The 1930 Federal Census

The Internet Archive will have a complete set of available census records back to the first one in 1790. Beginning with the census for 1930, the records will be freely accessible online. Before this surprising development, census records were accessible only on microfilm and subscription services such as Ancestry and HeritageQuest.

The Internet Archive is collaborating with the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana to give free access to all U.S. census records. In the coming months, complete census records from 1790 through 1920 will be added to the Internet Archive’s online Genealogy Collection.

There is tremendous value in seeing the original census source documents without filtering and third-party interpretation of the information. For historical researchers as well as those individuals who are simply passionate about history and genealogy, access to these materials is critical to understanding the past and assessing how the past impacts the present, and how it can shape our future.”
— Robert Miller, Internet Archive’s Director of Books

Completed just five months after the Wall Street crash of October 29, 1929, the 1930 Census was the fifteenth census of the United States and includes 2,667 microfilmed rolls of population schedules with names and statistics of more than 137 million individuals.



The Ash-man of Pomerania

Among the odd German traditions during Christmastime, which I discovered doing some research on my ancestors, is the Ash-man, a man wearing animal skins and straw, who roams Pomerania, doing his best to frighten kids.

But anyone who travels through Germany in early December hoping to meet the good Saint Nicholas might be in for a surprise, especially in eastern sections of the country. The Ash-man in Pomerania, the Shaggy Goat of West Prussia, and the East Prussian Bag of Bones are based in pagan lore. They ask for gifts for themselves, displaying very little Christian charity. The figures are dressed in animal skins and straw, designed to scare the little ones.

I am looking for more information on this tradition, but haven’t had much luck.


Pan Am Flight 103

Yesterday, December 21, was the anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. In 1988, Libyan intelligence agents targeted the plane, en route from London to New York, planting a bomb while the plane was in Frankfurt, Germany.

It exploded in midair over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers, 16 crew members, and 11 Lockerbie residents on the ground. One hundred eighty nine of the victims were American.

Authorities suspected the attack was in retaliation for either the 1986 U.S. air strikes against Libya, in which leader Muammar al-Qaddafi’s young daughter was killed along with dozens of other people, or a 1988 incident, in which the U.S. mistakenly shot down an Iran Air commercial flight over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people.

In 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing, but didn’t express remorse. . . .


Family of Early Supreme Court Justice Sues for Letters

James Iredell (1751-1799)
James Iredell (1751-1799)

The Associated Press is reporting that the family of one of the first U.S. Supreme Court justices is suing to get the 18th century jurist’s letters returned from the North Carolina state archives after a century of safekeeping. Justice James Iredell was nominated by President George Washington to the Supreme Court in 1790. The News & Observer of Raleigh has more coverage.

James Iredell . . . was a prolific letter writer.

His scrawled communications to family, friends and 18th-century colleagues offer a rich and textured glimpse of the infancy of this country and state. The words of the political essayist and ardent Federalist once were transported by horseback over a land he would help shape.

The “collection . . . contains many of Iredell’s writings and a letter from King George V. [Litigant Harvey Wilson] Johnson and other Iredell heirs say the manuscripts and papers were lent, not given, to the state a century ago.”

“They’re extraordinarily valuable,” said Willis Whichard, a former state Supreme Court justice who has written a book about Iredell. “The collection offers quite a window into the formation of the national government and its courts.

Iredell, who hailed from Lewes, England, immigrated to North Carolina in 1767 when he was 17. His father, a merchant, had fallen ill and his business had failed. . . .

Once there, he studied law under Samuel Johnston, who would become North Carolina’s sixth governor.

Though he was employed by the British government, Iredell became a strong supporter of independence from parliamentary rule for the colonies. . . .

At 23, he authored “To The Inhabitants of Great Britain,” becoming one of the most influential political essayists at the time.

He also was influential in North Carolina. In the late 1770s, he helped organize the court system that allows his heirs to wrangle over ownership of his letters and manuscripts.

. . . On Feb. 10, 1790, when Iredell was 38, George Washington nominated him to the Supreme Court, putting him in line for a post that would keep him on the road and away from family.

“He wanted to hear from people,” Whichard said. “He would fuss at his family and friends if he wasn’t getting mail from them.”

His nine years on the court circuit took a toll on his health. He died in October 1799, weeks after his 48th birthday. He left behind a widow and three children, including a 10-year-old son, his namesake, who would become a U.S. senator and the state’s 23rd governor.

History of the bench

In recent years, scholars have realized the dearth of materials about the Supreme Court before John Marshall, the fourth justice who is credited with helping to shape American constitutional law. Because of that, the papers of justices are becoming more valuable in academic circles.

Many of the papers and manuscripts of Iredell and his politically successful son were passed from family member to family member until they ended up with Col. Charles E. Johnson, brother of James Iredell Johnson, who served 12 years as Raleigh’s mayor in the early part of the 20th century.

Other descendants of Justice Iredell and relatives of Col. Johnson have contributed to the collection. Former Raleigh Mayor James Iredell Johnson donated a letter from King George V on Sept. 1, 1918. Cousins donated an oil portrait of former Gov. Iredell.

A letter signed by Iredell is for sale on the Live Auctioneers Web site, and though the asking price is $3,000 the starting bid is $1,000.

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Southern Historical Collection have Iredell manuscripts, as does an Eastern North Carolina society dedicated to the statesmen. But most known materials are housed in the state archives.

“It would be tragic for those papers to get into private hands where they might not be properly preserved or available for scholarly research,” Whichard said.


Huge Storms Heading Toward LA

A satellite image of the Pacific Ocean offers a dramatic preview of the storms that are expected to batter Southern California on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. . . .

A northern cold front is expected to move into the Los Angeles basin Monday afternoon, mashing up with subtropical moisture that has been sitting off the Pacific coast for several days. Periods of intense rainfall through Wednesday will bring another 5 inches to coastal plains and valleys and up to 10 inches in the mountains.


Actor Barry Fitzgerald

Barry Fitzgerald (1888–1961)
Barry Fitzgerald (1888–1961)

I just finished watching Union Station, a film with William Holden and an Irishman named Barry Fitzgerald. It’s a good film. Holden and Fitzgerald give good performances. It also features Nancy Olson, who I remember from The Absent-Minded Professor.

Fitzgerald as Inspector Donnelly was great. Although I am unfamiliar with him, he is obviously one of those terrific character actors so typical of Golden Age of Hollywood. His role in Union Station is somewhat similar to Claude Rains as Captain Renault in Casablanca. Fitzgerald even has his own postage stamp, issued in Ireland.


‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’

I had never heard of this crazy flick until a few days ago, but I will be looking around for it (online, Netflix streaming, and DVD). The title alone gives one an idea of what to expect, and, of course, the shot above confirms it. It’s now in the public domain, so hopefully someone has posted it on YouTube or something. Santa Claus versus Martians? Let’s make a movie! Whose idea was that?