Category Archives: Technology

Preserving collections

Bookplate, Hinman’s Letters from the English Kings and Queens… (1836).

As the conservator at American Ancestors and NEHGS, I spend much of my time conserving our book and paper-based collections while also devoting a little bit of time to thinking about the future preservation of these items. This leaves relatively little time to reflect on past efforts by the organization to preserve these collections, but there is evidence that those efforts were considerable.

Preservation was a major part of the reason for founding the New England Historic Genealogical Society, as outlined in the original Charter.[1] Collecting and preservation have always been tied together; if you are going to collect books and manuscript materials, efforts will need to be taken to make sure they will be available for future generations – particularly important for a genealogical society, where generations really matter. Continue reading Preserving collections

Research via Wikimedia Commons

The database team here at NEHGS posts information on updates to our databases on our blog, dbnews.americanancestors.org. In each post, we try to give you a little information about the database, the new records, and provide some sort of visual.

So I’m always looking for images in the public domain that pertain to various towns and other locations around New England. For some of our ongoing projects like Historic Catholic Records Online or Early Vermont Settlers, it can become difficult to find a new image to illustrate each post, and I have to keep track of what I’ve already used! Continue reading Research via Wikimedia Commons

The youngest volunteer

Those of us who love the informalities and irregularities of older cemeteries know that there are surprises and delights at every turn. On our rambles (mine, at least), progress is slow as we meander, waylaid and stopped in our tracks by the transcendent folksy beauty of carvings; by messages of remembrance, love, and loss; by wisdoms, life philosophies, and, occasionally, a mischievous bit of humor that momentarily lifts us from our solemnity.

In the older cemeteries, even when we’ve seen the classic motifs a hundred times before, or feasted on the opulence of Victorian-era monuments, there is always another example that seems to swallow our attention from a distance. We make a beeline to it, certain that it is the headstone of all headstones, the pièce de résistance, only to have another one come along that sets the bar even higher. Continue reading The youngest volunteer

The power of one volunteer

Early in the process.

Large, dusty, and certain to leave an indelible brown smudge if allowed to touch your clothing, handling the fourteen volumes of Albany County, New York Deeds, 1630-1894 was my first assignment after I became an NEHGS volunteer in 2005. With ancestors who settled near Fort Orange (present-day Albany) in 1650, I had a personal interest in helping to bring this collection to a broader audience. These early land records represented some of the few city and county records that had not been destroyed or damaged during the disastrous 1880 fire at Albany City Hall.    Continue reading The power of one volunteer

A grand detour

As pioneers migrate from one area to another, they often find that circumstances require changes in the way they do things. One such example involves a pioneer named John Deere. You may be familiar with the name as being associated with the manufacture of tractors and lawn mowers, but the beginnings of the company involved a different product, invented long before tractors or mowers came into existence. Continue reading A grand detour

Royal claims

The future King Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor.

Another story of a person “claiming” the British throne appeared in the news recently. While years ago I wrote about a silly claim of an American going back centuries allegedly to the Welsh throne, this story is much more immediate to the current royal family.

In summary, Francois Graftieaux, 73, claims his father Pierre-Edouard Graftieaux, born in 1916, was the result of an affair with the then-Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) and a French seamstress. The suit claims that, “In the 1900s, the true line of succession was unlawfully concealed to block the Graftieauxs from their place in history. Whilst my father and I would have no direct claim to the throne on account of Edward’s abdication…” Continue reading Royal claims

That’s My Yearbook

“See if you can find your photo in Ancestry’s updated yearbook collection,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said.

Every day as August began to wind down, there was someone on my Facebook timeline who was sharing their school photo as found in Ancestry’s U.S. School Yearbooks, 1900–1999 database. I resisted for a number of days. But let’s face it, as a genealogist, I couldn’t resist the search for too long! Continue reading That’s My Yearbook

Understanding Leaf Hints

Franklin Pierce (1804–1869).

A leaf hint on Ancestry can often lead one to additional records of the person you are researching. Other times, it might lead to interesting “near” matches, while occasionally it may lead you down an entertaining, but wild goose chase of a false match. This is one such recent example. Continue reading Understanding Leaf Hints

Down on the Farm

Between the dawn and the daylight, while the Keurig was doing its “wackadoo wackadoo wackadoo” thing brewing my morning coffee carafe, I read an article about how climate change is affecting current agricultural practices. This was nothing new to me because I’d seen changes in some of those practices as I grew up. One aspect of researching family histories is the temptation and ability to look back and compare what was to what is. I once asked my paternal grandmother (Winifred Church, 1884–1980) how she felt about all the history she had seen in her lifetime (covered wagons and farming on the Kansas prairie to men on the moon). She just laughed and didn’t answer! But I not only live in the area where most of my family history takes place, I live in that history on the land my ancestors farmed, so I thought about the similarities and changes in our farm equipment. This was a job for the Squirrel Bins, and they quickly reminded me about all the “farm photos” I still have!

The farming methods used by my family probably hadn’t changed much between the late 18th century and the early 20th century.

The farming methods used by my family probably hadn’t changed much between the late 18th century and the early 20th century when my paternal grandfather Rex O. Church (1883–1956) ran a dairy farm and became a John Deere Agricultural Implements dealer.

Down on the Farm

Continue reading Down on the Farm

Following the Paper Trail: Southern New England

Following the Paper Trail
Ann Cestor at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Sometimes we need to follow, quite literally, the paper trail when we want to learn more about a particular family group. Even in this digital age, not everything can be accessed from a computer. Perhaps the key to the story can be found in manuscripts kept safe in historical societies, archives, and libraries. This new series of blog posts—Following the Paper Trail—will provide guides for visiting each state historical society (or equivalent), region by region, across the eastern United States. Continue reading Following the Paper Trail: Southern New England