Category Archives: News

Uncertain immigration

I do a lot of lectures, courses, and online webinars about immigration, with my favorite period concentrating on the 1882 to 1924 period. This isn’t so much because of the improvement of the passenger lists, but more as a result of the many changes to the immigration laws in this period that began to limit what was considered an “acceptable” immigrant. Physical limitations, inability to get a job, and certain “loathsome and contagious” diseases were just some of the reasons an immigrant could have traveled all the way from their old country to America only to find that they wouldn’t be admitted. Continue reading Uncertain immigration

Devil in the details

Two hundred eleven years ago today, on 6 August 1810, Assistant Marshal Ebenezer Burrell set out to make a full and accurate count of the residents of Salem, Massachusetts. He was instructed to make a formal inquiry at each dwelling house, or with the head of household, to count the number of free white males (under the age of 10, 1-15, 16-25, 26-44, and 45 years and older), free white females (under the age of 10, 1-15, 16-25, 26-44, and 45 years and older), and free persons of color (no gender or age designator) living at the residence. He was also told to make two copies of the enumeration, placing them both in two public places for verification. After the enumerations were confirmed, one of the copies was sent to the District Court for safe keeping, while a summary of the statistics was sent to the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. Continue reading Devil in the details

The Olympic games: a brief history

Opening Ceremony at the Panathinaiko Stadium for the 1896 games. Images courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Despite being a year late thanks to COVID-19, the Olympics are finally here. With the opening ceremonies set to start on July 23rd, the wait is finally over for athletes and viewers alike. For most people, the Olympics have been a constant occurrence, reliably happening every two or four years, barring any rare unforeseen events. It is hard to believe there was once a time when the Olympics were practically nonexistent. Continue reading The Olympic games: a brief history

St. Augustine Cemetery: resources for research

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Known as the oldest Catholic cemetery in Boston, Saint Augustine Cemetery in South Boston will celebrate its two hundred and third anniversary in 2021. Built in 1818 by the first Catholic Bishop of Massachusetts, Fr. John Louis Ann Magdalen Lefebvre de Cheverus (1768-1836), the cemetery’s first burial was that of  Fr. Francis Anthony Matignon, one of the first Catholic priests in Massachusetts. Less than a year later, on 4 July 1819, the Saint Augustine Chapel was inaugurated as a mortuary chapel to honor Fr. Matignon. The Saint Augustine Chapel is, to this day, the oldest surviving Catholic church and Gothic Revival church in Massachusetts.[1] Continue reading St. Augustine Cemetery: resources for research

A census, rediscovered

Over the years I have fielded a number of questions about why researchers haven’t been able to locate their ancestors in the 1810 census for Salem, Massachusetts, when other records place these ancestors there for their entire lives.

Well, the simple answer was that in the census for 1810, as made available through the National Archives and Records Administration on microfilm (which is where all the digitized census records on sites like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org have come from), somehow the town of Salem was not included. Continue reading A census, rediscovered

‘Not a very tall man’

The Battle of Plattsburg. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“He was not a very tall man”: words I read in a message associated with my great-great-great-grandfather Henry Poor of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Henry was born in Newbury on 20 June 1769, a son of Captain Jonathan and Sarah (Dole) Poor. His father led a company of the 2nd Essex Regiment on the Alarm of 19 April 1775 and served at various times during the war. I often wondered what young Henry knew about his father’s service that was lost in our family traditions. Continue reading ‘Not a very tall man’

Heartbeat of the Revolution

With Patriots’ Day almost upon us, I feel especially lucky to be working remotely from my historic hometown of Lebanon, Connecticut. While many New England towns have their own history during the Revolutionary War, Lebanon to this day is still very much defined by its patriotic past. Although large in acreage, Lebanon has one of the smaller populations. As a small town in eastern Connecticut, Lebanon consists primarily of farms, rural roads, historic homes, and a deep-rooted patriotic history.[1] Continue reading Heartbeat of the Revolution

ICYMI: Title trouble

[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 10 May 2019.]

Sunday night’s interview with Oprah Winfrey included statements by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their son Archie’s title usage. As I note in the post, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor should be entitled to the rank of the eldest son of a non-royal duke. It was understood in 2019 that the decision to dispense with the title was made by his parents, not that the title itself could be bestowed or withheld following the baby’s birth.

Punch cartoon from 1917. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The birth of Queen Elizabeth II’s eighth great-grandchild – the first child of HRH Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex,[1] and the former Meghan Markle – offers a 2019 gloss on names and titles in the British royal family.

During the First World War, the rulers of Germany and Great Britain were first cousins – and King George V of Great Britain had no agreed-upon surname. Whatever the family name was, it was German. This situation led to a wholesale renaming of the royal family (as the House of Windsor) and the ceding of assorted German titles for equivalents in the British peerage system. Continue reading ICYMI: Title trouble

Mayors of Boston

With Boston mayor Marty Walsh expected to be confirmed as United States Secretary of Labor, our city will have a new acting mayor with our city council president Kim Janey, who will be the first female and African-American to serve in this position (acting or otherwise). This prompted me to look at her ancestry, as well as all mayors of Boston since the position was created in 1822. Boston counts 54 mayoral administrations between 46 men. (Six mayors served non-consecutive terms; this number includes five who served two terms. James Michael Curley served four non-consecutive terms, including a portion of his last term in prison.) Continue reading Mayors of Boston

Super Bowl surprise

Courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs

Sometimes my Vita Brevis posts take time to develop. I started this post last year after the then-recent Super Bowl victory of the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers, prompting me to look at the ancestry of the team’s quarterback and the game’s MVP, Patrick Mahomes. With Mahomes and his team heading to the Super Bowl again this year, I finally decided to complete this post. Continue reading Super Bowl surprise