Category Archives: American History

This can’t work

I have posted a few times about going back to the original records after looking at transcriptions. Sometimes you may have multiple versions of later transcriptions, or an uncited genealogy may have read the records more correctly than the published transcription, or the original record had a small smudge that has confused later transcribers. While there is certainly value to looking at the original records as they are written, it is good to keep in mind that the original records themselves may also be wrong. Continue reading This can’t work

Inside the cap

The Dwyer family at Doctors’ Library, Rhode Island Hospital, fall 1963.

My father, Frank Dwyer, spent three happy years as a fellow in cardiology at the Rhode Island Hospital in Providence. It was a special treat when my mother brought me there for a visit. I remember being fascinated by the ashtray behind Dad—press a button and the cigarette butts disappeared! Continue reading Inside the cap

So much Crimson

Ketanji Brown Jackson (Harvard 1992 and 1996), Patrick Graves Jackson (Harvard 1991), and Stephen G. Breyer (Harvard 1964).

I was recently interviewed for an article in the Boston Globe on the ancestry of Dr. Patrick Graves Jackson, husband of Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newest associate justice on the Supreme Court. My colleague Sarah Dery has been working on Justice Jackson’s ancestry for some time, and the Globe article discussed both of their ancestries.

Sarah recently wrote a post about Justice Jackson’s ancestry, and a longer article she wrote will be published in our next issue of American Ancestors magazine. Continue reading So much Crimson

Pension record insights

Before joining NEHGS as a researcher, I worked with the National Parks of Boston researching patriots of color from Massachusetts who served during the Revolutionary War. While doing this research, I spent time looking through pension records to gain an understanding of these soldiers’ experiences during and after the war. I did not initially know what to expect from these records, but I quickly realized that they can be a treasure trove of information. Continue reading Pension record insights

“The dream and the hope”

History was made on Thursday, 7 April 2022, when the Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the 116th associate justice of the Supreme Court. She will be the first Black woman and the first public defender to serve on the court. Several months later, on Thursday, 30 June 2022, Judge Jackson took the oath as the newest associate justice on the Supreme Court.[1] Continue reading “The dream and the hope”

Blended wives

“Two ladies and an officer seated at tea,” 1715. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

After reading Alicia Crane Williams’ recent post on Nathaniel Glover of Dorchester, I was reminded of a Glover ancestor of my own, Uriah Glover of Long Island, New York. Looking back through my notes and revisiting “all things Uriah,” I recalled that Uriah’s first wife Sarah Hopkins was an alleged descendant of that old tempest himself, Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins.

Since I’m always on the hunt for any elusive Mayflower line, I had to check it out. Unfortunately, I recalled that this possible connection had already been long since debunked, and my chances of picking up another line to Plymouth Rock were (yet again) quickly dashed against said rock.[1] Continue reading Blended wives

Riding the rails

My great-great-uncle John Young (1857-1946).

I am nearly finished going through all the family pictures, papers, and heirlooms inherited from my parents. But, I wonder, will the task ever be truly finished?

Photos were the first to be sorted. Photos are relatively easy to catalogue, copy, and share, and they give us that glimpse of the ancestors we never knew. I do tend, however, to convince myself that I can glean more about the people in them than is justified. Can they truly reveal anything about a person’s character or personality? Was John Young as glum as he looks? Best not to guess. Continue reading Riding the rails

Freelove and Giggles

See a larger version below.

The American Genealogist (TAG) has frequently published amusing short items found in the records, often as “filler” for the lower half of a page. Following up on my post about the Geer and Christophers families of Connecticut, the last TAG article by Norman Ingham, which was followed by comments by David L. Greene, had the an item concerning “Mercy Giggles” and Freelove Frink.” I was interested to know what became of these two eighteenth-century Connecticut ladies. Continue reading Freelove and Giggles

ICYMI: Icing on the cake

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 4 June 2020.]

Anni Virta and Nelly Virta with their relative Everett Rintala on their 1960 trip to Ohio. Photo courtesy of Antti Virta

“Goodbye Helsinki,” Anni Virta wrote in July 1960, “our trip to the west has started and the point of the dream has become a reality.” Anni was a cousin by marriage. An English translation of her diary came to me recently through a serendipitous connection.

Anni’s nephew, Antti Virta of Helsinki, had written to the daughter of one of my cousins, making the connection via WikiTree, asking for information about his aunt Mary Rajasilta, wife of my mother’s brother, George Isaacson. Busy with an ailing mother, my cousin’s daughter bounced Antti’s request to me. I looked up some information about Aunt Mary in American records for Antti. And there began a pleasant correspondence. Continue reading ICYMI: Icing on the cake

A serendipitous conversation

William Shangraw’s four-sided monument at Evergreen Cemetery in Pittsford, Vermont.

A few weeks ago, after presenting a talk (“Adventures in DNA”) at the Shrewsbury (Vermont) Community Meeting House for the Ann Story Chapter of the Vermont DAR, I stopped in the kitchen and asked longtime acquaintance and former regent Julanne Sharrow for a drink of water.

She asked, “Do you think DNA results can really knock down brick walls?”

I said yes and added, “Who are you looking for?”

“William Shangraw of Pittsford.”

The brick wall tumbled instantly because I knew this family through my research on French-Canadian immigration to Pittsford.[1]. Continue reading A serendipitous conversation