There are Remembering Days when we remember stories about family lives for the benefit of our descendants. There are Researching Days when we hunt for clues to our ancestors’ lives and their stories. And there are Underwear Days, when Remembering and Researching get tangled up in a pile on the floor, just like those mornings when you can’t get your feet out of your underwear, lose your balance, and fall over (especially when some jokester flings open the bedroom door and yells “freeze, sucker!!”). Underwear Days. Continue reading Underwear Days
I almost hesitate to post this blog, as so much remains to be found – but the roughest outline of a family behind one of my intractable brick walls seems a good excuse to write about it (and seek the collective thoughts of Vita Brevis readers!).
Goldsborough Banyar (or Goldsbrow Banyer) was my great-great-grandmother’s great-grandfather, and an important figure in late colonial and early Federal New York. Perhaps because he spent much of his career in Albany, and the surname died out – despite heroic efforts by Goldsborough, his daughter, his grandson, and his great-grandson – the origins of the Banyar family have been lost. While his descendants have given masses of papers to the New-York Historical Society, nothing in that collection seems to yield a clue about who he was before he came to New York as a young man. His name, Goldsborough, should be a clue – and so it appears to be. Continue reading The elusive Banyars
A recent news article discussed the current use of an old Boston cemetery, with the permission of the church, as a dog park, prompting a neighborhood discussion. (This reminded me of David Lambert’s post on finding a gravestone on the wall of a church bathroom.) The church, First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist, is located about a mile from my home. Founded in 1769 as the Third Parish of Roxbury, I had mentioned the church in a post I wrote last year about the “Genealogy of Churches” in Roxbury (now Boston). This cemetery has also been called the Jamaica Plain Burial Ground and Jamaica Plain Cemetery. Continue reading Who’s buried where?
During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Navy played an integral role in the colonists’ quest for freedom. The Navy also launched numerous careers, including those of Captains John Paul Jones and John Barry. During the Revolution, many men fought bravely defending the shores of the Colonies and capturing enemy vessels. After the war, the troops and sailors were discharged and the Continental Navy itself was dissolved for lack of financing. After a total of ten years without a navy, in March 1794 Congress passed the Naval Act, which launched the first United States Navy. Over the next two centuries the Navy continued to grow to become the extensive branch of the military we currently know. In the words of John Adams, the ‘Father of the American Navy,’ “A Naval power … is the natural defense of the United States.” Continue reading Seth Harding, Mariner
Two hundred eleven years ago today, on 6 August 1810, Assistant Marshal Ebenezer Burrell set out to make a full and accurate count of the residents of Salem, Massachusetts. He was instructed to make a formal inquiry at each dwelling house, or with the head of household, to count the number of free white males (under the age of 10, 1-15, 16-25, 26-44, and 45 years and older), free white females (under the age of 10, 1-15, 16-25, 26-44, and 45 years and older), and free persons of color (no gender or age designator) living at the residence. He was also told to make two copies of the enumeration, placing them both in two public places for verification. After the enumerations were confirmed, one of the copies was sent to the District Court for safe keeping, while a summary of the statistics was sent to the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. Continue reading Devil in the details
Deeds are wonderful sources for genealogists, but Irish deeds? One of the most voluminous collections of Irish records is also the most underappreciated and underutilized: more than 2,000 volumes of recorded “memorials” (detailed abstracts) of deeds, conveyances, and wills spanning more than 200 years can be found in the Irish Registry of Deeds (ROD). Like many others with Irish roots, I was long put off by the low likelihood of finding my poor rural landless ancestors among landlords and other people of means who had property and assets to protect in wills. Continue reading Irish deeds? Yes, indeed
When the trailer for In the Heights was released in late 2019, I got flashbacks of my childhood and I couldn’t wait to watch it. I never got the opportunity to see the musical live, but I am drawn to anything about the neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City, since it was the backdrop to my more recent family history: it’s where I spent my formative years and where my parents met and fell in love. Continue reading In the Heights
The Irish potato famine is notorious even today because it killed one million people and prompted two million people to emigrate from Ireland. Signs of the famine can still be found in Ireland today, whether in the form of various ruins whose occupants had all perished or in the form of graves marked solely by rocks. Moreover, Irish emigration fluctuated so much that many voyages took place on coffin ships – small ships aptly named for the increased mortality rate onboard. Many immigrants were so desperate to leave their homeland that they booked inexpensive passage on ships that were small, overcrowded, and ravaged by disease and other unfavorable conditions. Based on these facts, arguably, many Americans with Irish ancestry can connect theirs to this event. Continue reading Coffin ships
Despite being a year late thanks to COVID-19, the Olympics are finally here. With the opening ceremonies set to start on July 23rd, the wait is finally over for athletes and viewers alike. For most people, the Olympics have been a constant occurrence, reliably happening every two or four years, barring any rare unforeseen events. It is hard to believe there was once a time when the Olympics were practically nonexistent. Continue reading The Olympic games: a brief history
An article I co-wrote on a colleague’s ancestors in Berwick, Maine was recently published in The Maine Genealogist. While I have worked on families in Maine over the years, and several of my colleagues have specialties in “Northern New England” (Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont), I have generally stated that my New England ancestry is largely southern (Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island). Just how much northern New England ancestry do I have? Continue reading Ancestors in northern New England