Plymouth 400th Anniversary

Well, it’s almost here. 2020 will mark the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower on Cape Cod. Most of us connect this event with Plymouth, Massachusetts, but the ship first made landfall near what is now Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod. I’ve visited both Provincetown and the recreation of Plymouth Plantation many times,  am looking forward to the upcoming commemorations and festivities planned by many different parties, including the New England Genealogical Society, the town of Plymouth, the Wampanoag tribal nation, and the countries of England and the Netherlands.


Here’s what’s on the schedule so far over the next year, according to the Boston Globe:


April 17, 2019: Opening Ceremony at the American Ancestors headquarters, Boston, 10 a.m.

American Ancestors and the New England Historic Genealogical Society will host an opening ceremony for the commemoration at its headquarters, 99-101 Newbury St. headquarters. Festivities include the “launch” of a Mayflower replica and the unveiling of the “Wampanoag Legacy Art Installation,” according to a statement.

Also opening that day is the “Origins & Legacy of the Mayflower,” a multi-media exhibit which “considers the back stories of the Mayflower passengers — where they came from in England and what is known about their ancestry,” organizers said.

An open house with programs and other activities will follow from 11 a.m. through 8 p.m.

June 2019/2020: “Heritage Tours” led by the New England Historic Genealogical Society

Two tours, one in June and another the following year, will take participants to the Netherlands and England, respectively, to trace the history of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims, from the town in Holland where some once lived to how passengers boarded the ship. More information is available on the society’s website.

April 24, 2020: Plymouth 400 Commemoration Opening Ceremony, Memorial Hall, Plymouth

Guest speakers, artists, and others will take part in a ceremony and spectacle “honoring the past and celebrating the future,” according to Plymouth 400. “VIP invitations” include national and foreign leaders.



June and September 2020: “A New England Sojourn”

New England Historic Genealogical Society experts will lead two tours (three days each) to “historic sites in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts associated with the Pilgrims, including Plymouth, Provincetown, Boston, Duxbury, and elsewhere,” according to the society’s website. A tour itinerary is forthcoming.

June 27 and 28, 2020: Maritime Salute, Plymouth Harbor/waterfront

A regatta of wooden ships and other vessels will honor the original Mayflower journey, organizers say. Participants can also expect a seaside lobster dinner.



Aug. 1, 2020: “Wampanoag Ancestors Walk,” Plymouth

People from the Wampanoag tribes of Massachusetts will lead participants on a walk while carrying placards of the names of the original 69 villages of the Wampanoag Nation, according to organizers. “Participants will pay homage to Massasoit and King Phillip and stop at designated sites to bless the spots where their ancestors once walked,” Plymouth 400 said. “The walk will conclude with a drum ceremony and reception.”

Sept. 7 through 14, 2020: Mayflower II visits Provincetown

The Mayflower II, a replica of the historic vessel, will arrive in Provincetown for a week of activities on Sept. 7, according to Provincetown 400. “During the visit, Mayflower II, will be part of the daily historical reenactments of the Signing of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor in 1620,” organizers say. “These historical reenactments will enable the public to witness the history that happened in Provincetown waters in 1620.” A “Sunrise Toast and Bon Voyage” event is slated for Sept. 14, the day the ship leaves Provincetown for Plymouth.

Sept. 12, 2020: Mayflower II Gala, Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, Provincetown

A gala commemorating the signing of the Mayflower Compact, complete with food, drinks, and historical reenactments is planned, according to Provincetown 400. Additional information is yet to be announced.

Sept. 14, 2020: State House salute, Massachusetts State House, Boston 

A ceremony honoring the Pilgrims and native people of Massachusetts will be held on Beacon Hill and will feature the rare display of Gov. William Bradford’s journal.

Sept. 19 and 20, 2020: “Embarkation Festival,” Plymouth

The culture and arts festival will “honor the traditions, cuisine, and music of not only the original settlers and Wampanoag people but the diverse immigrants who followed and contributed to the fabric of American life,” Plymouth 400 said. International leaders, students, and celebrities will be invited to join.

Oct. 30 through Nov. 1, 2020: “Indigenous History Conference and Powwow,” Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater

Speakers and experts will discuss and highlight “the longevity and continuity of America’s indigenous people,” including their past and current contributions, organizers said. The conference will conclude with a traditional Powwow.

Nov. 20 through 25: Thanksgiving events, Plymouth 

A weeklong series of celebrations leading up to Thanksgiving will include concerts, a parade, and, among other festivities, a “Once Small Candle” ceremony, which will give the “One Small Candle Award” to someone “who has made a difference in many lives at a young age,” Plymouth 400 said.

Ongoing: “‘Our’ Story: 400 Years of Wampanoag History,” 

The regional traveling exhibit aims to educate others about key pieces of Wampanoag history. According to Plymouth 400, “This exhibition, created by a Wampanoag research and design team, travels regionally. The exhibit expands each year leading up to 2020 with new ‘chapters’ in the history and culture of the ‘people of the dawn.’” For more information, check out the Plymouth 400 website.

See the calendar of events in England.

See what’s planned in the Netherlands.

See festivities planned by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

I’m very excited – a childhood visit to Plymouth Plantation ignited my lifelong interest and involvement in history, US and otherwise, and I hope to attend some of these events. I admit to some trepidation over the tremendous crowds that are expected, and hope the organizers have some good crowd and traffic control strategies in the works. None of these sites are very large……..  but I’ll be there.










History News: Stonehenge Quarries


Reproduced from Posting 2/21/2019 by Atlas Obscura


One of the Welsh quarries, Carn Goedog. Credit: University College, London

IN 1923, BRITISH GEOLOGIST HERBERT Henry Thomas published a now-infamous study on Stonehenge, in which he claimed to know the precise location where the prehistoric architects had quarried the stones used in the massive monument. Turns out he was way off.

In a recently released study published in Antiquity, a team of archaeologists and geologists have reported the exact location of two of these quarries in western Wales. Stonehenge is made up of several different types of rocks collectively called “bluestones,” which have long been known to have come from somewhere in the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire. However, the researchers (who have been excavating the area for eight years) now believe they know more precisely where this megalith quarrying took place 5,000 years ago, and how it was done.


The radiocarbon dates from charcoal from both quarries show that the stones were extracted around 3000 B.C., which lines up with the first stage of Stonehenge’s construction (when bluestones were erected in the Aubrey Holes) and with previously found dates for when people were buried near the Neolithic monument. Additionally, researchers found tools such as sharp hammer stones and stone wedges that appear to illustrate how the quarrying was performed. In a stroke of early engineering genius, the stone wedges were likely used to maneuver naturally occuring vertical pillars off of the parent rock by creating space between “joints.”

These quarries sit about 180 miles away from Stonehenge, which is much farther than initially reported by Thomas in 1923. Mike Parker Pearson, who studies British prehistory at University College London’s Institute of Archaeology, and led the project, says that this “shows an unusual degree of connectivity and unity between different tribal groups in the west and east of southern Britain, uniting to build Stonehenge despite their geographical distance apart.” Previously, scientists flirted with the idea that the early builders may have transported the bluestones south to Milford Haven and then brought them to Stonehenge’s location by water. But now, since both quarries are located on the hills’ north side, Pearson and his team think that people probably carried them east over land instead. “It is making us think that this was part of a coordinated and unified operation that extended across southern Britain and that Stonehenge’s purpose was to unify the two cultures (east and west) of Neolithic Britain,” he says.

Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales is one of the two geologists involved in the study, and his work contributed greatly to pinning down the exact quarry locations. Based on his findings, he says, it’s likely that the “bluestones were first erected to form a henge by a Neolithic population in Pembrokeshire, and then as that population migrated to Salisbury Plain they literally took their henge with them.”

It’s a Mystery : Not Here, by Genevieve Nocovo

Not Here (Dina Ostica Novel 1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dina Ostica, a 23 year old woman trying not to let her emotional issues control her life, is not the sort of protagonist I would normally choose to read about. When author Genevieve Nocovo approached me about reading and reviewing Not Here, the first book in a planned series, after giving it some thought, I agreed. Dina at 23 couldn’t be more different than I was at that age, many moons ago. While I followed the traditional route of earning a college degree and starting a career, Dina seems to be floating about wondering how to support herself without doing much to at least secure an entry level position with a regular paycheck. Her desire to make a living as a podcaster without a day job is unrealistic, and while she tries to be fiercely independent, she is living alone, broke and somewhat desperate, which only exacerbates her emotional instability. Hence, she makes choices that only a very young, very inexperienced, and very immature person would make. This girl needs a mentor, since she seems disconnected from her parents and is stuck in a quagmire that spurs even more insecurity and desperation.

At any rate, Dina’s pursuit of a podcasting “scoop” that will attract major attention succeeds, but not in the way she had hoped. She tries to expose a conspiracy run by a major real estate firm, aimed at getting rid of tenants living in rent controlled apartments by offing them, so the newly vacant flats can be rented at today’s much higher rates. To make matters worse, when she goes to the police, they brush off her concerns. As a result she is kidnapped and forced to work with the conspirators, knowing that when her usefulness runs out she will be killed. It is at this point in the novel that the action quickens, the suspense builds, and the reader’s interest level shoots up. Watching how Dina copes with her plight, basically alone and relying on her own resources (fortunately she trains at a gym learning self defense techniques, and where she has made a couple of friends who can help.) Her plight is truly horrific, and your heart, while stuck in your throat, goes out to her.

Not Here is a competently written debut novel, and surely its sequel will be even better, as the author hones her skills and ups the sophistication of her prose and presentation.

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It’s a Mystery: Dark Turns, by Cate Holahan

Dark Turns
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Nia Washington is a 22 year old ballet dancer recovering from an injury and a romantic breakup. She takes a temp position at a posh private school as assistant to the director of their elite dance program, until she’s strong enough to returning to auditioning for pro companies. Nia’s very first day on the job is marred by her discovery of a student’s body floating in the campus lake, apparently strangled. Dark Turns focuses upon the aftermath, as she tries to glean some insight into who might have committed the murder.

As a mystery, Dark Turns reads rather like a novel for teens and young adults. Nia is a likeable, earnest young woman who enjoys her contact with the students in her class. The other adults in the book come across according to type, including the school’s stern director, the officious head of campus security, and the local “just the facts, Ma’am” police. Somewhat more natural is Nia’s new love interest, Peter Anderson, English teacher. Scattered liberally through each chapter are explanations of dance terms, description of dancers, dances, and costumes, and details about the relationships among Nia’s students. The plot line is stretched pretty thin, and there is little attention paid to developing any of the characters. Also scattered about are thinly-veiled “tells”, from which the reader can can come up with a viable suspect but Nia apparently cannot.

Dark Turns would probably be better appreciated by teens, dance aficionados, and mystery readers who expect a more complex tale.

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Historical Fiction: The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry

The Essex Serpent

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Essex Serpent has the distinction of being one of the most unusual novels I’ve ever come across, and I’ve been reading them for a long time. The critical reviews for it are stellar. The language is eloquent and frequently lyrical, reminiscent at times of Dickens, Austen, Hardy, and G. Eliot. The characters, though ordinary, are thrumming with life, and each represents a different aspect of English life in late Victorian times. Its narrative is an internal one, as it hops among their minds and their separate reactions to the same incident. Much of it is sad, yet it escapes being dismal. Into the mix, the author deftly inserts social and existential issues, which are just as relevant today as they were in the book’s own time frame. But the plot, that all important feature in any work of fiction, is skeletal.

While I savored all the good things about The Essex Serpent, I kept wishing something would happen. When two momentous somethings finally did, they played out in such an understated fashion that their impact was all but blunted. The conclusion, though not surprising, left me wondering if the author was considering a sequel. If so, I’m not sure if I’d choose to read it. But I’m glad I read this one, if only to discover what influenced all the stellar reviews.

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History News: Coventry’s Doom Painting



Doomsday paintings are medieval depictions of Christianity’s Last Judgment, when the dead rise from their graves to gather before Christ enthroned, to find out whether their new eternal homes will be in heaven or hell. The most famous painting is that of Michelangelo, an enormous, extremely detailed rendition that covers the east wall in the Sistine Chapel. But in less important churches across Western Europe, as well as in some cathedrals, less renowned artists produced smaller frescos that were usually located on the arch at the exit point, generally a west wall. Their purpose, of course, was to scare the congregation into avoiding temptations and focusing their behavior on performing works of mercy and kindness. Sometimes such paintings would be placed on the chancel arch near the altar, where worshippers could contemplate it throughout the entire service.

In England, many of these paintings were destroyed or whitewashed over during the Reformation, but quite a few still remain. The one shown above is located at Holy Trinity Church in Coventry, where it was restored in 2004.


Just a little food for thought……..


It’s a Mystery: Even If It Kills Her, by Kate White

Even If It Kills Her (Bailey Weggins Mystery, #7)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Crime writer/investigator Bailey Weggins is signing copies of her latest true-crime book when who should appear but a friend from college, Jillian Lowe, who dropped out following the brutal murder of her family. Bailey’s rather non-plussed, feeling guilty because she failed to provide support to or even maintain contact with Jillian 16 years ago, so when she’s asked for a favor, she feels obligated to grant it. In a nutshell, the man now serving time for the murders may be exonerated due to new and exculpatory DNA evidence, and, since the cops aren’t interested in reopening the case, Jillian hopes Bailey will assist her in identifying the true killer.

Within hours of their arrival in the small Berkshires town where the Lowes made their home, local animosity toward the two women becomes apparent. Bailey sets up a few interviews with people who knew the family when the tragedy occurred; few of them are cooperative. One of the administtra who worked at the high school that Jillian and her sister attended is more forthcoming, providing Bailey with possible leads, but less than a day later, she is killed in what appears to be a staged burglary at her home. The police chief and the assistant DA, from whom Bailey seeks support, warn her off and threaten her. When Bailey herself is assaulted, she and Jillian are afraid that the real murderer is still in the locality and knows what they are about.

There are some surprises in this account, the most effective of them an graphic attack by a vicious dog, which White describes with skill. Although it becomes painfully clear that Bailey is playing with fire, she remains determined to discover the truth. Some of her choices are nothing short of foolhardy. Not even the strenuous objections of her boyfriend, who fears she will also die, deter her. The subplot that focuses on their currently shaky relationship lends some human interest to the storyline, as does the revelation of some Lowe family secrets, the biggest of which I did not foresee. In spite of all the danger, most of the novel lacks the element of actual suspense, however, and I never doubted that Bailey would emerge battered but victorious.

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