Monthly Archives: June 2014

What’s that name?

luigi ciaccia line 21 page 2
Courtesy of

I just returned from representing the New England Historic Genealogical Society at the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree’s forty-fifth  annual event in Burbank, California. In addition to getting the opportunity to meet some of the great NEHGS members who live in and around California, I also had an opportunity to give three different lectures: “Following the Crumbs: Tracing Family History Through Land Records,” “Tracing Your Italian Ancestry to the Old Country,” and “Tales of a Genealogist” at the NEHGS Breakfast. Continue reading What’s that name?

Conserving some NEHGS treasures

Hancock broadside

One of the things I like most about my job at the Society is that, because we are such a small operation, we tackle a wonderful array of projects. For example, for the past month I have been cleaning and backing this 29” x 42” broadside. It was an  announcement made/published by T.G.H.P. Burnham on 6 June 1863 to protest the already-begun demolition of the John Hancock mansion. Sadly, the protest amounted to just that; where the mansion once sat is now the west wing of the early twentieth-century addition to the Massachusetts State House. To my knowledge, the only surviving external piece  of John Hancock’s home is the stairs, later incorporated  into the embankment of Jamaica Pond and leading to the former Perkins estate. Continue reading Conserving some NEHGS treasures

Sandwich and Eastham Town Records

Alicia Crane WilliamsYou know you are a genealogist when the highlight of your week is the delivery of two newly published volumes of town records! These are The Town Records of Eastham during the Time of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1692, and The Town Records of Sandwich during the Time of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1692, transcribed by Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs. Jeremy has been transcribing Plymouth Colony town records for decades, including the Scituate records published by NEHGS and the Marshfield records currently being serialized in The Mayflower Descendant by the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants. The Mayflower Descendant will also be publishing Bangs’ transcriptions of the Dartmouth and Bridgewater town records. Continue reading Sandwich and Eastham Town Records

Still more thoughts on preparing to publish

Penny at podium_croppedBy phone, at seminars, and now at webinars, we field many questions from people who are interested in writing family histories. Here are a few of the most frequent questions we hear:

How do I get started? There’s no way around it: getting started can be difficult. You will have to shift mental gears. Take a step back, as if you’re zooming out with a camera, and begin thinking about your project as a potential manuscript, something different from your mass of research. Don’t wait until your research is done, or you’ll never get started. Just begin! Continue reading Still more thoughts on preparing to publish

What’s in a name

Estelle Bell with Fred and Nancy revised
Estelle Jackson Bell with her children Frances Fairfax Bell and Fred Jackson Bell

According to the Book of Genesis, one of the first things Adam did was to give the things around him names: to name is to exert power – and to give it. An example of this in my own family comes to mind, and with it comes a far longer history than I think my parents or my grandparents knew.

When my sister was born, my maternal grandparents’ second grandchild and first granddaughter, my grandmother assumed that the baby would be named for her: Pauline. As I mentioned yesterday, my mother’s first name was a moving target: it was at one time Pauline, at another Fairfax, until it crystallized as Barbara. I suspect my grandfather didn’t care for it, even though it was his wife’s and (perhaps more relevant?) his mother-in-law’s first name. In any case, with that history behind it, my grandmother expected my sister to be named for her. Continue reading What’s in a name

Family stories in official records

CS passport photo with MBS
My great-grandparents’ joint passport has an interesting database category called Immigration & Travel, which includes a variety of passenger list and passport application databases. I have used them over the years to track members of my family as they traveled to and from Europe, Central and South America, the Hawaiian Islands and the Far East, and I invariably find colorful details to flesh out the prosaic ones. (I also sometimes find exact dates and places of birth that I’ve been unable to find elsewhere.) Continue reading Family stories in official records

The Great Migration in Vita Brevis

St Bartholomews Groton
St. Bartholomew’s Church, Groton, Suffolk

Over the last five months, Vita Brevis has featured a number of blog posts about the Great Migration Study Project and related subjects. Robert Charles Anderson, the project’s director, has written on the topic, as have Alicia Crane Williams and Roger Thompson. Bob’s posts tend to focus on his continuing research in this area, whether it is his trips to Salt Lake City to review a thorny question about identity or the latest literature on the subject as he prepares to write a book tentatively entitled Puritan Pedigrees: The Deep Roots of the Great Migration to New England. Continue reading The Great Migration in Vita Brevis

The Lane School on Malaga Island

Mss A 1900 Pg15Captain George W. Lane, a Christian missionary and a Civil War veteran, first visited Malaga Island in 1906. The island, located in the New Meadows River near Phippsburg, Maine, is now an uninhabited state preserve, but in Captain Lane’s time the island was the site of a small mixed-race community of fishermen. In the summer of 1906, Captain Lane and his family rowed almost every day from their summer home on Horse Island (now Harbor Island) to Malaga. The inhabitants were poor, and there were few opportunities for education. The Lanes changed that. Captain Lane led regular church services for the residents of Malaga Island, while his wife, Lucy (Holden) Lane, and their daughters started a school for the island’s children. Continue reading The Lane School on Malaga Island

Remembering Deane Winthrop

Courtesy of Bill Boyington/

Last night I went to the monthly meeting of the Winthrop Improvement and Historical Association on the grounds of the Deane Winthrop House to hear John Winthrop Sears speak about his ancestral uncle. Deane2 Winthrop (1623–1704) was Governor John1 Winthrop’s sixth son (the third son by the Governor’s third marriage), and he long outlived his full and half-siblings. He did so in one of the oldest wood-framed houses in the Commonwealth, one continuously occupied since the seventeenth century, on Pulling Point – now the City of Winthrop. Continue reading Remembering Deane Winthrop

The Great Migration Study Project: a primer, Part Three

Alicia Crane WilliamsHere is a table to help sort out where to look for your seventeenth-century ancestors in the publications associated with the Great Migration Study Project and the Early New England Families Study Project: Continue reading The Great Migration Study Project: a primer, Part Three