We are not far removed from a time when parents, as a matter of course, endured the loss of one or more of their children. In fact, each of my grandparents had a sibling who died in infancy or early childhood. Some years ago, as part of a field study in a local cemetery, one of my students, obviously struck by the number of children’s graves, asked me: “Do you think parents back then just didn’t get attached to their children because they knew some of them would die?” My answer to this question has deepened over the years as I have listened to family stories and discerned poignant signs of remembrance. Continue reading Childhood mortality
On 3 February 2020, the Committee on Heraldry at the New England Historic Genealogical Society will celebrate its 156th birthday. Known as the oldest non-governmental heraldic body in the Western world, the Committee on Heraldry task themselves with maintaining and adding to a unique collection of coats of arms associated with American families, as well as organizing educational programming to introduce more people to this artistic side of family history.
The Committee is chaired by Ryan Woods, Executive Vice President and COO at NEHGS. Woods follows in the footsteps of his kinsman, Henry Ernest Woods, who was chairman of the Committee on Heraldry from 1890 to 1911. Today, the committee of twelve meets three to four times yearly, and is charged with reviewing applications and registrations of coats of arms for Americans. These include both historical and modern coats of arms. Continue reading Heraldry in the news
When I first began to explore my family tree, I asked my mother what she knew about her ancestors. She pulled out some old typewritten papers and documents that contained most of the information the family knew, and I pored over them. One of the family lines that caught my attention was my great-great-grandfather Henry John Dauber. He was born 23 October 1834 in New York City. The family notes even specified he was born on Delancey Street, near the police station. But there was no mention of his parents, either in the notes or on his death certificate. Continue reading An elegant resolution
In January 2019, Vita Brevis marked its fifth anniversary with a series of posts, among them one on the blog “By the numbers.” After listing a number of statistics about the blog to that point, I made the following comments:
[But] Vita Brevis is more than the numbers, the percentages, the ongoing series. It is meant to educate; it is meant to entertain. Like P. L. Travers’ Mary Poppins, it aims to guide its readership – gently, with carrots, not sticks – to the right path, toward genealogical breakthroughs. How? By breaking down the thought processes that successful genealogists use to undertake fresh research, building upon previous work when assessing a new genealogical problem. Continue reading 2019: the year in review
I recently attended my first concert ever, with my husband. Whenever I listen to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s music, it puts me into a holiday mood. During the concert, I learned that founder Paul O’Neill passed away two years ago. I was curious about his roots and wanted to see what I could find. I learned from his obituary that he had grandparents from Ireland. Through a variety of interviews published online, I was able to start tracing his tree. I first started looking into his maternal side.
Paul’s maternal grandparents were Andrew Joseph Moore and Julia P. Merryman. Both were born in Ireland. The couple married in South Dublin on 13 June 1924, a few short years after the Irish War of Independence. Continue reading Irish origins
Christmastime in Germany is magical. Winter is generally a cold, dark season, but for most of November, and all of December, it seems like every open square in large towns and cities all over the country is taken over by holiday spirits as the Weihnachtsmärkte and Christkindlmärkte (Christmas markets) are built. Wooden stalls go up, and decorations adorn the streets. At night, twinkle lights go on, braziers are lit, and the Glühwein starts flowing. In the absence of a national holiday in November, Germany and neighboring countries like the Netherlands and Austria devote the late fall and early winter exclusively to Christmas, building up to Santa’s visit on Christmas Eve. Continue reading Holiday spirits
While working on the various connections of the Livingston family in Scotland, I had a vague recollection that I had encountered multiple Livingstons in the ancestry of the late Diana, Princess of Wales; several years ago I edited a book on her forebears, and I pictured several lines from which to choose. The same, in a sense, must be true for the Prince of Wales, whose ancestry was covered so fully in Gerald Paget’s 1977 work.
Well, yes and no. I suspect the name I sought was the Saltonstall family in the Princess’s ancestry – a family about whom I have written a book! The Saltonstalls appear with some frequency in The Ancestry of Diana, Princess of Wales, as we were careful to note the families in her ancestry with American connections. Continue reading Royal Livingstons
As a relatively new staff member at American Ancestors, I am on uncertain ground writing about the art of family history research. I was schooled in and have worked many years in the literary and performing arts, at various times in book publishing, financial services, and journalism. For past employers, I’ve tracked and reacted to current trends and preferences, and culled business leaders’ insights on the financial markets and documented their current projects and projections. Most recently, I’ve pursued and presented today’s most sought-after authors and their books. Continue reading American inspiration
As I work at reconstructing the environment in which the Livingstons of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lived, I have been struck by the frequency with which I have encountered members of the Menteith family. (It is fair to say that there are a number of such families in this project, interrelated in various ways, but the Menteiths keep turning up!) To arrive at the early modern Livingston family, I have gone back on various lines (including the ancestry of Livingston spouses), so the resulting family trees cover individuals who were not named Livingston – or aware of these particular connections. Continue reading Mysterious Menteiths
Three new sketches have been uploaded to the Early New England Families database for Tristram Coffin, his mother, and one of his sisters.
Tristram Coffin, age 32, and his wife Dionis (Stevens) Coffin, about the same age, brought their five children – ranging in age from 12 to 1 – from Brixton in Devon to New England by October 1642, when the death of the youngest child was recorded in Haverhill. They had four more children born in New England. Continue reading The Coffin cluster