH

All of us–mom, dad and me–belly laughed. Here I am in my 60’s, and never before have I heard my dad come out with this little rhyme. But it will always be one of those funny moments not soon forgotten and one that I quickly shared with the rest of the fam via instant messaging!

And for those of you interested in the poem’s author–I couldn’t find one when I searched online.  Gheez, could it be a dad original?  He does remain a man of unfiltered communication, one of quick wit and also one on occasion who has been known to be full of it.  With my forever love and respect, I share this my readers in hopes those in similar situations who need a laugh found one in this post.