There’s no definite answer of how April Fools’ Day came to be. One possibility dates to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian. Because of the Julian calendar’s miscalculations, the spring equinox’s date bounced around the month of March. The Gregorian calendar sought to standardize the spring equinox, along with all dates, holidays, and events.
New Year’s Day, which was historically celebrated by Christians on Easter, switched to January 1. Those who either didn’t know or forgot about the change and celebrated the new year during the last week of March through the first day of April were called “April fools.”
While the years have seen their share of elaborate pranks and hoaxes to celebrate the holiday, we’d like to take a different approach: celebrating the humor of the past.
Do you recall funny jokes from your parents, grandparents, or other ancestors? Are there any silly pictures laying around the family photo album? Any dad jokes? Hope this brings good memories from those who preceded you. At RootsView, we want you to discover and navigate your family tree in improved ways. In addition, we would be happy to help you get started on our platform — whether you would like to connect your GED file or talk to us about how to use it, we would be happy to personally assist you — just schedule a meeting here. Also, feel free to send some of those funny anecdotes, we'd love to read them.
A Centuries-Long Disconnect
Genealogical lines are full of names and dates. Some ancestors might have photographs and journal entries if you’re lucky, but even those thin out further down the family tree. Often times the photographs available to us depict people with unsmiling faces, making us believe that life must’ve been extremely dour back then — and aren’t we grateful that we have things to smile about now?
With so much distance between the present and the past, it can be hard to imagine that the people who lived decades or even centuries ago experienced the same kind of emotions and memories we do.
Which is why we’re looking at some evidence that proves just how much they did.
Theories people might know for why Victorian-era pictures look so serious range from the subjects’ insecurity about their teeth to the long time people had to hold a pose for while the photograph developed.
But what people might not know is that there are just as many photographs with Victorian individuals expressing themselves in much more creative ways.
A different take on the whole stiff-and-proper Victorian aesthetic we’re all familiar with.
If more Victorian photographs showed pillow fights before bed, would we have thought that it was a standard Victorian nighttime routine?
Victorian pop culture was much funnier than we give it credit for. There’s even an entire Twitter account created by Victorian historian Dr. Bob Nicholson documenting Victorian jokes found in magazines and newspapers.
Their sense of humor wasn’t outdated at all — you might even want to steal some of these jokes for yourself.
Bataille de neige
And here we come back to France. It’s fitting that one of the recent discoveries of humor in the past came from where historians suspect April Fools’ Day originated.
Bataille de neige — translated to Snowball Fight, Snowballing, The Battle with the Snowballs, and other titles — is a short silent film taken in 1897, showing a snowball fight in a Lyon, France. It was uploaded to YouTube and went viral in early 2020, now having more than 400,000 views.
Originally shot in black and white, the video has been colorized and smoothed with background music add to bring the film to life — an illustration of pure joy.
Though maybe that can’t be said for the bicyclist that gets caught in the crossfire.
The More Humor Changes, the More It Stays the Same
The names we read as we research our families were once living, breathing people. Although it may be hard to feel connected to them, remembering how they might’ve been — smiling in pictures, cracking jokes, or pummeling someone in a snowfall fight — will help us humanize them so that we will want to find them.
We hope these last lines leave you with a smile because of your grandmother's dry humor, or a parent's joke you just remembered, or any other funny anecdote from a loved one. We want you to discover and navigate your family tree. We are also happy to help you get started on our platform — whether you would like to connect your GED file or talk to us about how to use it, we would be happy to personally assist you — just schedule a meeting here.