History Blog

The Fredericksburg Welsh Festival Poetry Contest, the Library, and Your Ancestors

The Fredericksburg Welsh Festival Poetry Contest, the Library, and Your Ancestor

Yes, there is a connection between the upcoming Fredericksburg Welsh Poetry Contest, the library, and your personal ancestors. Although it seems a tad far-fetched, it really is easy to see how the library can connect you to anything and anyone. Here’s how this connection works: since the library is a community center and encourages local groups to keep us informed as to their upcoming public events, we discovered that the Welsh Society of Fredericksburg is sponsoring a poetry contest as part of their upcoming annual festival this September 21. The deadline for entries is September 1.

The Year without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano that Darkened the World and Changed History by William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman

The Year without Summer: 1816

This volcanic explosion was worse than Vesuvius, Mount St. Helens, or Krakatoa. When Mount Tambora exploded in Indonesia in 1815, it started a chain of events that would alter the course of global history. In the Klingamans’ The Year without Summer, the authors detail how the resulting clouds of ash led to disastrous weather conditions which affected communities’ histories around the world… and led to the birth of Frankenstein.

A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans: Pirates, Skinflints, Patriots, and Other Colorful Characters Stuck in the Footnotes of History by Michael Farquhar

A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans

A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans, by Michael Farquhar, is a fascinating series of cleverly-penned essays on true-life characters whom you’ve probably never heard of but definitely are a part of American history.  Meet Jack Billington, the Mayflower Murderer. Not all of the passengers on the Mayflower were sterling souls. He may have signed the famous Mayflower Compact, but Billington never kept his end of the deal. He was a foul-tempered wastrel whose son almost (accidentally and stupidly) blew up the ship on the way over and Jack had the gall to badmouth Miles Standish. For this he was bound, neck to ankles, at which point his bravado lessened considerably. But Jack Billington did not learn from that experience and went on to meet a knave’s fate.

Union Church of Falmouth: The Power of Preservation

When the storm destroyed Union Church’s roof in 1950, there wasn’t much to be done about it. It had not been used since 1935, after all, and rebuilding a church requires a committed congregation. But churches are centers of the community, and during its lengthy, active history, Union Church was established as an important part of Falmouth’s past--and America’s, too. So, in an effort to preserve what they could, local people bricked up the narthex (the front of the church) to house a few things from years gone by, including a bell and a pew dating to just after the Civil War. What we see today is a slice of the original building, but that building has quite a history and what was preserved will soon be shared at the new National Museum of African American History on the Washington Mall.

Kind Acts and Courage at Chancellorsville

Now that the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville is upon us, it seems a fitting time to look at how the lives of a family of mainly young women were affected by being suddenly thrust into a war zone and how they were able to survive with the aid of an enemy officer. Sue Chancellor was only fourteen when the area around her home became a bloody battlefield. Their house, called Chancellorsville, was used for a headquarters by first the Confederate and then the Union army while the family continued to live there.

In the Beginning... A Checklist for Genealogical Neophytes

Crash Course in Genealogy

Genealogical research is a profession for some and a hobby for many.  With the advent of TV shows such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and the multitude of resources available online, there are some interested novices entering the field who need a little help knowing where to start.  The following brief overview is for these beginners.

Ruth Coder Fitzgerald: A Life Filled with Determination

Ruth Coder Fitzgerald: A Life Filled with Determination

“She was always very generous with her time and hospitality to me, and I loved working with her. She helped me with my walking tour as well. I have not been in touch with her over the past several years, but to this day whenever I give one of my walking tours downtown, I make sure that all on the tour with me are made aware that the basis for most of the information shared on the walking tour is the result of the great work and passion of one Ruth Coder Fitzgerald and her book -- A Different Story. In my view, Ruth was always a caring and powerful voice for the underdog, the ‘little guy,’ and her lifelong commitment to inform, to teach, and advocate for that particular constituent speaks volumes about her makeup, her sense of fairness for all, and her heart of gold. My admiration and love for Ruth, and what she stood for, is never-ending.”

--Jervis Hairston, former City Planner and local historian

On April 10, 2013, a highly-regarded pioneer in local African American history died at her home in downtown Fredericksburg. Ruth Coder Fitzgerald was well-known throughout the community for her historical research and writings as well as for her championing of an important cause for Vietnam veterans.

Historic Garden Week in Virginia

Historic Garden Week in Virginia

History and gardening fans get together April 20 through 27, 2013, throughout the Commonwealth to tour gardens of houses great and small from the Tidewater area to the Highlands. The Rappahannock Valley portion of the tour will be held Tuesday, April 23, in the Fredericksburg area, including Stafford County:

"To celebrate the anniversary – this tour will feature homes that were opened 80 years ago! Featured locations include Belmont in Falmouth, Virginia, The Snowden House, Chatham, Brompton and Fall Hill. All of these properties enjoy spectacular views of the area and the Rappahannock."

Tours will be offered in different venues throughout the state through Saturday, April 27. Check out the Garden Club of Virginia's Web site for information on all the tours and check out books from the library featuring homes and gardens in the Old Dominion.

Dueling Days in Early America

To fight a duel, whether with swords or pistols, remains one of the most romantic and violent tropes of the 17th through the 19th centuries. From Alexandre Dumas’ D'artagnan to the Firefly episode, “Shindig,” the deadly side of an old and polite society remains fascinating to today’s audiences.  But are the scenarios laid out in fiction exaggerated for our amusement? Surely, no civilized people would resort to such violence over mere words—or, would they?

Andrew Jackson, later the seventh President of the United States, fought in more than a dozen duels, and received a bullet in his lung from one of them that remained there until his death nineteen years later. What did he duel over? His first opponent was an attorney who made him look foolish in court. It ended with shots fired in the air.  He later chose to duel the first governor of Tennessee, a political rival, when that man accused him of adultery—technically true as Jackson’s wife’s divorce from her first husband wasn’t finalized when she remarried. And what was the cause of the duel that got him a bullet in the lung? An argument about a horse race. Wounded for life or not, Andrew Jackson won that duel. He took the hit in the chest and then killed his opponent.

Introductory Genealogy & Beyond

CRRL Genealogy Program

The first two “Introductory Genealogy & Beyond” classes, co-sponsored by the Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society and the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, have been spectacularly successful.  So successful, in fact, that the original venue will not do anymore, and all future classes will be held in the Free Lance-Star's Community Room, located at 616 Amelia Street.

The next class will be on Saturday, April 13, beginning at 9 AM. Professional genealogist Phyllis Legare, CG, will be speaking first on “Timelines in Genealogy,” and then on “Military Research.” Ms. Legare has been researching for her family for many years and for clients as well. Phyllis’ main joy in genealogy is finding the family stories. She loves to share her knowledge about genealogy research and also loves to learn—a never-ending process for researchers.