Tag Archives: Family papers

2020: the year in review

Plymouth Harbor. Photo courtesy of James Heffernan

As we reach the end of this extraordinary year – one marked by titanic public stresses and private losses – it is time to review a few of the blog posts that appeared in Vita Brevis in 2020. Most posts, of course, concerned genealogical pointers and results, but some addressed the current moment, when so much of our time was spent solitary and in front of a computer screen.

Of course, at the start of 2020 the blog – and NEHGS – focused on twin anniversaries: the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower, in 1620, and the 175th birthday of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, in 1845. Continue reading 2020: the year in review

The ‘Magee storm’

As 2020, the year commemorating the four hundredth anniversary of the Mayflower landing in the New World, comes to a quiet end we can, with hopefulness, look forward in 2021 to making up for all the 2020 cancellations by commemorating the quadricentennial of many first-year Mayflower milestones. The “Winter of Death” and the death of the colony’s first governor, John Carver, were despairing events, but other milestones, including the treaty signed with Massasoit in March 1621, the first marriage in the Pilgrim village in May, and the harvest feast in late October lifted the colony’s hopes. The year 2021 should, in more ways than one, be recognized as the year of survival. Continue reading The ‘Magee storm’

Finding Ma

Ma Seal revealed. Images by Lora Webb Nichols, courtesy of the University of Wyoming

“In the fits of our ages, tales and characters are revealed” or so it was the case with my grandmother, as dementia stole over her mind during the last years of her life.[1] I have used “fits” and “ages” here in the plural form, as I want to tell you a tale of that composite age, the age that my grandmother was then, and an age in life when our minds return to what we once knew best. This is the way it was for my grandmother Babe Sage (as she was called), and how the specter of a woman called “Ma Sealcame into our lives. Ma Seal,[2] for long years unknown to the rest of the family, was a grand old lady whose identity was only revealed in the last couple of weeks. I hope you will indulge me as I try to explain the whys and hows of it all, and yes, perhaps the “fits” and “ages” of it, too. Continue reading Finding Ma

The Churchill letter

Click on image to expand it.

My wife’s maternal grandmother, Lydia (Woliung) Faulds (1896-1939), was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father was a blacksmith with family roots in Alsace. Her mother was a recent immigrant from Germany. The family later moved to Matoon, in Coles County, Illinois, where Lydia graduated from high school. After receiving a diploma from Eastern Illinois State Normal School in 1914, she taught school in the Oak Park (Illinois) school system for several years. In 1918, in recognition of her academic abilities, especially in mathematics, Lydia was elected to a position on the staff of the Lincoln School of the Teachers College within Columbia University, in New York City. Set up the year before, the Lincoln School was created to conduct “experiments in modern education.” Her assigned subjects were geography and mathematics. She resigned after one term in the expectation of the imminent return of her fiancé from war duty in France; they planned to get married back in Illinois and make a home there. He arrived as expected, but was debilitated from being gassed on the battlefield and spent most of the next year in a New York hospital. Lydia stayed in New York and was employed that year as a governess for the Rockefeller family. Continue reading The Churchill letter

Finding confirming information

Researching someone with a common name can be challenging. Sometimes you will find too many records, and without more identifying information it can be almost impossible to determine which is the correct record. Or, if you do find a promising record, how do you know if it is for the person being researched or someone else with the same name? To overcome these problems, you need to find enough information to come to a solid conclusion.

I had this problem recently while researching Charles McDermott, who lived in New York City. I found a possible naturalization record for Charles in 1896. The record showed this Charles was about the right age and had immigrated around the right year. Continue reading Finding confirming information

Delayed messages

Minnie Maud (Hickok) Wilcox with her twin sister Mallie Mae (Hickok) Bodwell. Courtesy of Tom Kennedy

Okay. Let’s clear something up straight away. Like the rest of us here, I see dead people.[1] The truth is, though, that “my visions” aren’t always very clear, and truer still, is that I don’t exactly see dead people so much as I hear them. (And no, it’s not time for you to call your local mental health professional on this blogger just yet – but do give it time.) I know it may seem like a big genealogical s t r e t c h, but I have to believe you know just what I mean. They, our dearly departed, “come a calling” to leave one with that feeling of a special message – one intended for you alone. It’s almost like some form of spectral evidence meant to guide us in researching the old family tree. Stretch or not, most of the time my own dearly departed are just like this; that is, showing up with their usual hints of hushed and secretive messages. “Messages” that make me sweat it out for the smallest discovery of their lives, relationships, whereabouts, or demise. (Well, they never promised that it would be easy, right?) Continue reading Delayed messages

A ‘no brainer’

I prefer to work on the Early New England Families Study Project (ENEF) sketches by myself, surveying literature, digging into primary sources, organizing, and immersing myself in the subject, so that I do not have to deal with teaching someone else to do things the way I want them done.

However, a nice NEHGS member, Barry E. Hinman of California, Librarian Emeritus of Stanford University, recently donated access to his digital manuscript collection for use by NEHGS authors, including ENEF and the Great Migration Study Project (GM). Barry’s many credits include articles that have been published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register.[1] Continue reading A ‘no brainer’

Digital Library & Archives

This week, we are excited to launch the newly redesigned Digital Library & Archives website, which was previously called the Digital Collections. Over the past two years, the Digital Collections Committee at NEHGS worked to customize and redesign the Digital Library & Archives for a cleaner appearance and with new user-friendly features. The Digital Library & Archives brings together digitized resources from the three repositories at American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society: the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center, the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, and the Research Library. Continue reading Digital Library & Archives

Omission vs. commission

Detail of Lippitt manuscript, 2020

When I “hand-off” a genealogical manuscript, it can be some time before the work is handed back to me with queries from the copyeditor. Occasionally in that time, more resources may emerge (or become more accessible), and my own choices might have evolved with regard to ways of “ending” research where no solution was found.

While I will look at online trees for possibilities, and may put clues in brackets, my general practice is to remove them later on if I can find no supporting documentation. In a roundtable discussion when asked about this, Robert Charles Anderson said he would prefer to “commit the sin of omission versus the sin of commission.” Continue reading Omission vs. commission

A loyalist clergyman

The Rev. Samuel Fayerweather (1725-1781), in the Society’s Fine Art Collection. Gift of Miss Elizabeth Harris of Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 16, 1924

The New England Historic Genealogical Society is a member of the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC), a group of libraries, museums, and other repositories holding materials for historical research. Each year fellows from the NERFC program visit NEHGS and the other members – from Connecticut to Massachusetts and Maine, from Rhode Island to New Hampshire and Vermont – to conduct research for their graduate work or as junior faculty at colleges and universities around the world.

Back in 2018, Peter Walker – now an assistant professor of history at the University of Wyoming – visited NEHGS to work in the William Clark collection. He will be speaking this afternoon in a Zoom event via King’s Chapel in Boston entitled “Massachusetts Loyalist Clergy in the Time of the American Revolution.”

Peter’s work was also the subject of a Vita Brevis post in June 2018 entitled “Indifferent to the world.” I urge Vita Brevis readers to revisit Peter’s blog post and tune into the Zoom program today (July 30) at 5:30 p.m.