Category Archives: Technology

The object tells a story

NEHGS Conservator Todd Pattison in the Conservation Lab.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with NEHGS Conservator Todd Pattison in our Conservation Lab to discuss his background, the world of conservation, and his work at NEHGS. Todd joined our Library staff in June 2018 and brought a wealth of experience with him, having worked previously at the Harvard College Library and the Northeast Document Conservation Center. He has quickly developed an understanding of NEHGS and its mission. Working with him has been a wonderful experience for us, and we welcome this opportunity to give our Vita Brevis readers a chance to get to know him, too. Todd will present a free webinar on Thursday, January 17, on the topic of Preserving Your Family Treasures. (You can learn more and register here.) Continue reading The object tells a story

Five hundred years on

A vision of the future, from Science and Invention (1922). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I had stepped away from the holograms, weary, my brain consumed with the stories and research those images contained. I had come to Vita Brevis, really quite by accident, while researching the ancestry of my “several times over” Great-Grandfather Record, his rumored Mayflower ties, and the family’s legend of a Good Witch, a woman who’d lived in the old megapolitan areas surrounding early 21st-century Los Angeles. Someone had mentioned at the NEHGS Quincentenary Dinner that I should look into what they had once called “blogs,” the old “posts” out there in the archival ether – that there I might find clues about the people I seeking. They’d said Vita Brevis had been around now for literally centuries, and that while the postings there had gone through some name and ‘holographic changes’ over the past three hundred years or so, that, still, I might be able to find the answers to my questions… Continue reading Five hundred years on

Vita Brevis turns five

Photos by Claire Vail

When I became Editor-in-Chief at NEHGS in June 2013, one of the new initiatives Ryan Woods and I discussed was a blog for the Society. Current and former colleagues worked with me to establish the blog’s purpose and name, and – in time – got me set up on WordPress. (Two years later, when I was on a sabbatical, three current and former colleagues managed the blog in my absence.) So Vita Brevis has been a cooperative venture from the beginning, relying on the energy and commitment of the NEHGS staff and some dedicated outside contributors to produce fresh content. Continue reading Vita Brevis turns five

2018: the year in review

As we begin the countdown for 2019 – and look forward to the blog’s fifth anniversary in January – I have selected some posts from the first half of 2018 to showcase the range of subjects covered in Vita Brevis during the last year.

Alicia Crane Williams started the year with a series of posts on establishing criteria for what constitutes an “excellent” genealogy, as distinguished from a “good” (or a “poor”) one:

A “scoring” system for genealogies would be interesting. If, for example, we had ten categories on which to judge a genealogical source, and each category had a potential ten points maximum, the “perfect” score would be 100. Of course, this would all be subjective, but it would give us a way to group works for comparison (top 10%, bottom 50% etc.). Continue reading 2018: the year in review

Challenging modern records

A record generated for Meghan Markle’s great-grandmother.

In my post earlier this year, regarding preliminary research into the future Duchess of Sussex’s matrilineal ancestry, I indicated that I had ordered several additional twentieth-century records that might lead to corrections or additions. Fortunately, none of the new records seriously affect the lineage I presented, but obtaining one record was not so straightforward. Continue reading Challenging modern records

Reuniting families

My biggest fear was marrying someone in the military.

I couldn’t fathom the idea of being a military wife with all its different aspects. I didn’t like the idea of my fate and my husband’s fate being decided by the winds of politics and world commotion. I didn’t like the idea that, any day, they could need him and deploy his unit, and I would be stuck at home, alone, waiting for him to come back. One question haunted me as I was dating and falling in love with the soldier who would become my husband:

What if he left and never came back? Continue reading Reuniting families

Playing games

Icon courtesy of the BYU Family History Technology Lab.

I had never been to New England before my summer internship; truth be told, I had barely touched foot in the eastern half of the country. So when I packed my bags and flew to Boston, I was ecstatic about the chance to live in a place with such rich history. As I walked the Freedom Trail, entered scores of museums, traveled to various cities on the East Coast, and got a feel for the history that is here, I felt at home.

When friends and family asked how I was doing, I told them how beautiful this place is and that I never wanted to leave. New England is the perfect place for a genealogist and historian to live. It has been beyond exciting to explore the personal and collective history that exists there. Continue reading Playing games

Pictures from “home”

I just received my order of two copies of a lovely 2019 calendar from Wales (one for me and one for my brother). It is illustrated with paintings of village life in Wales by Welsh artist Valeriane LeBlond (www.valeriane-leblond.eu). The calendar text is in Welsh, so I can’t translate the titles, but the scenes include little white cottages with quilts hung out to air (even in the snow), row houses exactly like those I know my ancestors lived in, bucolic landscapes – this is the southern part of Wales, great farming country – with wind-whipped waves off shore. Neat stuff. Continue reading Pictures from “home”

How long is a generation?

Much of my attention over the last eighteen months has been focused on creating the online database Mayflower Families Fifth Generation Descendants, 1700-1880. It was great to make this resource available to help people research their Mayflower ancestry.

Now we have a database with nearly 165,000 birth, marriage, and death records, and thus a unique opportunity to do some analysis on the Mayflower fifth generation descendants in aggregate, looking for interesting facts about this group. Continue reading How long is a generation?

Volunteer appreciation

Volunteer Dianne Wesselhoeft uses a static dissipating brush to collect the pieces of paper and dust from the gutter of a Saint Patrick volume.

I started at NEHGS as a volunteer, coming in every Friday for about four hours. My first project involved checking the transcriptions of the names that other volunteers had made against other sources to help decipher some of the names. Often this involved me running up to the fifth floor, where the local histories are kept, or 7, where the genealogies are, to check spellings. After a few weeks I was familiar enough with the handwriting that I did not have to go use outside sources to verify the transcription. Not long afterwards, I began scanning a manuscript for Special Collections and then, as I was in library school at the time, working with actual collections and providing additional details for finding aids. Continue reading Volunteer appreciation