I have found over the years that most family historians are so intent on pushing back to the next generation that they often do not stop to see what their family tree is telling them about the generation they just identified. Additionally, with the advent of “type in a name” research, many family historians are content to find the record and move on to the next record, or the next suggested record, without ever stopping to ask why or how their ancestors ended up recorded in a particular document. After all, the records that genealogists use to trace the family connections were not created with genealogical research in mind. Family historians have found ways to pull family information out of vital records, military draft cards, census records, passenger ship lists, and more to aid them in tracing their family back through the generations. Continue reading Digging deep
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with NEHGS Conservator Todd Pattison in our Conservation Lab to discuss his background, the world of conservation, and his work at NEHGS. Todd joined our Library staff in June 2018 and brought a wealth of experience with him, having worked previously at the Harvard College Library and the Northeast Document Conservation Center. He has quickly developed an understanding of NEHGS and its mission. Working with him has been a wonderful experience for us, and we welcome this opportunity to give our Vita Brevis readers a chance to get to know him, too. Todd will present a free webinar on Thursday, January 17, on the topic of Preserving Your Family Treasures. (You can learn more and register here.) Continue reading The object tells a story
I’m sure that many of you asked for – and even received – some genealogical resources this holiday season. Hopefully they will be as rewarding as the items Genealogy Santa delivered to me! A few were things that I requested, but a couple were glorious surprises.
In the category of things requested were the latest mystery novel by my distant cousin, Cynthia Riggs, whose house on Martha’s Vineyard I wrote about last June; a very back issue of Historic Nantucket, the magazine of the Nantucket Historical Association; and a book published this year by history professor Everett U. Crosby. Continue reading Gifts from Genealogy Santa
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
TG has been published twice a year over 32 years. It was founded in 1980 by Neil D. Thompson, FASG, and Neil edited the first ten volumes through 1989. In 1997, the magazine was revived by ASG under the editorship of Charles M. Hansen, FASG, and Gale Ion Harris, FASG, who have produced volumes 11 (1997) through 32 (2018). A full list of articles published in volumes 1–31, and sample articles, are posted on the society’s website: Continue reading A well-kept secret
Continuing my project of reviewing recent scholarship (or new databases) that might add material to Richard Evans’s 2007 book, The Ancestry of Diana, Princess of Wales, I have reached the late Princess’s great-great-great-grandparents. Among them: James Brownell Boothby (1791–1850) and Charlotte Cunningham (1799–1893), who were married in 1816. Ancestry’s UK, Foreign and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1628–1969 database documents the marriage of James, late of Sheffield, Yorkshire, and Charlotte, late of Folke (Sherborne), Dorset, in “Bahia of the Brazils, South America.” As there was then “no Protestant Church, Chapel, or Place of Public Worship” established in Bahia, the ceremony was performed by the bride’s father, Alexander Cunningham, the British Consul. Continue reading More ancestors of the Princess of Wales
[Editor’s note: A version of this post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 7 November 2016; its contents have been updated by Molly Rogers.]
The genealogy column in the Boston Evening Transcript newspaper has been one of the more heavily used resources at the NEHGS Library for the past century or more. The paper was published, under a few different titles, from 1830 to 1941. From 1906 through 1941, it featured a genealogy column in which readers would submit and respond to queries. During most of its run, the column appeared twice a week. According to an editors’ note which appeared in many issues, the newspaper was almost overwhelmed with submissions and had a backlog waiting to be published. The editors also claimed that they had “correspondents in every corner of the country.” By the time it ceased publication, the column had covered an estimated two million names. Continue reading ICYMI: Boston Transcript column now online
I have been struggling with the Early New England Families Study Project sketch for Thomas Cornish of Gloucester, Mass.; Exeter, N.H.; and Newtown, Long Island. While there are half a dozen published accounts on the family, or various parts of it, they disagree on almost everything.
Some accounts claim that Thomas had children who remained in New England; others point to evidence the Cornishes were in New York and New Jersey. Some accounts include a daughter Martha who married consecutively to Francis Swain and Caleb Leverich. Continue reading Long Island puzzles
[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 3 October 2016.]
One day, when searching through the town records of New Haven, Connecticut, I was struck by one of the entries. The writing appeared like nothing I had ever seen before. After asking others for their thoughts, we found that none of us had ever seen this form of writing before. After some research, I discovered that what I had found was notation written in Taylor Shorthand, a system of writing developed by Samuel Taylor in 1786, the first system of shorthand writing to be widely used across the English-speaking world.
Shorthand has long been used as a method of notation, often when time or efficiency is imperative, and as a result, it often appears in court documents and meeting minutes. Continue reading ICYMI: Shorthand systems
On the list of books of which you have probably never heard is Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana; or, The Ecclesiastical History of New-England…, originally published in 1702. Roughly translated as The Glorious Works of Christ in America, it might not sound all that interesting and certainly doesn’t sound like a genealogical resource, but it really is a rich treasure of biographical information for early New England ministers.
The Rev. John Ward (1606–1693) of Haverhill, Massachusetts, who was in New England by 1639, was the son of Great Migration immigant Rev. Nathaniel Ward, who arrived with some of his family in New England in 1634. Continue reading A treasure indeed