As a relatively new staff member at American Ancestors, I am on uncertain ground writing about the art of family history research. I was schooled in and have worked many years in the literary and performing arts, at various times in book publishing, financial services, and journalism. For past employers, I’ve tracked and reacted to current trends and preferences, and culled business leaders’ insights on the financial markets and documented their current projects and projections. Most recently, I’ve pursued and presented today’s most sought-after authors and their books. Continue reading American inspiration
With each holiday and celebration, it is the menu that most piques my interest. Food brings people together; on the best day it can break down cultural barriers, and it often provides a mode for keeping family traditions and history alive. It is no wonder that as Thanksgiving approaches, my mind turns to the history of this national holiday and the food that we now hold dear. Exactly how far have we strayed from that first Thanksgiving meal of the Pilgrims and Wamponoag? Would we find familiarity in dishes of stuffing, cranberry sauce, or sweet potato casserole? I’m here to find out. Continue reading The first Thanksgiving
One of the recent exciting changes at NEHGS has been the addition of an exhibit on 2020. Visitors to our headquarters at 99–101 Newbury Street have surely noticed the two major outdoor exhibit elements: a Wampanoag mother and child with a Wampum belt and a 1/12 scale model of the Mayflower.
Due to the delicate nature of these pieces, and the investment that went into creating them, NEHGS moves them in and out Tuesday–Friday during our open hours. Continue reading New Mayflower exhibits
De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum. Since learning this saying in high school Latin class – “Of the dead, say nothing unless good” – I have heeded it as good advice for writing family history. If anything, many past genealogists exaggerate the virtues of forebears they never knew. With Edwin Herbert Morse of Wareham, Massachusetts (1849–1923), known as Herb, my great-great-grandfather, I had the opposite problem: no one among family or acquaintances had much good to say about him. And so, for more than three decades, I have struggled with whether I should pass on how Herb was remembered. Of course, had he been recalled with great fondness, I would have written his story long before now. Continue reading ‘Of the dead, say nothing’
As I work at reconstructing the environment in which the Livingstons of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lived, I have been struck by the frequency with which I have encountered members of the Menteith family. (It is fair to say that there are a number of such families in this project, interrelated in various ways, but the Menteiths keep turning up!) To arrive at the early modern Livingston family, I have gone back on various lines (including the ancestry of Livingston spouses), so the resulting family trees cover individuals who were not named Livingston – or aware of these particular connections. Continue reading Mysterious Menteiths
(Author’s note: The following is an interpretive account of the life of Leah Ann Rickards (ca. 1836–1913), my great-great-grandfather John Henry O. Record’s sister. This account is presented in three parts, and is based on family papers and letters, along with vital and census records as available. These posts are my attempt at giving Leah a voice. Please forgive any historical inaccuracies, misrepresentations or presumptions, literary license, or otherwise.)
Leah Stack stood at the top of the stoop, gazing out toward the upper reaches of the Marshyhope. Her husband had gone off with Mr. Lincoln’s Federals, and she came here most days awaiting his return. But as with yesterday and each day before that, John Stack had not come home. Continue reading Leah
Three new sketches have been uploaded to the Early New England Families database for Tristram Coffin, his mother, and one of his sisters.
Tristram Coffin, age 32, and his wife Dionis (Stevens) Coffin, about the same age, brought their five children – ranging in age from 12 to 1 – from Brixton in Devon to New England by October 1642, when the death of the youngest child was recorded in Haverhill. They had four more children born in New England. Continue reading The Coffin cluster
As I continue to map out the connections of the Livingston family of Callendar, Stirlingshire, I am struck by how comparatively closely related the sixteenth-century Livingston family was to two of the husbands of Mary, Queen of Scots. A third connection, rather less salubrious, was to some of the murderers of David Rizzio, or Riccio, which occurred in the presence of the Queen while pregnant with the future King James VI. (Rizzio was accused by his assailants of being the child’s father.) Continue reading In ceaseless orbit
[Editor’s note: This blog post first appeared in Vita Brevis on 20 March 2017.]
Following up on correcting the charts in my Seeing double blog post, the chart showing my ancestor Anna (Salisbury) Slade was a recent disappointment and involved removing some ancestors from my charts. The chart identified Anna’s parents as Daniel Salisbury and Anna Hale, and had Anna as the child of Rev. Moses Hale (Harvard 1699) and Mary Moody of Newbury, with several early Newbury ancestors including Henry and Jane (Dummer) Sewall, who were the parents of Judge Samuel Sewall (1652–1730), known for his involvement in the Salem witch trials. Continue reading ICYMI: Bye-bye-bye
[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 22 May 2017.]
I recently traveled to Michigan to watch my cousin, Scott, graduate from Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) with a law degree. And like any good family member/genealogist, while I sat with my family waiting for the commencement to commence, I examined the program for Scott’s name. After a few moments, I located my cousin’s first and middle name: Scott Harrison. Excited, I asked my aunt and uncle whether Harrison was a family name. “Nope,” my uncle explained, “when your aunt was eight months pregnant, we got the name Harrison from a billboard that we passed while driving home. It sounded presidential, so we went with it.” Now, because my family is beyond sarcastic, I didn’t believe them at first; however, after a few minutes of my uncle insisting this was the case, I relented – I guess they got the name from a billboard. Continue reading ICYMI: The name game