Category Archives: Collections

A milestone

Late in the day on Wednesday, Vita Brevis marked an important milestone: 3,000,000 page views since it launched in January 2014. In that period, 151 bloggers have published 1,774 posts on a wide range of subjects of interest to genealogists.

Looking back at the top ten most popular posts for the period 2014-2022, I am struck by the top three: Jean Maguire’s announcement that the legendary Boston Transcript genealogical column (1911-41) was now available online, and Penny Stratton’s twin posts on elements of style: how not to make words plural, and how to feature dates in genealogical works. These three posts, from 2015 and 2016, account for about 77,000 page views, and no doubt they have driven traffic to other posts over the years. Continue reading A milestone

Dartmouth Quaker records

Apponagansett Meeting House in Dartmouth. Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

We recently added a new database to AmericanAncestors.org, Dartmouth, MA: Quaker Records, 1699-1920. This database is a collaboration between the New England Historic Genealogical Society | American Ancestors and the Dartmouth Historical and Arts Society (DHAS).

DHAS has digitized and is transcribing the original record books for the Dartmouth monthly meeting of Friends (Quakers). These transcriptions and the images of the manuscripts will be available on the DHAS website. Continue reading Dartmouth Quaker records

2021: the year in review

“May you live in interesting times” is supposed to be a curse – it’s certainly an exhausting way to go through life. As 2021 rolls over to 2022, here is a look back at 2021 in Vita Brevis:

In January, Ann Lawthers urged genealogists visiting cemeteries to apply some of the insights garnered from their research, in this case about how the changing cultural norms around death translated into stone: Continue reading 2021: the year in review

JHC year in review

JHC archivist Lindsay Sprechman Murphy with Debbie Kardon Schwartz, Executive Director of Action for Post-Soviet Jewry.

It was a busy and exciting year for the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center (JHC). In a belated celebration of the eight nights of Hanukkah, which began November 28 and ended on December 6, here are our top eight achievements for the year!

1. After the pandemic postponed what was meant to be the first annual conference in March 2020, the JHC hosted an online event to launch the New England Jewish History Collaborative in January 2021. A partnership between Jewish history organizations in all six New England states, including the JHC, the collaborative created a website and resource guide for researchers interested in New England Jewish history. Visit the website and stay tuned for more programming in 2022.

Continue reading JHC year in review

An Instagram find

Mim (at right) and friends in Congress Park, 1922. Courtesy of Skidmore College Special Collections

One night several years ago, I recalled that it had been a while since I last Googled some of my favorite ancestors. Slouched in my chair, I scrolled idly through the Google hits for “Miriam Shakshober,” my grandfather’s aunt whom I never met but regarded with interest. Towards the end of her life she was supposed to have been a recluse, dying quietly in her house in December 1980 as Christmas cards piled up in her mailbox. The house she died in—her childhood home, possessing the uncanny power of always drawing her back—is now rented out to multiple tenants. Continue reading An Instagram find

Pastel portraits

We all have them, those ancestors who seem to fade into the long-ago background of family history. Perhaps they’re not even our relatives, just names heard frequently but without context, or in a wedding guest book, a newspaper column, or in an obituary. The figures are distinguishable, but so unfamiliar that they are blurred whether pastel in color or in sepia or gray. Continue reading Pastel portraits

Peter Marié’s collection

Peter Marié (1825-1903). Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Many years ago, now, I visited a cousin outside Baltimore with the marvelous name of Camille Steward Marié (1918-2002).[1] He was the son of one of my great-grandfather’s first cousins, but because of the way our families were constructed, Camille was closer in age to my father than to my grandfather, his actual second cousin. In part this was due to the two marriages of our common ancestor, John Steward (1777-1854): I am descended from the first one, while Camille’s grandmother was the sole survivor of the second. Continue reading Peter Marié’s collection

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