THE UNFOLDING JOURNEY is a new blog written in association with Legacy Genealogy.

This blog is a blend of disciplines that reveal the rich texture of culture and history that surrounded your ancestors' lives, as well as your own. We will take you beyond just the names, dates, and places to give you the "back story" for the reasons your ancestors thought what they thought and did what they did. We invite you to also visit us at the Legacy Genealogy facebook page at http://facebook.com/legacygenealogy

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Air travel has always been touted as the safest way to travel, and it’s true. Every other method of transportation is far more dangerous. But that doesn’t mean that air travel is danger free. The odds of being killed in a single “commercial airline” flight are 1 in 29.4 million. But, if you ARE involved in a fatal crash, your odds of dying are 67%.

Incidentally, according to planecrashinfo.com, these major air carriers have never had a fatality: Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Jet Blue Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.

The first recorded airplane fatality occurred on September 17, 1908, in Ft. Myer, Virginia. A plane was on a demonstration flight and piloted by Orville Wright. The propeller broke off and it fell from a height of 75 feet, and crashed to the ground. The only passenger, Lt. Thomas Selfridge, died in the crash. Orville Wright survived but suffered broken ribs, pelvis, and a leg. Listed below is a very partial list of notable people who did not survive the crash of an aircraft in which they were travelling (listed in date order).

7-1-1912: HARRIET QUIMBY (37), pioneer female pilot, the first “Lady of the Air,” died in Massachusetts.

4-21-1918: Manfred von Richtofen, the “RED BARON” (25), died in France; he may have been shot down by ground fire (and not by another airplane).
3-31-1931: KNUTE ROCKNE (43), Notre Dame Football coach, died in Kansas; a structural design flaw caused a wing to break off in flight.

8-15-1935: WILL ROGERS (56), humorist; and WILEY POST (37), adventurer, both died in Alaska; crashed into the water in fog.

7-2-1937: AMELIA EARHART (40), adventurer, died near New Guinea; probably ditched in the ocean (still not known for sure).

1-16-1942: CAROLE LOMBARD (33), actress, died in Nevada; crashed into a mountain - all 22 aboard were killed.

1-1-1943: LESLIE HOWARD (42), actor, died in France; the true reason is still unknown but some say his plane was shot down by German aircraft (rumor says the Germans thought Winston Churchill was aboard).

12-15-1944: GLENN MILLER (40), musician, died over the English Channel; actual reason is not known for sure; but his plane may have been hit by RAF bombs dropped from a higher altitude.

3-22-1958: MIKE TODD (49), film producer, died in New Mexico; crashed in a storm (his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, was to be aboard but stayed home with a cold).

2-3-1959: BUDDY HOLLY (22), RITCHIE VALENS (17), THE BIG BOPPER (28), all musicians, died in Iowa; crashed in bad weather.

2-25-1960: U.S. NAVY BAND, died in Brazil; mid-air collision - all 61 died.

9-17-1961: DAG HAMMARSKJOD (56), U.N. Secretary General, died in Zambia; crashed in the jungle (rumor says that a bomb had been detonated on board).

3-5-1963: PATSY CLINE (30), singer, died in Tennessee; crashed in a storm.

12-10-1967: OTIS REDDING (26), singer, died in Wisconsin; undetermined cause.

3-27-1968: YURI GARGARIN (34), 1st man in space, died in Russia; the crash cause was never made public.

4-14-1970: MARSHALL UNIV. FOOTBALL TEAM, died in West Virginia; crashed short of the runway in a storm - all 75 aboard killed.

5-28-1971: AUDIE MURPHY (45), WWII hero and actor, died in Virginia; crashed into mountain in a thunderstorm.

12-31-1972: ROBERTO CLEMENTE (38), baseball player, died in Puerto Rico; crashed on takeoff as engines lost all power.

9-20-1973: JIM CROCE (30), singer, died in Louisiana; crashed on takeoff.

8-1-1977: FRANCIS GARY POWERS (47), pilot, died in California; having survived being shot down by the Soviets, he crashed in a helicopter covering a fire for a local TV station.

12-31-1985: RICKY NELSON (45), singer, died in Texas; fire on board, crashed.

1-28-1986: CREW OF SPACE SHUTTLE CHALLENGER, in Florida; crashed during takeoff - all 7 of the crew died.

8-27-1990: STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN (35), musician, died in Wisconsin; crashed on take- off in the fog.

10-25-1991: BILL GRAHAM (60), rock promoter, died in California; his helicopter crashed after hitting a transmission tower.

10-12-1997: JOHN DENVER (53), singer, died in California; John lost control, dived, and crashed into Monterey Bay.

7-16-1999: JOHN F. KENNEDY JR. (38) died in Massachusetts; lost control and crashed in the ocean.

2-1-2003: CREW OF THE SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA, over Texas; craft broke up on re-entry - all 7 of the crew died.

We credit this information to the website “Plane Crash Info.” It is a very extensive site and can be linked to at http://planecrashinfo.com/indexold.html

Sunday, October 20, 2013

One of the most ubiquitous hand gestures in the world is the “V-Sign.” It is made by straightening the index and middle finger of the hand so that they stick up in a V-shape while the other fingers and thumb are curled against the palm. The gesture has lots of meanings depending on the cultural context in which it is used. It can represent victory or success, or it indicated a wish for peace. It can represent the number two (if you are ordering two drinks at a bar); or it can be “rabbit ears” held behind someone’s head just before the picture is snapped. It can also be an insult, especially if the two upright fingers are flicked in the direction of another.

No one is completely sure where the V-Sign originated. The most popular theory is that it began about 600 years ago during the Hundred Years War between England and France. At the Battle of Agincourt, Longbow archers were England’s greatest weapon. They could launch their arrows at the French from a distance where they could not be attacked themselves. The French King allegedly ordered that any Longbow man captured was to have his index and middle finger cut off prohibiting him from ever firing his arrows again. In defiance, the English archers would shake these two fingers at the French to show them that they could still deliver their arrows. It was a “take that” kind of gesture.

As romantic as this story is, it’s improbable. English bowmen were so far back behind the lines that it’s doubtful the enemy could even see their fingers. Also, armies at that time generally did not take and hold prisoners, they executed them. Cutting off two fingers is a little pointless if the prisoner was about to be killed anyway.

This brings us to the two basic types of V-Signs in use today. They differ by the direction that the user’s palm faces. With the palm facing backward toward the user himself, it is considered an insult; with the palm facing forward toward another, it is likely to be seen as a victory sign or peace sign. 
It is generally believed that the V-Sign was first used as an insult. In the British Commonwealth countries today, a V-Sign with the palm facing inward, and knuckles outward, is still considered an insult. If it is accompanied by an up and down motion, it is thought to be highly profane; but is still perceived as being less aggressive than the middle finger only gesture.

When the palm is facing outward toward others, the V-Sign is suggests victory. Beginning during World War II, it has been closely associated with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It actually began with a Belgian resistance leader, Victor de Laveleye, who clearly used it meaning victory (or freedom in Flemish). British media encouraged its adoption and Churchill was frequently seen in photographs making the sign. At first he used it with the palm facing inward (the insult) possibly not knowing what that meant; but some thought that he knew exactly what it stood for and was sending a message to the Nazis. By the end of the war, the V-Sign was embraced by all Allied personnel.

By the early 1960’s in the United States, the V-Sign took on new meanings. While it still stood for victory for one’s causes, it also came to be a symbol of the peace and anti-war movements. It was used as an anti-nuclear gesture as well. Many politicians attempted to endear themselves to the public by using the sign. Most of them over-used it, like Richard Nixon’s two-handed V-Signs. The V-Sign has become a very popular practice in Japan and South Korea during the last 35 years. It represents happiness to the younger generations, somewhat like a “thumbs up” sign in the west. Today, the sign is used worldwide by political movements, sports teams, and schools.

Another more recent use of the V-Sign occurs when the hand is held horizontal, palm down, and the two straightened fingers are moved from the eyes of the signer toward another as in “I am watching you.”

However the sign is used or interpreted today, it’s likely to be around for a long time.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Great Britain was the most powerful nation on earth in 1776. Much of the world was part of the British Empire. Its navies ruled the sea, and its armies were unequalled on the field of battle. The regular British Army in North America plus its German mercenaries numbered about 80,000 troops. The Continental Army rarely had more than 20,000 men at any one time.
After 237 years, we take another look at what made the American victory possible? The reasons are not in the numbers. They are not centered on any individual person, although the influence and contributions of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and others was significant. There was no single campaign or battle that was overwhelmingly won by the patriots. So how did we achieve our independence?
There are nine generally recognized reasons. Four are “primary reasons” (1-4 below); and five are important supporting reasons (5-9 below). Here are the four “primary reasons” how victory was achieved.
1. Of all the many reasons that victory was attained, the most important was the popular support given by the common person. The average American colonial had been participating in politics since well before the war. There was support for the war among farmers, shopkeepers, laborers, immigrants, and even slaves; and it included people from diverse regions, religions, and social positions. The emerging resistance to Britain was seen in boycotts, petitions, grievances, and secret meetings.
2. The intervention of France, Spain, the Netherlands, and other European countries opposed to the English was critical to American independence. At the close of the French and Indian War in 1763, Britain had conquered vast tracts of land previously held by other European nations. Patriot spokesmen were sent to Europe to offer the return of lost French and Spanish lands if those European governments would support their efforts for independence.
The offers were taken seriously and key European governments agreed, but the French and Spanish were not in a military position themselves to become directly involved in the war for independence. Prior to any formal involvement, the French and Spanish governments secretly supplied American rebels with funds and critically needed war materials worth many millions of dollars. By 1778, the French politically recognized their rebel allies. The Spanish were instrumental in keeping the British warships in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and away from reinforcing British troops in the colonies.

3. Americans used an “asymmetrical” military strategy. This is a term frequently used in the twentieth century to describe warfare between mismatched opponents, although it has been employed throughout history from ancient Greece to Viet Nam. Instead of meeting the British force on force (and certainly be defeated by this trained and disciplined enemy), they used guerilla tactics learned from fighting the Indians on the frontier. The colonists would strike quickly then disappear. Large scale battles were always avoided by the colonials, unless they were trapped. The British were never able to deliver a final blow.
4. England would not utilize American loyalist supporters. The British did not trust or respect the loyalists who numbered in the tens of thousands. The loyalists had organized themselves into 70 regiments of infantry, but English officers refused to use them in battle or on guard duty. Patriot soldiers frequently wore ordinary clothing, and the English had difficulty telling the loyalists and patriots apart. The English were also largely unable to protect the loyalists from reprisals upon them by patriots. This alienated many potential supporters.
These are the five “supporting reasons” contributing to victory.

5. Conquering the vast colonial geography was problematic. The British found it impossible to occupy the countryside except for short periods; there simply weren’t enough troops. They usually resided in the cities and only ventured out when there was a sufficient force. Long supply lines in hostile and unfamiliar territory were too risky otherwise. Consequently the colonists were freer to move about.
6. The crown lacked money to finance a long, protracted war far from its shores. Having just completed a war with France and its Indian allies (costing 70 million pounds in mid-1760’s money), the British national debt had doubled. The funds to operate the empire would have to be raised through taxes on the English population. The American colonists, in spite of their loud objections to taxes, only paid about 5% of the taxes paid by British citizens. Many in England felt that the new higher taxes being imposed on them were due to the war in America and they strongly insisted that the war be quickly concluded.
7. The British emancipated all slaves and indentured servants willing to serve in the English Army. By doing this, they caused the southern slave colonies to more closely align with the northern patriots. Slaves serving in British black regiments did not lead to their ultimate freedom however.

8. American leaders (and government) were mobile. There was no established national colonial capital that the British could capture to end the war. Instead the Continental Congress moved from one place to another to evade them.

9. The involvement of American women in the cause was significant. Women supported the pursuit of independence in ways unknown in America before the war. Many were familiar with the self-reliant lifestyle of the frontier. They produced clothing for the soldiers, boycotted English products, made musket balls, travelled as aides with the troops, and spied on the British.

All of these reasons combined to make the War for Independence a reality. 

Monday, October 7, 2013


Maybe we are just being “Devils’ Advocates” here but we feel that a 200-year old injustice has been done to William Bligh. He is, of course, the villain in the story of the Mutiny on the Bounty. He was the evil captain of the HMS Bounty who made Fletcher Christian declare, “I am in Hell, I am in Hell!” Captain Bligh has a reputation for brutalizing his crews on their long voyages; but did he? Or was he just a convenient villain for literature and Hollywood?

William Bligh was born in the Cornwall district of England in 1754. He was the son of Francis and Jane Bligh. A smart and serious lad, William was signed up for the Royal Navy at seven years old. It was customary at the time for young gentlemen to be initiated into the sea faring life at an early age. By the time he was 16, he was an “able seaman,” a rank that many sailors achieved only after a career at sea. One year later William had become a midshipman, or junior officer.

At age 22, he was given the remarkable honor of being chosen by Captain James Cook to be his “sailing master,” the person in charge of navigation, on Cook’s third voyage of exploration to the Pacific. Five years later he fought under Lord Howe at Gibraltar.

In 1787, this well respected young officer was recommended for an assignment to lead an “experiment” for the King. He was just 32 but had already spent almost 25 years at sea. At that time the British government had control of the island of Jamaica. It was proving difficult to keep all the slaves, working the plantations, fed adequately so a plan was conceived to determine if Breadfruit plants could be used as an inexpensive food source. Bligh was given command of a converted merchant ship, renamed HMS Bounty, which he was to sail to Tahiti to acquire the Breadfruit; then bring the cargo back to Jamaica for planting
Large sections of the Bounty were converted to accommodate the Breadfruit, including the Captain’s quarters. Bligh was confined to a cramped cabin adjacent to the crew quarters. William was officially the only officer on board. Others, including Fletcher Christian, only acted as officers, without appointment. The crew recruited for the voyage was largely made up of recently released prisoners and town drunkards with very little discipline or respect for authority. Additionally, a Navy ship usually carried a detachment of Royal Marines aboard to fend off hostiles and keep peace on the vessel. None were provided for this mission. This combination of a long voyage, cramped quarters, untrained “officers,” an unruly crew, and no guards offered a potential for disaster.

The voyage to Tahiti was enormously difficult. For a month, Heavy seas blocked the passage around the tip of South America. Captain Bligh was forced to reverse direction and sail around the tip of Africa instead. It took ten months for the Bounty to reach Tahiti. Hollywood has given us the image of Captain Bligh dispensing harsh punishments to the crew on a whim. But this has never been substantiated. The ship’s log indicated that corporal punishments were few. Most times he resorted to verbal reprimands instead of flogging, and no one was hanged.

William Bligh was an educated man who recognized that good diet and sanitation improved the welfare of his crew. He was careful about the quality of the crew’s food, and ordered his men to keep the ship clean. He rearranged the crew’s work schedule creating three shifts instead of two which allowed the men to get a longer uninterrupted period of sleep.

In October of 1788, the Bounty arrived in Tahiti. They stayed there five months to allow the young Breadfruit plants to mature to a point where they could be safely transported. William Bligh permitted his men to live on the island instead of on the ship; which may have proven to be his fatal mistake. Many men got tattoos and a significant number formed relationships with the women there. Fletcher Christian married. The crew became socialized to the culture of the Tahitians and the pleasant atmosphere of the island. While in Tahiti, Bligh tried to keep the spread of venereal disease under control, although unsuccessful.

As the time for departure came closer, tensions between Bligh and his officers became stressed. The Captain did have the trait of excess vanity and entitlement but not to the extent depicted in fiction. The crew, unaccustomed to the rough sea life, was reluctant to leave their new found paradise. They had been given unusual freedom by their captain while on the island and they did not want it withdrawn.

Twenty three days after leaving Tahiti, Fletcher Christian and some of his followers broke into Bligh’s cabin, tied him up, and brought him on deck. The Bounty had been taken over without a fight by less than half the crew. Of the seven “officers,” six remained loyal to Bligh; only Christian mutinied. Of the crew, 19 of the 35 mutinied.

The mutineers ordered that Bligh, the ship’s master, two midshipmen and several more loyal crew members into the ship’s launch. They were given four cutlasses, a compass, and enough food and water to reach the nearest port. They were not given any charts or a sextant to give them a location. The Bounty sailed off back to Tahiti. William Bligh was an exceptional navigator however and took the small band on a 3,618 nautical mile voyage to Timor (Indonesia) in 47 days. It stands today as a near impossible achievement. Only one man was lost, killed by natives on the island of Tofua.

Fletcher Christian and his men moved from island to island for some time trying to avoid the Royal Navy which had sent ships out to capture them. Several remained in Tahiti and others settled on Pitcairn Island. They sunk to Bounty to avoid detection. When the Navy arrived at Tahiti they rounded up 14 mutineers and returned them to England. Four died in route but 10 arrived ready for trial. Only three were hanged. The others were acquitted or pardoned largely due to the forgiving testimony of Bligh himself. William Bligh was honorably acquitted for the loss of the Bounty.

Captain Bligh resumed his naval career; commanding large multi-cannoned “ships of the line.” He proved himself a very loyal, able, and heroic servant of the Crown. In 1805, he became the Governor of New South Wales in the Australian Territory. Prior to his death in 1817, William Bligh was promoted to Vice Admiral of the Royal Navy.

Was he a stern disciplinarian who demanded loyalty? Yes. Was he an intolerant tyrant who abused his crew sadistically? Certainly not.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


You might remember a news story about a young lady in Georgia who was suffering through an attack by a “flesh-eating” microbe. NBC called it a flesh-eating virus. CNN covered the same story but called it a flesh-eating bacteria. I couldn’t remember exactly what the difference was between a virus and a bacteria, but I knew it was something. A friend said, “Oh no, the two are the same. When people get sick they take antibiotics, that’s all.” Not satisfied, I did some research (by the way, CNN was right, it was a bacterial infection).

A virus and a bacterium are two very different things. It’s true that both are microscopic, can infect a body, and can cause disease; and infections from both can have similar symptoms. But otherwise they are completely unlike each other
Bacteria are fairly complex one-celled living organisms that exist almost everywhere in the world, from the polar ice caps to the deepest oceans. Fossil records have confirmed that bacteria were present on the Earth 3.5 billion years ago.

They are small, but giant compared to a virus. If you were a virus and you stood next to a single bacterium cell, it would be larger than a largest dinosaur. All bacteria have a cell wall, a nucleus, cytoplasm, all the genetic information necessary to reproduce, as well as hundreds of inherited traits. All of these things we have in common with bacteria. They exist inside us, on us, and around us. Each human has ten times more bacteria cells within their bodies than their own human cells.

More than 99% of all bacteria are harmless. Many are hugely beneficial such as probiotics. Bacteria in humans can prevent infections and produce compounds that our bodies need, like vitamin K. The Lactobacilli acidophilus bacteria in our intestines help us digest food. Other bacterial species fight off disease-carrying microbes and cancer cells. And of course bacteria assist in the production of cheese, yogurt, pickles, sour cream, bread, sauerkraut, wine, beer, and even chocolate.

The less than 1% that are virulent can be deadly however. Bacteria can cause diseases like cholera, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, botulism, gonorrhea, leprosy, E. coli infection, tetanus, Bubonic Plague, whooping cough, anthrax, salmonella, and Aeromonas hydrophila (that’s the flesh-eating bacteria). But on the whole, they do more good than bad. Really.

If you have followed the “Ted Talks” series on the Science Channel, you might be aware that new research indicates that bacteria actually communicate with each other, have a surprising level of social organization, and work as a group. They can even organize themselves to launch an attack on higher life forms.
Viruses on the other hand are from the dark, dark place. They are not considered to be LIVING organisms but tiny structures with limited genetic material wrapped in a protein shell. They have no internal metabolism, meaning they cannot collect or use energy; and they have no ability to keep conditions inside their shells stable (called homeostasis) as living organisms can.

A virus cannot reproduce on its own. It must exist inside a living host in order to replicate. It attaches itself to a cell and takes over the host’s cellular machinery. Viruses reprogram the cell to make new viruses, or turn normal cells into malignant, cancerous cells.

Virtually all viruses cause disease. Certain viruses attack cells in specific human structures like the blood, liver, or the respiratory system. Viruses cause such common diseases as smallpox, flu, HIV and AIDS, polio, measles, hepatitis, mumps, rabies, chickenpox, Ebola virus, Yellow Fever, herpes . . .  and the common cold. The only possible benefit that viruses could have is that some of them target bacteria. If they could be programmed to attack the dangerous bacteria strains, we may have a new weapon, but that’s not possible at this time.

During the past century, some progress has been made to reduce the damage that bacteria and viruses cause. Antibiotics for bacterial infections and vaccines for viral infections have been produced. Polio, measles, and some flu strains have been largely contained. Unfortunately, we have reached a point where over-used antibiotics combined with bacteria’s genetic adaptability, have made the drugs unreliable. Vaccines as well are becoming less effective in treating viruses due to drug-resistance.

The next time you have a wine and cheese party, give thanks to bacteria; but the next time you get the flu, remember - you could have gotten that flu shot.