All posts by D. Brenton Simons

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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Witches Brew: Part Three

Memorable for her encounter with Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, Mistress Hibbins was not simply a figment of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s imagination. Long a controversial woman in Boston, she was a real person who in May 1656 was sentenced to death for the crime of..

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Thomas M. Menino 1942-2014

The Ancestry of The Honorable Thomas Michael Menino, Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, NEHGS

In April 2009, the New England Historic Genealogical Society presented Mayor Thomas Michael Menino of Boston (1942–2014) with a..

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Witches Brew: Part Two

Alice Lake of Dorchester became the second person tried and executed in Boston as a witch. While few details of her offenses survive – she was executed circa 1650 – she had two potent strikes against her: she had committed fornication prior to marriage, and she was..

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Witches Brew: Part One

Overshadowed by the hysteria that gripped the townspeople of Salem in 1692, Boston’s considerable witchcraft record has received relatively little attention. From the late 1630s to the 1690s, the town intermittently fell into witch-hunting fervor as accusations..

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A considerable legacy in genealogy

Samuel Gardner Drake was not a likely candidate to become the author of a multitude of historical works. Born on a farm in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, in 1798, he was not an eager pupil in his youth. “His aversion to school, when a little urchin,” as John H. Sheppard..

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The threat of witchcraft

Our early New England ancestors were well acquainted with the threat of witchcraft. Dread of this phenomenon, and particularly of those in its thrall, was reinforced to them in warnings from clergymen about the dangers of falling in league with the devil. These fears..

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