Our family has an historic heirloom, a microscope that originally belonged to [Heinrich Hermann] Robert Koch (1843-1910), the famous German bacteriologist, who won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discoveries related to the causative agents of anthrax, tuberculosis, and cholera. The microscope came into our family by virtue of his cousin, my great-great-grandfather, Ernest Wilhelm Eduard Koch (1827-1903), who was born in Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany, about 30 miles from Clausthal, the birthplace of Robert Koch. After moving to the United States, great-great-grandfather went by “Edward,” but usually was referred to by the family as E.W.E.
The reason I have not been active on Vita Brevis recently can be laid at the feet of the Phelps family of Salem. Five members of the family will “soon” be published together as the Phelps Cluster despite their complete refusal to cooperate. Here is a little of what I have untangled so far.
The story has been that widow Eleanor Phelps (husband unknown) came to Salem with her three “minor” sons prior to 1639, when she and her second husband Thomas Trusler joined the Salem church. The Phelps boys have been deemed minors because they do not appear in Salem records until 1645 and 1655, and the implication was that the boys all grew up in Salem. However, that claim is complicated by the record of Henry Phelps arriving in Salem by ship about 1645. This and other circumstantial evidence suggest the boys were older, and that none of them came with their mother. Continue reading Those phrustrating Phelpses→
It was a glorious late October day in Plymouth. If only that could be said without qualification but, alas, we are still in the midst of Covid … mandatory face mask zones and digital signs warning of fines for scofflaws. But the sun was shining and a fresh breeze wafted in from the harbor as I resumed my lessons in the outdoor classroom, determined, as I have been all year despite the restrictions, to make the most of the Mayflower quadricentennial.
The other day, while rolling about in a school bus through the streets of our fair town, my co-worker – a vociferous and practical-minded young woman we’ll call Cathy – chided me, saying, “Why that’s just impossible! You think you are related to everyone!” Well, I have to admit, I stammered a bit at this, and wasn’t quite sure what to say. Cathy’s no-nonsense attitude made what I wanted to extol, an overly simplified explanation of “We are all possibly related to each other – it’s just a matter of proving how,” feel a bit too dumb in the moment. Continue reading Tethered branches→
I love learning about the history of food. Just as genealogy does, learning about the evolution of food and food culture feeds my desire to fully understand how the people who came before us lived on a day-to-day basis. Recently, I did a deep dive into one particular food after my boyfriend and I got take-out pizza from Avenue Kitchen + Bar in Somerville, Massachusetts. We ordered one of their “Detroit-style” pizzas, which neither of us had ever heard of. We were absolutely blown away by how insanely delicious it was. This, of course, necessitated a whole deep dive into figuring out what exactly a Detroit-style pizza is. The descriptions we found online aligned with our own dining experience: thick-crusted, chewy, rectangular pizza, topped with cheese and pepperoni, drizzled with sauce, featuring crispy, crunchy edges. When I read that Detroit-style pizza could be traced back to one man, I was thoroughly intrigued, and immediately felt the need to set down my dinner plate and learn more. Continue reading A genealogy of a pizza→
As a kind of sequel to my post on “kinbot,” the medieval Scottish practice of making amends after slaying a kinsman, I can offer two stories of Livingston family murderesses … and the very different impression their acts made upon their contemporaries. The first took place more than a century after Sir John Bruce was “slaughtered” by his Menteith kinsmen and concerns the Livingstons of Dunipace, from which family the Rev. John Livingston’s mother was descended. Continue reading Fireside stories→
Fifteen years after the second effort to build a monument in Provincetown had been abandoned and three years after Plymouth dedicated its National Monument to the Forefathers, there was another initiative to commemorate the First Landing of the Pilgrims at Provincetown. On 29 February 1892, a group of civic-minded citizens – James H. Hopkins, James Gifford, Artemas P. Hannum, Moses N. Gifford, Howard F. Hopkins, Joseph H. Dyer, and their associates and successors – were made a corporation, the Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association (CCPMA), by an act of the Massachusetts Legislature. Later that year an appeal for funds was circulated to the general public and a request for funding was made to the Massachusetts Legislature. Not only did CCPMA members see their mission as building an appropriate monument to commemorate the arrival of the Mayflower at Provincetown, they were determined, too, to recognize other significant events in Provincetown’s Pilgrim history, including the Signing of the Mayflower Compact, the birth of Peregrine White, and the death of Dorothy May Bradford. Continue reading Monumental plans: Part Two→
What does it take to build a monument, a lasting legacy, to the First Landing of the Pilgrims in Provincetown? Determination and persistence and, of course, money, not to mention years of territorial squabbles and skirmishes. Finally dedicated in 1910, Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument has a story that may be said to have begun ninety years earlier across the bay in Plymouth.
With its roots in the Old Colony Club, founded in 1769, the Pilgrim Society was formally organized in Plymouth in 1820, the bicentennial of the Landing of the Pilgrims. Its mission was to perpetuate the memory of the Mayflower Pilgrims, specifically with the goal of building appropriate monuments, the first of which was Pilgrim Hall, whose cornerstone was laid in September 1824.Continue reading Monumental plans: Part One→
Finishing up this series on places my family enjoyed during our socially distant summer, I move now from the North Shore to the South Shore, to “World’s End” in Hingham. This Trustees property was designed by the well-known landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1890 at the request of owner John Reed Brewer, with the intention of creating a 163 home residential subdivision. While the drives were cut, the development never came to fruition, and the land, consisting of four coastal drumlins extending into Hingham Harbor (with views of the Boston skyline), has been preserved as a setting for recreation since 1967, after the land was donated by John’s grandson, the poet [John] Wilmon Brewer (1895-1998). Continue reading Summer spots: Part Three→
My prior post on my own matrilineal ancestry and merged names continues with my father’s matrilineal line. My paternal grandmother’s parents were both natives of Philadelphia, and she recorded many of her ancestors and their siblings in a family Bible I used early on in my genealogical research. She identified her matrilineal great-grandmother as Mary E. Young (died 1900), wife of John Lentz Peltz (1819-1876). The Bible identifies her father as Peter Young, but does not list a mother, although it does list Mary’s siblings as Peter, Sarah, Eliza, Philip, Margaret, and David. Mary and her husband John were born, married, and died in Philadelphia, and several generations of her husband’s family are treated in a 1948 Peltz genealogy; a 1950 supplement even included my father’s older sister. Continue reading Matrilineal mergers: Part Two→