“In the fits of our ages, tales and characters are revealed” … or so it was the case with my grandmother, as dementia stole over her mind during the last years of her life. I have used “fits” and “ages” here in the plural form, as I want to tell you a tale of that composite age, the age that my grandmother was then, and an age in life when our minds return to what we once knew best. This is the way it was for my grandmother Babe Sage (as she was called), and how the specter of a woman called “Ma Seal” came into our lives. Ma Seal, for long years unknown to the rest of the family, was a grand old lady whose identity was only revealed in the last couple of weeks. I hope you will indulge me as I try to explain the whys and hows of it all, and yes, perhaps the “fits” and “ages” of it, too. Continue reading Finding Ma
My wife’s maternal grandmother, Lydia (Woliung) Faulds (1896-1939), was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father was a blacksmith with family roots in Alsace. Her mother was a recent immigrant from Germany. The family later moved to Matoon, in Coles County, Illinois, where Lydia graduated from high school. After receiving a diploma from Eastern Illinois State Normal School in 1914, she taught school in the Oak Park (Illinois) school system for several years. In 1918, in recognition of her academic abilities, especially in mathematics, Lydia was elected to a position on the staff of the Lincoln School of the Teachers College within Columbia University, in New York City. Set up the year before, the Lincoln School was created to conduct “experiments in modern education.” Her assigned subjects were geography and mathematics. She resigned after one term in the expectation of the imminent return of her fiancé from war duty in France; they planned to get married back in Illinois and make a home there. He arrived as expected, but was debilitated from being gassed on the battlefield and spent most of the next year in a New York hospital. Lydia stayed in New York and was employed that year as a governess for the Rockefeller family. Continue reading The Churchill letter
Researching someone with a common name can be challenging. Sometimes you will find too many records, and without more identifying information it can be almost impossible to determine which is the correct record. Or, if you do find a promising record, how do you know if it is for the person being researched or someone else with the same name? To overcome these problems, you need to find enough information to come to a solid conclusion.
I had this problem recently while researching Charles McDermott, who lived in New York City. I found a possible naturalization record for Charles in 1896. The record showed this Charles was about the right age and had immigrated around the right year. Continue reading Finding confirming information
As this unusual year marking the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival comes to an end, I’ll discuss a transcription “error” in William Bradford’s 1651 list of Mayflower “increasings” recently brought to my attention. Continue reading A small smudge
[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 3 July 2020.]
During this 175th anniversary year, I wondered how we marked an earlier NEHGS milestone, one hundred years ago. To learn about the state of the Society in 1920, I looked at Boston newspapers online and NEHGS Proceedings and a scrapbook in our R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.
On Thursday, 18 March 1920, NEHGS celebrated its 75th anniversary of incorporation—to the day—and recognized the 300th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. From 2 to 6 p.m. that day, the Society welcomed the public to an open house at “its spick and span headquarters,” then located at 9 Ashburton Place in Boston, near the Massachusetts State House. Guides greeted the visitors and introduced them to the Society and its collections. Tea was served. Continue reading ICYMI: NEHGS in 1920
Our family has an historic heirloom, a microscope that originally belonged to [Heinrich Hermann] Robert Koch (1843-1910), the famous German bacteriologist, who won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discoveries related to the causative agents of anthrax, tuberculosis, and cholera. The microscope came into our family by virtue of his cousin, my great-great-grandfather, Ernest Wilhelm Eduard Koch (1827-1903), who was born in Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany, about 30 miles from Clausthal, the birthplace of Robert Koch. After moving to the United States, great-great-grandfather went by “Edward,” but usually was referred to by the family as E.W.E.
E.W.E. was a highly educated man and was an “1848er,” one of many who emigrated from Germany after the 1848-49 revolutions there. Continue reading View from the dog house
As we close out our 175th anniversary year, I was struck by the wealth of our own history as I worked along with Cécile Engeln on The Family Album: A Visual History of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1845–2020. I have been an employee of NEHGS for only four years, so I didn’t really know many of the details about our past history myself. Continue reading Our family album
This is a tale of how curiosity, knowledge of local Italian sources and conditions, and focused research strategies uncovered an error in church records and solved a genealogical mystery. Last year I finally discovered that my immigrant great-great-grandfather Antonio Pugni (1840-1913) was from the village of Coli in Piacenza, Italy. Fortunately, Coli parish church records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths date to 1718, and in some instances to the 1690s, and can be accessed directly on FamilySearch.org. Civil registration records of births, marriages, and deaths begin in 1806 and are also online at FamilySearch, but images can be viewed only at any of the 5,000+ Family History Centers worldwide. Continue reading The absentminded priest
To continue my look at outdoor spots my family enjoyed this socially distant summer, I now will talk about Appleton Farms in Ipswich and Hamilton, not too far from the Crane Estate. The Trustees website describes Appleton farm as the “gift of Colonel Francis R. Appleton, Jr. and his wife Joan, [and] one of the oldest continuously operating farms in the country, established in 1638 and maintained by nine generations of the Appleton family.”
During our two visits to Appleton Farm this summer, my family and I found three monuments (there are more) to members of the Appleton family, the first to the above Joan Egleston Appleton (1912-2006), and then monuments to Col. Appleton’s parents – Francis R. Appleton (1854-1929) and Fanny L. Appleton (1864-1958). Continue reading Summer spots: Part Two
I prefer to work on the Early New England Families Study Project (ENEF) sketches by myself, surveying literature, digging into primary sources, organizing, and immersing myself in the subject, so that I do not have to deal with teaching someone else to do things the way I want them done.
However, a nice NEHGS member, Barry E. Hinman of California, Librarian Emeritus of Stanford University, recently donated access to his digital manuscript collection for use by NEHGS authors, including ENEF and the Great Migration Study Project (GM). Barry’s many credits include articles that have been published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Continue reading A ‘no brainer’