Category Archives: American History

Family lore

Images courtesy of Reynold’s Newspaper, Sunday, 22 February 1891.

After my son was born, I developed an interest in finding out more about his father’s surname, Sadler. Not much was known about the origins of the Sadler line, since my boyfriend and his siblings did not grow up knowing their father. From time to time I would get asked to explore this family line. At some point, there was even a tale that perhaps the Sadlers were related to James Thomas Sadler, of Whitechapel district in the east end of London, who was accused of being the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper! Continue reading Family lore

The Jones boys

There were three contemporary Isaac Joneses – all with wives named Mary, all living in Dorchester and Boston at the turn of the eighteenth century – whose records have been squashed together in earlier writings. The problem starts with the death record in Dorchester for Isaac Jones “late of Boston, mariner, his wid. [sic] Mary, deceased,” on “February the 18th 170[0/]1”[1]  – the wording is noticeably weird since a widow cannot pre-decease her husband. This record has been attributed to Isaac Jones who married Mary (Howard) Bass in Dorchester in 1659. That Mary died in October 1691. Continue reading The Jones boys

A fresh look at Linden Street

A view of Linden Street, in front of Sacred Heart Church, looking north; virtually all of the houses were multiple-family dwellings. 143 Linden Street is the second building past, and beside, the church.

The slides my father took on my First Communion Sunday, 15 May 1966, in Fall River, Massachusetts, serve as a colorful time capsule of a bygone era. Sacred Heart Church, now closed, once covered the largest geographical parish in the center of the city. On that morning, more than 60 children, girls in white and boys in black, having fasted for twelve hours in preparation for communion, processed into church with disciplined precision. We returned to church in the afternoon to receive scapulars, prayer books, and rosaries, and then processed out of the church east along Pine Street for the May crowning. Continue reading A fresh look at Linden Street

fka Ulysses Simpson Grant

To keep the momentum going on middle names amongst presidential families, I’ll discuss one of the more confusing cases, regarding President Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885). The contemporary reporting on his actual name varied considerably and gets repeated even amongst organizations that should have had a more direct relationship with Grant or his descendants.

The most authentic source on the matter was the president’s father, Jesse Root Grant (1794-1873), who wrote a serial column in the New York Ledger on “Early Life of Gen. Grant.” Continue reading fka Ulysses Simpson Grant

A Greenleaf conundrum

Click on images to expand them.

Applying to a lineage society can be a complicated process, especially if you are applying under a new ancestor or an ancestor with known problems in their lineage. Receiving a rejection letter after submitting such a lineage can make the process feel frustrating if you know the line is right. Sometimes the society will see problems that the applicant does not, or they know that with just the right piece of evidence the line would be acceptable without a problem. A rejection, however, is not always an insurmountable loss. Sometimes, if you look at the sources in question and do some diligent research, you can convince the lineage society that they are mistaken and have your application accepted. Continue reading A Greenleaf conundrum

‘National Treasure’ time

One of the greatest, worst movies of all time is National Treasure. The plot is insane, the historical accuracy is mezza mezza, and it stars Nicolas Cage, so it’s not winning any Oscars. That said, it is one of my guilty pleasures – just the thought that some of the “treasure” at the end of the movie contained scrolls from the Library at Alexandria is the stuff of dreams. Continue reading ‘National Treasure’ time

Picturing Maggie

Margaret (Ricketts) (Wright) (Willin) Witzke (ca. 1882-1948)

This past couple of weeks a lot of the old ghosts have decided to haunt me. Just when I think I’ve got them all figured out (especially a significant one like that of my paternal great-great-grandfather John Henry O. Record), a surprise comes along to teach me that I still have much to learn. Now, I’ve studied John Henry’s ancestry until I’m blue in the face. I’ve looked at journals and notes handed down from his daughter Grace[1] to her daughter Barbara.[2] I’ve studied Civil War era pension files and been privy to deathbed letters from his mother Susanna[3] to his brother George.[4] But a few weeks ago, something very rare and unexpected showed upending most of what I thought possible to know or discover about my Record family. I happened to stumble upon Maggie. Continue reading Picturing Maggie

An update on Elliott Roosevelt

Elliott Roosevelt with his daughter Eleanor in 1889. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Soon after my recent post on the fictional middle name of Theodore Roosevelt’s brother Elliott was published, I was pleasantly surprised to see his fake middle name starting to go away, and I learned of a few other places where that the error had been repeated, most of which were also being corrected.

Elliott’s findagrave entry was fixed right away and now notes “He had no middle name, so any requests to add such will be declined.” One Wikipedia editor attempted to correct the error, although there was some initial pushback, citing that the middle name was included in the Encyclopedia of the Theodore Roosevelt Center, which I had not noted in my previous post. Continue reading An update on Elliott Roosevelt

Clandestine marriages

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Recently I was researching marriage records in Vermont and was reminded of the existence of Gretna Green towns in Colonial New England in the mid-eighteenthcentury. It turned out some English customs were just too convenient to leave behind, and British colonial towns like Chester, Vermont continued to mirror the infamous Gretna Green found just over the southern border of Scotland. We have likely encountered more references to the notorious town and hasty marriages in historical romance novels than we have in our own genealogical research. Still, it made me wonder about the origins of the scandalous towns and the non-traditional marriage custom the new inhabitants continued to practice after arriving in the New England colonies. Continue reading Clandestine marriages

Ghosted

It sat there like the apparition of a chad from some long-ago election. I stared at the blank lines somehow expecting immediate changes to the record of his life, changes I’d reckoned should be there. There were none. What the heck? Couldn’t they see that all the information they had about Frank was wrong?[1]

I had reached out to them the moment I first saw mention of Cousin Frank: Hey, Frank didn’t die in ‘29. He’d lived, disappearing into a simple and solitary life. Further, he’d somehow put into motion posthumous wishes to be buried under the name of Tom nearly fifty years later. Yep, old Frank; he’d simply ghosted them all. Then at this, at my notion to reach out and tell the family about Frank, his descendants simply did the same thing. They ghosted me.[2] Continue reading Ghosted