Category Archives: American History

JHC year in review

JHC archivist Lindsay Sprechman Murphy with Debbie Kardon Schwartz, Executive Director of Action for Post-Soviet Jewry.

It was a busy and exciting year for the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center (JHC). In a belated celebration of the eight nights of Hanukkah, which began November 28 and ended on December 6, here are our top eight achievements for the year!

1. After the pandemic postponed what was meant to be the first annual conference in March 2020, the JHC hosted an online event to launch the New England Jewish History Collaborative in January 2021. A partnership between Jewish history organizations in all six New England states, including the JHC, the collaborative created a website and resource guide for researchers interested in New England Jewish history. Visit the website and stay tuned for more programming in 2022.

Continue reading JHC year in review

I’ll be home for Christmas

During this festive time of the year, magical Christmas “villages” seem to pop up everywhere, transforming nooks in the home as well as entire downtowns. It is a loaded word and whenever I see “village” attached to a place (and not only during the Christmas season), be it a village inn, pub, green, or a village itself, I am immediately enchanted. The word conjures up all the nostalgia of yesteryear with the hope and anticipation of reclaiming a bit of quaintness, simplicity, and charm. I live in an area of many of the country’s oldest towns and, because they were “unplanned” towns that grew organically, often in a haphazard way, even the busiest of these places retain pockets of their “village” atmosphere, complete with narrow streets, clustered old buildings, bricks and cobbles, town clocks, and Dickensian lampposts. Continue reading I’ll be home for Christmas

A Christmas anachronism

Like so many people during this season, I’ve been (slowly) decorating Our Old House for Christmas. As I arranged the mini-“Dickens Village” on the kitchen hearth today, I realized that it was more than a little anachronistic. This old Maine farmhouse, built in 1788/89 by American Patriots, would never have seen such a British or Victorian display of Christmas! Continue reading A Christmas anachronism

Family associations

My grandfather in Topsfield with his sister Margaret and son Charles, December 1953.

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[1] 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.

Sad to say that neither my great-grandparents’ house nor the older John Steward Homestead still exist. Continue reading Family associations

Spousal cousins

Scott Steward’s ICYMI post “Surrounded by family” inspired me to reflect on shared ancestors among my mother’s paternal grandparents, Millard E. Morse and Myrta E. Pierce, who married in Wareham, Massachusetts, on 13 October 1906. This photo, a family gem, captures the happiness of their wedding day.

Considering this couple came from long-established Plymouth County families, it came as no surprise to me that they would share 33 pairs of shared ancestors — starting six generations preceding them, well beyond any shared recollections. Continue reading Spousal cousins

The power of Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

– Hebrews 11: 1

Statue of ‘Faith’ on her pedestal

A comment on my recent post, Seeing double, reminded readers of yet another tribute honoring the Pilgrim legacy, the National Monument to the Forefathers. The gentleman who commented called the monument one of Plymouth’s best kept secrets. Its location, off-the-beaten path, on an 11-acre site in a residential neighborhood, does make it less-visited than the iconic Mayflower and Rock.

It has been said that the monument’s sheer size and multitude of visual elements, the centerpiece of which is the figure of Faith, overwhelms modern sensibilities. It is not signposted on the highway, Route 3, but only on Route 3A, the secondary road into Plymouth, and since that is the road I take, I always make the “detour” up the hill to visit. Continue reading The power of Faith

It pays to share

Click on image to expand it.

This time of the year is all about sharing … sharing our time and exchanging visits and gifts with family and friends, perhaps including family history projects. As genealogists, we are always seeking and exchanging information as part of our never-ending quests to find elusive ancestors and learn about their lives, and to share our discoveries with family and other researchers. The opportunities to share – and benefit from – our genealogical research have never been easier in this age of the Internet. The more we share, the more we can help others who may find something big or small in the fruits of our labors. The reverse is also true – the more we share, the more likely it is that others will share with us. Continue reading It pays to share

Learned Larneds

Geraldine, Queen of the Albanians

Years ago, Jeff Record sent me an ahnentafel report on his ancestry, curious to see if we had any connections back in Kansas. While we identified several common ancestors in New England, I was curious about his great-great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Neff) Young (1864-1898) of El Dorado, Kansas. Neff is not in my own ancestry, but it is the surname of some distant cousins I remembered from my childhood. I frequently went to Kansas over the holidays as a child and would stay at my grandparents’ farm in Sedgwick, Kansas. Most often my mother’s siblings and their children would also be there; sometimes there were more distant cousins present, and at the time I had no idea how they were related to me. The Neffs were some such cousins that would occasionally visit as two of their boys were the same age as myself and a few of my first cousins. Later, as I got interested in genealogy, I learned that they were my third cousins: their mother’s father’s sister Carrie Etta (Wright) Learned was a sister of my matrilineal great-grandmother Daisy Alice (Wright) Horton. Continue reading Learned Larneds

Seeing double

On a glorious early fall day, with a plan to gather myself a small fistful of forget-me-nots blooming along the town brook and revisit some of the landmarks that I wrote about last year in my Outdoor Classroom posts, we took a ride to Plymouth. As this Pilgrim “first year” year slowly extinguishes itself, the town was busy with visitors taking in the sights. Oh, if only 2020 had cooperated, but better late than never.

Making a beeline for the waterfront, sparkling on that clear, crisp afternoon, I wanted to pay another visit to the Pilgrim Mother, a memorial fountain cut from Knoxville marble and given to the town by the DAR in 1920 in recognition of the tenacity, resilience, and hopefulness of the Mayflower women. Continue reading Seeing double

Remembered in stone

Mary Pearson Palmer’s gravestone in Rowley. Images courtesy of Findagrave

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.

Continue reading Remembered in stone