Monthly Archives: January 2015

Tracing ancestral paths: Part Two

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My map of ancestral homes and work places in Westerly, Rhode Island

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, knowing where an ancestor was living within a town at a certain time can be extremely beneficial for a number of reasons. After listing all of the known locations of my ancestors in my hometown of Westerly, Rhode Island, I was able to plot all of these points on a map and see where they had lived and worked. One of the benefits of this knowledge is that, with modern technology, we can see the locations of many of our ancestors’ homes as they stand today. In many cases, the same houses they once occupied may still remain. Websites such as Google Maps, which offer virtual tours of locations around the globe, have greatly expanded the experience of discovering one’s family history. Continue reading Tracing ancestral paths: Part Two

Tracing ancestral paths: Part One

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Page from the 1910 Lowell city directory

Whether it is collecting, reading, drawing, or painting, maps have always been one of my greatest passions. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I consider maps an essential tool in my genealogical research. As a researcher, even if I know that some of my ancestors spent their entire lives in the same city or town, I can never assume that they always lived in the same exact location. There are a multitude of sources where an individual’s address at any given point can be found, including: Continue reading Tracing ancestral paths: Part One

Satisfactory accounts

Alicia Crane WilliamsIn my blog post The Wings of a dilemma, I bemoaned the fact that although so much has been published about the Wing family over the years, I could not find a “satisfactory” account of the early Wing family. Raymond Wing of The Wing Family Association has kindly brought me up to speed on what is new with the Wings, including baptisms for the two oldest children of John and Deborah Wing discovered since the 2006 Wing genealogy was published. Thank you, Raymond. These baptisms are posted on the Wing website, but I evidently missed them because I found no link to those records from the other pages on the site to alert me that they were there. This will eventually bring us to discuss the dilemma: “If we have the information, how to we lead people to it?”

But first, what is, or is not, a “satisfactory” account? Continue reading Satisfactory accounts

What’s in a name: Part Two

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Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, entries for 5-7 February 1864. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

In the coming weeks, I will be reviewing a diary in our collection with an eye toward its eventual publication. The diarist is Hedwiga Regina (Shober) Gray (1818–1885), a native of Philadelphia who married Dr. Francis Henry Gray of Boston (1813–1880) in 1844. As diaries are rarely written with an audience in mind, no matter how remote, Mrs. Gray’s diary – in twenty-five volumes, spanning the years 1860–1884 – is full of interesting mysteries about the identities of the people she encounters. Continue reading What’s in a name: Part Two

The end of an era

Courtesy of

An era in New England has ended. The last person born in the region during the nineteenth century died 3 January 2015 at the age of 115. Bernice Marina (Emerson) Madigan was born on Hill Street in West Springfield, Massachusetts, on 24 July 1899. Her birth record appears at American; her obituary may be read here.

She was the daughter of Harry G. and Grace E. (Bennett) Emerson, who were married at West Springfield on 15 September 1897. Her father was a barber in West Springfield; her mother was a native of Cheshire, Massachusetts. Continue reading The end of an era

“Shake it off!”

Child 1_scsOver the last year or so I have had some interesting matches amongst “DNA Relatives” on the website I manage the profiles of my parents, my mother’s brother, and my wife’s parents. So far, the most interesting results have all come about from my mother and uncle. While all the profiles have given me several DNA relatives predicted to be anywhere from third to fifth cousins, only my mother and uncle’s matches have been linked me with cousins with whom we have been able to determine the exact degree of the relationship. Continue reading “Shake it off!”

Early New England Families Study Project update

Alicia Crane WilliamsSeven new sketches were recently posted to the Early New England Families Study Project database on

Andrew Lane of Hingham, a feltmaker and farmer who had nine children with his wife Trypheny.

George Lane of Hingham, Andrew’s brother, a shoemaker, who had eight children with his wife Sarah Harris.

Oliver Mellowes of Boston and Braintree, farmer. By his first wife, Mary James, Oliver had four children. His second wife was the widow Elizabeth (Hawkredd) Coney – see below. Continue reading Early New England Families Study Project update


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The Death Warrant of King Charles I,

Millions of British citizens and their colonial counterparts across the Atlantic Ocean went to sleep on 2 September 1752 and woke up on 14 September. This shift in dates was due to an Act of Parliament passed in 1750, known as Chesterfield’s Act, which put into motion a series of changes that fundamentally altered the way that many measured time. Continue reading Double-dating

The Wings of a dilemma

Alicia Crane WilliamsThe Wing family of Cape Cod has had a great amount of genealogical information published about it over the years. Beginning with Rev. Conway P. Wing’s A Historical and Genealogical Register of John Wing, of Sandwich, Mass. And his Descendants, 1632-1888, the list includes Mary Elizabeth Sinnott’s Annals of the Sinnott, Rogers, Coffin, Corlies, Reeves, Bodine and Allied Families, published in 1905, in which Wing is one of the allied families; The Owl, a serial publication of the Wing Family Association from 1901 to the present, and most recently Raymond T. Wing’s 2006 version, Wing Genealogy, Volume 1, The Reverend John Wing of Banbury, Oxfordshire, England and his wife Deborah Bachiler, Their Ancestry and Descendants through Five Generations. Continue reading The Wings of a dilemma

The year in review concluded

Newbury Street TodayIn yesterday’s post, I covered some of the more than 250 blog posts published in Vita Brevis during the first half of 2014. The series concludes with a post from each of the last six months of the year.

At the end of July, Katrina Fahy solved a genealogical puzzle using family letters, since the family in question lived in a region with few available nineteenth century vital records: Continue reading The year in review concluded