All posts by Sheilagh Doerfler

ICYMI: Loyalist ancestors

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

"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..

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Frog Alley

Recently, 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..

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Updating "My ancestor was born ... where?!"

Map of Saint Helena, 1906. Courtesy of

In September of 2014, I wrote a blog posted entitled “My ancestor was born ... where?!” about my family’s unexpected ties to Saint Helena, a remote volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean. My..

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Québec notarial records

Marriage contract between Joshua Chambers and Elisabeth Stickney, 20 December 1799. Notarial Records of Léon Lalanne

If you descend from French-Canadians, or your ancestors spent some time in Québec, notarial records will be an important source to examine in your..

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Maps of Maritime Canada

A.F. Church, Yarmouth County Map: detail of Lake George in Nova Scotia

Tracing the origins of Canadian ancestors can be difficult, and the lack of early vital records can prove frustrating. Often, we have to turn to other sources to help piece together family..

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New England planters

Charles Lawrence's 1759 proclamation

In my last Vita Brevis post, I wrote about some of the best sources to help identify your Loyalist ancestors. But before the Loyalists fled to Canada after the American Revolution, another important group settled Maritime Canada:..

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Loyalist ancestors

"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..

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A very small world

The Burkes of Oranmore

It’s a very, very small world.

Recently, I received some photos of my mother’s Irish ancestors from a cousin. Most of these photos featured the Burke family of Oranmore, Galway, and I was excited to learn that many of the photos had been..

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Irish Petty Sessions Court Registers

Michael Burke, charged with wandering pig, 1861, as found on

The Petty Sessions Court Registers are an invaluable source for Irish ancestral research. These court records are chock-full of fantastic information, and can offer a depiction of your..

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Finding Revolutionary War Ancestors

Frederick Wingdorf's record in the Index to Revolutionary War Service Records.

Patriots’ Day—the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord—is fast approaching here in Massachusetts. This particular holiday makes many of us a little reflective. Was my..

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