Category Archives: Family Stories

Near neighbors

Small world. All images, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of backbayhouses.org

My grandfather[1] came from New York, and when I was growing up it was understood that the Stewards were from New York and the Ayers (my grandmother’s family) were from Boston. A little digging suggests a more complicated picture – my grandfather’s mother-in-law[2] came from Newark, and his maternal grandmother[3] had only New England ancestry – while there is also an interesting collateral connection, somewhat obscure to later generations of the family. Continue reading Near neighbors

Omission vs. commission

Detail of Lippitt manuscript, 2020

When I “hand-off” a genealogical manuscript, it can be some time before the work is handed back to me with queries from the copyeditor. Occasionally in that time, more resources may emerge (or become more accessible), and my own choices might have evolved with regard to ways of “ending” research where no solution was found.

While I will look at online trees for possibilities, and may put clues in brackets, my general practice is to remove them later on if I can find no supporting documentation. In a roundtable discussion when asked about this, Robert Charles Anderson said he would prefer to “commit the sin of omission versus the sin of commission.” Continue reading Omission vs. commission

A family of strong women

Aurelia Jane (Hargrave) (Bottom[e]s) Corker, circa 1910. Used with permission from the Durand Family Archives
This month marks one hundred years since passage of the United States Constitution’s Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote across the country. Some of my female ancestors[1] were able to vote many years earlier, however, including my great-great-grandmother, Aurelia Jane (Hargrave) (Bottom[e]s) Corker, whom I wrote about late last year. Recently a fellow descendant sent me scans of scrapbook pages and family photos, which imparted more interesting details about this indomitable ancestress.

I already knew that Aurelia was a strong woman. She gave birth to her second daughter while traveling by wagon train from Hopkins County, Texas, to Southern California. According to the recently shared newspaper clippings, she usually drove the wagon’s team while her husband attended to other duties … but I guess even she had to take a break from that during the baby’s delivery!

Around the time of my great-grandmother’s birth in March 1878, Aurelia and John Thomas Bottoms divorced. Continue reading A family of strong women

The Wantons of Rhode Island, Part One

Governor William Wanton (1670-1733), by an unidentified artist.

For much of the eighteenth century, the political landscape of Rhode Island was shaped by a single family. Between 1732 and 1775, four descendants of Edward Wanton served as the governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and another would act as deputy governor. The run of Wantons serving as the chief executive of the colony began when two of Edward’s sons, William and John, served consecutive tenures between 1732 and 1740; it came to an end when William’s son, Joseph, was removed from office at the start of the Revolutionary War after he opposed the formation of an army out of loyalty to the crown. While there have been many fathers, sons, and brothers who have held the same office at different times throughout American history, the story of the Wanton family is interesting for the number of individuals connected to the family who held prominent positions. Continue reading The Wantons of Rhode Island, Part One

Campione d’Italia

Waterfront, Campione d’Italia, Lake Lugano, Italy. Courtesy Library of Congress

Researching family history does a lot to expand your knowledge of the world. I recently felt this way after discovering that my Italian roots are not as clear-cut as I had thought. Family lore had always stated that my great-grandfather, Julian Consolini, had come to America from Verona. I recently discovered that this was just family lore and that the documents tell a different story. His naturalization certificate states that he was born in Campione, Italy. Naturally, I looked into Campione to see where it was. My expectation had been that Campione was a small town on the outskirts of Verona. I imagined Verona was just the metropolitan reference point that people would understand better, in the same way that I tell people that I am from Boston when I really am not. I learned, however, that Campione was not close to Verona and, in fact, it wasn’t even in Italy. Continue reading Campione d’Italia

In the neighborhood

The Fensgate, today’s Charlesview Condominium. All images courtesy of backbayhouses.org

Real estate transactions might not seem very romantic, or as offering much in the way of narrative, but sometimes proximity and dates can signal ongoing relationships. One in my own family comes to mind: in 1899, my Ayer great-great-grandparents[1] moved from Lowell to Boston, initially renting a house on Beacon Street while they planned to build a new home on Commonwealth Avenue.

At the same time, my great-great-grandfather’s sister-in-law, the former Mary Hascall Wheaton,[2] was living in a house on Beacon Street while planning her own new house, just two doors down. Of all these houses, only Aunt Minnie Kittredge’s former home has been torn down, to make way for The Fensgate at the corner of Beacon Street and Charlesgate East. And while the street addresses don’t hint at it, the Kittredge and Ayer houses were just two blocks apart. Continue reading In the neighborhood

Voyages abroad

Images from the Hannah LeBaron (Drury) Clark sketchbook. Reinier Beeuwkes III Family Collection in R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, NEHGS

One of my favorite things to do is travel. When that isn’t possible, I try to travel vicariously through the experiences of someone else. While working on the Reinier Beeuwkes III Family Collection this past year, I have had the chance to imagine myself voyaging all around the world. Here are some of my favorite adventures:

According to family legend, Captain Daniel LeBaron Goodwin (1767-1830) began his career as a sailor when he ran away from home at age 12. He spent the next thirty years sailing merchant vessels between New England, England, South America, and the West Indies. Continue reading Voyages abroad

Family ties revealed

What drew me to genealogy was the idea that my family could have been part of a major historical event. When you learn about history in school, the different events – whether it be the Holocaust, the French Revolution, or the English Civil War – always seem to be so far removed from that moment. You never expect to learn that you might have personal ties to that event.

For example, I was fascinated by the sinking of the Titanic; I swear that had nothing to do with the massive crush my 13-year-old self had on Leonardo DiCaprio. Continue reading Family ties revealed

Hamiltonian errors

Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull, 1806. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

When Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton premiered on Disney+, I enjoyed watching the musical with my family. (My seven-year-old daughter’s favorite character was King George III!) This prompted me to look a bit more at Alexander Hamilton’s genealogy, which I had worked on a little bit years ago. Gary Boyd Robert’s The Royal Descents of 900 Immigrants shows a royal descent back from James II, King of Scotland (died 1460), through Alexander’s father James Hamilton of the West Indies. (Patrilineal descendants of Alexander have taken Y-DNA tests and matched descendants of related Scottish Hamilton families, for those various tall tales questioning Alexander’s paternity.) Continue reading Hamiltonian errors

Return to Cloonduane

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

Click on image to expand it.

My discovery of a letter, almost five decades ago, marked the starting point for exploring the Irish roots of my father’s maternal grandmother, Annie Flynn Cassidy (1856–1919). Annie and her sister Ellen Flynn emigrated to Fall River, Massachusetts, around 1881.[1] On 16 December 1885, their father John Flynn wrote this letter from Cloonduane acknowledging money the sisters sent home and the news of Annie’s recent marriage to Patrick Cassidy. Presumably Cloonduane was near Castlebar, County Mayo, the town cited as Annie and Ellen’s birthplace in their obituaries from Fall River newspapers. Continue reading Return to Cloonduane