Tag Archives: A Genealogist’s Diary

Synchronicity

It’s always interesting when research projects overlap – and in unexpected ways. In working on a new genealogy of the Samuel Lawrence family of Groton, Massachusetts, I’ve encountered a man I covered in my 2013 book on the descendants of Nathaniel Saltonstall of Haverhill, Massachusetts. What makes the resonance even greater is that earlier members of both the Whitney and Saltonstall families appear in the Regina Shober Gray diary, and there is even a marriage between a Saltonstall cousin and one of Mrs. Gray’s sons. Continue reading Synchronicity

ICYMI: Grants for New England historians

[Author’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 17 October 2014. NERFC continues to add members and to increase the number of fellowships granted, so I urge doctoral candidates and freelance scholars to consider applying for one in the 2019–2020 cycle. Completed applications are due at midnight on Friday, 1 February 2019.]

Courtesy of R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, NEHGS.

I will be out of the office today, attending a planning meeting for the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC) at the John Hay Library in Providence. The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is a member of the consortium, a group made up of New England state and local historical societies, university and college libraries (Harvard, Smith, Trinity, and Brown), and museums (Historic Deerfield and Mystic Seaport). What links the membership together, for the purpose of providing $5,000 research fellowships, is a shared interest in making their large collections available for use by historical researchers. Continue reading ICYMI: Grants for New England historians

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

By the numbers

Since the blog launched (unofficially) on 2 January 2014 – with an official birthday of 10 January 2014 – Vita Brevis bloggers have written at least 1,252 posts, of which 1,244 have been published.[1]

The blog has 105 official users, with eleven administrators and 94 authors.[2]

In the blog’s five-year history, Scott Steward has published 260 posts, for about 21% of the total. Alicia Crane Williams comes next, with 175 posts (14%), then Christopher C. Child (82; about 7%). Other prolific bloggers include Zachary Garceau (49), Jeff Record (45), Jan Doerr (44), Penny Stratton (36), and Pamela Athearn Filbert (35). Continue reading By the numbers

Kissing cousins

The Stewards in Goshen with their household staff, ca. 1857. Jackson Steward is seated, reading a letter, and Rachel and Camille Marié can be seen in the doorway.

I’m not sure when I first realized that, in addition to my direct ancestors’ propensity for marrying their cousins, I had collateral relatives who were wont to marry into the same families. The examples are extensive enough that it might take a couple of posts to cover the territory, so for this one I will look at my paternal grandfather’s Steward relatives – I can think of four instances without too much trouble!

My great-great-great-grandfather John Steward of Goshen, New York (1777–1854) was married twice, first to a neighbor, Martha Jackson, and then to Mary Isabella Young of Philadelphia. By his first wife, John had five children, four of whom lived to grow up and marry; poor Mary Isabella had just one survivor among her children. Continue reading Kissing cousins

‘An ornament to the city’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The third and final entry in the Regina Shober Gray[1] diary on the death of her sister Lizzie[2] turns from private grief to the public response to the news.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Wednesday, 13 December 1865: We think now that Lizzie began weeks ago to realize or at least to fear her sickness was a mortal one. While we continued to hope her exhaustion was largely due to nervous depression and would pass off with the nausea, she was sadly conscious of the inward sapping of the springs of life, and her thoughts instinctively dwelt upon ideas of death & burial. She roused from a doze some weeks since, and said “I have had a vision – you will laugh at me, and say it was a dream – but I saw Wesley & Joseph” (my brother’s two men-servants) “come along the entry and into the room with the tressels which were used for John,[3] and set them down here, saying, ‘They must be ready for Miss Lizzie.’”

“Oh, honey,” said Sallie [Shober],[4] who was with her, “of course it was a dream, you are so restless & feverish.” Continue reading ‘An ornament to the city’

Noble contributions

The Society’s Treat Rotunda was the setting Saturday for Gary Boyd Roberts’s seminar marking the publication of his new book, The Royal Descents of 900 Immigrants to the American Colonies, Québec, or the United States. More than thirty participants thronged the room to hear Gary’s reflections on new scholarship on Americans of royal descent; for the first time in the series, this volume also includes information on the royal lines of French-Canadians. The day concluded with a round table session featuring some of the scholars with whom Gary has collaborated in amassing his growing collection of notable Americans of royal descent. Continue reading Noble contributions

ICYMI: Boston riches

[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 23 February 2017.]

Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, entries for 5-7 February 1864. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

As I complete publishing excerpts from the 1865 volume, the final year in what I hope will be a single-volume account of the Civil War in the Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, it seems like a good time to revisit a Gray diary primer from 2017.

Certain diaries, and their authors, become short-hand for a time and place: Samuel Pepys’s diary of seventeenth-century London, for example, or Anne Frank’s diary of wartime Amsterdam. The diaries of Philip Hone and George Templeton Strong are often invoked to cover the first half of the nineteenth century in New York; for the Civil War years, readers turn to Mary Boykin (Miller) Chesnut’s Diary from Dixie (1905). Continue reading ICYMI: Boston riches

‘Aching hearts’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The death of the diarist’s sister Lizzie Shober[1] fills pages in her manuscript diary.[2] Here, in the second installment (of three), Mrs. Gray gathers memories and impressions of her sister’s recent deathbed:

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Tuesday, 12 December 1865: On Wednesday, Nov. 30, 1864, we laid our dear brother John[3] in the quiet church yard at St. James the less.[4] He died on Sunday the 27th. Just one year from that sad day, the darling of all our hearts, my sister Lizzie, lay at the last gasp apparently – and though she rallied for a few days of inexpressible comfort to us all, she too left us on Friday Dec 1st and was laid by his side, on just such a soft Indian summer [day] as we had for him, on Monday, Dec. 4th, 1865. She was so wasted and altered that I can not realize yet, that it was our bright cheery Lizzie we left there.

It was Suffering & Death we laid in the cold dark tomb, not our darling; even the profile was unnatural, all the sweet smiling lines, drawn & rigid – and the plain hair, parted back like a child’s, and cut short, for its length & weight distressed her so, looked so unlike the rich full puffs, every wave of which caught such a rich golden auburn glow, upon its lovely chestnut brown. Continue reading ‘Aching hearts’

Further ancestors of the Princess of Wales

Finishing up the generation of the Princess of Wales’s great-great-great-great-grandparents –­ as part of a review of scholarship that has become available since Richard Evans’s book, The Ancestry of Diana, Princess of Wales, was published in 2007 – there is something more to be said about her matrilineal ancestress in that generation, Eliza Kewark (or Kevorkian) of Surat in the Indian state of Gujurat.[1]

The daughter of Jakob Kevork/Hakob Kevorkian, and sister-in-law of Aratoon Baldassier (or Baldassarian), her voice may be heard in a series of letters she wrote to her partner (and, perhaps, husband) Theodore Forbes between 1812 and 1819; the last – concerning Forbes’s plan to send their daughter to his family in Scotland – strikes a formal note: Continue reading Further ancestors of the Princess of Wales