Are You the Apple of Your Family’s Eye . . .

Or, the One Rotten Fruit that Spoils the Bushel?

As I draft this post, my husband and I are driving to Virginia to be with our eldest son, Bobby’s family.  We are joining him, his wife, and their youngest of three sons, Andy, who is graduating from the Virginia Police Academy on Friday.  Bobby’s other two sons are serving our Country in the United States Air Force and are away at their duty stations.

But recently, as the school season came to a close and we have celebrated mother’s day, and preparing to celebrate father’s day, I realized most of the focus of my life, especially recently, has been on Family.

In fact at our church, Chesapeake Church in Huntingtown, MD., we just finished up a 9-week teaching series “Family:”

This superb series looked at today’s challenging dynamics and lifestyles within our christian family community.  It’s weekly messages included: “We are Family,” “The Single Family,” “The Married Family,” “The Very Married Family,” “Adding Kids to the Family,” “Raising Kids in the Family,” “The Blended Family,” “The Seasoned Family,” and “The Deeply Rooted Family.”  My eyes and heart opened to the potential volume of strengths in understanding, patience, communication, cooperation, mutual love and respect required for any and all members of these families to stay on the same page together and to lead successful and individually fulfilling lives within whatever type of family we live.

One day we’re born into a family, for better or for worse. . .

Netflix BloodlineMeanwhile, searching for some downtime entertainment, I surfed Netflix.  I happened upon a Netflix Original Series “Bloodline.” Among its stars were Kyle Chandler and Sissy Spacek, actors that I am familiar with. But, it was the title, “Bloodline,”   that most appealed to my family historian/genealogist proclivities.  So I decided I’d start watching the series at Season 1, Episode 1, released March 20, 2015.

No surprises here. Bloodline’s TV Series was a direct dichotomy to the 9-week series on family we had just studied at church.  In fact, free us of f-bombs and a couple of unnecessary adult nudity scenes disappointed me.   But, the realistic inter-family dynamics and dialogues intrigued me.  To paraphrase Glenn Kessler, one of the series originators:  Our DNA is such that the past is always with us”, and, “We’re going to learn more about one son’s effect on a family …”

Although based in the beautiful Florida Keys, “Bloodline” is a dark drama that explores family secrets that lurk just beneath the surface of a contemporary American family’s persona. The Rayburns’–they are hard-working and respected pillars in their community.  Their eldest son of five children, Danny,  AKA the “black sheep,” has just returned home.  It’s the 45th anniversary of his parents’ hotel.  Childhood memories are shared, old familial behaviors and dynamics quickly resurface, and Danny’s mere presence threatens to expose his family’s dark secrets and shameful past.  Deputy Sheriff John Rayburn, the next eldest Rayburn son and Danny’s champion, wants family relationships to smooth out and for Danny to be successful this time back.  And, as the ancient proverb goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” So, yes, despite all the siblings good intentions, events spiral, a series of  lies to protect family members unravel, family loyalties are pushed to their limits, and all their futures remain in a severely menacing peril.  And yes, after binge watching Bloodline, there is a cliffhanger to which I can’t imagine a good outcome.  But the good news is, it looks like in Season 3 next year we will find out how, or if, this family survives as a unit, or whether any individuals rise above their deeply frayed fabric.

As for me and my family, our brief trip for our grandson’s graduation was fantastic.  We spent nearly two full days of quality time together.  And, best of all, our grandson gave us a hearty thank you “for always being there for important family events that mean so much to me.”  Likewise, family means everything to us–the spontaneous get togethers, supporting family through rough patches, and the culmination of successes celebrated with planned family events.

And, I close this post having just returned from year four of our biblical family’s Annual Dragon Boat Race Festival at North Beach, MD, where we come together to play and raise money to support our local End Hunger in Calvert County Charity. #givewhereyoulive — Another Great Family–and no bad apples!


Remembering Our Mount Calvary School (MCS) and Community

June 6, 2016:

FYI: Dan Dusseau, former Mount Calvary School student  received this email about Mount Calvary’s School Closing Mass on 06/12/16 @ 10:30 am . . .

As you may have already heard, Mount Calvary Catholic School will be
closing our doors at the end of the School term on June 10, 2016.
Alumni and supporters are invited to join us for the 10:30am Closing
Mass on June 12, 2016, followed by a reception in the “Blue Room” of
Mount Calvary Catholic School. We are very grateful to those of you
that continued to believe in the value of education and our students at
Mount Calvary Catholic School. Your participation in donating to our
Annual Appeals had an impact on the future of our students, as many of
you and your families once had. We are very saddened that our
enrollment was not increasing and we had deep deficits to cover.

It has been an inspiration hearing from former students online that
shared their memories and how their lives were impacted by their early
Catholic School education. We have had the opportunity to share in our
students many accomplishments through academics and school performances.

My personal THANK YOU! These may seem like two small words but them
hold a great deal of appreciation and gratitude. In my few years hear,
I have had a great admiration for the staff and students. It too breaks
my heart for it to come to an end. However, trusting in God and knowing
that His Will be done, I will continue to give my best.

Please keep our staff in your prayers that they may find new positions
and that our dearly loved students will adjust successfully in their new
schools. We will continue to keep you lifted in ours. Our school theme
of “We Are Family” reminds us that you definitely have been an
important part of our extended family. Again, thank you for supporting
the vision and mission of Mount Calvary Catholic School to enliven the
hearts and minds of young men and women to better our society.


Regina L. Barrett, School Advancement Coordinator
Mount Calvary Catholic School
6704 Marlboro Pike
Forestville, MD 20747

May 31, 2016:  From the ongoing comments on this site and among FaceBook friends, it appears that former Mount Calvary students from across the country plan to attend the June 12 mass at Mount Calvary.  How very inspirational!  Looking forward to seeing everyone there.

May 9, 2016 It’s very inspiring to see the number of comments and articles by others due to the word of mouth about Mount Calvary’s closing.  Here’s another, this time, written by…

Source: Remembering Our Mount Calvary School (MCS) and Community

How Deaf Children Should Communicate–“I’m Trying to Get People to Hear Us . . .”

. . . Says Extraordinary Dance Contestant and Advocate for American Sign Language, Nyle DiMarco


I hope this post’s title and headline caught your attention. It actually follows on to two of my posts from 2014 where I discussed deaf heritage among our ancestors in the Boling/Bolling/Bowling and Randolph family lines from the 1700’s in England and then Virginia: Our Deaf Heritage and Our Deaf Heritage, Part 2.

Yes, it was our British ancestors who helped found America and the first schools for the hearing impaired here, and later, the infamous Gallaudet University in the District of Columbia. Since these two posts, I have noted more online discussions among our present day families within these lines who suffer from varying degrees of hearing impairments.  But more so, this post shares the epitome of one indomitable deaf man’s desire to advocate for America’s hearing impaired community whose presence in our society is often subject to much prejudice and misconceptions: “they are old,” “less intelligent,” “mentally ill,” or “they only hear what they want to hear.”

Nearly 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss and, shockingly so, only 25 percent of those people have hearing aids. It seems that Americans avoid getting hearing aids, not only for reasons of cost or accessibility, but due to fear of being perceived as older, uncool, or socially awkward.

Check out this site for some current and quick statistics about hearing loss.

Before sharing Nyle DiMarco’s (last night’s winner on “Dancing With the Stars”), DWTS, incredible story, I’d like you to see him and his professional dance partner Peta Murgatroyd perform one of the best dances all time in the longstanding history of this show–set to “The Sound of Silence” and dedicated to the deaf community, particularly deaf children:

For the record, Nyle DiMarco is an actor, model and spokesman. He is a native of Queens, New York and was born into a fourth generation deaf family. He is an alumnus of Gallaudet University, the only liberal arts university in the world for the deaf. He has 2 brothers–one of them, a fraternal twin. He moved to Maryland where he attended and graduated from Maryland School for the Deaf. Then, he graduated from Gallaudet University, the most popular university in Deaf culture–and a “mecca for deaf culture,” that helped inspire his confidence and political activism …

Nyle DiMarco worked to help pass bill SB-210, aiming to ensure all deaf and hard-of-hearing children are kindergarten-ready in the California education system, which passed in October.

“There are so many deaf kids out there being deprived of their own language (ASL),” he said in an email interview. He recently established the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, the main goal of which is to improve deaf infants’ access to sign language education.

Nyle’s story follows:

Parents of Deaf Children, Stuck in the Middle of an Argument

From New York Time Well Blog

Author TINA DONVITO (a freelance writer who blogs at

March 24, 2016


A long-simmering controversy erupted this spring over how deaf children should communicate.

It started when The Washington Post ran a story on Nyle DiMarco, the deaf “Dancing With the Stars contestant who is also an advocate for American Sign Language (ASL). When Meredith Sugar, president of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, retorted that ASL was becoming obsolete in light of better hearing aid and cochlear implant technology, the arguing went public. But that debate was really just the latest manifestation of a longstanding conflict among deaf people and parents of deaf children: Should children be fitted for hearing aids and taught to speak, or should they use sign language? Or a combination of both?

As the parent of a 2-year-old whose hearing loss was recently diagnosed, the arguments only heightened my anxiety about how to address my son Sam’s needs. After his diagnosis, Sam’s doctors assumed he would get hearing aids, which he would need for the rest of his life. ASL was not mentioned as an option. Because Sam has residual hearing — his loss is mild in one ear and moderate to severe in the other — I went along with their recommendation.

One friend, a speech therapist whose brother is deaf, told me not to sign at all with Sam because he would use it as a crutch instead of learning to speak. This made sense to me, and for a while after Sam was aided, his therapist, a teacher of the deaf, focused on his listening and speaking skills. The hearing aids gave him more access to sound, but he still had trouble processing all that new information and figuring out how to replicate it through spoken language.

Although his speech did improve, the frustration I continued to see in his face when he tried to tell me something was heartbreaking. Tantrums were frequent. Sam started coming up with his own signs, such as a chomping motion with his arms when he wanted to wear his dragon shirt. He was searching for any way to communicate.

So, I asked his therapist about incorporating sign. But instead of using ASL, which is its own language with a grammatical structure different from that of English, she advised “signed English.” This incorporates ASL signs but in a way that mimics spoken language. Although some children are taught to be bilingual in ASL and English, ASL is not designed to represent English directly. The benefit of learning signed English, Sam’s therapist said, is that he could sign and speak at the same time. Plus, when it comes time to learn to read, it’s not as much of an adjustment. “Learning ASL and then learning to read English is very tough,” she said. “It would be like learning Chinese.”

I’ve come to think of signing as a tool for Sam to learn English. The majority of the world is hearing. Only two to three children out of 1,000 are born with hearing loss, and more than 90 percent of them to hearing parents. Those who say not teaching ASL to hard-of-hearing children is language deprivation only vilify parents who are trying to find a bridge between the hearing and deaf worlds.

And it’s hard for parents like me to know which world their hard-of-hearing child should be in – or even what words to use to talk about it. Because Sam had some hearing I hesitated to refer to him as “deaf.” Many deaf people feel the term “hearing impaired” implies a deficit and focuses on a disability, so I settled on “hard-of-hearing.” But after talking with an advocate for deaf children in the New Jersey Early Intervention System, I realized there is not a clear delineation between deaf and hearing — it’s more like a spectrum. “When you say ‘mild hearing loss,’ people think it’s easily fixable,” she told me. “In fact, children with mild or moderate loss sometimes have an even more difficult time because they can hide their inability to hear.”

Hearing aids aren’t perfect, and certain situations, like a noisy classroom or restaurant, will still be difficult. As an alternative, many in the Deaf community — who capitalize the “D” to indicate a sense of unity and celebration — embrace their lack of hearing as an identity, avoid hearing aids and amplification altogether and focus on ASL. In this sense, being Deaf is more than a specific state of hearing; it’s being part of a specific culture that’s inclusive of those with mild as well as profound hearing loss. Many Deaf people feel well-meaning parents are pushed by doctors, audiologists and groups like AG Bell to try to make their children fit in with the hearing world through technology. But as Sam’s audiologist said to me, “Lots of people have glasses, so why should hearing aids be thought of any differently?”

Although in principle she may be right, hearing aid use in children, which requires years of visits with doctors, audiologists and speech therapists, remains controversial. Sam’s doctor told me that some in the Deaf community would think it’s “child abuse” for her to perform cochlear implant surgery, the next step in technology if over-the-ear aids aren’t effective. “They’d have me thrown in jail,” she said. This anti-technology attitude means that many parents who choose aids or implants wonder where their kids fit in. They’re not quite hearing, not quite deaf, and maybe not even Deaf.

Instead of a united front advocating for deaf and hard-of-hearing children, I’ve found a community struggling with internal conflict. As in politics, extremists on either side have created an environment that makes it hard for those in the middle to feel comfortable discussing the issues. I’m making decisions for my son, but I don’t know whether he will agree with them when he’s older. But what would help parents the most is a community that could talk openly to work through the options without judgment or dogma. What would best benefit my son — and me, in making choices for him — is better support for whichever decision we make.

World’s Oldest and Last Living Person Born in the 1800s

116 Years Difference in Time, Yet Not So Very Different 

Although Emma Martina Luigia Morano was born 29 November 1899, and not in the 21st Century, she was born amid “large-scale economic change, job uncertainty, the politics of extremism and paranoia, arguments over America’s international role, and racial conflicts,” to quote Fritz Lanham of the Houston Chronicle.  

According to H.W. Brands, author of The Reckless Decade; Just as we do today, Americans of the 1890s faced changes in economics, politics, society, and technology that led to wrenching and sometimes violent tensions between rich and poor, capital and labor, white and black, East and West.

The 1890s saw the closing of the American frontier and a shift toward imperialist ambitions. Populists and muckrakers grappled with robber barons and gold-bugs. Americans addressed the unfinished business of Reconstruction by separating blacks and whites. Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and other black leaders clashed over the proper response to continuing racial inequality. Those on top of the economic heap—Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan—created vast empires of wealth, while those at the bottom worked for dimes a day.”

As a reconteur of family history set within the backdrop of a developing America, I read the AP article below, and my mind was deluged with thoughts and questions about Emma’s living conditions, her role in her family and society, and how many other achievements she may have accomplished aside from her probable genetic phenomenon of being the oldest person in the world, and the oldest Italian ever.

Searching a little further, I discovered that Emma married Giovanni Martinuzzi at age 27; they had one child ten years later; the baby died at six months old; and, that her marriage was an unhappy one so she kicked out Giovanni in 1938–but, she never divorced him.

Until 1954, Emma worked in her town for the Maioni Industry, a jute factory that made twine, rope, woven sacks and matting. Her other job was in the kitchen of Collegio Santa Maria, a Marianist boarding school in Pallanza, until she was 75 and then she retired.

And yet another phenom, she lived alone until her 115th birthday.

Italian woman, 116, seen as last living person born in 1800s

Author:  Associated Press, Inc. – Photographer:  Antonio Calanni, May 13, 2016116 Year Old Italian Woman

VERBANIA, Italy (AP) — Surrounded by relatives and neighbors, Italy’s Emma Morano greeted with a smile the news that she, at 116, is now the oldest person in the world.

Not only that, but Morano is believed to be the last surviving person in the world born in the 1800s, with a birthdate of Nov. 29, 1899. That’s just 4 ½ months after Susannah Mushatt Jones, who died Thursday in New York, also at 116.

Journalists on Friday descended on Morano’s home in Verbania, a northern Italian mountain town overlooking Lake Major, to document her achievement, but had to wait until she finished a nap to greet her. Morano lives in a neat one-room apartment, which she no longer leaves, and is kept company by a caregiver and two elderly nieces.

Morano told The Associated Press last year that she attributes her longevity to her unusual diet: Raw eggs every day — a diet she’s been on for decades after a sickly childhood. She said she is down to two raw eggs a day and 150 grams of raw steak after a bout of anemia.

“My father brought me to the doctor, and when he saw me he said, ‘Such a beautiful girl. If you had come just two days later, I would have not been able to save you.’ He told me to eat two or three eggs a day, so I eat two eggs a day,” she said at the time.

Her physician, Dr. Carlo Bava, is convinced there’s a genetic component to Morano’s longevity along with her positive attitude.

“From a strictly medical and scientific point of view, she can be considered a phenomenon,” he said last year, noting that Morano has been in stable, good health for years.

Italy is known for its centenarians — many of whom live on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia — and gerontologists at the University of Milan are studying Morano, along with a handful of Italians over 105, to try to figure out why they live so long.

During a visit last summer, Morano was in feisty spirits, displaying the sharp wit and fine voice that used to stop men in their tracks.

“I sang in my house, and people on the road stopped to hear me singing. And then they had to run, because they were late and should go to work,” she recalled, before breaking into a round of the 1930s Italian love song “Parlami d’amore Mariu.”

“Ahh, I don’t have my voice anymore,” she lamented.

Witches and Witchcraft Revisited–Another Brick Wall Downed!

Mary Bliss Parsons - 9th great auntJust a short 3-1/2 years ago (November 15, 2012) I wrote my first post Hello World! to this blog site.  In it, I alleged my family may have an ancestor who was accused of being a witch in Massachusetts.  (Note that most women, and men, who were accused of witchcraft in the 15th-19th Centuries were feared for their nonconformist ways more than anything else.)  If you go to this post’s link, you will also find at the bottom of it, links to three more posts that include mentions of witches and witchcraft in them over the next eight-month period.  Despite all my research and readings I didn’t find specific evidence of any alleged witches among my ancestors until today–exactly 341 years after a Boston jury reached its verdict on charges that Mary Bliss Parsons, my 9th maternal great aunt, was accused of being a witch.  Here’s the brief article I discovered:

Jury Finds Mary Bliss Parsons Not Guilty of Witchcraft: May 13, 1675
Published by May 13, 2016

Mary Bliss Parsons and childOn this day in 1675, a Boston jury reached a verdict in the case of Mary Bliss Parsons of Northampton: they found her not guilty of witchcraft. In seventeenth-century New England, virtually everyone believed in witches. Hundreds of individuals faced charges of practicing witchcraft. They were women, or sometimes men, who had “signed the Devil’s Book” and were working on his behalf. Their wickedness was blamed for calamities ranging from ailing animals to the death of infant children. While most of the accused never went to trial or were, like Mary Parsons, acquitted, not everyone was so lucky. Six Massachusetts women were hanged as witches in the years before the infamous Salem witch trials, which claimed 24 innocent lives.

I referred to the following free e-book on Google Play to learn further facts about the allegations of witchcraft against Mary Bliss Parsons. Page 15 is the digital page number where her story begins:

Parsons family: descendants of Cornet Joseph Parsons, Springfield, 1636–Northampton, 1655, Volume 1 

Frank Allaben Genealogical Company, 1912
The Strong Witch SocietyD. H. Parsons (9th great grandson of Mary Bliss Parsons), on January 19, 2011, authored a much different perspective of Mrs. Parsons’ involvement in Witchcraft and Witch Societies in his 4-star rated book:  The Strong Witch Society: The Diary of Mary Bliss Parsons.  The following is Amazon’s summary about it:
In 1675, Mary Bliss Parsons, the author’s great grandmother nine times removed, was tried for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. She was acquitted only because her husband, Joseph, was able to purchase her freedom. Such is the known history of Mary Bliss Parsons. What is not so well known is that Mary was a member of a small but powerful group of witches, The Strong Witch Society. After her death in 1712, it became Mary’s purpose to somehow “awaken” in the mind and spirit of one of her future descendants in order to reinstitute The Strong Witch Society. The author is that grandchild. What unfolds on the pages of this book is a rollercoaster of supernatural events and ‘lessons’ designed with the express purpose of calling together the remaining Strong Witches in order to divert an impending world disaster. This book is about far more than just Witches. It introduces and covers many other subjects including Alien Contact, Inter-Dimensional Travel, the Natural Disasters our world is facing today, political crises, and etc. It offers Simple solutions on how to deal with all of those problems before it is too late. It gives information on how you the reader can actually help to solve the problems without much effort at all. But time is running short. And always remember that this book is true, not fiction, not conjecture, not theory.
This jury remains out for me, and many references have surfaced since my initial research. So, I guess I have a lot more reading to do before I draw my conclusions about my 9th great aunt, Mrs. Mary Bliss Parsons.

May 13, 2016: Jamestown Colony’s 409th Anniversary

Four hundred and nine years ago today (May 13, 1607), one hundred colonists (dispatched from England by the London Company) arrived along the west bank of the James River.  The next day they founded the first permanent English settlement in what is now the Virginia, known as the”James Fort.”

As I have written in other posts on my blog, it was during the next two years that disease, starvation, and Native American attacks wiped out most of the colony.  Yet, the London Company continually sent more settlers and supplies. The colonists referred to the severe winters of 1609 to 1610, as the “starving time.” These severe winters and lack of supplies were attributed with killing most of the Jamestown colonists and the survivors to plan a return to England in the spring.

On June 10, 1610, however, Thomas West De La Warr, the newly appointed governor of Virginia, arrived with supplies and convinced the settlers to stay at Jamestown. In 1612,  John Thomas Rolfe, my 10th Paternal Great Grandfather cultivated the first tobacco at Jamestown, introducing a successful source of livelihood.  Unfortunately, on March 22, 1622, he killed in an indian massacre on the Jamestown colony.

Jamestown ChurchThis photo taken in  the 1900’s shows the fifth church in the settlement.  

In one of his books, Captain John Smith wrote of building the first structure at Jamestown that was used as a church. According to his account, the settlers stretched a sail among the boughs and used rails to build the sides of the structure. They sat on benches made of unhewn tree trunks. The altar was simply a log nailed to two neighboring trees. This was a purely temporary arrangement and is not counted as a church building.

First Church — In 1607, the settlers built the first real church inside the fort. Smith related that this was a barn-like structure, but he gave few details. The settlers worshipped in it until it was destroyed by fire in January 1608.

Second Church — The church which was built after the fire in 1608 was similar in appearance to the first church. When Lord De La Warr arrived as governor in 1610, he found that the church had fallen into a sad state of disrepair, so he had it restored and its furnishings improved. It is assumed that this is the church in which Ann Burras and John Laydon were married and their daughter, Virginia Laydon, was later baptized.

When Captain Samuel Argall came to Jamestown in 1617, he found “but five or six houses, the church down, the palisades broken, the bridge in pieces, the well of fresh water spoiled, the storehouse used for the church; the marketplace, the streets and all other spare places planted with tobacco; the savages as frequent in their homes as themselves, whereby they were to become their “experts in our arms”…the Colony dispersed all about planting Tobacco.”

Third Church — From 1617-1619, when Samuel Argall was governor, he had the inhabitants of Jamestown build a new church “50 foot long and twenty-foot broad.” It was a wooden church built on a one-foot-wide foundation of cobblestones capped by a wall one brick thick. When visiting Jamestown today, you can see these foundations under the glass on the floor of the present building. The First Assembly was held in the third church. This church is best remembered as the meeting place of the first Representative Legislative Assembly, which convened there on July 30, 1619. This church endured until 1639, when it was replaced by a brick structure.

Fourth Church — In January 1639 Governor John Harvey reported that he, the Council, the ablest planters, and some sea captains “had contributed to the building of a brick church” at Jamestown. This church was slightly larger than the third church and was built around it. It was still unfinished in November 1647 when efforts were made to complete it.  Ten years later a fifth church was functioning, probably using the walls and foundations of the fourth church. Sometime after it was finished a brick church tower was added. During Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, this church was burned.

Fifth Church —  About 10 years after the 1676 burning, the fifth church was functioning, probably using the walls and foundations of the fourth church. Sometime after it was finished a brick church tower was added. The tower is the only seventeenth-century structure still standing above ground at Jamestown.

The tower is slightly over 18 feet square and the walls are three feet thick at the base. Originally the tower was about 46 feet high (ten feet higher than the ruins) and was crowned with a wooden roof and belfry. It had two upper floors as indicated by the large beam notches on the inside. Six small openings at the top permitted light to enter and the sound of the bell or bells to carry across river and town. This church was used until the 1750s when it was abandoned. Although the tower remained intact, the building fell into ruins by the 1790s when the bricks were salvaged and used to build the present graveyard wall. Throughout the nineteenth century the tower remained a silent symbol to Americans of their early heritage. It was strengthened and preserved shortly after the APVA acquired it in the 1890s.


The Present Church — The Memorial Church building was constructed in 1906 by the National Society, Colonial Dames of America just outside the foundations of the earlier churches. It was dedicated May 13, 1907.


Immigration — A Hot Topic!

The Joy of Discovering New Information

Some of you may know that I am a retired career employee from the U.S. Census Bureau.  I love my family and sharing the statistics and data that make up my heritage, family history, and the perpetual stories that keep coming from new discoveries.   Although retired now for nearly five years, I keep active with the newest and finest technologies, video graphics, and live charts.  I want people to enjoy, visualize and better understand past times and changes in the world over time as they may have related to their families and mine.

As far back as 2010, I first shared one of my visualization idol’s videos:  200 Countries, 200 Years–The Joy of Stats created by my peer and former national colleague from Statistics Sweden, and now renowned spokesperson Dr. Hans Rosling.  Hans and his son, Ola, built Gapminder, a software application that allows you to input raw statistics and automate them into meaning infographics.  Dr. Rosling has now produced many exceptional videos and made hundreds of live data presentations which he shares regularly on YouTube and at the TED conferences, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give talks about their specialties in 18 minutes or less.

Who And What is Metrocosm?

Much like Dr. Rosling, Max Galka, is a twenty-something New Yorker, an entrepreneur and all around data geek, and a Huffington Post contributor. Max built his Metrocosm website to focus on the graphical and storytelling side of data and to use it to offer new perspectives on familiar topics that analyze life through statistics and data.

And, just a few days ago on Facebook, I came upon Max’s recent interactive map that remains a hot topic in the news on the presidential campaign trail–Immigration.

This map focuses on about two centuries of immigration (from 1820 to 2013), and illustrates how 79 million people migrated to the United States to get lawful permanent resident status. It visualizes emigrants based on their earlier country of residence, and the brightness of a country corresponds to its total migration to the U.S. at a given time.  Each dot represents 10 thousand people.  And what I noted first was for the first 70 years, immigrants arrived from three countries only:  Ireland, Germany, and the United Kingdom (which includes the British Isles).  In 1892 you see Italy joins the top three countries and about 10 years later, Russians and Hungarians start arriving.  It wasn’t until the 1950’s that we start to see Mexican, Cuban, and Filipino’s immigrating.

As for the numbers of emigrants arriving–we first noticed in 1820 about 130,000 immigrants.  In 1840, the number rose to just over 1.4 million; by 1850 the numbers doubled in that 10-year-span to 2.8 million.  Then in 1880, there were 5.2 million, or nearly double again, though this time it was within a 30 year span. Twenty years later, immigration levels rose to 8.2 million.  They dropped by 2 million during the WWI period; and dropped by another 2 million in the early Roaring 20’s. With the onset of the Great Depression the number dropped below 1 million again to only about 700,000. Post WWII immigration jumped back up to 2.5 million.  For 1960-69,  there were 3.2 million ; 1970-79, 4.2 million; 1980-89, 6.2 million; 1990-99, immigration peaked at 9.9 million, then rose again starting in 2000-2009 to 10.3 million; and in 2010-2013, the number of emigrants dropped dramatically to  4.1 million. Immigration from Mexico has been a constant country listed in the top three countries emigrating since 1970; as has “Other Asian” countries since 1980 (which excludes the Philippines because it was included separately.  And, as late as 2000, the graph shows China among the top three countries whose people migrated to the U.S.

I’d like to say I had answers for why people from certain countries chose to migrate to the United States at certain times, but I’d rather hear comments from my readers about why they think people from the various countries chose to come to America when they did.  Too, it would be interesting to see how many Americans out migrated to other countries in a parallel graphic.  I think I’ll contact Max to see what he has to say about preparing one for us.  I’ll let you know when I hear back.

Honoring My Home State on Maryland’s 228th Anniversary

On April 28 in 1788, Maryland became the 7th state admitted to the United States. During our nation’s first census in 1790, Maryland’s population numbered 319,728. By the 1790 Census the United States had expanded to 13 states and its total population was just under 4 million (3,929,214).  The Census Bureau estimates and projections program estimated that Maryland’s population in 2014 was just under 6 million (5,976,407), and the United State’s population nearly 320 million (318,857,056).  The United States has grown about 80 times the size it was 220 years ago, while Maryland’s population grew  about nearly 19 times its originally counted population in 1790.

MD 2010 CensusLike so many other native-born Americans, my earliest ancestors helped settle America about 16 generations ago.  They came primarily from England and the British Isles.  My paternal ancestors landed in 1609 in Jamestown, Virginia, and my maternal ancestors in 1620 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

It was my paternal grandfather who ventured from Virginia  to Maryland through the District of Columbia in and around 1930, when my dad was just two years old.  Likewise, my mom’s family came from the south through the District of Columbia in 1920. I was the first child in my parent’s family to be born a first generation Marylander and I am proud to call Maryland my home state.

Maryland’s Nicknames: America in Miniature, Old Line State, Free State

Maryland has been called “America in Miniature” because there is so much packed into its 12,407 square miles of land and water.  Being a Mid-Atlantic state it is defined by its abundant waterways and coastlines on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic. Native Americans living along its shores gave the Bay an Algonquian name. Chesepiook, meaning “great shell-fish bay.” This name signified the abundance of crabs, oysters, and clams. In June 1608, Captain John Smith led two voyages throughout the Chesapeake Bay, and in its midst European settlers first landed at St. Clement’s Island, Maryland, in 1634.

Maryland is for crabsYet, it was not until 1989, that Maryland’s Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus Rathbun) was designated the State Crustacean (Chapter 724, Acts of 1989; Code General Provisions Article, sec. 7-303).  The blue crab’s scientific name translates as “beautiful swimmer that is savory.” Its name honors Mary Jane Rathbun (1860-1943), the scientist who described the species in 1896.

Blue crabs are Maryland’s culinary specialty. Meat from the Blue crab has been compared to the sweetness of lobster meat; the flavor best appreciated by cracking and eating steamed hard shells or feasting on soft shells. Restaurants and homes alike steam or saute crabs.  They shape the raw meat into crab cakes and bake, broil or fry them.  Then there’s Crab Imperial–a special tangy rich delicacy served in a pie dish, or Maryland’s wonderful cream of crab and crab bisque soups, or savory hot or cold crab dips to be eaten with bread or crackers.

Maryland was home to the first railroad, the first dental school and the first umbrella factory. And Maryland inventors gave us the gas light, the linotype machine and the refrigerator.

The “America In Miniature” title also applies to the role Maryland has played in our nation’s history, from the founding of the United States to the present. And like our country, Maryland is home to ethnic groups of every origin.

Maryland’s largest city, Baltimore, has a long history as a major seaport. Fort McHenry was the birthplace of the U.S. national anthem,The Stars Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key. It was September 13, 1814, when Key penned his poem that was  later set to music and became America’s national anthem in 1931. The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” was written after Francis Scott Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812.

Maryland is also called the “Old Line State” and “Free State.“The Old Line nickname was given during the Revolutionary War, when 400 soldiers in the First Maryland Regiment fought a British force of 10,000 and helped General George Washington’s army to escape. Washington depended on the Maryland Line throughout the war, and the soldiers’ discipline and bravery earned Maryland its nickname.

The name “Free State” was given in 1919, when Congress passed a law prohibiting the sale and use of alcohol. Marylanders opposed prohibition because they believed it violated their state’s rights. The “Free State” nickname also represents Maryland’s long tradition of political freedom and religious tolerance.

Maryland, My Maryland

“Maryland, my Maryland” is Maryland’s official state song. The song is set to the tune of “Lauriger Horatius” — better known as the tune of “O Tannenbaum“. The lyrics are from a nine-stanza poem written by James Ryder Randall (1839–1908) in 1861. The state’s general assembly adopted “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state song on April 29, 1939. The poem was a result of events at the beginning of the American Civil war. President Lincoln ordered to bring troops to Washington. Many soldiers came from Baltimore, many of them sympathized with confederate ideas, especially at Baltimore. Listen now as Tennessee Ernie Ford, famous country singer, sings Maryland, My Maryland in the background to this slideshow:  16 Undeniable Reasons Why Maryland Really Is America In Miniature (Photos and captions by

Famous People Born in Maryland

Famous Marylanders include politicians, lawyers, painters, craftspeople, writers, health professionals and religious leaders. The following lists names, occupations, and dates of births-deaths of famous people born in Maryland (in no particular order), as compiled by (BIO).  With over 7,000 biographies and daily features that highlight newsworthy, compelling and surprising points-of-view, BIO was my digital source for true stories about these people.  When you click on the named person’s link, Bio takes you their full page of information about this person, including a mini-bio video.  In all, there are 74, dating from births as early as 1731 with the birth of Benjamin Banneker, Astronomer/Scientist to famous basketball player Kevin Durant, born in 1988.

Barbara Kingsolver WRITER 1955–

Mapping the Spread of American Slavery

Lincoln Mullen is an assistant professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University, working on the history of American religions as a digital historian. He writes regularly on his own blog and for the Religion in American History group blog.  He also teaches a course on “Data and Visualization in Digital History” where he is working on nineteenth-century U.S. religious statistics.

It seems that Professor Mullen and I have a few things in common.  Both of us:

  • work with and enjoy using statistics to back up or generate our work;
  • acknowledge the value of data visualizations in pictorial or graphical formats to help others better grasp concepts or identify patterns in data;
  • enjoy sharing our discoveries with others through our blog sites;
  • love history and want to help others appreciate it, too.

The following blog was written by:  Lincoln Mullen and published on May 12, 2014.  It gives a fuller perspective on the distribution, growth, and demise of slavery that expands on the history of slavery in an earlier blog post of mine from May 21, 2013 Tobacco, Slavery, Earthworms, Honey Bees; Grains, Livestock, Disease, Oh My!

These Maps Reveal How Slavery Expanded Across the United States

As the hunger for more farmland stretched west, so too did the demand for enslaved labor

In September of 1861, the U.S. Coast Survey published a large map, just under three feet square, titled a “Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States.” Based on the population statistics gathered in the 1860 census, and certified by the superintendent of the Census Office, the map depicted the percentage of the population enslaved in each county.


Figure 1: U.S. Coast Survey, Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States (Washington, DC: Henry S. Graham, 1861). Image from the Library of Congress. [PNG]

The map showed at a glance the large-scale patterns of slavery in the American South: the concentrations of slavery in eastern Virginia, in South Carolina, and most of all along the Mississippi. It also repaid closer examination, since each county was labeled with the exact percentage enslaved. The map of slavery was one of many thematic maps produced in the nineteenth century United States. As Susan Schulten has shown, this particular map was used by the federal government during the Civil War, and it was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln’s.1


Figure 2: A detail from the U.S. Coast Survey map of slavery, showing the Mississippi River and delta. [PNG]

Though such thematic maps, in particular of slavery, have their origins in the nineteenth century, the technique is useful for historians. As I see it, one of the main problems for the historians’ method today is the problem of scale. How can we understand the past at different chronological and geographical scales? How can we move intelligibly between looking at individuals and looking at the Atlantic World, between studying a moment and studying several centuries?2 Maps can help, especially interactive web maps that make it possible to zoom in and out, to represent more than one subject of interest, and to set representations of the past in motion in order to show change over time.

I have created an interactive map of the spread of slavery in the United States from 1790 to 1860.3 Using Census data available from the NHGIS, the visualization shows the population of slaves, of free African Americans, of all free people, and of the entire United States. It also shows those subjects as population densities and percentages of the population.4 For any given variable, the scales are held constant from year to year so that the user can see change over time. You can use the map for yourself, and I’ve also written briefly about what the map shows below.5 Historians have of course often made use of maps of slavery, in particular maps based on the Census, in support of their arguments. What I’ve tried to do in this interactive map is make it possible for users (including me) to explore the census data in support of making historical arguments.6

The Spread of U.S. Slavery, 1790–1860

How to use this map

I have written an introduction to this visualization. Zoom to any county by clicking on it. Clicking on the same county will zoom out. The scales preserve intensity for change over time: in other words, a color represents the same thing for each year on the map. However, the color scales do not necessarily preserve intensity from data field to data field: the darkest color for the total population does not represent the same values as for the enslaved population. The scales for population are logarithmic (with intermediate values) so every second step in the color ramp represents a ten-fold (not a two-fold) increase.


Enter a caption

Figure 3: An animation of the density of slave population from 1790 to 1860. Notice that slavery spreads more than it grows. Taken from the interactive map. [GIF]


Fig : An animation of density of the total population from 1790 to 1860. Notice that population in the north both grows in place and spreads westward. Taken from the interactive map. [GIF]

Another observation to make about slavery in the United States is what an extraordinarily high percentage of the population was enslaved. The majority slave populations of the Chesapeake, the South Carolina and Georgia coast were soon duplicated in the majority slave populations of the Mississippi River valley.


Figure 5: An animation of the percentage of the population enslaved from 1790 to 1860. Taken from the interactive map. [GIF]

A striking way to see the importance of slavery is to look at a map of the total free population: a photo negative, if you will, of slavery. When looking at the density of the population that was free, large swathes of the South appear virtually depopulated. (Perhaps this is what a history book looks like that fails to take includes slaves?)


Figure 6: The population density of all free persons in 1860. Taken from the interactive map. [PNG]

Finally, the dynamics of the free African American population looked more like the free white population than the slave population. The Free African American population seems to have primarily settled along the Eastern seaboard and especially in the cities of the northern United States. Free African Americans were almost entirely excluded from most of the deep South, except the cities.animation-free

Figure 7: An animation of the free African American population from 1790 to 1860. Taken from the interactive map. [GIF]

Historians have long used maps of slavery to advance their arguments.9 I hope this map finds some use in making more arguments about the history of slavery, and especially for helping students to grasp the big picture of the “peculiar institution” which made the nation “half slave and half free.”10

Interactive Maps

The first thing to observe is that slavery spread more than it grew. The population of slaves in 1790 or 1800 was already very high compared the maximum population levels.7 In fact, in Charleston County, South Carolina (one of the counties with the highest populations of slaves) the number of enslaved people in 1860 was only 63% of what it had been in 1840. This is not to say that the total number of slaves in the eastern seaboard states did not go up over time. But the number of enslaved people in a particular place did not grow at anything like the rate of free people in the north. The free population in the north both grew in the same place and spread to the west. The slave population had a different dynamic. It grew in intensity in places around the Chesapeake bay, even as slavery was gradually abolished in the North. But primarily the slave population spread to the fertile crescent of lands in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and most of all to the Mississippi River valley. Below you can see two animations of the density of the slave population and the density of the total population (keep in mind that the scales are different). What you see in these maps is the spread of slavery through the domestic slave trade.8 You also see the origins of the sectional crisis in the continual expansion of slavery.

And, these data visualization maps from Cartographer, Bill Rankin.  Bill Rankin tries to find balance between accuracy and readability in a set of maps that show slavery in a grid layout from 1790 to 1870.

Rankin made a map for each decade, but the most interesting one that shows all the data at once. Size of each circle represents the peak number of slaves per 250 square miles. Color represents the year this peak occurred.

YEARS:  mouse over, or click to download:

1790  (PNG, 551 KB)
1800  (PNG, 686 KB)
1810  (PNG, 821 KB)
1820  (PNG, 980 KB)
1830  (PNG, 1.10 MB)
1840  (PNG, 1.25 MB)
1850  (PNG, 1.48 MB)
1860  (PNG, 1.65 MB)
1870  (PNG, 1.56 MB)

or download:

all nine decades (ZIP, 9.88 MB)
big poster (PNG, 3.87 MB)
peak slavery (PNG, 1.05 MB)

The gradual decline of slavery in the north was matched by its explosive expansion in the south, especially with the transition from the longstanding slave areas along the Atlantic coast to the new cotton plantations of the Lower South. Although the Civil War by no means ended the struggle for racial equality, it marked a dramatic turning point; antebellum slavery was a robust institution that showed no signs of decline.

Mapping slavery presents a number of difficult problems. The vast majority of maps — both old (from Census 1860)  and new  (from Census 1790) — use the county as the unit of analysis. But visually, it is tough to compare small and large counties; the constant reorganization of boundaries in the west means that comparisons across decades are tricky, too. And like all maps that shade large areas using a single color, typical maps of slavery make it impossible to see population density and demographic breakdown at the same time. (Should a county with 10,000 people and 1,000 slaves appear the same as one that has 100 people and 10 slaves?)

My maps confront these problems in two ways. First, I smash the visual tyranny of county boundaries by using a uniform grid of dots. The size of each dot shows the total population in each 250-sq mi cell, and the color shows the percent that were slaves. But just as important, I’ve also combined the usual county data with historical data for more than 150 cities and towns. Cities usually had fewer slaves, proportionally, than their surrounding counties, but this is invisible on standard maps. Adding this data shows the overwhelming predominance of slaves along the South Carolina coast, in contrast to Charleston; it also shows how distinctive New Orleans was from other southern cities. These techniques don’t solve all problems (especially in sparsely populated areas), but they substantially refocus the visual argument of the maps — away from arbitrary jurisdictions and toward human beings.

(For a graphic explanation of this technique, see here.)

The bottom map shows the peak number of slaves in each area, along with the year when slavery peaked. Except in Delaware, Maryland, and eastern Virginia, slavery in the south was only headed in one direction: up. Cartographically, this map offers a temporal analysis without relying on a series of snapshots (either a slide show or an animation), and it makes it clear that a static map is perfectly capable of representing a dynamic historical process.


Lincoln Mullen, “The Spread of U.S. Slavery, 1790–1860,” interactive map,, doi: 10.5281/zenodo.9825.

Minnesota Population Center, *National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0* (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, 2011),

  1. See Susan Schulten, Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), especially chapter 4 on slavery and statistical cartography. Also see the book’s companion website, which includes many images of maps of slavery.
  2. For one discussion of the problem of scale, see David Armitage and Jo Guldi. “Le Retour de la longue durée: Une perspective anglo-saxonne,” Annales, in press. Whatever the reason for the blockbuster success of Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, it’s worth noting that the book is primarily a longue durée history of the structure of capital.
  3. I am grateful for suggestions from Yoni Appelbaum, John Hannigan, and Caleb McDaniel, who each looked at the map in development, though they will each find more things they wished were different.
  4. You might think of the visualization as 88 maps = 8 decades ✕ 11 variables.
  5. The map represents a lot of data, and I have not been able to make it snappy enough for my satisfaction, particularly for mobile devices. Hence the animated GIFs below.
  6. Of course there is far more to the history of slavery than just the Census data, which alone cannot answer any of the interpretative questions that historians have asked.
  7. This is remarkable given that in the Revolution many slaves escaped to or with the British army.
  8. Steven Deyle writes, “I believe it is safe to conclude that between 1820 and 1860 at least 875,000 American slaves were forcibly removed from the Upper South to the Lower South, and that between 60 and 70 percent of these individuals were transported via the interregional slave trade.” Steven Deyle, Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 289.
  9. Perhaps I will provide a few examples in a future post.
  10. From Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech: “Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new—North as well as South.”

Explanation of Census Data:

The U.S. Census data and shapefiles for these maps comes from Minnesota Population Center, National Historical Geographic Information System, version 2.0 (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, 2011). For a description of the questions asked on the 1790 to 1860 censuses, see Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000 (U.S Census Bureau, 2002). Bear in mind the reason the Census kept statistics on slavery. Slaves were counted in the Census because of the three-fifths compromise in the federal constitution, by which an enslaved person counted as three-fifths of a person when apportioning representation in Congress and direct taxes. I have tried to represent unavailable data on the map, but sometimes in the Census a value of zero actually means that the data has been lost or was never gathered. Treat the Census numbers skeptically: even in the best of circumstances the Census undercounts the population. For example, Harvey Amani Whitfield has shown that Vermont did have slavery, even though no slaves were enumerated in the Census. The numbers are useful chiefly for showing degrees of magnitude. Below are the fields in the NHGIS data that I have used. The total free population was always calculated by subtracting the slave population from the total population.

1790 Census

  • Slave population: “Race/Slave Status: Persons: Non-White: Slave” (AAQ002)
  • Total population: (A00AA1790)
  • Free African American population: “Race/Slave Status: Persons: Non-White: Free” (AAQ001)

1800 Census

  • Slave population: “Nonwhite Population, Except Indians Not Taxed by Slave Status: Slave” (AAY002)
  • Total population: (A00AA1800)
  • Free African American population: “Nonwhite Population, Except Indians Not Taxed by Slave Status: Free” (AAY001)

1810 Census

  • Slave population: “Nonwhite Population, Except Indians Not Taxed by Slave Status: Slave” (AA7002)
  • Total population: (A00AA1810)
  • Free African American population: “Nonwhite Population, Except Indians Not Taxed by Slave Status: Free” (AA7001)

1820 Census

  • Slave population: sum of “Nonwhite: slave” male and female columns for “Race/Slave Status by Sex” (ABB003 and ABB004)
  • Total population: (A00AA1820)
  • Free African American population: sum of “Nonwhite: free” male and female columns for “Race/Slave Status by Sex” (ABB005 and ABB006)

1830 Census

  • Slave population: sum of “Nonwhite: slave” male and female columns for “Race/Slave Status by Sex” (ABO003 and ABO004)
  • Total population: (A00AA1830)
  • Free African American population: sum of “Nonwhite: free” male and female columns for “Race/Slave Status by Sex” (ABO005 and ABO006)

1840 Census

  • Slave population: “Nonwhite: slave” column for “Race/Slave Status” (ACS003)
  • Total population: (A00AA1840)
  • Free African American population: “Nonwhite: free” column for “Race/Slave Status” (ACS002)

1850 Census

  • Slave population: “Nonwhite: slave” column for “Race/Slave Status” (AE6003)
  • Total population: (A00AA1840)
  • Free African American population: “Nonwhite: free” column for “Race/Slave Status” (AE6002)

1860 Census

  • Slave population: sum of “Slave” male and female columns for “Race by Sex” (AH2005 and AH2006)
  • Total population: (A00AA1860)
  • Free African American population: sum of “Free colored” male and female columns for “Race by Sex” (AH2003 and AH2004)