Category Archives: Research Methods

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

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

Researching the Negro Baseball Leagues

Courtesy of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Baseball is back! As someone who has always loved baseball, I could not be more excited to see the players return to the diamond. Although the game might not look exactly like it did last year, these differences simply remind us of how baseball has changed over the years, and how it will continue to do so in the future.

Growing up in eastern Connecticut, an allegiance to the Boston Red Sox has deep roots in my family. In fact, many of them still talk about that fateful Game 4 in 2004, when the curse of the Bambino was broken for good.[1] Personally, baseball has always meant something special to my father’s family. As my paternal grandfather died long before I was born, he was always the biggest question mark on my family tree. Before I began doing research of my own, the only fact I knew about my grandfather was that he played in the Negro Baseball Leagues. Continue reading Researching the Negro Baseball Leagues

A loyalist clergyman

The Rev. Samuel Fayerweather (1725-1781), in the Society’s Fine Art Collection. Gift of Miss Elizabeth Harris of Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 16, 1924

The New England Historic Genealogical Society is a member of the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC), a group of libraries, museums, and other repositories holding materials for historical research. Each year fellows from the NERFC program visit NEHGS and the other members – from Connecticut to Massachusetts and Maine, from Rhode Island to New Hampshire and Vermont – to conduct research for their graduate work or as junior faculty at colleges and universities around the world.

Back in 2018, Peter Walker – now an assistant professor of history at the University of Wyoming – visited NEHGS to work in the William Clark collection. He will be speaking this afternoon in a Zoom event via King’s Chapel in Boston entitled “Massachusetts Loyalist Clergy in the Time of the American Revolution.”

Peter’s work was also the subject of a Vita Brevis post in June 2018 entitled “Indifferent to the world.” I urge Vita Brevis readers to revisit Peter’s blog post and tune into the Zoom program today (July 30) at 5:30 p.m.

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

Belmont High School, 1942

I recently discovered an online app. that allows me to scan my photographs. As I like to be able to refer to a record of my collection (still somewhat maddening if I forget the subject’s name), this has been a revelation. One of the vernacular photos I bought some time ago shows a cheerful group of four young men standing in front of a large building, perhaps a school. On the reverse, the four have signed their names. So who are they?

The clearest signature belongs to Henry Angiola, and a check of Ancestry.com’s databases yields Henry Angiola, a student at Belmont High School in Los Angeles. The cryptic S ’42 next to Sinn Lew’s signature is seen on Henry’s yearbook page, and all four may be found in the Campanile, Belmont High’s class of 1942 yearbook. Continue reading Belmont High School, 1942

Presidential surnames

A 4th of July post on Facebook shared the above image quoting John Quincy Adams of The Order of the Founders and Patriots of America, which was founded in 1896. A friend of mine thought initially this quote was meant to be attributed to the president of that name, who died in 1848. The person in the quote above was John Quincy Adams (1848-1911) of New York City, who was born in New Hampshire eight months after the president’s death. Through his father Harvey8 Adams (Benjamin7, Andrew6, John5, Edward4, John3, Edward2, Henry1), this John Quincy Adams was a fourth cousin three times removed to his presidential namesake through the immigrant Henry Adams (1583-1646) of Braintree, Massachusetts.[1] Continue reading Presidential surnames

The genealogist McFly

Not too long ago, my daughter asked me if I would look into the Danish ancestry of a “new friend” of hers – a guy named Charlie. Now Jen’s usually quite secretive about father learning anything at all about her prospective beaux, so I jumped at the chance to take a look at the ancestry of her new fellow – a guy who just might easily show up to our house for Sunday dinner. I knew I had to be a bit careful about it all, too. I wanted to make sure that I researched Charlie’s Nordic connections as respectfully as possible, not only for his sake, but to make sure that my daughter would continue to value my counsel – and not summon one of my mother’s ancient curses against me. (Little did I know that in doing all of this, my hubris and I were about to experience an embarrassing genealogical gaffe…) Continue reading The genealogist McFly

The Manzana Colony

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Every family historian knows that research can feel like investigating a series of cold-case mysteries: How did they know each other? Where did they move after leaving their home town? Are these people related, or do they just share a last name? What exactly is a chandler or an alderman? My own family history is filled with unsolved mysteries, like why did my great-great-grandmother change her name so many times? When faced with a seemingly endless series of questions, it is important to celebrate when you actually find an answer. Recently, while processing the Reinier Beeuwkes III Family Collection, I was able to solve a mystery: what was the Manzana Colony? Continue reading The Manzana Colony

‘The Result of the Bad Dinner’

I love adding a bit of background to the places I’m researching. Recently I came across this entertaining story set in County Mayo, Ireland. I can hear the storyteller’s voice in the rhythm and words, and the humor brings a smile to my face.

“There once lived in Ballyglass a man named Patch Heskin who was a thatcher. One day Pat Heskin from Ballyrourke employed him thatching.

“At that time they used to stitch the thatch with rope. They used to have a big thatcher’s needle. The thatcher would have to be outside on the roof to put in the needle and another person inside to pull it in and put it out again. Continue reading ‘The Result of the Bad Dinner’