I do a lot of lectures, courses, and online webinars about immigration, with my favorite period concentrating on the 1882 to 1924 period. This isn’t so much because of the improvement of the passenger lists, but more as a result of the many changes to the immigration laws in this period that began to limit what was considered an “acceptable” immigrant. Physical limitations, inability to get a job, and certain “loathsome and contagious” diseases were just some of the reasons an immigrant could have traveled all the way from their old country to America only to find that they wouldn’t be admitted. Continue reading Uncertain immigration
As we reach the end of this extraordinary year – one marked by titanic public stresses and private losses – it is time to review a few of the blog posts that appeared in Vita Brevis in 2020. Most posts, of course, concerned genealogical pointers and results, but some addressed the current moment, when so much of our time was spent solitary and in front of a computer screen.
Of course, at the start of 2020 the blog – and NEHGS – focused on twin anniversaries: the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower, in 1620, and the 175th birthday of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, in 1845. Continue reading 2020: the year in review
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
My discovery of a letter, almost five decades ago, marked the starting point for exploring the Irish roots of my father’s maternal grandmother, Annie Flynn Cassidy (1856–1919). Annie and her sister Ellen Flynn emigrated to Fall River, Massachusetts, around 1881. On 16 December 1885, their father John Flynn wrote this letter from Cloonduane acknowledging money the sisters sent home and the news of Annie’s recent marriage to Patrick Cassidy. Presumably Cloonduane was near Castlebar, County Mayo, the town cited as Annie and Ellen’s birthplace in their obituaries from Fall River newspapers. Continue reading Return to Cloonduane
“Goodbye Helsinki,” Anni Virta wrote in July 1960, “our trip to the west has started and the point of the dream has become a reality.” Anni was a cousin by marriage. An English translation of her diary came to me recently through a serendipitous connection.
Anni’s nephew, Antti Virta of Helsinki, had written to the daughter of one of my cousins, making the connection via WikiTree, asking for information about his aunt Mary Rajasilta, wife of my mother’s brother, George Isaacson. Busy with an ailing mother, my cousin’s daughter bounced Antti’s request to me. I looked up some information about Aunt Mary in American records for Antti. And there began a pleasant correspondence. Continue reading Icing on the cake
Several years ago, long before the online catalogue, I spent time going through the NEHGS card catalogue looking for materials related to my Richardson ancestors. I came across the card for a manuscript compiled by William S. Richardson. As it turned out, he was related: he’s my second cousin four times removed. We descend from William Richardson of Newbury, Massachusetts, through his great-grandson, Parker Richardson, Sr. Continue reading A family treasure
One of my family lines that I love exploring is the Siegel family. My great grandmother Matilda Siegal was born in Focsani, Romania. She came to the United States as a little girl of 10 years of age in 1905. She lived with her older brother Isidore and then moved in with her sister Rebecca and her husband, Simon Frankel. Rebecca had immigrated just two years earlier from Romania. Their mother, Chaje Goldman, would later immigrate in 1911 and bring along her four other children.
A little over three years ago I sent a message to a user on FamilySearch.
A little over three years ago I sent a message to a user on FamilySearch after viewing a note on my second great aunt, Rebecca Siegel, on their Family Tree. I was thrilled when I received a reply from the user, Barbara. She is the granddaughter of Rebecca. We exchanged messages back and forth, sharing what we each had found in our genealogy research, as well as stories we knew about our family members.
For many of us, Labor Day is synonymous with the last celebration of summer—a time for cookouts, sporting events, and a final day off before the school year begins and autumn arrives. The very existence of the federal holiday (established in 1894) reflects the successes of America’s labor movement at the end of the nineteenth century. Labor federations such as the National Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, were founded in the 1860s to champion the common interests of America’s workforce: better wages, a regulated work week, safe working conditions, and restrictions on child labor. These organizations, however, did not always present a united front—something that was evident in Boston at the turn of the twentieth century and a truth that became personal when researching my great-great grandfather Anders Gustavus Norander. Continue reading A Tale of Two Parades
Let’s take a step back in time. Imagine yourself in the 1840s as the British are slowly expanding their power into places like New Zealand and Hong Kong, the Oregon Trail is not just a video game but a real expedition, and you have traveled to California to make your fortune in the Gold Rush. The United States is working hard at home all the while trying to establish itself on the world stage. The 1840s were also the early days of American missionaries — a significant and often controversial piece of history which I began to learn about through reading the correspondence of Leander Thompson through the NEHGS Digital Collections at AmericanAncestors.org. Continue reading ‘The fate of the world depended upon their devotions’