Finding Dan Snow’s Past

Finding Dan Snow’s Past

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Exploring your family history is one of the most fascinating, worthwhile experiences you can do. The number of people that contribute to making us who we are is in the millions, and every one of them made decisions that brought you where you are today.

“Everyone has an exciting family tree as humans are extraordinary” says Dan Snow “If you go back far enough we’re all related to seriously famous and interesting people… I sometimes think when you love history, you’re not that focused on your family history, because you find it as interesting to study Mary Wollstonecraft or Sir Frances Drake as someone you happen to be related to. But as I get older, like everybody, I’m more and more fascinated now”.

Family history website Findmypast has been digitising and indexing billions of records and documents from archives and libraries worldwide so anyone can uncover their own family stories – in a way that our ancestors could only have dreamed of.

Dan Snow was joined by Findmypast’s Myko Clelland, who used census records and online archives to uncover more about some of Dan’s ancestors.

How would Dan Snow describe his own heritage?

“I’ve got a mum born in Wales, to Welsh and Scottish parents, although her Welsh mother was born in Bangalore, India. I’ve got a Dad born in Dublin, to Anglo-Irish parents. I know some of my ancestors were grand, they were members of the aristocracy so we’ve got good family trees for them – then others were just working-class fishermen, particularly in the Mull of Kintyre, or farmers in Pembrokeshire, so I’d say a really wonderful mix”.

Myko says Dan’s family tree is a perfect illustration of why family history is so captivating due to having some noble blood (as many of us do, even if we’re not aware of it), a lot of ancestors that made headlines, working class ancestors, heroes and black sheep – so does everyone.

You can hear their full discussion on Dan Snow’s Our Site podcast, but here’s an overview of examples that Myko uncovered:

Sir Thomas D’Oyly Snow (Dan’s Great Grandfather)

Dan knows his Great Grandfather was a Commanding Officer on the first day of The Somme, and a General. He had also been a young officer in the Zulu war. Dan thinks he was kicked out from the Western Front for being too old after the Battle of Cambrai.

Myko confirmed Sir Thomas commanded the 4th Infantry Division from 1911-1914, then the 7th Corps for the rest of his wartime service, being at some pivotal military moments of the First Word War. “To be in a position of command during the Battle of the Somme must have been an incredibly difficult thing to be a part of”.

Sir Thomas D’Oyly, featured in The Tatler, Wednesday 28 October 1931

Despite British First World War officers often being depicted as uncaring, through genealogy we see that Sir Thomas wasn’t removed from his troops and actually made steps to improve their lives. His division was the first to introduce divisional baths, the first to start a band and the first to make its own performance troop, ‘The Follies’. He wasn’t miles away behind a desk, he was there.

Myko uncovered a World War One medical record from Findmypast’s military collection, unknown to Dan, revealing his Great Grandfather was at the Battle of the Marne in 1914 – one of the last generals in Britain who commanded from horseback.

It was here that military records show he fractured his pelvis when his horse fell and rolled onto him – something he needed treatment for throughout the war, and he spent the rest of his life partially disabled. This ties-in with a family photograph of Dan’s, showing Sir Thomas in a wheelchair with Dan’s grandfather on his lap.

How does Sir Thomas D’Oyly Snow’s marriage link Dan to Queen Victoria?

Sir Thomas’ family appear in newspapers from the era – the dawn of the age of celebrity, when people wanted to hear more about the generals and their families. Dan’s Great Grandmother is featured in an article from The Sketch:

Mrs Snow, The Sketch, 26 Aug 1914

The marriage record shows details of those marrying, family names, occupations and signatures, including that of a witness to the marriage – Talbot Coke, Dan’s Great Great Grandfather.

Thomas D’Oyly Snow – marriage record

Other records elaborate on government documents. In partnership with the British Library, Findmypast are building a collection of tens of millions of pages of newspapers from the 1700s to the modern day. Here we can see The St James Gazette’s report on the wedding:

Thomas D’Oyly Snow marriage announcement, St James’s Gazette, 13 January 1897

Another newspaper record reported the gift list and the more famous attendants, including the Duke and Duchess of Connaught – Queen Victoria’s last surviving son.

Dan – “So I know my Great Grandfather met the son of Queen Victoria, so that’s me in 4 jumps back to Queen Victoria!”

David Lloyd George (Dan’s maternal Great Great Grandfather)

Dan is related to David Lloyd George, the first Prime Minister from a working class background in British history and the only Welsh speaker to become Prime Minister. A controversial political figure, Myko wanted to use genealogy to focus on David’s upbringing.

David Lloyd George – featured in the 1881 Census

Census records are taken every decade, providing a snap-shot of what your ancestors were doing. Using the 1881 census, Myko revealed that aged 18, David was living with his uncle, his widowed mother, his two siblings, and taking his first steps as a solicitor’s clerk.

Myko found David’s diary from that year on 12 November 1881 (9 years prior to becoming an MP):

David Lloyd George -diary feature in the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 18 September 1912

“That is just brilliant” says Dan, “it’s particularly odd for me because that’s exactly the kind of insane thing I would have written when I was that age!”

“…He’s got a sense of history, he talks about Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror, he knows from an early age that he wants to go there and dominate parliament – incredible arrogance of youth! And he contemplated the monuments of departed genius at Westminster Abbey, which I spent some of my time doing, so that’s pretty weird – he’s my Great Great Grandfather and there’s definitely some powerful parallels”.

Myko uncovered David’s progress by the 1911 census, showing him now as Chancellor of the Exchequer, having a private secretary, and servants he’d brought from Wales.

David Lloyd George – featured in the 1911 Census

Censuses are held back for 100 years to protect privacy. The 1921 census is almost due for release, and will only be available online at Findmypast. Myko explains how “you’ll see for the first time the list of the number of children born to each married couple, together with the number of children still living – something quite poignant in an era of high infant mortality”.

John Hadley D’Oyly (Dan’s paternal 3 x Great Grandfather)

Dan doesn’t know much about this relative, apart from that he went to India to make money and later built a house in southern England.

Lots of records were sent back regularly by ship from India to the India Office in London – Findmypast have exclusive online copies of these. Myko discovered how John had previously gone into business with members of his wife’s family but ended up losing a great deal of money, so had gone back to India to re-build his fortune. John Hadley D’Oyly’s handwritten will shows how by this stage he had now made a fair amount of the money back.

John Hadley D’Oyly – Will

Myko uncovered the probate document, containing outstanding bills for books John had ordered to be bound, and two outstanding bills for quite expensive shoes.

“A taste for nice shoes is not something I’ve inherited, but that’s very good to see!” says Dan.

John Hadley D’Oyly – Estate

Indian newspaper, The Madras Courier of 1818, published a death notice that adds detail…

John Hadley D’Oyly – Madras Courier, 3 February 1818

“That’s amazing” says Dan, I didn’t know he was an MP as well”.

Sir Symonds D’ewes, (Dan’s 10 x Great Grandfather)

Has Dan inherited his love of history? “Not genetically I guess, but I think, yes, it’s in our family. It’s a tradition that we all love telling stories about the past – my aunt, my Grandma, everybody – so yes, possibly…”

Myko was able to uncover possibly the first historian in Dan’s family, back in the Tudor era – Sir Symonds D’ewes – born in 1602, and later MP for Sudbury in Suffolk.

Sir Symonds D’ewes

Myko reports Symonds kept three diaries, and for many years his writing was seen as one of the leading contemporary accounts of 1600s life – mentioned in the same breath as Samuel Pepys. He kept one in English (on his work in parliament), one in Latin (on activities outside of work, his hobbies and opinions), and then a third in a cypher he invented as a schoolboy, full of his innermost thoughts.

Whilst occasionally egotistical, Sir Symonds was loyal to his friends. “He wasn’t entirely dismissive of Catholics at a point when it was very dangerous to be a Catholic …in that journal we also get one of the only surviving accounts of Stuart courtship”, says Myko. After failing to woo Gemima Waldegrave, he met Dan’s 10th Great Grandmother, writing to her father:

Sir Symonds D’ewes -diary

Upon Symonds’ knighthood, he was described as an antiquarian and collector of manuscripts. Some of the works he transcribed no longer survive, making his writings the only source of some of these historical documents that exist now, particularly his greatest work – a diary of parliament in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Symonds seems to have been perched on the corner of every big event of the period, from warning the Duke of Buckingham George Villier to wear chainmail prior to his assassination in 1628, to being dismissed in Pride’s purge of 1648 during the English Civil Wars (despite claiming to support Parliament) – the only military coup in British history.

Myko also found records showing Symonds’ granddaughter (Dan’s 8 x Great Grandmother) married the Grandson of George Coke (the Bishop of Hereford at the time of this unrest) – one of 12 Bishops who petitioned to dissolve parliament entirely, firmly on the Royalist side. “So George being another of your 10th Great Grandparents, even though at the time a declared enemy of another of your 10th Great Grandparents, shows how two stories weave together and make something new”.

Although Symonds wasn’t massively successful as a historian in his lifetime, he actually made a far greater contribution to history than he ever could have dreamed of. 50 years after he died, in 1704, Robert Harley purchased his entire collection of books and manuscripts and founded a library. His Harleian Collection became one of the principal founding collections of The British Library.

Everyone has a story

Findmypast enables us to look into that world of ancestors, says Myko. “All their decisions shape that most exciting and inspiring history you’ll ever pick up, which is your own family history”.

“You can’t believe that your own ancestors are also going to appear in newspapers and magazines and things that will leave behind a footprint like this, it’s wonderful” says Dan.

Discover more about your own family’s history at Findmypast. By using censuses and working backwards, you too can uncover some great family stories.

Finding past weather. Fast

Climate data, including past weather conditions and long-term averages, for specific observing stations around the United States is only a few clicks away.

Certified weather data for use in litigation is available only through the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Ordering instructions are located online at: or by phone at (828) 271-4800.

Preliminary, and therefore unofficial, data for other purposes can be found on the Web sites belonging to one of the nation&rsquos 122 Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs).

  • First, find the location you need climate data for on the following map: and click on that region.
  • The Web site of the local WFO will then appear. On the left side of the page there will be a section called Climate in yellow-colored text. You may have to scroll down the page.
  • Several links may appear in the Climate section. Click on the one that applies to you. Some links may say: local climate past weather or list a specific segment of the state in which you&rsquore searching.
  • The page that follows will feature numerous categories and links. Climate data may be arranged on a daily, monthly and annual basis. Click the links and use any pull-down menus to navigate to the information you desire.

Month-to-date data likely will appear on this climate page and is among the most popular. This table, known as the preliminary Local Climatological Data (LCD) or F-6 form, lists the weather summary on a daily basis in each row. A summary of the month&rsquos weather to date is available at the bottom. Codes used on this form are explained here:

It&rsquos important to double check the station name, month, and year listed at the top of the page to ensure you have the correct location and time that you&rsquore looking for. These stations are a specific point, typically an airport, and the data listed may not reflect the extreme weather reported nearby through radar estimates, storm spotters and emergency officials of which the media may broadcast.

Finding Dan Snow’s Past - History

Same Old Lang Syne


As Fogelberg told it on his official website, the song is totally autobiographical. He was visiting family back home in Peoria, Illinois in the mid-'70s when he ran into an old girlfriend at a convenience store.

After Fogelberg's death from prostate cancer in 2007, the woman he wrote the song about came forward with her story. Her name is Jill Greulich, and she and Fogelberg dated in high school when she was Jill Anderson. As she explained to the Peoria Journal Star in a December 22, 2007 article, they were part of the Woodruff High School class of 1969, but went to different colleges. After college, Jill got married and moved to Chicago, and Dan went to Colorado to pursue music. On Christmas Eve, they were each back in Peoria with their families when Jill went out for eggnog and Dan was dispatched to find whipping cream for Irish coffee. The only place open was a convenience store at the top of Abington Hill, at Frye Avenue and Prospect Road, and that's where they had their encounter. They bought a six pack of beer and drank it in her car for two hours while they talked.

Five years later, Jill heard "Same Old Lang Syne" on the radio while driving to work, but she kept quiet about it, as Fogelberg also refused to reveal her identity. Her main concern was that coming forward would disrupt Fogelberg's marriage.

Looking at the lyrics, Jill says there are two inaccuracies: She has green eyes, not blue, and her husband was not an architect - he was a physical education teacher, and it's unlikely Fogelberg knew his profession anyway. Regarding the line, "She would have liked to say she loved the man, but she didn't like to lie," Jill won't talk about it, but she had divorced her husband by the time the song was released.

When Fogelberg started writing this song, he considered it "a joke," essentially laughing at himself as he looked back on the fateful encounter at the convenience store. When he finished the song, he realized it was an important one so he saved it for his album The Innocent Age. It ended up being his best-known song, exemplifying the gentle but very emotional stories his lyrics portrayed.

In late 2007, Fogelberg died at age 56 due to prostate cancer.

This was released as a single in December 1980. Fogelberg's record company expected the album to follow soon after, but the singer had an epiphany when he sat down to sequence it on New Year's Eve: it should be a double album with a "song cycle" starting with nostalgia and coming up to the present. Fogelberg spent another six months writing new songs.

When "Same Old Lang Syne" peaked on the Hot 100 at #9 in February 1981, there was no album for fans to rush out to buy, which drove the record company nuts. Finally, the album emerged in August with "Lang Syne" the last song on the first disc. The wait was worth it: Three more singles were released, each making the US Top 20, and the album sold over two million copies.

Comments: 65

  • Tim from Texas I always interpreted the last verse as his world feeling like it was a little warmer place having seen her and reminiscing about their relationship. Just my .02
  • Ca from Boston, Ma Well I would hear this song at Christmas time. It now has meaning to me. I did run into my love in a different place a hospital and it had been years since we saw one another. He was a patent and I was his therapist. We both did not acknowledge each other due to fear of being uncomfortable. Well he had been through so much. He talked about the years. He had been through a rough divorce and was going though medical problems. I took care of him daily and we would talk daily. He really had only a few people in his lime. Well at the end of the hospital stay, I could not handle it and told him who I was. He knew the whole time and told me his heart was smiling on the inside. He had a tear in his eye when he told me he was happy to have someone in his corner. He had a tear in his eye and I almost cried. I told him he has always been a lifelong friend. My heart almost cried. My heart is so happy and this song will now melt my heart.
  • Jimmyc from California when I hear this song it reminds me of my very first love that lasted about 4yrs with an engagement. We were young in our late teens early 20's. She was everything to me. But as we grow up. Our opportunities in life change as well as what we like to do. Oh! We had very common interests. Unfortunately the things we loved weren't really aligned. She being the Baby in here Family and the love of an older parental couple that had in total 4 children that ranged from mid 40's to my love of the age of 17. She could do anything she wanted. Athletic Softball to her all over with tournaments all over southern Wisconsin.. Her making new friends and doing her thing vs us making wedding plans. We Unfortunately grew apart, and to this day! I would not trade moment we had. I still love her and now 40yrs later. I crave that one day we'll bump into each other in the grocery store and have the same moment. DMB in Jefferson County Wisconsin. Know that I still love you and would love to be a closer friend.
  • Cs From Lynn from Lynn, Ma KT,
    I was wondering if the snow turning to rain meant his magical moment with his lost love was over, and the rain represented he was back to reality. The tears are a great analogy!
  • Kat from Ny It's a song about drinking and driving.
  • Cat from Arizona I remember reading an interview with Dan saying that this song was never written about a particular person, that is represented that old feeling you had in high school, your first love. Dan was a brilliant songwriter with such beautiful lyrics.
  • Kt from Nashville First time I ever thought to see if the song had any relevance and it’s all true. I can’t think of any song so beautiful so telling I think I married my first true love and this song tells me they both should have stayed together it’s a sad song Dan had the melancholy voice anyways my friend loved him he passed this past year I can’t believe it’s a true song and I was thinking of my friends love for Fogelberg and I came upon these excellent interpretations. The snow turns into rain could be tears that seems more as to what he was saying.
  • David From Ny from Yonkers So, please, no one get me wrong. I LOVE DF, and this song is one of the best, EVER. But in listening to it for perhaps the 853rd time tonight I noted to my wife that "doubt" and "gratitude" are two very different facial expressions. I asked her to try both (she is an actress) and they looked very different. So I'm just say'n, it's an odd lyric, still great, but odd. My wife just told me to get a life. Glad to see you all on this site. Dan F forever.
  • "loophole" - A Call Sign from Silverthorne, Colorado Fogelberg is still unsurpassed as a song writer about love. The phrase "the snow turned into rain", l believe ties to another song "Hard to Say" in which he asks the question of his love "why when it snows you cry". Fogelberg is simply saying as he turned "to find his way back home", he felt "that old familiar pain" and he cried. An incredible song writer with such depth of feeling. and incredible use of lyrics. He was taken from us much to soon.
  • Mary from Yuma, Az Many people have commented about the last part, 'the snow turned into rain'. No one really knows what this means, but I have speculated that it could mean how beautiful snow is and eventually, it's just water. Just like his lost love, it was beautiful at first, but eventually, it is what it is, and you can't go backwards, only forwards.
  • Andrewj from Canada Camille's comments are quite apt: The song is about a nostalgic-filled moment that appears to promise hope but ultimately delivers "that ol' familiar pain," of the (perhaps, necessity) of young heartbreak. It's very bittersweet because the song is so beautifully done. Yet, a caution: if you are thinking of contacting a youthful lover (note Fogelberg's choice of "lover," not "girlfriend," as Camille points out), seriously reconsider.

I have long loved this song about lost loves and of paths not taken. I must admit that it almost brings me to tears every time I hear it because it strikes so close to home. This beautifully sad story is one most everyone can relate to and find tucked away in the most protected part of our hearts. Will there ever be a love as strong or as ultimately painful as our "first love"? I've always believed that one way you can tell real friends from mere acquaintances is that the second you see them, it's like your conversation picks up almost right where it left off, even though there may have been decades in between. It just feels natural and comfortable, like coming home.

That indeed seems to be the case with these two former lovers, meeting by chance at a convenience store. They talk naturally and comfortably for hours. Then, as the last verse describes him suddenly being "back at school", feeling "that old familiar pain", and the snow turning "into rain" suggests, there is unfinished business there. For me, the symbolism of the snow turning into rain cannot be happy. I am a skier and I know what rain does to snow. For me, the singer is sad and clearly longing for his "old lover". But the lines that I don't see considered often are in the chorus. Following the toasts to "innocence" and to "now" are the lines that, for me at least, resonate with the longing felt by most everybody who ever loved, and lost, their "First Love": "And tried to reach beyond the emptiness /But neither one knew how," seem to describe both of them longing to reach out and perhaps reconnect, but neither being quite able to. Neither of them could find their way through "the emptiness" that they obviously sensed still lay between them. This is true for him because of the way he felt as he "watched her drive away" and his sadness watching the snow turning into rain. And probably true for her as well because she is stuck in a loveless marriage. He isn't married at the time (not until 1982) and her marriage seems on a downward spiral.

Now we can't possible know what was in the heads and hearts of Dan and Jill all those many years ago. It was what it was. But in a sense, it almost doesn't matter because the song belongs to all of us now. We can, and do, take our own meanings and interpretations of Mr. Fogelberg's wonderful words and phrases and make them our own. It is the way we relate to all poetry and "Same Old Lang Syne" is certainly poetry. Its just poetry set to hauntingly beautiful music.

Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. On DNA Testing And Finding His Own Roots

As host of the PBS series Finding Your Roots, Gates tells celebrities about their family history. He reflects on his own history and some of the more controversial aspects of DNA testing.

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross. As we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King today, we're going to listen to an interview Terry recorded with historian Henry Louis Gates. The new season of his TV series "Finding Your Roots" is now showing on PBS. In the show, notable guests discover their family roots based on genealogical research and DNA results. This kind of research has been especially important for African-Americans whose ancestors had their names and families taken away when they were enslaved. One episode this season explores Gates' own DNA and family history.

Professor Gates is the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard and has produced numerous books and documentaries about African-American history. Terry spoke to Henry Louis Gates in front of an audience last May when he was in Philadelphia to receive WHYY's annual Lifelong Learning Award.



TERRY GROSS, BYLINE: Because you've talked to everybody about their genealogy, I want to talk with you about yours and what you've learned about yourself and the larger meaning of what you've learned about yourself. And I want to start with the person who got you started in genealogy. It was really, like, the photograph of her - of your great-great-aunt Jane Gates. And you've.

GROSS: Great-great-grandma, I mean.

GROSS: Yeah. Thank you. So I want to read something that you wrote about her. And you got this from the 1870 census - (reading) that Jane Gates, age 51, female, mulatto, laundress and nurse, owns real estate valued at $1,400 born in Maryland cannot read or write. Now she was born in 1819 died in 1888. You were 9 years old when you found her picture.

GROSS: And you got this information from the 1870 census. So reading this - that she's a mulatto she'd been a slave - the first question that comes to my mind - and I don't know if it was the first question that came to yours - was, was she raped by the man who owned her?

GATES: I can't believe you asked this question because.

GROSS: Is that too personal? It's a horrible way to start, in a way.

GATES: Well, the average African-American.

GATES: The average African-American is 24 percent European. Now think about that. And most DNA companies in the United States will tell you that they have never tested an African-American who is 100 percent from sub-Saharan Africa. This is called an admixture test. It measures your ancestry back 500 years approximately. So what that means is that it's the percent of - if you had a perfect family tree, what percent would be from sub-Saharan Africa? What percent would be from Europe? What percent would be Native American?

African-American - I love to joke about this. African-Americans all think that they're a descendant from a Native American. And the average African-American has less than 1 percent Native American ancestry, but they have 24 percent European ancestry. So where does that come from? It comes from slavery. Was this an equal sexual relationship? Of course not. So obviously rape or, at best, cajoled sexuality was the cause, but there are exceptions. When I did Morgan Freeman's family tree, it was obvious through his DNA that he was descended from a white man who was an overseer on a plantation in Mississippi. And we knew the name of his great-great-grandmother and the name of this white man. So overseer, slave plantation - rape, right? Except in the next scene, I showed him their headstones. They were buried next to each other. As soon as the Civil War ended, they became common law husband and wife.

GATES: . Which was illegal in Mississippi. They lived together. They had kids, and they're buried next to each other.

GROSS: OK. So let's get back to your great-great-grandmother.

GROSS: So you assume it was not a consensual relationship, but she managed to own her own home five years after being freed from slavery.

GATES: For which she paid cash. So you.

GATES: Because of this white man. You don't get $1,400 by saving your nickels and dimes as a slave, right?

GATES: So obviously somebody gave her that money. She paid cash for that house in what was largely a white neighborhood. And our family - my cousin, Johnny Gates (ph), still owns that house to this day. It was just put on the historic.

GATES: . Register in Maryland. Isn't that a cool thing? But I saw that photograph and read her obituary on the day that we buried my father's father, Edward St. Lawrence Gates. And the obituary said, died this day in Cumberland, Md., January 6, 1888 Aunt Jane Gates, an estimable colored woman. And that night - and then daddy showed my brother and me, Dr. Paul Gates now, chief of dentistry at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital.

GATES: Well, it's the spirit of my mother. I could've won the Nobel Prize, and somebody would say congratulations. My mother would say, tell them about your brother who's a dentist.

GATES: I go, yeah, I got a brother who's a dentist, you know? OK. So we went - my father showed us that picture and that obituary, and we went home. And the last thing I did before I went to bed was - we always had a desk in our bedrooms and had a bookcase. And on my desk set a red Webster's dictionary. Kids don't even know what they are anymore, but everybody here does. And the last thing I did before I went to bed on July 2, 1960, was to look up the word estimable. And that imprinted this woman's story in my mind. And the only reason that I started making the series that became "Finding Your Roots" is because of that obituary and that photograph. So I'm telling this story over and over of my - of rediscovering my own lost roots. And the geneticists have found the identity finally of Jane Gates's paramour, the man.

GATES: Yes. My great-great-grandfather's now been found.

GATES: We know he was Irish from my DNA. I have the Ui Neil Haplotype. You get your Y DNA from your father, and that's what makes me a man. And you don't have a Y DNA, so that's why you're a woman. And my Y DNA, which is - comes in an unbroken chain, descends from this Irishman. So we knew he was Irish. Yeah.

GROSS: OK. On your mother's side, you found out that you had three men in the family who were freed slaves - freed before 1776. And they fought in the Revolutionary War. And consequently, you are now a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.

GATES: Yeah, isn't that a hoot?

GATES: And, you know, what's even more amazing, it's - one, it was my mother's third great grandfather - my fourth great grandfather. His name was John Redman. And he fought in - for the Continental Army. He was a free negro, as we would have said then. And he mustered in in Winchester, Va., on Christmas Day, 1778, and was mustered down the Continental Army in April of 1784. It's the damnedest thing I ever heard. And what's the real showstopper for me is the fact that my three sets of my fourth great grandparents lived 18 miles from where I was born. I don't think that's true for very many people in this room or any - or many people who are watching this show. It's incredible that the mystery to my family tree - I'm looking toward Africa, and it was 18 miles away in Moorefield, W.Va., County Courthouse.

GROSS: That's really interesting. Yeah.

GATES: It's really interesting.

GROSS: But when I think about your ancestors fighting in the Revolutionary War and then.

GATES: Just one. John Redman.

GROSS: And then your slightly more contemporary ancestors not having any rights in the country, you know, or very few rights - not being able to vote, having to live in segregation. It's just - when you think about American history.

GROSS: . It's mind-boggling. I mean, like, my - I'm second-generation American.

GROSS: Yeah. And when my grandparents came as immigrants, my family was able to assimilate pretty easily because we're white. You know, and your family was, one of them anyways, was in the Revolutionary War.

GATES: And think about it. They - but you're absolutely right. Even if you were free and you were black.

GATES: . In most states, you weren't allowed to vote. In some states - like, New York would let them vote sometimes, and then take it away. And then it was a property requirement. It was a horrible, horrible thing. It was better to be free than be a slave, but you were free but not free.

GROSS: OK. So you found out that your ancestors were, like, 18 miles away from where you lived.

GROSS: But you also wanted to know who were your African ancestors.

GROSS: So when you had your DNA done, did you have a wish for a certain area of Africa or a certain group of African people who you wanted to be your ancestors?

GATES: Yeah. No one's ever asked me that, but the answer's yes because I studied with a person who has been on your show, Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian playwright, when I went to the University of Cambridge. He was there in exile because he had been in prison and to be offering civil war for 27 months and was given a fellowship at the University of Cambridge. And I showed up from Yale, and he became my mentor. And so he introduced me to the Yoruba people. You know, we used to say tribe, but now that's not politically correct - so the Yoruba ethnic group in Western Nigeria. And I wanted to be from them. But when I started the series, it wasn't called "Finding Your Roots." If you remember, it was called "African-American Lives." I only did black people.

GATES: I did an episode with Oprah and Quincy Jones and Bishop T.D. Jakes and Chris Tucker. And the DNA tests we were doing at that time - when they analyzed my Y DNA, it went to Ireland. And when they analyzed my mitochondrial DNA, it went to England. I am descended from - on my father's side - from a white man who impregnated a black woman and, on my mother's side, from a white woman who was impregnated by a black man.

GATES: So if you were a Martian and came down to look at my DNA results, you'd think I was a white boy, you know?

GATES: And then when they did my admixture, I'm 50 percent sub-Saharan African and 50 percent European and virtually no Native American ancestry, which really pisses my family off.

GATES: admixture, I'm 50 percent sub-Saharan African and 50 percent European and virtually no Native American ancestry, which really pisses my family off.

GROSS: So you're not Yoruba.

GATES: But then they did another special test. And I cluster more toward the Yoruba than any - because 50 percent.

GATES: . Of my ancestry is from sub-Saharan Africa. But it's just not those two genetic lines.

DAVIES: Henry Louis Gates speaking with Terry Gross in May of last year. We'll hear more after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.


DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. And we're listening to Terry's interview with Henry Louis Gates. They spoke in front of an audience last May when Gates received WHYY's annual Lifelong Learning Award. The fifth season of Gates' TV series "Finding Your Roots" is now running on PBS. When we left off, Gates was talking about his own DNA mix. Testing showed he had ancestors from sub-Saharan Africa, Ireland and England.


GROSS: So given this kind of really rich mix that you've just described and all the surprises that you've just described, what does race mean to you? What is race? Does race exist?

GATES: No. Race is a social construction. But mutations exist. Biology matters. When my daughters were born, I had them tested for sickle cell because - black people are not the only people in the world that have sickle cell. But we have a disproportionately higher risk of sickle cell. You might have prostate cancer that runs in your family. You might have breast cancer. We know that BRCA1, BRCA2 - they're genetic. And if you're Ashkenazi Jewish, you might have a higher risk for those kind of things or Tay-Sachs. You can say on the one hand that race is a social construction. But on the other hand, you can't say that biology doesn't matter because it does matter. So I just wrote an essay that was published by Yale University Press about race. And the title is Race Is A Social Construction, But Mutations Are Real" (ph).

GROSS: Have you been medically DNA tested?

GROSS: Do you know - do you want to know your medical DNA?

GATES: Oh, my father and I were the first father and son of any race and the first African-Americans fully sequenced. In 2009, when I did "Faces Of America," a retail value of full genomic sequencing was $300,000.

GATES: And because it was PBS, we negotiated a deal with this company Illumina which sequences everybody. For $50,000, they sequenced my father, me and then 12 of the guests who were in "Faces Of America" - not a full genome but a dense genotyping. So that was a steal. Now you can get a full sequence for less than $5,000 - some people say $1,000 or $2,000. That's how much the science of genetics has changed in terms of the retail market since 2009. It's incredible.

GROSS: So you know your medical background and if you're.

GATES: Yeah. Well, I'll tell you a funny story. I told them that I did not want to know if I had any of the sort of - I don't know - the slam-dunk genes for Alzheimer's disease.

GATES: And they said, OK, we won't tell you. And so then they came in - this is a big deal back in 2008. And we filmed the whole thing. They had two geneticists. They had a medical doctor who specializes in sharing this information. They flew him in from San Francisco. And another person to interpret my genetic data because it's 6 billion base pairs, right? It's a lot of data to process. And I sat down. We started to roll. And the first thing they said was, you don't have any of the genes that's going to give you Alzheimer's.

GATES: I said, thank God. Thank God. Thank God.

GATES: And my father lived to be 97 1/2 without any dementia. So I thought that I had a pretty good chance. So what I did - my father and I agreed, for science, that we'd put our genomes in the public domain so that any scholar or student can study our genome. So I'm out there.

GATES: You know, I'm totally exposed. That's the way it is.

GROSS: So having done your, like, ancestry and everything, were you close to your parents?

GATES: Was I close to them?

GATES: Very close to them, yeah, particularly to my mother. When I was a boy, I was closer to my mother than my father. When I became a teenager, my father and I bonded. My father loved sports, and I didn't care about sports that much. I was more of a bookworm. And when I was a young teenager, early adolescence, my father and I connected through the news. He loved the news. And I loved the news. And my brother went off to dental school. So it was just the two of us and my mom, right?

GATES: That was one of the happiest days of my life when my brother went to dental school.

GATES: He wasn't even out the door, and I moved into his bedroom. I go, goodbye. I hope you never come back, you know?

GATES: Maybe for Christmas, OK, that's fine (laughter). So then I became close to them but in two completely different ways.

GROSS: Your father died not too long ago - a few years ago. He was 97, as you said.

GROSS: Because you knew so much about your family history and because the day you got interested in your family history was the day your grandfather died.

GROSS: . Was that reflected in the way you wanted to say goodbye to your father at the funeral?

GATES: Yeah. You know, I try to - doing "Finding Your Roots" is a way to paying homage to my mother and father every year. It's - remember, it's - my father dragged my brother and me upstairs in his parents' home and made us wait why he'd look through half a dozen of his father's scrapbooks, about which we knew nothing - complete mystery, a secret to us - looking for that obituary. And it's for my father. It's a gift - and for my mom. And it turned out - my father used to say, you know, your mother's family is really distinguished, too? And I couldn't imagine what, but two sets of those fourth great-grandparents are from my mother's line.

And my mother used to write the eulogies, the obituaries for all the black people in the Potomac Valley, where I grew up. And they would be published in the newspaper. And then when we go - when you were buried, she would stand up. The minister would call on her. And she would stand up and read their obituary, their eulogy. And before I started school - I started school when I was, well, 5, turning 6 - I would get dressed up, and I would go to church with my mom. And I would watch this beautiful, brilliant goddess. My mother was a seamstress, as you know. And your father was a tailor, which is why we.

GROSS: My grandfather, yeah.

GATES: And my mother went to Atlantic City. And we have a wall of degrees at home. And I have my mother's certificate from this vocational school where she learned to be a seamstress. And she was a beautiful woman. And I realized only recently that though I was raised to be a doctor, deep down, I really wanted to be a writer. And the reason I wanted to be a writer is that my mother wrote so beautifully and read so beautifully. So my whole life is really an attempt to honor and please my parents and make them proud of me, you know. And I hope they are.

GROSS: But it's making me think of how much death figured into your formative thoughts - the death of your grandfather, which led you to see the picture of your great-great-grandmother, everybody's deaths through your mother memorialized in those obituaries.

GATES: That's true. So you're saying I should have been an undertaker. There we go.

GROSS: That was my next question. Yeah.

GROSS: (Laughter) So I want to change the subject a little bit. People might remember the Beer Summit, when you were stopped in your own home trying to unjam a lock after a long trip. And your driver was helping you - well, he was shoving his shoulder against the door trying to open it.

GATES: Yeah, he knocked the door down.

GROSS: He knocked it down. OK.

GROSS: And it was reported as if it was a break-in, and a police officer came and arrested you.

GATES: He arrested me. Yes, he did.

GROSS: Huge story. And it really kind of deepened the racial divide in America, with everybody taking sides because.

GROSS: . The officer was white.

GATES: For two weeks. Yeah. Right.

GROSS: OK, for two weeks. But then President Obama called you both together. And he, and you, the officer and Joe Biden sat down, had a beer or two. It's called the Beer Summit.

GROSS: And I read you talking about this. You said that after - you had been getting death threats and these angry emails and everything. After that, everything stopped.

GATES: Right after the Beer Summit, it all went away.

GROSS: And it made me think about - because I was just reading this - it made me think about how a president can set the tone for the country on so many things, including, you know, racial issues, immigration. I think you know where I'm heading here. So (laughter) given the example that President Obama set in calming down that kind of argument in America over you and this officer, what do you hear now coming from our president?

GATES: Well, I was on "The View." And one of the, you know, wonderful people on "The View" said did I think that Donald Trump is racist. I said, well, I've never met Donald Trump. And I think that we throw terms like that around too loosely. So I would say, you know, no, I don't think so. I have a couple black friends - I went to Yale with Ben Carson and with Ben's wife. I mean, they know Donald Trump. Armstrong Williams, a person I really admire and like, I ask him, and he said absolutely not.

But I think that Donald Trump's rhetoric and some of his actions - for instance, after Charlottesville - encourage unfavorable race relations in the United States. And I think that that's sad. And I don't think that he understands how much power that - to heal, to bind that the Oval Office metaphorically has. Barack Obama understood that and, I think, certainly helped our nation to heal.

But on the other hand, Terry, there were a lot of people who never forgave the country for electing a black man to the White House. And there were a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump as a repudiation vote. And I was shocked by that. Remember all the talk about post-racialism that.

GATES: . We thought when Obama - we had turned a corner, and we could, you know, beat our - the plowshares into pruning hooks - right? - like the Bible says? That's not the way it was.

DAVIES: Henry Louis Gates spoke with Terry Gross before a live audience in Philadelphia last May. After a break, he'll talk about his childhood and about how DNA evidence demonstrates there's no such thing as racial purity. Also, journalist Brian Palmer talks about how slavery and the Civil War are described at Confederate historic sites in the South. I'm Dave Davies This is FRESH AIR.

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. We're listening to the interview Terry recorded with Harvard historian, author and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates before an audience at WHYY in Philadelphia last May. The new season of Gates' TV series "Finding Your Roots" is now running on PBS.

GROSS: There's some people who are trying to use genealogy to out people who are white supremacists and say, oh, you think you're so pure white, that that's such a big deal?

GROSS: Let's look at your ancestry and see who's really in it.

GROSS: And it's a way of outing people as not being who they think they are and not recognizing that we're all descended from so many different people. But the ancestry is being investigated against the will of the people being outed. What do you think of that?

GATES: Well, I think that you should have the right to - you have to ask someone. You have to get permission. The only reason people.

GROSS: I think they're doing it through records and not through, like, secretly getting their blood samples.

GATES: Now, we don't do blood anymore, right? We'd spit in a test tube.

GROSS: Oh. Oh, right. Right, right.

GATES: But everyone who's in one of those databases has given some kind of permission.

GATES: Otherwise they wouldn't be in a database. But I think that you should have to get permission before someone is creeping around in your DNA.

GATES: Don't you? But I think that one of the mottos of finding your roots is that there is no such thing as racial purity, that these people who have fantasies, these white supremacists, of this Aryan brotherhood, you know, this Aryan heritage that is pure and unsullied and untainted, that they're living in a dream world. It doesn't exist. We're all admixed. You know, no matter how different we appear phenotypically, under the skin we're 99.99 percent the same. And that is the lesson of "Finding Your Roots."

The lesson of "Finding Your Roots" - we're all immigrants. Black people came here - not willingly, of course. They came in slave ships. But they came from someplace else. Even the Native Americans came from someplace else about 16,000 years ago. So everybody who showed up on this continent is from someplace else. And under the skin, we are almost identical genetically. And that is the strongest argument for brotherhood, sisterhood and the unity of the human species. And I make it every week over and over with "Finding Your Roots."

GROSS: So I want to squeeze in one more question.

GROSS: When you were 14, you had a football injury. And I don't know if that ruined your sports career forever, but it affected your leg forever.

GATES: My sports career was ruined before.

GROSS: I've interviewed many people over the years. And I've learned that a lot of artists and writers and scholars, at some period in their life, were sick or physically laid up for an injury or.

GROSS: Yeah. And they stayed home, and they read. Or they stayed home, and they drew. Or they stayed home, and they listened to or played music. And I'm wondering if being laid up from an injury for a while affected your desire to - and your time to immerse yourself in books.

GATES: I was bookish from the beginning.

GATES: Yeah, I loved books. My mother used to read me - the greatest book ever written to me was "The Poky Little Puppy," right?

GATES: And I gave it to my mother once. I found the first edition when I was an adult. And I gave it to her for birthday. And she burst into tears because she used to read me that book all the time. And my father would just make up stories and tell my brother and me. But I was in traction for - six weeks in traction when I was.

GROSS: Whoa. That's a long time when you're young.

GATES: Yeah, I was 15 years old. And that is a long time. And by in traction, I mean on my back with my foot up with weights.

GATES: They don't do that anymore for this particular kind of - I had a broken hip. It was just misdiagnosed. And.

GROSS: You had a broken hip?

GATES: Yeah. And I was in the hospital for six weeks. And it's just crazy. And a doctor from the Philippines taught me to play chess at West Virginia University Medical Center in Morgantown, W.Va. And he'd come around in rounds. And we'd have the chess board set up. And he'd make a couple - a move. Then he'd come back. And then he'd - and I read quite a lot. But I also watched TV. And TV was on kind of like the hearth in New England.

GATES: Our TV - when we woke up, the TV was on, and nobody ever turned it off until you went to sleep. And I watched reruns of early black films like "Amos 'n' Andy" and "Beulah." All that was on still in 1965 in syndication. And I learned a lot about the medium. And deep down, I realized in retrospect that my desire to make films was probably born about that time.

GROSS: Did you watch old movies on TV?

GATES: And we - they only put - remember "The Late Show"?

GATES: And then there was "The Late Late Show." And at the time, the airwaves were so segregated, they only put black films on "The Late Late Show." And then black people would tell each other - they would say, you know, be sure to watch "The Late Late Show" tonight because "Imitation Of Life," which is my favorite film - 1934, with Claudette Colbert. And when this little girl's passing for - she passes for white and breaks her mother's heart. And she come to - it's the woman who invents box pancake mix - right? - like the Aunt Jemima figure. And she's the cook for Claudette Colbert. And she and Claudette Colbert are both unmarried mothers. And she invents this pancake mix, and they become fabulously wealthy. And the black woman says all she wants is enough money to have a New Orleans-type funeral. So everybody knew that this whole thing was building to the climax when Delilah - is her name - the character. And she dies of a broken heart because her little girl passes for white and goes off - and never sees her again.

And you - the last scene is the funeral. And they have a horse-drawn carriage. It's beautiful. And they got the brothers in uniforms with swords and stuff coming out of the church with this sad, black church music. And then you see this white girl next to Claudette Colbert. And you realize it's Peola, grown up, coming back. And she throws herself on the casket. Mama - I'm sorry, Mama. I killed my mama. And at this point, I'd run over to my mother and say, Mama, I'll never pass for white, Mama.

GATES: I'll never - I love you, Mama. I love you. I love you being black. I'm going to be black.

GROSS: But you had family that passed for white.

GROSS: You had family that passed for white.

GATES: The Gateses all looked - my father looked white.

GROSS: I saw his picture in the obituary. He looked white.

GATES: Yeah, yeah. And my grandfather was so white, we called him Casper behind his back.

GATES: But I have an announcement to make.

GATES: . For you. In front of all these people and all these viewers. I'm here to ask, on behalf of our production staff, if you will be a guest in next season.

GROSS: Oh, you're kidding (laughter).

GATES: . Of "Finding Your Roots." Yeah. Would you do it?

GATES: Terry Gross speechless - first time in 35 years.

GROSS: Totally stunned. I regret we are out of time.

GATES: OK. I can do it. This is FRESH AIR.

GROSS: It has been a great honor to speak with you. Thank you so much for accepting this award. And.

GROSS: . Thank you for all of all of the things you've written for your TV shows, for your movies. Thank you for being you.

GATES: Thank you, darling. Thank you.

GATES: Salt and pepper (laughter).

GROSS: Terry Gross interviewed Henry Louis Gates last May when he was in Philadelphia to accept the WHYY Lifelong Learning Award. Gates is the host of the TV genealogy series "Finding Your Roots." Terry will be one of the guests whose family history is explored next year in the sixth season of the show. The fifth season of "Finding Your Roots" is currently showing on PBS. Coming up, journalist Brian Palmer talks about how slavery and the Civil War are described at Confederate historic sites in the South. This is FRESH AIR.


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March 12-15, 1993

Dan Littlefield of Campe Ellis attempts to clear snow from his car Sunday morning, March 14, 1993. The Portland Jetport received 17 inches of new snow during the previous day&aposs blizzard. 

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Causing 300 deaths and $6 to $10 billion in damages, the “Storm of the Century” lived up to the hype. Those staggering numbers might have been far worse, however, were it not for significant advances in U.S. weather forecasting not long before the mighty blizzard struck. Sophisticated computer models allowed the National Weather Service to issue a severe storm warning two days in advance. For the first time, governors could declare a state of emergency before a single snowflake fell. But that didn’t stop them from falling𠅊nd with a vengeance. The storm affected at least 26 U.S. states and much of eastern Canada, reaching as far south as Jacksonville, Florida. It dumped several feet of snow on regions that typically see less than an inch of powder a year, forcing officials to scrape together winter emergency plans. On the Atlantic seaboard, hurricane-force winds stirred up mammoth swells, and more than 15 homes were swept out to sea on the eastern shore of Long Island.

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As monuments fall, how does the world reckon with a racist past?

Heroes of the past are considered dishonorable today. Should these relics be removed or preserved as mementos of history?

Richmond, Virginia’s city hall was packed on July 17th, 1995 with people who had come from as far away as Florida for a hearing on a proposed monument to the late Arthur Ashe, an African American tennis champion and humanitarian who was born in the city. The question was whether to honor Ashe on Richmond’s famous Monument Avenue, which had celebrated General Robert E. Lee since 1890 other Confederate leaders were added in decades that followed.

Former Virginia Governor Douglass L. Wilder, the first African American elected governor in the United States since Reconstruction and a longtime friend of Ashe, had lobbied relentlessly for the statue. He and other supporters had been met by ferocious blowback, primarily by people who considered the boulevard a shrine for the preservation of Confederate memories.

Then Councilwoman Viola Baskerville, a 43-year-old African American, cast her ballot in favor of the Ashe statue.

“There was a lot of animosity in that room. You could see it in people’s eyes,” says Baskerville, who went on to serve in the cabinet of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, now a U.S. senator. “I still believe that a statue of Arthur Ashe belongs on Monument Avenue. It’s a symbol of perseverance and excellence. But we’re fighting ghosts. There’s a lot of blood in the soil. There has been no resolution we are still restless and torn.”

A quarter-century later, the statue of Arthur Ashe may soon be the last one standing on Monument Avenue in Virginia’s capital. In the past month, Confederate monuments adorning the boulevard have either been toppled or are slated for removal. Pushed by a dizzying groundswell of opposition to long standing symbols of the Confederacy and white supremacy, numerous state and local governments, universities, corporations, and entertainers such as the Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum, have taken decisive steps to distance their names and brands from iconography of America’s racist past.

Few monuments in the U.S.—or around the world, for that matter—seem safe from scrutiny at the moment. Statues of former Presidents George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt have become high-profile targets for attack or removal. There are discordant rumblings about the mixed moral legacies of the four celebrated U.S. presidents memorialized in granite on Mount Rushmore. British colonial-era politicians Winston Churchill and Cecil Rhodes and even anti-colonial Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi have come into the crosshairs of statue abolitionists.

A major reconsideration of how the history of colonialization, slavery, and white supremacy is taught and viewed, especially through public art and memorials, is furiously underway. It grew out of social unrest and a tense reexamination of race relations that has raged since video emerged of George Floyd pinned to the ground and dying under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020. Calls for change started long before that awful encounter. Floyd’s blood served as gasoline on a smoldering fire. (African Americans have always fought for their rights—now the movement is global.)

Now, tough questions are being asked globally. What symbols from our past must be reconsidered or simply discarded? What stories demand a more complete and honest retelling? How should history be taught?

Using contemporary values to judge the moral failings and atrocities of ancestors and to reevaluate the lives and legacies of canonized leaders is an explosive calculus. Nonetheless, a growing number of nations seem ready to embrace the moral deconstruction of the past to understand and improve the present.

The removal of monuments and symbols to a racist past is an important step to a more just future. Some scholars see the current waves of activism that sprouted primarily from the Black Lives Matter movement as a precursor to overdue structural reform.

“The racial justice movement currently underway is unprecedented and can be considered a game changer. The way many people look at the world has literally changed in weeks,” said Kevin K. Gaines, Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice at the University of Virginia.

“Majority-Black protests like we’ve seen in the past can be marginalized or discounted. But now when you see little white kids and college students posting Black Lives Matter on Instagram, the narrative isn’t so easy to corrupt. When you see an elderly white man knocked down by police in Buffalo while peacefully protesting, the demands of a movement are not easily discarded or ignored. Dominant national myths are being exploded. This is a transformational moment not only in the United States but around the globe. In the United States this is a multi-racial movement under the banner of Black Lives Matter. That’s what’s novel and unprecedented about this effort,” said Gaines. (Hear from those demanding racial justice in Washington, D.C.)

The assault on effigies of racial supremacists from bygone eras has proven contagious. British demonstrators in Bristol tore down a bronze statue of Edward Colston, an infamous 17th Century slave trader, and tossed it into a harbor a week later, the governors of the University of Oxford voted to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes was a mining magnate who ruled over the British Cape Colony in what is today South Africa and paved the path for South Africa’s system of apartheid. The man responsible for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship was an unabashed white supremacist who viewed the indigenous Black population of South Africa as an inferior race.

Now, an argument percolates on the Oxford campus and beyond: How far should any university go to challenge the past?

"My own view on this is that hiding our history is not the route to enlightenment," Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of Oxford, told the BBC. "We need to understand this history and understand the context in which it was made and why it was that people believed then as they did," she said.

"This university has been around for 900 years. For 800 of those years, the people who ran the university didn't think women were worthy of an education. Should we denounce those people? Personally, no—I think they were wrong, but they have to be judged by the context of their time," she said.

A similar debate is raging over Christopher Columbus and which historical legacies need to be challenged. A statue of the Italian seafarer has stood outside City Hall in Columbus, Ohio, since 1955. Just as it is in other places throughout the Americas, the bronze image is slated for removal. Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said the statue, a gift from the citizens of Genoa, Italy, will be placed in storage “in favor of diversity and inclusion.” The mayor of America’s 15th largest city didn’t stop there. Earlier this month he offered a scathing sentiment of the city’s patron saint.

“For many people in our community, the statue represents patriarchy, oppression and divisiveness. That does not represent our great city, and we will no longer live in the shadow of our ugly past,” said Ginter.

But how should Columbus now be remembered? The explorer has long been credited with “discovering” the Americas while in search of riches of East Asia. Scholars occasionally offered brief nods to the inhumane treatment indigenous people suffered at the hand of Columbus and his hired seafarers–such as rape and enslavement–but he had long been considered the father of the “New World.”

“The work of historians over the last century has shown that Columbus was a controversial figure during his own life, because of his actions that supported the genocide of indigenous populations in Hispaniola,” says Ana-Lucia Araujo, a professor of history at Howard University.

“Columbus represents the European conquest of the Americas that led to the killing and the enslavement of Native American populations, and then the massive importation of enslaved Africans to the Americas.”

“I believe that the study of slavery, the Atlantic slave trade and the history of populations of African descent should be made mandatory at the school level and the university level,” added Araujo, author of the forthcoming book Slavery In The Age Of Memory. “The United States remains segregated. White Americans must understand that slavery is not about black history. It is American history. It is the history of the victims and the perpetrators, and in order to not keep repeating the atrocities of the past, we need to know this history, even though it may feel uncomfortable.”

Columbus Day became a federal holiday in the U.S. in 1937. But should his legacy be celebrated? Not only are statues of Confederate soldiers and celebrated colonizers being ripped from pedestals or rushed into cold storage, large portions of American life are now also considered ripe for rigorous review.

Quaker Oats and Mars, Inc. are making plans to remove popular but polarizing stereotypes advertising Aunt Jemima’s maple syrup and Uncle Ben’s rice. The sports and entertainment industries are also undergoing reckonings. NASCAR has banned the Confederate flag at its events, and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell has apologized for not listening to players’ concern about the historical mistreatment of African Americans.

Politicians are racing to properly position themselves on the quickly evolving racial landscape. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that “Juneteenth” will be recognized as a paid state holiday starting next year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the portraits of four House Speakers who served in the Confederacy to be removed from the halls of the U.S. Capitol building. And various cities and counties throughout the nation are studying ordinances to label racism a public health crisis.

Earlier this month, Clemson University stripped the name of former Vice President John C. Calhoun, a slavery proponent, from its honors college. The University of Southern California removed the name of Rufus B. von KleinSmid, a noted eugenicist, from a prominent building on its campus. Princeton University removed the name of Woodrow Wilson, America’s 28th president, from its school of public policy, because of what a university statement called his “racist thinking.”

“Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time,” Princeton’s president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, said in the statement.

Rhode Island announced that it was changing its name from “Rhode Island and Providence Plantation” to just “Rhode Island.” And the Republican-controlled Mississippi state legislature just passed a measure to redesign the state’s flag, which has been embedded with the Confederate battle flag since 1894, three decades after the Civil War, and has long inflamed racial tensions. (Here's why the Confederate flag gained popularity in the 20th century.)

How history will judge us a century from now is anyone’s guess. It seems likely the emerging generation of young scholars and social activists will be remembered for challenging systems of oppression and racial hierarchy.

Yet as philosopher-poet George Santayana famously said, those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. The aphorism weighs heavily on those trained to study the behaviors and achievements of past cultures.

“As a historian, I am concerned about the past being erased,” says Gaines, the UVA professor. "If we sanitize our history, we run the risk of forgetting how we’ve progressed and changed over time…Those who come after us must understand that America was conceived in white supremacy and continues to suffer the consequences.”

In his best-selling memoir, In The Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu recounts the volatile emotions stirred when he orchestrated the removal of four highly visible Confederate monuments from his city in 2017. He called the decision an important step toward racial justice and healing.

“Symbols matter. We use them in telling the stories of our past and who we are, and we choose them carefully. Once I learned the real history of these statues, I knew there was only one path forward, and that meant making straight what was crooked, making right what was wrong. It starts with telling the truth about the past,” wrote Landrieu.

The irony that Arthur Ashe could well be the last man standing on Richmond’s Monument Avenue is testament to the power of sustained moral protest.

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Past Sheriffs by State - Alabama-Iowa

Origin of the word "sheriff"
Over 1000 years ago in England, the shire, was formed when groups of hundreds banded together. The shire was the forerunner of the modern county. Just as each hundred was led by a reeve (chief), each shire had a reeve as well. To distinguish the leader of a shire from the leader of a mere hundred, the more powerful official became known as the shire-reeve.

The word shire-reeve eventually became the modern word sheriff. Read More

Spelling of the word "SHERIFF"

Sheriff seems to be one of those words which is often misspelled. Common misspellings include sherrif, sherif, and sherriff. The correct spelling is SHERIFF.

Search Billions of Names at for past sheriffs and ancestors!

Search for past sheriffs in our free directory. Using the following directory, you will locate lists of former sheriffs along with photographs, biographies, county jail histories, county sheriff office history and other documents dating back as far as the 1600's. Was one of your ancestors a sheriff? Take a look around to find out. If you know of other past sheriffs lists online, or you have one to donate, please let us know.

Alabama Department of Safety History

Features several pages devoted to the history of the organization and mentions many names of the past in the Alabama Dept. of Public Safety.

Calhoun County Former Sheriffs
Includes a list of former sheriffs of Calhoun County, AL 1833 to 1995 along with some early county jail photos.

Cherokee County Sheriffs History
Some history Includes a partial list of past sheriffs of Cherokee County, AL 1838 to present day with some photos.

Coffee County Sheriffs History
Provides a bio for the current sheriff and a list of past sheriffs 1843 to present time with many photos..

Colbert County Sheriffs History
Includes a list of the past sheriffs of Colbert County, AL 1870 to present time with many photos.

Dale County Sheriffs History
A brief history recounts some of the past sheriffs of Dale County, Alabama.

Franklin County Sheriffs History
Features a bio of the current sheriff and a list of the past sheriffs of Franklin County, AL 1851 to present time with photos.

Houston County Past Sheriffs

Jefferson County Past Sheriffs 1819 to present
Includes photos.

An incomplete list of past sheriffs in Lawrence County, AL.

Marshall County Past Sheriffs

A list of the past sheriffs of Marshall County from 1835 to present time.

Mobile County Sheriffs History

A list of the past sheriffs of Mobile County, Alabama from 1812 to present time..

Montgomery County Past to Present Sheriffs

A list of the past sheriffs of Montgomery County from 1817 to present day.

Northern District of Alabama US Marshals

Features a list of all former US Marshals in the Northern District of Alabama. Covers years 1830 to present day.

Pickens County Sheriff's History
Bio of current Pickens County Sheriff with a list of past sheriffs beginning in 1821 with several photos.

Pike County Sheriff's History
Bio of current Pike County Sheriff with a list of past sheriffs beginning in 1963.

Shelby County Sheriff's History
Includes a list of sheriffs of Shelby County, AL from 1818 to present day and a brief history.

Talladega County History and Past Sheriffs List
Features a list of past sheriffs of the Talladega County Sheriff's Office 1833 to present day.

Tuscaloosa County History and Past Sheriffs List
Includes early photos of law enforcement officers.

Walker County Former Sheriffs
Includes past sheriffs 1824 to present for Walker County, Alabama.

Glendale, Arizona Town Marshals

This comprehensive site of historic lists of Town Marshals, Chiefs of Police, and Police Officers runs from 1910 to present time.

US Marshals of Arizona Territory
Includes list of US Marshals in Arizona Territory 1864 to 1912.
More information about U.S. Marshals can be found in the book:
The United States Marshals of New Mexico and Arizona Territories, 1846-1912
and: Tales of Arizona Territory

Yuma County Past Sheriffs 1864 to present
Includes all sheriffs of Yuma County, Arizona along with some photos and biographies. The site also features a page of those officers killed in the line of duty.

Baxter County Past Sheriffs

The following list was compiled and submitted by The Baxter County Historical Society President Maryanne Edge.

See the photos and some history about these Baxter County sheriffs.

1873-1884 A.G. Byler
1884-1890 Jacob H. Wolf
1890-1892 A.G. Byler *
1892-1892 W.F. Eatman **
1892-1894 Samuel Livingston
1894-1896 R.M. Hancock
1896-1900 G.W. Foster
1900-1904 R.H. Hudson
1904-1907 E.W. Mooney *
1908-1912 Leon Mooney
1912-1921 R.S. Hurst
1921-1925 Jim Martin
1925-1928 R.S. Hurst
1928-1940 Jim Martin
1941-1944 Harvey S. Powell
1945-1950 Ernie Gentry
1951-1956 J.D. King, Jr.
1957-1962 Jack Gregory
1963-1968 Emmett Edmonds *
1968-1969 Pauline Edmonds
1968-1970 D.C. Cockrum
1971-1978 Jack Gregory
1979-1995 Joe H. Edmonds
1995-1996 Benny Magness
1997-1998 Charlie Garrison
1999-2004 Joe H. Edmonds
2005-present John F. Montgomery
* Starred names indicate that these Sheriffs were killed while in office.
** Sheriff W.F. Eatman was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Sheriff Byler, who was killed in the line of duty by infamous outlaw Jesse Roper.

Benton County Sheriff's Office History

Features a list of past sheriffs 1866 to present time.

Columbia County, Arkansas Sheriffs

Features a historical list of sheriffs 1853 to present day.

Conway County, Arkansas Sheriffs

Includes historical list of sheriffs 1826-1902.

Crawford County Past Sheriffs

A complete list of past sheriffs of the Crawford County Sheriffs Office from 1821 to present day.

Faulkner County Past Sheriffs

Names and photos of the past sheriffs of Faulkner County.

Faulkner County Past Sheriffs

Names and photos of the past sheriffs of Faulkner County.

Grant County Sheriffs Office History

Features a list of sheriffs who served Grant County, Arkansas from 1869 to present with photographs.

Hot Spring County History of Sheriffs

Lists all sheriffs who have served Hot Spring County, Arkansas from 1829 to present day.

Jackson County Sheriffs Office History

Features names and dates of service for the former sheriffs of Jackson County, Arkansas. Great photos and interesting information about the early days in the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

Jefferson County Sheriffs History

Features a list of past sheriffs of Jefferson County from 1830 to present time. Includes nice photos.

Johnson County Sheriffs Office History

Features photos and dates of service for the former sheriffs of Johnson County, Arkansas.

Lonoke County Past Sheriffs

Past sheriffs are listed chronologically from 1874 to present day..

Madison County Past Sheriffs

List of past sheriffs who served the Madison County Sheriff's Department 1836 to present time. Also see Madison County Sheriff Office Memorial.

Mississippi County Sheriffs History

List of past sheriffs who served the Mississippi County Sheriff's Department 1833 to present day.

Perry County Sheriff History

Features a complete list of past sheriffs who served Perry County, Arkansas from 1940 to present time.

Pope County Sheriff's Office History

Features a nicely done history of the Pope County Sheriff's Office with photos. Lists all past sheriffs who served Pope County from 1829 to present day.

Saline County Sheriff's Office History

Features a well done history including photos and a list of all sheriffs who have served in Saline County, Arkansas.

Union County, Arkansas Past Sheriffs

Lists all past sheriffs 1829 to present.

Also of historical interest is the Tucker - Parnell Feud located at El Dorado's Legend of Marshal Tucker.

Washington County, Arkansas Sheriffs

Features list of past sheriffs 1828 to present day. Includes photos and biographical information.

Alameda County Sheriff Historical Facts.
Features some historical facts about the Alameda County Sheriff's Office from 1853 to present day.

Butte County Sheriff History.
Features some history with a list of past sheriffs 1850 to present time.

Contra Costa County Past Sheriffs 1850 to present.
Includes photos and biographies.

Fresno County Former Sheriffs
Includes past sheriffs of Fresno County, California 1856 to 1999 with photos.

Kern County Sheriffs Office History

Brief history of the Kern County Sheriffs Office. Also see Kern County Sheriff's Mounted Posse.

Los Angeles County Past Sheriffs 1850 to present
Located at Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Unofficial Guide to Badges, Patches and History. Includes some biographies and photos.

Los Angeles Sheriffs - Past to Present
Located at Los Angeles Almanac. Includes Los Angeles County, California sheriffs 1850 to present along with some historical information.

Mariposa County Sheriff Histsory
Includes past sheriffs of Mariposa County from 1850 to present time.

Napa County Past Sheriffs 1853 to present

History of the San Diego County Sheriff's Office.
Includes photos and histories of some of the early sheriffs. Also of interest is the Sheriff's Museum. The Sheriff's Museum site features a list of past sheriffs in the San Diego Sheriff's Office.

San Francisco Sheriffs
Includes past sheriffs of San Francisco, California 1850 to present along with photos and biographies.

San Joaquin County Past Sheriffs
Includes past sheriffs of San Joaquin County, California 1849 to present day.

Santa Barbara County Sheriffs Office History
Features a brief history of the Santa Barbara County Sheriffs Office.

Santa Cruz County Historical List of Sheriffs
Located at the Santa Cruz Public Library. Includes past sheriffs 1850 to 1994 of Santa Cruz County, CA.

Sutter County Sheriffs List

Located at the Sutter County Sheriff's Office. Features a list of past sheriffs 1850 to present day.

Tulare County Historical Sheriffs List

Located at the Tulare County Sheriff's Office. Features a list of past sheriffs 1852 to present day.

Ventura County Sheriff's Department History

Located at the Ventura County Sheriffs Department. Features a brief history and a gallery of past sheriffs who have served Ventura County. The site also features a memorial to fallen officers.

Features pictures of past sheriffs and the dates they served from 1850 to present day. Also see the memorial page.

Arapahoe County Historical Elected Officials

Features histories, photos and memorials to the elected officials in Arapahoe County's past. Includes a list of past sheriffs 1902 to present day.

Boulder County Sheriffs Past and Present

Features a list of past sheriffs of Boulder County, CO 1861 to present time with many photos..

El Paso County Sheriff's Office History

Features a brief history of the Sheriff's office of El Paso County, CO.

Jefferson County Sheriff's Office History Columbine High School Shootings

Montezuma County Sheriffs History

Features a list of past sheriffs 1889 to present time.

Sussex County Sheriffs History

Features a list of past sheriffs 1669 to present.

Alachua County Sheriff's Office History
Features an extensive history of the Alachua Sheriff's Office from 1824 to present time including photos and bios of the past sheriffs.

Bradford County Sheriff's Office History
Features a complete list of past sheriffs from 1859 to present day with photos.

Charlotte County Sheriff's Office History
Features a complete list of past sheriffs from 1921 to present day with bios and photos.

Collier County Sheriff's Department History
Brief history of the Collier County Sheriff's Department. Includes a page devoted to fallen officers.

Gainesville Police Department History
History of the police department along with early town marshals and a list of police chiefs from 1919 to 1999 with nice photos. Also see the Memorial Page.

Glades County Sheriffs - Past and Present

Full list of all past sheriffs of the Glades County Sheriff's Office fro 1909 to present.

Highlands County Past Sheriffs

Full list of all past sheriffs of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office with photographs.

Monroe County History and Chronology of the Sheriff's Office.
Includes past sheriffs 1832 to present with some historic photos.

Nassau County Law Enforcement History.
Includes past sheriffs 1827 to present with some historic photos.

Orange County Sheriff's Office Historical Overview.
A nicely written history of the Orange County, FL Sheriff's Office covering163 years.

Pasco County History of the Pasco County Sheriffs Office

Features some history of the Sheriff's office along with a list of past sheriffs 1887 to present time.

Polk County Sheriffs Past and Present

Provides a complete list of all sheriffs who have served Polk County since 1861. Also see the Memorial Page..

Pottawattamie County Sheriffs Office History

Features a brief history of the Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office, providing names and photos of some past sheriffs. Also see Line of Duty Deaths.

Santa Rosa County Sheriffs Data
Includes list of former sheriffs of Santa Rosa County, FL for years 1842 to 2000.

A nice little history which includes photos and information about the past sheriffs of Seminole County, FL along with a page devoted to fallen officers.

St. Johns Sheriffs Office History

This brief history includes past sheriffs of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries with photos.

List of past sheriffs of St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office with photographs.

Volusia County Past Sheriffs

Lists past sheriffs of Volusia County from 1855 to 2001.

Bulloch County Sheriff's Office History.

Provides the history of the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office and a list of the past sheriffs who have served Bulloch County, Georgia since 1796.

Clayton County Sheriff's Office History.

Features the past sheriffs who have served Clayton County, Georgia since 1858.

Cobb County - History of the Cobb County Sheriff's Office.

Includes a nice historical background with list of sheriffs 1833 to present day with some good photos. Also see the Cobb County Jail History.

Fayette County Past Sheriffs

Lists all sheriffs of Fayette County, Georgia from 1822 to present time.

Floyd County Sheriffs History

Lists all sheriffs of Floyd County, Georgia from 1833 to present time.

Fulton County Sheriffs History

Very brief history of the Fulton County, GA Sheriffs Office mentions some past sheriffs.

Gwinnett County Sheriffs Office History

Provides a brief history of the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office which originated in 1818.

Henry County Sheriffs History

Lists all sheriffs of Henry County, Georgia from 1823 to present time.

Long County History of the Sheriffs

Provides sheriffs from 1969 to present day.

Muscogee County Sheriffs History

Lists sheriffs from 1927 to present day with lots of historical background. Includes photos and history of the Columbus Stockade which was built ca 1850-1870, old newspaper articles and a history timeline of the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office.

Newton County Sheriff's Office History

Features a brief history of the Newton County Sheriff's Office and provides a list of past sheriffs who served Newton County, GA from 1822 to present day.

Santa Rosa - History of Santa Rosa County Sheriffs

Located on the Santa Rosa County Sheriff site. Features a brief history, a historical timeline of the Sheriff's Department, County Courthouse information and a list of past sheriffs (1842 to present) with biographies.

Seminole County Past Sheriffs

Features photos and information about the past sheriffs of Seminole County, GA from 1921 to present day.

Tift County Past Sheriffs

Features photos and information about the past sheriffs who served Tift County, GA from 1905 to present time.

Blaine County Sheriffs History

Features a well-written history of the Blaine County Sheriffs Office complete with the history of their law enforcement and lists of the lawmen who upheld the law in Blaine County Idaho 1864 to present day.

Boise County Sheriffs History

Provides a list of sheriffs in Boise County, Idaho and their years of service 1863 to present time.

Bonneville County History

Features names, photos and information about past sheriffs of Bonneville County, Idaho.

Idaho County Sheriffs Past and Present

Lists all former sheriffs 1863 to present day.

Kootenai County Past Sheriffs

Lists all sheriffs of Kootenai County from 1932 to present day with links to lists of other historic Kootenai County officials as well.

Twin Falls County Sheriffs Office History

Features a nice history of law enforcement in Twin Falls County, Idaho. You will find the past sheriff of Twin Falls County, Idaho Sheriff's Office from 1907 to present and since Twin Falls, Idaho was originally part of Cassia County, you will find Cassia County past sheriffs listed for years 1879-1907.

Adams County Past Sheriffs 1825 - Present.

Cumberland County Officials

Includes pre 1884 officials including sheriffs, clerks, judges and other offices.

Henry County Sheriff's Office History
Includes past Sheriffs 1837 to present.

Kane County Past Sheriffs 1836 to present.
Includes some early photos.
History of the Kane County Jails
History of Kane County Jails. Includes old jail photos and drawings.

Early People and Politics in Kane County, Illinois

Lists of early county officials including sheriffs, clerks, judges, coroners and others in the 19th Century.

Kankakee County Sheriffs Office History

Rock Island County Past Sheriffs

Rock Island County Sheriff's Department History

Winnebago County Sheriffs Office History

Includes some of the past sheriffs and some interesting tidbits about the history of Winnebago County, Illinois.

DeKalb County Sheriff Department History

Features a brief history which includes lists of past sheriffs and historical jail information and photographs.

Delaware County Sheriff Department History
Includes some history of the department along with a list of past sheriffs 1827 to present.

Features a complete list of past sheriffs of Indiana territory and Gibson County through present day.

Johnson County Sheriff's Office History

Features historical information about the sheriff's office, the Johnson County jail, past sheriffs, early crimes and vigilante justice.

Kosciusko County Sheriff's Office History

This very brief history includes some information about past sheriffs and officers..

Marion County, Indiana Previous Sheriffs
Lists all sheriffs 1822 to present.

Also see: Marion County Sheriff's Department History
History of Marion County Jails

Includes old Marion county jail photos.

Noble County Past Sheriffs
Located at the Noble county Historical Society. Includes former sheriffs of Noble County, Indiana between 1836 and 1974.

Putnam County Sheriffs History

Features a brief history of the Putnam County Sheriff's Office and jail which includes a list of past sheriffs 1822 to present time.

Scott County Sheriffs History

Features a list of past sheriffs who served Scott County, IN from 1820 to present day..

Vanderburgh County Past Sheriffs

Features a list of past sheriffs who served in Vanderburgh County, IN from 1818 to present time..

White County Sheriffs History

Located on the White County Sheriff's site, the page features links to articles containing historical information about the White County Sheriff's Office and a list of all sheriffs 1892 to present.

Adams County Officials 1893-1940

Includes Sheriffs, Court Clerks, and other official of Adams County, Iowa.

Allamakee County Sheriffs History

Keepers of law and order in Alamakee County from 1904-1949. Includes Marshalls, Sheriffs and other Peace Officers of Allamakee County, IA.

Black Hawk County Sheriffs History

Provides some history of the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office along with a list of past sheriffs who served from 1853 to present day..

Cass County Sheriffs History

This very brief history of the Cass County Sheriff's Office details events through the years with a few names of law enforcement officials but doesn't list the past sheriffs.

Chickasaw County Previous Sheriffs

List of past sheriffs who served in Chickasaw County, Iowa from 1853 to present day.

Clay County Sheriffs History

Nice history about the Clay County Sheriffs Office along with a list of past sheriffs 1859 to present day.

Features a list of past sheriffs from the first sheriff to present day.

Dickinson County Past Sheriffs

Features a list of past sheriffs of Dickinson County beginning in 1857..

Fayette County Sheriffs History

Brien history details the inception of the Fayette County Sheriff's Office and includes a list of past sheriffs 1850 to present time..

1845-1880 Elected Officials of Iowa County

Includes sheriffs, mayors and other city officials in the history of Iowa County, IA.

Mills County Iowa Past Sheriffs

Lists 1851 to present day sheriffs of Mills County, Iowa. Page also features a list of past and current Mills County Deputy Sheriffs.

O'Brien County Sheriff's Office and Jail History

Nice history with photos and a list of past sheriffs 1860 to present.

Osceola County, Iowa Past Sheriffs

Lists past sheriffs who have served Osceola County from 1872 to present time. Also included are past Chiefs of Police of Sibley, IA..

Plymouth County Iowa Sheriffs History

Brief history of the Plymouth County Sheriffs Office features a list of past sheriffs who served Plymouth County 1859 to present.

Plymouth County Iowa Sheriffs History

Brief history of the Plymouth County Sheriffs Office features a list of past sheriffs who served Plymouth County 1859 to present.

Scott County Iowa Previous Sheriffs

Features a list of the previous sheriffs of Scott County, Iowa from 1838 to present day.

Wapello County Sheriff History

Brief history of the Wapello County Sheriff includes past sheriffs 1844 to present time. Also see Wapello County Jail History.

Watch the video: Dan Snows Family History - Podcast with History Hit. Findmypast


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