“In the vain laughter of folly wisdom hears half its applause.” ~ George Eliot
From the days of hungry lions in the Colosseum to Keeping up with the Kardashians, the world of entertainment has always been a curious mix. In historical terms, and carrying over into genealogical ones, what constitutes “entertainment” isn’t always an easy place to re-visit or understand. It can be difficult to research persons, places, or anything of a ‘Thespian nature’ (sans those lions) without using modern-day judgments or, at the very least, a ‘present tense lens.’ One could say that the evolution of civilization demands this, that the value in what’s found to be ‘entertaining’ must also evolve. It could also be said that it’s much easier to stand on a moral high ground when looking backward. The implication here is that what’s moral in entertainment isn’t always static, but something that must necessarily change and improve. While I guess there isn’t any way that this can’t be true, at this juncture, the outcomes of such future changes and/or musings must be left to persons far better and wiser than I. Continue reading Outside the lines→
[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→
My grandmother, Emma Mueller, never really knew her father. Her mother, Marica Michelic Muhvic, a widow – born in Stari-Tsg, Slovenia, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1873 – had emigrated alone to New York in 1903 to seek a better life. Marica changed her name to Mary and found a job working as a housekeeper in the German Evangelical Home for the Aged in Brooklyn, New York, where she was living in 1905. Here she could interact with people that made her feel like she was in her home country, since they shared a common language and culture. Continue reading A case of mistaken identity→
[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→
Sometimes the better part of a genealogical journey is exploring threads linking to the simplest of distant memories. Most ‘normal’ folks might call this going down the rabbit hole, and in this regard they’d no doubt be correct. Nevertheless, there’s a great deal of satisfaction in revisiting the thoughts and images that float through our family consciousness-at-large. These are the memories and images that often remind us of just who we are and where we’ve come from. Continue reading Comic relief→
With the release of the sixth edition of The Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, the town chart of Connecticut added two important columns when it comes to finding the correct probate district for a Connecticut town based on the year of an estate’s probate.
First, in 2011, Connecticut consolidated its probate districts. The fifth edition of The Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research identified districts using a number that referred to the narrative section of the Connecticut chapter and identified these probate districts moving forward, so from 2011 on. Continue reading Connecticut Probate Districts→
In July 2021, Christopher C. Child reviewed a surprising feature in his ancestry: that he has 1 (one) ancestor who resided in northern New England during the seventeenth century:
“…My connections to Vermont are even briefer. A great-great-great-great-grandmother, Julia (Vaughan) Perry (ca. 1814-1899), was born in Allegany County, New York. Her parents William and Elizabeth (Foster) Vaughan were born in Massachusetts, Vermont, or Rhode Island (sources vary). Continue reading 2021: the year in review concluded→
“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→
Like so many people during this season, I’ve been (slowly) decorating Our Old House for Christmas. As I arranged the mini-“Dickens Village” on the kitchen hearth today, I realized that it was more than a little anachronistic. This old Maine farmhouse, built in 1788/89 by American Patriots, would never have seen such a British or Victorian display of Christmas! Continue reading A Christmas anachronism→
Here I don’t mean surname associations or descendant groups — I mean a family’s association with a place. This concept is on my mind as my father prepares to sell his house, built 27 years ago on land that his parents had bought back in the 1920s. For that matter, my paternal grandfather was born in a house his parents built and on a piece of land that had (already, in 1898) been in the Steward family for about 150 years.