Category Archives: Genealogical Writing

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

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

“Colonel Larned with the revolver”

Colonel Morris Larned and his wife Elizabeth Eaton

Well, Jeff Record got back at me with another Clue post, and wisely moved away from talking about double names, as there are only so many one can find! So, I’ll continue the game with my great-great-great-great-grandfather Col. Morris Larned (1786-1878) of Dudley, Massachusetts. While I have discussed several of his relatives (his wife was the last centenarian in my ancestry, and his namesake great-grandson Morris Larned Healy was a bit of a wild one), I really do not know much about Colonel Larned himself, other than that he was a colonel … but a colonel of what? Continue reading “Colonel Larned with the revolver”

A slave in Vermont

New England Congregational church minute books from the nineteenth century abound in routine facts: admissions, dismissals, committee reports and the like that do not make for compelling reading. Ivy Dixon, historian of the Pittsford Congregational Church, found this remarkable episode appearing intermittently from 1842 to 1850. Long forgotten, this story of one expatriate church member has undercurrents that still haunt us today.

Pittsford Congregational Church, founded in 1784. The present structure, overlooking the village green, dates from 1837.

Hannah Weed Hitchcock (1815–1898), daughter of John Hitchcock (1760–1836) and his second wife Lucy Ripley, later Manley (1789–1865), became a member of the church in 1834. Hannah’s father served as a soldier in the American Revolution. She was named for John Hitchcock’s first wife, Hannah, who died in 1814, having given birth to nine babies, all of whom died in infancy! Hitchcock’s second family had exceptional educations for the times: sons William graduated from Andover Theological Seminary, and John Hitchcock, dead at 25, attended Middlebury College but left for a stint in Alabama to improve his health. Continue reading A slave in Vermont

Marriage-go-round

Anna of Bohemia, Queen of Hungary. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Sometimes – as Chris Child and Jeff Record know – one gets drawn back to the same subject matter only to find new patterns. (I would venture to say many other genealogists know this dynamic well.) For me, in this example, it is an interest in matrilineal lines, a favorite subject of my colleague Julie Helen Otto; lately, this interest has taken shape around the progeny of Anna of Bohemia, Queen of Hungary, whose husband later succeeded as Holy Roman Emperor. To look at her daughters’ daughters (and daughters’ sons) is to enter a thicket of queens and kings, empresses and princes. Famously, both Queen Victoria and Catherine the Great descend from Anna through the female line – a subject for another post, perhaps? Continue reading Marriage-go-round

Flower power

The author’s cousins in Potenza, Italy: standing (l-r), Angela Tolve, her daughter Rosa Mancinelli, and niece Antonella Tolve; seated, Angela’s husband Antonio Mancinelli.

If you have ever tried to track down distant cousins, especially in foreign countries, you know how difficult it can be, and that you will have to be resourceful. I’ve used different approaches in different circumstances in Ireland and Italy, and sometimes succeeded. But occasionally sheer serendipity works its magic. This account is particularly touching for me because I met my elderly Italian cousin unexpectedly, thanks to a confluence of fortuitous circumstances, as I neared the end of an unproductive week seeking cousins in southern Italy. But this happy-ending story also holds some tips and lessons that may help you as well. Continue reading Flower power

“Miss Winters in the drawing room”

The drawing room in question.

Several months back, Chris Child and I started playing a game we’ve dubbed “Genealogical Clue.” Playing a good game of it can be quite fun and challenging. Largely, it’s a game whereby we attempt to locate an individual in our respective family trees with a first name that resembles or is near identical to their surname. From this jumping-off point, the post or story is then titled by how we “place” those individuals in a Clue game-like situation. Keeping up with a master player like Chris hasn’t been easy, though. I’ve really had to dig deep to find some of my better “game board connections.” Sadly, most of my potential protagonists never seem to quite cut the ‘Colonel’ Mustard. (lol) Continue reading “Miss Winters in the drawing room”

Finding Francis

Finding Aaron, it turned out, meant finding Francis, a family connection in my own backyard. I’ve written several posts about my genealogical journey to learn about my maternal grandfather, John Joseph Osborne, and, in the course of that journey, I discovered ancestral roots in the ancient colony of Acadia in Nova Scotia; family members accused during the Salem Witchcraft hysteria; a great-great-great-grandfather who was one of the first patients to be operated on using ether; and a great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Aaron Osborn (the older version of the surname was spelled without the last e), who set out with his fellow Danvers militiamen on the morning of 19 April 1775 to answer the Lexington Alarm. Continue reading Finding Francis

ICYMI: Of Plimoth Plantation

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 17 August 2020.]

Watching the videos of Mayflower II being escorted through the Cape Cod Canal brings weird thoughts to my mind. What if there had been a canal in 1620? Would “Plimoth Plantation” have been “Long Island Plantation”? Things would have been different, but since there was no canal, that stray thought is of no importance. Continue reading ICYMI: Of Plimoth Plantation