All posts by Amy Whorf McGuiggan

About Amy Whorf McGuiggan

Amy Whorf McGuiggan recently published Finding Emma: My Search For the Family My Grandfather Never Knew; she is also the author of My Provincetown: Memories of a Cape Cod Childhood; Christmas in New England; and Take Me Out to the Ball Game: The Story of the Sensational Baseball Song. Past projects have included curating, researching, and writing the exhibition Forgotten Port: Provincetown’s Whaling Heritage (for the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum) and Albert Edel: Moments in Time, Pictures of Place (for the Provincetown Art Association and Museum).

Lost and found

Grave of Edmond Freeman at the Saddle & Pillion Cemetery, Sandwich.

Back in 2015, I was delighted to learn that my Elder William Brewster lineage for membership in the Massachusetts Mayflower Society had been approved. I had traced my descent through Brewster’s daughter, Patience, who married Gov. Thomas Prence, and their daughter Mercy Prence, who married Major John Freeman, the son of husbandman Edmund Freeman (1590-1682) and his first wife, Bennett Hodsoll (1596-1630).[1]

I particularly appreciated how the lineage had interwoven the Freeman family – Edmund and his second wife Elizabeth (1600-1676), who, in 1637, were among the founders of Sandwich, Massachusetts – with my Wing family, who were also among the town’s first settlers.[2] Continue reading Lost and found

A cultural heritage database

Click on images to enlarge them.

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

I’ll be home for Christmas

During this festive time of the year, magical Christmas “villages” seem to pop up everywhere, transforming nooks in the home as well as entire downtowns. It is a loaded word and whenever I see “village” attached to a place (and not only during the Christmas season), be it a village inn, pub, green, or a village itself, I am immediately enchanted. The word conjures up all the nostalgia of yesteryear with the hope and anticipation of reclaiming a bit of quaintness, simplicity, and charm. I live in an area of many of the country’s oldest towns and, because they were “unplanned” towns that grew organically, often in a haphazard way, even the busiest of these places retain pockets of their “village” atmosphere, complete with narrow streets, clustered old buildings, bricks and cobbles, town clocks, and Dickensian lampposts. Continue reading I’ll be home for Christmas

The power of Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

– Hebrews 11: 1

Statue of ‘Faith’ on her pedestal

A comment on my recent post, Seeing double, reminded readers of yet another tribute honoring the Pilgrim legacy, the National Monument to the Forefathers. The gentleman who commented called the monument one of Plymouth’s best kept secrets. Its location, off-the-beaten path, on an 11-acre site in a residential neighborhood, does make it less-visited than the iconic Mayflower and Rock.

It has been said that the monument’s sheer size and multitude of visual elements, the centerpiece of which is the figure of Faith, overwhelms modern sensibilities. It is not signposted on the highway, Route 3, but only on Route 3A, the secondary road into Plymouth, and since that is the road I take, I always make the “detour” up the hill to visit. Continue reading The power of Faith

Seeing double

On a glorious early fall day, with a plan to gather myself a small fistful of forget-me-nots blooming along the town brook and revisit some of the landmarks that I wrote about last year in my Outdoor Classroom posts, we took a ride to Plymouth. As this Pilgrim “first year” year slowly extinguishes itself, the town was busy with visitors taking in the sights. Oh, if only 2020 had cooperated, but better late than never.

Making a beeline for the waterfront, sparkling on that clear, crisp afternoon, I wanted to pay another visit to the Pilgrim Mother, a memorial fountain cut from Knoxville marble and given to the town by the DAR in 1920 in recognition of the tenacity, resilience, and hopefulness of the Mayflower women. Continue reading Seeing double

Finding Francis

Finding Aaron, it turned out, meant finding Francis, a family connection in my own backyard. I’ve written several posts about my genealogical journey to learn about my maternal grandfather, John Joseph Osborne, and, in the course of that journey, I discovered ancestral roots in the ancient colony of Acadia in Nova Scotia; family members accused during the Salem Witchcraft hysteria; a great-great-great-grandfather who was one of the first patients to be operated on using ether; and a great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Aaron Osborn (the older version of the surname was spelled without the last e), who set out with his fellow Danvers militiamen on the morning of 19 April 1775 to answer the Lexington Alarm. Continue reading Finding Francis

Divided loyalties

Destruction of the American Fleet at Penobscot Bay, 1779. Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, London

As the branches on my paternal grandmother’s family tree grew, they filled in with names like Hierlihy, Urquhart, and Milliken, and I was quite intrigued to discover that I had a Loyalist ancestor, a gentleman named Benjamin Milliken. He was born in Boston in 1728 to Justice Edward Milliken and Abigail Norman; settled in Hancock County, Maine (then still Massachusetts) during the Revolutionary War; and then went to St. Andrews in Charlotte County, New Brunswick. He married three times and fathered eighteen children over thirty-five years. Continue reading Divided loyalties

The language of genealogy

Over the last few months, any number of Vita Brevis posts have pointed out the frustrations of relying on public trees and trying to sort through the “dross of Internet information” that does little but “cause trouble for everyone else.” Those who try very hard to get it right, who quibble over trifles and worry about the minor details are, it seems to me, in the best sense of the word, genealogical pettifoggers.[1]

Accuracy does matter. Chronology matters. Details matter. In fact, the tiniest detail can be the clue that turns a theory on its head or knocks down a brick wall. Details, however minor (and one can certainly make the argument that there are no minor details in genealogy), can also bring a story alive. Continue reading The language of genealogy

Into the ether

Ether Day by Robert C. Hinckley. Courtesy of Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard University

Back in 2018, when I had the good fortune to be added to the Vita Brevis family of writers, one of my first posts was about my maternal grandfather, John Joseph Osborne, and the seven-year journey I had taken to learn about this man who had, we were always told, grown up an orphan.

Because I was starting with nothing more than my grandfather’s death certificate (which, fortunately, included his birthplace and parents’ names), I knew that my research would likely be a journey of discovery and, indeed, there were many revelations. Continue reading Into the ether

The ‘Magee storm’

As 2020, the year commemorating the four hundredth anniversary of the Mayflower landing in the New World, comes to a quiet end we can, with hopefulness, look forward in 2021 to making up for all the 2020 cancellations by commemorating the quadricentennial of many first-year Mayflower milestones. The “Winter of Death” and the death of the colony’s first governor, John Carver, were despairing events, but other milestones, including the treaty signed with Massasoit in March 1621, the first marriage in the Pilgrim village in May, and the harvest feast in late October lifted the colony’s hopes. The year 2021 should, in more ways than one, be recognized as the year of survival. Continue reading The ‘Magee storm’