All posts by Rhonda McClure

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About Rhonda McClure

Rhonda R. McClure, Genealogist, is a nationally recognized professional genealogist and lecturer specializing in New England and celebrity research as well as computerized genealogy; is compiler of more than 120 celebrity family trees; has been a contributing editor for Heritage Quest Magazine, Biography magazine and was a contributor to The History Channel Magazine and American History Magazine. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of ten books, including the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition, Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors, and Digitizing Your Family History.

Digging deep

I have found over the years that most family historians are so intent on pushing back to the next generation that they often do not stop to see what their family tree is telling them about the generation they just identified. Additionally, with the advent of “type in a name” research, many family historians are content to find the record and move on to the next record, or the next suggested record, without ever stopping to ask why or how their ancestors ended up recorded in a particular document. After all, the records that genealogists use to trace the family connections were not created with genealogical research in mind. Family historians have found ways to pull family information out of vital records, military draft cards, census records, passenger ship lists, and more to aid them in tracing their family back through the generations. Continue reading Digging deep

Generations and geography

Anna Wassel and her family. Photo courtesy of Brittany Contratto

Recently I had an opportunity to assist someone through a consultation. She was searching for the Lithuanian origins of her great-great-great-grandparents, James and Anna Wassel. The information sent to me prior to the consultation had me hitting my head against the same brick walls that she and her family had experienced, and I was getting nervous that I might not be able to offer much in the way of guidance when we met. However, the morning of the consultation, I took another look at the family and two things jumped out at me that I had overlooked previously – undoubtedly because I didn’t have all my attention on the problem (the hazard of working a genealogical reference desk). Continue reading Generations and geography

Cento emigration site launches

Back in August 2018, I wrote a post about the strong connection between the Italians of the town of Cento, Italy and the Plymouth Cordage Company in From Cento to America. At that time, I mentioned a web site created by the Archivio di Storico di Cento (the historical archives of Cento) that would be launching in the near future to share stories of those who left Cento for other countries around the world. That day has arrived. Continue reading Cento emigration site launches

Who are the Rogerenes?

John Rogers’ appeal, 1675. Connecticut State Library, State Archives, RG 000, Samuel Wyllys papers

While attending the FGS conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in August, Lynn Martin of Paw Paw, Michigan visited the NEHGS booth in the vendor hall and introduced me to her early immigrants – specifically her Rogers family. John Rogers, Sr. founded his own religion – the Rogerenes, in 1674 – in New London, Connecticut. Today, the only tangible remains of this religion in Connecticut are the neighborhoods of Quaker Hill in Waterford and Quakertown in Ledyard. While sometimes referred to as the Rogerene Quakers, they actually never had any association with the Society of Friends. Instead, their roots come from the Seventh Day Adventists. Continue reading Who are the Rogerenes?

From Cento to America

A few years ago, as I was looking into what NEHGS’ collection held on Italian research subjects, I came across a manuscript that was created in 1954 by a woman who was interested in documenting the Italians of Kingston, Massachusetts. The Coming of Italians to Kingston by Esther DiMarzo was digitized and is available on our web site. It covers those who first appeared in records in Kingston from about 1899 to 1912. Esther primarily relied on tax lists and vital records and, when possible, included a few stories and information from descendants who were still in Kingston at the time of her compilation. Continue reading From Cento to America

Fraternally yours

Fraternal organizations are not as commonplace for most people today as they were back in the mid-1800s on through the twentieth century. Our ancestors joined these groups for camaraderie, financial support regarding burials, insurance, and more. There were hundreds of such organizations, some of which popped up for just a brief few years. Continue reading Fraternally yours

Weeding by another name

Figure 1. Click on images to expand them

Whenever I am working in records or sites from another country – and thus not in the English language – I do my best to leave them in that language, especially if my only option for translation is that which is built into the browser software. A recent consultation request brought this issue front and center.

The request for the consultation was confirmation that the two families the researcher had found in the 1910 census were indeed the same family. Continue reading Weeding by another name

Czech surnames

krejci-1-1024x819While working on a research problem in preparation for a consultation, I wanted to determine how common the surname Kucera was in the Czech Republic. A name that seems fairly unusual here in the United States is often as common as Smith back in the old country. I found a web site, Czech Surnames, that gave a great deal of information about the origins of different Czech surnames, but also had a listing of the top 20 most popular surnames in the country for the years 1937, 1964, and 1996. I discovered that Kucera, which means “curly,” was and is the ninth most common surname in the country. For the research problem in the consultation this was not necessarily good news, but it substantiated the above premise. Continue reading Czech surnames

Hunting for a church

First Presbyterian Church of Chester NY
The First Presbyterian Church of Chester, New York.

While working in the Ask-a-Genealogist questions last week, I found myself looking at questions on where to turn for records to prove the baptisms or residences of ancestors, which are actually rather typical. However, in offering guidance to these individuals, I realized how little the hunt was for the ancestor and how important the hunt for the church or town would be. Continue reading Hunting for a church

An active pursuit

belfast map proniWhile the variety of televised programs about family history have certainly increased interest in the hobby, I fear that it has begun to supply a skewed approach to genealogical research. So many of these shows show others doing the research for the person, and then making the big reveal, that more often than not we find visitors to the NEHGS Research Center here in Boston expecting us to do the actual research for them.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to assist family historians with their research. We all need a little guidance from time to time as we struggle with a particular line on the family tree. And I understand that for many people this is a new hobby and they may not understand what to do. Continue reading An active pursuit