Category Archives: Family Stories

Spousal cousins

Scott Steward’s ICYMI post “Surrounded by family” inspired me to reflect on shared ancestors among my mother’s paternal grandparents, Millard E. Morse and Myrta E. Pierce, who married in Wareham, Massachusetts, on 13 October 1906. This photo, a family gem, captures the happiness of their wedding day.

Considering this couple came from long-established Plymouth County families, it came as no surprise to me that they would share 33 pairs of shared ancestors — starting six generations preceding them, well beyond any shared recollections. Continue reading Spousal cousins

ICYMI: The family historian

[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 30 December 2014.]

Margaret Steward in Goshen, New York

Most families have one: the family historian. Whether or not the focus is genealogical, there is usually at least one family member who keeps track of siblings and cousins, sometimes to the nth degree. My father’s family had one in my great-aunt Margaret Steward (1888–1975). I do not remember meeting her, but I’ve been told I take after her, at least in so far as the mantle of family genealogist passed from her to me when I was still in middle school. Continue reading ICYMI: The family historian

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

It pays to share

Click on image to expand it.

This time of the year is all about sharing … sharing our time and exchanging visits and gifts with family and friends, perhaps including family history projects. As genealogists, we are always seeking and exchanging information as part of our never-ending quests to find elusive ancestors and learn about their lives, and to share our discoveries with family and other researchers. The opportunities to share – and benefit from – our genealogical research have never been easier in this age of the Internet. The more we share, the more we can help others who may find something big or small in the fruits of our labors. The reverse is also true – the more we share, the more likely it is that others will share with us. Continue reading It pays to share

Learned Larneds

Geraldine, Queen of the Albanians

Years ago, Jeff Record sent me an ahnentafel report on his ancestry, curious to see if we had any connections back in Kansas. While we identified several common ancestors in New England, I was curious about his great-great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Neff) Young (1864-1898) of El Dorado, Kansas. Neff is not in my own ancestry, but it is the surname of some distant cousins I remembered from my childhood. I frequently went to Kansas over the holidays as a child and would stay at my grandparents’ farm in Sedgwick, Kansas. Most often my mother’s siblings and their children would also be there; sometimes there were more distant cousins present, and at the time I had no idea how they were related to me. The Neffs were some such cousins that would occasionally visit as two of their boys were the same age as myself and a few of my first cousins. Later, as I got interested in genealogy, I learned that they were my third cousins: their mother’s father’s sister Carrie Etta (Wright) Learned was a sister of my matrilineal great-grandmother Daisy Alice (Wright) Horton. Continue reading Learned Larneds

Remembered in stone

Mary Pearson Palmer’s gravestone in Rowley. Images courtesy of Findagrave

My family tried something new for Thanksgiving: lunch at a (very nice) restaurant in Rowley, up the road from my father’s house in neighboring Topsfield, Massachusetts. As I was there early, I went for a walk up Main Street, past the Rowley Burial Ground. Most of the stones nearest the road were well-weathered, but two popped out at me: stones for a Pearson and a Pickard.

Both are names in my seventeenth-century New England ancestry, so I sat beside a fire pit next to the restaurant and did some online digging.

Continue reading Remembered in stone

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

ICYMI: The gift of family history

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 24 November 2014.]

Poppa and Brenda Lambert

When I was a child, I became very interested in family history. At the unusual age of seven, the stories of my forebears were more fascinating than the cartoons on television. I could listen for hours to my maternal grandmother as she told stories of her past.

Fifteen years ago this week I said my last goodbyes to my father, George Richard Lambert (1925–1999). My father grew up in East Boston, Massachusetts, at the height of the Great Depression, and he fought in World War II. When my dad died, my elder daughter Brenda was only four years of age. Now a college freshman, she still fondly remembers the stories I told her about the Lambert grandparents she hardly knew. Continue reading ICYMI: The gift of family history

“Miss Ida with a smile”

“This is war, Peacock. Casualties are inevitable. You can not make an omelet without breaking eggs, every cook will tell you that.”

~ Martin Mull, in the role of Colonel Mustard in Clue (1985)
My first cousin three times removed Ida Florence (Lee) (Sullivan) Barager (1891-1967).

Please forgive the irreverent quote above! It’s just that a quote like helps me muddle my way through Ye Olde Branches in my attempts to go up against Chris Child in yet another game of “Genealogical Clue.” Imagine if you were setting out to countervail Curt DiCamillo in a discussion of classical architecture, or engage Scott Steward in talking through the relationship of Louis IV, the Grand Duke of Hesse, to “Archie.” (Hey, I had to make it easy on myself, right?) In any event, I think you can see where I’m going with this. Suffice it to say: It just ain’t easy. Continue reading “Miss Ida with a smile”

False friends

Marion E. Carl. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When my mother started down the genealogy trail many decades ago, my grandfather was quick to tell her about the famous World War II flying ace in the family, related through his aunt, Nancy Alice (Christy) Carl. She had married the oldest son of Wilson Carl, for whom the small town of Carlton, Oregon was named. (Earlier this year, I shared the surprising discovery that the Christy family and the family of children’s author Beverly Cleary both appeared in the 1880 census living in Carlton, which had only about 500 residents at the time.)

I discovered a folder of materials my mother had collected about Marion Eugene Carl, who was indeed one of the greatest pilots in the Marine Corps. Continue reading False friends