One of my favorite sources for Manhattan research is The Iconography of Manhattan Island1498-1909 by Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (1867-1944). This six volume set was published between 1915 and 1928 and chronicles the history of Manhattan from the fifteenth century to the early twentieth century. The publication not only records the vast history of Manhattan, it also provides beautiful illustrations and maps.
The volumes most relevant to my own family research are the first and second volumes, which highlight the Dutch period (1609-1664); both volumes have helped me to uncover new information about my family. Most importantly, from this source, I have learned where my Dutch ancestors held property or lived in lower Manhattan during the seventeenth century.
In a previous Vita Brevis piece, I discussed the challenges faced in finding the immigration record of my great-grandfather Gerardo Smaldone, who emigrated to New York City in 1887 from the town of Potenza, Italy. In retrospect, that was a cinch compared to the search for the immigration of my Irish grandfather John Joseph Ryan.
I did find him after a daunting and tedious search, earning an unexpected bonus: his Ellis Island record revealed that an older sister was already here: Winifred Ryan had married Michael H. Spellman and had six children, with another on the way, when John arrived in late 1904. Continue reading Finding Irish relatives: Part One→
[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis 12 April 2019.]
In early 2015 I had just completed work on The Great Migration Directory: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1640, with abbreviated entries for each known head of household or isolated individual participant in the Great Migration. The result was an alphabetical listing of about 5,700 families or individuals. Each entry included last name, first name, English origin, year of migration, first residence in New England, and a brief listing of the best primary and secondary sources available for each. For about 1,800 of the entries, the English origin (defined as the last known residence in England before migration) was known. Continue reading ICYMI: Mapping the Great Migration→
In the telling of family history, it’s become quite hard for me to stay away from the same old story. Too often, as I comb through ye oldebranches, it feels as if I’m only supposed to talk about those somehow-notable persons (or events) and rarely (if ever) tell the tale of “an ordinary life.” Because of this, it’s gotten difficult for me to tell any tale, or indeed to know just whose life into which to delve. I’m left wondering if someone (or anything) of ‘ordinary ways’ will be of enough interest to anyone else on-down-the-line. Continue reading ‘Evan Evans with a candlestick…’→
With Patriots’ Day almost upon us, I feel especially lucky to be working remotely from my historic hometown of Lebanon, Connecticut. While many New England towns have their own history during the Revolutionary War, Lebanon to this day is still very much defined by its patriotic past. Although large in acreage, Lebanon has one of the smaller populations. As a small town in eastern Connecticut, Lebanon consists primarily of farms, rural roads, historic homes, and a deep-rooted patriotic history.Continue reading Heartbeat of the Revolution→
American Ancestors recently announced a new database: Massachusetts: Catholic Cemetery Association Records, 1833-1940. This partnership between NEHGS, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and the Catholic Cemetery Association of the Archdiocese of Boston (CCA) makes available newly-digitized lot sale and burial records as well as cemetery maps to aid researchers. The records of thirteen cemeteries are currently available to search, with more cemeteries to be added to this database throughout the year. Continue reading ‘In memory of the dead’→
The “Victorian Trade Card” at left recently came up for sale on eBay, prompting a friend to send it to me as it concerns “John Payne’s Fish and Fruit Market, Putnam” in my Connecticut hometown. While I had never heard of the business, I soon found John Paine (1850-1919) listed in censuses as a fish peddler, meat peddler, and butcher. A decent treatment of the Paine family in northeastern Connecticut is given in the eighth volume of Clarence Winthrop Bowen’s Genealogies of Woodstock Families. While I have a full set of this work at home, I had loaned the last two volumes for several years to Scott Andrew Bartley so he could use them for Early Vermont Settlers to 1784, as they cover many families moving from northeast Connecticut to Vermont. (The first six volumes are available online.) Fortunately, he had returned them to me only a few days before this card was sent my way! Continue reading Bringing the pain→
Given the growth and proliferation of twenty-four-hour news networks offering instantaneous political commentary, nearly every American adult is likely aware of the (demonstrably false) allegation that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. As many also know, President Obama was easily able to provide records which thoroughly debunked the baseless narrative. This was not, however, the first time a United States president was faced with questions about his origin which were dispelled by supporting records.
Beginning in late 1880, then Vice President-elect Chester A. Arthur was alleged to be a native of Canada, and, therefore, ineligible to hold the office to which he had been elected. Continue reading A president’s origins→
I recently remarked to Son how it seemed to me that as I age my family history research becomes more like nostalgia, a walk down Memory Lane, and increasingly frequent but random reminiscences. Eschewing the expected age jokes, Son promptly provided me with several columns in the Maine Farmer newspaper written between October 1876 and May 1877 by one “D.C.” and entitled “Random Thoughts and Recollections.” D.C. wrote more than ten columns in the slightly purple style of the times about his memories of people, places, and events, a gold mine of information about places and people in the 1820s and 1830s, Augusta and Hallowell, Maine in particular. Continue reading Nostalgia→
For those of you who are familiar with the Berkshires, you will recognize this statue of a cat and dog spitting at each other as the centerpiece of an iconic fountain in downtown Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The statue sits in the intersection of South and Main Streets and entices travelers to explore beyond the famed Red Lion Inn. The sculpture has had a number of meanings attached to it over the years and has become a piece of Stockbridge history. Continue reading Cats and dogs→