Monthly Archives: January 2014

See you at RootsTech 2014

Next week brings the first big genealogical conference of 2014, with RootsTech in Salt Lake City from February 6–8. I’ll be there with some of my colleagues from NEHGS, and we hope to meet a number of you there!

We’ve been attending the conference since it started in 2011 and look forward to the chance it gives us to meet with members and other genealogists who are using technology to make family history easier and more engaging. There’s also something for every skill level, whether you are just starting to use your smartphone for research or you want to get involved in the conversation about the next GEDCOM standard. Continue reading See you at RootsTech 2014

Mourning rings as genealogical clues

Alicia Crane WilliamsWhat to us might seem a rather morbid seventeenth-century tradition was the bestowal of mourning gifts on those who took part in your funeral, such as the coffin bearers, as well as family and friends. Samuel Sewall made a list of thirty funerals at which he was a “bearer” between 1697 and 1704, noting what he received for each service, which totaled twenty-four scarves, five pairs of gloves, and fourteen rings. (For the funeral of Thomas Broughton he got nothing.) By 1725, he had fifty-seven rings. Continue reading Mourning rings as genealogical clues

The Well-Stocked Genealogical Library

Charles Henry Pope's Pioneers of MassachusettsTo be complete, the well-stocked genealogical library should include general works on our research interests. Biographical dictionaries and other compendia are useful for looking at our ancestors’ contemporaries and their activities; they often provide clues for specific queries when the record in any one case is lacking, sending us off to an overlooked source or locality where the trail seemed cold. Continue reading The Well-Stocked Genealogical Library

Beasts, Bees, and Indian Corn

Alicia Crane WilliamsProbate inventories can tell us a lot about the living conditions of our ancestors, but as they are usually difficult to read and interpret, more often than not the little details are skipped by family historians. Nearly everyone records the amount of land in the inventory, but that rarely tells us much about how good the land was, nor how good the farmer was.  Because I’m an old aggie student (University of Connecticut 1969), I like to look at the inventories of livestock and crops to learn more about the farms and their owners. Continue reading Beasts, Bees, and Indian Corn

U.S. Veteran memorials

For many years one of my personal projects has been to mark the graves of ancestors without gravestones.  In the case of ancestors who were honorably discharged from the United States military, I honor their memory by adding an inscription relating to their service.  If this idea seems appealing to you, you may wish to know that the United States government will assist in creating and will often pay the costs to erect a standard upright or flat marker for military veterans’ graves. Continue reading U.S. Veteran memorials

What you know (and can prove)

Penny at podium_cropped“Write down what you know” is the first step in family history research. For many of us, what we know includes family stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. But sometimes those stories can be misleading – or just plain incorrect. For example, my stepmother had always heard that she was related to Ralph Waldo Emerson and General William Tecumseh Sherman. I have a set of notes written by her aunt, Minerva McGee (1897-1972), which begin like this:

General Sherman — younger brother of Catherine Sherman

Ralph Waldo Emerson — younger brother of John Emerson

John Emerson — Catherine Sherman, My Great Grandparents.

Unfortunately, Aunt Minerva was wrong. Continue reading What you know (and can prove)

Speaking in public

The first month or so of the New Year is turning out to be quite a busy one in terms of presenting lectures.  Part 1 of a Mobile Genealogist series on Dropbox and Evernote is done, part 2 of the series on the Flip-Pal scanner and cameras is upcoming on February 1, and I will be off to Salt Lake City to present on Evernote at RootsTech the week after. Under development is a lecture for the Fundamentals track of the 2014 Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) Annual Meeting and Seminar on July 26 in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Continue reading Speaking in public

Social media for genealogists

Robert Winthrop (1833-1892)At the moment, I am working on three different family histories, two of them for families in Boston, and one for a New York Dutch clan.

As part of the research process, each of these family histories will, at some point, generate a questionnaire for modern-day family members. With each book project, the question arises: How best to encourage family members to fill out yet another form, in this case running to several pages? Continue reading Social media for genealogists

The Disappearing Leveretts

Alicia Crane WilliamsI cannot imagine the faith that John Leverett and his wives, Hannah Hudson and Sarah Sedgwick, must have had to cope with deaths of so many of their children. By his two wives, John was the father of eighteen children, eleven of whom died as infants or young children. Six of these children were given the name Sarah after their mother, and five of them died before the sixth survived. Three sons were named John, none of whom lived to grow up. Continue reading The Disappearing Leveretts