One of the wonderful things about genealogy is running into phrases and terms you have never heard before. It is a window into how people spoke years ago and teaches us about how our language changes over time.
At first glance, the terms alien and alias hardly seem applicable to my father’s beloved aunt, Mary Ellen (Cassidy) Clynes of Fall River (1890–1960). Her name, however, is listed among the National Archives Alien Case Files #10897934. This bewildering status only came to light in the spring of 1955, when Mary’s daughter Eleanor attempted to assist her mother in signing up to receive her first Social Security check. The city clerk said, “I am sorry, Mrs. Clynes, but you are not eligible for Social Security because you are not an American citizen.” What a puzzle for a woman born only a mile-or-so from the city center! It took months and a lawyer’s help to unravel the tangle. Continue reading An alien and an alias→
I have said for years that I’m everyone’s cousin. Living where I do, among descendants of families who have been here as long, or almost as long, as mine, it’s easy to imagine how I can be related to so many people; six degrees of separation can be more than a social connection! Continue reading Some Pig!→
I recently gave a talk to the Colorado Sons of the American Revolution (my first in-person lecture in over two years, and first time in Colorado!). My talk was on the ancestors of American presidents, 1789-2022, and specifically spoke to which presidents have joined, or could have joined, the S.A.R., while also noting that several presidents lived before the organization was founded in 1889. A Pittsburgh chapter of the S.A.R. had a page showing the sixteen presidents who were members of S.A.R. themselves, from Rutherford B. Hayes through George W. Bush. (The page also shows Grant, who died before the S.A.R. was founded but was a member of a parent organization, the Sons of Revolutionary War Sires.) Continue reading Patriotic presidential ancestors→
As I was driving to the grocery store recently, I saw an electronic billboard featuring a design of colored barbed wire with the date February 19, 1942. I realized instantly that this is a second “date which will live in infamy,” and one that quickly followed the first. On that date President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans living along the West Coast … two-thirds of whom were American citizens.
One of the places I have been researching is the townland of Kilcruaig in Kilflyn parish, County Limerick. My husband has ancestors from Kilcruaig who were born there in the early 1800s. However, it has been difficult to learn much about these families. The local Catholic records did not begin until 1853 and the people I want to research were born much earlier. And almost all died before civil registration began in 1864. The area felt like a bit of a black hole. Continue reading A ray of light→
[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 13 February 2018.]
Many of us have bunches of old family letters set aside to review – preferably with the sender and the recipient already noted on the envelope. Years ago, as I was researching my first family history (The Sarsaparilla Kings), I was fortunate enough to have some published (as well as unpublished) sources available to consider the relationship between my great-great-grandfather Frederick Ayer (1822–1918) – one of the two Sarsaparilla Kings – and his son-in-law George Smith Patton Jr. (1885–1945).
Frederick Ayer made two distinct fortunes – in patent medicines with his elder brother, Dr. J. C. Ayer, and in textiles and other investments later in life – and by the turn of the twentieth century he was a wealthy man. His second wife, Ellen Barrows Banning (1853–1918), was a member of a sprawling family with connections in Delaware, Minnesota, and California, among them to the family of George and Ruth Patton of San Gabriel, California. Continue reading ICYMI: ‘Neutral ground’→
File this one to “You never know what you might find…”
I have written before about my great-grandparents’ house in Goshen, New York, built on land that had belonged to the Steward family since the eighteenth century. In the course of collecting family photos – generally, groups of (likely) house guests gathering on the front steps to be photographed – I’ve become familiar with some of the house’s features. At this point, I might be one of the very few who could look at a photo and say “Oh! the Steward house in Goshen.”
I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise, since the book I was paging through was my great-great-uncle’s history of the Harvard Polo Club. Amos Tuck French was one of the founding members of this iteration of the club, and he begins engagingly: “Polo was started at Harvard in 1883, many years before it was even thought of at any other college. In fact it was not generally understood what the game was, for we received a challenge from Yale to play a match and discovered on enquiry that the Elis wanted to play hockey on roller skates!”Continue reading The Harvard Polo Club→
Wouldn’t you know it. No sooner had I submitted a blog post about the MACRIS database to Vita Brevis then I discovered the entire website had been redesigned. So, it was back to the drawing board to learn how to re-navigate it. It was worth it, however, to be able to rewrite this post and share this database.
For those who might be undertaking research about historic properties and landmarks in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) is well worth a visit, filled as it is with fascinating information documented over several decades – generally from the 1960s thru the 1990s – by local historical commissions, some of whose members were more intrepid than others, and collected under one umbrella by the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC). Continue reading A cultural heritage database→
Like most genealogists, I have a few brick walls in my family tree. I’m resigned to living with some of these mysteries after fifteen pretty solid years of work. One brick wall is a great-grandfather who seemingly appears out of nowhere in 1916 at age 21 when he enlists in the Army. Another big brick wall was, until recently, learning the town of origin in Germany for my paternal line. My research, which I had believed was thorough, came up empty time and time again for anything more specific than the “Kingdom of Hannover.” Continue reading In praise of church records→