I am a Tombstone Tourist: someone who loves to wander cemeteries. I find it akin to visiting a museum: an opportunity to enjoy rarely seen sculpture, intricate carvings, and amazing architecture, all in a tranquil outdoor setting. This blog is about cemetery culture, art, history, issues of death, and genealogy - subjects of current relevance. I usually find something that intrigues me and makes me want to dig deeper. Care to join me? Read on...
Fawkes Day is celebrated every November 5th throughout the United
Kingdom to commemorate the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
was a member of the “Gunpowder Plot” – a group of Roman Catholic conspirators
who plotted to blow up the House of Parliament in retaliation for Protestant King
James’ refusal to allow religious tolerance.
King James 1
men were in on the plot to kill King James and the attending members of
Parliament. They hoped to reestablish Catholic rule in England by replacing him
with his daughter Princess Elizabeth – third in line of succession.
The Eight Men Tried and Convicted
betrayed the men and Guy Fawkes was discovered in the cellar with 36 barrels of
explosives, ready to light the fuses. Fawkes was arrested and tortured to give
up the names of his co-conspirators. He refused to name names but did confess
that he was in on the plot. Fawkes was tried along with the others.The jury found all guilty of
high treason. And the punishment was severe.
Execution Day - January 31, 1606
the sentencing, Attorney General Sir Edward Coke informed the court that each
condemned man would be drawn backwards by a horse to his death with his head
near the ground. Each would be hung slowly as their genitals were cut off and
burnt before their eyes before their bowels and hearts were removed. Each body would
then be decapitated and the dismembered parts displayed throughout the kingdom
as a lesson to others.
Fawkes was indeed executed on January 31, 1606, the last of the men
that were convicted, but not he did not die in the manner prescribed by Coke. It is unknown if Fawkes
jumped to his death or was aided by the hangman but he was decidedly dead
before his body was mutilated.
same year, Parliament declared November 5th a day of thanksgiving and celebration. Today,
celebrations still held in the United Kingdom with parades and feasts. Bonfires
are lit and effigies of Fawkes are thrown on to burn. Fireworks are also
incorporated in the celebration as a reminder of the gunpowder that was never
used by the potential arsonists.
rhyme from the 18th century encapsulates the Gunpowder Plot:
before Burke and Hare’s body snatching business or resurrectionists began stealing
bodies from the graveyard, medical doctors in the 17th century had
an intriguing way to see inside the body using small anatomical sculptures
carved from ivory.
tiny manikins are believed to have been carved in German during the 1600s. Each
is a reclining figure between 4 to 8-inches long with removable abdominal walls
and internal organs. Most manikins are of the female body, which could have
assisted in the explanation of pregnancy and childbirth. Use of the manikins
waned in the 18th century and was replaced with wax models and
cadavers. Over time, these once state-of-the-art medical images became rather
bizarre trinkets and collectors items for the rich.
has been known of their origins until recently when researchers using micro-CT
identified that the material used was ivory. Before the tests it was thought
they might have been carved fro a combination of wale bone, deer antler and
the largest collection of ivory manikins can be found at Duke University in
Durham, North Carolina where 22 of 180 known manikins are kept. Purchased by
Duke thoracic surgeon Josiah Trent and his wife in the 1930s and 40’s – years
before the ivory ban of 1989 went into effect – the fragile artifacts have been
stored in the library’s vault.
manikins are extremely life-like and hinged, which would have made them
beneficial in the study of various diseases during the late 1700s.
only are the manikins a look into the medical practices of the 17th
century, but today the ivory dolls are also viewed as artistic creations.
locations for the rare manikins are The New York Academy of Medicine Library,
which is home to seven manikins, including a rare male and female pair. And at least one female manikin from the Special Collections and Rare Books at the University of Missouri Libraries.
from Special Collections and Rare Books, University of Missouri Libraries)
This year celebrates the 100th anniversary
of women being granted the right to vote. During the year, we will explore the
lives and deaths of some of the more well known women in American history.
Juliette Gordon Low
was summer in England in 1911 when Juliette Gordon Low joined the Girl Guide
movement. The group was based loosely on British general Robert Baden-Powell’s Boy
Scout troupes. At the time, the Boy Scouts had more than 40,000 members in
England and the U.S. Later that year, Low organized a girls group in Scotland
in a similar vein and called it the Girl Guides Patrol. Members were taught how
to spin wool, care for livestock, and read a map. Girls also learned how to do
drills and how to set up a camp. By the end of the year, Low had formed two
more groups in England.
Low returned to the United States in 1912, she decided to form a U.S. Girl
Guide troupe in Savannah, Georgia. With 18 members, she searched for ways to
teach girls practical skills and independence. Low felt this would be an
organization that would help girls build character and self-reliance.
There was competition in the form of the Campfire Girls. When Low invited the
group to merge with her own, the leader, James E. West refused citing the Girl
Scouts were teaching females to do gender-inappropriate things.
1913, the Girl Guides became the Girl Scouts. In 1915, official paperwork
was filed and the name legally became Girl Scouts, Inc. Low served as the first
president to a group of more than 2,400 girls.
1920, Low had stepped down as president of the Girl Scouts so she could
continue working to get the group worldwide status. Low worked
tirelessly to make the Girl Scouts an organization that promoted a girl’s self
image and gave her the skills necessary to succeed in life.
1923, Low was diagnosed with breast cancer but kept it a secret. She tried
numerous treatments and had several operations but all were unsuccessful.
Gordon Low died on January 17, 1927 in Savannah from the final stages of breast
cancer. She was 66-years-old. Her casket was escorted to the church and
graveyard by an honor guard of Girl Scouts. She was buried in her Girl Scout
uniform with a note tucked into her pocket that read, “You are not only
the first Girl Scout, but the best Girl Scout of them all.”
In 1979, Juliette Gordon Low was
inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
On May 29, 2012, the 100th
anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts, Low was honored with the
Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama for her “remarkable
vision.” The medal also celebrates “her dedication to empowering girls everywhere.”
membership in the Girl Scouts was recorded at 3.8 million in 2003. Today the
number is roughly 2.6 million.
It began on the wintry Thursday afternoon of January 12,
1888 in the Great Plains. For the past several days the weather had been snowy
with brutally cold temperatures but it appeared a reprieve had been granted.Temperatures were on the rise. Just a
few hours out in the warmer weather would be a welcome relief before
the next storm was due to hit later that day.
According to the Weather Bureau forecast that day. "A
cold wave is indicated for Dakota and Nebraska tonight and tomorrow; the snow
will drift heavily today and tomorrow in Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and
Wisconsin.” Today, forecasters would call this the start of an Alberta Clipper.
Children had walked to school in the warmer weather and farmers took to the
fields to see what damage the last storm had done. But by mid-morning, the snow began to fall again in the Dakotas.
By noon, another storm had rushed in and temperatures had fallen
so fast many teachers had already used up their allotment of wood for the day. With a
blinding blizzard there was no way to get more. Desks and chairs were tossed
on the fire in an attempt to keep frostbite at bay until help could arrive - and no one knew how long that would be.
In Minnesota, temperatures were just above freezing early
that afternoon and many stepped out to enjoy the welcomed break. Around
3:00 clouds began furiously rolling in to the area and the wind increased
quickly. By 3:30 one of the worst blizzards on record was already loose upon
the state. The somewhat balmy afternoon had turned deadly cold with temps
plummeting 50 to 60 degrees in a just minutes. They now registered in the
negative 40s and 50s.
When teachers realized the severity of the situation, most
kept children in the classrooms and schoolhouses. Those who had already ventured
out were facing dire consequences.The children in Nebraska and South
Dakota fared the worst with an official death toll of 235 people – mostly
children caught out in the storm who froze to death. Some reports said the number
killed was closer to 500 people considering some folks in the country were not
missed until the spring, and some bodies were not discovered until later in the
year when all of the snow had melted. Not only was the human death toll
high, the toll on livestock caught out in the storm was also extensive.
The storm took down Western Union telegraph lines, which
stopped warnings from reaching other states in the path of the storm. Trains
were stopped where they stood.In
the nine states and territories including Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, North
Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, and Iowa, it was one of
the worst winter storms to ever hit that area.
The weather the next day dawned clear and cold with snow
drifts up to five feet tall and 30 feet wide in some places. The Children’s
Blizzard was the tail end of six years of extreme weather for the region, which
began in 1882. Forecasters had dubbed the freak weather, “The Little Ice Age.”
If your New Year's resolution is to attend more conferences and seminars this year; congratulations, that's a perfect way to make connections and stay up on what's happening in the world of genealogy. If you’re searching for genealogy conferences with the
most bang for the buck, here are four recommendations to consider.
Let’s start with the largest genealogy conference in the
world held right here in the U.S.Each year, Rootstech has a theme and this year will be about
The Story of You.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, RootsTech offers an amazing line-up of
presentations, events and technology. And this is one conference that’s aimed at you,
regardless of if you’re new to genealogy, have some experience, or if you're a certified genealogist. There’s something for everyone with more than 300 breakout sessions,
gala events and a Family Discovery Day on Saturday, February 29th.
If you’re searching for the latest, greatest technology in
the genealogy world, this is your go-to place. Take time to wander the Exhibit
Hall and get your questions answered by experts in the field.
One thing to note: Get your lodging reservations in soon.
Some attendees reup their rooms from one conference to the next; so don’t wait
to book a room. Salt Lake City is easy to get around in and with Uber and Lyft
available, travel time is minimal to and from the Salt Lake Palace.
(Full disclosure, I will be speaking
twice at RootsTech. One session is about Forgotten Records of Death, and the second is a one-woman performance on The Victorian Celebration of Death.)
This is another conference I have had the pleasure of
speaking at and it is always educational, and delightful. This year’s theme is Unlocking
the Pieces. Although
as a state conference it is somewhat Ohio-centric, speakers and presenters
cover a wide range of materials that appeal to the genealogist in all of us
including national law in regard to genealogy, tracing African American
ancestors and record analysis.
The OGS website offers attendees the chance to filter
presentations by day, track or speakers so you can always be up-to-date on what
is happening during the conference.
A member of the National Genealogical Society, the Ohio
conference will be held at the Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center in
Sandusky, Ohio. This is a family-friendly location with the Midwest’s
largest indoor water park. There are plenty of restaurants and shops to explore
between sessions without ever leaving the resort.
National Genealogical Society’s (NGS) Family History
Conference is about Echoes of Our Ancestors. This conference is held around the
country but this year it will also be in Salt
Lake City, just one block from the Family History Library.
The NGS offers a fabulous opportunity to network with more
than 2,0000 genealogists. Attendees have the chance to attend more than 150
presentations, many given by nationally recognized speakers. The Exhibit Hall
offers a chance to discover the latest and greatest in the genealogy world from
more than 80 exhibitors.
Salt Lake City is a friendly city with plenty of access to
the other genealogy sites around town. Most downtown lodging is within an easy
distance of public transportation, and for the hale and hearty, walking is always
The Texas Genealogy Society will hold their 60th annual
conference in November. Their theme is Remembering Your Heritage. More than 300 speakers will
enlighten and encourage attendees in DNA technology, records and research,
ethnic research topics and much more.
Again, while Texas-centric in some
sessions, this conference also offers topics that will resonate with everyone.
The conference will be held at the Omni Mandalay Hotel Las
Colinas in Dallas.