Category Archives: Collections

ICYMI: Leaving their mark

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 22 October 2015.]

A few months ago, my husband and I moved to Dorchester, Massachusetts, to work as caretakers of the William Clapp house, which was built in 1806. William Clapp and his wife, Elizabeth (Humphreys) Clapp, were married in the parlor of this house on 15 December 1806. They had nine children, two of whom died at a young age. This family also suffered the loss of three more children in November of 1838 from typhoid fever. Rebecca Clapp, aged twenty, and James Clapp, aged nineteen, died on the same day, and their brother Alexander Clapp, aged seventeen, died four days later. Continue reading ICYMI: Leaving their mark

Family groups

I was struck by a couple of points Penny Stratton made in her recent ICYMI post on managing a project including lots of images: “Select photos showing family groups” and “Include images of homes.” I happen to be particularly rich in photos of both types!

The very large family group photo at left was taken in Goshen, New York, in 1857. It shows the extended family of my great-great-grandparents, John Steward[1] and Catharine Elizabeth White, and includes Mrs. Steward’s mother, Harriet Le Roy White.[2] Continue reading Family groups

ICYMI: Selecting images for a family history

[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 5 April 2019.]

My late mother-in-law, with her father, in 1927.

How do you choose photos for a family history? Someone recently asked me that excellent question. She happened to have dozens, if not hundreds, of photos and didn’t know how to start. I had never really come up with guidelines for selecting photos, but as I answered the question, I realized that I do have some rough rules of thumb: Continue reading ICYMI: Selecting images for a family history

The elusive Banyars

St. George’s Church, Hanover Square. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I almost hesitate to post this blog, as so much remains to be found – but the roughest outline of a family behind one of my intractable brick walls seems a good excuse to write about it (and seek the collective thoughts of Vita Brevis readers!).

Goldsborough Banyar (or Goldsbrow Banyer)[1] was my great-great-grandmother’s great-grandfather, and an important figure in late colonial and early Federal New York. Perhaps because he spent much of his career in Albany, and the surname died out – despite heroic efforts by Goldsborough, his daughter, his grandson, and his great-grandson – the origins of the Banyar family have been lost. While his descendants have given masses of papers to the New-York Historical Society, nothing in that collection seems to yield a clue about who he was before he came to New York as a young man. His name, Goldsborough, should be a clue – and so it appears to be. Continue reading The elusive Banyars

‘Pruning the tree’

The Misses Ogle and Long

With all of their ‘lives’ so scattered about, I really had nowhere to run and certainly nowhere to hide. There were papers and pictures everywhere, and in the midst of the fray of utter ancestry I caught my grandmother “Miss Ogle” (no pun intended…) staring back at me. Carefree and young in her photograph, she ‘watched’ as I rifled through my great ‘genealogical reduction.’ Her gaze appeared to crisscross over all those lives, and over the hodgepodge of paperwork connecting me to a host of pilgrims and witches … and other assorted knuckleheads. From her grainy Kodak vantage point, Miss Ogle seemed to smirk in humorous disbelief at my genealogical disarray as if to say “Well, isn’t that just the living end…”[1] The only thing I could think in reply to the memory of her long-ago voice in that near-forgotten photo was“Sorry grandma. I need to. It’s time.” Continue reading ‘Pruning the tree’

Devil in the details

Two hundred eleven years ago today, on 6 August 1810, Assistant Marshal Ebenezer Burrell set out to make a full and accurate count of the residents of Salem, Massachusetts. He was instructed to make a formal inquiry at each dwelling house, or with the head of household, to count the number of free white males (under the age of 10, 1-15, 16-25, 26-44, and 45 years and older), free white females (under the age of 10, 1-15, 16-25, 26-44, and 45 years and older), and free persons of color (no gender or age designator) living at the residence. He was also told to make two copies of the enumeration, placing them both in two public places for verification. After the enumerations were confirmed, one of the copies was sent to the District Court for safe keeping, while a summary of the statistics was sent to the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. Continue reading Devil in the details

Irish deeds? Yes, indeed

David and Margaret Mackelroy to James Warick. Click on image to expand it. Courtesy of the Family History Library

Deeds are wonderful sources for genealogists, but Irish deeds? One of the most voluminous collections of Irish records is also the most underappreciated and underutilized: more than 2,000 volumes of recorded “memorials” (detailed abstracts) of deeds, conveyances, and wills spanning more than 200 years can be found in the Irish Registry of Deeds (ROD). Like many others with Irish roots, I was long put off by the low likelihood of finding my poor rural landless ancestors among landlords and other people of means who had property and assets to protect in wills. Continue reading Irish deeds? Yes, indeed

St. Augustine Cemetery: resources for research

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Known as the oldest Catholic cemetery in Boston, Saint Augustine Cemetery in South Boston will celebrate its two hundred and third anniversary in 2021. Built in 1818 by the first Catholic Bishop of Massachusetts, Fr. John Louis Ann Magdalen Lefebvre de Cheverus (1768-1836), the cemetery’s first burial was that of  Fr. Francis Anthony Matignon, one of the first Catholic priests in Massachusetts. Less than a year later, on 4 July 1819, the Saint Augustine Chapel was inaugurated as a mortuary chapel to honor Fr. Matignon. The Saint Augustine Chapel is, to this day, the oldest surviving Catholic church and Gothic Revival church in Massachusetts.[1] Continue reading St. Augustine Cemetery: resources for research

A Paine legacy

Following up on my previous post about the tragic later life of my great-great-great-uncle John Merrick Paine, this post covers other places I have run across his name in my genealogical research and in tracing his descendants. One of the only other places John Merrick Paine’s name is found in Google Searches is in the provenance of this portrait of “Mrs. Samuel Chandler” and her husband “Samuel Chandler.”

These portraits were painted by Samuel’s brother, Winthrop Chandler, a house painter who studied portrait painting in Boston. Continue reading A Paine legacy

A census, rediscovered

Over the years I have fielded a number of questions about why researchers haven’t been able to locate their ancestors in the 1810 census for Salem, Massachusetts, when other records place these ancestors there for their entire lives.

Well, the simple answer was that in the census for 1810, as made available through the National Archives and Records Administration on microfilm (which is where all the digitized census records on sites like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org have come from), somehow the town of Salem was not included. Continue reading A census, rediscovered