Here’s an example of how interesting contemporary history can be. Harald Sorum was from Sørum, Sør Aurdal, Norway, and he lived from 1570 to 1659. Those 89 years of history were filled with fascinating developments, some of which affected him, and many of which affected his descendants.
Consider the things that happened around Harald (my wife, Ann’s ancestor) as compiled by Gordon McMann:
1564: A Huguenot colony built Fort Caroline near the present day Jacksonville, Florida. The next year, Spanish forces wiped out the protestant enclave, ending France’s bid to colonize Florida.
1565: The first permanent European settlement within the present US boundaries, St. Augustine, was established by Spain. Privateer, John Hawkins, introduced Florida-grown tobacco and sweet potatoes to England, beginning a brisk trans-Atlantic trade that persists today.
News of these events would have filtered to the Norwegian outlanders slowly and with questionable accuracy. It was against this backdrop that Harald’s (as yet unnamed) parents married and began their family.
1578: Sir Humphrey Gilbert obtained a charter allowing him to found a colony with his own funds, guaranteeing the prospective colonists all the rights of those born and residing in England, thus setting an important precedent for future colonial charters. His attempted to found a colony in Newfoundland failed, and while pursuing these endeavors, he was lost at sea.
All this trouble getting started across the Atlantic must have made Harald and his family a bit reticent about traveling to the New World, because it wasn’t until the late 1800s (60s or 70s) that Syver Arneson, Ann’s Great-Great-Grandfather and Harald’s 7th great-grandson, immigrated to North Dakota. Ann likes to say they were Norwegian “rock farmers,” so North Dakota was a perfect fit.
1580: Sir Francis Drake returned to England after circumnavigating the Earth’s Oceans.
1582: The calendar in use when this year began was bankrupt, missing 10 whole days and hemorrhaging another 11 minutes each year since 46 BC when Julius Caesar instituted the solar year. Dennis the Short, a monk in the 6th century CE, made some corrections to Caesar’s reckoning, but a major reset was still needed. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII corrected the error. New Year’s Day was moved back to January 1st after being celebrated in March for the past 1000 years. To plug the deficit, he removed 10 days, so people who went to sleep on October 4th, woke up the next day on October 15th. If you find anyone purported to have been born, married or died between those days in 1582, know that the date is in error.
1587: Sir Walter Raleigh took over his half-brother’s (Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s) charter and named the new settlement Virginia after the unmarried Queen of England. Roanoke, VA was colonized by 114 men, women and children. Virginia Dare was the first white child to be born in what is now the US.
1590: The Roanoke settlement disappeared leaving only the word “Croatian” carved on a deserted palisade. It would be 15 years before colonization was again attempted. This is the year William Shakespeare of England began writing his plays.
1600: The East India Company was established to develop overseas trade.
1601: England passed to “Poor Law” which gave rise to “workhouses” in England.
1605: Miguel de Cervantes published Don Quixote which, next to the Bible, is the most translated book in the world. It is considered by many to be the first novel written.
1606: King James I granted Colonizing Patents to the Virginia and Plymouth Companies. Both were joint stock companies raising capital by selling shares of stock. The wonders of the New World were published and posted, and pamphlets were distributed throughout England to sell shares.
The next year, 1607 was such a busy year that I am giving it a blog post unto itself – tomorrow.