All posts by Penny Stratton

Objects and their history

Recently a colleague mentioned a web-based series of interactive discussions called “Windows to the Past: Discovering History Through Tangible Things,” in which “participants will assess fascinating objects . . . to see how any material thing, when examined closely,..

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The Stratton Files

[Editor’s Note: Penny Stratton is one of the most prolific and popular bloggers at Vita Brevis. The following are some excerpts from her posts between January 2014 and February 2015.]

From Capturing the Recent Past: As I revise the new NEHGS Guide to Genealogical..

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"Remember your ancestors"

“Remember your ancestors.”

So read the words atop a family record engraved by Richard Brunton in the early 1800s. It is that admonition, which speaks directly to the NEHGS purpose, that led us to have an interest in Brunton – now the subject of a new book written by..

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Writing family history: Start small

Earlier this year, I read a blog post by the New York Public Library titled “20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History.” Always on the lookout for new ideas to work into our seminars and webinars on writing and publishing, I read it eagerly. One particular..

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The 1920s, the ’20s, the twenties: writing dates

A few months ago, we agreed that apostrophes do not belong in plurals: To make a plural, generally you add an s or es. No apostrophe. The same rule applies when you are referring to a decade, say, the 1920s. It is absolutely fine to put a letter after a number without..

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Indexing your family history

If you’re writing a family history, you’re ultimately going to index it, right? If you’ve ever consulted a printed genealogy in hopes of finding an ancestor . . . only not to find an index to help you, you’ll know the importance of creating an index for your own work.


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1, 2, 3 . . . it’s an ahnentafel!

A friend recently received a document from a cousin, outlining her family’s ancestry. It was quite long, she said, and mentioned a Mayflower ancestor — but she didn’t know how to interpret it. There were lots of numbers, some of them roman numerals.

My well-trained..

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A surprising brush with history

Abraham Lincoln in 1850, the year after he represented George D. Berry in a lawsuit. Lithograph by Edw. Mendel, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-102366.

My husband inherited several dozen Civil War–era letters from his..

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Adams, Adamses, Adams’s

Can we agree on something? Can we agree not to form plurals with apostrophes?

Now this may not seem like a genealogical topic, but making plurals does come up in genealogy, because it comes up in all writing. And sometimes in family histories we need to make plurals of..

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What the "Dad file" taught me about recent history

George Rohrbach at age 18, with his niece Norma Johnson.

Recently I sifted through a box that turned out to be a treasure box because it yielded some great information about a recent ancestor. The ancestor was my father, George Rohrbach (1909-1999), and I was the..

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