On November 2, 2022, my husband and I welcomed our first child: a son, named Jack William for his great-grandfathers. Several weeks after Jack’s birth, I requested a copy of his birth certificate from the town offices, an errand which immediately reminded me of submitting vital records requests for genealogical research. Obtaining my son’s birth record was far simpler—I only had to wait a few minutes—and I left the town offices that same day with the record in hand. I looked down at the certificate, with all the fields neatly filled out, and realized genealogical researchers are perhaps the only people who wouldn’t take this record for granted.
Vital records are often the first and best places to check when seeking information about our ancestors. But what is a researcher to do when a vital record simply doesn’t exist, or provides minimal information? In a previous blog post, I discussed the usefulness of family Bibles as vital records substitutes. There are numerous other record types that link parents and their children, with baptismal records and wills being the next best options. Other records that can identify the names of an ancestor’s children include the following types: Continue reading Linking Parents and Children—Without the Help of Vital Records→
For many years, I have advocated backing up one’s work using an external hard drive. In fact, I have been using a portable external hard drive for years, purchasing a new one only when I needed more space—I have many of images of documents stored, relating both to my own genealogy and to other historical subjects in which I am interested. For instance, my records on immigration and naturalization alone consist of 13,728 items (images, PDFs, Word and Excel files) that total 36.5 GB (gigabytes).
With so many resources available in a digital format, I no longer print out documents when I find them on my own family, saving them instead to an external drive containing 232 folders (one for each couple on my multi-generational chart, named for the husband). I have also been taking my hard copies from 30 years of research and digitizing them with my digital camera. Of course, I still save original items in paper form as well, such as wedding announcements, diaries, and personal letters.
Before recently, I believed that using an external hard drive was all I needed to protect me from data loss. I have always maintained that it is not a question of IF your computer will eat your data, but WHEN. But recently, I had the nightmare of all nightmares when I experienced an unexpected issue—something that had never happened to me before with an external hard drive. Continue reading My Technological Nightmare→
Did you know that, at least as of 2021, there were more than 16,000 genealogy-based groups on Facebook?1 Say what you will about the platform in general, using targeted genealogy groups can be a boon to research. I have been taking advantage of them—specifically, groups based on geographic locations—for more than ten years, beginning when I discovered a Finnish Genealogy group when I was planning an ancestral trip to Finland. In fact, I would say that if you don’t have a Facebook account already, it’s worth joining simply to take advantage of this resource in your research. A recent experience has taught me this lesson once again.
Locational genealogy groups are populated with family historians, the kind we rub shoulders with at genealogy events and at NEHGS and other repositories, the kind we correspond with via Ancestry and other genealogy websites. In other words, they’re populated with people who are eager to help and love to search. In the Finnish group, I connected with people who had visited my ancestral town already, and could offer hints on what to do when there. I was also able to connect with a genealogist in the town, who offered to serve as guide and translator, and with cousins I’d never met, both American and Finnish. Making those connections made my two tripsto Finland extremely memorable. I met several of the cousins there and in Stockholm, and one has since visited me in Massachusetts.
Take for example the family of EDWARD JACKSON (EF),1 on whose ENEF sketch I am currently working. Edward was a post- Great Migration Begins immigrant, arriving in New England in 1642 or 1643 with his first wife, Frances (married in England in 1631) and their four surviving children. Then in 1649, Edward married Elizabeth (Newgate) Oliver, widow of JOHN OLIVER (EF), whom she had married about 1637, and daughter of Great Migration immigrant JOHN NEWGATE (GM 1633). Elizabeth’s sister, Sarah Newgate, married John Oliver’s brother, PETER OLIVER (EF). Edward Jackson had children by both of his wives, and Elizabeth had children by both of her husbands. Continue reading Genealogical Clusters→
For a country which gained its independence from the United Kingdom just 155 years ago, Canada has gone through a significant number of changes to its internal structure and boundaries. The relatively frequent shifting of jurisdictions among the oft-renamed areas has proven to be troublesome to genealogical researchers.
Before delving into the history of Canadian political geography, it is important to be aware of a few notable terms and concepts. First, is the difference between a Territory and a Province. A Province receives its power and authority from the Constitution Act of 1867, whereas Territories have powers delegated to them by Parliament. 1 Presently, Canada is composed of ten provinces and three territories, a count which changed most recently in 1999 with the creation of the Territory of Nunavut. Additionally, parts of modern-day Canada were once considered distinct Colonies of the United Kingdom, including the colonies of British Columbia (1858-1866), Prince Edward Island (1604-1873), and Newfoundland (1610-1907). Continue reading Why Was Lower Canada Above Upper Canada?→
In a recent post I examined the curious case of young “lodger” George Stepper, who was enumerated in the 1920 census in the home of Joshua and Mary (Craven) Harron in Revere, Massachusetts. As I eventually discovered, he was their nephew, and lived with them for more than twenty years after his young widowed mother died. Further research into the Harron, Stepper, and Craven families revealed that each of these families suffered a rash of premature deaths and other adversities.
Following George Stepper’s descendants exposed another misidentified “boarder” in the 1920 census, as well as many other inaccuracies in official records. Moreover, like the Harrons and Cravens, George’s descendants experienced their own family problems, including out-of-wedlock births, infidelity, divorces, stillborn children, and early deaths.
As related in Part I, George married Miriam Frances Kelley in 1941. Miriam was born in Lynn on 10 November 1912 to Frederick Clifford Kelley(1893-1937) – who appears in various records as Frederick C., F. Clifford, or Fred – and Irene Nora Girard (1894-1968). Their marriage record shows that Fred was 21 and Irene 18 when they wed on 1 August 1912 in Hartford, Connecticut, just two months before Miriam was born; actually, it was Fred’s 19th birthday. Fred’s parents were Frederick A. W. Kelley (1866-1948) and Annie Laura Handren (1859-1954). Annie, born in St. Martins, New Brunswick, Canada, was one of eleven children, three of whom did not survive childhood. Continue reading Lodgers or Relatives? (Part II)→
We frequently encounter “lodgers” or “boarders” living with our ancestral relations in 20-century U.S. census records. If you’re like me, you probably don’t pay much attention to them. However, as I recently discovered twice while researching the lives and descendants of Irish immigrant Bostonians Edward J. Costello (1866-1926 [?]) and Mary Josephine Maloney (c. 1872-1943), these oft-disregarded “lodgers” or “boarders” can turn out to be your relatives after all. Both cases led to interesting discoveries, but recounting them together would far exceed the average length for posts on this site—so I offer them in two parts.
Our first case of a misidentified relative, 11-year old “lodger” George Stepper, was encountered in the January 1920 census enumeration of the household of Joshua and Mary Harron at 149 Bellingham Ave, in the coastal Beachmont neighborhood of Revere, Massachusetts.
There are no right answers here, but my choice for the greatest Christmas movie of all-time is A Christmas Story. You can’t convince me otherwise. I love it so much that I bought a leg lamp for our front window. Every year, even before we’ve purchased a tree, the leg lamp makes its appearance—and we have copious amounts of glue, should anything happen.
Beyond nostalgia and tradition, the subtle one-liners are the movie’s greatest strength. Some of my favorites, in no particular order:1
“In our world, you were either a bully, a toady, or one of the nameless rabble of victims.”
“Adults loved to say things like that, but kids knew better. We knew darn well it was always better not to get caught.”
“In the heat of battle, my father wove a tapestry of obscenity, that as far as we know, is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.”
“Some men are Baptists, others Catholics; my father was an Oldsmobile man.”
“Randy lay there like a slug. It was his only defense.”
“He looks like a deranged Easter bunny.”
I can’t remember the first time I saw A Christmas Story, but after the fourth or fifth time watching it, the word “deranged” became part of my vocabulary. I didn’t look up the definition, but from context clues I knew it meant “wacky,” “silly,” “insane,” or something to that effect. So, when I started work on a project for the Society of the Cincinnati—the nation’s oldest patriotic organization, founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army who served together in the American Revolution—I was surprised to see the word “deranged” used as a description of one’s military service. Continue reading “He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny…”→
Discovering the existence of a family bible can be one of the most thrilling revelations in family history research. Original Bibles possess what archivists refer to as artifactual value: intrinsic worth as objects apart from their content. We often revel in family heirlooms because their very survival is a matter of chance. At least one representative from each succeeding generation must cherish the item, or serendipitously leave it forgotten in a secure location for it to be recovered decades later.
For genealogists, family Bibles can also convey unique information. Heirloom Bibles often contain records of birth, marriage, and death dates—usually scrawled on the Bible’s inside flyleaf—and can serve as proof of parentage in the absence of a vital or church record. Continue reading Locating Family Bible Records→
Gravestones have long served as the cornerstone of genealogical research. While the words they bear can be crucial sources of information about our ancestors, don’t forget to look at the symbols, too. Gravestone symbolism can point to information about your ancestors’ religious beliefs, group affiliations, life experiences, and more. Below are just a few noteworthy examples of common gravestone symbols and what they can reveal. Continue reading Beyond the Letters: What We Can Learn from Gravestone Symbolism→