My father, the MIT graduate, used to try to tutor me in math. His most frequent frustration was getting me to remember to “read the problem.” All the answers were there, he claimed, if I understood the problem. Alas, I never conquered math, but the advice is applicable to genealogy.
When I was writing the Early New England Families sketch on Hilliard Veren, whose wife, Mary, was remembered in the will of her mother, Jane (Slade) (Conant) Searle, I cited the abstract of the will published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 52 (1898):271 (at left), which gives the date of the will as 1 May 1665. Apparently, I neglected to read the entire abstract and note that the date of probate was given as 20 June 1658. Continue reading Read the problem; Trust, but verify→
If you’re writing a family history, you’re ultimately going to index it, right? If you’ve ever consulted a printed genealogy in hopes of finding an ancestor . . . only not to find an index to help you, you’ll know the importance of creating an index for your own work.
In pre-computer days, you’d have used index cards to make your index, making a card for each entry and then painstakingly writing the appropriate page numbers on the card. Then you’d have typed it up into a manuscript. Now you can just start typing index entries in a word-processing or spreadsheet program, later alphabetizing them. (If you’re producing your book completely in Microsoft Word, you can mark entries in your file and Word will generate the index.) Alternatively, you can use indexing software such as SKY Index or Cindex. Continue reading Indexing your family history→
Family Tradition versus Fact, and a few shades of Gray
One story often repeated in my family concerned the mystery of my grandfather’s uncle, Morris Larned Healy, who reportedly had died of “lead poisoning” at a bordello in New Orleans . . . or Atlanta. My grandfather, who told the story, was known for his vivid imagination, so I decided to see if the story had any validity. Continue reading Finding Uncle Morris→
Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved baseball. My father would tell me stories about his own childhood, recalling Ted Williams batting at Boston’s Fenway Park, and Warren Spahn pitching at the former Boston Braves field. My father’s idols, they became mine. At age 12, I started researching baseball old timers and Hall of Famers—and then started writing letters to the players of the 1910s to 1930s. I wrote almost a dozen times to “Smoky” Joe Wood (1889–1985), the last surviving member of the team that christened Fenway Park in 1912 and won the World Series the same year. Each time I received a letter back, it contained answers to my questions about Smoky Joe’s playing days, as well as a signed piece of baseball memorabilia I had sent him. Continue reading Twin Pastimes: Baseball and Genealogy→
April 11, 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp. In commemoration of this day, the American Jewish Historical Society–New England Archives (AJHS–NEA) is honoring the memory of two men who were present at Buchenwald for the liberation, and whose papers are in our archives.
Voluntown, a small eastern Connecticut town of just over two thousand, was once home to a national legend who is all but forgotten today. From January 1869 until 23 July 1938, it was the home of Elmer G. Bitgood, a man many locals claimed was the strongest man in the world. I was intrigued and wanted to investigate further.
Stories abound about the strength of Elmer Bitgood, who spent his entire life living and working on his family’s farm in Voluntown. Separating the truth from local folklore was increasingly difficult, even during Elmer’s lifetime, as residents of the area took a certain pride in their hometown Samson. By the 1920s, Bitgood’s fame had grown to national proportions, as articles detailing his exploits appeared in newspapers from New Orleans to Evansville, Indiana, to Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Because he refused all offers to join circuses and museums, he became the focus of many stories throughout eastern Connecticut. Continue reading Testing the “strength” of a local legend→
Mrs. Gray’s Boston, at least during the 1860s, was one largely arrayed around the Common. Her friends lived in houses stretching from Beacon Hill (Beacon, Bowdoin, Chestnut, Hancock, and Mount Vernon Streets) down Park Street to a long line of houses, all long-since demolished, on Tremont Street, thence along Boylston Street to the new Back Bay, with a focus on Arlington Street and Commonwealth Avenue, not to mention (again) Beacon Street. Her sewing circle sometimes met in Chester Square, in the South End, but Mrs. Gray was apt to leapfrog the Back Bay development to her numerous friends living in Roxbury, or perhaps in the country in Dorchester and Brookline. Continue reading Beacon Hill Place→
So you’ve decided to join a lineage society. Maybe you’ve found an ancestor who meets the qualification for a society you’ve known about for years. Or possibly you’ve just found out about a society that sounds really interesting and you want to join. Either way, deciding to join a lineage society is just the first in a series of decisions about your membership. Continue reading Choosing a Lineage Society→
The National Archives’ Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service—which many genealogists informally call “Record Group 85”—is one of the best sources of data on immigrants to America, covering the years 1787 to 1993. It’s a common misperception that Record Group 85 contains only passenger lists, which are now viewable online through many sites. However, this record group contains hundreds of case files of immigrants either trying to come into the United States or trying to stay in the country. Also hiding in this series are documents that introduce us to what immigrants were expected to learn about their adopted country in different periods. Continue reading Becoming American: A Look at the Process→
We recently implemented a new feature in the NEHGS library catalog that will make it easier to keep track of library resources that are relevant to your research. The function is called “My Lists,” and it allows you to save lists of titles to your NEHGS library account for as long as desired. The records will be available whenever and wherever you log into your account, and you can view, print, email, or save the list with your computer or mobile device at any time. Continue reading New “My Lists” in the NEHGS Library Catalog→