Tag Archives: A Genealogist’s Diary

College records

Harvard 1921 and Columbia 1873

In the books I have written (or co-authored) in the last twenty years or so – on the Thorndike, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, and Winthrop families – I have usually noted the academic histories of family members as well as the more usual genealogical data. I’m occasionally asked why, and until recently I didn’t really have an answer.

While I generally answered that college and university records could help flesh out a sparse biographical narrative for someone treated in one of these books, I would now add that, often, they help keep the genealogist honest. After all, someone born in 1940 wouldn’t be likely to graduate from college in 1954, while a late graduation date begs further study. At the very least, a focus on filling in this area helps distinguish Charles Smith from Chad Smith – not to mention Charles Chad Smith! Continue reading College records

Royal Livingstons

While working on the various connections of the Livingston family in Scotland, I had a vague recollection that I had encountered multiple Livingstons in the ancestry of the late Diana, Princess of Wales; several years ago I edited a book on her forebears,[1] and I pictured several lines from which to choose. The same, in a sense, must be true for the Prince of Wales, whose ancestry was covered so fully in Gerald Paget’s 1977 work.[2]

Well, yes and no. I suspect the name I sought was the Saltonstall family in the Princess’s ancestry – a family about whom I have written a book![3] The Saltonstalls appear with some frequency in The Ancestry of Diana, Princess of Wales, as we were careful to note the families in her ancestry with American connections. Continue reading Royal Livingstons

Mysterious Menteiths

Click on images to expand them.

As I work at reconstructing the environment in which the Livingstons of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lived, I have been struck by the frequency with which I have encountered members of the Menteith family. (It is fair to say that there are a number of such families in this project, interrelated in various ways, but the Menteiths keep turning up!) To arrive at the early modern Livingston family, I have gone back on various lines (including the ancestry of Livingston spouses), so the resulting family trees cover individuals who were not named Livingston – or aware of these particular connections. Continue reading Mysterious Menteiths

In ceaseless orbit

Gowrie House, Perth. Courtesy of Perth & Kinross Council

As I continue to map out the connections of the Livingston family of Callendar, Stirlingshire, I am struck by how comparatively closely related the sixteenth-century Livingston family was to two of the husbands of Mary, Queen of Scots. A third connection, rather less salubrious, was to some of the murderers of David Rizzio, or Riccio, which occurred in the presence of the Queen while pregnant with the future King James VI. (Rizzio was accused by his assailants of being the child’s father.) Continue reading In ceaseless orbit

Marrying up

The ruins of Cadzow Castle.

In reviewing some late fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century marriages in the Livingston family in Scotland, I was struck by a pair of alliances that must have been important to the Livingstons of that era. This review also underlined my impression that the records of that period – and the later accounts based on those records – can be a challenge, since all too often the compilers shrug and offer “(?) daughter of ______ Somebody of Somewhere” by way of identification. Continue reading Marrying up

Far-flung relations

My great-great-grandfather John Francis Bell (1839–1905)[1] is largely a mystery: he appears unheralded in Richmond, Virginia, in the mid-nineteenth century; his son’s 1915–37 journal makes no reference that I can find to any family on the Bell side. (My great-great-grandmother, known after her marriage as Bell Bell, was Isabella J. Phillips, of a large family centered in Henrico County; I have yet to see any mention of her cousins, some of whom my grandfather knew well.)

Almost all references to family in J. Frank Bell’s journal, then, are to his wife, his children,[2] or to members of the extended Jackson and Eggleston families to which my great-grandmother’s parents belonged. Continue reading Far-flung relations

‘Lots of company’

It is interesting to see the spread of a new technology reflected in my great-grandfather’s journal[1]: in this case, the electrification of the Bells’ farm in Kempsville, near Norfolk, Virginia. A little less than a century ago, this was a project one could undertake oneself.

1920

9 October: Bought truck today for $793 and turned in the old one for $200.

Estelle and I bought light fixtures today for the new Delco system which we installed this week.

23 October: Turned on electric lights tonight. Continue reading ‘Lots of company’

High tide

My grandfather[1] did not have a lot to say about his mother’s brothers.[2] Perhaps because the Jackson family was relatively prosperous when my great-grandparents married, my great-grandmother led a more settled life than her brothers, none of whom, my grandfather once said, “amounted to much.”

At an earlier stage in my research, I was surprised to find my great-great-grandmother living in Phoenix in the household of one of her younger sons;[3] indeed, this sojourn proved to be brief – but long enough for Jennie Jackson to appear in the 1920 census, far from her residence in New York. Continue reading High tide

‘A mighty happy time’

My great-grandfather was a man of few words, at times, as when he made his sole reference to a new office: “Elected to the [Norfolk] City Council tonight.”[1] A more typical effusion occurs nine days later, when he notes the “Early cabbage [is] looking good.”[2]

1918

1 April: Bought an Overland car.

3 May: Went with Hotel Ass[ociatio]n to Cape Henry[3] for Oyster Roast.

8 May: After supper tonight the whole family[4] went to the strawberry patch and picked berries for breakfast. Had a mighty happy time. Continue reading ‘A mighty happy time’

‘Stopped by rains’

By 1917, my great-grandfather’s farm in Princess Anne County, Virginia, was up and running, with actual profits registered. The weather remained a preoccupation:

1917

3 February: Coldest day in eighteen years.

10 February: Fred’s yew [sic] had two lambs[;] she disowned one and had to [be forced to] nurse.

23 February: Little Frances[1] sick in bed with measles.

4 March: Inauguration Day – President Wilson’s second term… Fred served at communion today at the nine o’clock service and the 11 a.m. service. Frances recovered from measles. Continue reading ‘Stopped by rains’