When Scott Steward told me about his forthcoming departure from NEHGS, he asked if I could send him one more Vita Brevis post “for the road.” The posts I have written have largely been when I need a mental break from whatever genealogy I am working on or go down a rabbit hole on a minor problem within a project; they are sometimes inspired when I am engaged in other forms of entertainment outside of work. While I had one such post “in the cupboard” for Scott to publish, I thought a more appropriate final post under Scott’s editorship would be reminiscing about the many projects we have worked on together for more than fifteen years! Continue reading One more for the road
“The thing that interests me most about family history is the gap between the things we think we know about our families and the realities.” – Jeremy Hardy
Remember that children’s game of Telephone (or Gossip) in which a message is passed on in a whisper to each of several people, so that the end version is often distorted from the original? Family stories are like that old game and can be even more distorted depending on how many narrators related the story to how many listeners. I recently found one example in Husband’s maternal family history concerning (ahem) One Child Left Behind.
The story was that Husband’s maternal grandmother, Catherine (Hrabal) Samson (1906-1987), had emigrated in 1910 as a child with her family from Czechoslovakia (or Czechia, Bohemia, Austria, or Moravia, depending on which U.S. Census you want to believe and what the international politics were at the time). Continue reading Bessie’s story
A few weeks ago, after presenting a talk (“Adventures in DNA”) at the Shrewsbury (Vermont) Community Meeting House for the Ann Story Chapter of the Vermont DAR, I stopped in the kitchen and asked longtime acquaintance and former regent Julanne Sharrow for a drink of water.
She asked, “Do you think DNA results can really knock down brick walls?”
I said yes and added, “Who are you looking for?”
“William Shangraw of Pittsford.”
Throughout my childhood, I was frequently asked if I was related to the famous chef Julia Child. Until I was in high school, my family had a summer home in Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard. Our driveway from the main road, which was out of sight of the house, had an unassuming white sign saying “Child” and a similarly identified mailbox. While we lived there, my father learned that tour buses would occasionally claim that our home was that of Julia Child and her husband Paul, who had a house somewhere else on the island! Continue reading Child cooks
As Irish researchers, we are obsessed with place. What counties were my ancestors from? Where were they baptized? What townlands did they live in? In our drive to identify these places, we often overlook the place itself. Today, there are two wonderful sources that can help us learn more about the places where our ancestors lived – The Placenames Database of Ireland (Logainm.ie) and Townlands.ie. Continue reading Irish places
After my son was born, I developed an interest in finding out more about his father’s surname, Sadler. Not much was known about the origins of the Sadler line, since my boyfriend and his siblings did not grow up knowing their father. From time to time I would get asked to explore this family line. At some point, there was even a tale that perhaps the Sadlers were related to James Thomas Sadler, of Whitechapel district in the east end of London, who was accused of being the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper! Continue reading Family lore
The slides my father took on my First Communion Sunday, 15 May 1966, in Fall River, Massachusetts, serve as a colorful time capsule of a bygone era. Sacred Heart Church, now closed, once covered the largest geographical parish in the center of the city. On that morning, more than 60 children, girls in white and boys in black, having fasted for twelve hours in preparation for communion, processed into church with disciplined precision. We returned to church in the afternoon to receive scapulars, prayer books, and rosaries, and then processed out of the church east along Pine Street for the May crowning. Continue reading A fresh look at Linden Street
Recently I was researching marriage records in Vermont and was reminded of the existence of Gretna Green towns in Colonial New England in the mid-eighteenthcentury. It turned out some English customs were just too convenient to leave behind, and British colonial towns like Chester, Vermont continued to mirror the infamous Gretna Green found just over the southern border of Scotland. We have likely encountered more references to the notorious town and hasty marriages in historical romance novels than we have in our own genealogical research. Still, it made me wonder about the origins of the scandalous towns and the non-traditional marriage custom the new inhabitants continued to practice after arriving in the New England colonies. Continue reading Clandestine marriages
Two years ago, I wrote about my success using Bohemian church books to further my research into my grandfather’s Czech ancestry. Church records are key for Czech/Bohemian research, as is true for genealogical research in many European countries. However, they are not the only source of genealogical material available to us. Recently, FamilySearch.org has been adding collections of land records for many locations in the Czech Republic. As of this writing, many of these collections are still marked as “preliminary,” to “allow immediate online access.” Recent uploads appear to be from the State Regional Archive in Litoměřice. Continue reading Land records in Bohemia
As much of the recent news has regarded the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I thought I would post on a distant Ukrainian ancestor of mine, Anne of Kiev, an ancestor to millions of people with western European ancestry whose siblings are ancestral to millions of eastern Europeans.
Anne of Kiev, or Anna Yaroslavna, was born just under one thousand years ago in Kievan Rus, present day Ukraine, daughter of Yaroslav the Wise, Grand Prince of Kiev, and his second wife Ingegerd of Sweden. She married King Henry I of France in 1051. Continue reading Anne of Kiev