Tag Archives: Serendipity

So much Crimson

Ketanji Brown Jackson (Harvard 1992 and 1996), Patrick Graves Jackson (Harvard 1991), and Stephen G. Breyer (Harvard 1964).

I was recently interviewed for an article in the Boston Globe on the ancestry of Dr. Patrick Graves Jackson, husband of Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newest associate justice on the Supreme Court. My colleague Sarah Dery has been working on Justice Jackson’s ancestry for some time, and the Globe article discussed both of their ancestries.

Sarah recently wrote a post about Justice Jackson’s ancestry, and a longer article she wrote will be published in our next issue of American Ancestors magazine. Continue reading So much Crimson

“The dream and the hope”

History was made on Thursday, 7 April 2022, when the Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the 116th associate justice of the Supreme Court. She will be the first Black woman and the first public defender to serve on the court. Several months later, on Thursday, 30 June 2022, Judge Jackson took the oath as the newest associate justice on the Supreme Court.[1] Continue reading “The dream and the hope”

Blended wives

“Two ladies and an officer seated at tea,” 1715. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

After reading Alicia Crane Williams’ recent post on Nathaniel Glover of Dorchester, I was reminded of a Glover ancestor of my own, Uriah Glover of Long Island, New York. Looking back through my notes and revisiting “all things Uriah,” I recalled that Uriah’s first wife Sarah Hopkins was an alleged descendant of that old tempest himself, Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins.

Since I’m always on the hunt for any elusive Mayflower line, I had to check it out. Unfortunately, I recalled that this possible connection had already been long since debunked, and my chances of picking up another line to Plymouth Rock were (yet again) quickly dashed against said rock.[1] Continue reading Blended wives

Riding the rails

My great-great-uncle John Young (1857-1946).

I am nearly finished going through all the family pictures, papers, and heirlooms inherited from my parents. But, I wonder, will the task ever be truly finished?

Photos were the first to be sorted. Photos are relatively easy to catalogue, copy, and share, and they give us that glimpse of the ancestors we never knew. I do tend, however, to convince myself that I can glean more about the people in them than is justified. Can they truly reveal anything about a person’s character or personality? Was John Young as glum as he looks? Best not to guess. Continue reading Riding the rails

Freelove and Giggles

See a larger version below.

The American Genealogist (TAG) has frequently published amusing short items found in the records, often as “filler” for the lower half of a page. Following up on my post about the Geer and Christophers families of Connecticut, the last TAG article by Norman Ingham, which was followed by comments by David L. Greene, had the an item concerning “Mercy Giggles” and Freelove Frink.” I was interested to know what became of these two eighteenth-century Connecticut ladies. Continue reading Freelove and Giggles

ICYMI: Icing on the cake

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 4 June 2020.]

Anni Virta and Nelly Virta with their relative Everett Rintala on their 1960 trip to Ohio. Photo courtesy of Antti Virta

“Goodbye Helsinki,” Anni Virta wrote in July 1960, “our trip to the west has started and the point of the dream has become a reality.” Anni was a cousin by marriage. An English translation of her diary came to me recently through a serendipitous connection.

Anni’s nephew, Antti Virta of Helsinki, had written to the daughter of one of my cousins, making the connection via WikiTree, asking for information about his aunt Mary Rajasilta, wife of my mother’s brother, George Isaacson. Busy with an ailing mother, my cousin’s daughter bounced Antti’s request to me. I looked up some information about Aunt Mary in American records for Antti. And there began a pleasant correspondence. Continue reading ICYMI: Icing on the cake

A serendipitous conversation

William Shangraw’s four-sided monument at Evergreen Cemetery in Pittsford, Vermont.

A few weeks ago, after presenting a talk (“Adventures in DNA”) at the Shrewsbury (Vermont) Community Meeting House for the Ann Story Chapter of the Vermont DAR, I stopped in the kitchen and asked longtime acquaintance and former regent Julanne Sharrow for a drink of water.

She asked, “Do you think DNA results can really knock down brick walls?”

I said yes and added, “Who are you looking for?”

“William Shangraw of Pittsford.”

The brick wall tumbled instantly because I knew this family through my research on French-Canadian immigration to Pittsford.[1]. Continue reading A serendipitous conversation

Bewitched

T. H. Matteson, Examination of a Witch, 1853. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For some in Massachusetts, the mention of the years 1692 and 1693 still reminds us of a very dark and regrettable chapter in our past – a past that still is being written, analyzed, and researched more than three centuries later. The regrettable set of events that unfolded 330 years ago resulted in what we know in American history as the Salem Witchcraft trials. Alive today are countless descendants of those accused of and executed for witchcraft, as well as their accusers, and the judges who passed judgment based on spectral evidence. Continue reading Bewitched

A letter to Paul

Paul Charles Doerr, 1931-1985

Dear Paul,

As far as letters go this won’t be much of one. After all, it’s a bit unusual to write letters to the dead; still, there seems much to say. I just wanted them to know who you were, Paul. I hope you can forgive me this along the way…   

Jeff

*

In the summer of 1968, my parents were well on their way to what would otherwise be an amicable divorce. Continue reading A letter to Paul

ICYMI: Lessons in genealogical research series

[Editor’s note: This series of posts originally appeared in Vita Brevis in June 2021.]

My maternal grandmother

While recently reviewing family research that I have been doing for some time, I came to the realization that I had learned some valuable lessons during that process. These lessons are not unique to me, but the circumstances surely are. The first lesson relates to family stories.

The availability of online records has greatly increased our ability to find information from past generations, mostly in the form of facts and the information related to them. What it has not done, and can never do, is retrieve those family stories that have died with those ancestors. How many people have said “I wish I had asked my grandfather about…”? I am one of those who have lamented lost opportunities. We cannot make up for the past, but we can ensure that does not happen to the family stories that we have tucked away in our memories. Do not wait to be asked, record those stories! Continue reading ICYMI: Lessons in genealogical research series