Tag Archives: Spotlight

A publishing timeline

From the very beginning, the New England Historic Genealogical Society intended to publish works helpful to genealogists. In fact, the first section of the 1845 charter stated that the founders had formed a corporation “for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and occasionally publishing genealogical and historical matter relating to early New England families.” Since then, NEHGS has had a vibrant history of publishing, so let’s take a whirlwind tour through that publishing timeline.

In January 1845, according to the proceedings, “a committee was appointed to prepare a circular for the use of the Society.” That November, the Society formed a committee to publish a journal “devoted to the printing of ancient documents, wills, genealogical sketches and Historical and antiquaria matter generally.” Continue reading A publishing timeline

Digital Library & Archives

This week, we are excited to launch the newly redesigned Digital Library & Archives website, which was previously called the Digital Collections. Over the past two years, the Digital Collections Committee at NEHGS worked to customize and redesign the Digital Library & Archives for a cleaner appearance and with new user-friendly features. The Digital Library & Archives brings together digitized resources from the three repositories at American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society: the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center, the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, and the Research Library. Continue reading Digital Library & Archives

The devil’s Mr. Gideon

Torphichen Preceptory, where Henry Livingston was preceptor in 1449. Photo courtesy of Kim Traynor

The Livingston family genealogist devoted two large volumes to a painstaking account of the Livingstons in Scotland and America.[1] His volume on the Livingstons of Livingston Manor, in introducing the Scottish ancestry of the American immigrants, glides right by the siblings of “Worthy famous Mr. John Livingston” – father and grandfather of two Robert Livingstons – remarking that John was the “only child [of his parents] we need take any notice of.”[2]

Brave words! As it happens, though, a series of biographical volumes on Scottish ministers fills in the names of the children of the Rev. William Livingston and two of his three wives, and in the biographies of the ministers who married John Livingston’s sisters there are indeed stories on which to linger.[3] John Livingston’s sister Anna married the Rev. Thomas Vassie (or Wassie), later of Torphichen, in 1627; their half-sister, Jean, married the Rev. Gideon Penman, a widower, in 1651.[4] Both the Vassies and the Penmans figure in questions of witchcraft – even as the three brother ministers were involved in the religious and political ferment of the period. Continue reading The devil’s Mr. Gideon

Soulful eyes

Every day I come into the office, I look above my desk and say hello to my lady with the soulful brown eyes. You might ask, “Who is she?” She is Beatrice Cenci, a young woman whose portrait is displayed in a beautiful gold leaf frame. She joined my office suite in 2018 and has calmed me in times of stress or when I need a break from staring at a computer screen.

I did some research on the Internet and Wikipedia about the Portrait of Beatrice Cenci after learning a bit about this copy of the painting from Curt DiCamillo, Curator of Special Collections at American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogy Society. Continue reading Soulful eyes

The Wantons of Rhode Island, Part Two

Governor Joseph Wanton (1705-1780), by an unknown artist.

For much of the eighteenth century, the political landscape of Rhode Island was shaped by a single family. Between 1732 and 1775, four descendants of Edward Wanton served as the governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and another would act as deputy governor. The run of Wantons serving as the chief executive of the colony began when two of Edward’s sons, William and John, served consecutive tenures between 1732 and 1740; it came to an end when William’s son, Joseph, was removed from office at the start of the Revolutionary War after he opposed the formation of an army out of loyalty to the crown. While there have been many fathers, sons, and brothers who have held the same office at different times throughout American history, the story of the Wanton family is interesting for the number of individuals connected to the family who held prominent positions.

Gideon Wanton (1693-1767)

Five years after the death of his uncle, Governor John Wanton (1672-1740), Gideon Wanton became the next member of his illustrious family to serve in the same position. Continue reading The Wantons of Rhode Island, Part Two

Of Plimoth Plantation

Watching the videos of Mayflower II being escorted through the Cape Cod Canal brings weird thoughts to my mind. What if there had been a canal in 1620? Would “Plimoth Plantation” have been “Long Island Plantation”? Things would have been different, but since there was no canal, that stray thought is of no importance.

Of great importance, however, among the celebrations of the settlement of Plimoth Plantation is the new publication by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts and New England Historic Genealogical Society: Of Plimoth Plantation by William Bradford, The 400th Anniversary Edition.[1] I highly recommend that if you buy only one four hundredth anniversary souvenir, it should be this book, which will be a legacy for your descendants. Continue reading Of Plimoth Plantation

Researching the Negro Baseball Leagues

Courtesy of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Baseball is back! As someone who has always loved baseball, I could not be more excited to see the players return to the diamond. Although the game might not look exactly like it did last year, these differences simply remind us of how baseball has changed over the years, and how it will continue to do so in the future.

Growing up in eastern Connecticut, an allegiance to the Boston Red Sox has deep roots in my family. In fact, many of them still talk about that fateful Game 4 in 2004, when the curse of the Bambino was broken for good.[1] Personally, baseball has always meant something special to my father’s family. As my paternal grandfather died long before I was born, he was always the biggest question mark on my family tree. Before I began doing research of my own, the only fact I knew about my grandfather was that he played in the Negro Baseball Leagues. Continue reading Researching the Negro Baseball Leagues

A loyalist clergyman

The Rev. Samuel Fayerweather (1725-1781), in the Society’s Fine Art Collection. Gift of Miss Elizabeth Harris of Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 16, 1924

The New England Historic Genealogical Society is a member of the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC), a group of libraries, museums, and other repositories holding materials for historical research. Each year fellows from the NERFC program visit NEHGS and the other members – from Connecticut to Massachusetts and Maine, from Rhode Island to New Hampshire and Vermont – to conduct research for their graduate work or as junior faculty at colleges and universities around the world.

Back in 2018, Peter Walker – now an assistant professor of history at the University of Wyoming – visited NEHGS to work in the William Clark collection. He will be speaking this afternoon in a Zoom event via King’s Chapel in Boston entitled “Massachusetts Loyalist Clergy in the Time of the American Revolution.”

Peter’s work was also the subject of a Vita Brevis post in June 2018 entitled “Indifferent to the world.” I urge Vita Brevis readers to revisit Peter’s blog post and tune into the Zoom program today (July 30) at 5:30 p.m.

Hamiltonian errors

Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull, 1806. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

When Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton premiered on Disney+, I enjoyed watching the musical with my family. (My seven-year-old daughter’s favorite character was King George III!) This prompted me to look a bit more at Alexander Hamilton’s genealogy, which I had worked on a little bit years ago. Gary Boyd Robert’s The Royal Descents of 900 Immigrants shows a royal descent back from James II, King of Scotland (died 1460), through Alexander’s father James Hamilton of the West Indies. (Patrilineal descendants of Alexander have taken Y-DNA tests and matched descendants of related Scottish Hamilton families, for those various tall tales questioning Alexander’s paternity.) Continue reading Hamiltonian errors

Undimmed luster

One of the features of this anniversary year – the four hundredth since the Mayflower’s landing at Plymouth as well as the 175th anniversary of the Society’s founding in 1845 – has been a focus on early members of the Society, people no one alive today can have known. As a historical society, we are familiar with old records, even ones biographical in nature, but there is still something uncanny about how some early members – even some of the Society’s founders – come to life in the stories of their own time. Continue reading Undimmed luster