IN THIS EDITION -- May 30, 2002

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National Archives Launches New Web Site

Be sure to point your browser to www.archives.gov. That's where the National Archives and Records Administration has its new and improved Web site (formerly www.nara.gov). The enhanced site will have improved navigation, better graphics and layouts, and new features such as printer-friendly pages, news and event notices, drop-down boxes to directly access key pages, a site index and an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page. Archives.gov will also have improved accessibility for people with visual, auditory and motor impairments.
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Will the Real Christopher Columbus Stand Up?

The body of the Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, or Cristobal Colon as he is known in Spain, rests in peace in a church in Seville. Or is it in Santo Domingo? Authorities from both places claim they have the "real" Colon. Because Columbus' remains were moved so many times since his death in 1506 (just 14 years after he sailed to America), historians are now grappling with the true location of the explorer's tomb. According to the New York Times, two Spanish teachers from Andalusia have teamed up with scientists to resolve the dispute with DNA tests. They hope to compare DNA from the skeleton of Columbus' illegitimate son with the bones from disputed Columbus burial sites. The team first must get approval from Spanish and Dominican authorities and the Roman Catholic church before going ahead, but they hope to get results by 2006, the 500th anniversary of Columbus' death.
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Traveling in Regency/Victorian England

 

Did your ancestors live in England during the Regency or Victorian periods (1811 to 1901)? Here are some ways they might have traveled during that time:

· Private Coaches
Those who had carriages of their own, or hired them, could go "post," meaning that they could have fresh horses at certain recognized stations. This form of travel, known as going post chaise, was decidedly the favored means of travel. The chaise was a light and comfortable vehicle with two or, more commonly, four wheels and was drawn by two or four horses ridden by post boys. For great haste, four horses with two postilions were used. As with a coach, the horses were changed at stages. There was room for only two passengers in a post chaise, but most carriages had a dickey, or platform, at back for a groom.

· The Omnibus
The horse-drawn omnibus, used for travel within major cities, was introduced to England in 1829 by George Shillibeer. Originally, these carried 12 inside passengers, three outside, but eventually carried 22 passengers inside, with a team of three horses. The floors were covered with straw, and the average ride cost sixpence. By 1838, omnibuses and their drivers had to be licensed. In the 1890s, there were about 1,700 omnibuses in London, with tickets first introduced during the same period. The first motor bus, with an omnibus body fitted atop a Cannstall-Daimler chassis, was introduced in October 1899.

· The Railroad
The railway from Liverpool to Manchester was opened on Sept. 15, 1830, but rail travel did not come to the forefront until a decade later. Like any other innovation, it took some time for the notion to catch on. Northampton, for example, refused to allow the London and Birmingham Railway to build tracks anywhere near the town center, fearing that the smoke of the engines would affect the wool of grazing sheep. Needless to say, the railroad companies pressed on, and those towns that did allow the railway to enter reaped so many benefits that by the mid-1840s most of the opposition had been won over.

By 1844, a veritable railroad mania gripped the nation. Prospective companies offered the public the opportunity to buy into the new venture at ground level, and hinted at the promise of big money to be made. Capital was easily raised, prompting the government to institute a Railway commission. One of its suggestions, which soon became law, was that every railway should arrange for at least one train to pass each way, every weekday, traveling at a speed of 12 miles per hour, to be furnished with closed third-class railway coach at a fare not to exceed a penny per mile: These were later known as Parliamentary Trains.

-Excerpted from The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England by Kristine Hughes, $18.99. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher, Betterway Books. Available in bookstores or online at www.familytreemagazine.com/store/display.asp?id=10545.

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History Channel Aims Younger

Come next year, you might be surprised to see your kids or grandkids joining you to watch the History Channel. It may be because the network is expanding its focus on ancient worlds and early American history to include more recent history-an effort to attract younger, mostly male viewers. According to Mediaweek, next year's lineup includes the History Channel's first "reality" series, "Basic Training," which follows a group of Army recruits through basic training. You'll also see "Fire on the Mountain," a special about a 1994 Colorado fire, and "The Ship," which re-enacts one of Capt. James Cook's journeys in the Pacific. Network executives call this expanded focus an "opportunity to show history in contemporary life."
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In Memoriam

 

A tip from Paula Schuler of Anderson, Mo.:

"I sat here at my computer doing Internet research and visited local libraries every chance I could, when the whole time a valuable genealogical source was right under my nose! It's not a cheery topic, but the flower cards, sympathy cards and visitation registers from deceased relatives can help fill in a lot of blanks for some of your more recent generations. Never could remember your second cousin's wife's name? The names of your grandparents' cousins and their spouses? I was able to fill in a lot of my blank spots by going through the flower cards, lists of those who brought food and all the other cards and things that had been saved from my grandfather's and great-grandmother's funerals. Who knows how many months of research I saved by going through those two boxes in one evening's time? If I had done it six months ago, who knows how much further ahead I would be by now? Don't overlook the obvious sources that you might have in your own house!"