My earlier post, featuring my parents and both sets of grandparents, sought photographs of these relatives from early adult life – I am fortunate to have a number of such images for all six from which to choose!
One of the frustrations of genealogical research can be the absence of images of our forebears and relatives; the dry account offered by (precious) vital and other records may render an ancestor doubly unknowable. Often the images that do survive fall towards the end of a lifetime, when financial resources will stretch to a trip to the photographer — or a portrait by an accomplished painter. I often feel that those artistically valuable images overlay the youthful portrait — the one we all carry inside of us — with a misleading patina: one of age, no doubt, but also one that buries features that may be seen in present-day descendants. Continue reading What they looked like→
I recently came across an article on the shift that will occur when the present Prince of Wales succeeds his mother. This article seemed to me to muddy the fairly straightforward waters, so here is my attempt to describe the coming changes in nomenclature.
Let’s begin by supposing that the Prince of Wales will be King Charles III and the Duchess of Cornwall will be Queen Camilla. I have seen references to Prince Charles as King George VII, one of his other forenames, and of course the present Duchess of Cornwall has sometimes been accorded the future title of Princess Consort. Continue reading Next generation royal family→
I am continually struck by the effects of happenstance in genealogy. Because I was putting together notes on my grandmother’s family, I went looking for a source on the Gates family of Worcester, Massachusetts; because my eye was caught by the next entry to one for my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother;because I remembered enough of my eighteenth-century art history to recognize the artist Ralph Earl (or Earle) as both an ancestral uncle (by unhappy marriage) and a cousin, I have found a family painter who might almost stand in for the even more famous François Boucher, a forebear my grandmother’s family has had to give up. Continue reading An artist’s ambition→
[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 13 February 2018.]
Many of us have bunches of old family letters set aside to review – preferably with the sender and the recipient already noted on the envelope. Years ago, as I was researching my first family history (The Sarsaparilla Kings), I was fortunate enough to have some published (as well as unpublished) sources available to consider the relationship between my great-great-grandfather Frederick Ayer (1822–1918) – one of the two Sarsaparilla Kings – and his son-in-law George Smith Patton Jr. (1885–1945).
Frederick Ayer made two distinct fortunes – in patent medicines with his elder brother, Dr. J. C. Ayer, and in textiles and other investments later in life – and by the turn of the twentieth century he was a wealthy man. His second wife, Ellen Barrows Banning (1853–1918), was a member of a sprawling family with connections in Delaware, Minnesota, and California, among them to the family of George and Ruth Patton of San Gabriel, California. Continue reading ICYMI: ‘Neutral ground’→
File this one to “You never know what you might find…”
I have written before about my great-grandparents’ house in Goshen, New York, built on land that had belonged to the Steward family since the eighteenth century. In the course of collecting family photos – generally, groups of (likely) house guests gathering on the front steps to be photographed – I’ve become familiar with some of the house’s features. At this point, I might be one of the very few who could look at a photo and say “Oh! the Steward house in Goshen.”
I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise, since the book I was paging through was my great-great-uncle’s history of the Harvard Polo Club. Amos Tuck French was one of the founding members of this iteration of the club, and he begins engagingly: “Polo was started at Harvard in 1883, many years before it was even thought of at any other college. In fact it was not generally understood what the game was, for we received a challenge from Yale to play a match and discovered on enquiry that the Elis wanted to play hockey on roller skates!”Continue reading The Harvard Polo Club→
Late in the day on Wednesday, Vita Brevis marked an important milestone: 3,000,000 page views since it launched in January 2014. In that period, 151 bloggers have published 1,774 posts on a wide range of subjects of interest to genealogists.
Looking back at the top ten most popular posts for the period 2014-2022, I am struck by the top three: Jean Maguire’s announcement that the legendary Boston Transcript genealogical column (1911-41) was now available online, and Penny Stratton’s twin posts on elements of style: how not to make words plural, and how to feature dates in genealogical works. These three posts, from 2015 and 2016, account for about 77,000 page views, and no doubt they have driven traffic to other posts over the years. Continue reading A milestone→
[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 20 January 2021.]
A new year offers a new chance to look at old problems with a fresh eye – and to consider fresh methods for breaking through well-established brick walls. Here is a chance to put the word out: What are your favorite approaches to beginning new research or to resolving long-standing problems?
As the editor at VitaBrevis, it is my job to write up my own research successes (and failures), and to edit the similar – but invariably different – accounts of travails and victories from the blog’s 100+ contributors. Over the years I have recommended a variety of hints and how-tos, starting with pointers on how best to utilize Google searches. Continue reading ICYMI: Research strategies for 2021→
[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 26 March 2021.]
Sometimes one loses perspective on one’s researches, so when I say that the identity of Master James Livingston, a younger son of the 4th Lord Livingston, is a problem for the ages – a quandary for which many await resolution – I may be overstating things a little. Still, he is one of several men in the ancestry of the American Livingston family whose life, and whose marriage(s) and child(ren), has long been a puzzle. Continue reading ICYMI: A problem in perspective→
“May you live in interesting times” is supposed to be a curse – it’s certainly an exhausting way to go through life. As 2021 rolls over to 2022, here is a look back at 2021 in Vita Brevis:
In January, Ann Lawthers urged genealogists visiting cemeteries to apply some of the insights garnered from their research, in this case about how the changing cultural norms around death translated into stone: Continue reading 2021: the year in review→