Stored in the archival collection of the Dorchester (MA) Historical Society is a ring, brown in color and lightweight, with the number forty-four carved into it. Until recently, not much was known about the ring’s origins. An old label stored with the ring lists it as a Civil War identification ring pertaining to the 44th Regiment. It is kept in the archives at the William Clapp House, one of three properties owned by the Dorchester Historical Society.
My husband and I have been live-in caretakers of this house for over seven years. It was built in 1806 by William Clapp (1779-1860), an active member of the Dorchester community, whose family owned a tannery and was involved in a variety of agricultural pursuits. Over a period of 150 years, four generations of William’s family resided in the house, including William’s grandson, William Channing Clapp (1843-1921).
During the Civil War, William Channing Clapp served with the 44th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company G. Since William was associated with the 44th Regiment, it seemed likely that the ring was connected to his service. However, the full story about this ring remained unknown until recently, when a descendant of William Clapp donated a number of photographs and family papers to the society. Continue reading The Bone Ring→
On my first day working at New England Historic Genealogical Society, I noticed a collection of framed ambrotype photographs of founding members of NEHGS, taken in the 1850s. While the vast majority of the men in the photographs were in their older years, one man was visibly younger than the rest—he seemed to be in his early 20s, with dark hair and a tilted bow tie. Under his image was the name George E. Henshaw. When I got home that night, still curious, I looked to see what information I could glean about this young founder. To my surprise, I found a detailed biography of George E. Henshaw’s life in Volume 5 of the Memorial Biographies of New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1853-1855. Continue reading The Brief Life of NEHGS’ Youngest Founding Member→
If your ancestor lived in Chester County, Pennsylvania in the months leading up to the Battle of Brandywine on 11 September 1777, you have the unique opportunity to explore the 1777 Chester County Property Atlas, an on-going historical research project made possible by the Chester County Archives. Continue reading 1777 Chester County Property Atlas→
It is coming up on ten years since I began writing the Early New England Families Study Project sketches. A lot of things are changing. As an example, I wrote the sketch for Nathaniel Glover of Dorchester in 2018, and at the time it was as complete as I could make it given the limitations on access to digital images of original records. Recently, reader Ben Moseley sent in some corrections and additions to the sketch he had found when comparing to his own work on the family. As I began cross-checking, I realized there was an important record collection I had not included in my research – the Suffolk County Probate copy books – because in 2018 I did not have access to the digital images online, or maybe I had just not learned how to access them yet. Today, I know how to see all Massachusetts probate images, including original documents and copybooks, through Ancestry.com, using their database “Massachusetts, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991.” Continue reading Do over→
Throughout my childhood, I was frequently asked if I was related to the famous chef Julia Child. Until I was in high school, my family had a summer home in Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard. Our driveway from the main road, which was out of sight of the house, had an unassuming white sign saying “Child” and a similarly identified mailbox. While we lived there, my father learned that tour buses would occasionally claim that our home was that of Julia Child and her husband Paul, who had a house somewhere else on the island! Continue reading Child cooks→
As Irish researchers, we are obsessed with place. What counties were my ancestors from? Where were they baptized? What townlands did they live in? In our drive to identify these places, we often overlook the place itself. Today, there are two wonderful sources that can help us learn more about the places where our ancestors lived – The Placenames Database of Ireland (Logainm.ie) and Townlands.ie. Continue reading Irish places→
Fold3.com, in partnership with the National Archives, recently launched a new collection, U.S. Morning Reports 1912-1946. This collection is a huge opportunity for genealogists studying their military ancestors during World War I and World War II. It is currently only about halfway digitized. The records appear to be complete through 1939. Continue reading Morning reports→
The greatest achievement of the release of the 1950 Census is not the records themselves, but the technology used to index the records. On April 1, 2022, the National Archives and Records Administration released the census on a dedicated website using a unique optical character recognition (OCR) software designed to translate the handwritten names into text that can be searched online. This made 6.4 million digitized pages of the 1950 Census immediately available. Think about that – immediately available…?! It seemed too good to be true. Continue reading OCRing the 1950 census→
Two years ago, I wrote about my success using Bohemian church books to further my research into my grandfather’s Czech ancestry. Church records are key for Czech/Bohemian research, as is true for genealogical research in many European countries. However, they are not the only source of genealogical material available to us. Recently, FamilySearch.org has been adding collections of land records for many locations in the Czech Republic. As of this writing, many of these collections are still marked as “preliminary,” to “allow immediate online access.” Recent uploads appear to be from the State Regional Archive in Litoměřice. Continue reading Land records in Bohemia→
One of the places I have been researching is the townland of Kilcruaig in Kilflyn parish, County Limerick. My husband has ancestors from Kilcruaig who were born there in the early 1800s. However, it has been difficult to learn much about these families. The local Catholic records did not begin until 1853 and the people I want to research were born much earlier. And almost all died before civil registration began in 1864. The area felt like a bit of a black hole. Continue reading A ray of light→