All posts by Scott C. Steward

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About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

The boy around the corner

127 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. (The Ayer family also owned 125, at right.) Photo by Bainbridge Bunting. Courtesy of Back Bay Houses/The Gleason Partnership

My grandmother[1] and her sister[2] grew up in the country, and both considered themselves countrywomen, devoted to family and animals, later managing farms on the North Shore of Boston, on Long Island, and in Virginia. (My great-aunt, who left New England for Virginia, had much the most significant spread, on land near Middleburg, acquired years before the development of Dulles Airport made the neighborhood a commuting town for Washington, D.C.)

They also grew up in the city. While both were born in their parents’ summer homes in the country, Theo and Anne Ayer were brought up at 161 Bay State Road, 127 Commonwealth Avenue, and, finally, 315 Dartmouth Street in Boston, from which house Aunt Theo was married in 1928. My grandmother married a New Yorker, with some Boston connections, but Aunt Theo married, one could say, “the boy next door.” Continue reading The boy around the corner

Kinbot, and friendship

Mercat Cross, Edinburgh. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

As part of my research on the Livingston family in Scotland and America, I have been looking at allied families – who sometimes turn out to be Livingstons themselves. One such case is John Bruce of Stenhouse (Airth), sometimes Sir John, who married Elizabeth Menteith,[1] the daughter of William Menteith of Kerse and Helen Livingston, a daughter of Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar.[2] John and Elizabeth’s daughter, in turn, married William Livingston, younger of Kilsyth, a descendant of Sir Alexander’s half-brother, also William.[3] Eventually these three Livingston lines united in the marriage of the Rev. Alexander Livingston, grandson of the 4th Lord Livingston, and Barbara Livingston of Inches (a descendant of Callendar as well as a cadet line of Kilsyth).[4]

John Bruce died in circumstances I have yet to work out. Suffice it to say that he was “slain” by his wife’s brothers, the Menteiths, but what happened after the “slaughter”[5] is somewhat surprising. Continue reading Kinbot, and friendship

The devil’s Mr. Gideon

Torphichen Preceptory, where Henry Livingston was preceptor in 1449. Photo courtesy of Kim Traynor

The Livingston family genealogist devoted two large volumes to a painstaking account of the Livingstons in Scotland and America.[1] His volume on the Livingstons of Livingston Manor, in introducing the Scottish ancestry of the American immigrants, glides right by the siblings of “Worthy famous Mr. John Livingston” – father and grandfather of two Robert Livingstons – remarking that John was the “only child [of his parents] we need take any notice of.”[2]

Brave words! As it happens, though, a series of biographical volumes on Scottish ministers fills in the names of the children of the Rev. William Livingston and two of his three wives, and in the biographies of the ministers who married John Livingston’s sisters there are indeed stories on which to linger.[3] John Livingston’s sister Anna married the Rev. Thomas Vassie (or Wassie), later of Torphichen, in 1627; their half-sister, Jean, married the Rev. Gideon Penman, a widower, in 1651.[4] Both the Vassies and the Penmans figure in questions of witchcraft – even as the three brother ministers were involved in the religious and political ferment of the period. Continue reading The devil’s Mr. Gideon

None too delicate

Tomb of the 5th Earl of Douglas in St. Bride’s Church, Douglas, Lanarkshire. Courtesy of Lori Huey Hebert/Findagrave

The executions of the Earl of Douglas,[1] his brother David Douglas, and Sir Malcolm Fleming[2] for treason in November 1440 mark an important moment in the early reign of King James II.[3] A boy of ten under a regency – the Douglases’ father,[4] who died in 1439, was James’s first regent; the king’s guardian in 1440 was Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar – James II was already sadly familiar with unrest among the Scottish nobility, and the execution of his Douglas second cousins and their advisor Fleming of Cumbernauld was by no means the last such event in his short reign. The fall of the Douglases, following the events leading up to Livingston becoming the de facto regent, set the stage for the Livingston family’s own spectacular downfall in 1449-50, although Sir Alexander and his elder son James would survive the worst of it. Continue reading None too delicate

ICYMI: Mysterious Menteiths

[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 20 November 2019.]

Click on images to expand them.

As I work at reconstructing the environment in which the Livingstons of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lived, I have been struck by the frequency with which I have encountered members of the Menteith family. (It is fair to say that there are a number of such families in this project, interrelated in various ways, but the Menteiths keep turning up!) To arrive at the early modern Livingston family, I have gone back on various lines (including the ancestry of Livingston spouses), so the resulting family trees cover individuals who were not named Livingston – or aware of these particular connections. Continue reading ICYMI: Mysterious Menteiths

Near neighbors

Small world. All images, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of backbayhouses.org

My grandfather[1] came from New York, and when I was growing up it was understood that the Stewards were from New York and the Ayers (my grandmother’s family) were from Boston. A little digging suggests a more complicated picture – my grandfather’s mother-in-law[2] came from Newark, and his maternal grandmother[3] had only New England ancestry – while there is also an interesting collateral connection, somewhat obscure to later generations of the family. Continue reading Near neighbors

In the neighborhood

The Fensgate, today’s Charlesview Condominium. All images courtesy of backbayhouses.org

Real estate transactions might not seem very romantic, or as offering much in the way of narrative, but sometimes proximity and dates can signal ongoing relationships. One in my own family comes to mind: in 1899, my Ayer great-great-grandparents[1] moved from Lowell to Boston, initially renting a house on Beacon Street while they planned to build a new home on Commonwealth Avenue.

At the same time, my great-great-grandfather’s sister-in-law, the former Mary Hascall Wheaton,[2] was living in a house on Beacon Street while planning her own new house, just two doors down. Of all these houses, only Aunt Minnie Kittredge’s former home has been torn down, to make way for The Fensgate at the corner of Beacon Street and Charlesgate East. And while the street addresses don’t hint at it, the Kittredge and Ayer houses were just two blocks apart. Continue reading In the neighborhood

Group photos

Julie Haydon photographed for “Shadow and Substance” (1938). Proof by Alfredo Valente; author’s collection

Much like genealogical research, photo collecting can be a serendipitous process – sometimes one finds answers, and interesting ones at that, when least expected. From time to time I have focused my efforts on one photographer or another, collecting everything available for sale at a given moment. One such photographer is Alfredo Valente (1899-1973), whose handsome portraits of Broadway stars (and others) give me joy.

I like to buy photographs where the subject is known, although a bit of detective research doesn’t trouble me. In the course of purchasing a Valente proof of Julie Haydon (Donella Donaldson, 1910-1994),[1] I came across an attractive proof of Miss Haydon (and, so I understood, Martha Scott, 1912-2003[2]) as part of a quartet, also by Valente, so I bought it, too. I spent a bit of time trying to figure out what show these four women had appeared in, and came up with the note (to myself) that Miss Haydon and Miss Scott had done some summer stock in 1937-38… Continue reading Group photos

A loyalist clergyman

The Rev. Samuel Fayerweather (1725-1781), in the Society’s Fine Art Collection. Gift of Miss Elizabeth Harris of Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 16, 1924

The New England Historic Genealogical Society is a member of the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC), a group of libraries, museums, and other repositories holding materials for historical research. Each year fellows from the NERFC program visit NEHGS and the other members – from Connecticut to Massachusetts and Maine, from Rhode Island to New Hampshire and Vermont – to conduct research for their graduate work or as junior faculty at colleges and universities around the world.

Back in 2018, Peter Walker – now an assistant professor of history at the University of Wyoming – visited NEHGS to work in the William Clark collection. He will be speaking this afternoon in a Zoom event via King’s Chapel in Boston entitled “Massachusetts Loyalist Clergy in the Time of the American Revolution.”

Peter’s work was also the subject of a Vita Brevis post in June 2018 entitled “Indifferent to the world.” I urge Vita Brevis readers to revisit Peter’s blog post and tune into the Zoom program today (July 30) at 5:30 p.m.

Belmont High School, 1942

I recently discovered an online app. that allows me to scan my photographs. As I like to be able to refer to a record of my collection (still somewhat maddening if I forget the subject’s name), this has been a revelation. One of the vernacular photos I bought some time ago shows a cheerful group of four young men standing in front of a large building, perhaps a school. On the reverse, the four have signed their names. So who are they?

The clearest signature belongs to Henry Angiola, and a check of Ancestry.com’s databases yields Henry Angiola, a student at Belmont High School in Los Angeles. The cryptic S ’42 next to Sinn Lew’s signature is seen on Henry’s yearbook page, and all four may be found in the Campanile, Belmont High’s class of 1942 yearbook. Continue reading Belmont High School, 1942