Category Archives: Collections

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

Beautiful Jim Key

My childhood friends and I are all turning 60 this year. I purchased matching birthday cards for them with this horse on the front. Of course I had to find out his story!

Beautiful Jim Key was a famous horse born in 1889 and owned by the former slave, self-trained veterinarian, and patent medicine salesman William Key. William was a skilled horseman who rescued an Arabian mare, a badly abused former circus horse, and bred her to a Standardbred stallion. Continue reading Beautiful Jim Key

Parish boundary maps

One of our newest tools, launched last year, is the Archdiocese of Boston: Parish Boundary Map. It was created by the Archive Department of the Archdiocese of Boston. This interactive map is a visual tool that can help you understand which Catholic churches existed in a particular neighborhood or town in the greater Boston area. It should be used in conjunction with our Historic Catholic Records Online project. Continue reading Parish boundary maps

Finding Irish relatives: Part Two

Part 1 of this series discussed how civil registration records can be used to locate the townlands and families of Irish immigrant ancestors, and how to use both civil records and church registers to trace their families backward and forward. While relying on civil vital records may succeed, the method can be time-consuming, especially for individuals like Michael Spellman who were born before civil registration commenced in 1864. As I learned the hard way, using church records is more likely to produce results, perhaps immediately. Continue reading Finding Irish relatives: Part Two

The Iconography of Manhattan

Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Phelps Stokes by John Singer Sargent. Courtesy of Wikipedia

One of my favorite sources for Manhattan research is The Iconography of Manhattan Island 1498-1909 by Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (1867-1944). This six volume set was published between 1915 and 1928 and chronicles the history of Manhattan from the fifteenth century to the early twentieth century. The publication not only records the vast history of Manhattan, it also provides beautiful illustrations and maps.

The volumes most relevant to my own family research are the first and second volumes, which highlight the Dutch period (1609-1664); both volumes have helped me to uncover new information about my family. Most importantly, from this source, I have learned where my Dutch ancestors held property or lived in lower Manhattan during the seventeenth century.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with historical landscapes. How has this property changed over the years? What did this street look like 200 years ago? Continue reading The Iconography of Manhattan

ICYMI: Mapping the Great Migration

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis 12 April 2019.]

In early 2015 I had just completed work on The Great Migration Directory: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1640, with abbreviated entries for each known head of household or isolated individual participant in the Great Migration. The result was an alphabetical listing of about 5,700 families or individuals. Each entry included last name, first name, English origin, year of migration, first residence in New England, and a brief listing of the best primary and secondary sources available for each. For about 1,800 of the entries, the English origin (defined as the last known residence in England before migration) was known. Continue reading ICYMI: Mapping the Great Migration

ICYMI: Royal cartes de visite

[Author’s note: These blog posts originally appeared in Vita Brevis between December 2017 and February 2018.]

Princess Louis of Hesse (Princess Alice Maud Mary of Great Britain, 1843–1878) holding her daughter Victoria ca. 1864. CDV by George Washington Wilson.

To mark the death ten days ago and the funeral this weekend of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021), I thought it might be useful to remind readers of four blog posts covering some of the iconography of the British royal family, since they illustrate Prince Philip’s grandmother, Princess Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven;[1] her parents Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine,[2] and Princess Alice of Great Britain;[3] and her grandparents Queen Victoria[4] and Prince Albert, the Prince Consort.[5]

Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine (1837–1892). CDV by Camille Silvy

The series covers Victoria and Albert’s family, including the present queen’s great-grandparents, King Edward VII[6] and Princess Alexandra of Denmark.[7] In the genealogically complex world of the Victorian era royal caste, Prince Philip was Queen Alexandra’s great-nephew, just as his wife Queen Elizabeth II[8] was a great-great-niece of Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse. Continue reading ICYMI: Royal cartes de visite

Philatelic genealogy

All stamps from the author’s collection.

While watching the recent broadcast of “Atlantic Crossing,” it took me a minute or two to remember the parentage of protagonist Crown Princess Martha of Norway as well her siblings. Making those connections began with stamps. My childhood world blossomed when a family friend gave me a postage stamp album for my eighth birthday. The package came with an assortment of world stamps, and stamp hinges with which to fix the stamps to the illustrations in the album. A new hobby soon became an absorbing passion. Continue reading Philatelic genealogy