It’s one thing to say “Uncle George bought a cottage in 1604”, but what else was happening in the world when he did that? Items in bold are my relatives.

  • 1348 The Black Plague (aka Bubonic) in Europe kills about 75 million. Contemporary accounts place the death toll at one third of inhabitants. Vast social changes result. Workers become a scarce commodity, increasing their bargaining power with employers. Farm land reverts back to forests as the number of farmers decrease.
  • 1431 Joan of Arc burned at the stake. She is credited with leading the French in victory over the English. The English had been dominating France since Agincourt. Joan of Arc was helped by artillery that could now damage castle walls of the English.
  • 1441 First documented black African slaves imported into Europe.
    • John Conway was born about 1442 in England.
  • 1455 German inventor Johann Gutenberg revolutionizes knowledge transfer. He improves or invents three items: the printing press, movable metal type, and an oil-based ink. His first work is the 42-line Bible.
    • Solomon ben Yosef haLevi was born in 1455 in Portugal.
  • 1487 Aztec ruler Ahuitzotl sacrifices 20,000 prisoners to the Aztec war god Huitzilopochtli.
  • 1492 Queen Isabella’s advisers correctly state that China could be visited by going West since they know the earth is round, but that a ship would run out of supplies first since it was so far. Christopher Columbus uses some creative math and drastically underestimates the size of the earth. Fortunately for him, the Americas got in the way. He lands in the Bahamas. He dies in 1506 still thinking he had landed in Asia.
  • 1513 Vasco Nunez de Balboa is the first European to see the Pacific ocean. Jealous of his fame, members of the Spanish court convince the King that Balboa is guilty of treason. For his bravery Balboa is beheaded in 1519.
  • 1550 The Little Ice Age strikes Europe. After the Medieval Warming Period, when climate was ideal for raising grains in Europe, temperatures start to fall, and with them the fortunes of many in Europe. Crops fail and many starve and freeze to death.
    • Moses HaLevi was born and living in Morocco in 1580.
  • 1557 The equals sign is first used by Welsh physician and mathematician Robert Recorde, who was tired of having to write ‘is equal to’ and decided on parallel lines as the perfect symbol for equality. Adding to his credit Recorde, also popularized the ‘+’ sign to the English.
    • Lord Thomas Darcy Dorsey was executed in England by decree of Henry 8th.
  • 1564 William Shakespeare, titan of English literature, is born in Stratford-on-Avon in England.
  • 1575 In Japan two armies meet. The side with guns wins for the first time, yet by mutual agreement, guns are outlawed 100 years later.
  • 1588 Philip II’s “Invincible” Spanish Armada of 130 ships embark for England, but are delayed by bad weather, giving the English more time to prepare. The outnumbered English navy win a decisive victory and destroy half the Armada.
  • 1607 The English settle in Jamestown.
  • 1620 Pilgrims arrive at Plymouth.
    • In 1642, Edward Dorsey Sr. comes to the US from England.
    • In 1652, George Mason comes to the US from England.
  • 1666 The Great Fire of London ravages the City for three days destroying 80% of the buildings leaving thousands homeless and bankrupt. Afterwards Sir Christopher Wren decrees new buildings will be made of brick and the streets to be widened. Oddly the fire slows the progress of the plague by destroying so many rats. Only 16 people lost their lives in the inferno.
    • The earliest known sightings of the Simpson Family are in what is now known as Charles County Maryland, which is on the southern end, near the Chesapeake Bay. A John Simpson was married to an Elizabeth, they had kids, traded in tobacco (or at least they were fined in it), and the family records began.
  • 1746 The last land battle fought in England is fought by the supporters of the House of Stuart, Charles Edward Stuart, aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, against the forces of the House of Hanover under the command of the Duke of Cumberland in the Battle of Culloden. Prince Charles’ four thousand mostly Scottish Highlanders being hungry, poorly armed, and badly led lose a thousand men compared to the fifty causalities in the English army. A purge of Highland culture follows.
    • Austin Goodwin was the Sheriff of Bristol in 1756.
    • In 1758, Moses Levy’s son, Benjamin, married Moses’ granddaughter, Rachel. Moses had two wives, so it was semi-kosher.
  • 1776 The American colonies declare themselves independent of Great Britain.
    • In 1789, Michael McBlair comes to the US from Ireland.
  • 1804 Napoleon is crowned Emperor of France.
  • 1816 The Year Without a Summer. Mount Tambora erupts and throws so much dust in the air that it causes 10 inches of snow to fall in June in New England (US). Crops fail and famine is common. Many blame Benjamin Franklin and his experiments with electricity for the freak weather. Mary Shelley is forced inside and writes Frankenstein.
  • 1831 Nat Turner leads a long feared slave revolt in Virginia killing 60 whites. The revolt is quickly stopped by the local militia, but many innocent slaves are hanged and life made even more miserable for slaves by harsh new actions to prevent future revolts.
  • 1838 Samuel Morse demonstrates the telegraph in public.
  • 1845 The Great Hunger (aka Potato Famine). Blight causes potato crop to fail in Ireland. 1.5 million die of starvation and disease. Ireland still exports grain to England to pay rents. Help from England was too little too late.
    • Casper Bott, his wife Anna, and their child Barbara immigrated from Germany to the United States, settling in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, Virginia.
  • 1856 Louis Pasteur shows that disease is spread from tiny, little organisms, instead of bad vapors. Germ theory is born.
  • 1857 The US Supreme Court rules in the Dred Scott case that a slave can be taken to free territory and the ownership of slaves overrules the laws of the local territory.
  • 1859 Charles Darwin publishes Origin of Species.
    • On March 13, 1871, the Maryland House of Representatives passed a bill absolving Charles H. McBlair from disabilities imposed by his participation in the “late rebellion”.
  • 1876 At the Battle of Little Big Horn, the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Crow Indians defeated General George Custer’s troops. Many have speculated that if Custer had not split his troops, and kept the cannon, he could have won easily. 25% of the Indians are estimated to have had superior weapons than the US Cavalry. The Indians had Spencers, Winchesters, and Henry repeating rifles. Custer’s men were armed primarily with the Springfield single shot rifles.
  • 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright fly the first heavier than air aircraft.
  • 1916 Einstein publishes his ‘General Relativity’ paper.

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