Monthly Archives: April 2014

A sense of place and name

Alicia Crane WilliamsThe question from the previous post was: “What if John Smith and Mary Brown lived in Barnstable but Abigail Smith and Harry Carey were married at Sandwich?” Barnstable and Sandwich are right next to each other, so why would this raise a red flag?

Although this example involves an early nineteenth-century wedding (1816), and the rules of posting banns and other restrictions of earlier centuries were becoming less common, in New England towns there was still a strong tie to church and community. Girls married in the church to which their families belonged. John and Mary (Brown) Smith belonged to the church in Barnstable – what would their daughter be doing getting married in Sandwich? Continue reading A sense of place and name

“The Good lord direct us”: a New England love quadrangle, 1648-49

John WinthropIn December 1648, Lucy (Winthrop) Downing sent her nephew John2 Winthrop a letter full of family news: her husband, Emmanuel Downing, had been at the birth of John’s baby half-brother, Joshua, the week before, and “I belleeue our cosen Dorithe Simonds is nowe wonne and weded to Mr. Harrison the Virginia minister.” Sounding at once like a modern-day gossip and a character in Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Downing also noted that her daughter Lucy would probably soon marry: Continue reading “The Good lord direct us”: a New England love quadrangle, 1648-49

Organizing a family reunion: Part Two

Boucher Facebook screenBoucher Facebook screen_2

The organizers of the William Boucher reunion are starting with incomplete information about the family, as often happens. My cousins Cheryl and Connie and I all have lists of William Boucher’s descendants, but of course these lists are more accurate about Boucher’s children – Willy, Sophia, Freddie, Oscar, Frank, Imogene, Pauline, Victor, Josephine, Willy, Josephine, Gertrude, Louis, Frances, Marie, Pauline, Ernest, Carlos, Florence, Emile, Constance, and (yes) Emile and Constance – than about modern-day descendants. How best to find today’s Boucher family? Continue reading Organizing a family reunion: Part Two

“To tell and retell the stories of their lives”

Doris Kearns Goodwin bindingEvery year at this time, the New England Historic Genealogical Society holds its annual meeting here in Boston. This year, the program began on Thursday with a lunch for board members, councilors, and other out-of-town guests, followed by tours of the Society’s new building at 97 Newbury Street and the new conservation laboratory at 99–101 Newbury Street. Friday was devoted to committee and other meetings for the board and council, culminating in a gala dinner where presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin received the Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award for American History and Biography. Ms. Goodwin was given a hand bound copy of a genealogy commissioned by the Society and compiled by Chris Child and David Allen Lambert, and she spoke to the group about “Everlasting Legacies”; her address had the epigraph “The people we love will live on so long as we pledge to tell and retell the stories of their lives.” Continue reading “To tell and retell the stories of their lives”

Useful databases at AJHS-NEA

HIAS imageAs the American Jewish Historical Society, New England Archives (AJHS–NEA) has only recently formed a strategic partnership with the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), anyone interested in New England Jewish history or genealogy may want to know about several databases and collections that might be specifically useful for genealogical research. They include the following: Continue reading Useful databases at AJHS-NEA

Age old problems and comfort zones

Alicia Crane WilliamsIn my last post, I left Abigail (Smith) Carey in a Black Hole with conflicting information about her age. Age discrepancies are a common cause of Red Flags and avoiding them requires an understanding of such things as the average age at marriage for men and women in the time period with which you are dealing, the childbearing ages of women, legal ages, etc. I’m not aware of a single source that provides a good overall summary of these questions – let me know if you are. Continue reading Age old problems and comfort zones

Canadian colonization companies: an introduction

2014 McClure blog post canada ocean arrival 1923

One of the best things about working on the reference desk at the New England Historic Genealogical Society is that each new patron brings new challenges. Often new discoveries come with these challenges that I can use down the road to assist another patron. Such an event happened recently. (Click on the images to expand them.) Continue reading Canadian colonization companies: an introduction

The Great Migration: Top-down, bottom-up

The Winthrop FleetThe activities of the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1629-30 were uniformly organized from the top down. The Company either purchased or hired the vessels to carry the passengers and provisions. The passengers themselves, and especially the critically important professionals such as ministers and soldiers, were recruited by the Company leaders. Continue reading The Great Migration: Top-down, bottom-up

“The place where you are”: letters to New England, 1631-36

Edward Howes rabbitAs I read through the third volume of the Winthrop Papers, one of the Winthrop correspondents I have most enjoyed is Edward Howes, described succinctly in a footnote as a “student of law, alchemist and mystic, clerk to [John1 Winthrop’s brother-in-law] Emmanuel Downing, [and] friend of the younger John Winthrop.” (Volume 2, p. 226) I find myself looking forward to Howes’ letters’ salutations, and to the mixture of folk wisdom, political intrigue, and religious fervor I find within their pages. At times Howes and John2 Winthrop sound like the young men they were, not far removed from university punning; in other letters, Howes can be quite formal and business-like as he fulfills commissions for the Winthrops and the Downings. Continue reading “The place where you are”: letters to New England, 1631-36