Tag Archives: Spotlight

The Olympic games: a brief history

Opening Ceremony at the Panathinaiko Stadium for the 1896 games. Images courtesy of Wikipedia.org

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

St. Augustine Cemetery: resources for research

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Known as the oldest Catholic cemetery in Boston, Saint Augustine Cemetery in South Boston will celebrate its two hundred and third anniversary in 2021. Built in 1818 by the first Catholic Bishop of Massachusetts, Fr. John Louis Ann Magdalen Lefebvre de Cheverus (1768-1836), the cemetery’s first burial was that of  Fr. Francis Anthony Matignon, one of the first Catholic priests in Massachusetts. Less than a year later, on 4 July 1819, the Saint Augustine Chapel was inaugurated as a mortuary chapel to honor Fr. Matignon. The Saint Augustine Chapel is, to this day, the oldest surviving Catholic church and Gothic Revival church in Massachusetts.[1] Continue reading St. Augustine Cemetery: resources for research

The diaries of Simeon Perkins

Simeon Perkins. Courtesy of the New York Public Library

If you have New England Planter ancestors or Loyalist ancestors who settled in Nova Scotia in your family tree, the diaries of Simeon Perkins should not be overlooked.

Born in Norwich, Connecticut on 24 February 1735,  Simeon Perkins was the son of Jacob Perkins and Jemima Leonard. He arrived in Nova Scotia as a part of the New England Planter migration to maritime Canada in the 1760s and, initially, was involved in the fishing and lumbering trade.

His diaries, which span from 1766 until 1812, hold priceless information relating to the economy of Nova Scotia, politics during the American Revolution, privateering, the weather, and everyday life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of great value to genealogists, Perkins also recorded births, marriages, and deaths. Continue reading The diaries of Simeon Perkins

A Paine legacy

Following up on my previous post about the tragic later life of my great-great-great-uncle John Merrick Paine, this post covers other places I have run across his name in my genealogical research and in tracing his descendants. One of the only other places John Merrick Paine’s name is found in Google Searches is in the provenance of this portrait of “Mrs. Samuel Chandler” and her husband “Samuel Chandler.”

These portraits were painted by Samuel’s brother, Winthrop Chandler, a house painter who studied portrait painting in Boston. Continue reading A Paine legacy

‘Christopher Christophers in the library’

Jeff Record’s recent post on his relative Evan Evans reminded me of similarly named persons in colonial Connecticut aptly named Christopher Christophers. While I am not related to these individuals, the fact that these men shared my first name twice is surely a reason I was interested in them. For seventeenth-century New England, Christopher was a rare first name, as it tended to be a name amongst Catholics, with Pilgrims and Puritans rarely using it at the time. Within my own direct ancestry for sixteen generations, I have only found three ancestors named Christopher – two being Germans in eighteenth-century Virginia (Christopher Blankenbecker and Christopher Shake) – and one in colonial New England – Christopher Peake (ca. 1612-1666) of Roxbury, Massachusetts. Continue reading ‘Christopher Christophers in the library’

Finding Irish relatives: Part Three

[Editor’s note: This series began with Part 1 and Part 2.]

Until recently, unless you were lucky enough to know the names of your immigrant Irish ancestors’ parents and/or the place(s) where they were born or resided in the Emerald Isle, such information was often difficult if not impossible to find in American records. That imposing brick wall remained unassailable for many seeking to pursue their ancestral connections in Ireland … until now. During 2015-2016 digitized troves of the two most significant sources for Irish family history – Catholic church registers and civil vital records – were released online, freely accessible on any internet-enabled device. Like the notorious Berlin Wall, that longstanding, insurmountable impediment to discovering Irish ancestry crumbled almost overnight. Continue reading Finding Irish relatives: Part Three

Beautiful Jim Key

My childhood friends and I are all turning 60 this year. I purchased matching birthday cards for them with this horse on the front. Of course I had to find out his story!

Beautiful Jim Key was a famous horse born in 1889 and owned by the former slave, self-trained veterinarian, and patent medicine salesman William Key. William was a skilled horseman who rescued an Arabian mare, a badly abused former circus horse, and bred her to a Standardbred stallion. Continue reading Beautiful Jim Key

Slave surnames

Eyre Crowe, “Slaves Waiting for Sale, Richmond, Virginia.” Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Surnames of formerly enslaved people can add a lot of confusion when trying to piece together families. Many enslaved individuals were denied an official surname prior to emancipation, and the adoption of surnames following freedom did not follow any prescribed method. In some cases, the surname of the former slave owner was either adopted by choice or assigned to them in the first records in which they appear as free individuals. Continue reading Slave surnames

Parish boundary maps

One of our newest tools, launched last year, is the Archdiocese of Boston: Parish Boundary Map. It was created by the Archive Department of the Archdiocese of Boston. This interactive map is a visual tool that can help you understand which Catholic churches existed in a particular neighborhood or town in the greater Boston area. It should be used in conjunction with our Historic Catholic Records Online project. Continue reading Parish boundary maps

The Iconography of Manhattan

Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Phelps Stokes by John Singer Sargent. Courtesy of Wikipedia

One of my favorite sources for Manhattan research is The Iconography of Manhattan Island 1498-1909 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.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with historical landscapes. How has this property changed over the years? What did this street look like 200 years ago? Continue reading The Iconography of Manhattan