Tag Archives: Research tips

Postcards from the past

Last month my sons Oliver and Charlie each received a postcard from their grandparents—Grandpa Bill and Oma—in Michigan. My husband Tom and I were slightly mystified because the postcards were from Boston and Cambridge and had seemingly traveled through time from the past. The Boston skyline didn’t look quite right. And who talks about beans anymore? Even the style of the fonts and the graphic design are extinct. Continue reading Postcards from the past

Catholic Association of Foresters

J. Frank Doherty 1876-1923

For the past year I’ve been focusing more on researching in old newspapers, and have had some amazing luck. Recently, newspapers led me to a collection of records that, while small, could be invaluable to anyone researching Irish ancestors who lived in Boston, Massachusetts.

My great-grandparents, J. Frank Doherty and Harriett Storen, were born in Montreal where they married and had three children. After the death of their oldest child in 1905, the family moved down to Boston where they had six more children, including my grandmother. Frank, who was a self-employed realtor, died suddenly in 1923 at age 47. By all accounts from my grandmother and her siblings, Frank’s death left the family really struggling, and all the children who were old enough to get jobs went to work to help support the family. The children ranged in age from 4 to 19 when he died. Continue reading Catholic Association of Foresters

Irish ancestors and the 1918 flu

During St. Patrick’s Day week, when the NEHGS instagram account shared pictures of our Irish ancestors, I shared the picture at left of my great-great-grandfather Thomas Nelson Kelly (1853–1943) of Philadelphia. His parents, Joseph Kelly and Rebecca Nelson, both emigrated from Ireland in the 1840s and met and married in Philadelphia in 1850. Joseph and Rebecca are my only ancestors who arrived in the United States after 1776. I still do not know where in Ireland they came from (some family have said Belfast, some have said Donegal): I’m still searching!

However, my Kelly ancestors were Protestants, and known as “Orange Irish.” Joseph and Rebecca married at the Scots Presbyterian Church and their children were baptized Episcopalian. Continue reading Irish ancestors and the 1918 flu

ICYMI: Bye-bye-bye

[Editor’s note: This blog post first appeared in Vita Brevis on 20 March 2017.]

Following up on correcting the charts in my Seeing double blog post, the chart showing my ancestor Anna (Salisbury) Slade was a recent disappointment and involved removing some ancestors from my charts. The chart identified Anna’s parents as Daniel Salisbury and Anna Hale, and had Anna as the child of Rev. Moses Hale (Harvard 1699) and Mary Moody of Newbury, with several early Newbury ancestors including Henry and Jane (Dummer) Sewall, who were the parents of Judge Samuel Sewall (1652–1730), known for his involvement in the Salem witch trials. Continue reading ICYMI: Bye-bye-bye

ICYMI: The name game

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 22 May 2017.]

My cousin with his parents.

I recently traveled to Michigan to watch my cousin, Scott, graduate from Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) with a law degree. And like any good family member/genealogist, while I sat with my family waiting for the commencement to commence, I examined the program for Scott’s name. After a few moments, I located my cousin’s first and middle name: Scott Harrison. Excited, I asked my aunt and uncle whether Harrison was a family name. “Nope,” my uncle explained, “when your aunt was eight months pregnant, we got the name Harrison from a billboard that we passed while driving home. It sounded presidential, so we went with it.” Now, because my family is beyond sarcastic, I didn’t believe them at first; however, after a few minutes of my uncle insisting this was the case, I relented – I guess they got the name from a billboard. Continue reading ICYMI: The name game

Top 10 published resources continued

In an earlier Vita Brevis post, I introduced a free webinar that I conducted in August on the Top 10 Published Resources for Early New England Research. The Vita Brevis post was the first in a series of upcoming posts that will break down the top 10 list into individual discussions. The first post addressed what makes a published resource a “top 10” and analyzed the first published resource on the list, the Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research. Today I will continue the conversation and talk about the second and third, in the “no particular order” list, of top 10 resources: Mayflower Families through Five Generations and New England Marriages Prior to 1700.

Mayflower Families through Five Generationsalso known as the “Silver Books,” is published by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD). Continue reading Top 10 published resources continued

Family drama

Families of the seventeenth century expected that their scandals would die out pretty much when the last neighbor who knew about them died. It is fortunate, therefore, that they cannot know how easy it is for us to dig up long-buried skeletons today. An example of this came to light while I was working on two Watertown families.[1]

William Parry [sic] settled in Watertown by 1641, and he and his wife Anna [maiden name unknown] had six children. Richard Hassell arrived in Cambridge about 1643 and he and wife Joan [maiden name unknown] had three children born there. Continue reading Family drama

The potter’s field

THE NEW YORK HERALD, 29 July 1870

“We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64: 8

Recently, I was researching a case for a client whose ancestors had roots in Sullivan County, New York during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Locating New York records from any period presents a near perpetual brick wall. I had few clues with which to assemble this report.

According to the New York Death Register of Manhattan, my subject, John Gray, died from delirium at a city hospital in 1829 at age 41. From evidence furnished to us by the client, he was married nine years prior, probably near Liberty, in Sullivan County. The death register noted that he is buried in “Potter’s Field.” Discovering the whereabouts of burial for my subject could help lead to more details about the family, especially if some are interred with him. Continue reading The potter’s field

The Middlesex Wrap

When writing my previous post on Middlesex County court records, I knew there was an important source I was forgetting, but I could not dredge it up from my archival memory. Turns out, it is the article by Melinde Lutz Sanborn [now Byrne] in a Great Migration Newsletter from 1998 on, what else?, “Middlesex County Court Papers.” Melinde’s treatment is exhaustive, although in some cases superseded by twenty years of subsequent changes in location and access to the records. Still, this is a guide that everyone who uses these records should keep in their “important stuff to know” binders.[1]  Continue reading The Middlesex Wrap

Following the Paper Trail: National Capital Region

Delaware Historical Society.

In settling the North American continent, the British established their first permanent colony in Virginia. Since then, its population has seen many migrations within and through the colony and then state. Its northern neighbors, Maryland and Delaware, welcomed more settlers based on religion. Surrounding the nation’s capital, these state historical societies have much to offer in tracing ancestors back to and within the region. Continue reading Following the Paper Trail: National Capital Region