Tag Archives: Research tips

The game’s afoot

About three months ago, I was contacted by a man hoping I could help track down some information about someone in my family tree.

“I found something interesting about a possible past relative of yours named Helen Elizabeth Wilson. I found her in a Cornell University magazine, and she wrote an article about Sherlock Holmes which may be the first of its kind ever written anywhere in the world. I am a Sherlock Holmes researcher and would love to know a little more about her. Is this something we can discuss? I appreciate your time.” Continue reading The game’s afoot

What does that mean?

One of the wonderful things about genealogy is running into phrases and terms you have never heard before. It is a window into how people spoke years ago and teaches us about how our language changes over time.

There are a few sources that genealogists can reach for when encountering a phrase or word they don’t understand. Continue reading What does that mean?

In praise of church records

In Berlin in 2011, while I was studying abroad in Germany.

Like most genealogists, I have a few brick walls in my family tree. I’m resigned to living with some of these mysteries after fifteen pretty solid years of work. One brick wall is a great-grandfather who seemingly appears out of nowhere in 1916 at age 21 when he enlists in the Army. Another big brick wall was, until recently, learning the town of origin in Germany for my paternal line. My research, which I had believed was thorough, came up empty time and time again for anything more specific than the “Kingdom of Hannover.” Continue reading In praise of church records

Problems of age

Courtesy of johnfullerofnewton.com

The next Early New England Families sketch to be uploaded, as soon as it clears review, will be for John Fuller of Cambridge. I am still nit-picking at it before sending it out to one of my volunteer readers.[1] Mr. Fuller kept dropping complications – beginning with the date of his family’s arrival in New England and moving on to his age, birth places of children, identification of their (in several cases three) spouses, and other annoying details. Continue reading Problems of age

Connecticut Probate Districts

Click on images to expand them.

With the release of the sixth edition of The Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, the town chart of Connecticut added two important columns when it comes to finding the correct probate district for a Connecticut town based on the year of an estate’s probate.

First, in 2011, Connecticut consolidated its probate districts. The fifth edition of The Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research identified districts using a number that referred to the narrative section of the Connecticut chapter and identified these probate districts moving forward, so from 2011 on. Continue reading Connecticut Probate Districts

2021: the year in review

“May you live in interesting times” is supposed to be a curse – it’s certainly an exhausting way to go through life. As 2021 rolls over to 2022, here is a look back at 2021 in Vita Brevis:

In January, Ann Lawthers urged genealogists visiting cemeteries to apply some of the insights garnered from their research, in this case about how the changing cultural norms around death translated into stone: Continue reading 2021: the year in review

ICYMI: The family historian

[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 30 December 2014.]

Margaret Steward in Goshen, New York

Most families have one: the family historian. Whether or not the focus is genealogical, there is usually at least one family member who keeps track of siblings and cousins, sometimes to the nth degree. My father’s family had one in my great-aunt Margaret Steward (1888–1975). I do not remember meeting her, but I’ve been told I take after her, at least in so far as the mantle of family genealogist passed from her to me when I was still in middle school. Continue reading ICYMI: The family historian

ICYMI: The gift of family history

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 24 November 2014.]

Poppa and Brenda Lambert

When I was a child, I became very interested in family history. At the unusual age of seven, the stories of my forebears were more fascinating than the cartoons on television. I could listen for hours to my maternal grandmother as she told stories of her past.

Fifteen years ago this week I said my last goodbyes to my father, George Richard Lambert (1925–1999). My father grew up in East Boston, Massachusetts, at the height of the Great Depression, and he fought in World War II. When my dad died, my elder daughter Brenda was only four years of age. Now a college freshman, she still fondly remembers the stories I told her about the Lambert grandparents she hardly knew. Continue reading ICYMI: The gift of family history

Here be dragons

If Our Old House builder, Asa Williams, had recently awakened from his 201-year eternal sleep, he would have seen, with fascinated but utter panic, the thunder of dragons that crawled up my driveway. (I think the blacksmith in Asa would find any fire-breathing dragons very useful … eventually.) As a patriot and devout Christian, he might have thought that Satan disguised as  King George had unleashed his “great red dragon” on him personally. Continue reading Here be dragons

Anna’s origins

According to family stories, my great-great-grandmother Anna Elisabeth Mohrmann emigrated in 1864 from Germany to Cleveland, Ohio. She was supposedly about 17 and came with other young women from her community to marry men who had preceded them to America. For some reason Anna and her intended husband did not marry. There has been a lot of speculation in my family about why the marriage did not occur. Maybe her betrothed was dead? Maybe he had married someone else? Maybe Anna called off the marriage?

In any case, soon after her arrival Anna met my great-great-grandfather Henry Dauber, a “perfect stranger,” and supposedly married him after three days. Continue reading Anna’s origins