Wednesday, December 9, 2020

52 Ancestors - WITNESS TO HISTORY: 18th Century Happenings

People of my generation can relay in great detail where they were and what they were doing when President John Kennedy was assassinated. We also remember watching President Richard Nixon leaving office in disgrace following the Watergate scandal. We remember when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. All of us – not just my generation – witnessed how the world changed when the Twin Towers were brought down on September 11, 2001.

Everyone is a witness to history, not just the BIG events like war or pandemics, but also the discoveries and inventions that changed how people lived and viewed their world. We remember party lines and black and white tv with only three channels. We laughed at the idea of being able to see people we talked to on the telephone until cell phones and the Internet made us believers.

If you could go back in time, what period would you like to experience? I often think the time of the American Revolution would be exciting. Witnessing the patriotic fervor that drove a group of loosely connected colonies to think they could break free from a world power like England had to have been inspiring.

My 4X great-grandfathers Leonard Davis and William Jordan were both Virginia militia. Both marched to Yorktown to meet up with Lafayette. I doubt they were aware of Lafayette’s reputation and surely could not imagine the place Lafayette holds in history today. No doubt they were aware of those big events like the Boston Tea Party and the burning of Norfolk, the convening of the first Continental Congress, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and ratification of the Constitution, as well as the plans to establish a capital in Washington. They witnessed the exploration of the frontier and expansion of America with the Louisiana Purchase. They lived through the War of 1812 and saw the beginnings of the American railroad. But what else might they have witnessed?


1775 – submarine   

Turtle Submarine 1775

1777 – circular saw

1783 – Ben Franklin’s bifocals

Ben Franklin's bifocals
(from Wikimedia Commons)

1785 – parachute

1793 – Eli Whitney’s cotton gin

1797 – cast iron plow

1798 – vaccination

1804 – gas lighting

Gas Lights on Pall Mall in London
(from Wikimedia Commons)

1807 – steamboat

1810 – tin can  


1817 – kaleidoscope

1819 – stethoscope

1819 – soda fountain

Had my ancestors heard of Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen? When sitting around the fire on that march to Yorktown, did they hear anyone playing “Yankee Doodle”? Did they ever hear “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. I wonder too what they thought, if and how well they knew one another.

  2. I love the timeline! I would need to contemplate on which time I'd visit. So many good choices.

  3. Its neat they went from one century to another too. Lots of new things invented during that time! They probably shook their heads in wonder like we do when we see how much has changed over the years here.


  4. I often think of all of the inventions and technology my grandparents experienced since their birth in the late 1800's. And then I realize we've seen a ton of it, too.