Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. 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.
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“May you live in interesting times” is supposed to be a curse – it’s certainly an exhausting way to go through life. As 2021 rolls over to 2022, here is a look back at 2021 in Vita Brevis:
In January, Ann Lawthers urged genealogists visiting cemeteries to apply some of the insights garnered from their research, in this case about how the changing cultural norms around death translated into stone: Continue reading 2021: the year in review→
Here I don’t mean surname associations or descendant groups — I mean a family’s association with a place. This concept is on my mind as my father prepares to sell his house, built 27 years ago on land that his parents had bought back in the 1920s. For that matter, my paternal grandfather was born in a house his parents built and on a piece of land that had (already, in 1898) been in the Steward family for about 150 years.
[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 30 December 2014.]
Most families have one: the family historian. Whether or not the focus is genealogical, there is usually at least one family member who keeps track of siblings and cousins, sometimes to the nth degree. My father’s family had one in my great-aunt Margaret Steward (1888–1975). I do not remember meeting her, but I’ve been told I take after her, at least in so far as the mantle of family genealogist passed from her to me when I was still in middle school. Continue reading ICYMI: The family historian→
My family tried something new for Thanksgiving: lunch at a (very nice) restaurant in Rowley, up the road from my father’s house in neighboring Topsfield, Massachusetts. As I was there early, I went for a walk up Main Street, past the Rowley Burial Ground. Most of the stones nearest the road were well-weathered, but two popped out at me: stones for a Pearson and a Pickard.
Both are names in my seventeenth-century New England ancestry, so I sat beside a fire pit next to the restaurant and did some online digging.
Many years ago, now, I visited a cousin outside Baltimore with the marvelous name of Camille Steward Marié (1918-2002). He was the son of one of my great-grandfather’s first cousins, but because of the way our families were constructed, Camille was closer in age to my father than to my grandfather, his actual second cousin. In part this was due to the two marriages of our common ancestor, John Steward (1777-1854): I am descended from the first one, while Camille’s grandmother was the sole survivor of the second. Continue reading Peter Marié’s collection→
Sometimes – as Chris Child and Jeff Record know – one gets drawn back to the same subject matter only to find new patterns. (I would venture to say many other genealogists know this dynamic well.) For me, in this example, it is an interest in matrilineal lines, a favorite subject of my colleague Julie Helen Otto; lately, this interest has taken shape around the progeny of Anna of Bohemia, Queen of Hungary, whose husband later succeeded as Holy Roman Emperor. To look at her daughters’ daughters (and daughters’ sons) is to enter a thicket of queens and kings, empresses and princes. Famously, both Queen Victoria and Catherine the Great descend from Anna through the female line – a subject for another post, perhaps? Continue reading Marriage-go-round→
Several years ago, as part of an effort to find an image of my great-grandfather Edward Hughes Glidden (1873-1924), I set myself the goal of tracking down as many of his architectural commissions as I could. A relatively late convert to Facebook, I used my Facebook page and its album function to create miniature accounts of Glidden’s projects, with images and notes on the date of commission, any partners (he had several over the course of his career), and any notable owners or tenants of the resulting buildings. (Grandparents of family friends as well as the future Duchess of Windsor lived in Glidden’s Baltimore apartment buildings a century ago.)Continue reading Schools for architects→
[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 23 November 2016.]
I trace my interest in genealogy to my early childhood. We lived surrounded by family – my paternal grandparents and uncle and aunt lived across the Ipswich River from us, and more distant cousins lived in nearby towns in Essex County, Massachusetts.
But while my parents and grandparents knew that they were related to these kinsmen – and my grandfather probably knew how, since he was closer to their common forebears – no one could explain the connection, at least at a child’s eye level. It made for an interesting mystery to solve. Continue reading ICYMI: Surrounded by family→
I was struck by a couple of points Penny Stratton made in her recent ICYMI post on managing a project including lots of images: “Select photos showing family groups” and “Include images of homes.” I happen to be particularly rich in photos of both types!
The very large family group photo at left was taken in Goshen, New York, in 1857. It shows the extended family of my great-great-grandparents, John Steward and Catharine Elizabeth White, and includes Mrs. Steward’s mother, Harriet Le Roy White.Continue reading Family groups→
One does not turn readily to probate matters for cozy human interest stories, so I was surprised (and delighted) to find a momentary bright spot in the will of my great-great-grandmother Emily Anne Finlay, the “relict of Francis G. Ilsley, deceased.” Emily’s family background is suggested in bequests to her children Beekman (“the family Bible of the Beekman family”), Francis (“two oil portraits of Dirck Lefferts and his wife”), and Sara (“my tea set of silver service”), but in fact the estate was a small one, with two house lots in Newark, New Jersey as the major asset.Continue reading “Love and affection”→