Category Archives: Genealogical Writing

Logic problems

The dovecot at Corstorphine. Courtesy of Historic Environment Scotland

If A is the son of B, and C is the grandson of B, and C’s father is D and mother is E, then how is E related to A…?

In addition to the main allied families in the Livingston project — Douglas of Dalkeith, Fleming of Wigtown, Hepburn of Bothwell, Menteith of Kerse, and Bruce of Airth — there are others that recur, either as ancestors of Livingston spouses or kin of kin in some way. One of the most prevalent is the Forrester family of Corstorphine, Torwood, Garden/Carden, and Nyddrie/Nidrie/Nithrie. Without even including the later Lords Forrester, I can easily count eight instances of Forresters in concert with other families to be covered in the Livingston book. Continue reading Logic problems

Those phrustrating Phelpses

The reason I have not been active on Vita Brevis recently can be laid at the feet of the Phelps family of Salem. Five members of the family will “soon” be published together as the Phelps Cluster despite their complete refusal to cooperate. Here is a little of what I have untangled so far.

The story has been that widow Eleanor Phelps (husband unknown) came to Salem with her three “minor” sons prior to 1639, when she and her second husband Thomas Trusler joined the Salem church. The Phelps boys have been deemed minors because they do not appear in Salem records until 1645 and 1655, and the implication was that the boys all grew up in Salem. However, that claim is complicated by the record of Henry Phelps arriving in Salem by ship about 1645. This and other circumstantial evidence suggest the boys were older, and that none of them came with their mother. Continue reading Those phrustrating Phelpses

Finding Giovanna

A recent Vita Brevis post (October 28) discussed my discovery and correction of an error in the baptismal records of the parish church in Coli (Piacenza), Italy. I attributed that error to an absentminded priest who wrote the wrong family name for Domenica Plate when recording her baptism in the register on 4 July 1750. As my research continued, I uncovered another irregularity in the records, this time while trying to identify all the children of one set of great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, Giovanni Peveri (c. 1690-1745) and Lucia (maiden name unknown), who resided in Villa Fontana.[1] The 13 January 1725 record in question named Giovanni Peveri and Lucia of Villa Fontana as the parents, and Cristoforo Grassi and Maria Zavattoni as godparents, but left a blank space for the name of the baptized infant girl![2] (see illustration). Continue reading Finding Giovanna

Found families

Editor’s note: Drawing from its American Inspiration author series, NEHGS is hosting a new educational “Conversation” course featuring author-journalists Libby Copeland and Bill Griffeth and NEHGS genealogist Christopher C. Child. The trio will share insights on DNA research in a Zoom webinar entitled Discussing DNA: Finding Unexpected Results on Wednesday, November 18, at 6 pm. Registration and more information here.

Bill Griffeth: It has been eight years since I took the DNA test that changed my life. The test that told me the father who raised me wasn’t my biological father, that my devoutly Christian mother had strayed in her marriage and was human after all. And to my surprise I learned that I was not alone. Not by a long shot. Continue reading Found families

Tethered branches

The other day, while rolling about in a school bus through the streets of our fair town, my co-worker – a vociferous and practical-minded young woman we’ll call Cathy – chided me, saying, “Why that’s just impossible! You think you are related to everyone!” Well, I have to admit, I stammered a bit at this, and wasn’t quite sure what to say. Cathy’s no-nonsense attitude made what I wanted to extol, an overly simplified explanation of “We are all possibly related to each other – it’s just a matter of proving how,” feel a bit too dumb in the moment. Continue reading Tethered branches

A genealogy of a pizza

Gus Guerra at Cloverleaf.

I love learning about the history of food. Just as genealogy does, learning about the evolution of food and food culture feeds my desire to fully understand how the people who came before us lived on a day-to-day basis. Recently, I did a deep dive into one particular food after my boyfriend and I got take-out pizza from Avenue Kitchen + Bar in Somerville, Massachusetts. We ordered one of their “Detroit-style” pizzas, which neither of us had ever heard of. We were absolutely blown away by how insanely delicious it was. This, of course, necessitated a whole deep dive into figuring out what exactly a Detroit-style pizza is. The descriptions we found online aligned with our own dining experience: thick-crusted, chewy, rectangular pizza, topped with cheese and pepperoni, drizzled with sauce, featuring crispy, crunchy edges. When I read that Detroit-style pizza could be traced back to one man, I was thoroughly intrigued, and immediately felt the need to set down my dinner plate and learn more. Continue reading A genealogy of a pizza

Fireside stories

Corstorphine Old Parish Church, near Edinburgh. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

As a kind of sequel to my post on “kinbot,” the medieval Scottish practice of making amends after slaying a kinsman, I can offer two stories of Livingston family murderesses … and the very different impression their acts made upon their contemporaries. The first took place more than a century after Sir John Bruce was “slaughtered” by his Menteith kinsmen and concerns the Livingstons of Dunipace, from which family the Rev. John Livingston’s mother was descended. Continue reading Fireside stories

Historical relations

One of a set of watercolors depicting the Eglinton Tournament of 1839 by James Henry Nixon, inspired by an earlier time. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As I work on a genealogy of the Livingston family in Scotland and America, I am roughing out appendices covering the family of the 4th Lord Livingston, the Livingstons of Dunipace and Kilsyth, and the Fleming and Hamilton families in seventeenth-century Edinburgh: this is the family circle around the Rev. John Livingston (1603-1672), whose son and grandson emigrated to New York later in the century. All of this is meant to answer the questions, To what extent did the Livingstons feel connected to their Scottish kin, and are there clues to be found in some of these connections? Continue reading Historical relations

Summer spots: Part Three

“World’s End” in Hingham

Finishing up this series on places my family enjoyed during our socially distant summer, I move now from the North Shore to the South Shore, to “World’s End” in Hingham. This Trustees property was designed by the well-known landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1890 at the request of owner John Reed Brewer, with the intention of creating a 163 home residential subdivision. While the drives were cut, the development never came to fruition, and the land, consisting of four coastal drumlins extending into Hingham Harbor (with views of the Boston skyline), has been preserved as a setting for recreation since 1967, after the land was donated by John’s grandson, the poet [John] Wilmon Brewer (1895-1998). Continue reading Summer spots: Part Three

Matrilineal mergers: Part Two

Gravestone of Mary E. (Young) Peltz, courtesy of findagrave.

My prior post on my own matrilineal ancestry and merged names continues with my father’s matrilineal line. My paternal grandmother’s parents were both natives of Philadelphia, and she recorded many of her ancestors and their siblings in a family Bible I used early on in my genealogical research. She identified her matrilineal great-grandmother as Mary E. Young (died 1900), wife of John Lentz Peltz (1819-1876). The Bible identifies her father as Peter Young, but does not list a mother, although it does list Mary’s siblings as Peter, Sarah, Eliza, Philip, Margaret, and David. Mary and her husband John were born, married, and died in Philadelphia, and several generations of her husband’s family are treated in a 1948 Peltz genealogy; a 1950 supplement even included my father’s older sister. Continue reading Matrilineal mergers: Part Two