Tag Archives: Serendipity

Irish deeds? Yes, indeed

David and Margaret Mackelroy to James Warick. Click on image to expand it. Courtesy of the Family History Library

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

In the Heights

Photo probably taken at the park on 175th and Fort Washington, ca. 1990.

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

Mirrored names

The Burson twins

There was a great commotion in the room that day, a veritable kerfuffle you might call it. I both saw and heard the doctor yell “Get me her chart,” as a well-practiced melee ensued. Our baby girl had just been born, and she was neatly being held by an overprotective nurse. I looked over from our baby to my wife, then to the doctor, and around in disbelief; my wife was exhausted and under an unwonted sort of anesthesia. “Was there something wrong with our baby? Was my wife going to be okay?” Continue reading Mirrored names

Ancestors in northern New England

My Thompson ancestors’ home in Industry, Maine, in 1892.

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

By any other name

Throughout the 20th century it was somewhat common, when a divorced (or widowed) mother remarried, for the stepfather to adopt her child or children, often taking the new husband’s surname. (See a recent post on President Bill Clinton, as well as President Gerald Ford and First Lady Nancy Reagan; the latter two also had their first names changed.) There is also the situation where children are born (most often out of wedlock) with the surname of their mother’s previous husband, and thus were not adopted but bear a surname neither parent had at birth. The birth name of Marilyn Monroe as Norma Jean Mortensen is one of the more famous examples, as Mortensen was the surname of her mother’s estranged husband at the time of Marilyn’s birth (and listed as the father), although she later used her mother’s maiden surname of Baker. Continue reading By any other name

Three Sages

In thirty odd years of researching family history, I, like you, have seen a lot of unusual things. From the recesses of my own DNA to the penumbral prose in a dear friend’s oral history, there’s a whole lot going on out there among Ye Olde Branches. Recently though, I stumbled upon something I’d never seen before. Notwithstanding “the numbers” per se, I’m told it’s an event that only happens once every nine thousand times. It has, however, been a discovery that, although comparatively unique, has attained little in the way of genealogical ‘glory.’ Continue reading Three Sages

Forever in our hearts

One of my brick walls for many years has been trying to determine when my maternal great-grandmother Tessie Freundlich died and where she was buried. She is the mother of my maternal grandfather, Alfred Schild. I never met my grandfather, as he died a few years before I was born. His lineage was always a bit of a mystery as we were not in touch with relatives over the years. I have made some great progress on identifying their immigrant lines back to Eastern Europe. The family emigrated to America during the 1880s, when many of the pogroms were occurring. Continue reading Forever in our hearts

Lessons in genealogical research: Part Three

My wife Susan and Danny Cotten at the Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Museum.

My third lesson follows on from the events of the second – explorations into family history can result in rich and rewarding personal relationships.

So who was this man in Hotchkiss? His name was Danny Cotten and for all but a few years in California, he had spent his whole life in the area known as the North Fork Valley of Colorado, which encompasses the towns of Hotchkiss, Crawford, and Paonia, and lies just north of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Continue reading Lessons in genealogical research: Part Three

Pesky middle initials

My recent post on “Retroactive surnames” prompted a few comments on the topic of “retroactive middle names,” something that has happened in my own matrilineal ancestry and that of my father’s, as well as with a great-great-grandmother being given a second middle name after her death. Most often these are guesses that balloon on online trees that copy from one another. Continue reading Pesky middle initials

Divided loyalties

Destruction of the American Fleet at Penobscot Bay, 1779. Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, London

As the branches on my paternal grandmother’s family tree grew, they filled in with names like Hierlihy, Urquhart, and Milliken, and I was quite intrigued to discover that I had a Loyalist ancestor, a gentleman named Benjamin Milliken. He was born in Boston in 1728 to Justice Edward Milliken and Abigail Norman; settled in Hancock County, Maine (then still Massachusetts) during the Revolutionary War; and then went to St. Andrews in Charlotte County, New Brunswick. He married three times and fathered eighteen children over thirty-five years. Continue reading Divided loyalties