Monthly Archives: June 2015

Collecting published accounts: Part Four

Alicia Crane WilliamsContinuing the series on “Collecting published accounts” that began here and continued here and here:

The next large group of records that I want to check is the published Massachusetts Bay Colony records (MBCR). I have downloaded the entire set on my computer and am creating my own hard copy as I work on each sketch. This takes paper and ink, but it eliminates having to find a place to keep the huge large-volume set in the house or to repeatedly pull up the digital version if I already have a page printed. I am collecting similar copies of other published sources (or at least of their indexes) that have a high density of the names I need. Continue reading Collecting published accounts: Part Four

A question of identity

With A. J. Jacobs at the Global Family Reunion in early June.

Over the years I have had the chance to discuss the subject of ethnicity (and identity) with avid genealogists and those who are not all that interested in the field of genealogy. Many people will quickly share with you what their ethnicity is, with answers varying from “American” to a varied mix of ethnic origins. This answer, as you can imagine, can vary greatly with the knowledge each person has as to what was passed down to them by their parents about their own heritage. What I have noticed in these discussions is the depth in which these generational levels of ethnic origin will differ. Continue reading A question of identity

Massachusetts court cases setting precedents on marriage law

Ishmael Coffee Marriage Cropped
Marriage intention for Ishmael Coffee and Hannah Gay

As the Supreme Court announces its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges relating to recognition of same-sex marriage nationally, I am reminded of how nineteenth-century judicial cases became relevant to the marriage equality cases of the last twelve years. While dozens of cases and laws relating to same-sex marriage have been discussed since 2003, the primary catalyst was the landmark Massachusetts case of Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, which found that same-sex couples had the right to marry in the Bay State. Marriages began on 17 May 2004, but our then-Governor Mitt Romney seized upon a 1913 state law (the Uniform Marriage Evasion Act), which stated: Continue reading Massachusetts court cases setting precedents on marriage law

An experiment in time and place

Steward 1
Nos. 1 and 2, with their three children in Goshen, New York, ca. 1857.

A number of years ago I read a passage in a book on the British aristocracy that has stayed with me, a passage having little to do with peers and their families and quite a lot to do with how we all can look at our ancestors. The author, the late Richard “Dickie” Buckle, proposed the temporal impossibility that all of his great-great-grandparents might have met in a room in London about the year 1800, and with this rough structure he mused about who they were – and whether they might have known one another.

For my purposes, the year 1875 works best, although my sixteen great-great-grandparents were not all alive at that date. Continue reading An experiment in time and place

The fiddling champ of Vermont and New Hampshire

Mortimer Brooks with violin
Mortimer Wilson Brooks

The recent Weekly Genealogist survey about musicians in the family sparked interest from readers, which leads me to share my great-great-grandfather’s story. Two of my mother’s most treasured family possessions are the violin of her great-grandfather Mortimer W. Brooks (1847–1931) and the loving cup he won in 1926. Undoubtedly they are more treasured because she actually knew him and had the opportunity to hear him play. Mortimer Brooks died when my mother was about 4½ years old. As she describes it, he would first pull the piano stool to the middle of the room, face the piano, and then ask her what she wanted him to play. She always asked for Pop goes the Weasel and he was happy to oblige. Continue reading The fiddling champ of Vermont and New Hampshire

Dump draft

NEWTON Dump 1_Page_1_scs
Click on the image to read it.

Continuing the series on “Collecting published accounts” that began here and continued here:

As I collect enough sources, I will begin a “Dump Draft.” (The accompanying illustration shows a partially completed first Dump Draft for Richard Newton.) The goal of the Dump Draft is to get the information on paper in the Early New England Families Study Project format. This allows me to see exactly what I have and what I need. I add and highlight all kinds of notes and questions to myself. Continue reading Dump draft

More object lessons

Photo by W. F. Seely, L.A.

Back in October I wrote about a mysterious photo in my collection of Hollywood photographs, one taken by Eugene Robert Richee of a plainly-dressed woman wearing a rather splendid hat. Photographer and studio names are given on the back, but the sitter is not identified; that post garnered a number of suggested identifications for the subject, including Olivia de Havilland, Ann Sheridan, and Barbara Stanwyck.

Since then, I have bought a number of photographs of “Old Hollywood” sitters, sometimes with the idea of having the photographer (where identified) represented in the collection; in those cases I haven’t worried much about the photos’ subjects. In thinking about these images recently, I thought they might serve as a test case on what old portrait photographs can tell us about their subjects’ identities, starting with the date the image was made. Continue reading More object lessons

More accessible (and legible) probate records

Probate 2
Will of Thomas Nelson of Rowley, 1719

As the majority of the probate record research I do is at NEHGS and on microfilm, I’ve gotten used to what is often a multi-step process in viewing the records. This varies state by state and county by county, but some relatively recent digitization efforts have made access to some of the records significantly easier.

The county I will discuss in this post is Essex County, Massachusetts. For this case, my usual process for accessing records involved checking a book index first, which would provide the name, year, town of residence, and docket number. Then I would check the microfilm index to dockets, and see an outline of the given docket with the various volumes and pages on which the probate record was transcribed. Then I would get each particular probate record volume to examine each record. Continue reading More accessible (and legible) probate records

A small world

Augusta in 1823In the small world department, one of my closest friends growing up still lives near my parents on the North Shore of Boston. We grew up hearing our parents and grandparents call each other cousin, but no one could readily sort out the connection – in our case, it was via my step-grandmother’s first husband, which means that Franz was really a connection, a cousin of my (step) first cousins! Continue reading A small world

Expulsion from Acadia

Garceau 2
The Expulsion from Acadia. Courtesy of

Long before I started my own family research, there was one thing that I knew for certain: my Garceau line had a long history in Canada. After a great deal of research, I determined that my first ancestor to immigrate to Canada was a man named Jean Garceau, a French soldier who arrived at Port Royal, Annapolis County, Nova Scotia in the late seventeenth century.[1] I found that I was a descendant of his son, Daniel, born at Port Royal in 1707.[2] My research took an unexpected turn, however, when I found that many sources placed Daniel in Connecticut and then New York in the 1750s.[3] Why was Daniel in America? Continue reading Expulsion from Acadia