[Editor’s note: A version of this post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 7 November 2016; its contents have been updated by Molly Rogers.]
The genealogy column in the Boston Evening Transcript newspaper has been one of the more heavily used resources at the NEHGS Library for the past century or more. The paper was published, under a few different titles, from 1830 to 1941. From 1906 through 1941, it featured a genealogy column in which readers would submit and respond to queries. During most of its run, the column appeared twice a week. According to an editors’ note which appeared in many issues, the newspaper was almost overwhelmed with submissions and had a backlog waiting to be published. The editors also claimed that they had “correspondents in every corner of the country.” By the time it ceased publication, the column had covered an estimated two million names. Continue reading ICYMI: Boston Transcript column now online→
Marital entanglements gave Regina Shober Gray grist for the mill: Georgie Blake’s summer romance at Marion had played out to the extent that Miss Blake’s fiancé swore “he could not marry her, would die rather, kill himself, abscond…” By contrast, Clara Morgan’s engagement to her cousin and brother-in-law seems rather tame.
As my mother would have said, the Gray and Shober families “enjoyed poor health,” although there was nothing funny about it – Dr. Gray’s nieces were frequently ill, while Lizzie Shober was in a fatal decline.
Finally, an ancient Shober family connection became, for a brief moment in the mid-1860s, a source of generous recognition: Mrs. Gray’s mention of the Princess Iturbide’s father’s deposition and execution prefigures the fate of the new Emperor of Mexico. Continue reading ‘Friends in adversity’→
William Clark began keeping a journal in 1759 at the age of eighteen. He wrote an entry for almost every day until he died in 1815 at the age of seventy-five. The entire journal – fifty-six volumes and almost five thousand pages – is now held by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. Clark carefully recorded his neighbors’ births, marriages, and deaths, providing rich pickings for family history researchers, but the author of the journal is himself a fascinating character: a convert, a loyalist, and a refugee.
Clark was an Anglican clergyman by the time of the American Revolution, but – like many New England Anglicans – he had first joined the Church of England as a convert. His father, the Rev. Peter Clark, was a Congregationalist minister in Danvers, Massachusetts, and a leading “old light” defender of the colony’s Congregationalist establishment. Continue reading ‘Indifferent to the world’→
This entry from the Regina Shober Gray diary touches on many of the themes in the larger work: births and deaths, worrying illnesses – including a threatened repeat of an earlier cholera epidemic – the aftermath of the Civil War, homely efforts to entice her ailing sister to eat, and, as ever, tedious sewing work to make “one groan – the white flounce was sent home fluted upside down – and when sent back, came home done inside, out; and inside out it is now on the dress!”
61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 29 October 1865: Caleb Curtis came round to-day to announce the birth of a little girl there, born yesterday afternoon – Emily is wonderfully well, and well content with her “wee woman,” though she did resolve all along it should be a boy! Continue reading ‘Outward unity’→
The aftermath of the Civil War continued to affect Regina Shober Gray and her family, sometimes in surprising ways. The question in October 1865 was how to provide for the diarist’s mother-in-law’s Southern family, represented by her sister Eliza and sister-in-law Matilda Clay. Amid the worries about Lizzie Shober’s health and a neighbor’s accident, Mrs. Gray found solace in the “little stranger” expected by her friend Emily Curtis.
61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 15 October 1865: Aunt Eliza Clay has accepted an invitation from Cousin Ann Wallace to spend the winter with them in Newark. Mrs. Clay and her children will pass it in Savannah – Joe [Clay] will be married this fall and join his housekeeping to his mother, but what under the sun he has to be married on, is a puzzle. Their negroes are gone – the plantation they will probably recover, but the house and outbuildings are burned to the ground. Continue reading ‘Shivered into atoms’→
An episode from early in the Civil War had a sequel in October 1865, and Regina Shober Gray wrote about it as she reviewed other news from her family in Philadelphia. The earlier entry, dated 13 January 1862, read:
“Our papers too give an acct. of the arrest of the Rev.d. Mr. Wilmer (formerly I suppose of St. Mark’s church Philad., and obliged to resign there, on acct. of his secession sentiments). [He] was arrested in an attempt to pass into the rebel lines, with quantities of supplies and despatches – some interlining his clothes, some in his cravat &c &c.”
In a later entry, Mrs. Gray reflects on the changed circumstances of Southern life at the end of the war.
61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Friday, 6 October 1865: Discouraging letters from Philad. Lizzie is more sick, though not with the symptoms she had here – but it does seem as if one blow after another had come on her this summer – and she so utterly unused to sickness! It makes me feel very anxious about her. Continue reading ‘A most affecting scene’→
Even on holiday the diarist Regina Shober Gray could not escape anxieties about the health of family members – indeed, her sister Lizzie was beginning a fatal decline, and would die later in the year.
Marion, Massachusetts, Thursday, 24 August 1865: A clear cold autumn day, which makes us bundle up in shawls enough for an Arab Sheik! I came back from Boston, in the rain storm of Tuesday – and did not bring Ella G[ray]. Her cough is troublesome again and her mother is afraid of the dampness here – which has certainly been very chill and penetrating for the last two weeks; a very different air from the soft, balmy, almost oppressive warmth of the earlier part of our visit.
Lizzie Shober is better – but I think she and Mary [Shober] will be glad to get away from here. They are engaged this morning making a cross and triangle of white flower and evergreens for the funeral of a young sea-captain, who died a few weeks since of dysentery in some West Indian port – he leaves a young wife not 20 years old and a babe. Continue reading ‘All of our set’→
The Grays’ summer was flying by in Marion, and Regina Shober Gray faced new social responsibilities as her daughter Mary ventured into society:
Sunday, 6 August 1865: A week ago last Wed’y, I went up to Boston to make my deserted husband a visit, intending to return early on Friday; but some deeds were sent on for the girls to sign before a commissioner – so they had to come up on Friday morning and I waited, of course, to return with them p.m.
Frank [Gray] went to Worcester that mg. for the [rowing] regatta – he was so excited about it that he hardly slept for 2 nights previous. If he tookitsohard, what must have been the excitement of the fellows actually competing in the race; and alas! for all their hopes and efforts, the Yale men bore the palm, in both races – and Harvard was only second best. Continue reading ‘A stranger to us’→
From time to time Regina Shober Gray pauses to describe what she sees and hears, and it is usually a feast for the senses: In its way the place is very lovely, very placid, with the soft sinuous curves of its low green shores, its bright little islets and its glassy waters reflecting, as would the quietest inland lake, the counterpart of the upper world in the calm depths below. The tide swells dreamily up and ebbs sleepily down, with never a ripple to disturb its ineffable complacency…
61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 16 July 1865: [The diarist’s sisters] Mary & Lizzie Shober arrived duly by Newport train yesterday morning. It is so good to have them here – more than 9 years since Mary’s last visit to me, at the time of [Mrs. Gray’s son] Morris’s birth – since then this devoted sister has never left our brother John day or night, save when she went to Baltimore on Susan Drinker’s death, to be with Aunt Catharine for 3 days. It is a painful effort to her to come now, but she bears up bravely, and will I am sure be better for the change. It has been a frantically busy week with me – but the [sewing] work is pretty thoroughly finished up, with Isabella to help for 10 days past. Continue reading ‘Crowded with berries’→
Boston’s sultry summers made seaside resorts appealing, but each year Regina Shober Gray struggled to find her family attractive rooms in likely houses outside the city.
61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 18 June 1865: Our summer plans are still in abeyance. Dr. & Fred. Gray went down to see what could be done for us at Pigeon Cove, and came back entirely dissatisfied with the place. The best houses there are kept by Mrs. James Edmonds, Mrs. Elisha Edmonds, Mrs. Story, & Mrs. Babson. [The] rooms are small, the terms high, no beach for bathing – bathe in holes off the rocks, and hold on by ropes!! Mrs. Morland, who has boarded at Marion, says it is very hot & sultry there.
I have written to Mrs. Martin at Manchester – but I know she will not take us, and if she does … she will starve us; but that we can bear, I suppose, and guard against. Her house is charming – and I would gladly risk the table for the sake of getting a place for Mary Shober on that lovely Manchester shore; and I think the boys would have a good time too, though they do say Manchester is “played out.” Continue reading ‘All in the dark’→