A few years ago, I was about to take my second academic sabbatical at NEHGS. My first sabbatical produced much of the research needed for the Vital Records of Stoughton, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1850, published by the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants in 2008. For my second sabbatical I wanted to select a project that would benefit genealogists and historians alike. I had a conversation with our President D. Brenton Simons, and he made me aware of a little-known manuscript of Boston records at the Rare Book Department of the Boston Public Library. These fragile books contain the “Taking Books” (later renamed Valuation Books) for the town of Boston from the early 1780s through 1822. Continue reading A census substitute
When I became Editor-in-Chief at NEHGS in June 2013, one of the new initiatives Ryan Woods and I discussed was a blog for the Society. Current and former colleagues worked with me to establish the blog’s purpose and name, and – in time – got me set up on WordPress. (Two years later, when I was on a sabbatical, three current and former colleagues managed the blog in my absence.) So Vita Brevis has been a cooperative venture from the beginning, relying on the energy and commitment of the NEHGS staff and some dedicated outside contributors to produce fresh content. Continue reading Vita Brevis turns five
When I was in school, I was better at English than math, but there were still a few sticky wickets I had to deal with. I could not spell. I missed the first day on “adverbs” and never caught up. I hated reading “essays.”
The “essay” is simply a “short piece of writing on a particular subject,” but as I remember it, we were assigned readings from men like Thoreau, Emerson, and Socrates which mostly just blew over my young teen-aged head. I vowed that whatever I did when I grew up, it would not involve writing essays.
Hmm. Well, when Scott Steward reminded me that we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of Vita Brevis, I was rather startled to realize that I have been writing essays for five years. Continue reading A broadening education
Since the blog launched (unofficially) on 2 January 2014 – with an official birthday of 10 January 2014 – Vita Brevis bloggers have written at least 1,252 posts, of which 1,244 have been published.
The blog has 105 official users, with eleven administrators and 94 authors.
In the blog’s five-year history, Scott Steward has published 260 posts, for about 21% of the total. Alicia Crane Williams comes next, with 175 posts (14%), then Christopher C. Child (82; about 7%). Other prolific bloggers include Zachary Garceau (49), Jeff Record (45), Jan Doerr (44), Penny Stratton (36), and Pamela Athearn Filbert (35). Continue reading By the numbers
In a few days’ time the blog will celebrate its fifth anniversary. Here, to review the year just ended, are some posts from the second half of 2018 demonstrating the range of material published at Vita Brevis.
In July, Meaghan E. H. Siekman wrote about her great-grandfather, the Chicago-born son of Czech immigrants who
spent his lifetime chasing the American dream and preserving a history which was not directly his own, as none of his ancestors ever lived in colonial America. Evidence of the importance of American history in his life can be found in his obituary, which focuses more on his collections [parts of which ended up in the Smithsonian Institution] and preservation work than his career in medicine. Continue reading 2018: the year in review concluded
Here in my hometown we are blessed with an exquisite landmark building, the 1681 meetinghouse known as Old Ship Church, whose name may have been inspired by the building’s vaulted roof, resembling a ship’s hull, built of oak timbers. Used originally as a gathering place for both civic discussion and religious worship it is, today, the oldest church structure in the United States in continuous use. Behind the meetinghouse is the town’s oldest cemetery, whose earliest burials pre-date construction of the meetinghouse. Sometimes called the First Settlers graveyard, it is the final resting place of the families who founded Hingham – Cushing, Lincoln, Thaxter, Beal, Hobart – their descendants, and other prominent residents – including two Massachusetts governors. It is one of the few historic cemeteries where burials are still taking place. Continue reading Touched by an angel
As we begin the countdown for 2019 – and look forward to the blog’s fifth anniversary in January – I have selected some posts from the first half of 2018 to showcase the range of subjects covered in Vita Brevis during the last year.
Alicia Crane Williams started the year with a series of posts on establishing criteria for what constitutes an “excellent” genealogy, as distinguished from a “good” (or a “poor”) one:
A “scoring” system for genealogies would be interesting. If, for example, we had ten categories on which to judge a genealogical source, and each category had a potential ten points maximum, the “perfect” score would be 100. Of course, this would all be subjective, but it would give us a way to group works for comparison (top 10%, bottom 50% etc.). Continue reading 2018: the year in review
[Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series of interviews with David Allen Lambert; the first part may be read here. The present article originally appeared in the Society’s NEXUS newsletter, 4: 3.]
Answer: Since the age of 12 I have belonged to the Stoughton Historical Society.
Q: That is a young age to begin. You were probably the youngest member.
A: I was. I started in 1981, and in 1984 they made me the assistant curator, when I was just 15. Continue reading A genealogist’s beginnings
[Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series of interviews with David Allen Lambert.]
Answer: When I first joined NEHGS in 1993 I had been a member for seven years. My first job was in Enquiries Services, which is now known as Research Services. When the circulating library had an opening on the fourth floor, I began working with our members who requested books to be sent to them as a loan. It was like Amazon.com for genealogists – pulling orders and shipping. The circulating library gave me a strong understanding of our collections. Continue reading A genealogist’s development
Between 1919 and 2003, a Boston loss in the fall classic of the World Series was, sadly, a familiar occurrence. In the decades before 1919, things were different. The Boston Americans rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series in 1903. During the second decade of the twentieth century, the Red Sox were alive and well with pitching, fielding, and batting as they won the 1912, 1915, 1916, and 1918 World Series. This month, one hundred and two years of history repeat. In the 2018 World Series, the Boston Red Sox are once more playing the Los Angeles Dodgers. Continue reading History repeats