If Our Old House builder, Asa Williams, had recently awakened from his 201-year eternal sleep, he would have seen, with fascinated but utter panic, the thunder of dragons that crawled up my driveway. (I think the blacksmith in Asa would find any fire-breathing dragons very useful … eventually.) As a patriot and devout Christian, he might have thought that Satan disguised as King George had unleashed his “great red dragon” on him personally. Continue reading Here be dragons
[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 23 November 2016.]
I trace my interest in genealogy to my early childhood. We lived surrounded by family – my paternal grandparents and uncle and aunt lived across the Ipswich River from us, and more distant cousins lived in nearby towns in Essex County, Massachusetts.
But while my parents and grandparents knew that they were related to these kinsmen – and my grandfather probably knew how, since he was closer to their common forebears – no one could explain the connection, at least at a child’s eye level. It made for an interesting mystery to solve. Continue reading ICYMI: Surrounded by family
[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 22 October 2015.]
A few months ago, my husband and I moved to Dorchester, Massachusetts, to work as caretakers of the William Clapp house, which was built in 1806. William Clapp and his wife, Elizabeth (Humphreys) Clapp, were married in the parlor of this house on 15 December 1806. They had nine children, two of whom died at a young age. This family also suffered the loss of three more children in November of 1838 from typhoid fever. Rebecca Clapp, aged twenty, and James Clapp, aged nineteen, died on the same day, and their brother Alexander Clapp, aged seventeen, died four days later. Continue reading ICYMI: Leaving their mark
Although these three girls’ names – Mary, Marcy, and Mercy – are similar, they are distinct names, often (and mistakenly) intermingled. Mingling similarly spelled names is usually a result of misinterpreting seventeenth-century handwriting, which is exacerbated for us today when we do not have access to original records. You ask “What’s the harm?” The following case story shows how old genealogists get older because of indiscreet mingling.
A Mayflower line has long been accepted by the Society that claims descent through Mary Medbury/Medbery, daughter of John Howland descendant Benjamin Medbury and his wife Martha Harris. Continue reading What’s in a name?
My recent post on “Philoprogenitive ancestors” resulted in several comments from readers about their own ancestors with many children. I mentioned my ancestor Simon Willard, and one reader also noted him as her own ancestor through his daughter Elizabeth. I was planning to comment back to the reader with my full line of descent (also going through Elizabeth, wife of Robert Blood), but before doing so I did a quick verification of the lineage as I had it. Long story short, Simon Willard can now be classified as one of my Former Ancestors. Continue reading The wrong Blood!
One does not turn readily to probate matters for cozy human interest stories, so I was surprised (and delighted) to find a momentary bright spot in the will of my great-great-grandmother Emily Anne Finlay, the “relict of Francis G. Ilsley, deceased.” Emily’s family background is suggested in bequests to her children Beekman (“the family Bible of the Beekman family”), Francis (“two oil portraits of Dirck Lefferts and his wife”), and Sara (“my tea set of silver service”), but in fact the estate was a small one, with two house lots in Newark, New Jersey as the major asset. Continue reading “Love and affection”
I almost hesitate to post this blog, as so much remains to be found – but the roughest outline of a family behind one of my intractable brick walls seems a good excuse to write about it (and seek the collective thoughts of Vita Brevis readers!).
Goldsborough Banyar (or Goldsbrow Banyer) was my great-great-grandmother’s great-grandfather, and an important figure in late colonial and early Federal New York. Perhaps because he spent much of his career in Albany, and the surname died out – despite heroic efforts by Goldsborough, his daughter, his grandson, and his great-grandson – the origins of the Banyar family have been lost. While his descendants have given masses of papers to the New-York Historical Society, nothing in that collection seems to yield a clue about who he was before he came to New York as a young man. His name, Goldsborough, should be a clue – and so it appears to be. Continue reading The elusive Banyars
Many years beyond the lifetime of Sybilla Shakshober Phillips (1872-1947), I discovered a pocket-sized daybook in my grandmother’s living room cabinet, which turned out to be a Masonic almanac or “National Diary” registered in 1879 for the Year 1880. In pencil on the flyleaf was written: “Miss Sybilla Shakshober.” Several pages in the front and throughout the volume were removed and only a few pages had been used at all. One or more members of the family had sporadically used the book for household accounting before it fell into the hands of young Sybilla, who mimicked its adult style by recording her transactions. Continue reading Sybilla’s daybook
If you have New England Planter ancestors or Loyalist ancestors who settled in Nova Scotia in your family tree, the diaries of Simeon Perkins should not be overlooked.
Born in Norwich, Connecticut on 24 February 1735, Simeon Perkins was the son of Jacob Perkins and Jemima Leonard. He arrived in Nova Scotia as a part of the New England Planter migration to maritime Canada in the 1760s and, initially, was involved in the fishing and lumbering trade.
His diaries, which span from 1766 until 1812, hold priceless information relating to the economy of Nova Scotia, politics during the American Revolution, privateering, the weather, and everyday life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of great value to genealogists, Perkins also recorded births, marriages, and deaths. Continue reading The diaries of Simeon Perkins
Given the growth and proliferation of twenty-four-hour news networks offering instantaneous political commentary, nearly every American adult is likely aware of the (demonstrably false) allegation that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. As many also know, President Obama was easily able to provide records which thoroughly debunked the baseless narrative. This was not, however, the first time a United States president was faced with questions about his origin which were dispelled by supporting records.
Beginning in late 1880, then Vice President-elect Chester A. Arthur was alleged to be a native of Canada, and, therefore, ineligible to hold the office to which he had been elected. Continue reading A president’s origins