Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black

Harry Potter 1
Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

I’ll be blunt: J.K. Rowling is my favorite author. I’ve read (and reread) all of her books, watched her interviews (including an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?), and I follow her on Twitter and Facebook. She has entertained me for countless hours, allowing me to explore my imagination well beyond the socially acceptable limits for those in their adult years. I am always looking forward to the newest material from the mind of Ms. Rowling.

And while I love her creativity and passion for writing, I am often most impressed with her dedication to the authenticity of the story (even when it is a story about witches and wizards). Continue reading The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black

One small pin

AWVS pinA little while back, my mother gave me several pins which had belonged to her mother. One of them was a badge for the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS), an organization established in 1940 that provided aid and assistance to the American armed forces and civilians. By the time Pearl Harbor was attacked, the AWVS had more than 18,000 members offering assistance ranging from food services to driving ambulances and administering first aid. [i] Continue reading One small pin

The Alden Homestead

Alden House with Landmark
The Alden Homestead

My regular trip from Plymouth up to Duxbury this week was a pleasant, sunny autumnal drive. I wasn’t exactly tracing my ancestors’ footsteps, since I went up Route 3. (If they had gone overland, their trail would be closer to what is now Route 3A, and more likely than not, they would have gone by boat.) The trip is always a “homecoming” for me, even though my own ancestors have not lived on the homestead since John and Priscilla Alden’s daughter, Ruth, married John Bass and moved to Braintree in 1657. Continue reading The Alden Homestead

“Saloon Man Routs Amateur Gunmen”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle 4 August 1920
Click on images to expand them.

Some family stories are so fascinating and memorable that they are passed down through multiple generations, becoming a well-known piece of lore; others, while equally interesting, get lost in the shuffle. The latter truism might explain the story of Christopher Taylor.

My role in this story began when my girlfriend asked me to help her work on her genealogy. As is often the case, the first several generations proved easy to determine through personal knowledge and well-kept documentation. However, upon reaching her great-great-grandfather, a man by the name of Christopher Taylor, some creativity was required.

Knowing that his children were born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, while he himself was born in Ireland, we were able to locate census records which provided us with some key information. Continue reading “Saloon Man Routs Amateur Gunmen”

Grants for New England historians

Hancock broadside
Courtesy of R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, NEHGS

I will be out of the office today, attending a planning meeting for the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC) at the John Hay Library in Providence. The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is a member of the consortium, a group made up of New England state and local historical societies, university and college libraries (Harvard, Smith, Trinity, and Brown), and museums (Historic Deerfield and Mystic Seaport). What links the membership together, for the purpose of providing $5,000 research fellowships, is a shared interest in making their large collections available for use by historical researchers. Continue reading Grants for New England historians

Courtesy titles: a primer

Westminster Hall coronation of George IV 1821
The coronation of King George IV in Westminster Hall, 1821.

Given that the British peerage system developed over time, its labyrinthine rules and unfamiliar nomenclature are not all that surprising. As feudal peerages – a somewhat amorphous class bound by land tenure and military service – gave way to peerages granted by the monarch, the rules governing titles and their inheritance evolved into what we have today.

Several readers of my previous post on the subject were perplexed by courtesy titles. The peerage system in the United Kingdom affords peerage holders and their immediate relatives a variety of titles signifying rank, some hereditary and bound to one holder at a time, others “by courtesy” and held by some or all members of a particular generation. Continue reading Courtesy titles: a primer

Two hundred posts on Vita Brevis

Martha Anne Kuhn 4
An illustration used with Andrew Krea’s transcription of Martha Anne Kuhn’s diary, June-July 2014. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

This post marks the two-hundredth entry on Vita Brevis since its début on January 10. After ten months and more than 250,000 page views, and with contributions from 52 bloggers (and counting), the blog has established itself as a place to stop in and see how other genealogists work. Not every post is germane to every reader’s interests, but in the main the spirit of inquiry animates each entry, offering guidance about what approaches and resources help us in our research. Continue reading Two hundred posts on Vita Brevis

Hidden treasures in Immigrant Aid Society records

Click on images to enlarge them. First two images courtesy of NARA; third image courtesy of AJHS-NEA.

While visiting the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston recently, I took the opportunity to look at their collection titled Charitable Irish Society Records. The Charitable Irish Society was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1737, with the goal of assisting Irish immigrants in need of financial assistance or employment. It is the oldest Irish society in the United States, and is still active today. A number of the projects I work on at NEHGS involve Irish research, so I wanted to take a closer look at these records to learn more about the contents of this collection. Continue reading Hidden treasures in Immigrant Aid Society records

How I became a genealogist: Part Three

Alicia Crane WilliamsThere was no light-bulb moment when I discovered I wanted to be a genealogist, but by the time I came back from Kentucky, I’d done enough work on my family’s genealogy to decide history wasn’t so dull after all. It happened that NEHGS was hiring an assistant editor for the Register. I applied, was offered the job, but had to turn it down because of the salary. Sorry, but I also needed to pay rent.

As Fate would have it, I was employed by Honeywell Information Systems where I was introduced to the first word processing computer – the IBM Mag Card Typewriter – and discovered that computerized gadgets were fun to operate. Continue reading How I became a genealogist: Part Three

Taking the long view

Stack of papersAs a researcher, I most enjoy looking through collections of personal papers. For me, seeing what items still exist is just as interesting as finding the data they contain. I have gone through family papers that I was told were “junk” and found information that I would have never found elsewhere, and which only exists because someone thought it was important enough to keep. It was when pondering my family papers and the records I create in my own research that I began to think about future genealogists. Continue reading Taking the long view