International posts at Vita Brevis

Following on from Jean Maguire’s post yesterday on NEHGS collection research options covered this year at Vita Brevis, I thought it might be useful to look at the coverage of international research at the blog. A lively group of articles follow, suggesting the range of..

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Guides for using the NEHGS collection

Back in February, Vita Brevis began posting a series of guides to using the NEHGS collection here in Boston and remotely at home. For ease of reference, I have collected them here, with short excerpts from the articles themselves.

Anne Meringolo began the series: Have..

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Ideas for Cuban research

The Cathedral in Havana

During my career in genealogy, I’ve become somewhat expert on a variety of subjects, even Cuban research – unexpected, perhaps, but true! Research at a distance – and for Americans, all Cuban research must currently be at a distance – is a..

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Cheat Sheets: Part Three

The first nine steps in my process for creating entries for the Early New England Families Study Project are covered here and here.

10. Town Histories, Genealogical Dictionaries, Town Records (Town). I can access almost any classic published history on-line, many of..

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A question of attribution

A by-product of finishing a project and publishing the results is that one moves on – without necessarily losing interest in the subject matter.  I spent about five months immersed in the study of my great-grandfather Edward Hughes Glidden’s architectural oeuvre,..

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Puritan Pedigrees

Now that my book on genealogical research methods (Elements of Genealogical Analysis) is out, I have turned my attention to the series of lectures I will be delivering in October and November; these, in turn, will form the basis for a future book entitled Puritan..

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Detective Stories

Back row, left to right: Mercy Elizabeth (Fish) Smith, Edgar Leslie Smith, Cyrus Cressey Sturgis, Angeline (Hartman) Sturgis. Front row, left to right: Berintha Lydia (Bull) Fish, Una Coy (Smith) Sturgis with Cyrus Cressey Sturgis Jr., Jane (Jones) Hartman. Author's..
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A revolution in one generation

I began my publishing career in pre-computer days: manuscript was typed on a typewriter, and editing was done on hard copy. I took a freelance job from a publisher who required that I work in ink, and for that job I acquired a special fountain pen that I filled with..

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Adding context to my genealogy

Images from the author's collection

I could easily go up to the seventh floor here at NEHGS and find a lot of my ancestry in published genealogies, but my research interests have gone in a different direction: I have spent close to the last six years researching the..

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Musicians in the family: an afterword

My grandmother in 1920

In thinking about the Ilsley family of singers and musicians to which my great-grandmother Theodora Ilsley Ayer belonged, I could think of no special evidence of the family talent having lasted into the twentieth century. Yet to pose the..

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Musicians in the family: Part Three

Arthur Foote (1853-1937)

The Nathaniel Ilsley family of Portland, Maine (and later Chelsea, Massachusetts; Buffalo and Troy, New York; and Newark, New Jersey) produced more than a dozen singers, violinists, and conductors – and at least two composers. One of these..

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Like father, like son - like daughter?

S.S. Athlone Castle, on which my grandfather was a deck hand in 1936. Courtesy of State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Library/Wikimedia Commons

Like many people in their early to mid-twenties, I am still struggling to figure out who I am. One day not too long..

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Notes on Robin Williams's ancestry

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When public figures die, I sometimes undertake research on their ancestry as a kind of summing up. In the days since the death of comic and acting icon Robin Williams, for example, I have been thinking about his potential connection..

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Nineteenth-century life in Newton

Emily J. (Cook) Tainter diary. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

NEHGS has a rich collection of diaries. While browsing our Guide to Diaries in the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, I came across the mid-nineteenth century diary of Emily J. Tainter of..

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Cheat Sheets: Part Two

In a recent post I mentioned the Early New England Families Study Project “template” that I use: a Word document file with the categories pre-typed. I keep it on my desktop to open and “save as” the new file name each time I start a new family. For those of you who are..

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Musicians in the family: Part Two

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

My great-great-grandfather Francis Grenville Ilsley (1831–1887) belonged to a family of singers and musical conductors and performers. The line apparently begins with his grandfather, Nathaniel Ilsley (1781–1870), who married four times and..

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Musings from the Catskills

"The Farm," 17 October 2009

I spent my childhood at our family home in the Catskill Mountains in New York. My roots in the Catskills date back to the mid-eighteenth-century, when the first of the Holdridge line of my family appeared in the area. As far as we can..

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Taking the time to learn about my great-grandfather

A James E. Conlon clock

One of my favorite family history projects has been organizing the papers of my great-grandfather, James Edward Conlon (1880–1948). He worked in Boston as an antiques dealer and clock maker/restorer from the 1910s through the 1940s. James and..

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A Ruth by any other name

My great-grandmother Ruth (Will) Little

When I was a child, my classmate Jimmy would often tease me about my middle name: Paine. “Why is your name ‘Pain?’ Were you a pain to your mother when you were born? (Tee-hee!)” When I complained to my mother that my name was..

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Twentieth century research in Massachusetts

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Massachusetts is one of a handful or so states that allow relatively open access to vital information. It is certainly possible to conduct family research after 1930 for Massachusetts using a combination of resources.

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Musicians in the family: Part One

Theodora Ilsley Ayer with her daughters Anne Beekman and Theodora.

My great-grandmother Sara Theodora Ilsley (1881–1945) was an orphan from the age of fourteen, so it is not surprising that her descendants did not know much about her family. My father, who knew his..

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Naming a child born out of wedlock

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I was recently asked a question about how surnames were assigned to illegitimate children born in the seventeenth century: Was the surname of the father, or the mother, given to the child? Since illegitimate births were uncommon..

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