Monthly Archives: October 2014

Title troubles

Redesdale family
Lord and Lady Redesdale and their children. The Hon. Deborah Freeman-Mitford is at lower right.

The recent death of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire got me to thinking about the genealogical treatment of titles. Titles can be tricky, and many American genealogists – confronted with medieval British or European titles in their ancestry – prefer to ignore them or, conversely, string them all together and hope that the result is acceptable.

The same is true of the American press. At present, The New York Times behaves as though someone with a title doesn’t use it. In the Duchess’s obituary, the headline called her Deborah Cavendish – true enough, but Cavendish is hardly the name (or the rank) by which she was best known. Continue reading Title troubles

At last: a link to the Mayflower!

Henry Hornblower Visitor CenterThroughout my childhood and teenage years I was under the impression that my ancestors had traveled to Plymouth on the Mayflower. Being young and naive, I had no reason to question my parents’ long-held beliefs. Given that my grandfather, Henry Hornblower II (1917–1985), founded Plimoth Plantation in 1947, no one ever questioned my Mayflower lineage. And with a last name like Hornblower, who would? Continue reading At last: a link to the Mayflower!

How I became a genealogist: Part Two

Alicia Crane WilliamsI am the last woman in six generations of my umbilical line (which is as far back as I’ve been able to trace). My mother’s mother, Alice Mason Crane, for whom I was named (I was going to be Alice, too, but Gram didn’t want to be called “Big Alice”), inherited generations of family material from her ancestors and from her husband’s family. All of the Bibles, letters, photographs, and more ended up in her home in Natick, Massachusetts. After she lost her only son in World War II, she spent the next years sorting this material and typing it – with four carbon copies for her grandchildren (she had also trained as a secretary) – into a genealogy. Continue reading How I became a genealogist: Part Two

Middlesex County probate records now online

Middlesex County map 1
State map from Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, 5th edition (NEHGS, 2012)

Middlesex County was created on 10 May 1643 as one of the original four counties of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The other original counties were Essex, Suffolk, and a now extinct Norfolk – a name later reused for a different geographic region in the state.

At its founding, Middlesex County covered a broad swath of Massachusetts. The county was bordered to the north by New Hampshire, to the east by Essex County, to the south by Suffolk County, and to the west by New York – until Hampshire County was created in 1662. Continue reading Middlesex County probate records now online

The Boucher family reunion

Scott Steward at BMIThis past weekend, about twenty-five of my Boucher cousins gathered to tour the Baltimore Museum of Industry’s show, “Making Music: The Banjo in Baltimore and Beyond,” with its three curators. Our visit to the BMI likely marked the first large-scale reunion of the descendants of William Boucher Jr. (1822–1899) in many years – perhaps since the death of my great-great-grandmother (William’s widow) in 1923.

I don’t think my mother – William Boucher’s great-granddaughter – felt especially close to this part of her family. What interest in the Bouchers I heard expressed focused on exactly how we descended from François Boucher, the painter. When my mother was little, it was still permissible to say, vaguely, that we were François’ descendants; nowadays, with so many (once buried) resources available to us, the story doesn’t really stand up to much scrutiny. Continue reading The Boucher family reunion

“Very impertinent”: Elizabeth Chandler of Woodstock

Joshua Chandler gravestone
Courtesy of Robert Lembke,

Sometimes, the most interesting stories are found when you weren’t looking for them, as in the following example. I was searching for a simple marriage record in the town of Woodstock, Connecticut. While I eventually found the record I was seeking, what I noticed immediately above that record was a series of intriguing entries. The records read as follows[1]:

1. “Chandler, Elizabeth, was requested Nov. 11, 1743 to make a public confession”

2. “Her letter of conf. was read at ch. meeting Nov. 25, 1743 and considered ‘very impertinent’” Continue reading “Very impertinent”: Elizabeth Chandler of Woodstock