Thursday, July 13, 2006

the look of the day your ancestor died - the u.s. navy just might help you

"Pa said he was shooting at some pigs"... from the court testimony of frank ellis, 11 year-old son of charles d. ellis
Photo copyright 2006 D Giles Loiselle

the u.s. naval observatory has several interactive tools online, some of which can be handy, if not imperative, for genealogists. one of my personal favorites is the rise/set/transit/twilight data calculator | here |. using it, i am able to get a sense of how much light the might have been left when my great-grandfather, charles david ellis, was shot and killed in an altercation over pigs in a cornfield.

because trial papers tell me it was near 6 p.m. and because i know the location of his death, i am able use the calculator to determine that he likely died a little more than half an hour before sunset that early september evening in arkansas.

if i were more astronomically savvy, i could also use the sun or moon altitude/azimtuth tables to get a better picture of the lighting at the edge of the cornfield. but exactly what does it mean that the sun was 7.7 and had an azimuth of 273.5 east of north at 6 p.m.? (see the same page | here |.) is it possible that a low sun was in his eyes? i know he fell with his head to the west.

so, hey, if you can help me better visualize what happened with the help of the altitude and azimuth information, why don't you let me hear from you, okay?

charles ellis' family data is | here |.

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