Tag Archives: Family stories

Sins of the fathers

Major General Israel Putnam (1718-1790). Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

In family history research, we often glean valuable information from genealogies published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the period when genealogical publishing was enjoying its first real heyday in the United States. For my family, a standard resource is the 1913 genealogy John Grow of Ipswich/John (Groo) Grow of Oxford by George W. Davis, a retired U.S. Army general whose mother was a Grow.[1] Like many other pioneering genealogists of his day, Davis was a relentless researcher and a meticulous compiler of data – and for years I looked upon his work with a respect bordering on awe. Only recently did I discover that he deliberately sanitized the historical record to present Grow family members in the most favorable light possible. Continue reading Sins of the fathers

Phillips House

This is usually the time of year that many house museums open for the season. While the museums are closed this year due to the coronavirus, I thought I would look back at some of my favorites. One that stands out is the Phillips House, a beautiful Federal-style mansion set in the McIntire Historic District of Salem, Massachusetts. Continue reading Phillips House

Plagues are personal

Baptismal record for Laers, son of Truels Laersen, living at Bruk 4 of Broe, from the Kirkebok for Rennesøy Palm Sunday 24 March 1771.

While I was researching and writing “The Early Years” segment of the book I have been writing about my great-great-great-grandfather Nils Trulsen Bru, I needed to look at his family of origin. What could be learned about his parents and siblings which might shed light on the course his life followed?

I had previously recorded data about his parents and the names and dates for his sister Malena and for two brothers, both named Lars. I knew that the first “Lars” died as a baby and that it was fairly common practice in those days to name a later child after one which had been lost. In fairness, I had never paid much attention to the death of the older Lars, who was baptized 24 March 1771 and buried later that year (on 10 November). Continue reading Plagues are personal

‘Grandpa Ewer’

Recently Meaghan E. H. Siekman shared tips for how to incorporate genealogy into at-home learning, noting that going through old photographs is a good way of introducing children to relatives who passed away before they were born.

That reminded me of a mystery in my own album of early childhood photos. It’s a picture of me taken on my very first Easter, sitting on the lap of an elderly man, and labeled: “Grandpa Ewer 98 Yrs.” Even as a very young girl, I was perplexed by this picture because I knew both of my grandfathers, and two of my great-grandfathers, and none of them had the name Ewer. When I asked my mother who this “Grandpa Ewer” was, she replied that he wasn’t really related to me. Who was he, then, and Why was he in my photo album? It was only when I started doing my own genealogical research that I found out. Continue reading ‘Grandpa Ewer’

Family ties

What is it that they say about coincidences, that there are no coincidences? The word is defined as suggesting a remarkable concurrence of circumstances that seem to have “no apparent causal connection.” The OED shows a 1598 usage meaning “exactly contemporaneous” and a 1656 usage meaning “occupying the same place.” It seems that, in reality, coincidences are less magical than they initially appear to be when one considers the probability of two events occurring.

I thought about coincidences recently when taking The Weekly Genealogist survey that asked about personal connections to NEHGS. Had the question been asked just a few days earlier I would still have been able to check a number of the boxes, but the coincidence of it appearing when it did allowed me to check the last box, the one about a connection to NEHGS not mentioned in the survey. Continue reading Family ties

Twilight

Courtesy of Findagrave.com

From our modern perspective, seventeenth-century New England was a strange cultural cosmos: a post-medieval/pre-modern world where metaphysical beliefs, superstition, and fear of the supernatural still prevailed – a world in which people believed that witches were real and that ghosts, “specters,” and spirits from “the invisible world” could directly influence the lives of humans. We look back on that world today with a mixture of amusement and condescension, horror and fascination. Continue reading Twilight

A walk in their footsteps

Sam Carlsen in his Coast Guard uniform, ca. 1940s.

My great-grandfather was born in Wisconsin in 1901, just about a year after his parents and older sisters immigrated from Norway. His father, a sailor who was once “honored by the King of Norway,” settled the family on the shores of Lake Michigan and began a long career with the U.S. Life Saving Service, which became the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915. Though this man, my great-great-grandfather Søren “Sam” Carlsen, died in 1955, long before I was born, he has always been a central figure in the family lore. His portrait is displayed proudly and prominently at my grandpa’s house, and many of my grandpa’s childhood stories feature “Grampa Carlsen” swooping in to save the day. Continue reading A walk in their footsteps

Courage and innovation

Climbing Mount Washington with a view of the other Presidential Mountains, ca. 1870. Courtesy of the Mt. Washington Auto Road website

New Hampshire has a special place in my heart. My friends and I camp in the White Mountains every summer and each year we find something new to visit. One summer, we made it up Mount Washington. Everyone in New England knows the “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper stickers. But do people know enough about Mount Washington’s history? It’s full of human perseverance, courage, and innovation. Its main claim to fame is that on the summit in 1934, the highest wind speed ever was recorded. The record was held till 1996, but it is still the highest wind speed recorded that is not associated with a tornado or a cyclone. Continue reading Courage and innovation

Mothers of Cape Cod

Courtesy of Claire Vail Photography (see link below)

I learned a few years ago that I have Mayflower ancestors along two lines of descent. Not a big surprise, as NEHGS makes it known that “More than 30 million people around the world have Mayflower ancestors.” My Sturgis, Gorham, and Paine ancestors were from Cape Cod and, thanks to my Gorham and Paine connections, I can claim Mayflower ancestors along those lines.

When I hear about Mayflower ancestors, it’s almost always about the male passengers, even though there were eighteen female passengers, eleven of whom were teenagers or younger.[1] My inspirations for this blog post are (1) my 14-year-old granddaughter, Bridget, who is a very bright and capable young woman – and who is probably getting quite tired of my stories about her bright and capable ancestors – and (2) the Hon. Josiah Quincy, Jr., who spoke at the 1854 anniversary meeting of the Cape Cod Association of Boston. Continue reading Mothers of Cape Cod

Sturgis – or Sturgeon?

In my study of Sturgis family history, I have found many branches of Sturgis families besides “my” branch, which begins with Edward Sturgis of Charlestown (1635) and Yarmouth (1639.) There are Sturgis (or Sturges) families in Connecticut, Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania.

I began looking into Pennsylvania Sturgis families because of Samuel Davis Sturgis, who was a West Point graduate and Brevet Major-General during the Civil War.[1] I am fairly sure that I am not a direct relation to the famous General, but I would like to learn more about his ancestry. Continue reading Sturgis – or Sturgeon?