Following the Paper Trail: Southern New England

Ann Cestor at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Sometimes we need to follow, quite literally, the paper trail when we want to learn more about a particular family group. Even in this digital age, not everything can be accessed from a computer. Perhaps the key to the story can be found in manuscripts kept safe in historical societies, archives, and libraries. This new series of blog posts—Following the Paper Trail—will provide guides for visiting each state historical society (or equivalent), region by region, across the eastern United States. Continue reading Following the Paper Trail: Southern New England

Where the Partridge Drums

Akwesasne baskets; some by Florence Benedict. Photo by Meaghan E. H. Siekman.

While I was in graduate school, I wrote my dissertation on tribal museums and the ways they share authority with the communities that they serve. I focused my research on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation known by the people who call it home as Akwesasne, which translates to “Where the Partridge Drums.” I was honored to spend many years getting to know the place and its people.

“You are on Mohawk Land.”

You know you are in Akwesasne as soon as you arrive because there are large signs on the roads leading into the reservation that read “You are on Mohawk Land.” They have good reason to assert their claim to the land since they have had to defend their right to live and move freely within their own reservation for centuries. Continue reading Where the Partridge Drums

My little slice of Irish ancestry

The author’s children with relatives in Ireland, 2004.

Although my background is almost all German and English, I’ve always wanted to find a bit of Irish in me. This is because my husband was born in Cork City and after numerous visits I’ve fallen in love with Ireland. For years I searched in my family tree for an Irish ancestor and finally, about a year ago, I found one. My 5th great-grandparent, William Jack, was born in Ireland. It might only be a sliver but I’m at least 1/128th Irish!

It might only be a sliver but I’m at least 1/128th Irish!

Continue reading My little slice of Irish ancestry

‘The fate of the world depended upon their devotions’

NEHGS Digital Collections at AmericanAncestors.orgLet’s take a step back in time. Imagine yourself in the 1840s as the British are slowly expanding their power into places like New Zealand and Hong Kong, the Oregon Trail is not just a video game but a real expedition, and you have traveled to California to make your fortune in the Gold Rush. The United States is working hard at home all the while trying to establish itself on the world stage. The 1840s were also the early days of American missionaries — a significant and often controversial piece of history which I began to learn about through reading the correspondence of Leander Thompson through the NEHGS Digital Collections at AmericanAncestors.org. Continue reading ‘The fate of the world depended upon their devotions’

Edward to Boris, how many times?

King of England (17/18 June 1239–7 July 1307)
King Edward I

Last week, I put together several charts relating to newly appointed U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. These charts were based on the research of Gary Boyd Roberts, and I had assisted him on some of Boris’s Pennsylvania and Connecticut ancestry, which resulted in five charts showing distant kinships to ten U.S. Presidents.

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Boris Johnson

The sixth chart was perhaps the most complicated. As was previously reported, and included in Gary’s The Royal Descendants of 900 Immigrants (RD900), Boris Johnson’s father is a descendant of King George II through the older sister of King George III. In researching the New England ancestry behind Boris’s mother, Gary found a descent from Mrs. Elizabeth Alsop Baldwin of Milford, Connecticut, who descends from King Edward I of England.

Continue reading Edward to Boris, how many times?

Between the rails

The decennial United States Federal Census often forms the backbone of historical research into an unfamiliar family member. By its nature, the census will never be fully comprehensive or exact, but it can serve as a bit of a guard rail, keeping us from going off on an unlikely tangent in our research.  Sometimes, though, those 10-year gaps between enumerations can conceal a whole lifetime of information – or in the case of my father’s family, many lifetimes. Continue reading Between the rails

A Middlesex muddle

In the last post I talked about Massachusetts court records in general. Now let’s look closer at some examples from Middlesex County.

For the earliest records, the easiest entry point is the abstracts made by Thomas Wyman in the mid-nineteenth-century that are available as a database on AmericanAncestors, under the Category “Court, Land and Probate Records,” and database “Middlesex County, MA: Abstracts of Court Records, 1643-1674.” Wyman abstracted all the names that appear in the records and basic information about the cases, but otherwise no details. An example (members may need to log in) can be found here. Continue reading A Middlesex muddle

‘Lots of company’

It is interesting to see the spread of a new technology reflected in my great-grandfather’s journal[1]: in this case, the electrification of the Bells’ farm in Kempsville, near Norfolk, Virginia. A little less than a century ago, this was a project one could undertake oneself.

1920

9 October: Bought truck today for $793 and turned in the old one for $200.

Estelle and I bought light fixtures today for the new Delco system which we installed this week.

23 October: Turned on electric lights tonight. Continue reading ‘Lots of company’

ICYMI: Cambridge Cameos

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 26 April 2017.]

Reading Alicia Crane Williams’s post on Sex in Middlesex reminded me of another great work by Roger Thompson – Cambridge Cameos – Stories of Life in Seventeenth-Century New England, which contains forty-four sketches from the period 1651 to 1686. They are fascinating stories involving mostly ordinary people. Some of the more colorful chapters cover Brutality or Bloodsucking; Town versus Gown; Witchcraft or Madness; and A Subversive Physician. These vignettes are based on thousands of original documents Thompson examined that provide a rare chance to hear firsthand accounts of many seventeenth-century New Englanders. Continue reading ICYMI: Cambridge Cameos

ICYMI: Sex in Middlesex

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 17 March 2017.]

As one would imagine from the title, Roger Thompson’s most popular work (see my last post) is Sex in Middlesex, Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649-1699.[1] First, a few words on the differences between academic historians and genealogists. Academic historians are concerned with the “why” of history. They gather large samples of statistical information but usually skim over individual people. Genealogists work from the individual, but usually we leave the bigger picture to the historians while we move on to another ancestor. Continue reading ICYMI: Sex in Middlesex