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Dunrobin Castle

The story of Dunrobin Castle is a story of earls and dukes that dates back to the 14th century.  Located in the Highlands of Scotland in what is now Sutherland, the land was granted by King Malcolm I to a Flemish knight named Hugh de Moravia. In 1235, his son William was made 1st Earl of Sutherland.

The Sutherlands were thus one of just seven medieval earldoms of Scotland and part of the ruling elite of the country, intermarrying with many of the other important families of the time. On Nov 19, 1614, Jean Gordon-Sutherland was born within the walls of the castle keep. She was the 10th great-grandmother of my niece’s husband.

The castle, which began as a fortified square structure with walls six feet thick, evolved over the years. Its largest redesign took place in the 1800s when it was remodeled by architect Sir Charles Barry who transformed the fort to a house with a Scottish Balmoral style and French influences which tripled its size. It remains privately owned and used as a family residence although sections of the castle are now opened to the public and available to tour.

The motto of Clan Sutherland is “Sans Peur,” which is French for “Without Fear.” It appears on the Countess’s Coat of Arms and the Clan Crest.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

The Black Hawk War

History is filled with events little thought about or even remembered today. Yet every pebble thrown into the pool of time causes ripples. The Black Hawk War of 1832 may have lasted only a little over 4 months but it did cause ramifications felt for many years after.

It began when Black Hawk, a Sauk leader, led a group of Indians (known as the British Band) from Iowa Indian Territory, across the Mississippi River, into the state of Illinois. Perhaps he was hoping to reclaim land sold to the U.S. in the disputed 1804 Treaty of St Louis.

The U.S., expecting hostile action, mobilized a frontier militia (which included James Adams, the 4th great-granduncle of my niece’s husband.) They opened fire on a delegation from the Native Americans on May 14, 1832. While Black Hawk was initially successful in engaging the U.S. forces before leading his followers into a secure area in what is now Wisconsin, the British Band were tracked down in August of that year and defeated. Black Hawk surrendered and was imprisoned for a year.

This small “war” served as impetus to the U.S. policy of Indian removal, pressuring Native American tribes to sell their lands and move west of the Mississippi. It also gave a 23 year old Abraham Lincoln his only military service – as captain within the volunteer militia. He saw no actual combat and mustered out shortly after the skirmish ended.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website

Mural Maker

Sometimes, historic documents used for genealogical research don’t tell the whole story. For example, when researching my wife’s grand-uncle, Angelo Magnanti, one would get the impression that he was either an architect or interior designer for that is how he described himself on the federal census reports from 1920 through 1940. It turns out that he was far more. Hearing of some family stories, I looked a little deeper and found that he was a renowned artist specializing in large scale projects. 

Born and trained in Italy, he immigrated to New York, where he decorated numerous banks and churches and two walls within Penn Station (that building was torn down in 1966). Magnanti designed the mosaic ceiling of the banking room of the Williamsburg Savings Bank and four painted murals (illustrated above) that depicted scenes from the Bronx’s early European settlement for the Dollar Savings Bank in the Bronx. 

In 1935, Magnanti executed the decorative finishes for architect John Russell Pope’s renovation and addition to the building housing The Frick Collection. Drawings for the renovation were among those exhibited at the Frick in 2010 to celebrate the museum’s 75th anniversary. Indeed, The Frick Art Reference Library is decorated with an earlier Magnanti mural and houses an archive on the artist. 

Outside New York, Magnanti’s projects included decorations for the conference room of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. and the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Harman’s Battle at Tug River

The following account was published in the Ironton Register on August 24, 1854. It has been edited due to space considerations.

It was about the year 1791 that Captain Henry Harman, together with his sons George and Matthias and a new son-in-law went over upon the Tug Fork of Big Sandy to hunt. In the afternoon the young men went out (as was the custom with the hunters) to see if the locality pleased them for hunting, before fixing upon their final camping ground. At night the young men returned bringing with them some moccasins, some of them new, which they had found at a camp some few miles distant.

Capt. Harman, experienced in frontier life, took a moccasin and scented it for the strong Indian smell, which it had, and says he: “Boys, you’ve done wrong, for the Indians will trail you here for their moccasins; we have no safety but to go home.” After getting a little distance from the camp they put their horses to full speed, the son-in-law leading and had gone but a short distance before he sung out, “Father, I see Indians.” The old man went ahead; they had gone but a little further before the Indians fired upon them from under the bank of the stream, but as good luck would have it not one of them was injured.

Harman and his boys immediately dismounted and “treed.” There were seven of the Indians under the bank, and soon the son-in-law disappeared; he found a hiding place under a log, leaving Captain Harman and his two boys to fight the battle with the Indians, three to seven. Here they stood it for hours, each party trying to get the advantage over the other. Finally, while Capt. Harman and his boys were yet all unharmed, such had been their adroitness, four of the Indians were killed or mortally wounded, leaving the contesting sides three to three.

The three remaining Indians then becoming desperate dropped their guns and rushed up the bank upon Capt. Harman with their bows and arrows. They shot one arrow into his breast and another into his arm. He fell and fainted. They were about to scalp him, when one of the boys with his rifle drove two of the Indians again down the bank, and the other boy rushed upon the third Indian. This young Harman was lame from a fever sore, and the Indian thinking that he was wounded drew his knife and grappled with him; but young Harman proving an overmatch took his knife from him, and stabbed him eleven times. The two Indians down the bank again came up, but seeing their companion had been killed, and that the young Harmans were ready for them, they ran off with nothing but their bows.

Application of water soon brought Captain Harman to himself again. The arrow sticking in his arm and breast had to be cut out as they were barbed, and having brass heads the wounds were very painful. Nevertheless he determined to “settle,” as he said, “on the spot with that skulking whelp–the scoundrel who deserted us in our time of need” and he loaded his gun to shoot the son-in-law, his mouth all of the time full of wrath and cursing. At the earnest entreaties of the sons, the old man was finally induced to spare him until they should get home. On arriving home Captain Harman compelled his son-in-law to leave for other parts.

Captain Henry Harman was the 6th great grandfather of my niece’s husband.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Fife and Drum

The use of fife and drum corps in the military dates back many centuries. Because of its loud and piercing sound when played in its upper register, the fife, which is also easy to carry, used to be the preferred instrument to signal messages to infantry troops. According to some, a band of fife and drums can be heard up to 3 miles away.

Back in the day, each company in an infantry regiment was assigned two fifers and two drummers. When the battalion or regiment were formed up on parade or for movement en masse, these musicians would be detached from the companies to form a “band.” This is how the word band became associated with a group of musicians.

We have at least two members of our family who served in the fife and drum corps. Michael Cain, born in 1750, served as a drum major during the war of 1812. As lore has it, during the Battle of New Orleans, he exclaimed, “Men are not killed with drums!” With that, he picked up a gun and joined the battle. He was wounded in the head. According to family stories, he was carried off the field on the horse of General Andrew Jackson.

His son, John C. Cain, was denied recruit during the War of 1812 due to a disability so he instead played for the troops in the training camps. But he did serve as a fife major during the Mexican War.

Michael Cain and John C. Cain were, respectively, the 4th and 3rd great grandfathers of my sister-in-law.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Bewitched

There are some moments in history that are difficult to understand. Long before President Trump complained of the endless media “witch hunts” that he claimed were being perpetrated against him during his administration, there were literal witch hunts being conducted that resulted in unbelievable claims and horrific consequences.

Mary Perkins, a 2nd cousin 13 times removed, was one who became accused of practicing “certain detestable arts called witchcraft & sorceries.” She was arrested in 1692, at the age of 77, and forced to stand trial. Among the evidence against her was the claim that she turned into a blue boar and attacked the house of George Carr. Another witness claimed “spectral evidence” saying that the ghost of George Carr visited them to say that Mary Perkins killed him. The fact that George Carr had, many years earlier, proposed to Mary who rejected him to instead marry Thomas Bradbury, a prominent Massachusetts citizen, did not seem to factor into the final verdict. Nor did the fact that she later denied John Carr permission to marry her granddaughter because she felt the girl to be too young. It appears the resulting family grudge was deeply felt and lasted for decades. Largely due to the Carr family testimony, the 77 year old was found guilty of witchcraft and was sentenced to hang.

This, despite reasoned and passionate pleas from her husband, pastor, daughter-in-law’s father, and 118 neighbors all of whom attested to her Christian character and charity. Everything mentioned thus far is well documented in the archives. What is not is how she managed to escape the noose. Three others convicted of the same crime that day were executed. Somehow Mary avoided the sentence. Some say she bribed the jailer, others point to Bradbury’s high community standing that may have allowed him to use his political contacts to intervene. However she managed it, we know that Mary lived in “exile” for a number of years until the witch hunt fervor died down. She then returned to her home and family in Salisbury Massachusetts where she lived until her natural death in 1700 at the age of 85.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

King For A Day

While researching one’s genealogy, it is very easy to chase shadows and jump to ill-advised conclusions.

For an entire day I traced a certain line from the Americas to England and found to my amazement and delight that I was descended from Charlemagne, king of the Franks, emperor of the West and founder of the Holy Roman Empire. We’re talking mid 700 AD. Suddenly, my family tree was filling up with ornate family crests; names and titles like Earl of Strafford and Wadsworth of Woolingsly. I discovered I had ancestors with multi-page Wikipedia entries and the stories they told could be made into a Game of Thrones sequel.

For example, I had a great uncle nine generations removed (Thomas Wentworth, known as “Black Tom Tyrant”) who was falsely accused of treason, locked up in the Tower of London, and eventually beheaded. The details of his story are amazing and filled with political intrigue.

I found myself floating amidst a sea of movers and shakers, firmly at the center of world history, rubbing elbows with kings and queens, bishops and lords… and then, as I was fact checking, ready to fly off to the UK to see if there was a castle somewhere with my name on it, I realized that, while compiling my family tree, I had somehow married off the daughter of an English lord to a 18th century Virginia farmer who never strayed far from his small parcel of land. Mind you,  I’m not saying that it is impossible for the two to have ever met, but even I have to admit that the likelihood is improbable. I’m still holding onto the dream, but for now I’ve removed all the royalty from my tree until I can find a verifiable connection.

Ah well, at least I got the wife to refer to me as “my lord.” Felt good. I may delay revealing the truth to her for another day or two.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

What’s in Your Time Capsule?

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We, at Home Video Studio, are kind of in a time capsule business. People bring us items that have been buried for 50, 60, even 70 years or more and ask us to unearth their secrets. And sometimes, after we’re done, they let us keep some of the old capsules themselves.

The camera pictured above was given to us by one of our clients. It belonged to his family, most likely his grandfather.  It is an Agfa Movex 16mm camera circa 1930s, complete with leather case and light-gauge. It was a German camera and what makes it remarkable to me is the film that we transferred for the client that brought it in. There were 4 reels of 16mm silent film and after transferring the footage and watching it back we were mesmerized to find that our client’s grandfather, most likely with this camera, was seated in the stands of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, filming the games.

The final reel was taken much later and showed a jeep ride through the rubble-strewn street of post-war Berlin.

I’m not able to show you the actual footage we preserved for our client but I found a website with some pretty spectacular still photos of that historical event.

https://historycollection.co/a-look-inside-hitlers-1936-nazi-olympics-through-amazing-photographs/

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

SAFER AT HOME – DAY FORTY-TWO

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May 14, 2020

I wonder if people 50 years from now will look back at some of the television spots we produce with the same level of bemusement we experience when we look at some of the stuff that aired back in the 60s?

I have long been a subscriber to The National Archives which has a mission similar to ours – the conservation and preservation of motion picture records. And every so often they let us take as peek into their archives and review some of the gems that are both fascinating and a little giggle-worthy.

Here’s one that I caught today of The Swingin’ Six as they explain the need for a Zip Code system within the US Post Office.

https://archives.us11.list-manage.com/track/click?u=bfeaf03e7b0b1636c0b375892&id=456bf91f5f&e=a4aadc5f78

It kind of reminds me of a radio PSA I wrote for a class project on the dangers of underaged smoking. The entire 60 second spot consisted of me trying to read from a published brochure they gave us while hacking my lungs out. Largely improvised (because I forgot to do the assignment), it was chosen from the class to be recorded and broadcast – pretty sure on AM radio (WINK were the local call letters).  If I only had the Swingin’ Six to help me out back then, it might have gone national.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Safer at Home – Day Twenty-Eight

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April 29, 2020

We listened to our governor’s address today as he explained the steps Florida is taking to “re-open” our economy. In phase one, not much has changed.

Our restaurants seem to have been given the biggest consideration, allowing them to offer outside dining (tables separated by the 6 foot social distancing parameters) as well as inside dining (as long as it does not exceed 25% of capacity.) In other words, let’s keep on ordering take-out to support our local dining establishments.

Assisted living facilities are still on lock down as well as bars, hair stylists, nail salons, and most other personal services. Non-essential retail establishments can begin to open but they are also under a 25% capacity rule along with masking requirements and the other CDC guidelines.

While we are a small business hybrid which is not under specific closure guidelines, we have chosen to err on the side of caution. We will continue to meet with people on an appointment basis. Call us and we will discuss your potential project. If you decided to move forward, we will schedule a day and time for you to bring us your source material. We will meet you at the studio for a drop off transfer. We’ll take your material, draw up an invoice which we will send to you via email. You can put down a deposit via electronic link. We’ll process the order; notify you when it is completed and you can pay any balance due electronically while scheduling a time to pick up the finished order.

This has proven to be a safe and effective way to conduct our business during the pandemic. Thank you for your understanding. We’re actually doing it to protect you as well as us while not interrupting the service we can provide to you.

On a positive note, we have decided to extend our “quarantine sale” at least until we reach phase two of the Florida plan. So, if you are still stuck at home, now is a good time to go through those closets and find all those home movies/videos/slides that need to be digitally transferred.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information call 352-735-8550 or call our website.