Tag Archives: Family papers

Stolen identity

Every few months, we have a “Staff Research Night” at NEHGS, where staff members stay in the library after closing and work on their genealogy. Several of the staff genealogists assist staff members in other departments who might be new to genealogy or would like some guidance. Awhile back I worked with Rachel Adams, our Database Services Volunteer Coordinator. She was interested in learning more about her mother’s Jewish ancestry in Connecticut and New York. While we found several items, the ancestor who surprised us both was her great-grandfather, Albert Goldberg (1886–1932) of the Bronx. Continue reading Stolen identity

Divine intervention?

My grandfather, later in life.

When the time comes for me to plunge into my Boston Irish Catholic ancestry – my Tierneys, Quinlans, Sweeneys, and Kellards – I intend to make full use of the Catholic parish records that are currently being digitized by the historic collaboration between NEHGS and the Archdiocese of Boston. Until that time, I am comforted in knowing that these precious records are safely ensconced online, for all eternity, ready at the click of the mouse.

Which doesn’t mean that I haven’t already been dabbling in a few things Catholic. Indeed, my current project took me to Braintree, Massachusetts, to the Archives of the Archdiocese of Boston (www.bostoncatholic.org/Archives) in search of answers about my Protestant grandfather, John Osborne, he of stern Puritan stock, who, we were always told, had been orphaned at a young age. Continue reading Divine intervention?

Religious necrologies

Sister Annunciation of the Sisters of Providence. Providence Archives, Montréal

In extending my research on the Trottier family (Cousins of St. Casimir), I discovered in a genealogy of St. Casimir families that Marie Trottier’s eldest sister, Athanaïs, became a Sister of Providence, an order of nuns founded in Montréal. The genealogy provided no other details on her subsequent life. Seeking to learn more information, I wrote to the Archivist of the Sisters of Providence with the certainty they would possess her necrology, an account of the sister’s life written after her death. These documents are more akin to a spiritual profile than facts recounted in an obituary. What I received—a photograph, a list of her dates and places of service, as well as the necrology—exceeded my expectations. Continue reading Religious necrologies

Two souls

Gerard Dery

As we mark Veterans Day, I think of my ancestors who fought for our country. During my family search, I found that most of my ancestors didn’t arrive to the United States until 1870; we don’t have any early American soldiers in our family tree who fought in the American Revolution or World War I. I do have two great-uncles, on my paternal side, who were in the military during World War II. These two men are the individuals I want to honor this Veterans Day.

My grandfather, Leo Napoleon Dery, had a brother named Gerard Ovila Dery who was born in 1920. Gerard, pictured in uniform, enlisted on 2 February 1942 at the age of 22 and was stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia. Continue reading Two souls

Over here, over there

Rex O. Church, ca. 1916

We are nearing the centennial of the end of World War I, and I’ve begun to think about what my ancestors experienced in the conflicts of their times and how they viewed the conflicts. I remember a photo of my paternal grandfather, Rex O. Church (1883–1956), in military uniform, a puzzling photo because I didn’t know he ever served, but I did know he never left Maine for active duty. How did he serve (or not), and what did he miss (or not)?

An annual report dated 1917 by the Maine Adjutant General lists Rex O. Church having earned the rank of Private on 3 June 1916 in Capt. Fred B. Perley’s Company M, Second Maine Infantry, Maine National Guard. Continue reading Over here, over there

Who’s Phebe?

When a man married two women with the same first name in colonial America and the early post-revolutionary United States, genealogical misidentifications become more likely since the wife generally took her husband’s name in all subsequent records. Children may get assigned to the wrong mother; in this case, the two wives were “merged” into one wife. Continue reading Who’s Phebe?

‘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’

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’

Don’t fence me in

I grew up on this long-time family-owned property next door to my paternal grandparents, Rex Church (1883–1956) and Winifred Lee (1884–1980). I saw them almost every day until their deaths, ate lunches and holiday meals with them, slept overnight there with my cousins, and saw them only as my grandparents. I suspect that, like many other people, I’ve only come to really know them as I piece together family stories.

Long after my grandparents’ deaths, my brother and I took on the task of clearing out the house in preparation for his renovations. I began to learn more about my grandparents the more old photos we found between pages of every book or magazine (I’m not sure who was reading the collected speeches of Andrew Jackson, but there it was), and taking down framed photos, mostly of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Continue reading Don’t fence me in