Last fall I was asked to do some research for a local historical society called Oregon Black Pioneers about a group of coal miners recruited to work in Coos County, Oregon, at the end of the nineteenth century. The project was entirely open-ended, so I decided to present it in two main sections: an organized compendium of newspaper articles about the Black miners at Beaver Hill, Oregon, and an attempt to trace the history and descendants of every Black miner in Coos County who appeared in the 1900 census. Continue reading Beaver Hill miners
Although these three girls’ names – Mary, Marcy, and Mercy – are similar, they are distinct names, often (and mistakenly) intermingled. Mingling similarly spelled names is usually a result of misinterpreting seventeenth-century handwriting, which is exacerbated for us today when we do not have access to original records. You ask “What’s the harm?” The following case story shows how old genealogists get older because of indiscreet mingling.
A Mayflower line has long been accepted by the Society that claims descent through Mary Medbury/Medbery, daughter of John Howland descendant Benjamin Medbury and his wife Martha Harris. Continue reading What’s in a name?
My recent post on “Philoprogenitive ancestors” resulted in several comments from readers about their own ancestors with many children. I mentioned my ancestor Simon Willard, and one reader also noted him as her own ancestor through his daughter Elizabeth. I was planning to comment back to the reader with my full line of descent (also going through Elizabeth, wife of Robert Blood), but before doing so I did a quick verification of the lineage as I had it. Long story short, Simon Willard can now be classified as one of my Former Ancestors. Continue reading The wrong Blood!
I have been struggling with a dilemma for months – how (and if) to tell the story of a loving father whose actions would lead to unintended and tragic outcomes for his family. When encountering very unusual and difficult family information in your research, what do you choose to publish? In seeking community comment and guidance, I will outline the core issues, but use pseudonyms and avoid other identifying information. I am aware of no genealogy on-line or in print that encompasses this family; it is not in my direct line, but related. Continue reading Sic transit
The landline rang unexpectedly last Friday. Its sudden clamor gave us all a bit of a jolt. A day or so before, I’d made the journey north to Oregon for a visit with my father and my once-upon-a-time “force to be reckoned with” step-mother. As the phone rang that day I remember thinking, Darn that noisy dialer, why are you disturbing us? I’d been just about ready to settle into the hush of yet another (the umpteenth) episode of Laramie on the TV. Continue reading Landlines
In the summer of 1962, when I was three, my parents bought their first home on the corner of Prospect Street and Highland Avenue in Fall River, Massachusetts. They paid $9,500! The house had 13 rooms, four fireplaces, two heating systems, servant call buttons – and my favorite device for childhood eavesdropping, speaking tubes (literally pipes through the walls). All light fixtures had combination gas jets and light bulbs. Like many substantial homes of the late Victorian era, a separate enclosed servants’ staircase went from the cellar to the third floor. That portion of the house had never been renovated, the carpeting on the stairs worn thin. Continue reading Good deeds
I’ve now lived in Boston for eighteen years. During the first five years I lived in three different Boston neighborhoods – Allston, Brighton, and Fenway, before buying our home in Jamaica Plain. All our apartment leases began on September 1st and ended the next year on August 31. As those who live in Boston know, September 1 is the big move in day for many college students and other residents. With many people moving out of one place by midnight and moving into another apartment the next morning, this can frequently create some chaotic situations! Continue reading Allston Christmas
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”
The conversations at my family dinner table usually center around daily activities: what the kids did at school, which beach are we going to this weekend, whose pool can we finagle an invitation to – normal things. Recently, while my kids and I visited with my older brother, we showed them some pictures of the two of us growing up in the 1980s. They were particularly interested in the pictures seen at left (and below), of my brother and me at the battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Questions flew, such as: “Wow, dad, is that a real cannon?” “Does it still work?” and “Can we go there someday so I can sit on the cannon?” Continue reading Still relevant today
There are Remembering Days when we remember stories about family lives for the benefit of our descendants. There are Researching Days when we hunt for clues to our ancestors’ lives and their stories. And there are Underwear Days, when Remembering and Researching get tangled up in a pile on the floor, just like those mornings when you can’t get your feet out of your underwear, lose your balance, and fall over (especially when some jokester flings open the bedroom door and yells “freeze, sucker!!”). Underwear Days. Continue reading Underwear Days