Monthly Archives: January 2014

Capturing the Recent Past

George Rohrbach as a childAs I revise the new NEHGS Guide to Genealogical Writing (2014), I’ve been thinking ahead to a future project of my own: writing my family’s history. Having edited and produced a number of compiled genealogies at NEHGS, I have the genealogical format down cold. That’s the easy part. But what will I include for narrative information, to help bring the stories to life? Continue reading Capturing the Recent Past

Deep Puritan Roots

Robert Charles Anderson_June 2014_1On a recent trip to Salt Lake City, I took along a list of questions to work on. I hoped to demonstrate directly that Alexander Nowell, the prominent English Puritan, actually had interactions with his grandnephew, Increase Nowell of Charlestown, Massachusetts (1593-1655), who was about nine years old when Alexander died in 1602. My first step was to locate and read Alexander’s will.

There was nothing there about Increase, but the will included a lengthy codicil dedicated to the estate of John Deane of Great Maplestead, Essex. In 1585, Alexander was appointed guardian to young John, who was born about 1583. At the time of Alexander’s will, about twenty years later, John would have just reached his majority. I think I must have read Alexander’s will many years ago, but this connection had not then meant anything to me. Continue reading Deep Puritan Roots

Getting the most out of Google

Wendell Mansions by Alejandro Reyes November 2013A month or so ago, I knew comparatively little about one of my great-grandfathers, a Baltimore architect. Most of what I knew was genealogical in nature, but I had – and have – no photographs, and I did not know much about his oeuvre, which was mostly apartment houses in and around downtown Baltimore. Continue reading Getting the most out of Google

Human nature writ large

Alicia Crane WilliamsFor me, the whole point of genealogy is the challenge of reconstructing families and providing them with context.  Not just names, dates and places, but the real lives people led. That’s why I’m enjoying my job with the Early New England Families Study Project so much. Every family has a story – and it might surprise many people how much of that story can still be ferreted out from ancient, dusty records. Continue reading Human nature writ large

Generatio longa, vita brevis

NEHGS building at 99-101 Newbury StreetWelcome to Vita Brevis, the blog of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Vita Brevis is designed to offer the reader short essays by the Society’s expert staff on their own research as well as news of the greater genealogical community.

As the nation’s oldest genealogical Society, the NEHGS collection has always contained books and manuscripts on other subjects than New England; now, with its growing database collection, NEHGS is truly a national – and an international – resource for family history.

Vita Brevis will include short posts on research methods – applicable to a variety of genealogical subjects – as well as posts on results. Like a mosaic, these posts will, in time, form a new collection for the genealogical researcher to explore.