What drew me to genealogy was the idea that my family could have been part of a major historical event. When you learn about history in school, the different events – whether it be the Holocaust, the French Revolution, or the English Civil War – always seem to be so far removed from that moment. You never expect to learn that you might have personal ties to that event.
For example, I was fascinated by the sinking of the Titanic; I swear that had nothing to do with the massive crush my 13-year-old self had on Leonardo DiCaprio. Continue reading Family ties revealed→
The New England Historic Genealogical Society is a member of the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC), a group of libraries, museums, and other repositories holding materials for historical research. Each year fellows from the NERFC program visit NEHGS and the other members – from Connecticut to Massachusetts and Maine, from Rhode Island to New Hampshire and Vermont – to conduct research for their graduate work or as junior faculty at colleges and universities around the world.
Peter’s work was also the subject of a Vita Brevis post in June 2018 entitled “Indifferent to the world.” I urge Vita Brevis readers to revisit Peter’s blog post and tune into the Zoom program today (July 30) at 5:30 p.m.
When Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton premiered on Disney+, I enjoyed watching the musical with my family. (My seven-year-old daughter’s favorite character was King George III!) This prompted me to look a bit more at Alexander Hamilton’s genealogy, which I had worked on a little bit years ago. Gary Boyd Robert’s The Royal Descents of 900 Immigrants shows a royal descent back from James II, King of Scotland (died 1460), through Alexander’s father James Hamilton of the West Indies. (Patrilineal descendants of Alexander have taken Y-DNA tests and matched descendants of related Scottish Hamilton families, for those various tall tales questioning Alexander’s paternity.) Continue reading Hamiltonian errors→
There are many Mayflower myths already, but the Mayflower 400 year brings new ones. The very latest Mayflower myth is that the Pilgrims boarded the Speedwell in Leiden. The simple truth is that the Speedwell was never in Leiden. The Pilgrims took canal boats to Delfshaven, where the Speedwell was waiting for them, and set sail for Southampton. A widely shared blog post proposes an alternative myth: the Pilgrims travelled from Leiden to Delfshaven on foot, on horseback, and by carriage.
A myth that’s been repeated a lot the last year or so is that the Pilgrims boarded those canal boats at a spot marked by a statue. The text on the base of that statue reads “From here the Pilgrims left Leiden on their journey to the new world,” and that text is easily misunderstood. The statue is near the Vliet Bridge, and the text wouldn’t be misunderstood if the statue had been placed on that bridge instead of merely close to it.
Back in 1620, the bridge was part of the border wall of Leiden, and the Pilgrims left Leiden when they crossed under that bridge. They did not board at that spot. They boarded at the Rapenburg, not far from the Pieterskerk and John Robinson’s house. Continue reading Mayflower myths 2020→
My discovery of a letter, almost five decades ago, marked the starting point for exploring the Irish roots of my father’s maternal grandmother, Annie Flynn Cassidy (1856–1919). Annie and her sister Ellen Flynn emigrated to Fall River, Massachusetts, around 1881. On 16 December 1885, their father John Flynn wrote this letter from Cloonduane acknowledging money the sisters sent home and the news of Annie’s recent marriage to Patrick Cassidy. Presumably Cloonduane was near Castlebar, County Mayo, the town cited as Annie and Ellen’s birthplace in their obituaries from Fall River newspapers. Continue reading Return to Cloonduane→
I recently discovered an online app. that allows me to scan my photographs. As I like to be able to refer to a record of my collection (still somewhat maddening if I forget the subject’s name), this has been a revelation. One of the vernacular photos I bought some time ago shows a cheerful group of four young men standing in front of a large building, perhaps a school. On the reverse, the four have signed their names. So who are they?
The clearest signature belongs to Henry Angiola, and a check of Ancestry.com’s databases yields Henry Angiola, a student at Belmont High School in Los Angeles. The cryptic S ’42 next to Sinn Lew’s signature is seen on Henry’s yearbook page, and all four may be found in the Campanile, Belmont High’s class of 1942 yearbook. Continue reading Belmont High School, 1942→
One of the features of this anniversary year – the four hundredth since the Mayflower’s landing at Plymouth as well as the 175th anniversary of the Society’s founding in 1845 – has been a focus on early members of the Society, people no one alive today can have known. As a historical society, we are familiar with old records, even ones biographical in nature, but there is still something uncanny about how some early members – even some of the Society’s founders – come to life in the stories of their own time. Continue reading Undimmed luster→
Another trove in my grandfather’s box of family papers is a stack of canceled passports. Most of them are for my grandfather, ranging from the 1950s into the 1980s, but one – a handsome little book, containing a parchment that folds out to four times the stored size – belonged to his father, Campbell Steward, reflecting the changed conditions for travel that followed the Great War.
Ancestry.com has Campbell’s passport application from 1924, with an affidavit from a neighbor testifying to his American citizenship, and a more elaborate one – a separate sheet attached to the application – from an old family friend, Henry G. Wisner, concerning Campbell’s birth in New York City in 1852: Continue reading New conditions→
[Editor’s note: The following blog post appeared in Vita Brevis on 6 December 2019.]
Having been occupied with a project these last few months, not only have I been away from Vita Brevis for far too long, but I’ve allowed issues of the WeeklyGenealogist to pile up in my in box. In truth, I do open them each week to add my vote to the survey, but until the other day I had not had the opportunity to read them start to finish. While each issue is always brimming with interesting things, I particularly enjoy the Stories of Interest. And so, as I binged on my backlog of six weeks, a story from October 2 about the town of Ashland, Massachusetts recovering its long lost Boston Post cane caught my eye. Continue reading ICYMI: Provincetown and the Boston Post canes→
A 4th of July post on Facebook shared the above image quoting John Quincy Adams of The Order of the Founders and Patriots of America, which was founded in 1896. A friend of mine thought initially this quote was meant to be attributed to the president of that name, who died in 1848. The person in the quote above was John Quincy Adams (1848-1911) of New York City, who was born in New Hampshire eight months after the president’s death. Through his father Harvey8 Adams (Benjamin7, Andrew6, John5, Edward4, John3, Edward2, Henry1), this John Quincy Adams was a fourth cousin three times removed to his presidential namesake through the immigrant Henry Adams (1583-1646) of Braintree, Massachusetts.Continue reading Presidential surnames→