Monthly Archives: January 2015

Concerning Bass

Samuel Bass 1Do you have a common last name whose origin you have always wondered about, such as Lewis, Adams, or Bass? Did you ever wonder if you were related to a famous person with the same surname? A helpful research tip to figure this out is to search for information regarding the first ancestor that you can find in America, and then attempt to find common ancestral lines. Continue reading Concerning Bass

“A narrow escape”

Fanny Appleton Longfellow
Fanny Appleton Longfellow

As I read along in the Gray diary, I am finding certain recurring themes. One, every New Year’s Day, is concern over the arrival (or delay) of “the Philadelphia box,” containing presents for the Gray children in Boston from Mrs. Gray’s siblings in Philadelphia. Another is the annual drama surrounding the Grays’ summer holiday in Manchester, Massachusetts, since the options for affordable rentals were so limited and Manchester itself – just a short train ride from Boston – such a desirable place in which to “rusticate.” Continue reading “A narrow escape”

Three Argonauts

Alicia Crane WilliamsFriday marks the seventieth anniversary of the death of my mother’s brother in “Operation Argonaut” during the last year of World War II. If you remember your Greek mythology, the Argonauts were the band of heroes who accompanied Jason in his quest to find the Golden Fleece (their ship being the Argo), but you probably have never heard of the Operation Argonaut of 1945.

Operation Argonaut was the mission responsible for getting Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill safely to and from the Yalta Conference with Joseph Stalin. Continue reading Three Argonauts


Map of Mannheim 1888
Map of Mannheim in 1888. (Note the circular grid at right, representing the city William Boucher Jr. would have known.)

My great-grandmother was one of a large family, and when her mother died in 1924 the family house was evidently broken up, its contents divided between Wally and her nine surviving brothers and sisters. A fascinating family register, listing my great-great-grandfather’s twenty-three children and (most of) their birthdates descended to the youngest daughter: her granddaughter, my second cousin once removed, now has it. My great-grandmother Wally received a curious trove of documents associated with her father, a well-known musical instrument-maker: her portion included an 1845 passport from the Grand Duchy of Baden, an 1863 receipt for a soldier substitute, and an 1899 condolence letter from William Boucher Jr.’s half-brother to his widow. Continue reading Brigadoon

Reconnecting with family

Taughmaconnell Parish Cemetery, County Roscommon

My interest in genealogy was sparked by a request from my father: he wanted my help in finding information on his paternal grandparents. My father did not know their names, but he had heard that they were from Ireland. My grandfather died when I was young, and his only living sibling didn’t want to talk to us about her parents because it was “all in the past,” so I began my search by obtaining a copy of my grandfather’s birth record. I couldn’t wait to tell my dad the names of his father’s parents, which were listed on that birth record: Thomas Curley and Margaret Glennon. Continue reading Reconnecting with family

“For want of a shoe”

Alicia Crane WilliamsIn recent years I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I am a perfectionist. Now, before everyone starts hooting with laughter, a perfectionist is not a person who is, or thinks she is, perfect. Rather a perfectionist is forever doomed, being human, to never achieving perfection.  Other terms might be obsessive-compulsive, neurotic, or genealogist. Continue reading “For want of a shoe”

Family connections

Anne Curry and Pearces
From left: Nancie Stewart Curry Pearce, John H. J. Pearce, Anne Curry, and Charles Steward, 1961.

I recently skipped ahead in the Gray diary, as I had a printout of the 1873 volume and thought it might be fun to skim through that year’s entries. It was interesting to see the shifts in Mrs. Gray’s tone: she is, after all, about ten years older than when I last “checked in” with her, and her children – and their family and friends – are that much older, too, with more definite personalities and interests. Continue reading Family connections

“Memory lane”

Uncle Bill Doylestown HS 1947The other day, I was discussing genealogy with a friend and she said to me, “So, genealogy is just one big walk down memory lane?” I thought about this, and while I think that genealogy might be more of a drive down the memory interstate highway, I could not get this idea out of my head. I began to think of how some of us like to mosey down memory lane. For some, this might involve looking through old emails or pulling out a memory box. For me, it means flipping through old yearbooks. Continue reading “Memory lane”

To catch a thief

Norfolk Democrat 1835
From The Norfolk Democrat, 1835

Like many New England towns, my hometown of Dedham, Massachusetts, has a rich history. Though Dedham boasts the Fairbanks House and claims the oldest tax-supported school system in the country, I find one of the town’s most venerable societies to be particularly interesting: The Society in Dedham for Apprehending Horse Thieves.

This Society was founded on 4 June 1810 after a string of horse thefts in the town. Before the establishment of a police force, thirty-five men created their own group in hopes of curbing horse theft in the area. The Society would appoint a select group of men to serve as riders for one year, and were called upon when a horse was stolen. Continue reading To catch a thief

An Alden conundrum

Alicia Crane WilliamsMost family hereditary societies are very small organizations. The Alden Kindred of America was established in 1901, first to protect the Alden homestead in Duxbury, Massachusetts, but second to gather together descendants of the famous Pilgrims John and Priscilla Alden. It currently has fewer than 1,400 members. Modeled after the new Mayflower Society established a few years earlier, the Alden Kindred required that members file lineage papers and proof for their claims, and it had dreams of eventually publishing a full Alden genealogy. However, unlike the Wing Family Association – which has been publishing its magazine The Owl for a century and in time produced a book – the Alden Kindred has not published any significant genealogy. Continue reading An Alden conundrum