Tag Archives: U.S. Presidents

2021: the year in review

“May you live in interesting times” is supposed to be a curse – it’s certainly an exhausting way to go through life. As 2021 rolls over to 2022, here is a look back at 2021 in Vita Brevis:

In January, Ann Lawthers urged genealogists visiting cemeteries to apply some of the insights garnered from their research, in this case about how the changing cultural norms around death translated into stone: Continue reading 2021: the year in review

Where’s Waldo?

Over the fall, our daughters took an art class at the Museum of Fine Arts each Sunday. This gave my wife and me two hours to stroll around the museum, enjoy a leisurely lunch or, weather permitting, enjoy the outdoors. While visiting a section of Japanese art, I noticed a lot of the art work was donated by American art collector Denman Waldo Ross (1853-1935), a trustee of the museum. I have encountered Ross’s middle name of Waldo several times over the years, and for New Englanders this usually indicates a descent from Cornelius Waldo of Ipswich and Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Continue reading Where’s Waldo?

The power of Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

– Hebrews 11: 1

Statue of ‘Faith’ on her pedestal

A comment on my recent post, Seeing double, reminded readers of yet another tribute honoring the Pilgrim legacy, the National Monument to the Forefathers. The gentleman who commented called the monument one of Plymouth’s best kept secrets. Its location, off-the-beaten path, on an 11-acre site in a residential neighborhood, does make it less-visited than the iconic Mayflower and Rock.

It has been said that the monument’s sheer size and multitude of visual elements, the centerpiece of which is the figure of Faith, overwhelms modern sensibilities. It is not signposted on the highway, Route 3, but only on Route 3A, the secondary road into Plymouth, and since that is the road I take, I always make the “detour” up the hill to visit. Continue reading The power of Faith

Finding Francis

Finding Aaron, it turned out, meant finding Francis, a family connection in my own backyard. I’ve written several posts about my genealogical journey to learn about my maternal grandfather, John Joseph Osborne, and, in the course of that journey, I discovered ancestral roots in the ancient colony of Acadia in Nova Scotia; family members accused during the Salem Witchcraft hysteria; a great-great-great-grandfather who was one of the first patients to be operated on using ether; and a great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Aaron Osborn (the older version of the surname was spelled without the last e), who set out with his fellow Danvers militiamen on the morning of 19 April 1775 to answer the Lexington Alarm. Continue reading Finding Francis

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

Retroactive suffixes

An occasional question I receive relates to two practices used in publications by my longtime friend and colleague, Gary Boyd Roberts, that I would summarize as retroactive suffixes and surnames. The latter is used in many other genealogical compendia, largely in relation to royal genealogy (which I’ll discuss in part two of this post), while the former is perhaps less common, and used more often in identifying Americans after 1620. I would identify Gary as belonging to “Team Present,” in terms of using a modern genealogical naming system for past eras, while Vita Brevis editor Scott Steward would belong to “Team Contemporary” in trying to identify people by the names they used in their lifetimes. I would put myself in “Team Whatever,” usually omitting suffixes entirely, except when their contemporary identification is useful to determine how they might fit genealogically into a family. Continue reading Retroactive suffixes

Heartbeat of the Revolution

With Patriots’ Day almost upon us, I feel especially lucky to be working remotely from my historic hometown of Lebanon, Connecticut. While many New England towns have their own history during the Revolutionary War, Lebanon to this day is still very much defined by its patriotic past. Although large in acreage, Lebanon has one of the smaller populations. As a small town in eastern Connecticut, Lebanon consists primarily of farms, rural roads, historic homes, and a deep-rooted patriotic history.[1] Continue reading Heartbeat of the Revolution

Bringing the pain

The “Victorian Trade Card” at left recently came up for sale on eBay, prompting a friend to send it to me as it concerns “John Payne’s Fish and Fruit Market, Putnam” in my Connecticut hometown. While I had never heard of the business, I soon found John Paine (1850-1919) listed in censuses as a fish peddler, meat peddler, and butcher.[1] A decent treatment of the Paine family in northeastern Connecticut is given in the eighth volume of Clarence Winthrop Bowen’s Genealogies of Woodstock Families. While I have a full set of this work at home, I had loaned the last two volumes for several years to Scott Andrew Bartley so he could use them for Early Vermont Settlers to 1784, as they cover many families moving from northeast Connecticut to Vermont. (The first six volumes are available online.) Fortunately, he had returned them to me only a few days before this card was sent my way! Continue reading Bringing the pain

A president’s origins

Chester Alan Arthur. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Given the growth and proliferation of twenty-four-hour news networks offering instantaneous political commentary, nearly every American adult is likely aware of the (demonstrably false) allegation that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. As many also know, President Obama was easily able to provide records which thoroughly debunked the baseless narrative. This was not, however, the first time a United States president was faced with questions about his origin which were dispelled by supporting records.

Beginning in late 1880, then Vice President-elect Chester A. Arthur was alleged to be a native of Canada, and, therefore, ineligible to hold the office to which he had been elected. Continue reading A president’s origins

Super Bowl surprise

Courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs

Sometimes my Vita Brevis posts take time to develop. I started this post last year after the then-recent Super Bowl victory of the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers, prompting me to look at the ancestry of the team’s quarterback and the game’s MVP, Patrick Mahomes. With Mahomes and his team heading to the Super Bowl again this year, I finally decided to complete this post. Continue reading Super Bowl surprise