Last night we celebrated our parents, Frank and Norma Boling’s, 70th Wedding Anniversary and all family that possibly could meet up did so at their home of nearly 60 years. You see, my parents were 17 and 18 when they eloped to Ellicott City, MD, and were married by a justice of the peace. There was not any formal celebration because at that time, my mother’s family didn’t really like my dad. Mostly, I think, because they thought he was Italian??? Go figure, the ethnicity stigmas of those days that unfortunately still exist in our culture today! Well, here we are 70 years later, three children, nine grand children, 10 great grandchildren, and 4 great-great grandchildren with yet another on the way! For the most part Frank and Norma grew up together had many happy years and memories and according to mom yesterday, some not so happy as others that were just part of everyone’s life’s path.
These days both are frail and suffer the all too common disease among our elderly today–Alzheimer’s. Yesterday, both of them barely showed their emotions, but it was a day where family supported and comforted each other and celebrated times together of the past and the day. Thank you to all who sent cards and messages with wishes of love and good times for the future. We, the Boling-Ford-Dickinson-Family hope you and yours have a wonderful February filled with love for each other and an especially great Valentine’s Day! (In the picture to the right, you can see that dad is still recovering from a tough fall that he took in the hallway on January 10th.–Mom is 88, dad turned 87 on December 7th. So fortunate to still have them with us.)
It’s been over a month since any inspiration has come to me to write a post on my family history and genealogy page. And then, this morning, I watched a video that took me back to my early teens. My maternal grandmother, Alice Lauretta (Loretta) Lathrop Ford, had suffered several heart attacks and now lived with my parents, my 11-years younger brother, and me.
“And-a one and-a two”…
On Saturday nights, my parents would go out for the evening with friends–often dancing–which before her heart attacks was one of my grandmother’s favorite things to do, too. It became my inherited job to care for my grandmother and my baby brother when my parents were out. And, like every other Saturday night since 1955, I had to sit with grandma, watch the Lawrence Welk [1903-1992] Show (1955-1982) with his “champagne music,” and pretend to enjoy it as much as she did. She especially liked the tenors, Myron Floren, the accordionist and polka king,
and… the young dancers–Bobby Burgess and Cissy King.
and…Lawrence grabbing a female from the audience to dance with him. Here’s a short, but hair-larious Welk clip from November 25, 1967…just 85 days before Grandma passed away (02-18-1968–11 days shy of her 73rd birthday) due to the flu during the 1968 flu pandemic (caused by an H3N2 strain of the influenza A virus, descended from H2N2 ) and the added stress on her body’s organs and especially heart. [This flu virus reached Japan, Africa and South America by 1969.]
Little did I realize at the time that Grandma and I would create so many good memories watching this show. And, 48 years later I still miss my times with her and the Lawrence Welk Show–Although, yet today, one can catch some local stations on some Sunday afternoons airing reruns of the old, if but corny, episodes–as today’s generations might label them.
It was before the Christmas holidays when I last sat down to create a new post. And, over these past few weeks, our family has shared good ‘times’ together on multiple occasions. As always at Christmas we were fortunate enough to have put on a wonderful spread of hor d’oeuvres, entrees, sides, breads, candies, desserts, coffees, sodas, and teas for 40–relatives (including five generations: 3 children and their spouses, 9 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins, and the gift of both living parents), friends, and neighbors–for this is our annual ‘immediate family’ family reunion. Our son’s tree looked amazing–our daughter-in-law is a pro at decorating, cooking, and entertaining–we are so blessed. And, to take it further, our three children remain together with their true loves and companions in life and we, too, love their spouses like they were our own. At the very least, this season in my life is one of those extraordinary ‘times’ for me where I can openly express my love and am openly loved in return.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…1
And, without going into details of each and every occasion, let me just say that these multi-generational gatherings and simple ‘times’ as a family is what doing life together is all about–regardless of the seasons among us.
For example, our son’s household takes me back to earlier times in my life where multiple generations lived together and worked together inside and outside the home and I was ‘the small child’. My uncle and my grandfather worked outside to raise animals and grow food. Now, my son’s father-in-law, and grandsons and he work outside to raise animals, grow food, and to do maintenance and repairs on the house and vehicles. One of his sons also carpools to work with him Mondays through Fridays. A modest apartment downstairs is shared by this grandson and his small family of three. In a room not too far from them is Pop Pop–his maternal grandfather. And upstairs in his own room is another of our 20 something grandsons who works as a server while he seeks to find his niche in life. But, when dinner is ready, all the seasons and times come together, including our newest family members–our eight month old great grandson who is the most satisfied and adorable baby, held by his mom. In this time of his season, this babe hasn’t a care in the world because he is surrounded by warm and loving people who are committed to and supportive of each other. He knows yet nothing more of this world. And, to have borne a son who sits at the head of this beautiful family, both humbles me and makes me proud. We acknowledge that these circumstances truly were made possible for us by the grace of God in his fitting time and that all our family is certainly living in a special time and season of all of our lives.
And we acknowledge that God blessed us further this year. We rejoiced that our family’s patriarch and matriarch joined in on our festivities–even if only to absorb the good times being had by other family members from their seats on the couch. And for this we give thanks because He has affixed the “times” when man is “to be born,” and “to die”…2 And yes, we all are very aware that we need to prepare as best we can for that season and time when we will have only our fond and loving memories of these two very special family members.
But for now, we give thanks and pray that our Lord gives his grace to all mankind, for in God’s Grace each dawn is a gift and everyday a miracle…
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
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.
I responded to Ancestry the very instant I finished reading their announcement to retire Family Tree Maker. If, after reading this story, you feel compelled to do the same I encourage you to do so at: http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/12/08/ancestry-to-retire-family-tree-maker-software/.
Our Families and their Untold Stories
The genealogy community is all a buzz due to the announcement two days ago by Ancestry.com that they would be retiring and no longer supporting their software program, Family Tree Maker. As a FTM user, this news was very upsetting to me. I have spent many hours of my life building my family tree online with Ancestry.com, using FTM. You can view their announcement at their blog site, http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/12/08/ancestry-to-retire-family-tree-maker-software/.
Since the announcement, I have calmed down and the initial panic has worn off. I have decided to sit this out for a while before I make any major changes to the way I do my genealogy work. After all, we have until January of 2017. I know other family tree software companies will use this time of panic to make sweet offers for the panicked masses of FTM users to switch to their products, which is tempting I admit. But for now, I will wait it out and see what else happens or comes about.
First though, I have to say to Ancestry.com that your timing on this deal is pretty crappy. You won’t be offering FTM for sale after Dec 31, 2015 and you announced this on Dec 8, 2015. Seventeen days before Christmas. I’m sure most people, like myself, are already budgeted to the max. I bought the program and downloaded it to my laptop, without ever getting the setup disk. So of course I would like to now buy the disk so that if my laptop crashes, I can at least add the program back to a new computer. That would be $79 I wasn’t expecting to spend with such short notice, right in the middle of the holiday season. My children thank you. They will now have to believe again in Santa Claus if they want their stocking filled up.
The reason I use the FTM program is because I need to print my work out, run reports, see cousin relations, etc. I also use the program, to catch errors, and make mass changes at once. Here is an example of a report I always use when researching. I keep this right in front of me when working on a line, this way I know all the players and dates for reference.
The main reason I will sit this out before switching to another software program is the tree sync feature that FTM offered with Ancestry.com. I spend many hours working on my family tree. Sometimes I work from Ancestry.com, and sometimes I work directly in the software, offline. When I go back online, FTM automatically syncs my data from the software to my tree online. That means, any changes I made on Ancestry.com is downloaded and updated to my software program, and any changes I made in the program is uploaded to Ancestry.com and my tree there is updated. This means I do not have to do double the work, and my tree is exactly the same in both locations, online and offline.
At this point if I switch to another software program, any changes I make to my tree, will have to be manually made in two places. In the program, and on my ancestry.com tree. In the past, before I used FTM tree sync, this meant I would get on a roll, working away on Ancestry.com and not even really remember what all I had changed, and then have to remember to make the same changes in the software program. Inevitably, this meant I would forget to make one or two of the changes and then my data is comprised and not correct, and doesn’t match in both places.
And yes, I know I can just do my work on Ancestry.com and then extract a gedcom, upload in my program and then they match. I don’t want to go through that every time I make changes. I want a program to sync withAncestry.com. Hopefully, one of the other programs will step up and make the sync with Ancestry.com a possibility, and if they do, that is who I will switch to.
The other major problem with them discontinuing the program, is all the reporting that the software program has, that Ancestry.com does not have. I use these reports daily, in one way or another, and ancestry.com only offers reports that you have to pay to get. I’m definitely not paying them to print out a copy of the work I have done myself. Never will that happen. In fact, if they would just add the reporting abilities to their website, then I would be more than happy to do most of my work online on their website and then back up my tree to my computer any time I make changes.
This announcement two days once again fostered my fear of what will happen to my family tree when I am gone? How do I keep my work up to date, all together, less confusing and easily accessible to my descendants or any family members that are interested? What if the one way I have decided to keep my information becomes obsolete and all my work is lost before another family member becomes interested?
I know for a fact, all this paper work I have lying around, will probably just get trashed when I am gone. My kids are not going to look at all the data I have collected in these binders and boxes. My hope was to get all this information, photos, maps, letters, diaries and etc, integrated into my tree, easily accessible on the computer and then maybe someone would be interested if it was all easily searchable and organized all together. I know, I know, you are laughing at me right now. No family historian ever really accomplishes this. But I had planned to die trying. LOL!
So, my new goal for 2016 will be to come up with a plan for all my work, and figure out the best way to save all this for future generations so that it doesn’t end up in the dump when I die, or better yet, die out with an obsolete computer program.
In a way, I guess this is a big thank you to Ancestry.com for waking me up enough to realize that my work will not survive solely in a computer program, with reports lying around in binders.
By Doug Most GLOBE STAFF AUGUST 26, 2015
It was 50 years ago, Thanksgiving in 1965, when an 18-year-old rising folk singer named Arlo Davy Guthrie drove up from Queens, N.Y., to Great Barrington to visit a friend named Alice Brock. While he was there, he did Alice and her husband, Ray, a favor. He took out their garbage. It would change his life. Guthrie and his buddy threw the garbage down a ditch where others often did the same thing. But the next day, Guthrie was arrested for littering, and that blip is what kept him from being drafted into the Vietnam War because he had an arrest record. It also became the narrative for a little ditty he wrote two years later that he called “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” Part song, part storytelling, it became Guthrie’s signature and this fall he’s taking off on a national tour to celebrate the 50 years since the event.
50 Things About Arlo Guthrie on the 50th Anniversary of Alice’s Restaurant
You’ve heard the song, no doubt. So here are some fun facts, collected from interviews Guthrie has given and stories about the song over the years.
- The song is 18 minutes 34 seconds long, give or take a minute depending on his pace.
- The length of the song is the exact same length as the gap in the Nixon Watergate tapes, and Guthrie has often quipped that the song may explain that silence in the infamous tapes.
- The song was too long to be released on one side of a 45 rpm single.
- Guthrie had just started classes at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont., in September 1965 when the incident happened over Thanksgiving break.
- He planned on studying forestry, but never finished his first year.
- He was born in Coney Island, N.Y., in 1947.
- He is one of four children born to Marjorie (Greenblatt) Mazia and folk legend Woody Guthrie.
- He was 13 when he gave his first public performance.
- In Boston, he was a regular performer at Club 47 in Harvard Square along with Joan Baez.
- Today Club 47 is Club Passim.
- In 1991, Guthrie purchased the Stockbridge Trinity Church where Alice and Ray Brock lived and where many of the events that inspired “Alice’s Restaurant” took place.
- Guthrie and his friend Ricky Robbins dumped the trash on that fateful day in Stockbridge because the Great Barrington dump was closed for the holiday.
- They were fined. And ordered to pick up their trash. The exact amount of the fine has varied in stories over the years from $20 to $25 to $50.
- The church is now The Guthrie Center, a nonprofit devoted to helping people with HIV and other afflictions, including Huntington’s disease, the illness that most contributed to Woody Guthrie’s death.
- One of Arlo Guthrie’s first lessons on the harmonica came from Bob Dylan, who visited his house looking for Woody.
- In the 1969 movie, “Alice’s Restaurant,” the cop is played by the real Officer Obie, William Obanhein, from the story.
- The blind judge in the movie “Alice’s Restaurant” is played by the real-life blind judge in Guthrie’s case, James Hannon.
- One of his inspirations for believing that such a long story could succeed as a song was Bill Cosby, whom he had seen tell long rambling tales on stage that kept audiences riveted.
- He has to relearn the song anytime he’s going to perform it. “It’s not like riding a bike,” he toldRolling Stone magazine.
- Guthrie’s biggest hit was “City of New Orleans.” “Alice’s Restaurant” never cracked the Billboard Hot 100. The album peaked at 17.
- Theresa’s Stockbridge Café is now in the space where Alice and Ray ran their restaurant.
- Alice and Ray Brock are divorced.
- Alice Brock owns an art studio in Provincetown, where she paints.
- Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, once wrote Alice Brock, she has said, asking if her restaurant would consider selling the choker necklaces he was making in prison. She declined.
- A version called “Alice’s Rock & Roll Restaurant” he released in 1969 lasts 4 minutes long and reached 97 on the Billboard singles chart.
- He does not listen to “Alice’s Restaurant” when it’s on the radio during Thanksgiving. And neither does his family.
- All of his children play instruments and sing, and some of his grandkids, too.
- Guthrie first performed live on a New York radio station in 1967.
- He rides a 2001 Indian motorcycle.
- The original lyrics contain a slur against homosexuals that today might bring a fine from the FCC to any radio station that plays a song containing it. But the song is played uncut and no fines are incurred.
- “Music will be your best friend.” This was a line his father told him when he was very young.
- One of Guthrie’s daughters, Sarah Lee Guthrie, is married to Johnny Irion, whose great uncle is John Steinbeck.
- His son, Abe, will play the keyboards on the upcoming tour with him.
- More than 75,000 photographs from Guthrie’s life have been collected for the tour and many of them will be projected on a screen throughout his concerts.
- When Guthrie was 18, he did his first concert with Pete Seeger at Carnegie Hall, a tradition they continued almost every year until Seeger died in 2014.
- One of Guthrie’s sisters, Cathy, died in a home fire when she was 4.
- The red VW microbus Guthrie talks about in “Alice’s Restaurant” has officially been “relegated to history,” according to a post on his Facebook page this summer.
- Woody Guthrie died in October 1967, only one month before his son released the song that would make him famous.
- His song “Massachusetts” was adopted by the state Legislature in 1981 as the state’s official folk song.
- The inscription on the guitar of Woody Guthrie, a notorious peace activist, read: “This Machine Kills Fascists.”
- Arlo Guthrie’s music lineage goes beyond his father Woody. His grandfather Charlie was a court clerk in Oklahoma, a painter and a singer.
- Around 2005, Guthrie became a registered Republican voter. He told The New York Times, “to have a successful democracy you have to have at least two parties, and one of them was failing miserably. We had enough good Democrats. We needed a few more good Republicans. We needed a loyal opposition.”
- In that same Times interview, he said: “I thought I would be governor of Massachusetts. I stood on a pile of my old albums and said, I’m the only one with a record to stand on.”
- He says it took him about a year to write “Alice’s Restaurant” because he had to live through the experiences “one at a time and add them to the little song.”
- His mother was a dance teacher at Indian Hill camp in Stockbridge.
- His father was Protestant, his mother was Jewish, and he was raised Orthodox. In 1977 he converted to Catholicism.
- His grandmother was a Yiddish poet named Aliza Greenblatt.
- He was taught Hebrew for his bar mitzvah by Meir Kahane, the controversial American-Israeli rabbi who later founded the Jewish Defense League and was assassinated in New York City in 1990.
- His full name has an unusual story. His mother read to him from a series of children’s books called “Arlo Books” about a Swiss boy named Arlo. But because she and Woody were concerned their son would hate the strange name growing up, they tacked on the middle name Davy, in case he preferred to use that. Davy was a nod to Davy Crockett.
- When he was in sixth grade, he walked into school and heard kids singing his father’s hit, “This Land Is Your Land,” and he realized he didn’t know the words. He quickly learned them.
To once again borrow a few words from my good friends at Google, “the loyalty, affection, and exploits”of my dogs throughout my years on this earth have inspired a rich body of true, sometimes hilarious and sometimes sad stories that have only added to my life events. And today, unfortunately, it is with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to Jake, our 17-1/2 year old Cockapoo.
Jake came to us from Fredericksburg, Virginia, which is where many of my Boling ancestors dating back several generations lived. We were on a mission to find a replacement dog for my mom, who was celebrating her 71st birthday back in August of 1998. We picked a rust colored pup for mom, which she named, of course, “Rusty.” The breeders lived on a farm and they also raised bullmastiffs. I noticed there were two other 8-week old pups from their first cockapoo litter that were playing in and around the yard. A solid black one, was trying to eat water from a hose after just visiting the large mastiffs in their cages. He came running and jumped up on my legs and gave me a very warm greeting. And, this is when our love for each other began. What else could I do, we left Fredericksburg that day with two pups. One, we had chosen for mom, and the other, who chose me.
Over our nearly 18 years together, Lord Jacob of Calvert, “Jake,” as we called him, gave us much joy, many laughs, and in his recent years had presented us with way too many unwelcomed presents.
This picture was taken in 1999. Jake was about one year old. His buddy next to him was “Beau.” Beau was with us when we purchased Jake–and Beau was less than a happy camper that day, riding in the back seat of a car with two eight week old pups. But, they soon became fast friends and remained so for five years. Beau passed due to cancer in the summer of 2003. He had been with us for 12 years.
In the summertime, our extended families and their children came over on the weekends to swim in our pool. We always put out a big spread and we reminded everyone about Jake’s main interest–food! Even the breeders advised us that he never could get enough food and that he was a glutton. On this one weekend, we had freshly prepared deviled eggs waiting for the swimmers to come inside to eat. Everyone was usually aware all chairs were to remain pushed into the table, especially if there was food on it. On this one occasion, though, someone forgot–and that was Jake’s opportunity. While the cooks went outside to call in the swimmers, Jake used the chair to climb up on the table. When we opened the door from outside all we could see was Jake on all fours standing atop a once filled platter of freshly made deviled eggs–that “little stinker”–he quickly he had eaten all 18 of them! All we could do was laugh and keep Jake at a distance.
Other fond memories were when we took Jake, who already had began to show his age, down to North Beach’s boardwalk. Three years ago, we went and spent the entire day there with Jake and us sitting under a shade tree and enjoying the people and events of the first ever Dragon Boat Races that were sponsored by Calvert’s End Hunger Program.
We also took Jake with our chihuahuas two years ago this winter to Petersburg, Virginia, as we did more genealogical research within the Boling family’s stomping grounds and historical places. Jake loved riding in the car and this was probably his longest ride and day long event ever. We left at 6 a.m. in the morning and didn’t return home until nearly midnight.
To honor Jake on his last day today, we fed him Porterhouse Steak, which, still true to form, he gobbled up. Despite his poor health–his appetite never went. Jake lost one third of his body weight over this past year, he lost his left eye to disease two years ago, about that same time his hearing started going, and two weeks ago the doc told us his calculated age was 88 and that the noises that he had recently started making were probably due to dementia. We had so hoped that the old man would just pass quietly in his sleep, but he reminded us of his early pup days when he was a fighter playing with the streaming water from a hose (something his firefighting dad probably fully understands), and the giant bullmastiffs that were probably 10 times his size.
We must also give thanks today to Calvert Animal Hospital for all their years of helping us care for Jake and for making his and our last day together today as painless as possible. We will never forget or stop loving our old man, Jake, may he rest in peace. And, I so pray that doggie heaven is a part of man’s too. Because our dogs have always been our best friends and will always be a part of our family.
One of my daily social media reads is the Mental_floss Magazine. Mental_floss describes their magazine as: “an intelligent read, but not too intelligent. We’re the sort of intelligent that you hang out with for a while, enjoy our company, laugh a little, smile a lot and then we part ways. Great times. And you only realize how much you learned from us after a little while. Like a couple of days later when you’re impressing your friends with all these intriguing facts and things you picked up from us, and they ask you how you know so much, and you think back on that great afternoon you spent with us and you smile.” Yes, I find every word of their description of their works to be true.
Yesterday’s video post by Mental_floss reviewed history from a man’s fashion sense; i.e., men’s hairstyle changes over the last 100 years. And giving credit where credit is due, the model, Sam Orson, remains quite adaptive and attractive throughout all the styles over the decades. In fact, his 1940’s style where he dons a sailor’s cap brought back images of photos of my dad from his times as a sailor as well as other remembrances of times in which I have had the pleasure of experiencing life. Hope you enjoy this cleverly done video as much as I did!
Bob Dylan–an American singer, songwriter, artist and writer
He has been influential in popular music and culture for more than five decades. Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota. In 1997, Bob Dylan became the first rock star ever to receive Kennedy Center Honors, considered the nation’s highest award for artistic excellence.
Seventy-four year old Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin, released in 1964, was just one of his several anthem songs composed during the anti-war and Civil Rights Movements of the ’60s.
The Times They Are A Changin
As I read the lyrics and watched the video again this morning, it’s tenor and lyrics remain timeless to me. America, Americans, and other people of our World, despite the times changing, remain in civil unrest–as countries; neighbors; individuals; religious, political, and social cultures–as our executive pastor put it this morning in his message, “it’s a cultural mayhem”. None of us has fully embraced our supposed life lessons from all our histories successes and failures, and many of us have reduced our perception of humanity to “skin color.”
Sorry to be feeling so sinister today. But, it’s times like this when I turn to my faith to keep believing. To paraphrase author of Be A Good Human, Tom Giaquinto; “Sometimes, there is a lot of darkness in this world. As I see it, we have two choices. We can be a part of that darkness or we can be a light. I choose to be a light.” And, it appears my prayers once again have been answered in this weekend’s wonderful message sent by God I’m sure, but delivered eloquently by Daniel Palmer, one of our executive pastor’s. Here it is, if you care to enjoy listening to it: One Image
I hope, too, that you enjoy Bob Dylan’s video and lyrics below. As always, your comments are welcomed and appreciated.
LYRICS: The Times They Are A Changin
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’
Lyrics © BOB DYLAN MUSIC CO
The following post, which seems a departure from her normal subject matter, was written by Sandie Angulo Chen. It appeared in Ancestry.com’s Family History Month on October 15, 2015, and honors colonial life. Sandie is known for her writing about movies, books, pop culture, and entertainment at EntertainmentWeekly.com starting in 1998. In 2007, she moved to AOL’s Moviefone.com.and has contributed as a movie critic and writer to the Washington Post, Variety, TV Squad, Film.com, and other entertainment-related publications and websites, and today, Sandy writes for Common Sense Media.
I especially enjoyed Sandie’s post because it broadly viewed the family and community’s pop culture (if you will), of living life in the 18th century–something I always try to juxtapose to today’s culture as I write my own posts about my ancestors and the historic times in which they lived.
Many of the commenters to Sandie’s original post questioned some of its facts or were disappointed that references to her sources were not included. Therefore, I have done some of my own research and added sources where I could confirm this article’s facts.
For Americans living today, the Colonial era is a time of myth and legend. Because the days when the Founding Fathers lived are so central to our country’s history, we sometimes forget what life was like for ordinary colonists. [Photo credit: Atalou via Flickr]
Today we might find it hard to believe that like modern generations, the colonists dealt with premarital sex, pregnancy, and blended families, along with some hardships (short lifespans, dying children) that we might have a hard time understanding. By searching your family’s history, you might be able to uncover how many of these startling issues your own ancestors encountered and survived.
1. COURTSHIP PRACTICES INCLUDED BED-SHARING
Although modern Americans imagine Colonial-era sexual morals to be, well, Puritanical, in the mid to late 1700s, more than one in three girls was pregnant when she walked down the aisle.1 So don’t be surprised if the birth or baptismal record of a progenitor that you discover on Ancestry is dated fewer than nine months after the parents’ wedding certificate. One unusual northern Colonial tradition may have encouraged this premarital fecundity. Bundling, or bed courting, involved young, unmarried couples testing their compatibility by sharing a bed for the night. More common among lower classes and along the frontier — perhaps due to the shortage of fuel for warmth and light — chastity was supposedly ensured by setting a “bundling board” (a long, upright plank) between the couple or by having them sleep in separate compartments of a large “bundling sack.”2 As Washington Irving later observed in 1809, no one was too surprised when hormones defeated these measures: “To this sagacious custom, therefore, do I chiefly attribute the unparalleled increase of the … Yankee tribe.”3
2. BLENDED FAMILIES WERE COMMON4
During the Colonial era, marriages lasted, on average, less than 12 years because of high mortality rates. In Colonial America, death visited earlier and often: In 1700, the average age of death for English men in Virginia was 48. One-third to one-half of all children lost at least one parent before the age of 21; in the South, more than half of children 13 and under had lost at least one parent. As a result, remarriages were frequent in Colonial America — a fact you can discover for yourself using databases of marriage records on Ancestry. Marriages during the Colonial era, however, were not always legally formalized. For many colonists, the cost of a formal, legal marriage was more an aspiration than a reality. In colonial North Carolina, for example, a marriage certificate cost £50 — a year’s salary for a teacher, or six months’ salary for a minister. As a result, many people formalized their relationships simply by posting “banns,” announcements read weekly to the community for several weeks.
My footnote #4 reflects just one of several instances, where some of the colonial period statistics may be slightly different among the various references reporting them; e.g.the average length of a colonial marriage was 10 years; the average age of death for English men in Virginia was 45; men outnumbered women 3 to 1; and the cost of buying a marriage license was expensive--up to one month's salary in general vs. one year of a teacher's salary. This being said, I researched the various facts in the original article for the past several days and can tell you that there is a vast assortment of first-hand accountings that were published during and after the colonial period by various levels of authorities. Many of my queries resulted in early 19th and 20th century books that have been published online and are available for free for anyone interested in delving more deeply into the facts surrounding this article.
3. PARENTS EXPECTED SOME CHILDREN TO DIE
While death was not uncommon for marriage-age adults, it was almost expected for children. With most Colonial women marrying around the age of 20, they would often have about seven to 10 children. Many children, however, did not survive until adulthood — or even to toddlerhood. One in 10 infants died before they were a year old, and four in 10 children died before the age of six. For slave children, not surprisingly, the outlook was even grimmer. Up to half of all black children in the 1700s died before their first birthday. But even the wealthiest parents had to endure their children’s deaths. First Lady Martha Washington, for example, had four children, all of whom she outlived. Two died before turning five; one died at age 17; the last died of an illness at age 26. Accidents also claimed older children, not a surprising fact considering the size of families and the risks of life on a farm. Colonial court records available to historians and genealogists show children drowning in tanning pits or millponds, falling into hearth fires, and down barn ladders. Because of this, don’t be surprised if the death records available on Ancestry for your extended ancestral family include many children.
4. JOBS WERE EXTREMELY LIMITED
In between birth and death in Colonial life, there was also work. During the Colonial era, nearly all men fell into one of just seven occupational categories: family farmer, Southern planter, indentured servant, slave, unskilled laborer, artisan, or merchant. Women worked in complementary occupations: domestic service, child care, gardening, and household production, either for home use or for trade. For whites early in the Colonial period, the vast continent promised substantial social mobility: even an indentured servant, after working practically as a slave for four to seven years, could find a plot to work as a tenant farmer and save enough to buy his own land. As the Colonial period progressed and towns grew larger, the number of artisans grew. In 1700, only four to five percent of the labor force worked as traders, shopkeepers, or merchants, but by 1770, that fraction had grown to seven percent. Do you know what jobs your ancestors held during the Colonial era?
5. CURRENCY WASN’T JUST CASH AND COIN
For all their work, many Colonial Americans took payment not in cash, but in leaf. Due to a chronic shortage of official English coin, colonists often bought and sold items with tobacco or other “rated commodities,” to which colonial authorities assigned a certain value in pounds, shillings, and pence (the official English units of money at the time and used until 1971). Besides pressing tobacco into service to facilitate commerce, each colony also printed its own paper money. Each colony also acted as a currency trader, assigning a value to foreign money, often Spanish dollars, circulating alongside English pounds. Because the value of that paper money and foreign coin depended on each colony’s proclamation, it was known as “proclamation money.”
6. IMPORTED GOODS WERE SOMETIMES WAY EXPENSIVE
In Colonial America, a set of bed sheets cost more than the bed itself. According to one North Carolina probate inventory — a list of an individual’s assets at his death, and some of the richest sources of genealogical records available on Ancestry and elsewhere — a set of “fine Holland sheets” in 1680 cost 50 shillings (written as £2:10:00 — 20 shillings equaled a pound). The bed itself cost only eight shillings (written as £0:08:00). In addition to Dutch textiles, French silks for dresses and Indian tea were prohibitively expensive because imported goods from anywhere other than England were limited by the Crown, even for wealthy families. The surprising disparity reflects the reality of the times: wood was abundant in 17th century North Carolina, but finely spun and woven fabric was unavailable in the colonies and had to be imported at great expense.
1Andrew G. Gardner,”Courtship, Sex, and the Single Colonist,”Colonial Williamsburg Journal”, Holiday 2007.
2Henry Reed Stiles,”Bundling: Its Origins, Progress, and Decline in America”, Knickerbocker Publishing Company, Albany, NY, 1871.
3Peter Fenelon Collier, Publisher, New York,”The Works of Washington Irving Volume 4″, 1897, page 139.
4Lois Green Carr and Lorena S. Walsh, The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Oct., 1977), pp. 542-571, “The Planters Wife: The Experience of White Women in Seventeenth Century Maryland.”
Back to Jamestown and Unearthing Yet Another Notable Ancestor
Because of my ancient Bolling family lineage, I have long been following anything and everything published related to Pocahontas, her marriage to Thomas Rolfe, their cultural and genealogical histories in England and Virginia. Among the vast resources available, I also have followed the archaeological endeavors of Dr. William Kelso, director of archaeology on the Jamestown Rediscovery Project, at the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities ( APVA )–now known as Preservation Virginia.
In recent weeks. Dr. Kelso unearthed the remains of Captain Gabriel Archer, in the old church yard in Jamestown, along with three other leaders of the colony. When I checked my ever-growing ancestral tree I saw that Captain Archer is yet another relative of mine related to me by a 2nd cousin several generations removed. My intention was to write a post about Dr. Kelso’s recent discovery and detail Captain Archer’s life cut short in Jamestown. However, valuable information is already readily available and I see no need for me to “reinvent the wheel,” so I am sharing a video, Gabriel Archer’s time line, and excerpts from an article by Patrick G. Duffeler, Owner and Chairman of Williamsburg Winery, who shares his connection to Captain Gabriel Archer.
The Video that Details the July 2015 Archaeological Find by Dr. Kelso and Crew (3:59):
ca. 1574 – Gabriel Archer is born in Mountnessing, Essex County, England.
ca. 1591 – Gabriel Archer matriculated at Saint John’s College, Cambridge University.
March 15, 1593 – Gabriel Archer begins studies at Gray’s Inn.
March 26, 1602 – An English colonizing expedition, led by Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, departs Falmouth on the ship Concord. Twenty colonists and a dozen crewmembers are aboard.
May 14, 1602 – The English ship Concord, commanded by Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, anchors off a peninsula that Gosnold names Cape Cod. He later names Martha’s Vineyard for his late daughter, before establishing a small colony on Cuttyhunk Island.
June 18, 1602 – The English ship Concord, commanded by Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, sails to England after its exploration of the New England coast.
Late 1606 – Gabriel Archer enrolls in the Virginia Company of London’s expedition to establish a colony in what is known as South Virginia.
April 26, 1607 – Jamestown colonists first drop anchor in the Chesapeake Bay, and after a brief skirmish with local Indians, begin to explore the James River.
May 13, 1607 – The Jamestown colonists select a marshy peninsula fifty miles up the James River on which to establish their settlement.
May 26, 1607 – While Christopher Newport and a party of colonists explore the James River, an alliance of five Algonquian-speaking Indian groups—the Quiyoughcohannocks, the Weyanocks, the Appamattucks, the Paspaheghs, and the Chiskiacks—attacks Jamestown, wounding ten and killing two.
May 28, 1607 – After an Indian attack, the settlers at Jamestown begin building a fort.
June 10, 1607 – Finally released from arrest, John Smith takes his seat as a member of the Council.
June 15, 1607 – English colonists complete construction of James Fort at Jamestown.
June 22, 1607 – Christopher Newport departs from Jamestown for England, carrying a letter to the Virginia Company of London that exaggerates the Virginia colony’s commercial possibilities.
September 10, 1607 – Council members John Ratcliffe, John Smith, and John Martin oust Edward Maria Wingfield as president, replacing him with Ratcliffe. By the end of the month, half of Jamestown’s 104 men and boys are dead, mostly from sickness.
January 2, 1608 – John Smith returns to Jamestown after being held captive by Powhatan. Only thirty-eight colonists survive, Smith’s seat on the Council is occupied by Gabriel Archer, and the Council accuses Smith of killing his companions. Smith is sentenced to hang, but charges are dropped when Christopher Newport arrives with the first supplies from England.
April 10, 1608 – Aboard the John and Francis, Christopher Newport leaves Jamestown for England. Among those with him are Gabriel Archer, Edward Maria Wingfield, and the Indian Namontack.
Summer 1608 – While in England, Gabriel Archer probably supplies the Virginia Company with copies of his reports of the colony at Jamestown.
August 11, 1609 – Four ships reach Jamestown from England: Unity, Lion, Blessing, and Falcon. Two others are en route; two more wrecked in a storm; and one, Sea Venture, was cast up on the Bermuda islands’ shoals.
August 31, 1609 – In his last surviving letter, Gabriel Archer describes his most recent voyage to Virginia and attacks the leadership of John Smith.
October 1609 – John Smith leaves Virginia. The Jamestown colony’s new leadership is less competent, and the Starving Time follows that winter.
November 1609 – Powhatan Indians lay siege to Jamestown, denying colonists access to outside food sources. The Starving Time begins, and by spring 160 colonists, or about 75 percent of Jamestown’s population, will be dead from hunger and disease. This action begins the First Anglo-Powhatan War (1609–1614).
Winter 1609–1610 – Gabriel Archer dies on an unrecorded date during the Starving Time at Jamestown.
1625 – Samuel Purchas publishes Gabriel Archer’s account of Bartholomew Gosnold’s New England expedition of 1602
Gabriel Archer Celebrated by Patrick G. Duffeler, Founder and Chairman, Williamsburg Winery – August 7, 2015:
Captain Gabriel Archer was born in 1575 and grew up in Mountnessing, Essex, about 25 miles from London. He attended Cambridge University and then Grays Inn, where he studied law. Archer had been part of an expedition in 1602 on the coast of “Northern Virginia”, what would later be called New England. He had written a then widely read account of that trip. He had been an enthusiastic proponent of the Virginia Colony and had been named co-captain of the Godspeed, the lead ship of three vessels that brought the men that founded the first permanent settlement in the New World in 1607. They were establishing a colony for the Virginia Company, a private venture under a Royal Charter.
Archer wanted to locate the settlement at the mouth of a creek, on a piece of land that he intended to name Archer’s Hope. “Hope” in the words of the period referred to an “opening or hollow amongst hills”. However, Captain John Smith, overruled Archer and placed the settlement instead on “Jamestowne” Island. The creek became known as Archer’s Hope Creek and later, College Creek, (as it finds its source behind the College of William & Mary that was chartered in 1693).
Subsequently, Archer was named as the first secretary of the colony but initially was not appointed to the governing council. He was a fierce critic of Captain John Smith and other leaders and was one of the principles involved in deposing the first president of the colony, Edward Maria Wingfield.
After Smith was sent home a few months later, Archer was one of the most important of the leaders remaining. He returned to England in 1608 and sailed back again to Virginia a year later with the fleet that was damaged and scattered by a major hurricane in the Atlantic. He was on one of the ships that survived the crossing and arrived at Jamestown in August 1609. He died in 1609 or 1610 during the terrible Winter known as “The Starving Time”. His burial within the church’s chancel demonstrates that his status was recognized among the settlers even during a time of great stress. He was only 35.
About 400 Years Later…
I was raised with an appreciation for history. Our historical research had led my wife, Peggy, and I, to talk to many historians and archeologists, and we discovered the treasures of the land and its chronicle from 1607 to the twentieth century. But, in January 1982, when we first walked on that acreage where Captain Gabriel Archer had recommended the colonists settle, it was bitterly cold. Yet, the farm grounds were beautiful and inspiring. After many visits to other farms, we decided to acquire what we later, after considerable historical research, would find was not just Jockey’s Neck Farm, as it was then called, but Archer’s Hope. In the meantime, we had named our project, our farm, Wessex Hundred…from our family’s early origins…
Wessex Hundred became home to the Williamsburg Winery in 1987 and later to its diverse operations:
Wedmore Place, a 28 room country hotel, the Café Provencal, a fine dining restaurant; and, right across from the winery itself, the Gabriel Archer Tavern, a farm-to-fork, informal, dining establishment opened in ’87 with the focus on “Delicious Simplicity”.
Gabriel Archer and his preference to place the first settlement on our farm loomed large and was, in many respects, inspiring. So much so, in fact, that Peggy and I deeded the land that would have been “Archer’s Hope” (and can now be seen from the Colonial Parkway, a roadway between Williamsburg and Yorktown) into Conservation Easement. We chose not to build on that land to protect the historical vista. This site is now identified by a state historic highway marker.
In 1991, we decided to name our first “reserve” wine, a red blend of different Vinifera varietals, the “Gabriel Archer Reserve”. Descendants of Gabriel Archer living in Richmond, VA contacted us and expressed an interest in our activities both in the sense of their interest in wines, but more importantly about our research on the history of our farm.
The wine became the flagship of our product range. Friends of the winery have written to us about how well the ’93 vintage has aged and bested some top Bordeaux first growth wines in tastings. The most recent news was that the Gabriel Archer Reserve received wonderful ratings by none other than Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Both the 2009 and 2010 received a 90 point rating.
Almost 25 years after the first vintage of the Gabriel Archer Reserve, the history of the man has come to life in a bright light.
Cheers to Gabriel Archer
Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman
1Quinn, D. B., the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Gabriel Archer
(ca. 1574–ca. 1610). (2015, August 10). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Archer_Gabriel_ca_1574-ca_1610.