Many years ago, as a graduate student in English, I discovered, to my surprise, how fascinating it was to read the sermons of early Puritan American ministers as works of literature. I’ve since come to appreciate that in addition to their literary value, sermons also provide snapshots of the historical moments from which they emerge. The best ones have staying power long past their delivery, as both spiritual meditation and historical document. This was brought home for me recently as I was looking through the papers of Rabbi Albert Gordon housed in the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center’s archives. Continue reading Timeless and Timebound: High Holiday Sermons as Historical Documents→
In settling the North American continent, the British established their first permanent colony in Virginia. Since then, its population has seen many migrations within and through the colony and then state. Its northern neighbors, Maryland and Delaware, welcomed more settlers based on religion. Surrounding the nation’s capital, these state historical societies have much to offer in tracing ancestors back to and within the region. Continue reading Following the Paper Trail: National Capital Region→
[Editor’s note: We mourn with the nation the passing of the distinguished journalist, historian, and bestselling author Cokie Roberts. We fondly recall her presence with us in 2016 as we honored her with the NEHGS Lifetime Achievement Award in History and Biography at a memorable NEHGS Family History Benefit Dinner in Boston. On that occasion we presented her with a detailed genealogy, researched by our staff, noting that her family included “valiant women, presidents, and kings.” With her passing today, notables recall her as a “trailblazer” and “pioneering journalist.” To those tributes, we’re proud to add “friend.”
This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 31 October 2016.]
On October 27, NEHGS hosted a Family History Benefit Dinner featuring Bill Griffeth and Cokie Roberts, both accomplished news commentators and authors. Whereas Bill has written of his experiences with unexpected DNA results concerning his paternal side, Cokie has made a career of highlighting the lives of women in American history.
In honor of her accomplishments, the Society presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award for History and Biography and a beautifully hand-bound book of her ancestors. As I compiled her robust genealogy, I worked to include the kinds of stories that would interest an author of female biographies. Continue reading ICYMI: The Other Half→
One of my family lines that I love exploring is the Siegel family. My great grandmother Matilda Siegal was born in Focsani, Romania. She came to the United States as a little girl of 10 years of age in 1905. She lived with her older brother Isidore and then moved in with her sister Rebecca and her husband, Simon Frankel. Rebecca had immigrated just two years earlier from Romania. Their mother, Chaje Goldman, would later immigrate in 1911 and bring along her four other children.
A little over three years ago I sent a message to a user on FamilySearch.
A little over three years ago I sent a message to a user on FamilySearch after viewing a note on my second great aunt, Rebecca Siegel, on their Family Tree. I was thrilled when I received a reply from the user, Barbara. She is the granddaughter of Rebecca. We exchanged messages back and forth, sharing what we each had found in our genealogy research, as well as stories we knew about our family members.
The last of grandmother’s first cousins, Alma Rhodes of Westerly, Rhode Island, died on 4 August 2019 at the age of 96. She belonged to that increasingly rare group of individuals who lived in the house where she was born well into her nineties and worked for the same bank (albeit with multiple mergers) for 49 years.
She was a portal to the early world of my grandmother, née Lois Rhodes, and passed along family letters and stories to me, thereby giving me a perspective that never could have come from public records alone. Alma visited her grandfather, William Henry Rhodes (1854–1941), almost every day and listened to his reminiscences, preserving them for another generation.
Alma was a portal to the early world
of my grandmother.
Many researchers find the Mid-Atlantic region intimidating. However, with so many of our ancestors passing through at some point, it really is worth going through the effort to find resources. The Mid-Atlantic region has such fascinating history as peoples of different backgrounds, especially religious, made homes there. It can be highly enjoyable digging out their stories in the historical societies of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Continuing our series, begun in southern and northern New England, we round out the Northeast. Below are some tips to make the Mid-Atlantic easier to navigate.
On a hot morning in July, Thomas Lester, the archivist at the Archdiocese of Boston, and I walked to Chinatown to meet Joe Bagley, the Boston city archaeologist. We wanted to talk to Joe about his work at the “unusual” dig at 6 Hudson Street in Chinatown. As Joe was quick to remind us, “Every building has a unique story.” Continue reading Archaeological Dig in Boston’s Chinatown→
At the North Carolinian Piedmont, in the cemeteries of Davidson County, sunlight breaks through perforated soapstone, creating a lattice-like design in the shadows cast by the many tombstones. These grave markers are probably the earliest “pierced” gravestones in North America. Continue reading Signature in Stone→