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
One of the greatest, worst movies of all time is National Treasure. The plot is insane, the historical accuracy is mezza mezza, and it stars Nicolas Cage, so it’s not winning any Oscars. That said, it is one of my guilty pleasures – just the thought that some of the “treasure” at the end of the movie contained scrolls from the Library at Alexandria is the stuff of dreams. Continue reading ‘National Treasure’ time
It sat there like the apparition of a chad from some long-ago election. I stared at the blank lines somehow expecting immediate changes to the record of his life, changes I’d reckoned should be there. There were none. What the heck? Couldn’t they see that all the information they had about Frank was wrong?
I had reached out to them the moment I first saw mention of Cousin Frank: Hey, Frank didn’t die in ‘29. He’d lived, disappearing into a simple and solitary life. Further, he’d somehow put into motion posthumous wishes to be buried under the name of Tom nearly fifty years later. Yep, old Frank; he’d simply ghosted them all. Then at this, at my notion to reach out and tell the family about Frank, his descendants simply did the same thing. They ghosted me. Continue reading Ghosted
The greatest achievement of the release of the 1950 Census is not the records themselves, but the technology used to index the records. On April 1, 2022, the National Archives and Records Administration released the census on a dedicated website using a unique optical character recognition (OCR) software designed to translate the handwritten names into text that can be searched online. This made 6.4 million digitized pages of the 1950 Census immediately available. Think about that – immediately available…?! It seemed too good to be true. Continue reading OCRing the 1950 census
In my recent post on the Round family of Swansea, Massachusetts, I noted that the forename of my ancestor Renew (Carpenter) Round, was frequently repeated (or renewed). Renew was named for her paternal grandmother, Renew (Weeks) Carpenter, who died in 1703, and was buried in a part of Swansea that is now in Barrington, Rhode Island. She was “Renew the first,” and after my last post I learned from Nathaniel Lane Taylor, editor of The American Genealogist, that her footstone has a story of its own. Continue reading Renew and Return
I am continually struck by the effects of happenstance in genealogy. Because I was putting together notes on my grandmother’s family, I went looking for a source on the Gates family of Worcester, Massachusetts; because my eye was caught by the next entry to one for my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother; because I remembered enough of my eighteenth-century art history to recognize the artist Ralph Earl (or Earle) as both an ancestral uncle (by unhappy marriage) and a cousin, I have found a family painter who might almost stand in for the even more famous François Boucher, a forebear my grandmother’s family has had to give up. Continue reading An artist’s ambition
I have said for years that I’m everyone’s cousin. Living where I do, among descendants of families who have been here as long, or almost as long, as mine, it’s easy to imagine how I can be related to so many people; six degrees of separation can be more than a social connection! Continue reading Some Pig!
One of the places I have been researching is the townland of Kilcruaig in Kilflyn parish, County Limerick. My husband has ancestors from Kilcruaig who were born there in the early 1800s. However, it has been difficult to learn much about these families. The local Catholic records did not begin until 1853 and the people I want to research were born much earlier. And almost all died before civil registration began in 1864. The area felt like a bit of a black hole. Continue reading A ray of light
File this one to “You never know what you might find…”
I have written before about my great-grandparents’ house in Goshen, New York, built on land that had belonged to the Steward family since the eighteenth century. In the course of collecting family photos – generally, groups of (likely) house guests gathering on the front steps to be photographed – I’ve become familiar with some of the house’s features. At this point, I might be one of the very few who could look at a photo and say “Oh! the Steward house in Goshen.”
I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise, since the book I was paging through was my great-great-uncle’s history of the Harvard Polo Club. Amos Tuck French was one of the founding members of this iteration of the club, and he begins engagingly: “Polo was started at Harvard in 1883, many years before it was even thought of at any other college. In fact it was not generally understood what the game was, for we received a challenge from Yale to play a match and discovered on enquiry that the Elis wanted to play hockey on roller skates!” Continue reading The Harvard Polo Club
Genealogical research is possible because people preserved their family papers and photographs, allowing us to use them ten, twenty, even hundreds of years later to piece together their lives. Preservation of these items can seem a daunting task, filled with pitfalls, expensive materials, and hours and hours of time. However, it doesn’t have to feel so tough, and here are some basic tips to get started!
The first thing about preserving your family history is to think about where you are storing the materials. It can be hard to find a good location to keep them within your house. Continue reading Tips for preserving family papers