From an upcoming paper on genetics. This should be headline news:

From an upcoming paper on genetics. This should be headline news:

“[A] large wave of German immigrants are known to have settled in Pennsylvania before 1780-1810, and tended not to move once they settled there. We detect not one but three distinct subgroups that settled in slightly different parts of Pennsylvania. We can trace their ancestry from different parts of Germany and Switzerland at that time and confirm it through aggregating estimates of their ancestry based on their genomes and common surnames found in their pedigrees.”

They’ve identified other American ethnic groups too. We’ll have to wait for the paper to be presented (early October) to see what they have.

Was it possible to be an atheist in the days before the Enlightenment?

Was it possible to be an atheist in the days before the Enlightenment? I run across this question from time to time. The answer always seems to be No, because post-Foucault it doesn’t seem possible to belong to a category before it exists. Yet — behaviors can exist before they have a label. Here we have Otloh of St-Emmeram in the 1070s saying, “I wholly doubted whether there was any truth or usefulness in the holy Scriptures, or if Almighty God existed.” Poor Otloh, to be an atheist before there were atheists.

Scots in Colonial New England

So often we equate New England almost exclusively with the English. Of course, there were Dutch in Manhattan, Swedes in Delaware, Germans and Welsh in Pennsylvania, but New England was the English. Right?

Mostly, but there were also a few Scots here and there. Maybe most notably some Scots taken prisoner by English and deported to America as punishment and for “national security”.

The story goes like this. The Puritans rebelled against Charles I, deposed him, and executed him. Oliver Cromwell took his place. (I’m not so sympathetic nowadays but my confirmation name is Carroll, after this king, Bl. Charles the Martyr. Shows my Anglo-Catholic past.)

The Scottish Covenanters remained loyal to the royal family under Charles I’s son Charles II. Long story short, The English under Cromwell defeated the Scots under Sir David Leslie at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. They repeated their victory a year later at the Battle of Worcester.

The Scottish survivors of Dunbar, 5000 of them, were force-marched to imprisonment in the cathedral at Durham in northern England. 2000 of them died on the march south. Another 1500 died in captivity, mostly from untended injuries. The rest were sold into slavery in America.

Now there’s been an outstanding discovery. Excavations at Durham have uncovered a mass grave that almost certainly contains the remains of these soldiers.

Now that we’re all paying attention, my hope is that the renewed interest will lead to discovering the parents of my ancestors Peter Grant and John Sinclair, two of the prisoners who ended up in America. Plenty of guesses there, but no facts as yet.