Tag Archives: Social History

Paraskevidekatriaphobia & Ancestral Superstitions

Do you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia? Phobias are a common question on cruise trivias and most of them don’t seem to have Greek or Latin roots by which the meaning can be figured out.

In the case of paraskevidekatriaphobia, though, it is possible to decipher the meaning of this phobia, which I believe has few true sufferers!

The word is made from several Greek roots. Paraskevi translates to FRIDAY, deka is the root of TEN, and tri is a root for THREE.

Yep, paraskevidekatriaphobia is a fear of Friday the 13th, which occurs only once this year – yep, you guessed it – tomorrow, 13 August 2021.

Superstitions are deep rooted in various cultures and it is fair to say that our colonial ancestors definitely lived in a superstitious society.

I think we’ve all heard superstitions like finding a penny brings good luck, don’t let a black cat cross in front of you and don’t open an umbrella in the house.

However, there are many MANY more that (thankfully) have died out.

Here is a sampling of some of the more unusual superstitions that I came across while researching this topic:

1. Put an old shoe in the wall of your house to ward off evil spirits.
2. If tea grounds are floating in your cup, company is coming.
3. If you dream about a funeral, a wedding will happen and if you dream of a wedding, there will be a funeral.
4. If a fish bone is stuck in your throat, pull your big toe and it will come right out.
5. The number of white marks seen on a person’s fingernails equals the number of lies the person has told.
6. If you put a sock and shoe on one foot and then a sock and shoe on the other foot (instead of putting on both socks and then both shoes), you will have an accident.
7. Wear a red string around your neck to prevent rheumatism.
8. If you have weak eyes, put holes in your ears. This will improve your vision.
9. A baby who doesn’t fall downstairs once before he/she is one year old will grow up to be a fool.
10. A woman who stirs batter from left to right is a good cook, but if she stirs it from right to left, she’s a bad cook.
11. If your eyebrows grow together, you are or will become rich.
12. If 13 people sit at one table, one person will die within the year.
13. Female witches could only harm other females.
14. To get rid of your wart, wait until you see someone riding a horse, look at the person and say “I wish you had my wart.” Yours will be gone and that person will now have it.
15. If you drop a piece of buttered bread on the floor and it lands with butter touching the floor, you will have bad luck.
15. Count the number of white horses you see up to 99. The next person of the opposite sex with whom you shake hands will be the person you marry.

I’m not a superstitious person at all, but tomorrow I hope everyone finds at least one penny to bring them good luck. 🙂


Digging Deeper into Early Town Histories

I’m in the midst of writing a number of posts about our ancestors, their social history and cultural influences and realized that it was the perfect time to remind genealogists of the importance of historical details about the towns in which ancestors settled.

Unlike Europe, where our families left towns that had existed for centuries before them, colonial settlers arrived to a vast wasteland, so to speak, and built brand new towns.

Whether your ancestor was an original settler or a latecomer, understanding a town’s beginnings and history gives context to your ancestor’s life.

What is really great about town histories is that they are often found in county histories, which have been published from the late 1800s right into modern times. Many of them are out of copyright and can be digitally accessed through Google Books.

Another great resource is FamilySearch Books, which has partnered with other libraries.

A third website is HathiTrust Digital Library.

One more option is Internet Archive.

All you need to do is enter the name of the town or county to locate histories. County histories always have sections that included individual town histories.

Many smaller towns that have celebrated centennials and other anniversaries have published town histories at the time of the celebration. Some of these are in the public domain, while others remain under copyright.

Of course, there are way more recent books, which are under copyright restrictions, which can be borrowed from libraries or purchased.

Not only was I able to find a digital copy of History of Passaic and Its Environs by William Winfield Scott from 1911, I also found Bob Rosenthal’s book. Wonderful Passaic,  about his life growing up in Passaic, which overlapped my life.

Reading these two books imparts an understanding of the truly diverse ethnic origins of immigrants who lived in Passaic from the 1600s into the 20th century.

I have never been to the Miramichi River area in New Brunswick, Canada, but one of my Loyalists was an original settler. Bill MacKinnon’s book, Over the Portage, is on my book shelf:

From Bill, I’ve learned about the founding of settlements on the Miramichi and, as a bonus, discovered a list of the original applicants for land, which even includes the LOT NUMBERS assigned to each! Appendix IV has a list of the 1809 grantees, which is actually a biographical sketch of the head of household and his family. Another bonus!

Understanding the social history of our ancestors’ lives isn’t possible without having a good grasp on the history of the place in which they lived.

It is more than well worth your time to search for town and county histories and this is one area of genealogical research where finding resources couldn’t be any easier.


3+3= Some Fun Social History Genealogy Sites, Part 2

Today, in Part 2, I will share information about three more social history and culture websites to enhance your family history research.

The first site is HyperHistory:

The home page advertises products for sale that are companion pieces  to the HyperHistory website. However, click on the link near the top (the green arrow is pointing to it in this image).

The next page gives a number of category options: People, History, Events, Maps, Science, Culture, Religion and Politics.

When you click on the left side buttons, a box opens on the right with more details. For example, choosing PEOPLE brings up time periods on the right:

Selecting MAPS brings options ranging from ancient times up to World Wars I and II.

The RELIGION tab on the bottom brings up both world religions and an alphabetical listing of religious persons in history.

HyperHistory contains a wealth of information, but it is more of an overview of world history.

Next up is Common-Place, the Journal of Early American Life.

This website is a meeting place for those interested in early American life and the posts are grouped in seasonal issues.

There are book reviews, teacher submitted articles and authored pieces on a variety of topics.

Here are some of the posts from earlier issues:

Common-Place is a more scholarly website with credentialed authors contributing articles. While many aspects of early American history are covered, there are multiple posts on African-American experiences, which provide historical details on black experiences.

Last of the 3+3 websites is eHistory, hosted by Ohio State University.

eHistory is a worldwide historical database that can be searched by era, region or topic. The eras range from Ancient to 21st Century, which gives you an idea of how deep this database is.

It’s also possible to search for Biographies, Articles, Books, Exhibitions, Oral histories, Images, Timeline and Videos.

I took a look at the Immigration category to see if I could learn anything about the late 19th century when my great grandparents immigrated here. Two entries came up that both look interesting:

Both were written contemporaneously to the immigration flood at the beginning of the 20th century which makes the perspective of the articles way more interesting.

Oral histories includes first hand accounts from the Vietnam War and World War II:

The video series begins with life in an Ohio orphanage:

There is a huge range of topics in the videos, which cover everything from Magic and Witchcraft, Malaria and African-American Troops in the Civil War to the very current topic of Reconsidering Russian and the Former Soviet Union.

The remaining categories are equally as interesting.

This website is definitely a BSO (bright, shiny object) and you’ll be traipsing down more than one rabbit hole investigating all there is to find.

There you have it – all 3+3 fun social history websites that will enhance your understanding of your ancestors’ lives and times.