The Lonely Tree of Ténéré

Have you heard of the Tree of Ténéré? It was a small, scrubby acacia that earned its fame by being the only tree for hundreds of miles in a vast open swath of the Sahara. Its solitary existence made it a significant landmark that guided travelers to water and reassured them that they were on the right path.

Sahara Landmark: The tree of TenereSahara Landmark: The tree of Tenere Sun, Oct 22, 1967 – 5 · The Journal Times (Racine, Wisconsin) ·

Unfortunately, this happened:

Bad Driving brings down the Tree of TenereBad Driving brings down the Tree of Tenere Sat, May 3, 1969 – Page 20 · The La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wisconsin) ·

Can you imagine driving into the only obstacle in miles of empty desert? Most sources, like the clipping below, say the incident happened in 1973. But the clipping above is from 1969, so who knows when we really lost the world’s loneliest tree?

The Lonely Tree and its fateThe Lonely Tree and its fate Sun, May 14, 2006 – 63 · Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) ·

Find more on the Ténéré Tree with a search on

Share using:

Chatelaines – When Purse Meets Charm Bracelet

You’ve probably seen them used in movies and shows but may never have known their name. Chatelaines were the 19th-century woman’s solution to a problem that seems to transcend time and space: a lack of decent pockets.

ChatelainesThe chatelaine Sun, Oct 23, 1938 – Page 25 · The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) ·

Chatelaines of the 1800s were most often worn by women who controlled the household. Their many chains held the keys to every nook and cranny of the home, and with this responsibility came an undeniable air of importance. Many women wore less useful chatelaines as a fashion statement to project the appearance of this same importance, with their chains holding perfumes, scissors, nail files, and other eye-catching trinkets.

All About the Woman of FashionAll About the Woman of Fashion Sun, May 23, 1897 – 3 · Davenport Morning Star (Davenport, Iowa) ·

The The “Woman of Fashion” must wear a chatelaine Wed, May 26, 1897 – 3 · Davenport Weekly Republican (Davenport, Iowa) ·

The Summer Girl of 1897, with a chatelaine at her waistThe Summer Girl of 1897, with a chatelaine at her waist Wed, May 26, 1897 – 3 · Davenport Weekly Republican (Davenport, Iowa) ·

Some felt the use of so many trinkets got a little out of hand, and chatelaines were sometimes spoken about in the papers with a sort of fond mockery. But without other means to carry their things, what are women to do? They became a charming accessory that was all the rage.

Chatelaines make quite a dinChatelaines make quite a din Sat, Dec 4, 1897 – 16 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) ·

Find more on chatelaines and other 19th-century fashions with a search on

Share using:

The Great Moon Hoax that Rivaled Jules Verne

In August of 1835, the fledgling New York Sun printed the most astonishing news. Life had been discovered on the moon! An excited public ate it up, and what may have been intended as a satirical poke at past religious and “scientific” articles became the Great Moon Hoax.

Story was a Story was a “reprint” from a supplement to the (nonexistent) Edinburgh Journal of Science Tue, Oct 1, 1957 – Page 14 · The Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, New York) ·

As described in the clipping above, probable author Richard Adams Locke presented the article as originating from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. That, along with the name-drop of famous astronomer Sir John Herschel, lent credibility to an otherwise incredible story.

With the use of a powerful telescope, “Herschel” and his (entirely fictional) colleague, Dr. Grant, were able to make some remarkable discoveries on the moon’s surface. First, the article describes the land and vegetation.

First organic production of nature in a foreign worldFirst organic production of nature in a foreign world Fri, Sep 4, 1835 – Page 3 · Newbern Spectator (New Bern, North Carolina) ·

There were descriptions of beautiful beaches lining deep blue water, green marble walls of stone, huge pyramidal amethysts that stretched for miles, and red, crystallized hills. But the most amazing discovery of all were the creatures.

The moon and its life formsThe moon and its life forms Thu, Aug 25, 2011 – Page 1-2 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) ·

Herds of something like bison, tail-less beavers that walked upright, majestic birds,  beautiful black-antlered stags, and blue goat-unicorns were just some of the fauna described in “Dr. Grant’s” account. But the most exciting and sensational discovery of all was the humanoid “man-bat.”

The man-bats of the moonThe man-bats of the moon Fri, Sep 4, 1835 – Page 3 · Newbern Spectator (New Bern, North Carolina) ·

The man-batsThe man-bats Sun, Feb 25, 1962 – 75 · The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) ·

It sounds ridiculous now, and to many it sounded ridiculous then. When the telescope that brought all this marvelous insight into the life on the moon “broke,” it didn’t take long for the truth of the hoax to come to light. Oddly enough, most people didn’t really seem to mind.

Kept on Buying itKept on Buying it Fri, Oct 4, 1957 – Page 24 · Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, Wisconsin) ·

Comment by Professor Ulf Jonas BjorkComment by Professor Ulf Jonas Bjork Thu, Aug 25, 2011 – Page 1-2 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) ·

Who needs the truth when you can have a good story?

Find more on the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, including the original articles that were circulated at the time of the hoax, with a search on

Share using:

Historic causes of death and modern equivalents

News, Finds, Tips of the Month

Finding the historic obituary for your ancestor on is like hitting the jackpot in genealogical research. Sometimes the cause of death is something we’ve never heard of. Here’s a list of historic causes of death and their modern equivalents.

1856 Ad For Medicine To Cure Ague
Ague: Malarial Fever

Apoplexy: Unconsciousness resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke

Brain Fever: Meningitis

Bright’s Disease: Kidney failure

Childbed: Fever due to an infection after childbirth

Consumption: Tuberculosis

Canine Madness: Rabies caused by the bite of an animal

Consumption Cure? 1904
Chin Cough: Whooping cough

Diphtheria: Contagious disease of the throat

Dyspepsia: Indigestion and heartburn

Dropsy: Edema caused by kidney or heart disease

Falling Sickness: Epilepsy

Inanition: Starvation

Lockjaw: Tetanus disease that affects muscles in the neck and jaw

Milk Leg: Painful swelling after giving birth caused by thrombophlebitis in the femoral vein

Mania: Dementia

Memorial to 6000 Irish Immigrants Who Died From Ship Fever 1847-48
Mania-a-potu: A mental disorder caused by alcoholism

Quinsy: Tonsillitis

Ship Fever: Typhus

Spotted Fever: Meningitis or Typhus

Search our archives today to find the obituary for your ancestor!

Share using:

National S’mores Day

Happy National S’mores Day! Recipes for S’mores started popping up in papers around the 1930s. Back then they were often associated with scouting programs and summer hikes, and called other things like “graham cracker sandwiches” or the name from which the term S’more is derived, “Some Mores.”

In honor of such an auspicious occasion, here are a couple S’mores-related clippings from those early days of ooey-gooey goodness. 

Scouts' DelightsScouts’ Delights Thu, Sep 19, 1940 – 14 · The Dayton Herald (Dayton, Ohio) ·

Learned to make Learned to make “some mores” Fri, Oct 30, 1936 – Page 8 · The Oshkosh Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) ·

Find more S’mores-y stuff  with a search on

Share using:

Charlotte Cushman

In the past, there have been many actresses whose talents and innate understanding of emotion and character have brought them fame and fortune. But perhaps none were quite as unique as the famous American actress, Charlotte Cushman. In the mid-1800s her ability to step easily into male roles was the talk of the stage and made her a celebrity whose name was known far and wide.

Cushman began her time on the stage as an opera singer, but was forced to make a change of career when her voice gave out. She stepped into the world of acting in 1835, to great success. But it was her performance as Romeo a few years later, with her younger sister Susan in the role of Juliet, that made her famous.

Cushman sisters as Romeo and JulietCushman sisters as Romeo and Juliet Sun, Oct 22, 1893 – Page 19 · The Times (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ·

Charlotte Cushman as RomeoCharlotte Cushman as Romeo Mon, Sep 26, 1927 – 14 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) ·

Charlotte Cushman as RomeoCharlotte Cushman as Romeo Mon, Sep 26, 1927 – 14 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) ·
Romeo would be the role for which she was known and remembered even after her death, and one that she played for well over a decade. Her much-admired performances earned her reviews like the one below, by dramatist Sheridan Knowles:

Review of the performance of Miss Cushman as Romeo and her sister as JulietReview of the performance of Miss Cushman as Romeo and her sister as Juliet Sun, Feb 12, 1860 – 9 · The Era (London, Greater London, England) ·

Cushman was also successful in the role of Hamlet, and, more unusual for women of the time, as Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII.  She didn’t exclusively play male roles, either, often capturing audiences as female leads like Queen Katherine and Lady Macbeth.

Miss Charlotte Cushman as RomeoMiss Charlotte Cushman as Romeo Tue, Apr 20, 1858 – 2 · The Daily Exchange (Baltimore, Maryland) ·

When she died of pneumonia at age 59, papers praised her career and admirable life. But, as with many things, her fame has faded with time.

Charlotte CushmanCharlotte Cushman Wed, Feb 23, 1876 – Page 2 · The Daily Commonwealth (Topeka, Kansas) ·

Find out more about this extraordinary actress with a search through the archives of

Share using: