Filling gaps in family history

Part of the problem with doing family history is that there is so much missing.  Kelly and I both had relatives serving in the U.S. Navy in World War Two, and on a wide range of different ships.  Kelly had a grandfather that served on the USS Massachusetts (BB-59) during the war, and I had a grandfather that eventually served on the USS Cutlass (SS-478).  Interestingly enough, both of these vessels are well-documented, and even more fascinating, both of them still exist.

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A beautiful and storied ship, part one

As many of you already know, I am a lover of history.  Maritime history is especially one of my favorite sub-fields of history, and I love to see historic ships or reproductions of historic ships at any opportunity.  I am lucky enough to live in a state (and a region) that has many.

So I went to the old Navy Yard in Charlestown on Saturday, since my back was feeling a bit better and I was feeling up to doing some walking around.  And I am so very glad I did, because for the first time ever I got to take a tour of the inside of the USS Cassin Young, one of the museum ships kept there by the National Park Service.

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Another maritime mystery closer to being solved

The Canadian government announced yesterday that it had discovered one of the lost ships from Franklin’s Expedition, the British Arctic exploration voyage led by Captain Sir John Franklin that disappeared in the 1840s.  While it is still unknown whether the shipwreck is that of HMS Erebus or HMS Terror, it is pretty clear that one of the two vessels has been found by an remotely operated underwater vehicle using side-scan sonar.

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Another historic mystery may soon be solved

At least, I hope so.

For some 75 years or so people have wondered what happened to Amelia Earhart.  There have been all sorts of theories about what happened to her and Fred Noonan, but many of them were based on secondhand information, old recollections. or weird conspiracy theories.  Now we have some possible archaeological evidence near the island of Nikumaroro.  Over the years there have been a variety of clues that indicated a possible landing of the aircraft near this island.  Now, these clues are circumstantial, but the cumulative effects seems to have been to encourage further development of the sites near the island.  Last year a team thought they may have found landing gear from her aircraft.  And now a recent analysis of a sonar scan  may indicate the possible location of an aircraft in the area where they have been looking for it.

It would be great if we were finally able to solve this open-ended question of history, not to mention put to rest some of the more absurd theories about what happened.

-Geoff

Good research and archaeology pay off

One of the great things about history and archaeology is when things that are known in the historic record can be verified by actual physical evidence.  But often the evidence simply cannot be found for historic events, even as historians and archaeologists have searched for years.

But sometimes, careful research (with a bit of luck) pays off.

Researchers in Britain have found the long-lost grave of King Richard III, the Plantagenet monarch long slandered by his Tudor successors (and by none other than William Shakespeare as well).

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Other news of the fun and weird

In the process of doing some research into foods and beverages of the Middle Ages, I made a fascinating discovery.  There may be some historical truth behind the beverage “Butterbeer” from the Harry Potter books and films.  I am guessing that J.K. Rowling probably had heard of the old beverage called Buttered Beere, which was literally beer that had been flavored with butter and spices and served hot.  I made some tonight using a white lager as a base and it turned out beautifully.   I hope to do some more experimenting and see what kind makes the best buttered beer.

-Geoff