Monthly Archives: May 2015

Accidental geography

Mercantile Exchange bank postcard for VB
The Mercantile Exchange Bank (1902). Courtesy State Archives of Florida

During my recent sabbatical, I made a visit to Jacksonville, Florida, to see one of my great-grandfather’s earliest commissions, the 1902 Mercantile Exchange Bank (today the Old Florida National – or Marble – Bank). I reached Jacksonville during a torrential downpour, although the skies cleared (briefly), allowing me to take photos of the building as it stands today. Continue reading Accidental geography

“If the shoe fits”

Sarney Shoe Factory
The Sarney Shoe Repairing Factory in Newport, Rhode Island.

David Allen Lambert’s April post on livelihoods inspired me to consider my own “family’s business.” In looking at my ancestry, one occupation pops up again and again and again: shoemaker. From Great Migration immigrants to Italian calzolai to French-Canadian shoe factory workers, my ancestors knew shoes.

The earliest shoemakers or cordwainers to New England arrived in 1629.[1] My ancestor (on my father’s side) Anthony Morse (abt. 1607–1686) arrived in Newbury aboard the James in 1635 with his brother William. Both appear on a passenger list as shoemakers.[2] Continue reading “If the shoe fits”

Genealogy 101: the librarians’ view

Alice KaneRecently, I had the pleasure of attending this year’s annual conference of the Massachusetts Library Association as a panelist for its Genealogy 101 discussion session. The goal of the session is to inform public librarians about how the staffs of genealogically-oriented libraries and organizations work with patrons to answer their reference questions. Assisting patrons with genealogical questions is increasingly frequent for public librarians, given the popularity of prime time shows such as Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots. My fellow panelists were Joy Hennig, Worcester Public Library; Susan Aprill, Kingston Public Library; Barbara Burg, Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston; and Marie Lamoureaux, American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. Continue reading Genealogy 101: the librarians’ view

Irish Petty Sessions Court Registers


Michael Burke
Michael Burke, charged with wandering pig, 1861, as found on

The Petty Sessions Court Registers are an invaluable source for Irish ancestral research. These court records are chock-full of fantastic information, and can offer a depiction of your ancestor that traditional Irish sources will not. Continue reading Irish Petty Sessions Court Registers

Cousins and their connections

Jaudon wedding
Click on image to expand it.

My father and his brother were the principal heirs of their father’s second cousin (and friend) Emily Bennett. As a result, a box of her papers ended up in my parents’ attic. The contents of the box included this undated and unattributed newspaper clipping. Current online research revealed that the clipping was from the Japan Weekly Mail of 30 November 1901, page 573.

I realized that “the late Mr. Peyton Jaudon” must have been related to Emily Bennett, whose mother was Maria Conrey (Jaudon) Bennett. Fortunately, a good Jaudon genealogy shows that the bride, Julia Ayamé Jaudon, and Emily Bennett were second cousins. Julia’s father, Samuel Peyton Jaudon (1831–1897), a resident of Japan, had married Oshidzu Matsura – and Julia was their only child.[1] Continue reading Cousins and their connections

The centennial of the loss of the Lusitania

Lusitania under way
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A century ago today, on 7 May 1915, the Cunard liner R.M.S. Lusitania was reaching the end of her latest transatlantic voyage. The Lusitania left New York on 1 May with 1,266 passengers and 696 crew on board, bound for Liverpool in England. While steaming eleven miles off the Old Head of Kinsale in Ireland, the vessel crossed the path of German U-boat U-20. The launch of a single torpedo into the hull of the Lusitania claimed the lives of 1,198 passengers and crew, leaving 761 survivors of an incident that lasted only eighteen minutes. Even though American lives were lost, it would be nearly two years before America entered the First World War in April 1917. Continue reading The centennial of the loss of the Lusitania

Trust but verify – again

Alicia Crane WilliamsWhat is it with these genealogists? They’ve been researching for hundreds of years, published thousands of books and magazines, and still can’t get it right! In my last post, we left off with the question, “Can we trust nothing? must we verify everything from scratch?”

The answer is no, you don’t have to verify everything – but it is usually a good idea to verify whatever you can. Those who love the hunt and enjoy being genealogical vigilantes don’t mind this little quirk about our “pastime,” but it can certainly be confusing to newcomers, especially the millions being courted today with advertisements of “easy” genealogy. Continue reading Trust but verify – again

The legend of Israel Bissell

Listen, my children, to my epistle
Of the long, long ride of Israel Bissell,
Who outrode Paul by miles and time
But didn’t rate a poet’s rhyme

I was in Lexington the other day, conducting research in the town’s library. I was researching the Lexington Alarm, specifically trying to find out when members of the Connecticut militia first arrived. During my search, I came across a man named Israel Bissell. If any of you already know about him, you can skip this post; but I have to claim ignorance! Continue reading The legend of Israel Bissell

The royal baby’s names

Charlotte and Leopold
Princess Charlotte of Wales with her husband, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Courtesy of

The birth of the new Princess of Cambridge marks the latest addition to the main line of the British royal family: that is, the line closest in succession to the Queen. For their daughter, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have chosen a mix of historic family names (Charlotte and Elizabeth) and names hallowed by association (Elizabeth and Diana).

Charlotte: The young princess’s most notable predecessors were Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744–1818), wife of King George III, and her granddaughter, the unhappy Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796–1817). In the way of European royal families, this previous Princess Charlotte was both the first cousin (paternally) and maternal aunt (by marriage) of Queen Victoria, the matriarch of the modern British royal family, from whom Princess Charlotte of Cambridge is twice descended through her paternal great-grandparents, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Continue reading The royal baby’s names