All posts by Sheilagh Doerfler

About Sheilagh Doerfler

Sheilagh, a native of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, received her B.A. in History and Communication from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her research interests include New England, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Westward Migration, and adoptions.

The diaries of Simeon Perkins

Simeon Perkins. Courtesy of the New York Public Library

If you have New England Planter ancestors or Loyalist ancestors who settled in Nova Scotia in your family tree, the diaries of Simeon Perkins should not be overlooked.

Born in Norwich, Connecticut on 24 February 1735,  Simeon Perkins was the son of Jacob Perkins and Jemima Leonard. He arrived in Nova Scotia as a part of the New England Planter migration to maritime Canada in the 1760s and, initially, was involved in the fishing and lumbering trade.

His diaries, which span from 1766 until 1812, hold priceless information relating to the economy of Nova Scotia, politics during the American Revolution, privateering, the weather, and everyday life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of great value to genealogists, Perkins also recorded births, marriages, and deaths. Continue reading The diaries of Simeon Perkins

The Iconography of Manhattan

Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Phelps Stokes by John Singer Sargent. Courtesy of Wikipedia

One of my favorite sources for Manhattan research is The Iconography of Manhattan Island 1498-1909 by Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (1867-1944). This six volume set was published between 1915 and 1928 and chronicles the history of Manhattan from the fifteenth century to the early twentieth century. The publication not only records the vast history of Manhattan, it also provides beautiful illustrations and maps.

The volumes most relevant to my own family research are the first and second volumes, which highlight the Dutch period (1609-1664); both volumes have helped me to uncover new information about my family. Most importantly, from this source, I have learned where my Dutch ancestors held property or lived in lower Manhattan during the seventeenth century.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with historical landscapes. How has this property changed over the years? What did this street look like 200 years ago? Continue reading The Iconography of Manhattan

Irish towns and atlases

Catherine (Hayes) Garvin, seated, and her family.

All summer, I have been waiting for the release of the Digital Atlas of Dungarvan, a project spearheaded by the Royal Irish Academy. For more than 30 years, the Royal Irish Academy has published the Irish Historic Towns Atlas series, which visually records the growth of Irish cities and towns. The digital atlas of Dungarvan was released on August 18, joining prior digital publications for Derry and Galway. A published version will be released this fall. Continue reading Irish towns and atlases

Happy error

In genealogy, mistakes are rarely fortuitous. They often send us down time-consuming rabbit holes and frustrate us to no end. But, sometimes, they work in our favor.

Recently, I had been working to extend my Garvin line in Mallow parish in County Cork. I had been able to confirm my great-great-great-grandparents, Francis Garvin and Ellen Coleman, but I had been unable to locate a marriage record for the couple. Though there were several Garvin family groups in Mallow parish and the surrounding area, I could not place Francis Garvin with a family. Continue reading Happy error

Service records for Civil War combatants

Click on the image to expand it.

When researching ancestors who fought in the Civil War, don’t forget to examine their Combined Military Service Records for important genealogical data. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Combined Military Service Records were created by the War Department to expedite the administration of the claims and pensions of veterans. Information was collected from muster lists, enlistment records, payrolls, and other miscellaneous sources, and then organized into envelopes by soldier. These records are housed at the National Archives, and many are also available on Fold3 for both Confederate and Union troops.

These Combined Military Service Records note the date of enlistment, presence or absence at muster, injuries sustained, promotions, and discharge. Most importantly, they may also give the specific birthplace of the soldier. For those of us whose Civil War ancestors were immigrants, or whose ancestors were born in locales with poor vital records, these records are especially important. Beyond their military service, these records can also provide unique information, including a physical description of the soldier. Continue reading Service records for Civil War combatants

Warnings out

William Burgis, “Detail from a south east view of ye great town of Boston in New England in America,” ca. 1722-23. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library

The practice of “warning out” individuals from New England communities can be traced to the mid-seventeenth century, and served as a method of pressuring (potentially troublesome) outsiders to leave town and settle elsewhere. In his Warnings Out in New England, Josiah Henry Benton explained that the roots of this practice could be found in English law. As he put it, New England settlers “necessarily brought with them the ancient and fundamental principles of the English law, one of which was that the inhabitants of a municipality were responsible for the conduct and support of each other, each for all and all for each.”[1] Continue reading Warnings out

New places

Courtesy of williamhaskellhouse.com

To me, one of the best things about genealogy is learning that you have shared a place with an ancestor. Perhaps you passed through the town where they once lived, or maybe your commute to work takes you by their former home. Discoveries like this make genealogy that much more personal.

Recently, when I was learning more about Mabel Winters, my great-grandmother, and her family in Nova Scotia, I ran into a name that was very familiar to me – Lufkin. Continue reading New places

ICYMI: Loyalist ancestors

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 10 September 2015.]

Encampment of the Loyalists
“Encampment of the Loyalists in Johnstown, a new settlement on the banks of the River St. Lawrence, in Canada West,” courtesy of Archives Ontario.

Mabel Winters, my great-grandmother, left Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, when she was about eighteen or nineteen years old. She arrived in the United States about 1900, and first lived with her older brother George in Norton, Bristol County, Massachusetts. I have heard many wonderful stories about Mabel, and I wanted to learn everything that I could about her. As I began to research her life in Nova Scotia, I discovered that she was descended from several Loyalist families. Continue reading ICYMI: Loyalist ancestors

Frog Alley

east-tisburyRecently, I traveled to Martha’s Vineyard to conduct some research at the Dukes County Registry of Deeds. There, as I was learning about property located in Tisbury, I came across some familiar folks – my great-great-great-grandparents! In another genealogical coincidence, I learned that the gentleman I was researching bought my great-great-great-grandparents’ home in Tisbury. Continue reading Frog Alley