Irregular border marriages in Scotland

Courtesy of

Not long ago, I was searching for a record of an 1830s marriage between two prominent Scottish families. I was certain I would have an easy time locating this particular record, having identified the parish and county in which the..

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Making the skeletons dance

An offending hospital bill

In his 1930 novel Immaturity, George Bernard Shaw wrote, “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.” Shaw had a point with that statement. While we can deny them, hide them, or ignore them, we can’t..

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A growing family

Edward Hughes Glidden's sketch of the Maryland Casualty Tower.

We pick up the Bouchers in 1912 with Mrs. Frances Boucher[1] and her sons Carlos H., clerk, and Emile G., “2d vice pres. Crook-Horner Supply Co.,” at 1718 Linden Avenue in Baltimore, along with Mrs...

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Chasing a squirrel

A squirrel![1] I find a lot of them while researching and I am sure all other researchers find them, too: those pieces of information that have nothing to do with what you are researching. You come across them by accident and they pull your attention away from what you..

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"Socially, she is not received"

Oscar Wilde by Sarony. Courtesy of

A frequent theater-goer and enthusiastic pedestrian in the 1860s, by the early 1880s – following the death of her husband – Regina Shober Gray was going out rarely, and only to the houses of relatives and close..

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Not just Rip Van Winkle

Harriet Hanson Robinson (1825-1911). Courtesy of

As anyone engaged in the study of family history knows, researching the women of the past can be a difficult process. Many commonly used sources draw out details in the lives of men but provide only..

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Probate records: Part Six

[Editor’s note: Alicia’s probate series began here.]

Appointment of appraisers

On the same day that the letter of administration and bond were made, 4 April 1787, the judge appointed three men to take the inventory of Joseph Alden’s estate: Joshua White, Esq., Seth..

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ICYMI: Genealogical complexities

[Author's note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 3 September 2014.]

When I started out as a genealogical writer, I followed the model of genealogies published earlier in the twentieth century. The genealogical world they depicted was an orderly one, with..

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Northeastern University's roots

Courtesy of Northeastern University

Genealogy is the never-ending story of your ancestors as you track them down and learn about the lives they lived. It is also the opportunity to learn about the communities in which they resided. Recently, I had the opportunity to..

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A new century

Frances Giles Boucher

My review of almost sixty years’ worth of Baltimore city directories has yielded much information on my great-great-great-grandfather E. W. Boucher; my great-great-grandfather William Boucher Jr. (1822–1899) and his two wives; and many of..

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Browse the images online

Click on images to expand them.

Often, when I’m looking at records on, I find source records in two categories: 1) “Browsable” (images only, no searching capability), or 2) “Searchable” (abstracted with various fields from the record). Sometimes,..

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Modern book conservation at NEHGS

Douglas Richardson’s Magna Carta Ancestry isn’t a particularly old or rare volume, but it is a frequently used resource in our collections. This massive reference book tracks family lines between medieval England and colonial America, making it a valuable source of..

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Probate records: Part Five

[Editor’s note: Alicia’s series began here.]

Intestate probate

For this exercise we will use the records from both the files of the Plymouth County Probate Court (i.e., images of the original documents) and from the copy books. The original files for Plymouth County..

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ICYMI: Puritan Pedigrees

[Editor's note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 22 August 2014.]

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..

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"Brought to ‘attention’"

My mother and her father, Frederick J. Bell, in Falls Church, Virginia.

The recent gift of some family photos reminds me that, well as in some ways I knew my maternal grandfather, there will always be things one cannot know, save by lucky chance. My grandfather was..

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An 1890 census substitute

William Boucher Jr. (1822-1899)

As we are missing (most of) the 1890 Federal Census, the value of city directories for the years around 1890 is all the greater. Looking at the Boucher family of Baltimore, the 1880s proved somewhat chaotic, with the family shop and..

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Middlesex County court records

Some of Roger Touthaker's testimony.

When researching a family, one can quickly become focused on names, birthdates, and death dates. It is easy to get caught up on going as far back as possible until reaching the metaphorical brick wall, and being left with a..

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Probate records: Part Four

[Editor’s note: Alicia's series begins here.]

Click on the images to expand them.

The inventory

Two important dates to remember to note are the date an inventory was taken and the date it was filed with the court. There are many instances where these dates can give..

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ICYMI: Tips for searching on

[Editor's note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 17 July 2014. Since the time of that posting, we have made enhancements to our search functionality on that return broader results without using wildcards. The wildcard strategy still..

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"An elderly groom"

Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue mall features monumental statues on most blocks, and the block closest to NEHGS boasts a representation of Alexander Hamilton given to the city by Benjamin Tyler..Continue reading

Finding royal roots

Representations of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile at Lincoln Cathedral. Courtesy of

In lineage societies, the frequently-used term ‘gateway ancestor’ refers to an ancestor who has a known lineage which can be traced back to a person of prominence...

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Mining Baltimore city directories

William Boucher Jr.

I have been reviewing Baltimore city directories with a view to better understanding the movements of the William Boucher Jr. household during the nineteenth century. In 1860, the year of the Federal Census, my great-great-grandfather Wm. Boucher..

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