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Monday, February 15, 2016

Archaeology and Genealogy

One might suppose that archaeology is a parallel universe to tracing ancestors, but actually it is so close to what we are doing!  Archaeologists sift dirt through a sieve and dig for evidence, then take soil samples to determine the age.  Old burial tombs and graves and the building materials play significant roles in discerning age and era. 

While the archaelogist does not usually locate written proof other than upon monuments, he gathers bits and pieces which assist in establishing a time-line. The genealogist and historian would do well to adapt the findings of the archaeologist to other historical evidence. One tiny example is to consider how people named their children. Have you observed how many surnames appear as a given name?  The practice of naming the first son after the parents of the couple frequently includes a surname.  This interesting practice preserves the history of a particular family and possibly its origin.

During 1947 a dig was commenced on St. Simon's Island, Georgia at the site of Fort Frederica and it was discovered that the old town was laid out in an orderly fashion and strategically to defend the fort against Spanish invasion. It featured two wards divided by a 75-foot-wide main corridor called Broad Street and eighty-four regularly spaced lots. Barracks Street, the cross street, led to the regimental quarters of the regiments of General Oglethorpe.  The discovery revealed a star-shaped fortress with a magazine and spur battery of cannon.   The citadel was constructed of tabby, a concrete-type mixture of sand, lime and shells plentiful in the region.  As part of the plan, the military support town covered forty acres of land.  It was in this town that Oglethorpe brought the first settlement of thirty men during February of 1736. What they discovered was an old Indian corn field with a commanding view of inland waterways and salty sea marshes.

A description was provided by John Percival, the earl of Egmont, in his Journal remarked that the "bay within was very secure for shipping" and the southern mouth of the Altamaha River was "land lock'd from the Winds."

Oglethorpe traced out a fort with four bastions, "dug enough of the ditch and raised enough of the Rampart for a sample for the Men to work upon."

Frederica's first residents came from England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, as well as Creek Indians of the Yamacraw tribe.

Sources: Journal of John Percival, Candler's Colonial Records of Georgia.; Fort Frederica National Monument.




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