Tag: thomas jefferson

Historical Imaging



Showcasing images I’ve created, composited and/or altered in order to make historical situations, places or circumstances more readily accessible to as many people as possible.

This grew out of my effort–shared with anyone who gets intricately lost in making family trees–of trying to find relevant imagery to use for people of whom no pictures exist (e.g., anyone who lived before the 1840s). But not just relevant, you really want to push it further and find images that are interesting, too. Or at least I do. And accurate, for instance, to the time when a particular ancestor or historical personage might have actually lived or been at a given location. So from these endeavors, the following sampling of images.

First Example

This is Château de Jumilhac, a castle south of Limoges in southwestern France. In the course of working on a friend’s family tree, I learned some of his ancestors had been ChteaudeJumilhacleGrand copyinvolved in actually building it back in the 1200s. (!!) They’d been among its lords, too, for 150 years or so. After first thinking, aha! whatta sweet image to use for that string of ancestors, I learned as I read more about them and it, that the conical rooftops (that will surely strike Americans as quintessentially “fairy-tale”) were added hundreds of years after his family had been on the scene in the depths of the actual Middle Ages. Well I couldn’t use a historically inaccurate image, so I did something about it.

ChteaudeJumilhacleGrandOLD copy



This is much closer to what it would have looked like to the de Bruchard family as they knew it.




An older photograph also lent itself to easy changing:


















So the examples here are each within a category:

  • People & Location
  • Now to Then
  • Obsolete Professions
  • SketchUp 4 Teaching History
  • Now to Then 2 (showing elements)

People & Location

  1. Swedish origin spot of my great-grandmother and 3 generations of her people


South-central Sweden, Vastragotaland.


2. Recent Dukes of Argyll at their seat, Inverary Castle, Scotland

DUKE 11 1


Now to Then

  1. View from the Mayflower

2. Castle Hornby

On the left, as seen around 1900 (& today); on the right, as it was when my ancestor lived there (incidentally, just about the last–my most recent–ancestor to reside in a castle…500 years ago!)


Obsolete professions

Two variations


SketchUp 4 Teaching History

  1. Construction of the White House (the Executive’s Mansion) in the 1790s in Washington, D.C.

These are views of a multi-layered SketchUp model I’ve built of various stages of the White House’s construction. Here we see the foundation as it was originally laid down in 1791-2. The layers reflect the actual materials, orientation and configuration learned from researching primary source material (such as reports of the crew who laid the new foundations in the 1950s as to what they found as well as reports of Thomas jeffereson, architect Benjamin Latrobe and others involved in the early days of the building). The close-up is the northwest corner, seen from just a few feet south and west of it.


Here’s the southern facade, seen from the southeast, depicted as the Limestone facing began to be mounted on the brick walls.

And the same face seen from the southwest, a little further along in the process:












And here’s the north (properly, the front) as it neared completion. (The portico that we know today  was not added until the 1820s).


Now to Then 2 (showing elements)

Here you can see various elements that went in to the image at the very top of the page (the black & white 1800s looking street).

That’s Liverpool, England. Specifically, Vauxhall Road, looking across it from near where my gr-gr-grandad, a guy named Edward Dunn, had a business in the 1870s, to the intersection with Blacklock Street, toward the site of Vauxhall Gardens, a housing project that was destroyed in WWII during the Blitz just before Xmas 1940.




Composite of contemporary shot (made B&W) with old shot.






Composite of two images; the corner building has been added to the street shot. I then added this with the B&W version of the current corner seen in the shot above this to get the image seen at the very top of the page.

This is the current shot, unaltered.




And the combo with the building destroyed by Nazi bombs in WWII is below again for easy comparison.






US / a-and our / Sha-adow!


July 4, 2015

The 239th birthday of the United States of America
I’ve written a special new post for America’s birthday this year. (With special hyperlinks, too; be sure and check ’em.)

Instead of reposting the piece about how many of my kids’ ancestors were actually here, living within the area that became known as the USA on that fateful 4th of July, back in 1776, I’ve written this year’s 4th of July post that in a way is a bit of an inversion of that idea.

So instead of taking two people alive now in 2015 (my kids) and reversing the film-reel of time through their mom’s and my ancestors to situate those pieces from which we came that were here back then–which is quite instructive since her ancestors were all in Virginia and mine were in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts and even includes at least a couple of people who were a quarter Native American–I’m starting with two people who were alive 239 years ago, back on the July 4th that gave the day its name, that gave it a reason to have fireworks–and am winding the proverbial film-reel of time forward from them.

Before the Big Reveal, here, I should preface by saying that I didn’t uncover a new tale. Rather I came upon some photographs–freely and readily available–that illustrate just how relevant the two people I chose to “roll forward” from are to us today. The “here and now” of the present day being what was the future for them, it also includes what is past to us as well as the present time.

And they are relevant because their story–only accepted into the general, conventional version of American history over the last 25 years–is “essential reading”, as it were, to understand indeed how we got where we are now as a nation. Because, although the recent INDIE HALL IN 1terrible church massacre in South Carolina demonstrates that we still have so, so very far to go, every such event, every such act of racially justified hatred, bullying, attempt at dominance on that fallacious basis must always be answered with: “Never again”. And boy does it ever tie in tightly with the 4th of July.

Without further ado, I bring you the legacy of a very particular couple who lived a long time ago in America at the time this great nation was born.

The male half of the couple has been well known to history since his own time, and deservedly so. For although the efforts of many people engendered the birth of the USA, one man in particular, Thomas Jefferson, in the words of historian Clay Jenkinson, “found the language to express the greatest aspirations that humanity has.”

True enough. And those century-resounding words contained in the Declaration of Independence must be read anew in the context of other of his actions about which, tellingly, he left few to no words at all: his mating with the female half of our couple, Sally Hemings. Thomas_FREDERICK_PeEL1Sally’s maternal grandmother had been taken from Africa by British slavers; thus, despite being only a quarter African, since the law of the times and place stipulated that if one’s mother was a slave, you were, too, Sally was not only Jefferson’s mate–mother of 4 kids–but also his property.

The legacy to be shared here this 4th of July season is of Thomas Jefferson’s descendants through Sally Hemings.

These were people who should have been the closest thing the U.S. would have had to royalty: the offspring of the AUTHOR of the Declaration, of the “proposition that all men are created equal”, as Abe Thomas Jefferson  MASK 2Lincoln had it. But because they were considered “black”, they were forbidden from claiming that heritage.

A glance at these photos of some of his genetic legacy speaks volumes.



It’s 241 for US!! July 4, 1776

Ah, yes, the presence of the past.

A big topic, actually.

Take July 4, 1776.

And with that heavy duty date, take this:

Q: How many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were born in the United States?

A: None!

(waaait for it…)

The United States didn’t exist yet, silly!

Yes, a silly trick question, but it nails what happened that day 241 years ago and why it’s still worth celebrating (indeed, to spite the circus currently being run in our government).

Nowadays, the room you see pictured above–where elected representatives from the 13 Amer0024_-_Flickr_-_NOAA_Photo_Library.jpgcolonies convened as the Second Continental Congress and voted to declare themselves independent from Great Britain–that room in the Old State House in Philadelphia sits empty except for stand-in furniture selected to look like what was there in the 1770s and the click, flash and whir of camera phones dutifully snapped by the well-controlled parade of tourists, who are coralled safely along the edge so as not to damage this bit of history.

And it would be hokey if there were actors populating the room, accurately recreating the debates and vote calls meticulously curated for just such re-enaactments…wouldn’t it?

inde-hall-pano4 copyMaybe with holograms or VR or AR it could be ok. But the briefest of reflections makes such literalism perhaps unnecessary.

We the living, breathing people of the United States of America–from our countrymen-and-women serving in US armies around the world to home-renters in Modesto and all the rest of us–we are all the immediately compelling, real, hard and fast evidence of what went down in that room 241 years ago:

People who had been selected by the people they lived with in each of 13 different 13_colonies copycolonies to represent them in a collective and collectively minded ruling committee unanimously agreed to and did declare that together as a unit the 13 colonies they represented were as of then to be independent of the authority of England (aka Great Britain). And with that Declaration of Independence, the United States of America came into being, and we are all here now as a result.

The past is, in that sense, quite present.

It can also be a an interesting experiment to find out if or how many of your ancestors happened to be living here in America in one of those 13 East Coast colonies that July of 1776.

For my kids, they had 142 of their ancestors living here then! 18 of whom fought in or otherwise participated in the Revolution. But more on this later.

      First, this:

Why July 4th?

It is altogether fitting to deal up front with the whole date of America’s birthday issue. As the history geeks out there already know, August 2 is arguably our nation’s BDay…as is July 2 and or July 4. Cuz different aspects of the things that were required to make this a legally binding act all happened on those various days in the summer of 1776.


July 1776: the USA’s Birthday Month

July 2, 1776 — in Philadelphia, the 2nd Continental Congress approved a motion from Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee (and drafted by Thomas Jefferson with Ben Franklin, John Adams and a couple others, and debated on by all) that thereby, forthwith, and evermore a certain 13 British colonies on the mainland of America would be no longer part of Britain, but their own, independent and united states, such as they were. A nation of its own. This, a Tuesday, was the day the USA was born. (Massachusetts delegate John Adams was certain for a time that July 2nd would henceforth be the massively revered and celebrated holiday for generations to come.)

July 4, 1776 — Congress voted on and approved the document announcing this new independence and the reasons therefore, that had been drafted by its committee created to draft such a document. It was signed and endorsed by only the President of Congress, John Hancock of the Massachusetts delegation, and the secretary, Benjamin Harrison, of Virginia.

July 8, 1776 — in Philadelphia, the Declaration of Independence is officially read aloud publicly for the first time in the town square in front of the State House where Congress met.

July 9, 1776 — General George Washington has the Declaration read to his troops in New York City. A German translation is published in Philadelphia (analogous to a Spanish or Chinese translation being published if it were happening in California, today).

July 20-August 1, 1776 — a fancy-schmancy permanent version of the Declaration is printed again on parchment

August 2, 1776 — the document is formally endorsed by the 2nd Continental Congress with each delegate signing his name to it (a few adding their signatures later.)


Part II

So since obviously none of the Signers were born in the United States since it didn’t exist, the valid question is how many of the 56 men who signed the Declaration were not born in America? And it turns out the number is eight, or 14.3% of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were not born in America.

26 of my kids’ 142 ancestors in America in 1776 were Fresh-off-the-Boat immigrants, or 18.3%, which happens to be statistically exceedingly close to the proportion of the Signers (8/56) …which also happens to be close to the proportion of the whole population of this place that’s born elsewhere since 1675 (clearly not including 100% since the arrival of Europeans to begin with! :-o)

That’s kind of amazing.

Of the 142, one was a quarter Native American. She was a 68-year-old widow, and with her son and his 13-year old boy represent the line that’s been in America the longest: the widow’s grandmother was of the Lenni Lanape people.

Here’s the interesting breakdown on those 142 ancestors, comparing them to the signers of the Declaration:

John Adams


Samuel Adams

1 was 2nd cousins to John and Samuel Adams

1 was 3rd cousins to Samuel Chase

1 was 2nd cousins to Dr. Josiah Bartlett

18 (38% out of 47 eligible) served or fought in the Revolution (vs. 17, or 30% of the Signers)

13 (22% out of 59 eligible) owned slaves (vs. apx 33%, or 18 out of 56 of the Signers)

I have met America. And it is us.


I got a sort of nifty birthday present, today.

It’s yet another cool thing I’ve learned thanks to the relatives I’ve been able to meet through 23andme, the gene-analysis service and website that examines one’s actual DNA and compares it to all the other members’ DNA.

Turns out I’m related to Mark Twain!

A little context: I mean, yeah, I’m descended from King Edward III, but so are 10s of millions of other people, too. And while that’s still its own kind of cool, Mark Twain… he’s one of the good guys! An American Good Guy, no less! So you can see the chart showing our relation, when you click on this thumbnail:

But first, this:

Since I was a little kid I’ve known that I share my birthday with that lanky red-haired hero of the American Revolution, that smartie-pants whose land deal trumps Trump’s and all others’, that independence declaring, happiness pursuing, Hemings-hiding, quotable quillsmith and third President, that sage of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson.

And I’ve always been cool with that. He’s an admirable — if monumentally hypocritical — sort. Sharing a birthday…I mean we all are aware of the famous people born the same day as we were. But I was not related to him…not until now. Well, related as in-laws, anyway. My kids, however, are related to him because my wife is.

Awwwww yeah!

That’s on a’count of my wife’s dad being from Kentucky, and his people being among the first wave of white folks to settle there, and which means they all had been in Virginia before that for generations. And one of them, last name of Nethery, came from a line going back to a lady named Mary Tinsley. Mary’s great-great-great grandfather was a fella by the name of William Randolph, whose sons planted the English vine, as they used to style it, here in America in a rather big way down there in Virginia, becoming one of the FIRST first families of Virginia. See, Mary’s father, Edward Tinsley, was 3rd cousins to a certain Jane Randolph. And Jane, well she marred a wealthy guy named Peter Jefferson. And on April 13, 1743 they had a little baby boy named Tom. So Tom (Jefferson), author of the Declaration of Independence, 3rd President of the USA, father of the Hemmings children, was 4th cousins with Mary Tinsley, wife of a certain Ambrose Rucker, mother of Mary Rucker and ancestor of my wife and of my kids. Ahh, Tom. We’re finally family! (I “lol” here since that connection is so remote and well, not related to ME, that it’s funny.)

Here are some other suchlike amusements in the form of some people I AM related to:

President Barak Obama and I are 11th cousins (this means we share a pair of 9th great-grandparents)
Former President George W. Bush and I are 10th cousins

Bill Clinton and I are 8th cousins, twice removed

Ronald Reagan and I were 15th cousins (phew!)

I’m also 10th cousins, once removed, with David Rockefeller
11th cousins twice removed with Princes William and Henry (through their mom Diana)
only 6th cousins, but four times removed, with J.P. Morgan.

And, to bring it — in its way — full circle back to my birthday and good ole Thomas Jefferson (by a circuitous modus of recirculation), I’m also descended from a guy whose nephew got the phatt Oxford education, becoming something of a legal genius and political philosopher and in fact codified a certain format, or vision, for a certain type of republic rooted in the social contract (consent of the governed), the intent of which was nothing short of enabling the consentingly governed the free “pursuit of life, liberty and property.”

Sound just a leeeetle bit familiar? Indeed, when Jefferson was drafting the Declaration of Independence he borrowed the sentiment, changing “property” to “happiness”, from the writer John Locke. John Locke, nephew of my ancestor, Thomas Locke.