Re-enacting history

A modern tintype

I have questioned published history my whole life, and have sought out the stories from the documents or in some cases the source. I was the obnoxious eight-year-old kid who went to Plimouth Plantation and posed my questions to the re-enactor John..

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The secret history

Warren Gould Child

If you have been binge watching the latest season of Orange is the New Black, you may have learned an interesting bit of trivia, courtesy of the Martha Stewart/Paula Deen-inspired new character of Judy King, who mentions that Wonder Woman creator..

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'He felt perfectly well'

[Author’s note: This series of excerpts from Regina Shober Gray’s diary began here.]

Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
In 1878, the Grays went abroad for much of the year: it was such a momentous trip that Mrs. Gray [1] took..Continue reading

Beyond price

Some photographs of our ancestors are beyond price. This one of my mother’s father, Ed Hawes, was taken in 1899, when he was still planning on a Naval career. Unfortunately, as a midshipman, he was thrown down a hatch in a hazing incident that shattered his hip.


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A beautiful view

Belvoir Castle, seat of the Duke of Rutland.

My Simons ancestors came from a picturesque region in England known as the Vale of Belvoir (pronounced “Beever,” and meaning “beautiful view,” from the French), found at the intersection of three counties: Leicestershire,..

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The real Molly Pitcher

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth, June 1778. Copy of engraving by J. C. Armytage after Alonzo Chappel. Courtesy of NARA

I recently stumbled upon a reference to Molly Pitcher, a woman from Pennsylvania who fought with her husband during the Revolutionary War..

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'Three sorrowful households'

[Author’s note: This series of excerpts from the Regina Shober Gray diary began here.]

Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The year 1876 marks the onset of Dr. Gray’s debilitating illness. He had the first of a series of..Continue reading

'Their furrows plough'

Several decades ago, my father was planting bulbs in our backyard flower garden. An old stone wall borders the garden and our yard, as well as all the neighbors’ yards on my street. Digging into the soil, my father found more than the usual collection of rocks and..

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A family tradition

Courtesy Hill Farmstead Brewery.

Last March, I made the move from Los Angeles to Boston. It was a pretty big change: not just the fact that, for about six months of the year, really cold stuff falls from the sky, but definitely the history, culture, and way of life..

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A voice from the Revolutionary War

One of the huts built for Continental soldiers later in 1780. Courtesy of Revolutionary War New Jersey, the Online Field Guide to New Jersey’s Revolutionary War Historic Sites,..
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'Something old, something new'

I’ve been a bridesmaid in four weddings. In each of these weddings, the bride has carefully chosen four special items to wear on her wedding day: something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. And when preparing for the first three weddings, I..

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The Parkman House

Samuel Parkman house, Bowdoin Square, Boston, by Philip Harry, 1847. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

Among the many treasures in the Society’s collection is an extraordinarily well-preserved circa 1847 oil painting by Philip Harry of a grand Boston home that no..

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Many discoveries in life are the result of serendipity – wandering around until one falls over something one wasn’t looking for.

I pulled an all-nighter this week while working on the Early New England Families Study Project sketch for Jonas Clark of Cambridge. I had..

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Well be gone

"My Old House"

Researching family history takes us to many places: libraries, museums, various genealogical repositories (New England Historic Genealogical Society, of course!), cemeteries, and . . . driveways. An historical archaeological adventure is the sort of..

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ICYMI: The Name Game

[Editor's note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 4 February 2015.]

Bonus note: Vita Brevis blogger Penny Stratton is retiring from NEHGS today after ten years on the Publications team. In honor of her departure, I asked her to pick a post to run..

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Another day at the beach

I am fortunate in having photographs of many of my relatives, and more fortunate still in that I can identify so many of them. Often the work has been done for me, as to names; sometimes my work is cut out for me in terms of fitting them into the family tree. I have..

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Taking a road trip without stops

As many readers will already know, when I am not immersed in genealogy I am probably doing something that involves reading about, watching, studying, or writing about hockey. Such was the case this past weekend, as I traveled by car from Boston to Buffalo, New York,..

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"Some very satisfactory items"

Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
By this period of the Gray diary, the month of June was generally a month in which Mrs. Gray visited her surviving siblings in Philadelphia and Pottsville, Pennsylvania. In 1873, the..Continue reading

ICYMI: Double-dating

[Editor's note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 5 January 2015.]

The Death Warrant of King Charles I,

Millions of British citizens and their..

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Origin stories

Every family has a story about its origins, particularly about how the immigrant(s) came to the New World. Often these stories can seriously stretch credibility, but we can accept them as folklore if not fact. We do not often think about tracking down the origins of..

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"Most cordially welcomed"

[Author's note: This series began here and continues here.]

Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
In June 1871, Regina Shober Gray [1] was in Pennsylvania, and her omnibus diary entry for 9 June covers the first ten days of her..Continue reading

Grassroots genealogy

Map showing the area around Errol. Courtesy of the University of Texas Library

When most people learn that I grew up in a town of three hundred people, they’re amazed. Some aren’t aware such small places still exist. Others want to know if we have electricity or..

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